Monday, August 1, 2016

PsychoSomatic Angst

I was hobbling.  There was probably a moment of trauma, but Pilates and basketball with Mr. 11 and a new massage technique all vied for the honor.  I iced and elevated and tried not to aggravate it and, little by little, the swelling went down and my mobility increased.

I was on the mend.  I wasn't perfect, but I was making progress.  Driving still led to swelling, but I managed to get all the way to the Arizona Daily Star's offices at the opposite end of Tucson with only minor discomfort.  I parked away from the front door, under a shady tree, and strolled through the parking lot and the paper's lobby.  I didn't need to sit on the comfy couch; my knee didn't hurt at all.  I examined the linotype machine and the pictures on the wall and then Brenda Starr came and escorted me to her class.

She leads budding journalists on a summer writing adventure.  They are young and eager and have PRESS badges on lanyards around their necks.  I was there to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly who sought my story after January 8, 2011.  They were there to listen.

And so I told them about that sunny Saturday morning, about Christina-Taylor getting her sweater and Roxanna reassuring me that the kid really did want to attend Gabby's event.  I told them about driving and parking and seeing the photographer and how the world changed in an instant.  I told them about blood pouring out of my favorite skinny jeans.  I told them about holding a 9 year old's hand as the light in her eyes vanished, despite my begging her to stay with me.

I told them about the NYTimes reporter who was late for our interview and got all the facts wrong.  I told them about my friend, Amanda, from the Associated Press, whose calls I always answered.  I told them how Brenda Starr wormed her way into my heart by reminding me that she was the local press. I talked about honesty and intrusiveness.  I talked about loss and engagement and moving on.

Then, I stood up.

My knee was locked, but that didn't surprise me.  My hip was stiff, but that wasn't unusual, either.  I walked down the steps and across the lobby and by the time I got to my car I was bent in half.  I could barely get into The Uv; I haven't been that contorted in years.

The drive home included a stop in the grocery store.  I was so achy that I forgot what I went in for; poor TBG may never get hot chocolate again if one of us doesn't buy milk pretty soon.  But milk was the furthest thing from my mind that afternoon.  I just needed to get home and get comfortable.

Comfort was far from easy to achieve.  I had ice on my knee and pillows on my back and TBG's hands pushing and soothing at my direction and I was still writhing.  I couldn't stand up to cook dinner.  I couldn't find a comfortable position to eat what we ordered.  Stretching didn't help; I could barely manage to get down onto the floor, let alone lie in a position to disconnect from the pain.

I took Bayer and Advil and Ativan and went to sleep... or what passed for sleep that night.  I tossed. I turned. Everything hurt.  My dreams were messy, unremembered but leaving me antsy.  Getting out of bed was an exercise in delicacy and gentle transitions.  Sitting up... one leg down and then... slowly.... the other... putting weight on my feet and feeling gravity arguing with my tendons and ligaments.  It was a sight to behold, denizens.  I'd have laughed at myself if it didn't hurt to jiggle.

I grabbed the foam roller and contorted myself onto the floor. Leaning back, I gently pressed my swollen lumbar spine, willing myself to relax into the stretch.  Easier said than done, but I held on, releasing more and more pressure onto the roller, leaning further over until, finally, my head was on the carpet.

I rolled up and down, slowly, carefully, gently massaging the mush and gush that had accumulated.  I rolled over and used my Yamuna ball on my psoas and the other connective tissue in and around my hip.  The pain went from excruciating-I-can't-move to this-isn't-so-bad.  I could walk almost upright.

This was progress.  I hadn't felt such freedom of movement since I started talking to the students about January 8th.... and then it hit me.  Talking about that day hurts - literally and physically hurts.  I tense up.  Evil juices flow through my veins.  I get hot and bothered and, apparently, so does my body.  As the realization dawned, I found myself standing straighter.  My knee was still swollen, but I could stand on it.  My hip still ached, but I was upright.  A giant breath blew out of my mouth; I didn't send it but out it came, and with it the tears and the rage and the anguish, nearly visible, always accessible, but this time leaving me behind.

TBG says this happens to me every time I am called upon to speak about that day.  He knows I enjoy the talks, so he's never said anything before, but the knowing smile on his face as recounted the other times revisiting that day led to similar consequences forced me to stop and think.

As soon as the roller and my husband had finished fixing my physical aches, I took some time to review the situation.  Obviously, I have more work to do.  Obviously, the pain has not gone away.  Obviously, this is something to be examined and considered.  A plan must be developed; I'll be talking and thinking and writing about getting shot and Christina-Taylor's murder for the rest of my life.  It's a defining moment.  I just have to figure out a way to keep it in my head and out of the rest of my body.

An achy heart can be carried more easily when the rest of me isn't in pain.  I just have to figure it all out.  PTSD... the gift that keeps on giving.


  1. I am a rape survivor and it took me many many years to get all the evil out of my body - like 20 years. I think you will find that it will take many years for you to really release it from your body. However, now that you have realized the connection, I think each recovery will be faster and easier. I too talk to groups but now I recover very quickly even though I tremble the whole time I am talking about it. And the dreams are few and far between. That is a blessing too.

    1. <3 Thank you <3 Knowledge is the first step out of the abyss, I agree. It's important work, sharing what we know. I just wish it didn't take such a toll. But, then, that's part of the story, too.

  2. I know it's painful physically and emotionally, but maybe this isn't something you should get over. I mean it's defined who you are and I don't think you should change that. You are a voice now to make sure no one ever forgets. It will get easier and you do need to find a way to be able to talk about it without it hurting you so much, but I don't think you should stop talking about it. You owe it to yourself and CT to make sure no one forgets and we learn from the pain. It will get easier, but it may be a very long time--and that's alright. I know I really don't have room to talk 'cause I'm not feeling the physical pain of it, but it's a part of you now. I hate too that it is. You can let it affect you or you can grow from it. I do feel you have come a very long way. Don't put a limit on your healing time. It will happen, but it maybe a very long time.

    Sending massive love and hugs.

    Megan xxx

    1. YOU can always weigh in... you've been with me since the beginning, Megan.

      And, of course, you are right about the resonsibility I bear. THa'ts why I keep doing it. I'm glad I've made the connection and can heal another small piece of the pie.

  3. Interesting...first of all hope you're feeling better. I've often read and heard of women holding onto stress and tension in their glute & lumbar area...I know it's been true for me. I just had deep tissue work done yesterday and thought I'd die but feel a difference already...our bodies and souls are certainly connected, that I know. TBG knows what he's talking about in this case, for sure...

    Hope you're on the up & up, HRF!


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