Late on Sunday night, January 3, I slipped on a piece of cardboard used to move heavy furniture across our hardwood floors. As I slid across the room, I knew I was going to fall. I knew there was no way to save myself. I was holding two glass jars, and I thought about my options in those split seconds. Considering I was going to fall, I wasn't keen to land on broken glass. It's amazing how many thoughts and calculations go through the hypervigilant mind when it perceives danger... I didn't account for the step, the one with the metal edge, and the instant my head hit it, I panicked. The blinding pain terrified me. I screamed for help even before I saw the pool of dark red blood on the hardwood floor next to my head. What followed was a comedy of errors with various family members trying to help with everything from endless wads of paper towels, bags of broccoli, and even a pair of compression pants tied around my head as a makeshift tourniquet. My husband - frozen, insisting it wasn’t that bad; myself - vacillating between panic and confusion, howling in pain and barking out instructions to have him take me to the ER, confused over how to slip my feet into the boots presented to me.
On Tuesday night, skull throbbing, stomach queasy, body sore, my heart soared with hope. I was home with a clean CAT scan, a seemingly mild concussion, and the Democrats were on the verge of flipping the Senate. Because of Georgia. Finally, we had a chance to see real change. At 1:30 am, I called it a night but not before posting about how excited I was for the change but how gnarly I predicted Wednesday would be. Despite not following any right-wing news, it seemed common knowledge that major protests had been planned. I assumed everyone was bracing alongside me as congress prepared to certify the results of the presidential election.
By midday, it was a done deal, and I felt such a sense of relief. We could finally exhale just the littlest bit. Grown-ups were back in the room. Folks who at least made sense seemed to be invested in the fight against covid and had the necessary power to create quick and meaningful change. It was time to celebrate. I indulged in the schadenfreude of watching the Republicans who had it all lose it all just as decisively. Oh, but wait. It wasn't. Friends alerted me to the situation at the capitol. I watched aghast as the casually brutal siege was carried out in real-time on camera. It was so disorientating. The mood seemed almost jovial? It looked like a frat party tailgate hybrid that had just sort of escalated. People had giddy expressions on their faces. My mind was trying too hard to figure out what was happening. The mood didn't match the mayhem. We expected this, though. We expected this. We expected trouble. Then I saw footage of the officers taking down barriers, waving the crowds toward the buildings. It was all so incredibly weird. I felt underwater.
We had been telling them. We told them before he was elected. And after he was elected, we saw this happening. We had visions of these scenes. This had been a foregone conclusion. And now it was happening and people were acting surprised about it? And by people, I mean the folks supposed to protect us? The people we trust to keep us safe. The people who had made such a terrifying, draconian show of force at so many peaceful protests over the last few years were suddenly nonplussed? Cowering? Not even reacting. Not stopping them.
As I watched, my hand wandered up toward my head. That warm sticky feeling again. I pulled it away and there was blood. Lots of it. I thought about how I had just been in an Emergency room during the worst of a global pandemic, with an overworked ER doc who assured me it would be ok without more attention. How I had accepted that and left without a proper dressing and a CAT scan telling me what I wanted to hear. How it had seemed weird but also welcome because who wants to be in an ER during a pandemic longer than they had to be. But now InowI had an unhealed head wound that had not been adequately dealt with, and the blood was all over my hands again.
Suddenly I just felt it all. The sense of panic I have felt since I was a little girl, wanting so badly to be protected by the people in charge. To have the people who were supposed to be caring for me actually do that rather than harming me in the dark behind closed doors. I felt the panic of trying to tell my mother what had happened and have her turn on me, asking, “But what did you do?” What did I do? I was a little girl. I was helpless. Just like now. With my bloody head and the TV blaring a scene of chaos, I had warned about for four years to people who had minimized and blamed and deflected responsibility.
I started to hyperventilate to tell my husband that nothing felt safe. He flipped into the same trauma mode that he had been in the night I fell and assured me calmly that it was no big deal. I snapped. I am BLEEDING FROM A WOUND ON THE BACK OF MY HEAD, NEAR MY BRAIN. My hand is covered in blood; I am soaking through paper towels! From my HEAD for the second time in two days. STOP TELLING ME IT IS NOTHING. STOP TELLING US WE ARE NOT SEEING WHAT WE ARE SEEING. I became dizzy from hyperventilating. I started to feel the weight of the last ten months of trying to protect my family from a deadly pandemic crashing down. The grown-ups had abandoned me again. I was a little girl with a big big burden and I felt entirely alone and scared and so damn angry.
The inner child who had watched over my siblings and tried to protect my family from the truth by keeping its secrets was reawoken as I watched my brothers and sisters in this country and immigrants and refugees being abused, caged, murdered As I watched this administration and it's fans become more and more emboldened in the gaslighting and persecution woven into the fabric of this country since its inception. Every day it became more casual and unapologetic in its relentless evil callousness and cruelty toward innocent people. Every day the deflection and denial accompanying that surged ahead with fresh energy. The fierce defender in me was never allowed to rest -- not for one single day of the last five years.
And so that night, as the waves of the last four years of chaos crashed over me in a moment of vulnerability I lashed out at the people I love. That’s what happens with reawoken PTSD. Fight or Flight. I told my husband that he didn't know what he was talking about. How I couldn't trust anyone. How I was the only one around here who knew what the hell was going on; I was charged to protect everyone and who would take care of me? I regressed five years in my progress that night. I watched my husband internally collapse in grief as he revisited the pain of that period of time in our lives when I had turned against him because trauma had taught me that nothing and nobody was safe. It was hell again.
My story is far from unique. Hell was playing out for so many people that night in so many ways. The security that people find in institutions is not terribly unlike that of a child for their parents. That trust has steadily eroded over the last many years. The innocence is lost. The children have been abused and then gaslit about the abuse. Marginalized. The Narcissist has engaged in triangulation to bully them further.
On January 6th and the days following, the culmination of these years of betrayal was felt by so many more people than me. The trauma that I felt was also triggered in so many more vulnerable hearts and lives and homes across this country. The layers of this abuse are generations deep. This wound needs real attention or it will just keep bleeding. This fall will leave a terrible scar.