Tuesday, June 18, 2013

And The Cat Too?

Part of recovering from trauma is dealing with recurrences of trauma symptoms.  While nothing could really compare to the PTSD symptoms of the original trauma/s, whenever that little switch gets triggered, back they come, shadows of the original but the original was so immense that these are nothing at which to sneeze.

I say a 'little switch' because it feels oddly instantaneous, like a light switch.  I am using it to refer to the neural pathways that your brain learns from trauma.  You know how there are these amazing stories of someone paralyzed and their brain maps out a new way to get signals to a part of the brain so they can move again?  It is like that only in the "oh darn :(" way.

I have been assured that brains work this way with trauma, depression, etc.  That is why correcting these things quickly, with medication if necessary, is so important.  The less time the brain spends working those unpleasant neural pathways, the less likely it is the brain will stay or go back there.  Habits, you know?

The first thing I am likely to notice when I am starting to go back to that rape brain again, is my startle response goes up.  This means I scream a lot.  At anything.  Because I am startled and my brain automatically thinks I am gonna' die.  This is embarrassing.  People look at you funny and feel bad when they say "hi" and you jump out of your skin with a bloodcurdling shriek.  They might get angry at you for screaming and scaring them or hurting their ears.  And the last thing anyone wants to hear is an explanation of how you are "triggered" and you are sorry but it is a chemical response.

The second thing that comes on, is the crazy dreaming.  I dream about new trauma situations, I dream about the original trauma, I dream about snakes.

"Snakes?" you say.  Yes.  It is a funny thing.  I have been phobic of snakes most of my life.  Some years ago I went through a bout of therapy to solve the snake issue that was keeping me from walking on grass, much less the woods or anyplace that was not covered in cement or asphalt.  It worked, and every year I hold a snake the keep up with the improvements.  So there must be a similar pathway in my brain between trauma and phobia because when one is triggered, so is the other.

After bad dreams, there is general fatigue, nausea, headaches; all this stuff that could be from something else, but is not.  Sometimes depression fits in here, but not this time.  I do not think.  Sometimes it is hard to tell.

And then there is the cat dying.

"What???" you ask.  Yeah, totally weird.  So, the first time I can definitively say I was raped, a few weeks later my beautiful and charismatic tuxedo cat was diagnosed with cancer and died.

Yesterday, my other cat, a super sweet and soft orange and white tabby died suddenly of heart failure.

I am beginning to see a pattern here, and I do not like it.

There is good news.  The good news is that all of these recurring symptoms are not a full list nor as pronounced as that original trauma produced (except the cat).  That was some crazy shit then.  And I have grown to have better coping mechanisms for these things.  Also, I have no more cats.

Gallows-cat humor aside, I wish I could be more humorous and more poetic about this topic.  That is what makes these topics palatable to read about.  But I try to find the humor in this process and fail.  I think about all the people I have met since my rape and how many people came out of the woodwork as survivors and all the stories and all the pain and a new view of the world emerged from which this blog springs.  I am not a duck; I can no longer let creepy things roll off my back.  I have to write about them.  I only hope that I can make it worth reading.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Past Over Hard

I am weary.  The sort of weary one might be after taking the SATs, GREs, MCAT then LSAT all in the same 24 hours.  The kind of weary that Frodo and Sam look as they leave Mordor.  This is the end of my two week trip to try, in vain, to finish clearing out my late mother's house.

I have eaten lobster that I can not get at home.  I have had a break spent at my favorite retreat with cherished people.  There's been dinner with Robin*, and a visit from my partner in VT.

I have listened for days on end to my loved god-mother's health issues.  I have talked to my sister about a faster process, but we're still doing the same slow method.  I have sciatic pain, shoulder pain and neck pain.  I have run out of money, gotten more, run out again, and have eaten the same Chinese leftovers for four days straight.  I have slept on the couch of my god parents, in one hotel, then another, then another.  I have had a combined total of 40 minutes of alone time in the past weeks.  I have found not only a folded piece of paper with $179 in it, but also my mother's bag of adult items plus naked pictures of her with the family dog. 

I am ready to go home.

* * * * * * *

I arrive later than desired at my hotel by the airport.  It's 7:30 and although I consider going to bed right away, it's still light out and I decide it might be nice to do something.  Robin has been texting to see if we can get together again before I leave, so I tell her to come by.

"Take me somewhere with alcohol or ice cream" I instruct her when she arrives; "I don't care which."

After ice cream, we sit in the parking lot of my hotel.  I've asked to be dropped off.  She is persistent.  We go inside together.

Two different agendas, and had I realized, had I given it more import ... well... maybe I would, maybe she would not, maybe maybe.

She worries if I want her there I worry that I've made the wrong decision
I try to do what I want She tries to do what she wants
I don't want that She wants to know if it's her body
I say no, please don't She is ashamed of how she looks
I offer alternatives She tries again, in a different way
I realize... She wants...
I tell her I won't let her use me like that She is horrified
I am afraid and sad and want to protect her She leaves

People see issues of assault, rape and violence in black and white.  We break it down that way to make judgment easier.  It is not wrong, there are things that are black and white.  But in the world of actions, it can be fuzzy, confused, distressing and wrought with messages softer than necessary because we care for her, and harder than necessary because we are selfish.  There are lines of difference between saying, showing, coercing, pushing.  There can be shades of confusion in how we say no, I don't want that, I'm scared.

It doesn't take much to retrigger old wounds.  Trauma, whether recognized or not, comes back to claim us.  I am seeing this scene over and over.  Intellectual chewing gum. I try to figure out where I went wrong, what I should have done, why did it happen?  It's not helpful.

I wish, it hadn't been like that
I wish we hadn't assumed the wrong things
I wish I had been more clear
I wish she had heard
I wish she had been able to explain
I wish I had understood
It's not your fault
It's not mine either

I lay and a tear, hot with chemicals, rolls and drops into my left ear.  We have to move.  We just have to keep moving.  I am weary.

* Name changed as usual.  Robin and I met in March 2013, had a fun time at an event where neither of us knew many people and shared some kissing at the end of the evening.