About Me


 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott


I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
Search This Blog
Books that shifted paradigms
Walking Barefoot on Facebook
« A letter to my sister as she becomes a mommy for the first time | Main | Random exhausted thoughts from the motherland. »

Trauma is like soul shrapnel

I sink down, under the bath water, squirming to find the hottest places.

I sink, until my ears fill, and all I can hear is the rushing of the coming in and the trickle of the going out.

The world is reduced to the filling and the emptying, and so am I- this constant sieve.

I fill to be emptied, but always, lately, I feel only empty.

Only, I don't realize it, until I get a brief moment of fullness- when the sun hits me full in the face as I sit by the sliding glass door eating lunch. Or when baby Kyrie does a little stomp foot naked dance on the tile floor of the bathroom. 

For a moment, I feel full.

And then, as the awareness of fullness slides over me in such a foreign way, I realize that empty is my normal. 

There is so little that makes me truly happy these days. 

I see burdens in everything-washing towels for the bathroom, making soup for dinner, cleaning the countertops, cooking dinner.

Each new thing tips the scale to unmanageable.  

I find myself thinking, who put me in charge of four little lives?  I can't even wash my own face before I go to bed at night. How am I supposed to adequately bath my children? Or brush their teeth twice a day, or make sure they take their vitamins?

My children's needs weigh on me in one huge heap of urgent. I can't discern the "let it go for now" from the necessary. It's all emergency mode, all the time. 

Malachi has moluscum contagiosum, he still sucks his thumb, and he has nightmares; Gabriel has speech difficulties, and he isn't showing any improvement even with therapy; Kyrie has dry skin, a persistent diaper rash, she seems to walk pigeon-toed, her bottom two teeth are fused together, she sucks her thumb which creates an open bite which creates extra drool...girlfriend is a happy mess; Phoenix might have torticollis- him neck might not be strong enough on one side; him might need head gear....I mean, he might. They might. It could happen, it might be just around the corner...

I realize I have "waiting for the other shoe to drop" syndrome.  

I walk around like the sky is falling, my children's needs just one of the pinging raindrops signaling another storm is coming. 

I feel like the squirrel in the movie Ice Age right now- I live by "get the acorn and run." Like everything good in life is contained inside an itty-bitty helpless little nut, and all my energy goes to keeping my little nut safe from impending doom.

I'm living life like it's an epic emergency: I sprint like mad down the skinny center of two huge walls of ice as the pressure builds and the walls close in. I pop out, just in time to be stomped on by a huge wooly mammoth. I grab my acorn, climb a tree, determined to hide my little treasure at the top of the trunk; I make it to the top, hold my acorn up in celebration...and get struck by lightning.  I am operating under the illusion that at the end of the movie, I will finally arrive in wide, open spaces; I can bury my nut in the ground; I can take a nap.

My therapist says that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is no Shangri-la this side of heaven. There is no wide, open space just on the other side of crazy, and life is rarely an emergency.

The wide, open spaces the Bible talks about- where the boundary lines fall in pleasant places, and life is spacious- these spaces are in the soul, not on the ground.

And the good things of God are not contained in a tiny, fragile nutshell. And it's not my job to keep the bad things from happening.

Life is not a mad sprint to perfection; it's the daily plodding of unpredictable change-of pain and pleasure, empty and full.  

I ask my therapist if I have post-traumatic stress disorder; she says I don't have to worry about that, but that I might have acute stress disorder.

Ok. Awesome. 

And when I read about it, it mentions emotional detachment, dissociation, an inability to feel pleasure, and a feeling of guilt about pursuing usual life tasks.

I ask her, "how I can recover? How do I stop waiting for the next crisis to happen?"

She explains: "The amygdala part of the brain is timeless- this is where you hear the expression, 'my life flashed before my eyes.' I believe that God allows for this so that he can go before us and take the stone out of our path lest our ankle be turned. It is his provision to give us space out of time. But it also means that when one experiences a trauma, it is in some sense, always still occuring."

I ask her, "So trauma is like soul shrapnel? Like it shows up in various places, at various times, for the rest of our lives?"

"Yes," she replies.  "It surfaces when triggered by an image, or a color, a temperature, a smell, a place.  The amygdala doesn't see trauma as a tight package contained in space and time. When you look at a brain that has experienced trauma, it shows up scattered, like lit up areas in a diamond-shape throughout.  

"Is this just one's lot in life after a trauma?" I ask.

She says," One can metabolize trauma through how one talks to oneself: 'I am safe. It is over. I am healing.'  And how one is in relationships of belonging.  The awareness that we are finite beings. Life is not permanent, and change is one of the constants of human experience.  Give yourself a framework of hope and the gift of choice. Remember to fully occupy your own free will.  Life is not happening to you.  There is choice, and there is freedom.

And then she does what I love: she tells me to breathe deep, to feel my body, to feel my breath.  

And she tells me I am finite and flawed.  

And to sit with this knowledge, let it sink down deep.  

If this is where I am, then this is where I am.

It is only in admitting where I am, that I can begin to experience healing right here, in this place. 


References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (3)

This is beautiful. It's the sort of thing I want to read over and over to reorient my brain and my heart. Thanks for your transparency :)

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

Thank YOU for commenting. This post was a difficult one to put out there into the atmosphere. I appreciate your encouragement. Love, Trin

May 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrinity

Trinity…you are a gifted writer and communicator. I'm so thankful for any opportunity that I have to see you and exchange words. Honestly, this is the first time that I've read your blog. After Rose Pauly commented about it this morning I thought to myself' "I've got to get on that." Thank you for the wealth of experiences you share so candidly. Truly refreshing to my soul.
Love you girl.

December 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCalu Ostrander

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>