In recent months, I've come to realise that social media, the news and over-exposure to information makes so much noise in my head. In trying to pull me in, they're pushing me away. Better to settle down with a book, I think. Quiet time is better.@dwelltimepress #outloud pic.twitter.com/n3nKMAUEVO
— Laura Potts (@thelauratheory_) November 27, 2019
The piece is a quote by Martin Luther King stitched in cotton Thread on Aida fabric showing that even at the point when people feel at their lowest there is always hope.
Other Ways to Train | The Great Outdoor Project | 2019
‘Other Ways to Train’ is a joint project between S2R Create Space and The Penistone Line Partnership. We wanted to celebrate how useful trains are in getting people out and about to improve their wellbeing. We also wanted to look at what barriers there are to train travel, particularly for those who experience poor mental health and anxiety. We wanted to explore people’s feelings about both the good and the bad and present them for all to see in a variety of ways from simple verbal feedback to visual artwork, poetry and practical improvements.
Over six weeks a group of eight participants travelled out from Huddersfield’s iconic railway station to explore the countryside and nearby villages. On their return they were encouraged to reflect on their whole journey, From entering a station and waiting for the train through, boarding and travelling to alighting and experiencing the destination.
The group focused on visiting natural spaces including Brockholes, Mirfield, Dewsbury and Berry Brow. There is no doubt that they enjoyed both their adventures and the company and support of the group. Many reported wellbeing effects and a desire to use the train more often in the future independently.
Experiences and reflections from the project has resulted in a Bee Train for Huddersfield Train Station, poems, photographs and artworks. A map of a journey is being produced so others can benefit from the groups experiences and better access the outdoors.
‘Inspiring and exciting’ ‘So peaceful’ ‘I’ll sleep tonight! And I’m ready for my tea’
‘I really needed this, I’ve had such a busy couple of weeks, I never knew this was for’
‘I haven’t been on trains like this for a long time’ ‘I like this, I’m going to come next week!’
‘Can we stay longer?’ ‘It’s quite relaxing isn’t it, watching the river’
Huddersfield Bee Train by Kevin Barnes, Suzy Calvert, Rajinder Chauhan, Byron Reece Jones, Rachel Kaye, Jason Kerry, Charlotte Mann and Amy Simpson
The Huddersfield Bee Train was created with repurposed wood and natural materials to provide a habitat for different bee species. The Bee Train was installed, painted and positioned by the participants in Billy’s Garden on platform 4 at Huddersfield Train Station.
Four Journeys by Lisa KendrickWeek 1 – Brockholes
past four-wheeled driveways,
and potted gardens
To packhorse bridges
and dyed-in-the wool history
An ancient woodland
of Haggs and badgers
Cleaned and healed
by the the slow trickle of water
Week 2 – Mirfield
All aboard the flower train
To muraled Mirfield
Following the fishermen
Along the mirrored ribbon
Of canal calm
Pausing for breath
Reflecting on past lives lived
Catching scent of
Mint, lavender and chive
Tasting freshness, freedom
And late summer berries
Week 3 – Dewsbury
carved in stone
A commute of trains,
traffic and textiles
by violent water
And a hidden
heavy woollen way
to the Midlands
Now a Greenway
of brilliant blue
alder leaf beetles
as walkers and cyclists
Week 4 – Berry Brow
Of Armitage and St Paul
An avenue of limes
Guards the peace
And honours lives lost
In war and living.
Sky blue doors
Overlook the orchard
Of stones and apples.
Time carved in stone
As you sit awhile.
Other Way to Train by Byron Reece Jones
Four line drawings depicting the four walks we went on to and from the train stations visiting natural spaces.
‘I find walking so relaxing. I love nothing more than getting on a train and discovering a new place, just mindfully walking around, through a wood, up a hill, down a footpath, just exploring and listening to the world around me.’
Peaceful at the River by The Train Lady
Water flowing and free
Duck swimming leisurely
A plane passes overhead
Holidays makers over the bridge
Artist drawing, balanced on a ridge
Calm is the wind
Few clouds in the sky
Birds are a singing
Life just passes by
Peaceful is the atmosphere
Just stand and think
Is that there squirrel giving me a wink?!
