20 YEARS AGO TODAY - The One Year Anniversary of My RebirthDay
It's the Winter Solstice, so y'all know what that means around here. I keep wanting to write another 20 Years Ago Today post about how potent anniversary triggers can be, and how sneaky others can be. But I haven’t been in the mood. I've wanted to write about anything but 'Tis the Drunk Driving Season, which means it’s prolly a sneaky year.
It does that sometimes. The first year--December 21, 2001--it hit me like a ton of bricks and I was not surprised. My Vietnam Vet buddy who helped me understand the basics of PTSD had told me all about anniversary reactions.
Since mine was right before Christmas, I had gone home to visit my parents, which I had been prevented from doing the year before by the BLAM of a drunk driver. I was an absolute wreck. (OMGs I truly don't try to do this. Hahaha!) I was still in constant pain and nobody could figure out any way to stop it. I was just beginning to understand how to live with this enigma nobody really knew much about either: permanent Dain Bramage.
With the advent of a year passing, that meant that my lost wages from the car insurance company would come to an end, and I had no idea how I was going to survive without it. I was barely teaching dance again in a teensy rural town, I was performing even less, and they had medically removed me from my day job as an office manager at the end of summer. The relationship with my boyfriend was also on the rocks. I was terribly afraid that I was going to have to move back to Hell--I mean, my hometown where my parents still lived.
While visiting, I got a really good look at what that would be like.
From my journal:
I wonder how long I could really stay here. No privacy. It's loud here...I always hated being woken up with the LOUD. Where would I put my cats? They'd have this place shredded and destroyed. What would I do with my classes?
I had zero interest in getting my spots back dancing at the Moroccan restaurants, because I was sick of being groped and drooled on while people stuffed money inside my costume. I was sick of the way people treated me because I was a belly dancer. I was sick of the shiny-perfect-fake face-face-face side of my favorite art form. I wanted to build something deep and meaningful.
I want to create. I want to show the world the beatify and dignity of this dance. I want the world to understand that it can be sacred and that the female body is also sacred, not vulgar and profane. Am I stupid to think that the world wants that?
I mean, no one thinks twice when a ballet dancer goes out there in a leotard, a tutu and tights, where you can see almost every curve, every muscle, every part of her body. It's the image and the ages-old stigmas. How do we make the "profane" sacred? I want to study all sorts of ethnic forms so I can use them all in my choreographies, so I have a broader repertoire. How do I finish healing in the meantime? How do I support myself? Or do I just take a break? Do I come back here?
Shit, if I do that, I'll lose everything. I'll lose my tiny spark of momentum I've clawed my way back to. I'll lose the Florence class. I'll lose this sudden resurgence of Colorado Springs people wanting me back. I'll lose the timing of coming back to classes after the gorging of the holidays.
I'll also lose Galen's and my ground we've gained. Is it that he's not right for me, or is it that the timing has been so fucked through the whole relationship?
And I hate... And I hate... And I hate... Disintegration. Watching us wither. Black-winged roses have safely changed their colors. ~Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos
I wonder how long it'll take him to email or call me. He hardly ever does except for little stuff. Scheduling. But reply to my messages? He almost never does. If we break up, who will take my cats if I move back here?
I hate all these money-grubbing entities. Government, insurance, medical, criminal. And Dakini's cutthroat manner. Now she's invading my flamenco class. I bet she would be glad if I was gone. I wish I could end these feelings about her in my heart.
I'm just not a nice person anymore. I'm clinging to one shred in survival mode, so I'm hard with a sharp edge again--an animal backed in a corner. My eyes don't smile anymore. Dealing with all this trauma and adversity with dignity and grace? Certainly haven't learned that lesson.
I'm so tired of the worry about everything. I don't have the stamina to live full-time, much less work full-time, much less work at dance full-time. How can I go back to school? I'm so tired. Always so tired. Exhausted. Never caught up unless I'm sleeping until 11 or maybe 10. Then I have to go back to sleep again in the afternoon. The last month my natural wakeup time has been 11.
Once those lost wages end, I'm so fucked. How do I survive? How do I create this dream?
Yup, that's me plastering on the deer-in-the-headlights smile while overloaded and brain-fried at the big family Christmas. I hacked people off with how much I had to hide and sleep during that trip. They just didn't understand, as many times as my parents and I tried to explain about sensory over-stimulation. Bombarded by a house crammed with people, it put me under the table within minutes.
In addition, I was being bombed from within by the animal brain having an anniversary episode, yet trying to enjoy myself with the people I loved. That car wreck had shoved to the forefront of my mind just how precarious life is. How easily it can be over in a snap. Or how easily it can do a 216 degree spin, leaving you alive but irrevocably altered. So I desperately wanted to enjoy the holiday cheer and drink in everyone while I had the chance.
I only could in sporadic moments or on a few of the surface levels, as well as a super embedded one down deep in the most important internal places. But that was buried so deep in the base operating system where I couldn't fully access it because upon the surface I was too steeped in pain, overload, and an amygdala that couldn't stop freaking out due to the date on the calendar.
"You know what happened laaaasssst time this season came around!"
Yes. I know. *petting the animal body and holding it close*
The anniversary trigger thing can be very potent. There have been times when I'm not paying attention to the date, but I'll suddenly find myself out of sorts, pissy, growly for seemingly no reason. I wrack my brains for why and then I realize--ohhhhh, it's just the anniversary of some major traumatic event.
The same thing can happen with places. I used to get flashbacks every time I passed the Uintah Street bridge in Colorado Springs. Sometimes I could be half asleep in the car and be driven across it and SPROING! My animal body will wake because it just knows that we've passed over That Place.
Other times I know these things are coming. A return to the Scawey Place. The big, bad date on the calendar. So I give myself plenty of time and space to do what I need to do. I plan self-care activities on an anniversary, or I plan nothing at all and just see how I feel. I warn people. Sometimes that works out really well.
And then there are the sneak-attacks. The anniversary comes; the anniversary goes. Nothing. I look around. Check under the bed. No monsters. Sniff my armpits. Huh. Just deodorant smell. No stenchy Beastie. I peer into my own eyes in the mirror in search of her.
I find her asleep in the back of the room, drooling away under a fuzzy blanket with a stuffie tucked under her chin.
Then the next day or the next week or some random moment when something reminds me--POUNCE! Tackle-roll-pin-maul.
The trauma brain is a fascinating mechanism. If you haven't ever read The Body Keeps the Score and you're remotely interested in this subject--or...you know, you live around humans who have ever undergone traumatic events--I highly recommend it. Not only does it explain the mechanisms of the trauma brain, but it also goes into a wide variety of options for healing it.
Personally I'm a fan of the multipotentialite track. I like to come at it from a gazillion different angles. As you can see by the variety of Healing Topics I write about. (Since my new Categories platform will only let me check ten boxes for the topics any one blog post falls under, sometimes I put it under Healing and sometimes I put it under its specific kind of healing. Occasionally I get to file it under both.)
So, yeah. PTSD Anniversaries.
🎶 Joooooy to the world...
Happy Solstice, y'all!
Happy RebirthDay to me!
'Tis the Season
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: THE FIGHTERS - Gawking at My First Heavy Weapons Tournament
--OR: if you want to know more about PTSD, its many-armed cousin Complex-PTSD, TBI, Injury and Trauma, you can find all those topics here: