i’m sorry i was late for this (interruption due to canadian thanksgiving festivities, which involved turkey and a great number of glasses of chardonnay), but i couldn’t not write on it.
one evening last week, i was deeply triggered and trying not to be. i left my house, my wife, and my daughter to go to the grocery store, because i thought doing something normal might interrupt the shame and the spinning.
i got as far as a block away from my house before i recognized that it wasn’t going to work. i was driving and realized that i should not have been, because i was starting to hold my breath, i was shaking, and it felt like i was too watery inside to know how to steer.
there were two people i wanted: my t, and pocketbrit.
i had already texted my t earlier, when i first felt it getting bad, when it was all going sideways and wiggly at the edges. i could feel i was going to panic but i was just managing to hold it off. i could feel that i was small and i was young and activated, and i wanted her to hold me, even if just with her voice, over the phone. i wanted her to help me and i knew she could.
but t couldn’t talk. she was apologetic but she just couldn’t, not that night. and i believed that she couldn’t, i absolutely understood that she couldn’t, but my stomach dropped out and there was just roaring between my ears.
pocketbrit is so so trusted by my little one, but the tiny bit of me that was still adult was ashamed, and wouldn’t let me ask for her. it was late at night for her, she hadn’t been sleeping much, and i just felt i should take care of it myself. my need was huge. i was small and scared and was going to lose control, i knew i was going to, and it would be awful and triggery for her and it would be humiliating and terrible for me.
she and i had been texting earlier but i had disappeared…and just as t said she couldn’t call me, a text came from pocketbrit, asking where i had gone. i told her that i was panicking and that it was bad. and then she was there, with me, i could feel her arrival, but i needed her even closer. i begged her in my mind to call me, to just call me, i balled my fists into my eyes and sent a hundred wishes over the ocean that separates us so that she might hear and know that i needed her, as close as she could get. my heart was in my throat and the tsunami was coming, i didn’t have much time…and she wrote, in quick succession, i’m here. it’s okay. can you tell me? i’m not leaving. but i still couldn’t say, i couldn’t spell, i couldn’t find the words, i didn’t answer her for what felt like forever.
until i finally did. and i don’t quite remember doing it, but i typed help me.
(there’s still a small rush of shame – or compassion? – for that, i was so so young)
and then my phone rang and her voice arrived via the speakers in my car, and she did help me. helped me breathe and focus and weathered the storm with me. stayed steady. stayed close. i don’t know what-all i said but through all the gulping and sobbing and holding of my breath and shame she talked to me, gently and calmly and lovingly. even though i’m sure it was scary and awful, as it would be for anyone who has ever loved someone through a flashback, she didn’t leave. she helped, so much.
when i awoke on the other side, when i was adult again, i mostly felt empty but also terrified. coz oooohh, now i’d done it. she’d heard it all. but quick on the heels of that was relief, and so so much love. (i never used to feel anything other than intense shame, self-loathing and guilt for polluting the innocent people in the wake of my trauma). but that night, i was just so so grateful for her presence, her voice, and her love. they all helped.
so when i read this word the other day, i thought of what it meant to be helped. i also thought about back then, about all the things both pocketbrit and myself lacked growing up: safety. attentiveness. gentleness. affection. respect. praise. and how, like she said in her post, no one helped us, and the people who could’ve, turned a blind eye. the truth in that, and the pain of it, does make me so angry and so sad.
despite never being able to get that back…despite not being rescued, despite the wounds i carry as a result of doing it alone for so many years, i realized that last week, i actually recognized that i need help. and, i asked for it…and then received it, in such a beautiful, gentle, caring way. and there is so much healing in that.
so much sad, but so much love, too.