Poem inspired by our visit to the River Holme
St. Paul’s Church by Rachel Kaye
Wax drawing of St. Paul’s Church in Armitage Bridge
Untitled by Rajinder Chauhan
Pencil drawing of the bridge of the old Lancaster Lane in Brockholes
Untitled by Amy Simpson
Ink and wax drawing inspired on our visit to Brockholes
Untitled by Charlotte Mann
Wax drawing based on our visit to Mirfield
“An agoraphobic’s day out” by Martin Gillbanks
I have suffered from anxiety disorders with panic attacks and agoraphobia for over forty years. Ten years ago, I started to suffer from “Myalgic Encephalomyelitis” (ME), also known as “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” (CFS). Whether the thirty years of mental maladies contributed to the onset of ME, who knows, but childhood trauma certainly does. It was not until an N.H.S. counselling session in 2018 that I was diagnosed as suffering from “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD). The “new-fangled” treatment suggested for my PTSD was “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing” (EMDR). I started EMDR treatment in 2018.
The autobiographical nature of this work has assisted in the confrontation and exorcism of many closeted childhood demons, whilst not a pleasant experience, it is a necessary one. The writing and EMDR processes have assisted in the clarification by precedence of my childhood traumas. Trauma may have resulted in; booze, drugs, failed marriages and abandoned friends, appearing to be my life’s chief aim, a vigorous quest of self-destruction, at any cost. The processes also allowed me the opportunity to look back at my undeniable early failures with shame and loathing, but fortunately I had the assistance and support of my trusted counsellor, Duayne. I am not shirking responsibility for my own actions and past failures, but I now understand the role that trauma has played in my decision-making abilities, being majorly off kilter.
This work’s narrative involves me travelling backwards and forwards in time during sessions, with the present day being interjected. This will hopefully keep the reader grounded in the here and now, mimicking the EMDR treatment.
Most of my research into this topic comes from 40 years of treatment and self-learning. Over the past 38 years I have experienced lots of Freudian talk therapies and as statistics show, they are of little to no benefit to sufferers of trauma. Authors such as Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk, Mary Welford, and Paul Gilbert are doing great work in the area of compassion focused therapy. I must thank Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk for his excellent book “The Body Keeps the Score” and its help in writing this work.
The use of desensitisation through EMDR treatment seems to be the most effective treatment available today, along with joining a choir. I am very passionate about this subject and pissed off by the woeful lack of funding our health care system receives. Statistics show that as of 2018, 20% of the UK’s population suffer from some kind of mental illness and yet we still have at least a 7-month waiting list for any form of counselling from the N.H.S.
I feel that my work questions the validity of our society’s view that children are safest with their own families. My mother was a nurse, my father a bookkeeper, but my upbringing was anything but “normal” or safe. When the suburban front door closes, how safe are children?
Here I am again, glued to the ceiling, gravity picking and choosing its own correct orientation. Today the ceiling is the floor. The passage of time has also been tampered with, having been slammed in reverse. It was only a few weeks ago that I started to visit this place. At first I hated the sight of these bizarre and pathetic goings on and all of the protagonists involved.
Through an open door on the first floor landing I can see the back of a small blonde-haired child. I crawl along the ceiling, to see if I can get a better idea of why this child is standing like an Olympic weight lifter? The 3 or 4-year-old child is holding up an adult’s head, the adult is sat limp and lifeless on a toilet pan, occasionally groaning as if in pain but then seeming to lose consciousness again.
I am no longer glued to the ceiling and am able to choose how gravity works. I get down off the ceiling and stand on a half landing, two steps down from the first floor and to the child’s right side. I look into the cramped toilet through the solid brick wall, which in this place and time doesn’t register as unnatural. I can see the child’s face; our heads are level now and I have a perfect vantage point to view this bizarre and pitiful situation. I wonder if the child can see me?
The child is struggling to hold up the huge adult head, even at full stretch, the child’s arms above their head, the huge head is bowed, as if in prayer. What is going on? The child is sobbing quietly, tears trickling down their cheeks, I can hear the child keep repeating “Don’t die mummy, don’t die mummy, mummy don’t die”. I watch for what seems like hours and it is. The poor child is exhausted and has no more energy for tears, all their little being is focused on keeping their mummy alive, they have been elected as Theos, life and death are in their hands, they are responsible. Has the child seen me yet?
