Thursday, March 28, 2019

Anatomy of Trauma

One—A lifeshattering event,
One that marks a place in your life indelibly into
And in the moments after it happens, when you’re still dealing with the actual crisis,
You feel numb and focused,
Practical and maybe a little shaky,
But you seem so strong because you’re getting through it,
Making decisions,
Choosing how you will remember this moment
For the rest of your life

Two—the immediate aftermath
When the main crisis is past and you have time to process things
From the safety of your home or a place where you have gone to rest,
The reaction,
When your mind and body first realize
Everything that’s happened
There’s shaking,
There’s crying,
There’s nausea,
There’s a host of other symptoms that combine to tell you one thing:
This is not okay

Everything is a fog and you are not sure what time it is, what day it is,
Or where you are
Somehow, you manage to continue to live and perform basic human functions,
But you often find yourself staring into space for no apparent reason
And unable to move until suddenly you’re shooting off to do whatever it is you were doing,
Did the trauma happen yesterday, a week ago, or last year?
When did you last eat?
How many days until you have to go back to work?
Where are you again?
I don’t know when I am!
It’s okay, just breathe,
I wish I could feel something
You feel sick

Four—Shock wears off
And you wonder why you wanted to feel anything,
The pain is so overwhelming you’re not sure you’ll survive
Nightmares haunt your nights
And panic attacks consume your days
And you’re one hundred percent certain
That the world will never be the same,
Even so,
You keep getting slapped in the face with reminders that
The world will never be the same,
And it’s a huge surprise
Sights, sounds, smells,
Plans for the future,
Memories of the past
They all conspire to tell you
How very much you’ve lost
And you’re not sure you want to go on without it,
But somehow you do

Five—Blame, regret, doubt
Well-meaning people around you
Do not understand why you’re still dealing with the pain,
Having never been through trauma before,
They don’t know how long it takes to overcome and move forward and heal,
And they send this subtle signal out
That you should be okay now
And you wonder if it’s true
That you should be okay now,
And you start to think back to those decisions you made in the moment,
Did you do the right thing?
What would you do if you could do it over?
And then you start thinking back even further,
Could you have prevented it?
Could you have stopped the tragedy if only you had…

Now that your worst fears have come true in ways beyond the horror you’ve imagined,
There’s no reason to think that they will not do so again,
How many times can the world fall apart?
Ask Job,
And you live on the edge of a cliff
Knowing that at any moment, at any time,
The world could stop spinning on its axis
And for no apparent reason crumble into dust

And somehow in all of this, you’re still alive,
Still existing, still moving forward,
And you have no idea how that’s even possible
As the weight of all of these things happening at once
Threatens to overwhelm you,
Fear, guilt, agony, and shock combine to make your life a living nightmare,
And yet you press forward, continue on,
You go to work every day and clean the house
You go to the movies with a friend,
Listen to your favorite song on the radio,
And in between the moments of soul-crushing despair,
You have hope
And maybe greater things are yet to come
And some kind of joy is still possible for you
Even though your world has ended
And you have to be willing to redefine the look of joy
And keep living.