September 15, 2005

Katrina and PTSD - 1

As I talked with some of the Katrina survivors about their ordeal while we ate lunch at the shelter on Tuesday, I heard voicings of 'before the storm' and 'after the storm' from several people. For days I've thought about this, about how simply it rolls off their tongues, but how their eyes give it away.

In those interactions, I found myself smack dab in the swirl of my own Katrina memories, not memories of that storm, but of my own 'before' and 'after' the storm story, my world in the years before my father died and the seconds, moments, and days afterward; my world before I went to school and came home to find out he was dead, and my world from that day on.

Trauma is about a moment of disconnect so huge that it brings with it a complete inability to parse how such a momentous change -- one so powerful you can feel it at once lift the sky higher and drop the ground from under your feet -- can fit into a single moment or day or week. Trauma is about shattering, upending, dropping, down down, while every membrane within the human body threatens to explode

It is the language that has yet to be formed, outside of time and meter, the world as an eyeball, peeled raw, staring right through your skin. It is a place of opposite poles where we become at once soft and steel, electric and muted, where we shiver and sweat in the same instant and wonder where the air is.

The mind can't comprehend it, the heart can't hold it, there is no where to put it.

This is what I saw on Tuesday.