Tag Archives: PTSD

Nine Months Later

I’ve been on the road ever since Hope and I returned from #thebestspringbreak ever. It has been kind of grueling and I know that it’s been hard for my daughter. She’s a great sport when it comes to my job; I know that Hope is not thrilled that I travel so much (neither am I half the time), but she knows that it is just the way things are.

This month’s travel connected me with colleagues and friends who I deeply care about so there’s been lots of bar time catching up, thinking about new collaborations and debriefing on the workshops we ran or sat in on. I love my work, but it’s these times when I’m super energized—hanging out with cool, creative souls whose work dovetails with mine and who like to work together to change the world. Bar time makes the whole ordeal of preparing content, schlepping to the airport and being away from my family worth it.

This weekend, I participated in a leadership workshop in which I was asked to consider a number of questions about my life that I realized needed further examination. I found myself listing incidents that positioned me or push/dragged me to the next level of personal development. I did this exercise last fall in a colleague’s workshop, but I guess I was still in the thick of things and didn’t have the perspective I do now.

I started thinking about last year’s car accident and my head injury and what these last 9 months have been like.

I started thinking about how the injury blossomed; it took more than a week for most of the symptoms to emerge. I started thinking about all the weird things that seem different after the accident. I never had dry eyes before. I still occasionally experience aphasia and some short term memory issues. I get tired more easily than I used to when I’m doing more brain work. My feel for numbers eventually came back and I’m comfortable with my research and data analysis and can spout off my findings but something still feels just off 9 months later.

Ironically I don’t have a word to better describe “feeling off.” It just doesn’t come quite as easy as it did before.

Normally I dive in and research a lot about what is going on neurologically with Hope. I want to understand the science behind what she’s experiencing and struggling with and why. In 9 months I have never done that with my brain injury. It’s like getting that info makes it real, concrete, and maybe semi-permanent. I’m not sure I want to know if the rest of my life will really be reflected in a pre-post accident way. I’m not sure I want to know a lot about how post-concussion syndrome comes back a year post accident. I’m not sure I want to fully know what I’m dealing with.

So, I just don’t deal with it. #surpriseme

My attorneys aren’t thrilled with my refusal to really understand the nature of my injuries. That’s ok, I’m not thrilled that I found myself having to sue the other party. The suit isn’t frivolous; I have real impact and expenses, but the suit just makes things linger around for who knows how long—much like my symptoms and in the words of Hope, “Can we just not?”

I was asked this weekend about why I didn’t tell people about the accident and my injury. It’s not shame or worry. It’s just…I wanted to move on. I wanted to push through. I wanted to get back in control after going through a period that seemed really uncertain. I’m a control freak. I wanted to push my brain (including the rest it needed) to get its ish together.

I didn’t want to accept that the accident would redefine me in any way. Nine months later, I can admit that it was a turning point. Life after a brain injury is different. It just is. I’m ok; I’m still sharp, and I feel like most of my black girl magic is back, but it’s not the same.

I am different, and it’s a pretty fair guess that things will never be what they were before I was hit in the 3rd Street tunnel on my way to work.

This is my life post-trauma.

Last night I was turning this fact over in my tired brain, and I thought about Hope’s experiences with trauma. I started thinking what I learned about her when we were first matched and what I’ve learned about her life since. I thought about how my own avoidance of emotionally dealing with my ONE injury stacked up against Hope’s reluctant work on her multiple moments of trauma.

I remain in awe of her. She’s done some remarkable work in these last few years. I know she’s healthier for it, but I know that that stuff is still there, that the effects just linger and reemerge periodically.

Hope was sharing with me recently how she had shared her life story with someone recently and how it made her feel—seemingly a bit numb. I considered how hard I have worked to avoid dealing with the emotional part of my injuries and how week after week, I take Hope to therapy to wrestle with her memories of trauma. It’s incredibly hard work.

I know she struggles with it. I know she sometimes hates going to therapy to talk about her pain. I see it in her eyes. I hear it in her voice. And yet, she never fights me about going. She goes, and she engages. She does the work.

I asked her recently about how it felt to go to therapy. She shrugged, said it was easier than it used to be. I asked her if she thought it helped. She sighed and nodded her head.

