Archives for Trauma
My little boy is two-and-a-half. Just old enough to start wrestling with the big stuff. And I’m not talking about tantrums, here. But the stuff that many of us will grapple with all the days of our lives. Like brokenness… He brings a toy or a flower to me in too many pieces. “Fix it?” His eyes are bright and wide, face beaming, awaiting the alchemy of togetherness and glue. He’s seen this magic many times. He likes it. But it won’t work this time. “Sticky tape?” he suggests. I shake my head. “A band-aid?” I try to explain. How some things can be mended. And some things just can’t.
Cloudy days will come. For you. For your family. For your friends. And not just the kind that dominate the skies above you. But also the ones that help set the weather within you. The internal cloudy days that send your mental and emotional landscape into overcast sadness. Cloudy days will come... I was thinking this the other day, when some of my family came to Sydney to visit. Even now, in spring, it was suddenly cold and wet again. And even though it was sun that we wanted, it was cloud and some rain that we got (as you can see in the photo). So what do you do when the internal cloudy days come to visit? How can you get through them? Or maybe even prepare for them? On this year's Mental Health Day, perhaps it's worth getting mentally meteorological and taking a look at what you'll do when your weather changes.
There’s a lot of extreme weather around at the moment. In Sydney, it’s hot – today reached over 40 degrees Celsius (104° Fahrenheit). Hot enough to feel yourself wilting. Hot enough to steal your sleep in the night. So everyone’s gravitating to the shady side of the street… if they’re outside at all. For the sun is brutal. Walking along the footpath, following the patches of whatever shade I could find, it struck me that maybe there’s a kind of parallel psychological shade, too. A place to seek shelter in. To find relief in. Somewhere to escape the full brunt of whatever emotional or situational heat you might be facing, if even for a short time. For maybe even a short time can start to bring replenishment. So what would your psychological shade look like for you? If you’re facing sorrow or trauma or relationship challenges or loss, what gives you that break from the heat? What soothes you? Perhaps even restores you? What lets you stop the burning process (and maybe even lets you start to heal?)
Queensland, Australia, is awash with extreme weather events right now: first floods, now a cyclone. It’s an incredibly tough time. And what’s interesting is how the therapeutic community is responding. Once upon a time, the ‘experts’ – counselors, therapists, psychologists – might automatically have been trucked-in to sort of ‘rescue’ people from the trauma. Now, though, people’s own expert status is also being recognized. Their own resilience. The strength and support in their communities. Their own ability to find, and to walk along, their unique path through the pain and loss and back towards recovery. So instincts and gut feelings about recovery are valued right alongside the more traditional therapies. So what about when life’s emotional storms descend upon your coastline? Are there any parallels that might be useful here?
This photo is of a tiny bit of street art at the train station – it’s only a couple of centimeters long. And you had to be quick to read its message, because it was painted over the very next day. But what a message it was: “can’t live without a baseline” …written beneath a line of electrocardiogram-style heartbeats and a heart… So what’s your heart’s bottom line or baseline when it comes to relationships? With your partner, your friendships, your family ties. What’s the minimum you need to feel nourished or supported or connected or loved? (And have you ever really thought about it deliberately before?) What might the signs be that things aren’t working so well, or that they’re becoming damaging in some way? And what can you do if it’s already drifted beyond that?
I bought a little blue leather-bound photo album at a flea market many years ago. It’s full of someone else’s memories, captured in the black and white of the 1930s. And it offers an imaginative, somewhat eerie experience as you flip through it and wonder at what these memories might have meant to their owner (who is probably long gone). The first image in the album (above) is of a train wreck… So what of your own memories? Especially the hard ones. The literal and metaphorical ‘train wrecks’ you might carry within you somewhere.