By: Samuel Glass
Trauma. It comes in all sizes, big and small. Doesn't matter much, though - it's the lasting effects it has on you and your life that makes all the difference, and sometimes the traces are so subtle, that you don't really pick up on how much it's affected you or the kind of decisions you've made, until well into adulthood. And it takes so many forms: dysfunctional (a.k.a "complicated") relationships with your mother, father, siblings (both the ones you know about and the ones you don't until later), other relatives.
It can be something as small as your dad's disappointment when you told him you wouldn't be making the team in your varsity year; not landing the lead in the senior school play; not getting the promotion at Dairy Queen that you worked towards all summer long. Or it can be as extreme as someone raping you; someone trying to take your life, or some kind of terrible accident, like a car crash or a fall at work.
I was an Air Force brat. Ours was a nomadic lifestyle, being shuffled off from air base to air base, assignment to assignment, never being able to put down any kind of roots or to find any stability, as you always knew you would be taken "out of the picture" wherever you were every two-to-three years...if you were lucky. I have seen my share of trauma: fires, floods, deaths, suicides, and the worst kind of family chaos, both in other families as well as my own. I thought I was a 'specialist' in the field of adapting to and dealing with physical and psychic 'drama and trauma' - the phrase I like to use most when having to address the subject.
But I'm surprised to be able to be here to tell you - nothing teaches you all about dealing with trauma quite like joining the "Not Dead Yet Club." Not the most exclusive club in the world: turns out we have plenty of members, but not a whole lot of meetings that I've ever been informed of. And even if we did, I wouldn't know how to begin to offer support to fellow members, anymore than I'd expect them to be readily equipped to help me.
I relied on an FDA-approved drug called Lisinopril to help me regulate my blood pressure. And for well over a decade, it did its job well, helping me keep it at an even keel, for the most part. But I didn't know, and was never told that the drug was derived from the poison of a rare and very dangerous pit viper from the jungles of the Amazon. A neurotoxin that came with some pretty considerable side effects; side effects that were easily misdiagnosed as something else - cold, flu, seasonal allergies - and never detected until the build-up of the contaminants in my body brought about the events of November 22nd, 2018.
Acute respiratory failure (is there really any other kind?), followed by two heart attacks (this has been debated with me by various physicians, but when they have to put the paddles to your chest to jolt your heart back into some kind of normal action, it's never good), a coma brought about by the use of both Propofol and Fentanyl; necessary multiple rounds of dialysis to prevent kidney failure, plus considerable muscle atrophy within a body already riddled with osteoarthritis in every major joint.
Between November 2018 and late January 2019, somehow I began to make it back. I'll be coming up on a year soon, and I have to ask now more than ever, just as I have every day since: WHAT did I make it back to?
I deal with pain on a daily basis, muted by the grace of the cannabis-based CBD products that it's now 100% legal to buy in Las Vegas (state-wise, but not yet Federally), thereby preventing a potential of getting hooked on deadly opioid-based medications, which are just as legal and available as the drug that nearly did my ass in. But the trauma. How do I deal with the memories of the paranoia, hallucinations and complete disassociation with the world that I experienced while in my coma and "under the influence?" How do I put up with the daily agony of various aches and pains that sometimes come out of nowhere with a terrifying suddeness that fills me with a certainty at times, that - as Redd Foxx once most famously hollered - "this is the big one?"
Answer: one day, one hour, one minute at a time. And sometimes, I DON'T. Sometimes, it's not weak or pathetic or maudlin or self-absorbed to just want to turn off the lights, curl up in bed and lie in the dark, stifling the inner and outer screams that occasionally release themselves from you involuntarily, until the moment passes.
Honestly? I don't know how long I'll be able to do this. I don't even know how long I HAVE to do it in. I only know that my husband of three years and partner of twenty-three is here to help me. Had he not been...well, chances are you wouldn't even be reading this right now.
So, that's all the wisdom I have for now about dealing with trauma. One day, one hour, one minute at a time. And if you're lucky, you have somebody there to help you through it, especially when it gets bad, really bad.