Tonight I was watching a show that dealt with the issue of PTSD.
Then the next episode was talking about trauma and the issues that stem from it.
I found myself crying when the subject was brought up.
I have been seeing a therapist for a while now. Actually, two therapists. One to deal with the physical after effects of a traumatic incident(s), and the other to deal with the mental effects that are much harder to deal with than the physical side effects.
With each new session I have with the physical side, I find more and more ways for my body to get back to ‘normal’. Many of the times I have to ask the PT’s “does this look right?”, ” is this normal? It doesn’t FEEL normal”….and they remind me that its because for the past fifteen years what has become my “normal” is actually skewed.
When I relearned how to walk in the care home, I remember HATING the tools that helped me get to where I needed to be. The gait belt, the parallel bars, the wheelchair, the bedside commode, the clock that signaled the time for my occupational therapist to come in and help train my muscles to remember how to write, how to put on socks, and even how to use the toilet properly…. The physical therapists helped me with the muscles strengthening, and the occupational therapist helped me with the day to day living side of things. I hated those tools, but at the same time, they were what got me out of that bed and walking and writing again. What helped me have the ability to put on socks by myself again.
Watching the show, brought to mind all of the physical side of things, but it brought up a lot of the mental side of things too.
Just like the physical therapists have helped me deal with things that, for years, I thought was normal, the therapist I am seeing for the mental effects is also helping me learn that not everything is normal there either.
I remember having a conversation with my brother in law who has served two tours over in the middle east…we were discussing the fact that his PTSD would rear its ugly head when he would drive by the base and hear the guns going off…or when he smelled something, he would automatically be transported to where he spent his time as a gunner in the military. He would tell us that he would look up and one second he would be back there and the next (what felt like a) second he would be a few miles down the road.
I remember kind of smiling patronisingly and saying “that’s not PTSD….” And they told me that it was an official diagnosis…I told them “it can’t be. That’s just normal…I should know! I have that happen to me often enough, that’s just memories!” My sister in law and brother in law both kind of looked at me in disbelief and gently and kindly informed me that “no, Becky, that’s called PTSD”.
Fast forward a bit….talked to my therapist and sure enough. The description I have given to her of my symptoms and yep. Confirmation of PTSD diagnosis.
We are slowly peeling back the layers of the trauma I have gone through in my life. Oh how I hate that, just like I hated those tools to help me learn to walk…but yet…we are dealing with things.
Trauma that happened when I was just a kid. Trauma that happened when I was a teenager, and trauma that has happened to me as an adult.
A lot of the things that come up at times have surprised me with their ferocity.
Things I thought I had dealt with because I wasn’t thinking about them all the time…come to realize some of them have never been dealt with, they have just become buried so my life could continue…but they, like the physical aspect of the trauma, are rearing their ugly head, reminding me of a slow trickle over time.
My gait was messed up for fifteen years, and my foot was turned in on itself, like a backwards ‘C’…I would walk on the outside edge of my right foot….that in turn affected my hip, which affected my back and which culminated in last year finally, my shoulder. I was seeing a physical therapist for almost 5 months, just to try to alleviate the pain I was having in my shoulder…ribs were out of place, feet were not in alignment, shoulders were out of whack…all thanks to one seemingly innocent foot being ‘normal’. When I started being able to walk with my foot flat(er) on the ground it ached. Oh the pain of having something touch a part of my body that was not used to touch… The inside of my foot. It made me cry…not because of the PAIN, there was ache there, but the pain was not. It just felt…so…weird. So…unnatural. I actually got a bit of a callous on the inside of that foot and NOW, it feels unnatural to even attempt to put my foot back in its old ‘normal’ position.
I am waiting for the day when the memories that come to me, often unbidden, of the sights and smells of a car accident, of the feeling of being held down as an infant while doctors tried to help with a kidney infection I had, of the feeling of confusion as a teenager who had hit puberty a bit earlier than my friends and having my grandpa try to “warm his hands up” while sticking them down my shirt, the fear I felt while trying to take care of my siblings while being threatened with physical harm from the neighbor kids because my skin was a different color….I am waiting, sometimes anxiously (the therapist is helping with that too!) For the day when those memories become not a sensitive spot, like my foot had, but more of a callous… Acknowledged and then moved on. Until that day comes, some of the memories get stuffed back down, only to come out, sometimes during therapy, and sometimes late at night, triggered by watching a TV show while I wait for my husband to finish work.
I am holding out hope that just like the physical effects that were portrayed in my body have slowly been changed for the betterment of the rest of my limbs and ligaments and even joints by retraining them to be where they need to be and to do the job that it needs to.. That one day my mind will be retrained as well. Even though my body is (still!) Healing from trauma I have gone through…I still have scars. No amount of retraining or changing to proper alignment can take those scars away… I expect to have mental scars as well.
I look at the physical scars and I see many things. I see where God saved my life. I see opportunities to give glory to Him because I am still alive. But I also see past pain and struggles and overcoming.
The mental hurts, aren’t always scarred over yet. Slowly but surely, working through them we are taking them out, piece by piece, sometimes too fast, and sometimes agonizingly slow (always at my pace because I have a great therapist), but letting each one see the light of day and start the process of healing so they can become old scars, callouses.
I can not go and change the past, or change the trauma I have lived through…but one day I won’t see, or feel, fresh wounds. I will only see the reminders of where I survived.