Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Why couldn’t I let go of the past?

 

PC

Before

Why couldn’t I let go of the past?

I tried to get over it by waiting; expecting time would dissolve it.

I tried to get over it by facing it. I re-engaged with places and people. I expected that creating new happy memories would dispel the old unhappy ones.

I tried to get over it by seeing a counselor. Counseling hadn’t seemed helpful before, but what did I have to lose? If only I could get myself to see it was OK, I get back to normal life soon.


The Moment

“You probably experienced big T trauma. It changed your brain.”

Trauma? Me? I hadn’t been violently attacked or in an earthquake or war. It was a bizarre left-field thing for me to hear my counselor say. How was it connected to me?

And yet at the same time, it made so much sense. I needed to hear more. It was only a few minutes until our session was going to end. Should I mention to her time is up?

I stayed quiet. My desire to know more obliterated my need to follow the clock.

A dramatic and unfamiliar word. Yet strangely, it made me feel lighter and energized.

My journal from that day just says TRAUMA!!! I was too excited to write anymore.

When you have good news, you can’t help but share it. I ran to tell my husband, and I emailed a few friends.

“I’m traumatized! Yay!”

I wrote about it in our newsletter:

The emotional response doesn’t come from what might happen in the future. (Before I heard the word Trauma I thought my bad feelings were anxiety about the future).
It comes from what already happened in the past. My brain is tricking me into reliving the worst moments. This is why knowing things are safe now does not change my feelings at all.
My Fear response is not listening to my Logic.

The brain acts as if it is happening now, the same as it was then. And it doesn’t exist in the rational part of my brain, which explains why I can’t talk myself out of it. I’m not failing at getting over it, it is not over. It is still happening now.


After

I noticed when I felt I was in danger.

I noticed I knew I wasn’t in danger, but I felt I was.

I noticed her and gave her a name. Now I could see her and explain her to other people. Mrs. Logic Blocker (Mrs. LB) is a mean woman in my brain. She sometimes disrupts the communication between Logic and Fear response.

I noticed friends could feel like attackers by using the wrong phrase. They triggered Mrs. LB.

I noticed too, these same friends could care for me in that attack. Instead of trying to calm me down or reason with me, they let my irrational outburst run its course.

I noticed nothing in my anxiety tool kit made any impact on Mrs. LB. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying hard enough — they were the wrong tools. Awareness of her gave me relief overall, but I still had to ride out hours, days of fear.

I noticed Mrs. LB ran away and hid when I spent time with friends who made me feel protected and known.

These friends let me experience God’s presence through them, rather than quoting Bible verses at me. It felt like they were God’s stunt- doubles, although we usually call them Christian pastors.

Mrs. LB had no power against the safety I felt with them. Time with God’s stunt-doubles can dispel an acute attack and leave me feeling safe for days.


Conclusion

The most significant point on my healing journey so far has been calling my issue “trauma”. I didn’t know naming something could be healing.

Finding out my brain was tricking me into feeling scared when I knew I was safe was a big “aha” moment.

Now I call it my trauma response, or Mrs. Logic Blocker. I’m less frustrated with myself now that I know the reason and anxiety tools are impotent.

I thought I had to try harder and I would get over it. Freedom replaces frustration when I notice my feelings of safety and danger.

It is not that I can’t let go of the past, it’s like the past won’t let go of me.


Written in July 2021 for the prompt "Defining moment"

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

What A Sudden Diagnosis Feels Like

 

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 



BOOM!

A new diagnosis blew our normal week apart.

There had been a bomb ticking but we didn’t know about it until it went off.

The threat of death suddenly joined us.

This new chronic condition in our family began with a swift diagnosis and treatment. Our other conditions have taken a year or more to work out, but this happened within 24 hours. There was no time for unsolicited medical advice this time around! We are so thankful for the local doctors here in Cambodia who saw the problem and took action.

I can’t quite write about it properly yet even though the situation isn't as acute as a month ago. I’m still tired and adjusting but on the path to long-term management.

This month’s A Chronic Voice linkup seemed like a good way to note down a few things from this season. It is still fresh but I can't yet zoom out and describe the whole picture. Having these 5 words lets me narrow it down: Processing, Relying, Retreating, Cancelling and Reframing.

Processing

Being in hospital with a family member was easier this time around. After being a counseling client for a few years I was more equipped this time. I didn’t know it would be like that so it was a nice surprise. I was noticing feelings as they were happening.

Relying

My husband is my favourite person to go through a traumatic medical transition with. We all rely on him at the moment to get through each day.

A few medical and pastoral friends have generously made themselves available to us. It's not an exaggeration to say they are saving our lives with their specific skill set and relationship to us and others.


Retreating and Cancelling

Since day one we had to cancel pretty much everything.
We haven’t done homeschool since then.
We didn’t say goodbye to a family who moved back to their country, we never got to have that last playdate.
We were getting ready to welcome a family moving back to Cambodia after two years but we also had to pull out of helping them. Hope we can catch up with them later on.

Just to survive I haven’t been really checking email or trying to keep up with friends overseas. I’ve been only messaging friends in Cambodia and family.

The first week we could only think hour by hour and were not aware of anything else other than our health. It was hard even to know what day it was or what we would eat. Our extended family shopped, cooked, looked after children. A few ex-pat friends dropped off food and books. I wore the same clothes for days. I only noticed when a friend dropping off food asked if she could wash our clothes.

I had been going to join a homeschool summit online. And I was in the midst of reading some books and on a roll with blog writing (link to my guest posts). All on pause, hope to return one day. (I guess writing this count as a return to writing?!)

