Sometimes I Forget

I didn’t expect it to be painful. Rather silly. You’ve been doing this for how long now? And you didn’t think it’d be painful?

“Listen. I was unprepared for my words to summon a tsunami of anguish and confusion.”

Who are you talking to?

“Myself, obviously.” I gesture wildly at the crowd of no one.

Back to the story.

She asked me when I first attended. “So I attempted to describe the timeline – you know, scrunching up my face and calling up the details of the first day.”

Seems a fairly benign question.

“But somewhere between my mouth forming words and recalling the emotions of that time I was catapulted into the past and lost my mind.”

We’ve done that in therapy before.

I sighed, “I know but I just thought I was done with all the surprises. Now I have to deal with this thing.”

Yes you do. Still waiting for why you’re surprised?

“Eff off.”

I Put That Away

She became aware of heat on her shoulder. Fearfully, she turned her head to see. Her heart sank. I thought that was you. Her head grew heavy, sinking toward her chest, collapsing under the weight of anguish.

She howled, “I put that away!”

Startled at the volume of her own voice, she lifted her chin slightly.

The smell of the cooling September evening taunted her. “And yet you are afraid,” snickered a mocking voice from the trees. “Child, you are simply wearing a costume for them. I know the truth.”

She stood, immobile. Unsure. Only her eyes moved, darting rapidly.

Am I?

When My Religion was Wrapped in a Perfect Box

With a little shiny bow on top. I was the dutiful follower, going to church, singing my little heart out to my Jesus and doing my best to love as Christ loves. I had a tidy little checklist I could cross off everyday to prove I was a good Christian and look upon the mirror of self loathing for the areas I fell short.

The problem was the areas I fell short were determined by humans. And in my absolute quest to be “good” I lost my intuitive self. I began to question my own reality. The Bible says God is not the author of confusion. So how come going to church became so confusing? Why all of a sudden did love and evil look the same? Why was the only place I was growing was in self destruction?

I had to go. I could no longer hold the conflicting realities, trudge through the muck to see where – and even IF – the truth existed. The God I once understood did not create me to live in chaos, of that I clung to. And I walked away from organized religion.

It took me 5 years to recognize my pain. 2 more to speak about it. And a decade in therapy before I could sing my favorite songs without dissociating. I’m not in a hurry to find out if there’s a building for me to worship at. I’m content singing alone, just me and Jesus.

Flashbacks

I didn’t know what a flashback was until I’d been in graduate school (to become a therapist mind you) for two semesters and realized following a rough day with my boss that I would potentially be seeing male clients in my office. Cue evening phone call to my therapist who assisted me in returning to my body whilst parked on the side of the road in pouring rain.

Now I thought I knew what flashbacks were until that point. My understanding of them was full on checking out of current reality and reliving a previous experience. Of course this is true but so too are emotional flashbacks (no visual content) and partial dissociation (feeling of out of one’s body but still recognize the year, surroundings, etc). It would be another year or two following this experience that I would face the reality that *I* had PTSD.

Back to the flashbacks. I rarely have them now, as a result of some deep work with my long-time therapist. However, a significant portion of my clinical work is WITH trauma survivors and thus it is imperative I tend to my own self care. Sometimes I have to take some extra time. Today was just such a day. I needed to do a little more grounding, a little more self compassion, and a little more mindfulness. I chose lavender essential oil, and an earth element focused yoga practice.

I couldn’t have made the choice to engage in such self care were it not for my own therapy and thus would have run the risk of secondary trauma and/or lingering emotional distress robbing me of the next hours and days of my life. Or based on my history, engaging in unhealthy coping skills that have previously threatened my sanity and my life.

Growth is good.