Trauma and Play

The idea of two diametrically opposed words has been in my thoughts.

I believe it is essential for anyone who has been through any kind of trauma to play. Yes, play. I just listened to Brene Brown’s podcast on spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/4P86ZzHf7EOlRG7do9LkKZ.

She says something really deep and something I’ve known about myself. We have to incorporate play into our lives. Brene said in her recent broadcast on “Unlocking Us” that she is not giving up pickle ball when things get tough. I hear you, girl.

I was so fortunate that while I was going through traumatic events in my childhood, I had a bicycle and rode around my safe neighborhood. The kids in the area played softball in the street. We played Red Light, Green Light. We stayed out till dark and just played. We had fun. That may have been part of what saved me.

Even today, I make time for play. I play cards, penny poker, liverpool, gin rummy, joker….you get the idea, anything fun! As crazy as it sounds, I know this about me. I need to focus on fun things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing, trauma or deep stuff. I suspect research shows that we need it.

I love the Christmas season, but I know that it can be stressful. Expectations are high. “Must find the perfect gift,” your brain has probably told you a 1,000 times. No, really, you don’t. Sit with that thought. You do NOT have to purchase the perfect gift. In fact, I would argue there is no perfect gift.

“And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

The Grinch

My favorite gifts are ones that money cannot buy. Reading with a child, sharing a butterfly kiss, spending time with friends and family, sharing your faith and what keeps you going…..these are treasures. I hope you find them during this season. I hope you play.

Here’s a paradox: I have little money but enough to get by; however, I’m as rich as I’ve ever been.

Running with a Slip On

At this writing, I will soon be 65. I was probably 8 years old and in the 3rd grade when the following happened, I’ve never written it down, nor have I told anyone. Strange because I think of it often.

I am not certain if I wanted to stay home from school on this particular day, or if I came home from lunch and Mother agreed I could stay home. I was not physically harmed in any way, but what I witnessed has left scars of a different kind. It revolves around hangers and since I see them in my closet every day, they are reminders, some would call them triggers.

On this particular school day, Mother and I were reading children’s books in bed. I remember she had her slip on. My school clothes were on. The phone rang a few times. Mother did not answer. Since I wasn’t at school and should have been, they must have called my father who taught 6th grade at a school about 30 minutes away.

While we were reading a book, my father came in the door shouting. “Where is Nancy?!!!” It alarmed my mother so much that she jumped out of bed and began screaming. There were wire hangers on the bed, and in the melee, one of them caused a very small amount of blood on her back. My father yelled, but he was never, ever violent. He never physically assaulted my mother who had paranoid schizophrenia.

I remember my mother exiting through the front door with her slip on. She went screaming down the street, “He’s going to kill me! He’s going to kill me!” She was shouting so that all the neighbors could hear. My father hollered and waved at me, “Go back to school!!”

How could I leave this intense scene? I’m sure I stayed to see what would happen next. Again, my father screamed, “Go back to school!!” I left and walked myself back to my classroom. My classmates and teacher were curious about where I had been. I most likely did not hear anything the teacher said the rest of the day. I was probably in shock. Later that day, I was called to the principal’s office where my father was seated. I’m sure he told him about the events that had happened. Mr. Goodman, the principal, probably didn’t want to know. I’m not sure I would have if I were the principal.

I don’t remember what happened next. I suspect my mother had to go to the local psych ward, and my father and I marched through the following days as best we could. I don’t remember ever discussing it with anyone, including my parents.

Harvey’s Mentally Ill

As you pray for the flood victims, please say a special prayer for the mentally ill. I suspect there are some that have lost their medication and will have difficulty getting back on it. This can be a game changer for them and their loved ones. It can also be a game changer in the shelters if they have numerous mentally ill patients in desperate need of seeing a psychiatrist for anxiety, depression, hallucinations, trauma…. There is a shortage of psychiatrists in our country. I just hope some of them will be available at the shelters to write prescriptions that have been lost in the flood.  If not, the situation will become worse.  My prayer and hope is that the government officials are considering this piece of the puzzle as they try to put communities and people back together again.

It is not a topic that you’ll see on the news, yet it is the first thing I think of when I hear about the flood that has taken so many things from people.

It won’t be pretty if it is not addressed. Mental illness is not a respecter of persons. It can affect the rich and the poor, your neighbor and even your family.

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