What am I doing here? What are they doing there?
Tap, tap, tap, tap, right, left, right, left. I can feel Duayne tapping quickly on the back of my hands, which are laid on the table in front of me. Duayne stops tapping and says, “Take a breath and slowly let it out, what do you notice?” “I’m going to die”, I reply. “Good, stick with that”, the tapping starts once again.
The smell from the toilet is hideous, unflushed poo mixed with the aroma of terrified child, isn’t a good combination. The child looks at me, I look at them… “Hello”, they say, “Hello”, I reply, they can see me! The child isn’t phased at all and says, “You are someone I never expected to meet”, what do they mean? Do they think I am the grim reaper come for their mother?
I stop time, because I can, and ask the little person “Would you like a break from your labour, as there is someone I would like you to meet”.
Child (who has no name yet) lets go of the huge head and of course the head does not drop but their little arms fall like the weight lifters fully loaded bar. Child slumps to the floor defeated.
I wait for them to re-inflate then stretch out my hand and ask, “Are you ready to go now?”. I reassure child that their mother will be ok while they are away, “So don’t worry”. Child stretches out their arm, smiles and offers me their hand, as we touch, I realise I know child.
I’m carrying child up a hill, they must have fallen asleep on our way here, I don’t know where here is, but it’s warm and peaceful. My view is blocked by the surrounding lush vegetation but I’m sure I can hear the lapping of waves on a beach. The air is fresh and crisp, not a hint of poo. When we get to the top of this hill I may have a better idea of where we are. I can see the top of an umbrella above flowering trees where the uphill path meets the sky.
I am looking forward to meeting Guru again, I have only known them for a few months, they just appeared one day, during the finger wagging. Guru makes me feel like I have unearthed something new that I’d forgotten I’d lost. They always know the right thing to say, truth treasured but most importantly, when not to say anything. Guru seems to know more about me than I do.
Child is still sleeping as I get my first glimpse of Guru, I can’t help but smile back at Guru, even though I have nothing to smile about. Guru is dressed as usual from neck to foot in a cream linen gown, white homburg with a black stripe and brown Jesus sandals, sipping sarsaparilla, which they place on the table next to their comfy chair. “What do you think of the view?” “Wonderful” I reply as I look down the hill towards a lovely empty beach, with an immense blue ocean beyond. I sit down carefully beside Guru, so as not to wake Child, Guru waits till I am comfortable and had the first glug of my waiting sarsaparilla, and says “I see you have met”, “When did you find them?”.
I puzzle over this question for a minute or two, who is this? And where did you find them? would have been my questions, Guru must know Child?
Tap, tap, left, right. “Take a breath, what are you noticing now?”, Duayne asks me, “I’m with Guru and they know Child, my heart is pounding, and my head is muzzy, I think I’m going mad”. “Good, try and remember the original image” tap, tap, left, right.
I can’t bring to mind the original image, I’m at the top of a hill with Guru and Child. I tell Guru, “I found Child holding up their mother’s head, mother was unconscious sat on a toilet”, “Who are they?” “You know Child, don’t you”, I ask. Guru smiles a huge smile, chuckles, in a nice way and leans their body towards me, “You know Child, as well as you know me, it will all become clearer with the passage of time, embrace the uncertainty and allow yourself to have feelings….. you trust me, right?”. When I said before Guru always knows the right thing to say, well they do, but Guru also knows how to lay down the gauntlet with gentleness.
Trust! Trust! It’s such a fear-provoking word, how can you trust another, when you can’t trust yourself? A body controlled by an over sensitive autonomic reptilian brain is hardly my best friend.
But one reality I have learned to trust, is that relationships seem to consist of humiliation and manipulation in usually equal quantities. Allow feelings? Why does Guru always ask awkward questions? Feelings……., they are just varying levels of pain and fear. The pain scales lowest severity is happy, and its painful crescendo starts around not so happy all the way to will this suffering never end. Feelings, I fear, are very much overrated. “When you are ready to talk, let me know” Guru says.
I sit looking down at Child, I notice my breathing is erratic, the lump in my throat is so hard, it hurts to swallow, the feelings of frustration and pain start to overtake me, thoughts race around in my head, I don’t care who Child is, how can I help them? Without me saying a word Guru looks down at Child and says, “You are doing all Child needs right now, quiet your mind and enjoy the moment”.
