So. My 16th anniversary of the car crash that scattered my life into ashes is now. That crash didn’t only give me a brain injury, it also led to events that gave me PTSD.
From my experience, PTSD is a monster that feeds on the worst of human thoughts and beliefs and lifts up a magnifying glass to aim those thoughts and beliefs at the person who has the least power: children, women, the injured, the sick, the marginalized.
Fear partners with PTSD.
Fear incubates itself in the powerful, the doctors, the therapists, the healthy family members, friends, church congregations, who know the injured one, and wraps its tentacles around their hearts, whispering if you deny, if you leave, you will be safe from that person, you can believe nothing bad happened to them, it’s only depression and their refusal to take drugs that makes them so unwell. And the PTSD screams in delight when the people who say words like we’re there for you, we support you, we won’t quit on you then criticize, judge, deny, refuse to take phone calls or emails or texts.
Or make you quit.
By driving you, the person with the PTSD, to quit proves to all that you’re the unwell one. It allows the “healthy” ones gripped by hidden fear to feel comfortable in their pity and sympathy for you, safe from having to repent — change their minds — to upheave their assumptions so as to give you a rock to stand on and heal from.
I mean, who wants to be a secure rock for a greatly suffering person, anyway?
Hidden fear influencing their thoughts, their beliefs, driving the person with PTSD to quit, to be alone, puts all responsibility for your pain and maybe self-destruction on you, the outwardly suffering one.
Destruction of human relationships, whether it’s familial, friends, strangers, or health care professionals is PTSD’s incubator and baby.
I was unwilling to reveal how my relationships have gone since my brain injury, and the toll on me has been horrible. I have been minimized, betrayed, abandoned, judged, criticized, derided, dismissed, disrespected, unhelped. It is no wonder I have PTSD.
The wonder is I’m still alive.
In spite of all that has happened to me, I am still here. But I can only remain here if I vomit out the toxic brew I’ve been living in and with since 2000. When I very recently began to leak out the remnants of my broken heart like putrid streams of bile, my physical heart rate began to stabilize at 100 — although two weeks at 100 is not really stabilization. But it will not continue to improve unless I write.
Back in 2012, I wrote a book on brain injury but left out the crucial social and relationships aspect of it. Yet the broken links between us and all the people whose lives we used to be in, is what destroys those of us with brain injury. How health care professionals ultimately don’t allow us to express our grief and our worst thoughts and how they don’t actively treat brain injury like they would cancer or heart attacks, is what slowly decimates us over the decades. New friends come and go; those who stay cannot fully understand the depth of our grief, having not known us before brain injury. Yet that very fact is what makes them much better friends than our old ones who abandon us to our daily lives. New friends accept us; old ones, with the occasional, mature, loving exception, do not.
The same hidden fears in 2001 that grew my PTSD, perpetuates into today like a perpetual-motion hamster wheel, despite my neurodoc’s heroic but futile efforts — futile because he will not use 21st century methods to keep on top of my complicated case and allow me to fully vomit the poison driven into me in the only way I can fully — private email and texting — because seemingly his 20th century methods have served him well. And, like my family, he doesn’t seem to want to change, in his case, his belief set as to what constitutes medicine.
And why should he?
He’s a rare breed; few specialists of his type are in practice. Patients have no choice who to see — if they can get in. He does. Patients have no choice in how much care they receive. A little is better than none, right? He does have a choice how much to give. And so he has all the control.
But at least he initially did better than the string of failures by other health care professionals. He began to succeed partially, but backtracked on his promises, breaking my trust. Then in this atmosphere of trust blowing away like sand, critical forces rose back up to deny the reality of my physical limitations and crushed the one kind person’s optimistic and realistic perception and attitude toward my brain injury and its effects on me. That person is backtracking on their backtracking.
I have metaphysical whiplash from all this backtracking by people purportedly there for me.
I’m being obtuse. That’s because I really don’t want to talk about it, yet I knew that my book on concussion was missing a critical component, one that is the main reason people with brain injury end up not reaching their potential but remain sidelined outside of society, trapped in a perpetual loop of seeming to recover yet not really. We all want to think things are better than they are. We all want to turn our eyes away from suffering and tragedy. But human beings are social animals who need other human beings to heal, succeed, thrive. When we turn away from the person with a brain injury, we not only tell them they’re value-less, we also deny them the opportunity to truly recover and to rejoin society.
When we demand they be normal and refuse to accommodate their real needs, labelling them as selfish and complaining and faking and a disappointment, we deny ourselves their contributions to our lives.
I can’t endure it anymore. I have snapped; I have started spewing words all over the place. The private becomes very, very public.
My book will be updated. I have nothing left to lose. The important people in my real life seem to not want to change their beliefs. So I will. To save my life, I am throwing it out. I am changing my belief that some things should remain private.
My iron self-control has crumbled under the onslaught of abandonment, judgement, criticism, and emotional turmoil.
My neurodoc is trying to keep me from doing a Toller Cranston move. But I can see why Cranston chucked his entire life out the window and left it.
Navigating everyone’s hidden fears, assumptions, determinations to not change the way they do things, is wearing.
Trying to accommodate and be constantly OK with whatever is said or done to me so that I won’t be left or discharged is joyless.
No wonder fatigue is my constant, unrelenting companion.