Dec 19 2013

Remnants of an ongoing battle with the past – Dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD

Bookcase in the secret room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flashbacks.

Last weekend David and I were sitting on the couch watching the 49‘s game. One minute our team is winning, the next minute an innocent commercial rips through the comfort of our home.

The commercial depicts a boy with tire tread running the length of his body, meant to invoke laugher and jollity. Instead the images unleash distress and horror.

Next to me, I feel David’s body tense. The steady rhythm of his breathing is replaced with a shortness of breath and in his eyes, tears pool around the edges, vying for freedom.

David sees something different.

The Secret Room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

Heat and light in the secret room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To deal with and control these memories David goes to a secret place. A room designed specifically by him to provide safety and comfort. At one end sits a well used, worn brown leather chair. A coffee table stands in front of the chair and beyond the table, on the opposite wall, a fire in the hearth burns bright and warm. A focal point where light and heat bring  tranquility and a feeling of security.

Both adjacent walls are lined with bookshelves containing volumes, magic anthologies, a documentation of events. Not just words but images, emotions, sounds and smells.

A Flashback.

Without warning, a book appears on the coffee table. And into the quiet room, the memory of a young boy with tire tread across his chest invades the safety and tranquility. Sights, a pool of blood puddles under his small head like a pillow. Sounds, the mournful shriek of a heartbroken mother who lost a piece of her heart in an instant. Smells, fresh blood creeping across black hot asphalt.

Unannounced and unavoidable, the unwanted remembrances float out of the open book and invade the secure, hidden space. Like rogue enemies, they launch poisonous arrows into the warm air and pierce the serenity.

David’s body tenses. His breath suspended in constricted lungs begging for escape, guarding a prayerful hope that the book will disappear.

But these are memories that will never go away. To contain and control them David has placed each one into a book. The memory of the little boy killed by a drunk driver is just one of many. David leans forward and closes the book.  With a deep breath, he rises from his chair, picks up the book and places it back on the shelf in its rightful place. Tucked away, surrounded by a myriad of other memories, both fond and equally horrifying.

While flashbacks cannot be anticipated or avoided, they can be controlled. David’s use of a room full of his memories has worked for him. Memories are impervious to destruction but they can be coerced. Forced back into storage. Driven back into the past, leaving room for the light and warmth to occupy the present and bring peace again to the secret room.

Healing and tomorrow.

Our connection to the events of our past is a two way street. We may mosey down the avenue and revisit joyful occasions. And, just as easily, the past can barrel down the road and crash into our present, bringing remembrances we would care to forget.

But we are not left powerless. David learned this technique at a retreat for first responders. The West Coast Post-Trauma Retreat Center. (www.wcpr2001.org) The past cannot be changed. But for those suffering under the weight of bygone memories there is hope. And hope is the fire burning in the secret room, giving warmth and security and a chance to live fully in the present.

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Check out Rebecca’s debut novel, DISTRESSED, on Amazon.


Dec 13 2013

The here and why

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A month ago, I wrote a blog post that detailed my reason for writing. Why do I write?

But why did I write this story?

First, I have to say, it is a novel. It is a work of fiction. And yet, it was birthed out of a period of time in our lives. Painful experiences worth sharing.

When I married my husband, I had no idea what it meant to become a part of the “law enforcement family.” I was aware that there would be holiday craziness on those days he had to work, but beyond that? I didn’t get it.

We got married. I changed my name. But so much more changed. And of course, marriage is an adjustment. And without trying to sound over the top, marriage in the world of first responders is an even bigger adjustment.

There is a reason they call themselves a family. They get each other. They understand the stress and the expectations. They rely upon each other day in and day out, for camaraderie and for safety. They will always have each other’s backs. Like family.

It’s difficult to describe or explain a dynamic like that. They are knit together by a thin, often blue, line. A line invisible to those who don’t walk it everyday. A line that becomes increasingly recognizable in the course of every day life with a first responder.

Case in point, there have been nights, dinner is minutes away from ready, the kids have worn mommy’s patience down to a mere nub and the phone would ring. Don’t wait to have dinner because of…an accident, a fatal, a shooting, a car chase, or at the hospital with another officer.

You answer the phone and hold your breath until you hear their voice. And then you hold your breath again until you can determine that they are okay. It isn’t the phone calls that are difficult. It’s the stress they create. And stress like that is next to impossible to translate. But it is nothing compared to the stress of death and destruction bombarding every one of your five senses. It’s one thing to see death on TV or in movies. It’s an entirely different thing to see it, smell it, hear it, feel it and even taste it.

After phone calls like that, I would serve dinner and get the kids into the bath. I would pray for David’s safety and my sanity. But all the while, something had been set in motion that I didn’t recognize. An invisible force that had far more power in my home than I could ever have imagined. The past.

Memories are tremendous. They connect us to happier moments and remind us of people and events. They link us to those we love. But their power doesn’t end there. They also hold the potential to forever tie you to tragedy and trauma. To haunt and torment and link you to a past event that is nothing short of horrific.

As a country, we have come a long way in understanding and treating PTSD as it relates to our military. But it would appear to me that we are decades behind in our treatment and recognition of PTSD in our first responders.

So why did I write Distressed?

Two reasons. 1. To authentically show the world of the first responder and those closest to him and 2. To bring awareness to the realities of PTSD as it pertains to first responders.

It is our story in part. But it had to be more than just our story. It has to be bigger than that. Because I know, there are a number of other first responders and their families who are currently suffering in silence.

It has to be about them too.

 


Nov 9 2013

Why do I write?

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To paint a picture. A picture that gives real perspective. A perspective that goes beyond our Sunday best and drives us into the heart of others.

For the last several years, since I started taking this writing journey seriously, I’ve asked myself this question often.Whatever you may think the writing life looks like, you’re probably wrong. No disrespect. Just saying.

Writers stare at the screen and wrestle. We wrestle with words. With plots and characters. And we wrestle with self-doubt. Which is perhaps the greatest understatement of the century. Self-doubt sounds like something you find in a Disney movie. But what I’m talking about is the kind of crippling uncertainty that renders a person slightly unstable.

So why do it?

I’ve heard responses that are close to the mark. “I’m ruined to do anything else.” “I love to write so much I can’t not write.”

But I stumbled today on my reason. An epiphany of sorts. I’ve danced around the idea for a couple years but it hit me square between the eyes today.

David and I finished watching a movie this morning. End of Watch. I still have tears streaming down my face. A movie about two LAPD officers who are ambushed. One of the partners is killed. We watched the graphic portrayal of his end of watch. The scenes are heart wrenching and the cop sitting next to me kept saying, “That’s so real.”

You can take the man out of the uniform but you can’t take the uniform out of the man. We sat and watched pieces of our reality play out on screen. It was more than a movie. It was a realistic portrayal of the life of a cop.

So why do I write?

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My first novel, “Distressed” which releases soon, is a story about what a cop life can do to a marriage. To a family.

More than anything, I want the world to see. To see and smell and feel what it might be like to walk in another person’s reality. We have all been taught to walk a mile in another person’s shoes but how often do we actually take the time to do that?

What if you could read a book that put you in another person’s shoes? What if you could read a story and really see and feel the life of someone else? The characters and plot may not be reality but the emotion is. And it’s universal.

So why do I write?

I write to move people from their comfortable into the hurting world. Anyone can sympathize, or imagine what someone else might be feeling. But the well of humanity is much deeper than that.

Sympathy wipes a tear, but empathy embraces.

I write because I want to feel what others are feeling. And I write because I hope others want the same thing.