We probably won’t do school or meet up with people too much for another couple of months. Although my husband has started back with some Bible and sports activities but not the other classes. I have taken our children out once to a friend’s house, they had so much fun. But I was so tired to the point of forgetting some medical things for about a day or so after that. It freaked me out.

The shock plus the learning curve and the physical tiredness are all-consuming for now. We’re told it will get easier with time and that this is just how things are for now.

Reframing

Finding others with the same diagnosis often helps, but in our case made me feel more isolated for a time.

Others were either dead or managing it with high-tech stuff we don’t have. So it felt like we were doing something dangerous. It doesn’t feel like that anymore, but when it did reframing helped me. I remembered that what is often good for us as a Cambodian/Aus family is different to what is good for anyone else. We don’t fit neatly into either Cambodian or Australian or ex-pats. So of course we are doing this differently. Our current situation suits us; we are in the best possible place to go through this.

One month down, a few more to go?

Now that the bomb blast has settled, the noise is only a ringing in our ears. The shock is present with us but not overpowering. Much of our old normal is gone, maybe only for a time. Some things we will have to work out a new normal.

Head over to the link-up to see how others used this month’s word prompts.

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Feel like we missed a month.

I looked out the window this morning and saw mangoes hanging from the trees over the fence. I realised it is suddenly about to be hot season. Our Feb was swallowed up by unexpected and all consuming events.






 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Jabs, cuts and noise.





 All 3 adults in our house recently had our third jab at our commune's temple. Things have been pretty open over the last few months and were starting to feel maybe like a post-pandemic new normal. Just over a week ago on Jan 8th they found the first case of locally transmitted Omicron, I'm not sure if that will change things.

Our son finally had his lockdown locks demoted to the floor!

For about a week we have all been struggling to get enough sleep as there has been almost constant noise from multiple weddings. Soeun teaches outside so for him and his students its particularly exhausting. I've been inside with the windows closed. Lucky it is cool season. 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

A tree near Angkor Wat

I just read a book called 'The girl who said goodbye".  It mentions this tree! The memoir is of a Khmer women who lived through all the chaos of the 1970s and makes out alive.



 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Vinegar Festival

 In my first year in Cambodia, I don't think I noticed the seasons, it was just hot all the time. And I rarely saw a sunset or sunrise. Things are really different now.

In November the rainy season ends and boat races are usually held. For me it's often a time to clean up any mold that has grown in the house during rainy season. The last 3 November I was sick (2018-2020) but this November just gone I was NOT sick! In the lead-up to Water Festival, I sorted out things and gave away a lot of preschool materials that we had grown out of. 

Even though we have lived in this house for 4 years, we haven't got around to getting furniture and decorating the walls yet. But November 2021 I had some days to myself, with good health, and I got to clean out the playroom and buy a sofa and cupboard. So putting up the Christmas tree this year was really different to the last few years. We had a place to put it!

Water Festival worked out as the end of rainy season and the start of cool, dry season and Advent. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Books!


Yesterday I was in Hong Kong in 1995 by way of reading The Space Between Memories, by David Joannes, then hopped over  to America in the 1800s as I'm reading Benny and the Bank Robber books (Mary C. Findley) to our children. 

I'm also many hundreds of years back in time, but set right where we live as I'm reading Temple of a Thousand Faces, John Shors (also A Women of Angkor, John Burgess). 

I'm enjoying reading other people's descriptions of what I see each week as I ride my bike through the temple park. Some examples: 

"Monkeys leapt from branch to branch, chasing one another, causing leaves and twigs to tumble from great heights. Though sometimes a monkey would drop a few feet, strike a thin branch, and appear destined to fall to its death, no brown blurs plummeted from the canopy."

Shors, John. Temple of a Thousand Faces (p. 112). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

"The sun was hiding for a bit now. The sky had reached that pregnant stage of late day in the monsoon season, clouds gathering purposefully, about to bless the earth with another shower. I looked up. I remember thinking how lovely the first drops would feel on my skin."

Burgess, John (2013-03-27T22:58:59). A Woman of Angkor . River Books. Kindle Edition. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Christmas days 2021

Soeun noticed it from Facebook. 

I noticed it from a ride in the temple park.

Cambodians celebrating Christmas.

Since before I arrived in Cambodia, Christmas has been a big deal for local believers. But this year it seems like the general population is taking their family to the park and posting Christmas greetings online.

We had our family Christmas on 24th this year instead of 25th, as Soeun and Kanya have been busy getting ready for Sunday 26th Christmas program.

I like it better when Dec 25th falls on a weekday, away from the busy time of church. But it actually worked out ok. It meant that December 25th felt like a bonus holiday. Like having a meeting cancelled in the middle of a hectic day.

We had already done presents and Christmas, so we didnt have any big things to do. But it wasn't a school day so it felt like an extra holiday with Christmas leftovers and no agenda.

Soeun and the others spent the day making decorations and killing ducks, but the kids and I just enjoyed Christmas day 2.

And today the prep for Christmas continues, as the program is the afternoon.



 

Monday, November 01, 2021

So Confusing It Makes Sense

 Alice's Adventures is Wonderland ” I recently read out loud to my children. It is such a great description of what is it like to move back to your passport country or move to a new country in the first place. Her confusion makes things so clear. Like this quote:

“Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. “I don’t quite understand you,” she said, as politely as she could.”

Opening up

 Soeun had soccer for the first time in months. 

I've been to the dentist (had to do a self-test at the door). 

I also recently got new glasses. (The eye test was confusing at first until we realised the test lens was fogged due to my mask.)

The PM said things are all open now. 

Schools are meant to be open. Although in some cases it will take some time to get them ready if they have been used for treatment.