Of the Moments Between Tranquility and Trauma

If the trauma moments lasted days long, it would be different. That would be Hell. But it doesn’t. It’s not a constant carousel of corruption, not like the movies where the protagonist spends the whole of the 24-hour day span in her room, on her bed—or under it—trying to hide from the memories and triggers. It’s not like the camera swirling around the room, capturing her metaphorical crash into the eye of the hurricane as the trauma waters pull her deeper and swirl her about like a mad cat desperately trying to escape the bathtub as she’s drenched in wetness. It’s not even a side character flinging herself on the bed to sob for hours at a time.

Sometimes, I wish it were like that. That—at least in practice—seems easier to deal with. If you know a monster with sharp claws and fire-breathing powers is coming for you—before it makes its debut—it is, in a way, easier to prepare for, even mentally, even if you only have a 5-second head start—at least you knew beforehand.

***

It’s the moments of tranquility that make me question, nowadays. Or rather, the moments between those tranquil moments. You’d think, by now, I know what to expect. If I see a character in a movie getting too rough with his girlfriend or if a sex scene comes on, or if there’s a bridge and the main character silhouettes it for too long (usually when the camera gets a shot of the overhead horizon), I know to ground, to check my breathing, to grab Carmen (the stuffed cheetah I’ve had since I was a middle schooler), or to just change the channel (if I’m alone. If I’m with others, the plan changes.) After 7 years, I know how to handle my triggers. I know how to stop myself from having a panic attack.

And yet…

The memories (and choking feelings that always accompany them) slip past my defenses sometimes, too often for my liking if I’m being honest. Past the Bible verses, under the psychological tools (grounding, coping, music, distractions, truth statements, etc.), between each music note blaring through my headphones or computer speakers, over every panicked “I’m fine, I’m safe” whispered reminder.

J. said he saw a sense of empowerment in my previous post. There’s a part of me that wonders if this moment, and moments like these, cancels the triumph of the last months, weeks, days, moments—when the past attacks with its familiar scent and makes me nauseous—and all before breakfast! I know that’s stupid (my Theological Nerds would call that a “logical fallacy” I think). Everyone has bad moments but the good isn’t canceled out by the bad, even if you have to search hard for it. Even if the moments swing on a tiny pendulum of bad and good and back again so fast you can’t differentiate between the two. This isn’t me giving an easy answer, or invalidating experiences with sunshine and rainbows by saying “cheer up” or “think/remember the good things” because here’s the reality of the situation:

Those in-between-the-tranquil-moments, when I’d rather punch the wall until my hand bleeds so I can finally feel something or make sure I feel absolutely nothing at all instead of practicing good coping skills, or when I deliberately eat too much ice cream—past the point of satiation—because in that moment I hate myself for still being affected by this—by him—and the distractions and truth statements and coping skills and Bible verses aren’t working—or when I text J., “I’m done. You should give up on me. I’ve wasted 6 years of your life. I’m so sorry!” at midnight or 2 a.m.— (midnight to 4a.m. is what I call “the witching hour”. That’s when the memories tend to hit me hardest)—those moments are hard! Especially when the sun, by rising, tells me the night’s over and I need to rise out of bed now and take a shower and get dressed because I have to work now and forget whatever happened in the dark hours—or try to— and be a functional adult because I need money to pay for food and other necessities.

***

I heard a song recently; the last line of the bridge says “trouble won’t last but the Word will.” KB is right. Jesus is right. He promised—He probably pinky-swore the Father!—that we would have trouble in this life, some more than others, but that He would also overcome the world. Well, Maranatha, Yeshua! Where You at?

I will trust that Yahweh knows what He’s doing, even in the in-between-tranquil moments, even when I make the less-than-good choices because of those moments. Trauma sucks but it’s not everything. It’s not the end of the world. The camera will pan out again to a clear sky or a shot of a character staring off into the distance toward the horizon or whatever a happy ending is.

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