Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trauma and Post-Trauma

[Content note: Description of the after-effects of trauma.]

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my therapist. I made that appointment two weeks ago, but didn't anticipate when I made it that I would need it so badly. I felt like I was doing well two weeks ago. I was keeping up with work, mostly, and hadn't yet stood in line long enough to royally fuck up my knee for the next week and a half.

More importantly, two weeks ago I didn't know that I would be fighting panic attacks a week and a few days later.

This past Friday was horrid. It was worse than horrid, and is possibly the worst day I've had in months, excepting the 24 hours I spent vomiting/passed out recently, and that was bad in a very different way.

Sometime Thursday night/Friday morning, I had a dream. Only it was a little more than a dream, it was a nightmare based on memory. In it, I remember walking away from a hostile interaction with my brother, shutting a door, and locking it (with one of those push locks). My brother then tried to open the door, found he couldn't, and started shouting at me.

That's it. It's all I remember of the dream, so far as events go.

But I spent all day Friday remembering back to Christmas day when he did that for real, except there was no locked door to keep him out. Both in the dream and in life, there was no way out for me, just a room with one exit, and him standing in it.

On Friday, I went to class. I went to lunch. I read material and submitted a short response paper at literally the last minute. I went to a ten minute TA session for one of my duets. I went to a ResLife Staff Appreciation thing in the ResLife office for half an hour, long enough to enter a raffle and eat some cake.

Through all of it, my mood kept plummeting, refused to stay at my normal cheery level, and as a result I had repeated bouts of tears and shaking.

At 6, I went to campus shabbat services, and only managed to stay relatively positive for half an hour before I had to stop singing in order to fight tears. I ate dinner afterwards, and talked to a friend. And then I caught the campus shuttle back to my dorm, shut my door, and called the after-hours number for counseling services.

The on-call counselor called me back within minutes, and I managed to tell her what was wrong. I told her that I couldn't get the fear and anger of the incident with my brother out of my head, that my thoughts were going in circles, that it got worse when I had some down time, and that I was scared and had had a dream about it the night before.

She told me in return that what I was experiencing was a normal response to an abnormal situation--that, essentially, I had been traumatized, and this was part of my brain's way of trying to deal with it. She said something about cycles of not remembering, and then having it triggered and experiencing basically what I was going through. That I had been experiencing intrusive memories, which were like flashbacks except I knew it was a memory and not happening in that moment.

Perhaps the most comforting thing she told me is that my regular therapist specializes in trauma, and so he'll be able to help me move forward from here. She also talked me through a few coping techniques: making myself busy instead of letting myself think; shocking one of my senses to refocus my thoughts on something else (for example, going out in the cold without a jacket, or holding a hot cup of tea); spending time with friends and telling my housemate-friend that I might need support in my downtime at night.

Well, I made myself busy, or I already had a lot to do last weekend for my job, but I made things take more time by, for example, inviting one of my best friends to come shopping with me on Saturday. She drove, which was awesome because my knee was acting up, so I benefited that way, and she was planning to go shopping that day anyway, so it worked out well. I also went to a music major's thesis, which was a one-act opera, and it was awesome. On Sunday I woke up early and was running around immediately to do a few last-minute tasks, went to breakfast, and then spent 5 hours doing something for ResLife (to be fair, I could have done half the time, but felt the need to do the whole thing).

And then I hit time for schoolwork, realized I had so much to do because of midterms and other stuff and got really overwhelmed just in time for my therapist to call and check in on me.

Normally I can handle this stuff. Normally, I get a 24-hour rest period on shabbat by way of simply not doing homework from Friday through dinnertime Saturday. I didn't get that. Didn't have my spirits lifted by singing the psalms, only had a few hours' downtime on Saturday night when I had a two-hour skype session with my boyfriend. I went to bed really happy that night, but the feeling didn't last through the next day.

I wish it had. I wish I could go back to my "normal" but between midterm stresses, not getting a real shabbat, and having my mood plummet anytime something reminds me of Friday (including having my mother text me, unfortunately), I just...can't. I feel like I'm unable to manage anything right now, except I know I can go to classes and can even participate in them. But I'm not as invested in them, and I keep getting distracted by thoughts returning to Friday. It's a vicious cycle.

I'm praying that my therapist can help me break it, and get past it so that I can get on with my regularly scheduled life instead of feeling trapped by this one, enormous thing.

1 comment:

  1. I really hope things are getting better for you. I've been struggling myself with getting back to my "normal" and it is amazingly frustrating.
    You're strong though and I really admire your determination to help yourself.