In August of 2004, my health crashed. Diagnosis was first Lyme disease then chronic fatigue. I went from an incredibly strong person who ran, lifted weights, hiked, swam, etc. to a woman with no energy who spent the day in pajamas, napping three or four times each day. Friends drove my children to and from school. My husband did EVERYTHING around the house. I had difficulty concentrating, could not multi-task, and overall was mentally fatigued.
I eventually regained some strength but experienced a near-constant buzzing/humming sensation throughout my body, and pain in my hands and legs. I still could not think clearly and was easily overwhelmed. I became depressed.
In the summer of 2006, I happened upon an article about post traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue. The article mentioned a book called WAKING THE TIGER by Peter Levine. I read the book and realized I was suffering post traumatic stress! But how could that be? I hadn’t been assaulted, hadn’t experienced a natural disaster or lived in a war zone. Well, I learned trauma can accumulate in our systems. The time I’d been rear-ended, the various dental procedures, the C-section, all those experiences left residual energy in my system (I think of it as by-products of the adrenaline my body put out during those fight/flight moments), and my body reached the tipping point. Hence, the buzzing/humming sensation.
In October I began weekly somatic experiencing therapy in which I learned to discharge that unwanted energy from my system. It’s an amazing process and I’m thrilled to say I’ve regained much of my strength and vitality. I’m not 100 percent yet but I’m running again, I can multi-task, and I’m not so easily overwhelmed. Also, the process helped me understand the ways I disassociated in order to survive.
So why am I writing about this now? Yesterday’s news out of Virginia Tech brought back many of those old “symptoms.” My legs buzzed, my hands ached, I couldn’t think clearly, and I cried. And cried.
And then I thought about these two news briefs from yesterday:
BLACKSBURG – A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech … The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33.
BAGHDAD – In the northern city of Mosul, a university dean, a professor, a policeman’s son and 13 soldiers died in attacks … Nationwide, at least 51 people were killed or found dead.
And I cried even more.
Because I realized I’m still living the post traumatic stress profile in regards to Iraq. Even though every morning I maintain this sign, I’ve disassociated from that tragedy. The civilian death toll is so high I can’t even visualize those numbers (I realize the “official” number is much lower than the actual death toll). I can’t imagine what it’s like waking each morning with the knowledge there’s a very high probability someone you know will lose someone they know that day.
The Virginia Tech tragedy plays out each and every day in Iraq. Not the same circumstances but the same cycle of horrific violence and heartbroken families. Yet I don’t cry about Iraq on a daily basis. I won’t allow my mind to dwell on the terrifying reality of night raids, rapes, executions, explosions, starvation, and disease. I’ve forced those thoughts from my mind in order to survive.
And that scares me. Because when we become numb to the lives of other beings (human and otherwise) on this planet, atrocities occur and our collective health is damaged.
I don’t want to “disassociate” the fact that we all love our children. That we all want a safe, happy, and healthy future for those children. And that every parent grieves the same way.
Today I grieve for everyone on the planet.