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  • Bella Dancer

I DARE YOU - My 20th RebirthDay

Updated: Dec 25, 2020

Twenty years ago this morning, I thought I'd be waking up like usual. I thought I'd scribble my thoughts into my journal for fifteen minutes, then get out of bed. I thought I'd take a shower, towel off my hair and brush it, then put on my work clothes, put food into my mouth and chew it to mostly mush.

Instead, I woke up to a roaring alarm and a screaming headache. I peeled my swollen eyes open to find dual spears jammed into them. I snoozed the alarm three times. Finally, I dragged my battered carcass out of the covers and into the living room where my only phone was plugged into the wall.

Twenty years ago this morning, I thought I would be putting on my warmest winter-wear, warming up my car, and driving to work.

But I had no car parked in my spot outside my apartment. Its crumpled remains had been towed away and locked in a lot until it could be assessed and officially totaled. Upon calling in to work, I told my boss that I didn't have a ride and asked him if anybody could come pick me up. When I explained why, he told me to go sit down and not move until his sister could come check me over--she was a chiropractor.

To my surprise, I was not "just fine" like the hospital had told me when they sent me home in the middle of the night. My boss's sister lifted up my hair to discover a golfball sized lump on the back of my neck. We had no idea if I had any fractured vertebrae because the emergency room tech couldn't figure out how to unhook the clasp of my rhinestone costume necklace. "Ah, you won't need those anyway," he decided.

The emergency room also never so much as breathed the word "concussion," which turned out to be the most significant of my injuries. It also turned out to be permanent.

And thus began the nightmare of having to prove my injuries to the world.

Twenty years ago this evening, I thought I'd be dancing for a private Christmas party at one of the Moroccan restaurants in town. I thought I'd be doing the same thing at my regular gigs on Friday and Saturday nights. On Sunday, I thought for certain I'd be sharing my second make-out session with the man I had just started dating.

That last one was the only thing that happened. Sorta. Tentatively. Softly.

Twenty years ago at 12:13 a.m. I never could have imagined who I had become by 12:17 a.m.

This is how the Trauma Brain is created. It's how PTSD is formed.

We go about our lives, living under countless ASSumptions:

--I WILL wake up when my alarm goes off.

--I WILL take a shower.

--I WILL eat my cereal.

--I WILL get ready for work.

--I WILL start my car.

--I WILL drive all the way to work.

--I WILL work all day.

--I WILL drive home.

--I WILL make and eat supper.

--I WILL help the kids with homework.

--I WILL watch my favorite show before bed, curled up with my spouse.

--I WILL go upstairs and climb into bed.

--I WILL fall asleep.

--I WILL wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

Once you've had a trauma, an alternate set of mental folders gets moved to the top of the Operational Procedures. You've always had these folders. You've always known that there's a chance you might not make it to your destination every time you operate a motor vehicle. But because there are so many times that you have, and because you know countless other people who get to their destinations in their cars every day, the general expectation that you live under is that it's more likely than not you'll make it there again.

I no longer live under this procedure.

The trauma brain goes something like this:

--I WILL wake up when my alarm goes off--oh shit! I better double check it to make sure that I remembered to set it. OK, whew. I woke up on time.

--I WILL take a shower--oh shit! Do you know how easy it would be for me to slip while getting in there? Steady now. Oh, geez, or washing my hair - do NOT sing! Don't break your concentration. Get out carefully. One foot. And the other. Whew! Didn't slip and break my neck.

--Good Gods! I could die just by putting on my pants! If I tripped with one leg half in, my skull could slam onto the corner of that dresser, right into the temple and that'd be that. Okay, sit down. Breathe. Cool. I'm dressed.

-- Time for--ohhhhh man. Fucking stairs. Seriously? Who invented those death traps! That was so stupid! Why did I ever rent this place? Ok, release your white knuckled hand from the railing. Whew.

--I WILL eat my cereal--why do they make this shit so huge? Do you know how easily I could choke on that? And there's nobody here! If I was choking, I'd have to try to give myself the heimlich over this chair--would I break my ribs? Would I suffocate and die anyway? Whew. All eaten. Didn't croak-o on my Coco Puffs.

You realize that we're only a half-hour into our day, right? Tired yet?

Yeah. Me, too.

This is why PTSD consumes vast amounts of Spoons. These glitches and images and flashes of worry sometimes pummel us with full-blown trigger moments. At their worst they can be paralyzing or incite meltdowns or panic attacks. But even once they're under control, if they're still happening, it doesn't matter that they zip by more quickly than the blink of an eye. That still eats a Spoon.

Now add in any injuries or illnesses or health conditions? Mmmmmph.

Over here, we go through the day ASSuming that there is a very high likelihood that we will NOT get into that vehicle and make it to our destination, because the last time we did, WE DIDN'T. Forever thereafter, the Klaxons continue screaming about how we might not. And it doesn't just apply to vehicles or anything related to what caused the injury and deviated "I WILL" into "I DIDN'T." Ohhhhhh, no. It copy-pastes this crappy ASSumption onto everything else that we've always known in the back of our minds could be hazardous. Then it slaps warning labels to things we had once found innocuous.

It also slaps these warning labels onto everyone you remotely care about. Now your spouse MIGHT NOT make it home from work--heck, they might not even make it TO work--better call just to make sure--whew.

Your kids? Pfffft, those feeble, weeble-wobbly little suckers are just doomed.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot.

With every subsequent trauma you acquire? Well, my trauma therapist likens the first one, particularly if it happened at a young age, to one of those nasty hanging stickie-traps for flies. Any traumas that come after, even if they're little, get stuck onto that thing and make an icky, tangled mess of goo and bug guts.

It's really fun, I'm telling you.

Once this has happened to me, it's now my job to tame down this automatic survival mechanism that has gotten a little too happy with itself. It thinks it's the CEO rather than the security team, and it demands a CEO's salary of Spoons, as well as the top floor suite office. Its services are soooo much more valuable and necessary and crucial and needed than anybody else's, see?

Thank goodness for EMDR, meditation, art, martial arts, breathing exercises, bioenergetic shaking, journaling, more meditation, furious dancing, woo-woo flow dancing, neuroplasticity, and intense visualization of arriving at my destination safely, complete with imaginary "Woohoo!" and selfie-fist-bump.


All that shit totally works. I'm not nearly as much of a basket case anymore.

So, yarp indeedy, we're going to spend many more posts covering everything that happened 20 years ago instead of going to work, dancing my little heart out, and making mad bunny-rabbit boink with a tall, long-haired drink of musician.

We will have to take breathers. We will need to deviate and clarify at times. That's just how we do things over here.

More importantly, we're going to discuss how this...ahem...slight detour to my life (and several others) transformed me into somebody I love, value, cherish, and protect a thousand-and-one times more than I cherished myself at twenty-eight.

Yes, in spite of my inability to stop dropping F-bombs in professional circumstances.

In spite of losing that beloved supercomputer of a brain.

Even in spite of the Rage Thang.

Happy Winter Solstice to y'all! Happy RebirthDay to me! I just turned twenty, and it is a really, really good day.

I dare you to have one, too. Go on.






--Or if you want to start at the beginning of this anniversary series, it starts HERE.