Trauma Work

(Content Warning – description of seeing a suicide attempt. A lot of rambling and a lot of Mental health stuff)

About six months ago I saw a girl in school uniform hanging from barbed wire under a bridge. And it totally wrecked me. I’ve been doing a lot of therapy. I’ve been doing a lot of just scrabbling desperately around trying to get a handle on any of this.

A lot of the stuff I’ve been reading about suffering a mental break has been related to feeling overwhelmed by an emotional response. Being extremely sad or angry or whatever, it talks less about what I experienced which was my thought processes behaving like a butterfly being unable to land properly. Emotionally my response to this was desperately trying to land. So I guess anxiety and desperation.

Immediately I saw her it was like I was looking at the world through a periscope, I think that night I started the nightmares for about two weeks solid, a bit more to be honest. Nightmares and insomnia have been varyingly common throughout my life but my gods did they increase during the pandemic.

Cue the eye rolls. I keep bringing up working through the pandemic and honestly people are bored of it right now. I know they are. I am. But I used to ask for pictures of cute things when I was feeling a bit down because a little bit of Depression has dogged my life. Going out and about during the pandemic was quite exciting and I used that bit of uniqueness to get through, I became aware though that my alixithymia was in no small part increased by just keeping on keeping on through it. And I asked for cute pictures when people were dying/had died.

I wasn’t frontline healthcare, I wasn’t treating people with covid. I was just going in and giving social care to an old man and shopping for immunocompromised people. So it feels like I’m not allowed to be stressed. It feels like I’m just harping on about it when other people had it worse.

I still felt like I was going to die whenever I left the house at the start of things. Except I did that thing I do to put up with horrible things, make dark jokes, put the feelings to one side and didn’t really deal with the fact that that was numbing everything until the second half of the pandemic. By then Dad had died and an awful lot of the people I have worked with had as well. I work with the chronically ill and disabled and that honestly describes a lot of the people I’m friends with as well so I’ve always done the odd errand and chore, like popping things to the town tip or picking stuff up from the supermarket for people I am not officially employed by, or sometimes I am, the amount of people who have me down as bank staff so they can pay me if they need to is quite large. But then there are people who’ll send me an Amazon voucher or a third of a bottle of rum or what have you because they want to exchange something for me helping them out.

So the thing is, there was a point in the middle of the pandemic when an awful lot of disabled people were dying and that really fed into my feeling of needing to keep doing things. Whilst grieving for my Dad, whilst worrying I might be carrying it. Whilst worrying that if I said I couldn’t pick up prescriptions one day I might be sending someone out into The Virus.

Is it ridiculous of me to assign it capital letters? It felt like it had capital letters a lot of the time.

Then last year they started dying again and it got a lot closer to home because a lot of the people who give me stuff, and one person who had me on her rota as bank staff started dying. This round was the disabled people who had had covid before and I know this is anecdotal but most of them were dying of heart and lung related stuff. Which threw into sharp relief my own reduced lung capacity. Some people hit home more than others, mostly people who I knew better or the people who made an impression because they were funny or sarcastic. Or that horrible phrase that gets thrown at me – A Character.

Then I saw the girl under the bridge. And not from a position of calm but from a position of having done some trauma work but not all of it. I mean who gets the chance to ever do all of it, right?

For two weeks I couldn’t understand why I was struggling to retain and process information – verbal, written it didn’t matter I was frequently overwhelmed and that butterfly of a mind was just not landing. I’m not sure what I should have done but taking a step back and maybe taking time off work to process would have helped.

Drinking a large amount of whisky and having FJ talk me through my Puno moment of realising that the reason it was getting to me was because that could have been me. That was probably not my smartest decision but it was what I had in that moment and it helped with the unpleasant level of surreality of the day.

About two weeks later I told a friend who was clearly having her own breakdown that it felt like she was using me as a punching bag (verbally not literally) and could she stop. She didn’t and I lost a friend. Following that two of my partners broke up with me and my brain literally stopped working mid conversation because it was just too much stress, emotional heartbreak on top of a mind that could not get a grip on the then and there. There was a moment in that conversation when it felt like I could feel my brain break, like I started a thought and I could not get to the completion of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been as scared before, not even whale watching.

It’s still happening. I’m trying to get a grip and get through it and the way my brain works it’s cycling so much through every emotional response I could possibly have and it’s still butterflying. Not as bad but Christ if everything I’ve read about trauma work and such is how things are supposed to go for neurotypical brains then I am absolutely damned sure the psychiatrist was right in his diagnosis because this is not quite how mine is reacting.

I think I’m getting better generally speaking, I’m not having nightmares all the damned time, but I do not always feel like myself and after last year when I felt so much like myself it just feels cruel somehow. I almost had a grip and then everything spun away from me. It’s still spinning.

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