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.


  1. I'm thinking that I'd find this worth reading, even if I did not love you.
    The timing of the previous feline funeral hadn't occurred to me. Sorry that gets added to the more common feelings of loss.
    Also, extra points for "nothing at which to sneeze."

    1. Thank you. I thought you'd like my use of grammar there.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. you're strong. both as a writer, and a person. it takes a lot to be able to share things the way that you do, and I'm really thankful that you open yourself in that way. your vulnerability shows your strength.