Right left, right left, Duayne moves his finger in front of my face, we are standing now, and I struggle to follow the finger because the light from the window behind Duayne is so strong. “Take a breath, what are you noticing?” We are still with Guru and the little hero is still asleep”. “Excellent”, “Good, right left, right left”.
Guru is looking out to sea, I wonder what they are thinking, we sit and enjoy the peace and quiet. The warm sun on my face reminds me of making sand castles, riding donkeys, chips in newspaper and ice cream cones so big, you needed both hands to hold them. Child stirs, we both look at them, but they go back to sleep. Guru shifts his gaze from Child to me, “Have you worked it out yet?”, Guru asks, I can’t bring myself to say yes but Guru knows the truth and the pain I feel. Guru tilts their head to one side, as if to say “And” “What else?”. Not once have I thought how Child feels, I want to ease their physical burden, but not once have I thought about…..
Oh, shit I can hear police sirens, shit I’m going to get stuck in this traffic, my heart starts to pound, I start to shake, tears start to roll down my face. I knew I should have stayed at home, “Why did you choose today to go out?” Says the voice of condemnation in my head, “You should have stayed at home like you always do”. I can’t even feel the steering wheel I’m holding on to, shit, shit, shit. I can see beyond the traffic lights that the cars are not moving, there are flashing lights, oh no, I need to get home before I die. I can’t see anything around me but parked driverless cars, no one exists in the world anymore, only me and I’m fucking terrified.
Right, left, right left, what are you noticing “I’m stuck in traffic on Barbara Castle Way, there’s been an accident and the traffic has stopped”. I stumble as I reach for the tissues on the table, my legs have turned to jelly. “Would you like to sit down again?”, Duayne asks. “Yes, better had”.
“What are you noticing?”, I reply “Palpitations, tightness in my chest, pins and needles, bobbly head, the usual”, Duayne must get sick of hearing me dole out the same old list of symptoms. Moments aren’t all sarsaparilla on the beach followed by soup in a basket. The remembered traffic jam is so real to me, as real as Duayne’s tapping on my hands and produces much more intense physical sensations. “Go back to the original image” Tap, tap, tap, tap, right, left, right, left.
What original image?, I’m dying here in a traffic jam. This jam will never end, I have to go home, please. I hadn’t noticed the back of the car in front of me, (why should I? I’m dying in this car) till some stupid hippy appeared, holding a child, sitting on the car boot. Oh, its Guru and Child, my brain isn’t working, “I’m dying here, what do you want?”, “If you’ve come to take me home, then get me the fuck out of here, NOW! and none of that bullshit about me not being a celebrity either!” My mental Tourette’s is getting progressively worse. “Why don’t we return to the last image, as Duayne suggested?”, says Guru, softly. I slowly lower my head, as if it were an act of contrition and through my tears I politely reply, “Yes please”. Guru smiles and we are off.
Zach, my dog is kicking off because it’s food time. I’m lying on the bed typing, listening to the Dead, a live version of China Cat Sunflower, that reminds me our cats, Bridge and Feather need feeding too, they are jumping up at the door handle. The bridge and feather would be an unusually great pub name? Annie is still at work.
This is the first time Guru has collected me, normally I just turn up at their place uninvited, but I’m always a welcome guest. When I get back to the hill top retreat Guru has already put Child to bed and made us some supper, cheese and milk done under the grill, and some nice soft bread to dip in it. Whilst Guru is making the hot chocolate they ask me “Why do you think you are so terrified in traffic?”, as we walk back into the living room I am still mulling over the question, there must be a reason for the instantaneous physical reaction I experience. For a moment I’m distracted by the circling sliver of light from the lighthouse, forcing its way across the black ocean. I hadn’t noticed the sun had gone to bed but something about the darkness of the deep water sends a shiver down my spine, so peaceful yet menacing. I can sense Guru knows something I don’t. “Go on, tell me, I would like to know, why do I hate being trapped? Why do I feel this panic when I can’t escape?”. Guru takes a sip of his chocolate, “It’s been a busy day, are you sure?”, “Will it help Child if I know”, I ask, “That depends on what we do with it, it’s certainly another piece in the puzzle”. After thinking for what seems like an age, Guru says “Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you”. “Mother had electric shock treatment whilst she was carrying Child, she didn’t have any say in the matter, Mother was very…. unwell”. “I didn’t know they did stuff like that when someone was pregnant?”. Guru turns quickly and makes eye contact and says “Apparently it doesn’t affect the little unborn”, I interrupt “That’s what we are led to believe, but things must be different now, that was nearly 60 years ago, with all the modern technology we have now, that must have stopped decades ago, we put men on the moon for goodness sake and…”, “That’s enough”, says Guru.
