11/25/2013 by syrbal-labrys
Most of the people I know, by my age, have had at least one terrifyingly close call when they thought their lives were over. And most share that curious sensation of time slowing down around them; it is, science tells us, a kind of illusion created by how the brain stores the intense memory.
Science aside, it is almost impossible to fight the feeling that as one’s life hung in the balance, everything slowed. If the brain has a “cut in stone” category, it is surely composed of those instants when you think it is all over and done. So, while familiar with that peculiar sensation associated with physical danger; I now realize it is not so limited.
As some of my readers know, our household has been rocked and rolled for the last couple years by a long-delayed crisis of PTSD in my husband’s life. Both of us have PTSD, both trace back to traumatic abusive childhoods and while we both might have gotten over that, there were “enhancements” for each of us in adulthood. For him, the Viet Nam war was like steroids and acid. We are very different people, my Minotaur and I; consequently we dealt with our traumas in completely different ways even though some of our woundings were remarkably similar. He learned that keeping his head down and being silent, denying anything was wrong had worked to keep him relatively safe. I learned that nothing kept me safe, so I relentlessly fought. Everything, I fought everything because I perceived threat every where, constant and relentless.
So, of course, we fought each other with shattering effectiveness. Our marriage became a storm-tossed wreck on the rocks that changed for the worse in 2011. A motorcycle accident knocked over and open the barrels of toxic waste from his entire life, and the suicide of a friend lit the poison afire. I wheeled away from him in shock at the bomb he dropped in our lives; while he resented my withdrawal even as he SAID he wanted freedom from his marriage and from me, his wife.
But over the last two years, we have both recovered. (Mind you, PTSD — especially the more serious virulent sort he has endured — is never “over” but merely dealt with daily, much like a serious physical chronic illness.) But both of us finally turned to fight the real “demons” of our lives instead of each other. He finally began to see that I WAS his ally, not his antagonist. I began to see that his behavior to me was NOT personal, but habitual self-protection.
And those two years seemed very literally in slow motion. Every day felt 48 hours long. I had more than enough time to waste time with television or movies AND read entire books at a sitting AND get yard/pet/household things done. I didn’t quite realize it at the time; but this fall it was as if a stretched rubber band snapped suddenly back into a shorter mode! Suddenly the days were flying by, and without me getting much needed work accomplished. The three – four hour “woozle run” mornings were no longer sufficient for reading and blogging. The once long afternoons were gone and darkness and various home-comings upon me before I had thought about an evening meal.
I do remember telling myself in November 2011, “Slow down. Think, take your time. Don’t rush to fix this thing; let it run down on it’s own first.” And science aside? It seems my personal time coding did just that. I feel a bit like Snow White as the winter comes upon us this year; the poisoned apple bit has fallen from my lips and motion resumed at full speed. I won’t say I lived the last two years in a quiet meditational state (because yes, there were solitary midnight screaming tantrums, gales of tears and the like), haha, but it certainly had a feeling of being outside the normal flow. As if all my “weaponry”, long honed with use, was suspended out of my reach while I learned other methods of dealing with life. And while those two years felt very slow, the precise memories are not at all sharp – instead, they blur and flow like scenes through old wavy window glass.
PTSD, it occurs to me, especially as “practiced” by couples, is not unlike what most folks perceive a labyrinth to be — a kind of confusing maze. A real labyrinth, like the one outside my east wall, is not a maze of course — one way in and one way out. But that doesn’t mean one cannot mis-step and get lost there. I called my husband the “Minotaur” because like that mythic being, he was trapped and rendered mute and bestial by the traumas of his life; and yet there WAS about him what I found irresistible and attractive. He had an endurance I feared I lacked, he had a stillness I knew I’d lost. And he, perceived in me a “wildness” that he feared and yet longed to have and hold. So, in two years, from Samhain to Samhain, we have learned to walk into and out of our personal labyrinth together. That inner labyrinth will always be there, but we have a guiding cord now and our linked hands keep us close even when the darkness closes. We hit a full stop, we slowly learned to walk again. And now? We are speeding up to RUN together into the rest of our lives.