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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

Explosions.

The thing I was planning to write today got erased from my brain.

Because of the explosions.

I honestly thought I was mostly over all the post-traumatic stress crap that accumulated in my mind/body from a decade living in the Middle East. Hahahahaha. No.

This is my brain on stress, fear and terror.

I mean, not this. I’m fine now.

It was the Fourth of July.

Of course I knew it was coming. I even practiced reminding myself that these are just fireworks. It’s just kids. It’s just noise.

During the day my brother and I walked through the city and watch teenage boys setting off little mini firecrackers. I didn’t jump. I didn’t cry. It was going to be okay.

At night we went to sit outside with our neighbors to watch the neighborhood display. It was a little chaotic, but I was fine.

Some of the smaller kids were crying, and I remember saying semi-jokingly that we needed a designated hugger.

It was fine. But then there was a shrieking whistle and an explosion right above me.

And I was running panicked to the house.

That wasn’t the scary part.

Sure, I was terrified. And crying. And bewildered.

But the scary part was what happened to my brain. Because it went straight into this-is-a-terrorist-attack mode so smoothly and seamlessly that it was as if no time had elapsed since the last one.

In the first moments I had no thoughts at all other than my feet on the pavement and getting into the house.

Once the door was closed behind me, trauma-mode brain went into “here’s what happens next” overdrive.

“Okay. First you need to let people know where you are and that you’re okay. Of course, the cellular network is going to crash, so see if we can get through on a landline …”

There was still a part of me trying to insert something of now back into my consciousness. Reminding me.

“It’s fireworks, sweetie. You’re okay. No one’s dead.”

But it took seeing my gentleman friend looking at me with the most concerned, loving, and compassionate expression to get me to fully switch gears.

And it got better.

I went to bed.

My gentleman friend used emergency calming techniques on me, because I was too much of a wreck to do it myself.

And I slept. With explosions still going on outside the window. With shrieking. Sirens. I slept for ten hours and when I woke up I wasn’t scared.

And I had learned at least three things that I thought I already knew. Or at least was able to get a little better at internalizing them.

So yeah. I’m going to talk about them here, because that’s what I do.

Realization #1: We’re not done working on our stuff.

The funny thing is that this one is so incredibly familiar.

Often when I’m working with a new client and something really stuckified comes up, there’s an element of surprise and annoyance in their reaction.

Like, noooooooooo how can it be that this thing STILL isn’t resolved after all those years working on it?????

So I’m used to the idea that there are layers and layers and layers to work through. And that each time we heal one part of something, it’s not an ending. It’s just the opportunity to start clearing out even more.

But this really hit home for me just how much “we’re not done yet” there is. And how much time and love it takes to keep remembering that.

Realization #2: Permission. Still a really big deal.

Permission to stop everything and give myself comfort.

Permission to take time and acknowledge just how much trauma I’m carrying. How much we are carrying. All of us.

Permission to remember. Permission to not have to remember.

Permission to be someone who still is processing a lot of hurt.

Permission to be a total freaking train wreck sometimes.

Permission to remember that we are all, to some extent, traumatized from something.

And to try and relate to other people’s triggered reactions with as much patience and compassion as I do my own.

Realization #3: It’s really complicated.

All this healing to be done isn’t just about the immediate trigger.

It’s not just the café exploding across the street while I’m at work at the bar. It’s not just the explosions that wake me up when I’m at home.

  • It’s knowing that your boyfriend was just looking for parking on the same street where that café was before it stopped being a café.
  • It’s the agonizing waiting.
  • It’s when your first thought is not about your boyfriend and it’s not about your customers and it’s not about the bodies on the street. Your first thought is “oh hell, there go my tips for the week.”
  • It’s when you go out on your balcony and shout across to the neighbors to find out what happened … and they tell you it was a suicide bomber on a bus a few blocks away and you shrug and go back to bed.
  • It’s being so jaded that you stop reacting.
  • It’s everything.

A whole universe of reactions and associations and memories surround every painful experience … and they all need attention.

It’s not like you have to work on every single one since they’re all connected, but it’s useful to remember how much gunk can get stored in your body from these experiences.

And that it takes a lot of experiencing safety again to be able to demonstrate to yourself what it’s like to feel safe.

I hope you’re not hoping for a point or anything …

I guess what I’m really thinking is that we all have deep hurts. And old stuckified patterns. Screwed up memories.

And they’re going to come up. And they’re going to end up giving you something new to process each time.

You release something old, learn something new. Release something old, learn something new.

Learn something, heal something, move up to the next level of learning stuff and healing stuff.

We are healing.

But it takes a while.

Comments …

So I’ve been practicing asking for what I need and being more specific. And that way, if you feel like leaving one (you totally don’t have to), you get to be part of my experiment .

Here’s what I want:

  • Comfort.
  • Thoughts or stories about how you (or many of us) react to traumatic stuff, and things you’re wondering about or thinking about in connection to that theme.

What I would rather not have:

  • Judgment.
  • Politics.
  • “Have you tried ….?”

My commitment.

I am committed to giving time and thought to the things that people say, and I will interact with their ideas and with my own stuff as compassionately and honestly as is possible for me.

Even though asking for what I want is still weirdly uncomfortable for me, I’m just going to remind myself that this is a thing I’m practicing.

Thanks for doing this with me!

57 Responses to Explosions.

  1. Hi Havi,

    Much love to those places within you. I have a fire cracker trigger too due to an armed robbery at a place I worked years ago. A loud bang and my body remembers. Even over a decade later and much internal stuff processed.

    It’s still there. Maybe not as potent as it once was, but enough to make my body go to the same place again. Then the mind tells it it’s alright, I’m safe, I breathe. Have to keep breathing.