“Do you want me to get your box to stand on?”, “Sorry, I’ll shut up now”, Guru knows how I witter on when I get overwhelmed. I slowly start to process this new information, the menacing feeling I had before about the lighthouse and the darkness of the water, now have an origin in time.
Tap, tap, tap, tap, right, left, right, left, no wonder Duayne has such muscular arms. “What are you noticing now?” “Guru arrived with Child, we left the car, they took me to their place, Child was in bed, Guru and I had supper, the lighthouse was shining, Mother had ECT treatment when pregnant.” “Try and keep the original image in mind”, tap, tap.
I am back at Child’s house, a 1920’s semi-detached, in the middle of an ordinary everyday suburban housing estate, I’m in the back garden looking up at the toilet window, strange. I can’t get in the house but in the back garden I see a tent and the sound of children’s voices. I smile, sunny days playing in the garden, noodle salad. I turn back to look at the toilet window and find myself in the door way to Guru’s study, both Guru and the amanuensis are in the thick of it. The first time Guru said, “They were having problems with their amanuensis, I informed Guru “That I was sure the chemist must have some creamy potion, that after liberal application, may ease their suffering”. Guru smiled unconvincingly and muttered something derogatory about me thinking I was funny. I had no idea what an amanuensis was, and I certainly didn’t want to see one, Guru allayed my fears and informed me that it was a person who helped you write stuff down. Why the big words, but I was relieved?
“Hello” I said, “Come in” Guru says, “This is Manu, I needed help with my writing; so much to do, so little time”. Manu nods in my direction, I take this to mean hello, nice to meet you, “My name is Paul but for reasons only known to Guru….”, Manu flicks their head backwards over their shoulder at Guru, “…. I get called Manu”. “Nice to meet you too”, I reply. Guru is funny, “So little time?” in my experience Guru has all the time in the world, whenever I turn up he is sitting down enjoying the sunshine. It was later I discovered that Guru suffered from dyslexia. Times have changed, during my hideous school days that clearly meant you were stupid.
Guru without looking up from a pile of papers says “Stanley Clarke, Ray Gomez, those were great times”. Its worrying when someone reads your mind. Guru looks up at me, “In the Scottish play Bill Shakespeare wrote “give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o’er wrought heart and bids it break”. Why can’t Guru just ask if I would like a cup of tea? The Scottish play, what are they on about? No doubt this is Guru’s attempt at pre-emptive programming for a discussion they want to have with me later.
I look out of the study to see Child playing amongst a collection of guitars, so many of them, all on little stands, Child appears to be playing in an Alice in Wonderland type weird musical forest planted by Leo Fender rather than Lancelot Capability Brown.
I am, as seems to be my norm, lying in bed (as opposed to hanging around on ceilings), either because I am exhausted or struggling with some pain or other, now, today I am racked with back pain. These inane typings don’t amount to a hill of beans when you feel like shit. What is it all for, why am I wasting life, why should I give my sorrow words? What good will writing a letter to my fears do? Both Guru and Duayne had suggested I write a letter to my anger, I don’t feel angry, should I feel angry?
Am I confusing anger and fear, is this important? Perhaps I can’t tell the difference? To misquote an old song “Hello fear my old friend”. The relationship I have with my panic attacks is my longest lasting relationship, who says I never stick with anything? At this point Guru would question this rambling, seeing as they aren’t here at the moment, I will self-regulate and shut up. Back on your heads.
Right, left, right, left. Duayne asks “Open your eyes and take a breath, let it out slowly. How do you feel about the original image?” “It seems distant now and so long ago”. “How do you feel when you think about it? Have you any physical sensations?” “Not really” I reply, “Guru has said I should write myself letters and Child is playing in a forest made of guitars”. Poor Duayne, “I still have tightness in my jaw and pins and needles in my hands when I think about Child stuck in the toilet, terrified!” “Let’s go back there” Duayne says, “Get the image in your mind”, Right, left, right, left.
