Meltdown looks like…

Please note – below is not where I am now – it is a description of where I have been.

I was processing a very distressing time with my therapist recently when she stopped me and asked me to describe what a meltdown ‘looked like’ to me?

She stopped me in my tracks.
She knows me too well.
She knows I ‘paint with words’

But I’d never been made to actually ‘paint’ this painful picture before. 
Normally I’m a vibrant colour lover. But in times like this the only colour I see is black. So I tend to stop ‘painting’.

What does it look like for me?
And what does it look like for others looking on?

Heaven forbid! – I never stopped to think what it looks like to others. I guess I look like a total psycho mess. I hide a lot so only those closest to me see the real truth of my emotional crises. 

So describe what’s happening within me during a meltdown.
…well the days/months preceding I’m slowly descending into depressional darkness, at the same time (and unnoticeably I thought but now I know my closest can see what I can’t) I’m getting wound up internally like a top. And then something, (usually relatively minor but linked inextricably to a past trauma) will trigger me which snaps the now very taught rubber band and everything in my head starts spinning.

Physical agitation builds, I can’t sit still, I have an overwhelming need to run. Then my brain just implodes.
Feelings of hopelessness, fear, stupidity, anger at myself for my inability to cope… Tears which have been building below the surface erupt uncontrollably, and then are constantly there for days, sometimes weeks. 

I feel weak, hopeless, out of control, lost…

There’s usually two outcomes depending on the circumstances and the reactions of those nearest me. The length of recovery is somewhat determined by them too.

‘Before therapeutic education & understanding’ I would usually run straight into ‘fright/flight’ – retreat to the inside of my head. On the outside I now know I would appear bitchfaced, sad & angry. But inside I had just shut down because I didn’t know how to process and communicate my pain. Because of this inability my meltdown could take days or weeks to recover from. 

Definitely not pretty & much less of a reaction now. 

The second is outcome is 95.9% better and is only possible due to the past 10 years of therapy which has slowly helped me understand the how’s & whys of my traumas & responses and how to manage & communicate them. 

If/when meltdown crisis hits and those nearest me can see & embrace me in my pain, which is hard for them because like most hurting trauma sufferers I push away those trying to help me, then my reaction changes momentarily to ‘freeze’ until and I can allow myself to feel safe. Being held and not questioned is imperative. Then I collapse into fetal and rest. Rest in a quiet safe place with all stresses removed is essential at this point because I am emotionally & physically exhausted.

Recovery from a crisis meltdown is not immediate but once the dam breaks the tensions & tears lessen and the colours begin returning to my world.

PTSD is a hidden trauma inflicted disability which is exhausting to live with. It’s a constant daily fight that I have been living with for decades 🥺
But now my fight is be that victorious survivor not to just survive.

I’m so grateful for the recognition & understanding I received from my very first ACC case manager who gave me permission to take as much time as I needed when he said ‘this could take you many years to heal from’

Here’s to celebrating being this Beautiful Mess who has successfully climbed out of yet another dark hole
Thank God my sun is shining again and my colours are vividly happy today 🙂

Clarity of your own narrative never fades

Each of us has our own narrative
We can be part of the same story
But we see with clarity only our part of it

I remember my part of the story that broke us all
I remember
A day of normalcy
A day of planning ahead
We were all going to town the following morning
But Tim decided to go alone on Monday
He wanted to go help Graham pick vegetables because Graham always brought us bins & bins of seconds which he gathered up on his own and brought down for us to process to help feed our large extended family
He wanted to do his bit towards this incredibly generosity
He did some mussel ropes with Azzan, some boat work with Seb
I remember he raced through the shower and I helped him pack an overnight bag
He packed up the Safari
I remember we were alone at the back of the 4WD as he loaded in bins of mussels to give away
It was to be my last moments with him
But neither of us knew
I kissed him goodbye and arranged to meet him in town on Tuesday afternoon.
He took Seb & Phoebe home and left around 2pm on Monday afternoon
I was to drive out with the 3 youngest the next morning to meet him in town.

