Christmas Eve, Slivers, and PTSD

Marie came up to us after church that year and asked if we’d like to join their family for Christmas eve.  Sure we said, it beat sitting in our little rental house 1000 miles from home, missing family.

As it turned out, Marie had also invited Nancy, Karen, and Scott,  all singles, also away from home over the holidays. Marie had the gift of hospitality.  Those are still some of my favorite Christmas memories…

I remember coming into Marie’s kitchen, the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, dimly lit Christmas lights,  scented candles..

It felt like I’d just stepped into a Hallmark card movie…and we were part of the story.

Pause.

As I sat in a big stuffed chair after dinner, visiting with Sid, (Marie’s husband)  I absent-mindedly picked a callous on the tip of my pointer finger.   It had been  numb for months.

All of a sudden,  out popped an inch long wood sliver.

I thought back to early September when I had helped Joe V install a new set of pine steps.   I’d gotten a nasty sliver, and assumed I’d gotten the whole thing out.. guess not. 🙂

Pause.

The same thing happened again yesterday.  I came into the house for lunch and I noticed a  small piece of wood protruding out of the middle finger on my right hand.  Last month, I was moving some old lumber in my way on a project, and I got “stuck.”  At first, I thought I’d gotten another nasty sliver but when I got home that night and dug around, I couldn’t find anything.  (I wasn’t sure then whether I’d gotten a puncture wound or another sliver. Figured if something was in there, it would eventually work itself out.)

I know how these things work now 🙂

Pause.

Buried slivers are a great word picture for PTSD.  Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes…it could be sexual abuse. Could be trauma from combat.  Could be trauma from a surgery as a small child….  Sometimes after a traumatic event, in order for our brains to cope, a part of our heart goes numb.  It’s one of God’s coping mechanisms (I believe). The numbness initially allows me to continue to function…all the while the memory  foreign object stays buried in there somewhere, festering..and at the right time,  it will come to a head.  I don’t think you have to go looking for it.

I’ve seen this played out three times, in the lives of people close to me.   15 to 30 years after the initial trauma, weird things started to happen…unexplained panic attacks, the desire to cut, being in a state of constant hyper-vigilance, etc.

A marriage counselor told us  about the waves of terror that would overtake him when he started to deal with the abuse  he’d experienced as a child. Things didn’t come to a head until after he’d gotten married. Something would trigger the PTSD and it would incapacitate him.  One day, a friend of his stopped by unannounced, while he was in the middle of an episode. He told his wife to let his friend come up and see him…. The friend, a former marine,  had no idea that this guy was going through ptsd.  When he saw him, curled in a ball, covered with tears and snot, he crawled into the closet with him and just held him.

It was a turning point on his road to recovery.

If there is an emotional wound in your life that is giving you fits, don’t suffer in silence.  It means you are human.

Open up and let someone in.

DM

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