We are back at Mothers, Child and I are stood on the half landing, looking through the wall. I turn to Child and say, “Let me, I have to put this right”. Child and I merge, both inside Child’s little body, you are no longer alone, we can do this together, then the now familiar voice of calm and reason rings out, … “I know it might seem crowded, all of us in this one little body, but trust me, a three stranded cord isn’t easily broken”. We lift up the head, “Would you both like a cup of tea?” Guru asks, Child and I smile at each other, “Smashing” we reply, “Two sugars in mine!” says Child.
A letter to fear from Child.
The grownups (big people) have said I need to write some words to you. I’m not sure what they mean or who you are or anything. I do know when you are here even though I can’t see you, because I know how you make me feel. You are a toothache in my chest, a bad ear ache that I want to run away from and a dizzy dancing feeling in my head that makes me fall over. Mummy says that I can’t tell Daddy about our little toilet secret or she will be taken away from me and die, I will never see her again and it will all be my fault. She says if I love her I won’t tell Daddy and if I do, she won’t love me anymore when she is dead.
I don’t like you, you are horrible and nasty and a bully that makes me feel bad, much worse than falling off my bike. Why are you picking on me? But until Mummy stops being poorly we will have to play together, even though you are mean. I don’t want you as my best friend, but I love my Mummy and she says we have to play together. So, until Mummy is better, I have to do what she tells me. You make me frightened, are we twins or brothers or something else? I don’t know but you are always with me, even when Mummy is not here. I will call you Twin.
Twin, you have made me think like a big person but I’m only a little person.
I hate you Twin.
After writing Child’s letter to fear I realise that I needed to write one as an adult. I’m not in the mood right now. I remember something Duayne spoke about during our last session, “Remember to have fun!” Fun…. I smile to myself, oh, if only.
Reading, that’s fun, I pick up Roland Barthes’ “Mythologies”, (even though I have to look up definitions for most of the big words), I had better read it before I go to the toilet if I need the dictionary as well, toilets are not known for being prime study spaces. After reading Barthes’ essay “The great family of man”, I go to the toilet to chew the cud, mentally.
I need a poo, no paper again, would I appear paranoid if I thought the loo roll jumps out of the window when it sees me coming? Toilets and poo feature a lot in my world, the symptoms of the ME don’t help. Where would we be without “Preparation H”. I’m sure people who blatantly endorse products would pick something more glamorous than bum cream for Chalfonts, but I await my free tubes with glee and trousers down in anticipation.
I do find toilets conducive to deep thought.
Barthes’ essay is about a photographic exhibition titled, (when translated into French), “The great family of man” and has as its basic premise;
“So, what could originally pass for a phrase belonging to Zoology, keeping only the similarities in behaviour, the unity of a species, is here amply moralised and sentimentalised. We are at the outset directed to this ambiguous myth of the human community, which serves as an alibi to a large part of our humanism”.
Although the statement was primarily a comment on the inefficiency of photography to capture all but outward human similarities, (and or differences), photography is thus weaponised in the further propagation of the myth in the singularity of the human condition.
Barthes uses “myth” to describe the power of control gained by the propagator of the myth, almost independent of the myths narrative and he takes this opportunity to make a macro observation about the human condition. The underlying political objective of the exhibition may have been to paper over the cracks of social prejudice, injustice and inequality and as Alan Bennett wrote in “The history boys”, “The easiest way to forget something, is to commemorate it”. But does this politicising of the “myth”, make the “myth” inherently wrong or patriarchal propaganda?
“So that I rather fear that the final justification of all this Adamism is to give the immobility of the world the alibi of a “wisdom” and “lyricism” which only makes the gesture of man look eternal the better to defuse them”.
But WTF has this got to do with trauma, panic attacks and agoraphobia anyway? Barthes prognostications led me down a path of investigation, do we differ biologically and does this affect how we react to trauma? It sporned within me a desire to do deeper research into how our human brain and its ancillary systems, process and react to traumatic events.
