Trauma Snippet, 4/30/2022
I am in unfamiliar, yet all too familiar, territory. I awake to the view of a roller coaster across the street from my hotel window and laugh out loud. The palm trees and signs for Epcot Center are strange sights and do nothing to help me find my way.
I am grateful for the GPS.
I pull the rental car into the parking lot of Florida Central Behavioral Hospital in Orlando, FL. J is here, in the “Port Hope” unit. This isn’t our first rodeo. And likely won’t be the last. In fact, there have been so many hospitalizations over the years, I’ve lost count. What’s the point in keeping score? Trauma + mental illness + substance use disorder often necessitates hospitalization. How could it not?
The wounds run deep. In my mind’s eye, I see a dark crevice in a rock that is the side of a mountain. It is created by an incessant flow of water. To the naked eye, it’s impossible to see how deep that fissure actually goes. The barrage of water is strong and persistent. It wears the rock down, leaving an indelible scar.
I think about how this instance of Mother Nature is like the mars on my beloved’s flesh; the remnants of cuts he inflicts on himself when the pain of living becomes too much to bear.
I find my place on a bench outside the hospital entrance, waiting for J to be discharged. Other family members sit on adjoining benches. They are bereft. Worn out and down. Their eyes tell me everything I need to know. This isn’t their first rodeo either.
My mind wanders, and I catch myself wondering, “how can I ever begin to explain this experience in words?”
Try putting your hand on a hot stove. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
What do you mean, “it’s too hot?” That your instinct is to pull your hand back, away from the danger of the heat?
I hear you wondering, “who in their right mind would voluntarily put their hand on a hot stove?”
What different does it make that your flesh will be seared off? That it would hurt? That the wound may never be able to heal?
Oh, right. You have a choice.
I think about the many types of traumas: forced, coerced, accidental. Regardless, the aftermath is a big-ass, gaping wound akin to deeply seared flesh. It’s not neat and tidy like the hole left from an excised cyst. It’s messy, slimy, oily, stinky, and bloody. No shower or scrubbing with Dawn dish detergent or antibacterial soap can fix it (though these fixes are often tried over and over again, in a survivor’s obsessive-compulsive desire to crawl out of their skin).
It’s no wonder, suicide, whether slow or fast, seems to always be a viable option. The pain of living with your psychological blood and guts pouring out coupled with feelings of shame, that somehow you are to blame for what happened…for the co-occurring illnesses…becomes unbearable.
And so, it is with J. Two steps forward. One step back.
I am grateful for the police officer who Baker Acted my adult child.
I look up from my phone, and see J walking out the door with his personal belongings in a plastic bag.
I stand and greet him: “How are you, honey? I’m so glad to see you.”
We embrace. And begin again.