My husband and I watched the movie Spotlight earlier this week. If you are not familiar with the movie, it is about the Boston Globe’s investigative reporters reporting on the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal. The film was hard to watch only because of the subject matter. In turns, I was reacting viscerally to the trauma-related by the victims and furious at the church leaders’ enabling coverup.
One of the things that caught me off guard was how the reporter told the victim that they needed to say more than, “I was molested.” (As an aside, my grammar check keeps telling me that the quote is in the passive voice, which is, in itself, a statement.) The reporter doesn’t ask out of morbid curiosity but out of a need to make the real depth of the abuse known. At the time, I wondered what it would be like to be asked what happened in my childhood by someone who wanted to bring justice for me and others.
The other thing that watching this movie did was open me up to a week-long event of reliving past events and nightmares. After reliving one of the most horrific events through a nightmare and then having flashbacks of the actual event for a few days, I decided to reframe things if I wanted to get through this. I did this by focusing not on what I endured but on how my body has held those memories and also protected me all this time.
I started by being grateful. This first day I sat and meditated on my heart. I was grateful for all the times it had kept beating and had to beat so hard through all the terror-filled moments. I was grateful for how hard it has worked to keep me alive.
I know that I am talking to myself in the third person. I am trying to acknowledge all the ways my body has suffered and endured. The body stores and remembers everything. It is why the bottoms of my feet are sore. Though some of the damage done to them through the beating of the bottom of my feet is physical, like the scar tissue that I need to stretch to keep them from becoming stiff, my feet are also where I store a lot of the trauma. They are next on the gratitude list.
The remembering and the reexperiencing examples could go on and on. I am trying to do the same with panic attacks. I try to breathe and listen. Listen for what the trigger was, and then I acknowledge it as valued. I am not going to say that this is one hundred percent effective or that I don’t still feel like I will explode out of my skin with the terror that comes with the panic. I will say that the panic attacks are a little easier to breathe through when I am not trying to fight them.
All this is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. All the things I meant to do on this ten-day vacation went out the window. Instead, I am feeling my way toward healing a little bit more each day. And that is better than the reality escape I had previously planned.