As it appeared on Elephant Journal
This storm I see coming has settled in on me.
Relapse is the opposite of the sky opening as clouds roll off and out and by.
Relapse is the rain that won’t fall, the ways my eyes register the snap of sun, but can’t feel the warmth of my loved ones love.
It’s direct and strong and ready to rip, tug, tear or transform. Something primal pulls, crowds, suffocates my deep down wisdom.
If I could only melt into the connection I crave and push away, take my soul from raw cookie dough into something edible again. But I’m too remote. Egg-yolk-covered heart is not the kind others can lick without getting sick.
I miss the slide into sensuousness, the fold of laughter, the way the giggling of my girl can carry my heart over the ocean for days with refuelling.
The hungry kisses and conversation of my lover are not appetizers but feel like pressure. I issue apologies for the vacancy tattooed over every inch of me.
I hate the symptoms which replace me, the tin man I become where I had just been woman. Aluminium cold. Mechanical. On autopilot. Numb.
That’s post-traumatic relapse.
I hate it even as I understand it and mindfully wait it out.
It feels like being trapped naked in ocean water.
How is it even possible that the fluid of my soul becomes an ice block, no longer swimming, moving or expanding?
Breath, flesh and bone become cement.
Relapse isn’t the desire for alcohol or pills or food or sex. It’s the absence of passion, the disregard for life or self—the numbing “don’t care.” It’s the aversion to the terror—a statue erected against my will which I don’t know how to un-worship.
Father Time sucks me out of present time. Even Mother Nature can’t ground or protect me.
Worn down by ancient anxiety I get bitten under my sheets by the nightmare bees and hornets stinging my rest and buzzing through me.
it is a haunted irritation, an inability to control my own bodily sensations.
Bounty, grace, deliverance are ice cream toppings slipping far from this tongue and away from the cone I usually inhabit.
I know from experience that my taste buds will return and I’ll feel safe, warm and myself again. But I want to feel me now.
Being mindfully present to this pattern is both curse and blessing. 2 + 2 still equals 4. I’ve been here before. But that knowledge doesn’t stop it from hurting.
My dog’s taupe fur finds my hands and I feel my skin under her tongue watch her tail wag and wait for my exuberance to return.
To her. To me. To my home.
To my daughter who deserves better than this version of a mother.
I know this.
The difference with trauma is that the danger is actual, threatening and damaging. Post-traumatic stress feels just as scary, only it’s the symptoms and memories which are threatening.
We can’t do this alone. It’s why trauma survivors need and benefit from community.
Not to be rescued or saved by others, but to remind each other of what we usually know, say, believe and live.
We give the words to one another and are the reminders, grounding and safety that trauma steals.
When we sense the clouds are coming in and the open windows need to be closed, we can reach for one another.
We work to prevent the storms, but are not always successful.
When we aren’t, we help each other rally.
I am always stunned by relapse.
Every time I am sure it is the last.
I tell myself that I am too healed, whole and moved-on to feel it again, though I know that this is false.
I am both whole and capable of being hurt by trauma.
So is everyone else.
I read quotes, take warm baths and call friends. I hide under warm blankets, find carbs and sometimes stupid television.
I try to take in a sip of air and watch the lightning crack the sky and remember the beauty I can’t yet feel.
I’ve been split like the tree and the lightning cut me open without warning.
Eventually I’ll feel roots back in the soil stretching up for light and sun and warmth.
You Matter Mantras
- Trauma sucks. You don't.
- Write to express not to impress.
- It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
- Breathing isn't optional.