I go to therapy as well, but I haven’t spent much time working on what it feels like to be affected by a brain injury. I haven’t done that work. Other than a couple of sessions during the worst of my symptoms, I just haven’t talked about it. It’s been easier not to.

I suppose I owe it to myself and to Hope to go wrestle with the baggage I acquired 9 months ago. I can’t say I’m looking forward to doing this work, but Hope is right: it gets better.

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The Sand Storm that is Trauma

Hope is terrified of the idea of normalcy, of family, of happiness.  All of this fear and anxiety manifests itself like a furious sand storm that just beats you in the face with no end, goes up your nose, gets lodged in your ears.  It covers your hair, your eyelashes, your clothes.  The angry sadness finds its way under your finger and toe nails.  It’s in your private parts.  It’s gritty, painful, it’s everywhere.  It’s dangerous; it’s deadly.  It chokes Hope.  It chokes me, too.

sandstorm431x300

I knew I was going to fight this sand storm from the very beginning, but this week, it’s been relentless.  My beautiful Hope is stuck in all this sadness and anger and if the sand storm analogy wasn’t bad enough, my girl’s lack of hope for herself and the life she can have with me is sucking her in like quick sand.   I am doing everything I can to pull together all the resources necessary to drag her out of that sand.

I am so tired this week.  And I am terrified too.

She has described my very existence as really being the root of so many of her problems. I know it’s not true, but it lances a tiny bit of blood every time she suggests it.  In nearly the same breath that she’s cursing me, she will demonstrate a kindness towards me from somewhere so deep inside of her that is like the smallest most precious drop of water in a hot desert.

I see glimpses of her desire to just be happy; but they are fleeting.  They are overwhelmed by all the fear, pain and hurt. During some hours, it feels like there is nothing I can say to ease any of it.  The defiance is so rough that she will just deny anything and everything just so she can have some control.

The sky is blue.  No, it’s not; it is purple.

I love you.  I hate you.  I don’t want to live here.

I want you to stay here with me forever.  No you don’t; you want to throw me away.

Sigh.

It just doesn’t stop.

Trauma is just so awful. It makes people just believe they have no self-worth; that they aren’t deserving of anything that could possibly, conceivably be construed as love, hopefulness, joy, normalcy.

I’m finding that aspects of trauma are contagious.  Oh, I have experienced nothing like my lovely Hope has, but her trauma has now become my trauma.  Her pain is now my pain.  Her anger is now my anger.  Living with her, it’s all become mine too, but I’m the one responsible for helping her find her way, our way, out of this mess.   It is consuming and overwhelming.  It also hurts like hell.

People ask me how I’m doing.

Sigh…

I’m just doing.  I’m living moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

I take a lot of deep breaths.

I cry a lot.  I cry for her.  I sob for her and all the dreams I have for her.

And I do this mostly in private, because how can you explain to people that Hope doesn’t understand how to be happy?  How can you explain that her fear makes Hope say she hates you?  How can you explain that Hope’s trauma is so consuming that she wonders whether she can just survive the day?  How can you get people to understand the long term effects of trauma in the face of being offered a “good life?”

You can’t.  So, mostly, you just don’t try.  So you live this process alone.

It’s really lonely.   Even when you have people around who are supportive and grasping to understand, it is still lonely figuring out how to survive the most irrational behavior you’ve ever experienced.  There are things you don’t dare share.  There are things you can’t imagine saying.  God forbid you say something that makes someone wonder quietly or worse, out loud, that it might be all your fault.  If the drama of trauma doesn’t keep you up at night, the fear of that kind of judgment will.

Yes, trauma is contagious.

And yet, I try to have hope for Hope even while she pushes me away and spews venom that hurts my heart.  I just want to hug her.  I want her to just stop resisting and rest in my arms for a good cry.   I want to soothe her tears, smooth her hair from her face, look into her brown eyes and tell her that I’ll love and protect her always, that it really will be ok.  I want her to understand that she doesn’t have to test me; I’m not going anywhere. I just wish she would stop fighting.

I just want the sandstorm to stop.

It’s only been a month today since she arrived, and I know that the reality is that the storm is just starting.


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