Recent studies and research in the scientific disciplines of neuroscience, developmental psychopathology, interpersonal neurobiology, into the effects and treatment of trauma, point to our shared reaction to trauma.
In layman’s terms we have three major brain areas. Studies have found that we possess an ancient evolutionary animal brain, sometimes called the “reptilian” brain (1), this works in tandem with the limbic system, sometimes called the “emotional” brain (2). The reptilian brain is the first brain to come online. As babies, all our fundamental human functions are controlled by our “reptilian” brain. This brain lives at the top of our spinal cord at the base of the brain stem. It is programmed to function as a human’s operating system equivalent to say Windows 10 or iOS 12. It controls, sleep, digestion, arousal, breathing, hunger, pooing and survival functions etc. But its first priority and primary function is our survival.
Our neocortex sometimes called the “rational brain (3) is the last brain to come online.
Even after our “rational” brain has come online, all our fundamental human base functions are controlled by the pre-programmed operating system within our “reptilian” brain.
The ancient “reptilian” brain receives and sends information of life-threatening situations to the frontal cortex (frontal lobes are large parts of the neocortex). The neuro pathways from the “reptilian” brain to the frontal lobes are shorter than they are from the “rational” brain, therefore information from the “reptilian” brain is acted upon almost instantaneously and without conscious analysis, (we could say instinctively). This is the reason why, in certain circumstances, we act without having conscious thought. The evolutionary younger “rational” brain resides above the “reptilian” brain, with the limbic system (“emotional” brain) being the filling in the brain sandwich.
This means that as a species our response to trauma is an automated response, having been pre-programmed into our quicker acting “reptilian” brain and therefore not dependent upon our looks being either similar or dissimilar, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic grouping or political stance, etc. All our physical, mental and emotional responses to life’s dangers are autonomic. Knowing me I will probably ramble on more about this later.
I feel much better now and lighter. Time to meet Duayne. I hate leaving home. My home and my domestic life are both my sanctuary and my prison, it must be how people feel when they are under house arrest. My N.H.S. treatment centre is only about a mile away, but some days it feels like going to the moon. Temporary road works, another of my most feared situations in life. How can the Council squeeze two lots into only one mile? I hope there are no traffic queues.
Duayne smiles, “How have you been?”, “Ok” I say, I might as well have said nothing. “I think we should look at something different today”, “You mentioned children’s voices coming from a tent in the back garden, is that when it happened?” Duayne asks, “Yes, I think so” I reply. “Let’s deal with that then, get the image in your mind”.
Right, left, right, left. I am looking up at the toilet window, again listening to the voices coming from the tent in the garden. As I walk up the two or three steps into the back garden I can see it’s Child and an older boy sitting back to back in the tent. Child is older now, probably about seven or eight years, the other boy is between twelve or fourteen years. Neither of them can see me, even Child seems to look right through me. The older boy suggests that sitting back to back is the best way to play with each other’s penises. What? Child doesn’t have a clue what is going on, child is so sheltered, no TV in the house and this is well before the days of the internet. It’s hard to explain just how naive and clueless a young child was only fifty years ago. The image melts into my disbelief, along with any notion of consensual experimentation, as the older boy wrestles Child on to their front.
I feel Duayne tapping again, I lost him for a while. “Take a breath, what are you noticing now?” I don’t know what to say, “That image gets to that point over and over again, but it never allows me to see the end of what happened……. why?”. “Child is so stupid, why didn’t they do something, stand up for themselves, fight harder, why didn’t I help them?”.
I slump to the floor defeated, Twin is in the corner of the room laughing, where is Guru when I need him.
Information regarding PTSD
Symptoms one might experience suffering from PTSD
Vivid flashbacks of the trauma events, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma, physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling. Panicky, easily upset or angered, extreme alertness “hypervigilance”, trouble sleeping “insomnia”, irritability. Find it difficult to concentrate on every day tasks, jumpy and easily startled, self-destructive and reckless behaviour and anxiety symptoms. Avoidance of feelings or memories, the need to keep busy, avoidance of anything that reminds you of the trauma event, forgetting details of the trauma itself or exactly what happened, feeling emotionally numb and detached from your body, inability to express emotion, use alcohol or drugs to avoid memories, Feeling like you can’t trust anyone, nowhere is safe, nobody understands, blaming yourself for what happened, overwhelming feelings of anger, sadness, guilt or shame. You might struggle to: look at yourself, hold down a job, maintain friendships and relationships, remember things and make decisions, depleted sex drive, unable to cope with change, trouble enjoying leisure time.
