There are so many things I can’t remember about the day Daphne and I were attacked and the days immediately following. I used to have nightmares/flashbacks about it. In the beginning the dream was always the same, centered mostly the events leading up to the attack, and then the cold clammy anxiety was enough to wake me. Over time, I dreamed further and further into the nightmare, usually waking at the point where I truly thought I was going to die. Even in my waking hours I could never remember past that point, except for bits and pieces. And that was fine with me until my therapist convinced me that reconstructing the memories was the key overcoming them.
A few years ago, as part of that therapy, I returned to that campus with my therapist and went back to the actual site. It had changed significantly in the intervening years with much development encroaching on what was once a secluded woods. Nonetheless it was intact enough for me to recognize it and it was an extremely difficult visit for me. But it also jogged a lot of random memories that I haven’t put all back together yet.
A few weeks ago I found myself back on that campus because my daughter was playing an away game there. And feeling stronger than ever, I walked over to that place during half time. All by myself. Core of iron. And I sat on a small hill, the last thing I can remember of that day. I sat in sadness. Sadness for Daphne. Sadness for everything that died in me that day. And yet with a certain amount of pride and appreciation that I have healed enough to be sad without falling part.
Anyway, the purpose of this post is to document something more important to me. As I sat on that hill I had a very clear picture of the woman who sat with me that day. It was she who wrapped me in a blanket and allowed me to sob on her shoulder. It was this woman who told me she would find out what was happening with Daphne when I was panicking, not knowing what was going on. And it was this woman who helped me into an ambulance and stayed with me through at the hospital, something I am just beginning to have glimpses of. It was this woman who showed me a human kindness at a time when my very being had been totally shattered. She allowed me a shred of dignity, a recognition of the person I had been, which may have been the one shred that eventually allowed me to heal.
If you read much about PTSD recovery (and I do) there is much talk about having to create your new identity, as you will never be the same person after trauma as you were before. And I think there is a mourning process you have to go through, grieving the loss of the person you once were.
And then I read this beautiful post by my blogging friend kj about her mother in a nursing home. She writes “I find myself staring at most of the folks on this unit until I can see their younger selves through the lines of their faces. They’ve had children, jobs, homes, spouses, gardens. I’ve come to understand their confusion and resistance because where they are now is not their life.”
This resonated so strongly with me. As time goes on I am remembering more of the bits and pieces. I am not sure why it is so extremely important to me at this point, but it is. Perhaps, like the elderly, I just want to remember my younger self, who I was before the trauma. I don’t want to lose her forever.
And, it feels safe now for me to remember, which is bringing a new kind of confidence.