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Angels Are As Real As My Trauma

The past few years have found me deeply interested in the world of healing, but now it’s become critical.  For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, memories have started to surface from a very traumatic time and are debilitating me.  


This really began about two weeks ago, though I’ve had minor signs and symptoms for years.  Anger would wash over me, my chest constricts, I feel this heaviness upon me, and I feel stuck.  And for the first time since the event over five years ago, I’ve actually started to shut down.  My vision becomes foggy, my head feels thick, it’s difficult to think and only with much more effort than usual can I function.  


And sometimes I just can’t function.  At those times it feels like a demon is swirling inside my chest, caged, trapped.  My breathing becomes rapid and shallow.  Muscles start constricting.  I can’t sit still and am squirming around like a worm.  Opening my eyes is emotionally painful and in general, I’m in immense emotional pain.  


I believe “the demon” wants to get out as much as I want it to get out. This demon consists of emotional energy, and I use the term “demon” because sometimes the only language that can capture reality is poetic.  This demon, I believe, is the unfinished fight-flight-freeze response from the event five years ago.  Or, more accurately, it’s one of the unfinished fight-flight-freeze responses.  I’ve already released a few of them over the past two weeks.  


This morning, however, there was a particularly nasty demon, and I became so cloudy headed and overwhelmed that all of my emergency brakes (techniques to stop myself from descending into this type of situation) fled me.  I couldn’t even think of them, and even when my wife reminded me of them I could hardly hear her.  


Eventually, though, I knew I needed to get this thing out of me and somehow I managed to get into my car where I could have some privacy.  I’d had an amazing and intense experience about two weeks ago, where just following my intuition I shouted as loud as I could and kept shouting until it felt like the shout was shouting itself, and it turned into a cry and eventually a laugh, taking me through a specific memory from the event.  If I was a cartoon figure, the demon would have been rushing out of my mouth, fleeing back into it’s immaterial world and away from me.  That’s what I needed this morning, and so tried to recreate that experience.  


I got into my car and screamed, and screamed and screamed.  Nothing happened.  The shout never started shouting itself.  I did feel a tiny bit better though.  A drop in the ocean bit better.  But that only lasted a moment.  The demon was back and I was exasperated and exhausted and felt utterly defeated.  Well, almost.  I screamed again and this time said “G-d, please help me.”  


Asking for help, and therefore implicitly admitting that I need help, is actually a big deal for me.  I’ve been very hesitant about seeing a therapist, believing that I can do it by myself.  Which is ironic, because I’m studying now to become a therapist.  But our biggest challenges can become our greatest strengths.  But one of the reasons I’ve been so hesitant to see a therapist is because I’m actually terrified.  I’m terrified of what I will have to confront.  My body isn’t broken.  It’s trying to protect me from this extremely painful event.  It’s what I needed to do five years ago to survive and function.  But now I need to move on.  


When I said “G-d, please help me,” I was talking about that present moment.  I continued, and in much the same way that the shout started shouting itself in my previous experience, the “G-d, please help me,” started speaking itself and continued “Help me, please, someone please help me.”  As it was continuing, and I was crying out for help, in my mind’s eye I went back to a specific moment from the event five years ago.  


(As a side note, I use the term “mind’s eye” because I am simultaneously aware of both the memory that I’m going into and the present moment where I’m sitting in my car screaming).  


In that specific memory-moment, I was standing on the front porch of our old house and talking my father off of the proverbial cliff.  I don’t want to go into too many details because they involve other people and truthfully aren’t necessary for what I’m trying to convey.  It’s sufficient to say that this was the very tail end of my parents divorce, and the house was being sold, meant to be finalized that day.  We had spent the last two weeks clearing out the house, and it was the first time my parents were consistently in the same space in years.  It was an explosive and violent two weeks.  On the last day, when the deed was meant to be signed over to the new owners, signifying the breaking of all of the largest ties between my parents and the end of a many year legal battle, well, my father kind of lost it.  He went berserk, to the point where I rushed my mother off of the property because I feared for her safety.  


It pains me and strikes me as wrong to be painting other’s in a negative light, even if that’s what happened.  I can’t think of a way to explain what I’m trying to say without telling this story and my experience, and so some details are necessary.  But it’s important for me to say that I do not blame my father, and I hold no anger against him.  I love him, and am aware that he was doing the best he could with what he had to work with.  


The reason I bring up my father’s behavior is twofold.  One, because it is necessary to understand what I was reacting to in that moment and now five years later.  Two, because it strikes me how parallel my behavior is now to his then, in a pure example of how trauma repeats itself until we heal from it and break the chain.  


