When Monica Cassani posted this video (see below) on her wonderful blog, BEYOND MEDS.com today, I was not sure I would watch it, mostly because I often do not have the patience to watch videos, no matter who recommends them. (Sorry about yesterday’s recommendation, an hourlong one no less, but it is vitally important to me and my topic…I still highly recommend it, if you cannot read Anatomy of an Epidemic…). Nevertheless, something about a video on treating trauma, perhaps the face of McElheran on Youtube, perhaps just my mood at the beginning of this day, impelled me to click on the little triangle that started it playing. I was pulled in almost at once. In fact, I was soon in tears, because McElheran may speak to us all, but most importantly she spoke to me…her words on trauma included me, personally, for once.
That she did so, moved me beyond words, because at that moment she validated my own manifold experiences of trauma, which were mostly NOT of potentially mortal events, even if I may have believed them to be so (when paranoid or psychotic). I will embed the video here, so you can watch it now, and come back to my blog post afterwards if you so choose. Or watch it whenever you like. It is — truly! — only 16 minutes long, and very compelling, so do not worry that it will take a lot of time.
Something about what she talks about reminds me that “Nothing human is alien to me…” We are all capable of everything, and anything, given the proper circumstances. Her compassion for human behavior is astonishing and moving beyond words.
I need to say this because no one who “knows me” thinks I am “capable” of things like calling people such vile names as those I called the aides and nurses regularly at YNHPH, or of stripping and defecating and smearing feces without even thinking or considering the consequences… But those are important words: “without thinking” and “without considering the consequences” because they indicate that I was behaving wildly impulsively, as indeed I was. Think about the situation: Six to eight people, some of them security guards (self-professed former police officers) had just violently and brutally assaulted me, thrown me onto a bed, held me down (causing physical pain to the point that I screamed in reaction) and pulled down my pants, giving me three intramuscular injections into the buttocks, then holding me down some more until they felt “safe” to let go…(One of them actually telling me they would press charges for my kicking her in the stomach while she was restraining my knees!)
Once i was freed, I made a dash to get out of the room, wanting to “do laps” around the “square” hallway that gave the Washington Square 2 unit its name. No deal. They physically prevented me from leaving the small single room, that had nothing in it but a hospital bed and tray table. I recoiled, enraged and manically in need of doing something, anything! Suddenly, I felt my bowels engage, roil, want “to go.” But the bathroom was down the hall…No matter, what the F—! Who gives a shit, in fact.
Without thinking a second thought about it, I simply pulled down my pants, squatted, and unloaded on the floor, to not so silent on-lookers astonishment and incredibility. Then I removed my clothing altogether. But another WTF moment seized me, then. The steaming pile of sh-t was there, and suddenly I “knew” what to do with it…and I did not give a sh-t that this meant using my hands or getting it all over me or anything. I just didn’t give a flying femtogram. I do not know why. I didn’t even smell anything. I just picked up handsful of the feces and smeared it across the walls. But not blindly and wildly, no, I was writing something, I remember now, I wrote something on the walls with it, though I do not know what any longer. And I do not think anyone took the time to read it. I do not believe anyone bothered to notice that I was not merely smearing but writing in shit...
The point is, I did this as a response to trauma, small as you might say it was. I felt traumatized. I felt brutalized. And I felt and was out of control as a result. This is not to say that my impulsive behavior served any purpose other than venting rage and sheer revenge at my abusers. It certainly won me no friends and no compassionate understanding from anyone. It could have, someone might have understood it for what it was, and seen that what they were doing to me was in fact brutality and traumatizing…They had after all diagnosed me with PTSD, so WTF did they think they were doing?
It doesn’t help, frankly, that “Dr Angela” believes that they were “on my side” and “doing their best” and “actually helping me” all along. I do not agree. I do not believe that. I think they were hidebound in their determination to break me, and if they could not see that they were perpetuating harm, they should have.
Okay, okay, okay Pam. Calm down. Calm down. Remember you are practicing forgiveness, not worrying the sore into an infected mess! 8)
This is hard. It is so difficult to forgive and let go of harm that no one admits to having done, one, and two, claims was actually for my own good. To help me!
Bull feathers! I still have exquisite backside piriformis muscle pain when I move in certain ways or even sit down on my right hip. And if I take off a T-shirt with the usual crossed arm movement, it causes agony in my deltoid muscles from the injections they gave me there too.
But forgive and move on, forgive and move on…I need to take a deep breath. Think about other things. Get ready to go out for coffee as I have made a date with an old friend of mine I haven’t seen since that debacle at the Institute of Living last winter. We always have great talks. It will be good to see her!
Yes, I will leave this on that note. The fact that I do not isolate myself, but that I have lots of friends and do things to keep myself busy and fulfilled and purposeful in life. Trauma and memories and flashbacks of trauma may still get me, and they get me in the gut a lot, but they haven’t got me completely over a barrel the way they might have. There was a time when I was more isolative and friendless but not any more. Not anymore.
One thought on “Trauma and Connection: You Need Not Be Alone”
Okay, I understand now. I have trouble with impulsive behaviors also. Not those particular ones, but others that make just as little sense. There does not seem to be a reason why, does there? I have asked myself why I impulsively go through my apartment in the middle of the night (once in a while) and throw out all my DVD’s, CD’s, journals, books, even when I know I will regret doing so the next day. Maybe the why isn’t important. Maybe I need to focus on how I can respond to these impulses in a different, less destructive way. It’s expensive replacing all this shit, too. I try to make myself wait at least until morning and think it through, but sometimes I just can’t. But I am getting better.
I have “revelations” or epiphanies — do you have those, Pam? It is almost a spiritual illumination. (I think of the Bible story of Paul on the road to Damascus.) A feeling of wonder and absolute KNOWING comes over me — that I KNOW what to do in order to make this a beautiful world. That I KNOW suddenly the answer to man’s questions about life and living. That I KNOW with undeniable conviction that I can transform my life into a freaking fantastic work of incredible creativity. Sounds rather dubious, yes. Certainly does. But it doesn’t start sounding questionable until several hours later when I have come down from the mountain and am living among mortals again. Then I realize the foolish error of my ways.
Unfortunately, by the time I realize I have been fooled into walking into the Light again, I realize the proverbial light is either a policeman’s flashlight in my face, or I have given too much of my money or possessions away, or I have gone out and made purchases I always end up taking back. Lately, when I realize this is just another “revelation” that is not going to pan out, I have been able to make myself wait for 24 hrs before I act on it. It is like offering someone who is taking Zyprexa a whole gallon of premium ice cream. Baby, you know that thing’s gonna disappear all in one night.