After a summer of sadness and stress that had me totally worn out, Martha and I headed to our lake house for some much needed peace and quiet. Our little camp is located at the end of a mile long, narrow, roller coaster hilly, dead end road. Most camps are barely visible from the road, tucked into the woods and closer to the water. Visitor’s cars are often parked along the road, especially on weekends, since most camps don’t have much on-site parking. This summer a large black van was sporadically parked on the side of the road, seemingly not associated with anyone’s camp. My daughters labelled it the ‘rape van’ because of it’s size and the rear windows being blacked out. They would say this and make comments whenever we drove past it but I would just let the phrase pass as I have been well trained to do.
At the lake I always take my dog for a walk, up and down this entrance road. Early one morning I put her leash on and started our morning power walk. I was paying attention to the changing light and morning bird songs and did not even notice the van. As I walked a couple feet next to it, a dog suddenly stuck its head out the half opened window and barked, which scared the crap out of dog. She bolted in the opposite direction in front of me which caused me to be upended over her leash. I landed hard on my head, sending my glasses flying and opening a huge gash over my right eye. I lay on my belly stunned for a moment and then panicked when a man’s face appeared in the window.
All my anxiety calming training disappeared as I scrambled to get up and away. Blood was blinding my right eye and when I could taste it I was in full panic attack mode. I limped home as fast as I could, elbow and knee also ripped open, and then lost another couple of weeks in the PTSD black hole - sad, withdrawn, and lethargic.
I am better now and trying to look back to understand what happened. I am aware that a man’s face appeared at the window but I have no memory of him being at all threatening. Was it the power of suggestion (the rape van)? Was I just emotionally exhausted from the previous weeks of sadness and stress? Was it finding myself suddenly face down and hurt, struggling to get up? I really don’t know.
What I do know is that even with an extraordinary therapist who got me through the worst of it, and trained me relentlessly on how to cope with trauma anxiety, there will apparently always be some circumstance that will trigger fear and memories far greater than my ability to manage them.
It is unsettling to say the least.
It is a common debate among PTSD therapists whether PTSD can be cured or just managed. As much I hope that there is a cure, I am generally of the belief that it can only be managed. There are times when I have breezed through situations that previously would have knocked me down for a long, long time and I feel cured. And then there are times that I feel those black dogs lurking behind unseen corners waiting for the slightest letting down of my guard.
|(I don't think I will ever be able to stop pushing that effing boulder up the hill)|
Yesterday was the anniversary of the assault. Knowing how fragile I've been lately, I forced myself into my management routines. And I did get through the day, melancholy but relatively okay.
I'm finding it interesting as I age, how clearly I can see my journey with the benefit of time and distance. Only weeks ago I was paralyzed with fear and anxiety and my reaction was to withdraw and check out. Then I turned a corner and life is calm and beautiful again. They say that time stops at the point of trauma, but you can’t live in a place where time has stopped.
You can only wait.
You can only wait.