This morning, something happened to trigger the trauma, but I don’t know what it was. I’d asked the taxi driver to switch off his music, which he did, but left the ‘tablet’ showing the video. I asked him to switch that off too, and he got annoyed and I had to explain to him (a) that he should do what makes his passengers comfortable and (b) that I have a condition that makes the lights and movements on the tablet difficult. Then he said something else, and I said something, and he snapped, ‘Where do you want to go? I’m trying to work!’ and I decided to get out of the taxi.
I was so shaken that it took me two hours to get the adrenalin down and to get back to (very gentle) working order. But what was it that he said that shook me? I don’t know! It had disappeared from my memory before I got back to the house. That’s why I think it was that thing, rather than his general nastiness, that triggered the traumatic response.
I don’t think that what he said was particularly nasty – it just resonated with something else. And my mind didn’t like it and has hidden it away somewhere. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. But perhaps, if I could retrieve it, I could learn something important.
What a comfort to know that the Lord knows every thought in my head, even if I don’t know it myself!
After hitting my head, I was taken back into the shop and given a cup of tea, and then I went back to see if there was anyone in the church where I had my office (there wasn’t) and then found my way home.
I knew that I was very shaken, and felt kind-of-as-if I’d stepped into a different world. But I kept trying to do what I had to do. I went to bed, but got up for a very important meeting I was to lead that evening. Next morning, I went to the optician to get my spectacles mended. They were bent, and had a scratch on the lens that was somehow very familiar. I was feeling very strange, and the optician told me to go and see a doctor.
I went. Nothing wrong with me, said the doctor. ‘Go home and rest and you’ll be fine!’ So I went home to bed, and that’s where David found me when he got back from the USA that evening. When I got up the next day, I felt better and tried to get going, but was soon feeling strange again.
‘Take some time off to get better!’ said my line manager. So I tried to, but all the time I was obsessing about a paper I had to write, and wanting to keep on going, doing what I could do, treating this as a temporary ‘blip’ and ready to get back to full tilt work asap.
Maybe my tiredness this week is reflecting that pattern: I may be ‘walking out of that door towards the head injury’ in my trauma journey, but there’s a lot to do in my 2015 life. People have said, ‘Writing is therapeutic’ – in this case, it’s therapeutic because it reminds me that I’m dealing with more than my 2015 responsibilities. I wasn’t ‘normal’ after I hit my head, and I am still not at the stage where I can work at full tilt for a whole week. Better to take a break every day to recognize the trauma journey, to be still, to acknowledge the Loving Lord in control, to discern what not to do today!
The 9 year journey started with stepping out of a shop onto a crowded pavement. The next thing I remember is the impact of the edge of my spectacles on the pavement and the thought, ‘Oh no! Not again!’ and a feeling of inevitability: this had to happen, and I can’t stop it.
I have found that, often, it is not what I remember that causes present trouble, but what I don’t remember. I don’t remember being on that crowded pavement, and I don’t remember how the man bumped into me or how I managed to fall with my whole weight on my head. And it is crowds and people walking near me and (Oh no!) even brushing by me that make me slow down, freeze, and get to the end of my walk up the street in a state of shock.
So . . the therapy involves finding and processing the memory. Last week, we tried to process walking out of the shop, using the ‘EMDR’ method. I got to the door of the shop in my imagination, but could not/would not go further. I went back into the shop and refused to go out! That has been behind my reflection on ‘denial’ these past few days.
Yesterday, my husband and I were about to walk out of a restaurant onto a crowded pavement, and the door went ‘bang’ behind me. I froze. I hung hard onto David’s arm and my body just refused to go further. I was back in that shop in Edinburgh, and I was NOT going to go out of it. But I took a decision: that fall did happen, and I am going to choose to accept it in my memory, and I am going to walk out of this shop. So, very shakily and slowly, I put one foot forward, and then the other, and tottered onto the pavement and through the crowd in a dream/nightmare state, hanging onto David with all my might.
We made it! We got home! I survived it without falling! Thank you, Lord!
If I am going to write about the journey, I first need to be able to thank God for taking me on it. I realize that the ‘denial’ I wrote about a few posts ago is my attempt to re-write history. I want control of what DID happen – which, of course, is impossible. What happened happened, and I can’t change it. I might try to change the story in my memory, but I can’t change the events.
So I think I need to acknowledge the results of that head injury 9 years ago. But I also need to reflect on what I have learnt through it, and, if I can discern it, on what God might have been doing through letting it happen.
That way, I can let God be in control of the past as well as of the present and the future. Which is much better than me being in control: I have neither the wisdom nor the energy to control even my own memory properly!
Shall I keep jotting down my thoughts for the day, shall I stop this blog, or shall I tell a bit of the story of my long journey through PTSD over nearly 9 years? Please ‘like’ this post if you’d like me to do the journey.
I hope that I am now towards the end of the really incapacitating stages. I knew I’d made a qualitative step forward when I awoke one morning last November and thought, ‘The world seems real,’ and I realized how unreal everything and everyone had felt for eight and a half years.
I hadn’t really been here – not quite in the present – and I’d been tired all the time because it had been such an effort to focus on anything – to drag my mind into the task for now, to listen to the person in front of me. And, often, my system just switched off, and I had to stop what I was trying to do. I could only do things in little bits, and hope that they would somehow hold together. (It’s called ‘dissociation’)
It’s wonderful to feel more engaged with the world, more part of the world (despite the mess in it!). This spring, the sun and the flowers and the fresh green feels real, I feel as if there are fresh green shoots growing in my life,
and I’m thankful. And God feels real again. Which is the best of all!
But WHY do I not really believe that it happened? There is plenty of evidence that it DID happen, but my memory has blocked it out, and I am constantly wanting to live as if it never happened at all.
That’s why, I suppose, it keeps tripping me up. And my body reacts every time something reminds it of that thing I can’t/won’t remember.
And, of course, I can’t live as if it didn’t happen, because it had pretty drastic effects on my life. Maybe if I can thank God for the effects, or, at least start by being thankful for some of them, I can really accept it, and move forward.
The bell is ringing, calling people to worship this Ascension Day. I am trying to finish a chapter on expectations: Jewish expectations of deliverance at the time of Jesus, the gospels’ depiction of an expectant people, and the expectations of both Christians and Muslims in the frightening world of today.
Christians and Muslims (and everyone else) need expectations, because we all need to have hope of peace and justice and security, and we all need to find meaning for our own struggles in the context of the larger flow of history and of God’s purposes.
Christians and Muslims share the expectation that Jesus will return to put things right. But we have different expectations of how He will do that – especially of how He will put right peoples’ views of who He is. Will He ‘break the cross’, or will ‘every knee bow’ to Him as Lord?
After my ‘dark’ reflection yesterday, my Bible reading for today began, ‘When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ Today, I am going to listen to the voice speaking to the disciples as Jesus left this earth, ‘This same Jesus . . . will return.’ I am going to follow Him in His light, and find hope and meaning in His lordship of history.