Thursday, January 26, 2012

Green Tree (12)

"You've got to find a way to cope."

"COPE?" I screamed back, "How the fuck do you cope with something like this?"

"This behavior is unacceptable, you need to be there for your family."  My wife calmly replied.

There is nothing more annoying than receiving a calm response to anger and rage.  She was right, I needed to find a better way to deal with all these emotions and new memories rather than my current method of becoming silent during the flashback and explosive anger afterwards. I was confused, all of my life I actively strove to suppress all of my emotions.  Yet, even my best efforts to "remain calm and carry on" brought out the worst in me.

"Emotions are evil and should be suppressed." I would say

I had become familiar with anger, It was comfortable. I understood it. The only way I knew how to cope with the shock and disbelief  of what these flashbacks were telling me was to become angry. To lash out at the ones I loved and push them away so that I could be left alone to mourn and medicate.  I needed to get better so I came to realize that it was time to do something different.

Later that week, I spoke with my therapist about how so very angry I was, and that I needed a away to stay in the present and not get lost in the past. She told me to try and look at the things around me and tell myself what I saw.

"For example, the numbers on the white clock on the wall are black." she said. "Continue doing that until you feel better and are more equipped to remain in the present."

"Ok, that's stupid." I thought. (Little did I know how effective this technique would be later on.)

"Don't forget to breathe." she added.

That part I got, given last weekend at the pool.   I didn't want to go through that again.

A few days pass and I find myself feeling strangely. Heaviness and darkness began to sit on me once again. I was getting ready for a new memory.

It was a sunny and warm late November day. I needed to get out of town, so we packed up the car and got onto the interstate toward Denver.  As we crested the hill just outside of Monument Colorado, on my fingertips I suddenly could feel the coldness of metal window blinds, the sharpness of its edges. I am looking out a window into the parking lot outside. The trees outlining the pavement are beginning to turn yellow. It was early fall. Staring out the window I am hoping for someone out there to notice me, to come and rescue me. Sadly, no one sees me through the small gap in the blinds.

"I wish I could break through this window and run away," I thought.

Just then, the office door opens and a tall familiar man enters. He calls me from the window where I am standing, I walk to the center of the room, he embraces me.

I am trapped! I am trapped! I am speeding along the highway, my family happily jabbering away, music lightly playing on the radio. On the outside it looks as if everything is normal the landscape in a blur as it races by. On the inside, heart racing, acid is coursing through my veins instead of blood. I want to escape this snare of death and run.

It became harder and harder to concentrate, the road ahead of me began to fade as the past became more real to me than the present.  (I really should not have been driving at this point.) Somehow, in the haze I remember what my therapist told me a few days earlier. "Try to notice something around you. . ."

I was desperate, struggling to stay on the road. It felt as if I was splitting in half and neither one of me could concentrate on driving.

"Green tree," I thought as it sped past my window.
"Tomah Rd. 1 mile. This better fucking work or I'm driving off the road."
(Sigh, deep breath.)
"Castle Rock is coming up. I can do this."
"Just breathe."
"I can't do this."
 (Sigh, deep breath)
"Green tree."

Cars started coming into focus and I could feel the blood returning to my veins.  The remnants of the flashback made my skin feel like it was raw--that even the breeze through my arm hair was electrified and painful.  Sounds, noise resounded inside my head like little knives stabbing, poking, prodding.  The innocent babble of my children was like a grenade going off.  I was present, but I wasn't ok.

My wife must have known what was going on.  Her pestering for me to be calm changed to concern.  She tried to distract me with inane small talk.  She started taking me through breathing.  I hated her for  trying to help me, but I loved her for it, too.  The world stopped whizzing.  We were at the mall.  How could I survive this, too?

With every step, the fear and anger subsided.  I was still on edge, but it was tolerable--more like a bad bee sting than a nuclear blast.  If I felt this way then surely there could not be anything else that could be as dramatic that AFB could have done to me because this was almost too much to bear.

Almost, but not quite, as I was soon to learn.


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