Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Process or Distract

       In the last several weeks I have written several blog posts, journal entries and even one poem, and abandoned them half finished. I write what I’ve been processing, and then I move on. Never looking back at them, never editing, never sharing my writing with Gabriel or my mom. It’s not like I haven’t had anything to process. Our baby is due in one month. A Chicago friend came to visit, bringing with her the bitter and beautiful reminder of the life I once had. I’ve embarked out into the world several times without Gabriel by my side (not a small feat for this anxiety ridden girl). But every time my mind tumbles over a new shift in perspective I eventually hit a wall. At least half the time I allow my mind to mull over the abstract future, the distant path or the ever confusing realm of spirituality in my life, dark clouds gather in the corners of my mind. I forget where I am, who I am and any positive forces moving through my life. 

I don’t know when processing life became such a dangerous pastime. As a theatre and creative writing major in college, processing existence and human experience was what I did all day. I thrived on it. One of my theatre professors and mentors described theatre as the “art of human behavior.” He also reminded me often that in theatre we work with combustible materials—people. I never fully understood the danger of deeply trying to understand or even just truly see life for what it is, until this season of my life. Now, with every introspective thought comes the risk of deep regret, fear, sadness, anger and most often dissociation. 

Yesterday was a hard day. We’re painting our bedroom—well, Gabriel is, I’m not—so we had to sleep in the guest bedroom. A new environment for an anxious person with sleep issues definitely is not part of the recipe for a restful nights sleep. Gabriel and I both fell asleep accidentally after watching a movie in bed and woke up at 4 a.m. with the lights on, vitamins left untaken and our routine obliterated. I couldn’t fall back asleep and the whole morning my mind was racing. I held it together through breakfast, but when midmorning hit, all I could do was lay on the couch. Gabriel played piano while cool tears leaked through my closed eyes and streaked down my tired cheeks. 

I had counseling that afternoon. There were tears in my eyes before my counselor even closed the door for our session to begin. As emotions more complicated for me to articulate barraged my mind, my head began to spin. I began to sweat. I felt as if my planted feet on the floor were now on the ceiling and I was losing all control. One of my least favorite side effects of trauma is the unexplainable disorientation that occurs when flashbacks and memories override the system. This dizziness and disconnection from reality would sometimes happen when I did EMDR with my counselor in Nashville, but then I was able to safely pack away the memories we had worked on and come back to reality. Yesterday, I hadn’t invited the process to begin. I didn’t want to think about the attack. I couldn’t keep the debilitating sadness from clouding my whole being. I was too tired to stop it. 

Eventually my counselor and I just stopped and prayed. I allowed my lonely tears to chase their brothers and sisters down my face onto my churning belly. The baby inside of me kicked and turned, prodding my resting hands. My counselor quietly asked me if I wanted to pray. With a sigh I shook my head. I just wanted to feel my baby move. That would be my prayer. Focusing on his life and growth is safer than realizing my own. 

I’m caught between the questions: Should I process this? Or should I distract? Distraction sounds like a cowardly option, but there are stages of healing, and some times are meant for bravely focusing on daily life. Is this meant to be solely a season of preparation for motherhood? Have I done enough emotional and mental processing of the attack for the time being? Is it safe to neatly package it away for now—allow God to do His work on it—but focus on my present life? It’s been seven months now since I was raped. I will very soon hold my first child in my arms. I anticipate another complete life 180° when that happens. When is it safe to wade forward into dangerous memory processing and self reflection, and when should I put it away, read a book and have a cup of tea? 

       I wish I had the wisdom. 
       I wish I had the strength.