I remember relaxing with Anson & Marah before they went home
Having dinner with the kids and putting them to bed
I remember enjoying a peaceful evening

Then with incredible clarity
I remember receiving a text from Anson just before 9pm saying he’d heard there had been an accident on our road
In my mind ‘our road’ meant anywhere from Port Ligar to Rai Valley
I remember making phone calls
I called David where Tim was supposed to be staying
‘No we haven’t seen him’
I called Graham
‘No I haven’t seen him, call the police’
I phoned Ian at Okiwi Bay who was our local ambulance responder
‘No, we had a call out but were turned back because the choppers were flown in. Call the police’
So I called the police thinking I would get our local station
I remember talking to a lady who had no idea where I was
She was in Wellington
I remember her telling me she would ask and call me back
I remember the heightened fear, adamantly refusing to let her hang up
I remember the lightbulb moment whilst waiting for her return – ‘Anson heard it was on the news’!
I remember racing to my computer and typing in
I remember seeing the news bulletin
A lone male was killed on the Port Ligar-Te Towaka Road

I knew instantly
I absolutely knew
I was hyperventilating
I was holding my breath
I remember her returning saying she would transfer me to Blenheim Police
I remember the voice of the police sergeant…
I remember his name
I will never forget his name
…confirming without compassion or hesitation that yes Tim was dead & had been taken to Nelson
I remember frantically asking him where he was and what do I do??
I remember him saying
“I don’t know. I’m going off duty now and have handed over to Picton police.”

I remember texting Anson saying Please Come Now!
I remember screaming

I remember the 3 little ones coming out thinking I was laughing at a movie and their confused faces in total disbelief at what I was sobbing
I remember Marah holding me
I remember Anson bravely making the worst phone calls he would ever ever have to make
Telling his siblings the worst news
I remember Seb & Phoebe coming by boat
Still numb from losing their wee one only 2 weeks earlier
I remember them sitting outside in stunned silent pain
I remember having to call Australia
I remember Jesika answering, she was so happy at her dance class
I remember the anguish of having to tell her
I remember her screams as she collapsed
I remember the pain of not being able to hold her

I remember receiving a message from a Blenheim cousin at 9:30pm saying how sorry she was and discovering she had heard it from a local person
I remember the disbelief that obviously so many others knew long before I did
I remember our neighbours Liz, Harry & Jude arriving an hour later
I remember them telling me their story
Their story confirmed how badly the sergeant had handled the whole situation
That Tim had died over 6 hours before only 20mins from home

I remember my pain was so intense that even though I was trying to be everything for everyone that night I completely failed

I have carried all my children’s pain along with my own
It has been an incredibly heavy burden
I have felt torn in so many directions
Grief is a tortuous creature
It attacks us all at different times and in different ways

I have watched each of them walk their own journeys, process their own trauma, and know they hold their own narratives of that night
Some have vocalised
Others have kept theirs hidden deep
I cannot tell their stories
Just as they can’t tell mine
But we can hold each other and listen

Embedded memories

Eight years ago
0r 96 months
0r 416 weeks
0r 2922 days

It doesn’t matter how you count
It is a long time
But it is also a very short time

The memories of that terrible, horrible, no good, bad, day
are forever embedded in my soul
the memories are implanted in my body
held fast in my very being

Grief holds no time line
It is not a considered thing
It lies in the subconscious
The effects affect and trigger when least expected

That one action
That one disaster
has torn our family into pieces
has forced us all to face emotions and pain
Such devastating pain
far far too big to know what to do with

Even eight years on
The waves of grief are still pounding
They smash on the shores of our hearts
They tear our emotions into shreds
But we hold them close
Scared to let them go
Protecting our vulnerabilities

We share special moments
We can laugh
We can talk and reminisce
But the loss we endure is ours and ours alone
Held tight
Such a private thing
And yet so known
We can share
But we can’t
It’s so hard…