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.
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:
- 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:
- “Have you tried ….?”
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!