Add on to this additional mental health issues such as: Anxiety disorders, depression, dissociative disorders, self-harm and suicidal feelings
Causes of PTSD
Car crashes, violent attacks, rape, sexual abuse, harassment, bullying, being kidnapped or held hostage, seeing others hurt or killed, repeated distress at work, traumatic childhood*, extreme violence, terrorist attacks, surviving major natural disasters, diagnosed as having a life-threatening illness, the death of someone close to you, learning of a friend’s trauma, any life-threatening event.
The above lists relate to “simple” PTSD. (I am using a negative inference, only because there is a complex version of the condition, not because it is any less destructive or intolerable than its complex sibling).
* Childhood trauma is one of the main contributing factors in the diagnosis of complex PTSD.
Types of trauma events that Cause Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder include:
Childhood abuse, neglect, abandonment etc.
Ongoing domestic violence or abuse
Repeatedly witnessing violence or abuse
Being forced to become a sex worker
Torture, kidnapping or slavery
Being a prisoner of war
You are more likely to develop complex PTSD if:
You experience trauma at an early age
The trauma lasted for a long time
Escape or rescue were unlikely or impossible
You have experienced multiple traumas
You were harmed by someone close to you
Courtesy of mind.org.uk
Robert Roth – Leading Lady
My Mother at 89 pounds, dehydrated, emaciated down from her regular 130 or 140 lbs, looked from the distance like a pre-pubescent girl of maybe twelve. Having used the bedpan that had been shoved under her, she was there trying to wipe herself, her ashen pubic hair and genitals revealed to the entire ER.
She wanted to leave, insisted on leaving. “I’m not going to rot on this street corner. Get me out of this drugstore.”
She said if we did not help her she would go herself; she opened her pocketbook and pulled out a couple of dollars so she could get herself home. She would not let the pocketbook out of her sight. All the time she was in the hospital, the three hospitals really, and the two rehab centers, that pocketbook was always within reach.
My brother stood on one side of the bed and I on the other as we tried to prevent her from getting up and falling. She then started kicking and punching in two directions at once; not flailing out of control punches and kicks, but well placed and ferocious. She was fighting for her life. “I’m not going to rot on this street corner. Get me out of this drugstore,” she kept saying over and over again.
Adrenaline flowing, her body was lithe, coordinated and supple much like the young gymnast she had once been. If we had backed away from the bed she would have gotten off and fallen. I begged a doctor I had known from her nightmare ordeal at Elmhurst to give her something to calm her down. The doctor had actually spoken to me on the 6th floor of Elmhurst a few days after her time in the ER and apologized to me and then to my mother for how she had been treated. With not much prodding he and a nurse came over with a syringe. “I know what you’re trying to do.” My mother squirmed away shrieking, “No you’re not. No you’re not” as they tried to raise her sleeve. She wouldn’t let them. Finally the curtain was drawn. A bloodcurdling scream came from behind the curtain. When they opened the curtain the kicks and punches still came at us precise and perfect but slower and slower and then slower still. Only when she fell completely asleep did they stop.
The next day.
“Why would they choose a skeleton to be the leading lady in their play?” my mother asked as my brother and I walked into her room. At first I thought she was joking but she asked it again.“Why would they choose a skeleton to be the leading lady?”
“You are quite beautiful, you know,” I answered.
“But why now?”
“Don’t knock it,” I said. “You never know when you get your break.”
She was sure a coffee company was bankrolling the film. But had no idea as to why. I had no idea either.
“Why would they make a skeleton into the leading lady for their play?” she asked. Her long hair flowing freely, her gestures broad and dramatic. “Do you think all those doctors will be in the movie too? Or do you think they’re too busy?”
“What about that scene in the drugstore where I was hitting and kicking both of you? Are they going to include that in the movie too?”
“Well, if they want the movie to be a hit they will have to.”
“A mother shouldn’t do that to her children,” she said.
She paused again. And then with more than a little pride, “Were you as impressed as I was with how energized I became?