As we’re standing on the porch and my father is speaking to me, I’m thinking in my head “Oh my G-d, he’s actually insane,” and it was a very frightening moment.  True insanity is terrifying.  Though I was thinking that in my head, I was speaking with him as if I agreed with him.  I felt I needed to do this because he was threatening to not sell the house at the eleventh hour, which would have been devastating for many reasons for my whole family.  I felt I needed to do whatever I could to not have him blow up the sale.  


Here’s where the trauma and the PTSD come from.  Though internally I was terrified in the face of what I perceived to be dangerous insanity, externally I was behaving as if I agreed wholeheartedly with him.  My internal landscape was sounding all the alarm bells and had summoned up a ton of energy to either fight, flight, or freeze, but I wasn’t allowing that to come to the surface.  I suppressed all of it and willed my rational mind to take over to “get the job done.”  


Once “the job was done” I still didn’t allow it to come up.  Not intentionally, that’s just how it went.  I actually stayed with my father to shoot some baskets one last time before we left the house for good, and we spoke of benign things like sports and the weather, as if all of the last two weeks, the last two hours, all of that absurdness, never happened.  And this only added to that feeling of absurdity and surrealism.  


Back to today, five years later and me screaming “please help me, someone please help me” in the car.  It took me back to that moment on the porch, even though I wasn’t thinking of that memory.  That’s where this energy, this “demon,” was from.  My body knew that; I didn’t have to.  In my minds’ eye, the me of five years ago was the one screaming “please help me, someone please help me.”  Which is how my body wanted to react but I didn’t allow it.  


(I refuse to say that’s how I should have reacted, because should implies that I did something wrong.  I don’t believe I acted wrongly.  I don’t blame myself for not screaming for help five years ago.  I’m actually quite proud of how I responded then on the porch.)


Here’s where things start to get quite interesting.  In my mind’s eye, as I was screaming for help standing on the porch, an older man walks out of the house.  He’s tall, thin and long, dressed in white, and has an aura or a glow around him, though he himself is kind of gauzy or translucent.  He walks over to my father, who is sitting down on the bench, and places a hand gently on his shoulder.  My father stands up, head hanging and shoulders slumped, and holding this older man’s hand, follows him back inside the house.  


I’m not screaming for help any longer. I was just helped. I’m just sobbing, that stomach squeezing, chest clenching, every muscle in my body contracting, sweaty, sob.  And as I write this, I am having intense deja vu, and I believe I’ve been experiencing this in my dreams for at least the past few weeks.  


I realize now, through that screaming for help experience, that my father was utterly defeated.  And it’s striking to me how much my experience today parallels his of five years ago.  Screaming from not knowing what to do, lack of control, and eventually feeling utterly defeated.  That was my experience this morning and his five years ago.  


I get out of my car and go back inside my apartment.  Before too long, I’m very curious.  Who was that man?  What was that man?  I decided I should ask him.  I sit down and summon up the memory (the memory now is overwritten, and that man is a part of it).  I recall specific details of the porch, the wood floor, specific objects that weren’t necessarily in the memory but I know to be in that space and thus helped me to really get a foothold in the slippery mental world.  Once I was firmly there, I asked him (again, I am both myself today and myself of five years ago, simultaneously aware of both realities):


“Who are you?  What are you?”  


“I am your father’s guide,” he said, facing me.  My father’s guide? I thought. 


“Then where were you all those years?” I am referring to much of my childhood where it seems my father really could have used a guide.  


“That’s not how it works,” he said to me.  I instantly understood that he meant “guide’s” only come when they are asked for, meaning the person has to be ready and willing to receive their help.  


“Can I have a hug?”  I asked him.


“No, but you can hug your father.”  


So I did.  In my mind’s eye, I walked the few steps to where my father was standing, behind the “guide,”  still with his head down and shoulders slumped and utterly defeated.  And I hugged him.  And the moment I hugged him I started sobbing.  The me of today started sobbing.  It was a healing sob, a release.  The last of that “demon” was released.  


Was there an external entity answering my questions within my head?  Was it just me speaking to myself?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  I truthfully think it’s a bogus question, and the delineation of internal and external in this sense if false.  I believe there is more to reality than the narrow slice that we normally experience.  Much more.  Infinitely more.  There is no way to translate it into words.  Was it an angel?  A spirit messenger?  A guide?  My own emotional  intelligence personified? Take your pick.  I think they’re all saying more or less the same thing, just with different cultural strings attached.  And those strings are important.  They form the web upon which we weave our lives.  I choose the word angel, though he called himself a guide.  


So yes, angels are real.  As real as my trauma, and as real as my ability to heal from it.  

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