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April 28, 2019

Trauma Doesn’t Define You

“I once was lost, but now I’m found” the lyrics whisper in the back of my mind, rooted from a long forgotten childhood church memory. The familiarity of the melody warms my soul. A piece of serenity nestled upon me in the midst of another busy day. Hour by hour, I move through the motions. Adhering to schedule yet barely scraping by. Deep down I know this isn’t the answer. I won’t find the solution in another cold brew- even if it’s encased in eco friendly and biodegradable materials. The memory comes alive. I shove it down. I fall prey to the sickening routine. It comes alive again, this time worse- stronger, bolder, bigger than before. I can’t contain it. Breaking down and falling to the ground, I let the emotions, the sounds, the chaos come alive. Before I know it, I lose my mind- back in the moment. Returning to the scene of the crime- a time where I was me and this wasn’t mine.

I’m lost in a sea of darkness. I can’t hear, I can’t speak. I can’t breathe- it’s as if my lungs are caving in, crumbling in on themselves and resisting air. The panic has set in. I remember. I relive. The sweat in my palms strike fear and a false sense of familiarity. What reality deems a natural bodily occurrence, my brain distorts into blood. My blood. I see it. I feel it all over again. The stains on the towels, the way it entangles, drying in each strand of hair. No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter how short and how many times I cut my hair, it won’t stop. I see red everywhere. With each loud noise and sudden movement, I’m back in that moment. Frozen in time with no escape plan. I can’t see the exit sign. There’s no door- not even a window. I’m trapped in my own worst nightmare- one I lived through and have to again and again. The lights are too bright. There’s buzzing in my ear. Constant pain has me living in fear. I can’t help but shudder every time someone is near. This is trauma, not drama.

I don’t know when it will strike. I equip- plan for the worst and hope for the best. I gather my tools, one by one in attempt of mastering them. PTSD doesn’t get to determine me. I am more than an escalated memory. I am more than my fear. I am more than the trauma holding me here.

I have it down to a T. No one would notice- really, would anyone care? Internally I’m screaming, gasping for air; kicking my way through the forgotten familiar air. A part of me dies inside. It’s like I’m being eaten alive. I close my eyes and the monster appears. I can’t escape it. It’s there- just look in the mirrors. The body I’m in doesn’t feel like mine. I don’t know how to uncross that line. I say I’m fine while I’m crying inside. They say it doesn’t define and I’m going to be fine but each and every time I’m dying to come alive that I start shaking inside. I’m hit with the feeling. Slammed with the truth. This is real now, It’s time to move… move on from what happened. I’m taking it one day at a time, but it’s hard when this tastes like a lime. I wanted sweet but life dealt me sour. I’m struggling more and more by the hour. I put makeup on to cover the scar. The bruises have faded and the stitches are gone, but those pink marks shine on. Strategically placing on layers of goopy skin colored corrector hoping this time it will stick- be more like glue or something lasting forever. The date marks seven months. Half a year come and gone. I’ve seen the slew of brain injury doctors- how significant measurements can be- comparing to a source and setting a course.

Again, I cut my hair and prayed through the fear. I passed baseline tests and tried my best. Feeling blessed at my new accomplishments. Finishing tests and now being able to fully get dressed- something I used to detest. The dizziness was subsiding and I could bend over like the rest. I could slip my pants on, tie my shoes and stand in the shower, too. It’s funny how luxurious daily tasks became… I unintentionally took for granted what I could do unassisted from day to day.  I started to feel like I was taking control of my life. But then, it happening again.

This time the episode being the worst. Resistance is no match for the power of tears. Each one falls as the breathing gets worse. I’m trying to focus- to be in the moment, but I can’t. It hits me, like when that baseball bat made contact with my face. It’s happening all over again.. just take a peek inside my head. But, this time it’s different. There’s someone here and I can’t hide the fear. I blink away another tear and hear “that’s enough for today, you did great!” Barely completing thirty seconds of ocular therapy and feeling scared and hopeless. But the echoes of new words- ones of encouragement, love and acceptance ring in my ears. A sense of hope. A sense of pride. No one else had ever been there to see it from this side. I push back the thoughts and try to swallow the shame. The guilt, the embarrassment- I’ve wounded my pride. The shaking won’t stop and the tears keep coming. How could someone stand there looking so loving? Not seeming to care, instead saying “this wasn’t fair”. Sincerity that lacked pity. I searched this face, waiting for the distortion and the words to roll spewing disgrace. Instead, I was told I was strong. The sense of longing and acceptance faded away as a layer of my fortress wall crumbled down.


He said I was strong. He wasn’t coercing me into believing this truth. I was shown my capabilities, taught how to love myself despite the pain; to count each victory, no matter the size. Every time I saw his face he showed me grace. He accepted me at my worst- immersed in something I could not see an end to. But, as the saying goes “April showers bring May flowers”. Little did I know I had to water my pain. Each frustrated tear helped me grow. I bloomed and was groomed for this next season. This traumatic moment, for the first time, wasn’t full of shame. My fear and hiding the truth came to light and it’s like they were never in sight. I was afraid to have them find out. I was afraid I’d be kicked out- picked apart and thrown to the wolves. I was terrified of admitting something had been wrong. Something I knew didn’t belong- the someone new I had become. I didn’t want this as my reputation- some sort of pitiful or laughable narration. My body was weak and I was tired of feeling meek. I wasn’t going to allow this to be another symptom on some list. I am more than those panicked moments. I am more than the fear. I am more than the opinion of someone else- even those I hold near.

I collected moments- the good ones here and the good ones there. That day, I  truly felt it. I believed him when he said I am strong. I was re-introduced to myself and found an understanding of true strength; all because of the personal trainer, who became a friend.

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