    I’m checking locks, windows, doors where ever I’m staying, even throughout the day sometimes. Especially when I’m going through other emotional stuff this feeling of being unsafe and not having my own life in my own hands bubbles up. Interconnected somehow in this brain with other stuff. And then it gets really messy.

    But being human allows us to anchor both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ in our system, our cells, and we get to live all of it. Transforming the bad is an ongoing mystery in which I’m sometimes successful and sometimes it will take me years to plough through it.

    And here we are; breathing, ploughing, yuck, bliss, doing, undoing, being… breathing, ploughing…

    Life is goodness.

    Much love to all.

    Maarten Elouts last blog post..European sweat lodge teachings

  2. kimbian says:

    Beth would say:

    Ask for what you want
    Notice what you get
    Celebrate the k(no)w

    Beth was the counselor who gave me the tools to start getting unstuckified; hers is the voice of wisdom I still hear when I have none.

    By faith, I finally paired the above with the concept of three answers to prayer: Yes, Maybe, and No I’ve got something way better in mind. The more I trust it, the greater things happen.

    So in faith I’ve found the k(no)w is the greatest thing of all.

  3. Jana says:

    I don’t know if that even counts, since I never encountered dead bodies or everything, but I do have some stuff to think about.

    As a child, I lived years and years thinking I was all alone in the world but for my daddy, and everyone beside him where my enemies (esp. teacher) and I couldn’t trust anyone or turn my back to since they obviously hated me and than (and that was the worst part) my daddy always went away for work, like ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLOBE and left me. there. all. alone. And I was only a child and terrified, and I got into fights and was bullied by other children and was all alone.

    It got better when I was 17 or something and was diagnosed with mild authism and add and social anxiety and got therapy and everything.

    Now I am 30 and most of the time okay, but I still get depressions every three years or so and I am still in therapy and I still hurt. Sometimes.
    It’s been so long and it still hurts.

    And last week my Gentlemanfriend and I where at a supermarket to get some food and I sort of lost the sight of him and totally freaked out.
    I cried and screamed for him and only saw bright lights and loud sounds and freaky people staring at me in OBVIOUS disgust or laughter and I could not see him and I was. all. alone.

    Then he found me and hugged me and I was all like WHY COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME NEVER LEAVE ME ALONE AGAIN and he was all like wtf I was only around the corner at the chocolate, do you prefer this one or the other? 
    And I was all like, how CAN you even care about the stupid chocolate, I am hurting and you left me alone on enemies territory and he laughed and hugged me and said this is a supermarket, dearest, everything is alright.

    And I felt so stupid.

    Havi, I totally hear you. And I love your blog :)

  4. Jana says:

    Okay so I talked to a teacher of mine and – hey, I can talk (or is it write?) German to you, can’t I? Sie hat mir erklärt dass ich _nicht_ unter einem posttraumatischem Irgendwas leide, sondern unter, naja, etwas anderem. Vielleicht war mein Post wirklich dämlich, es tut mir leid, dass ich dich falsch verstanden habe.
    Ich hatte das Gefühl, dich verstanden zu haben, aber offenbar war’s falsch oder so – Sorry.

    I still love your blog

  5. Diane says:

    Wow… It’s cool to know I’m not crazy and that these reactions are normal!

    Last year, I lived in Haiti. I resigned from my nice, safe job in a hospital in the States and shipped off for a year of volunteer work in a hospital down there. The devastating earthquake of Jan. ’10 that took the lives of 250,000 people occurred after I had been in the country for two months.

    As a medical provider, I had the privilege and heartbreak of arriving in Port-au-Prince early to provide medical care. I drove down a street right after someone had been murdered for looting. I took care of babies who wouldn’t eay because their mom was dead. I debrided dead tissue off of people’s limbs without anesthesia after we had run out of it in an effort to reduce the risk of gangrene. I got trapped in my mosquito netting tent the morning of the largest aftershock and couldn’t get out of the building.

    It’s been almost 2 years, I’m back in the States, and I still occasionally get nightmares. Sometimes the train going by makes my heart race. If someone taps their foot on the leg of table and it makes the table shake, I sometimes have small panic attacks and start looking for the nearest exit.

    Most days now I feel healed. I feel like for the most part I’ve moved on. And then there’ll be a train, or something similar, and the fight-or-flight response rushes in again.

    Thank you for sharing these practical steps for rest and recovery. And hopefully I’ll be a little less freaked out the next time the PTSD returns.

  6. Diane says:

    oops, i’ve only been back for one year… sorry, it’s been a busy year!

  7. Magic says:

    Okay, so my comment is a million years late but omgoodness, I so relate to the frustration of, “What, I’m STILL dealing with the fallout after All. That. Work. on this?!!”

    I know tis all a (blech@cliche phrase) “work in progress” but oh my, I simply don’t want to be carrying so much baggage or to suffer so much, damn it!

    And while I’m here, one of the things I’ve realised that triggers the living daylights out of me is Neediness. Well, more to the point, Unmet Essential Needs combined with No Capacity to Actually Meet Them. Recipe for insane amount of rolling triggers and hypersensitivity (which of course leads the space wide open for More triggers–hey, why not?!).

    I’m currently playing with just stroking my body gently when I’m in freak out mode and telling it it’s okay, that we’re just experiencing Fallout because Dude, That Shit Was Hard. But this is not easy either. ‘Self soothing’ is great in theory, but when you’re in the grip of Beside-Yourself-Trauma, the concept gets a little hazy *narrows eyes crankily*

    Blessings to you Havi for sharing your experience and your insights. May the time span between Trigger and Respite become shorter and shorter for you. For all of us!

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