Reaction

This is a piece I wrote after watching “Perks of Being a Wallflower” yesterday and being triggered by when Charlie says to the Doctor – “I keep seeing things.” The doctor asks “What do you see?”

WARNING: some of this is a little graphic.

I see myself, alone in a world of misty color-faded images. Stephanie is sprawled across the middle floor of a white mini van, with blood running down from her nose and her eyes closed like she’s asleep. Rachel, as I pass her on the pavement, has a face that breaks across my mind like a gray, sad wave on a rainy day at the ocean. The light’s fading and leaving no rose in her cheeks. Her shirt has the picture of a sunset – I think it must be her sunset.

I see myself curled up on a pile of coats begging for my boyfriend to come be with me, but he doesn’t want to.

We accept the love we think we deserve.

Actually sometimes I think we accept the only love we have.

I see myself on the third floor of Penrose Hospital, standing in the hallway. The weight of the world is falling on top of me. My boyfriend is complaining that he doesn’t think my family accepts him. My dad is in a hospital room not far away. He recently thanked my boyfriend for being there for me. My dad has never been there for me so of course he doesn’t understand that my boyfriend is just the same. He’s vacant behind the eyes. My dad’s in pain and on drugs so I understand that he made this mistake.

I see myself on the eighth floor of the same hospital. I’m on a computer, with my boyfriend next to me. I’m looking at caskets. Caskets for my sisters.

I see myself at another computer, this time at my boyfriend’s house. I’m looking through thousands of pictures, looking for a picture of the girls to give to the press. He’s helping me. We pick out a few and he suggests one, one that I agree with. It’s the picture that goes around the world.

I see David walk through my boyfriend’s front door and grab me, crying. I ask him how he is and he stares at me like I’m crazy. What else am I supposed to say right now? I don’t even know how I am.

I am a ghost in a shrouded world. I am the dead among the living. The living can’t understand where I am. No one can understand where I am unless they choose to part the veil and step into a blank, dead world.

I see myself at Chapels Hills Mall three weeks later, right before Christmas. My boyfriend, remaining sister, and I had gone Christmas shopping. I had my boyfriend’s phone so I could call them when I was done shopping. I remember the name Rhiannon flashing on the screen over and over. Finally I looked at the text… at all of the texts. I remember sitting on the curb outside Dillards shaking and crying. When Jesse appeared I yelled and screamed. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember the raw anger. He said someone hacked his phone. I didn’t know what to think. Deep in the heart of myself, I knew then that I was deathly alone.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

There and Back Again

When Frodo comes back from the great journey to destroy the Ring, in the book it’s a much more harrowing experience. Frodo is tired. He was pierced by a Morgul blade, stabbed by Shelob the spider’s stinger, and led to Mordor by a betraying creature who only desired the ring.

Even when he returns, the long journey and its scars never leave him. On the anniversary of the stabbing by the blade, he becomes depressed. The day following, all is sunny again. On the anniversary of his poisoning by Shelob, he becomes physically ill.

I like to think of these things as akin to “triggers.” I mentioned in my last post the ongoing struggle with being triggered by certain reminders of my trauma. In the past few months it’s increased so badly for me that I need to return to trauma counseling. I’ve been having textbook PTSD.

It’s frustrating to be triggered. If you’ve been through a trauma, you know what I mean. It’s totally unexpected and often in a very inconvenient place. Both times I’ve had extreme reactions lately, I’ve been at school. One was caused by a very inconsiderate professor that made a joke about the Aurora shooting. The other, and more extreme trigger, was caused by a loud bang in a classroom adjacent to mine. I left the room in a hurry and literally hid in the bathroom, crying and shaking. Thankfully I was able to talk myself down. I had another close call the other night sitting in a downtown coffee shop. I was working on homework when the door opened and there was a very loud bang outside. I looked up to see a man standing in the door in a hoodie. For a moment I knew he was going to kill me. Then I recognized him as someone I knew. The only reason I didn’t run and hide at that moment was actually rather shallow: I had my Mac laptop out on the table in front of me and didn’t want it stolen (which proves at least that my logical brain is working). Later when I was alone though I had a little cry about that incident, too.

Like Frodo, I find these reminders tiring, painful, and physically taxing. As a result of the latest incident at school, I had to really take it easy for the 2 days following. I found the experience discombobulating.

And so like Frodo, I understand how one journey can change your life. Some wounds never quite heal, or need consistent treatment. I know for myself that I am going back into trauma counseling because of my recent triggers.

A part of this, too, is the recovery programs I’m working. I’m in 2 different 12-step programs. I work with one sponsor (for my more persistent addiction) and the steps seem to cover both of my addictions. I am on step 5. My sponsor was wondering if that is affecting my triggers. I am sure it is. Step 5 has been the most rigorous I’ve encountered so far and has to do with going back over my past and telling it to another person. Admitting, out loud, the events of my life, has caused significant emotional distress. I’m sure it’s contributing to my triggers.

I don’t think, though, it’s causing all of them. I’ve noticed a heightened response for the past 2 1/2 months, since I found that my roommates vandalized my boots. Ever since, I’ve had heightened fear of intrusion and trauma. A consistent thought I’ve had is, “If I experience one more trauma, I will literally lose my mind.” I feel like I’m holding the pieces of my mind together with a thread, and one more traumatic event would be the scissors to snip it.

Frodo dealt with this phenomena by going to the Grey Havens and passing into the West. I’m not so fortunate, nor do I want to be. I don’t want to escape life. I don’t even want to endure life. I want to find a way to embrace life. I also want to find a way to offer what I’ve experienced as a balm to others. I know that is my purpose. My sponsor last week, actually, said that a story I’d related to her might be of use in my work with trauma victims later on. That is inspiring.

And that is why I’m going to do some more EMDR work. I got a referral from my current therapist (who isn’t trauma certified) and plan to set up a session as soon as time allows.

There and Back Again can be a little wandering and arduous. And even when the journey seems ended, it continues unexpectedly. So now it is my task to learn how to live back in The Shire, in a new world and a new life. I hope I am up to the task. Thankfully, my HP hasn’t stepped out like Gandalf did. No, instead my HP is as consistent as my beloved stars above. And due to Its presence, I have the assuredness that even in the night, light exists. My HP is very like a poem by Henry Vaughan:

“There is in God (some say) 
A deep, but dazzling darkness; As men here 
Say it is late and dusky, because they 
See not all clear; 
O for that night! where I in him 
Might live invisible and dim.”

And as I journey through my current night, I find it comforting. So I continue.

I will keep you updated as I go…