Actually I had contacted this counselor two years previously about EMDR, when I found myself in a rare social situation of an unescapable PTSD trigger. Hearing someone yell or scream trips my symptoms. I can't listen to any speaker, religious or otherwise, who yells. Even if they are yelling positive things, I can not stay in the auditorium. I feel agitated, uneasy, nervous, anxious and if I don't leave- angry.
Honestly that's a pretty easy trigger to avoid. Other people have triggers in life that are impossible to avoid. (Recently it appears that one of my husband's triggers is the sensation of someone walking away from him quickly. But I get ahead of my story.) However, this particular time it was inescapable. A coach scremed in my son's face- SCREAMED so loud that everyone at the school grounds stopped what they were doing and looked for the idiot who was screaming. He screamed a sexist insult- told my son he played like a girl. But the words were not the issue.
Suddenly, I wanted to KILL that coach.
I began to pray for self-control. I picked up my cell and called the head coach and told him in no uncertain terms that what had just happened was completely unacceptable. He agreed and told me that he would take care of it. I used my words wisely, telling people that I was extremely angry. All of the other mothers agreed that they would be angry too. I paced agitatedly. I went to the parking lot, to pace and pray. I just wanted to get my son and get out of there.
Now as a kind and gentle Christian mother, I do not generally want to murder people. This was a full blown PTSD response, and I should have left. I told the other moms I should leave. I told the head coach I should leave. And everyone, not believing that I really meant it, told me to stay. I did stay. It was not a good idea.
I believed I was under control. I was waiting for my son to come off the field when the offending coach, a friend of mine (at least his wife was my good friend) came walking toward me with his young sons. I told him not to come over, that I was too angry to talk. No one ever believes me when I tell them that, I am not sure why. He continued to come towards me saying that he wanted to apologize.
I was shaking. I literally wanted with every fiber of my being to physically attack him. I told him, quite believably, not to come near and that if I had a gun I would blow his f******** head off.
He stopped coming towards me. His face was shocked. He had his two sons with him, my friends little boys. I love those little boys! Never in a million years would I purposely hurt those boys in any way! They were and still are precious to me.
That's PTSD for you. The therapist explains that when we have been through a trauma, the memory is not stored in the cerebral cortex where the rest of our memories go. The stress chemicals coursing through our brain when we are under attack stimulate an entirely different area in our brain. That would be the part of the brain where agression is created, in an effort to ensure that we will move to protect ourselves should we be threatend in that way again. It is instinctual, biological, emotionally overwhelming and completely bypasses conscious thought.
I took my son, went home, cried, poured my heart out to God, wrote furiously in my journal and after an hour or so of venting and processing what had happened, the stress hormones cleared out of my body and I was myself again.
I was filled with remorse. I felt such regret: regret that I had not gone home when I realized what was happening with me, regret that this coach did not honor my request that he leave me alone for the time being, mostly regret that I threatened to kill someone, and that I did so in front of tender hearts that I cared for. I also feared for my friendship. I did so love their mother!
I sent a bouquet of flowers to her at work, with a sincere apology. And to my great surprise, she called me right away. She started out admitting that she was angry that I said that in front of her boys, to which I could only agree that she should be. But then she expressed her understanding, and by the end of the brief (she was at work) conversation she was laughing and joking with me and telling me not to worry about it.
I was amazed at the kindness and generosity. None of the Christians I knew would ever forgive someone cussing like that in front of their children, much less threatening violence. She is a wonderful friend and I am indebted to her forever for her understanding.
I relate this story to show that when I say I understand PTSD triggers, I mean I know how overwhelming the feelings can be. While a person can mitigate the damage they do to themselves and others by leaving the scene, journaling, praying, meditating, yoga, etc. they still must process the flood of stress hormones that is in their brains/body. Until the hormone rush recedes, the person will be upset.
My husband is apparently suffering from PTSD when he flips into the hateful, cold-hearted jerk that is his alter ego. I can believe this. It makes sense. I'm not sure my husband believes it fully though. He still throws around words like "insecure" and "overly-sensitive" about me, so I am wary of the idea that he truly understands. Yet so much hinges on this point.
If he understands, that his huge hormone rush that makes him so hostile and mean is from his own past pain, then we can make some progress. If he is still blaming even the tiniest portion on me, then I am still not safe.
Another huge difference is that I had no wall of denial to tear down. I know my young life was filled with violence and abuse. The abuse was overt and hard to deny.
For my husband, the abuse took the form of abandonment, rejection, ignoring his needs, refusing to allow him to express feelings- all quiet abuse. There was no yelling, just walking away and leaving, shutting him out or ignoring him. There was violence, but those "spankings" were God's will. It was explained that he was spanked because he was loved. All of the shaming and shutting down, it was all for his own good, and God's will to boot!
I don't know if we are going to make it. My husband had another incident this past Sunday, out of the blue. Then on Tuesday when I discovered a passive-aggressive act of forgetting that meant my trust in him was foolish, I unloaded on him!
I am so angry at him. I am angry at all the broken promises. I am angry at all the times he swore he would treat me like a queen but then ignored me and later turned on me with hostility. I am angry at myself for continuing to care about him and want to be in relationship with him.
This post will come down tomorrow. I was hoping this blog would be the saga of a man who found healing in Christ and saved his marriage, and the woman whose faithfulness was rewarded with the same kind of partner in Christian living that she herself had been for him. The statistics are grim, and I am wary.
Jesus, how did I wind up here?