A note on living with trauma

I am blessed with a wonderful friend – whom I write to every day. It is a grounding and beautiful experience, to have such a correspondence. This morning I struggled with my PTSD. This morning I was snatched away from my life in an instant and had to work my way back. This happens from time to time – and it occurs to me that perhaps sharing with the wide world what those moments are like might help to normalize it for someone else, who has felt it but doesn’t yet have the words to explain it. I’m going to paste a portion of my correspondence here, in hopes that it might be of use to anyone reading.

WARNING: below there is mention of assault and abuse, disassociation and a kind of depression. Please forego reading if you are in a place, mentally, physically or emotionally, where you might struggle to care for yourself if you are impacted negatively by my words.

I did want to tell you about my experience of reading ‘My Absolute Darling’ morning. This story is so complicated for me personally. An extremely abusive father and a tremendously confused young girl, wanting his love in many ways that are very healthy and wanting the abuse because she has come to associate it with the having of him. This morning I read an extremely violent scene, a strangling and inability to breathe and grasping to survive and I felt my body respond to it. I’ve had these feelings before, these triggers of my past trauma with (blank), and this felt so complicated in my head this time around. Not only wrapped up in this willingness to accept abuse as love but also the physical sensation of someone you love trying to end you.

I sat there reading and felt my breath tighten in my chest. I felt my body go numb and cold and watery and I felt myself leave it for a bit. Disassociation. I felt myself in two places. In one, I was sitting on the ground outside, the cool concrete under my feet and bum, breeze and birds. In the other I was struggling to breath, struggling to feel my limbs at all and giving up the struggle in some ways. There were two of me for a moment and then maybe a third me who now has the understanding and the strength to witness it all. I put the book down and looked for red things, two of them. Then I looked for blue things, then yellow and as I scanned THIS world, the one of blue skies and breeze I began to feel myself making an active choice to return to this world – to unify those two very different places in my head, and I chose to come back to the place where my birdfeeders need filled and my coffee had gone cold.

Oh it’s all so very dramatic in my head sometimes, and in my body. I am so grateful for all the years I met with (blank) and she helped me to see myself and how I navigate my history and I am so very tired now and feel like crying just knowing that this experience this morning is not the last of it. Honey it makes me so sad and tired to realize that I will live this way forever, with these pockets of trying to leave my present. I know that disassociation is a protective measure my mind takes. I understand the mechanism and I am grateful for it, I wonder at how painful it would be without that buffer that pulls me into a sense of nothing when the fear becomes unbearable … so I do see the gift I have been given in being able to protect myself in that way (the gift most of us have been given and I can only imagine the hell life would be without it) … but I do, right this minute, feel an intense sadness in knowing that this will happen from time to time. It feels very lonely, which is why I’m writing to you about it in such detail. Perhaps the sharing of it will help me to feel it is an okay thing, that I am this way. That this is just a part of who I may always be.

Ah love, I am now on the patio and looking at my work coming in for the day and am so grateful for this life I’ve built. This correspondence with you, my sweet mocha, this work that sustains me financially and offers me a sense of accomplishment and competence every day. This patio which is now fully reclaimed and planted, my hostas are growing like gangbusters. This home and those children of mine, eating up all the cookie dough and texting me funny photos constantly. I am now seeing all the red and blue things easily and am almost fully back into this moment … and I am back here with the full awareness of where I’ve gone and why I’ve gone there. What a monumental gift to have that knowledge, to have had the privilege of a good education and resources to be in therapy and the curiosity and intellect and fortitude that has allowed me to leverage the information I have to take action, in that moment, to find myself where I am.

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