On being re-traumatised
I am thinking of all those of us in the world who have been through trauma – the kind when one feels and is facing the possibility of great harm and death or where one has to experience continual abuse or great stress one simply cannot escape over a long period of time. And then the same or another trauma happens and one is re-traumatised. Even those of us blessed with great resilience will struggle.
Luckily not everyone experiences this first hand.
I am thinking of those children injured in conflict and war zones who hear the whistle of bombs falling again, hear shots in the street...or those near the Boston bomb hearing of the Texas blast. Or child soldier facing fear after fear after fear. Or women who have been raped having to face walking home in the dark again and again because of where they live and their economic position. Or a child waiting for the signs that her father will rape or beat her again. Or victims of a violent ‘home invasion’ listening endlessly for the next attack. Or a young girl raped at school by her school ‘mates’ having to sit in class with them every day.
The list could go on forever...
Although I have tried to keep working as hard as I can the accident my husband, son and I had two weeks ago just outside Bloemfontein which ‘wrote off’ our car and put my son and I into attractive white collars is proving hard to get over. I had to slow down because the traffic in front of me slowed and the tired and distracted driver behind us ploughed very fast into the back of us. Luckily I was able to move into the right lane to prevent us hitting into the car in front of us (also being at the correct following distance helped a lot.)
One of the main reasons is because of a terrible accident we had on the 17th of the 7th 2007 – a never to be forgotten date. A very large articulated truck passed another very large truck on a blind rise and smashed into us. My daughter and I were very seriously injured. My son injured but luckily not too badly. I was in hospital for a month , in bed for 2 more and still in a wheelchair 6 months later. Modern medicine and good doctors mean that I walk quite well now although hiking, running, yoga, Spanish dancing and so much more is out now.
The accident two weeks ago also upset an injury I got to my back and knee in the 2007 accident. Now that I am over 50 things take longer to heal. My son, thank goodness, is already feeling much better. But both of us I think have been re-traumatised. Both remembering our terrible fear that my unconscious daughter was dead or dying. The awful, painful pictures that would rise up unbidden again and again. They had receded in these last 6 years but now they are back. And we have to dust off our extra strong coping, processing and courage skills and try to face the trauma mountain again.
I wish trauma was something one ‘got over’. After so many traumas in my life (I was young and anti-apartheid in the 70’s and 80’s in the Eastern Cape – not good) I know trauma does not make you stronger, a better person, or anything noble like that. It may mean you know your emotional cracks better than others and it may mean that when you hear of others trauma’s you understand from a very deep integral part of yourself what kind of pain they are experiencing. Your life will change direction. Some changes you will have control over and some not. In order to manage the trauma you will need to learn a great deal more about yourself and spend huge amounts of energy doing this. It is hard, painful work and here my son and I are back looking at that mountain one cannot climb over, under or around – rather we just have to once again come to terms with it looming over us.
Strength, resilience and love to all those struggling with that mountain...and to children that they will have the love and support and understanding that will help them to find a way to process and accept the mountain without it blighting their lives.