Perhaps letting the subconscious scream out to the cosmos will help it keep silence. Now I am close to my wounds, they seem more vivid than ever. It is like being in a state of hurt, almost constantly.
I know that trauma is like being stuck in a timeless non-place, obsessive over moments and details. With enough time, those wounds recede deep inside, but they do not truly disappear. Time does not heal trauma.
Fortunately, I know I want them to close up and am willing to do the work necessary. This requires making a chronicle of what happened, piecing it together and salvaging myself back out of the wreckage. Putting it into a narrative, coming to understand it, this is now my task.
But this is just the trauma of last year. All of the deeper traumas, which made this one possible (and which, I believe, were represented in some way through this one) we will get to as I work back.
The day I thought I was going to die
I remember waking up to a misty Tuesday morning, about eight days after a light knock to the head. There was a strange feeling there, on the left side of my skull. I had felt my eyesight was a bit worse the last few days, and started worrying about that. I remember going to the first greenhouse and speaking to S and the two Js. They said I should check out the injury, because it could be serious. One of the Js recounted a tale of a knock to the head. I remember the other J giving me directions to the A&E, telling me to take a bus halfway to avoid some possibly dodgy estates.
I started walking, feeling a bit like Corum of the Silver Hand out of Michael Moorcock’s Swords trilogy. It was a misty, cold and harsh day. A strange sense was warning me of something, a sense I was not yet connected to. On the way I was worrying – about missing a workday on site, about my wellbeing, about my strength. Half way to the hospital, one of the J’s health warnings came into my head, and the next moment, at an unspectacular bus stop the world started to shift beneath my feet. It was a shock of dizziness caused by breathlessness (in hindsight I realize this is due to perfectly natural hyperventilation – taking in too much oxygen whilst in fight or flight mode!)
Thinking I might be in serious danger, I cursed myself for coming alone and went into a nearby charity shop. I asked if they could phone an ambulance. The grumbly lady tried to, but they would not send anyone. My condition was not serious enough. There was still 111. I remember asking to make the call, and the woman saying ‘its not going to cost anything is it?’ I had a quid in my pocket. Even thinking about the possibility of collapsing on the floor, or death, another part of me was still thinking about politeness and assuaging the woman’s fears of a 10p phone call.
But 111 were useless anyhow, so I would have to make it on my own.
Crossing a road has never been so hard. Nor has waiting at a bus stop for the U5 (or U3). Every moment was agony and worry. I literally had never had a panic attack before, and had no way of knowing how to deal with one. When the bus came, I got on and found a seat, and remember holding on to the railing.
What sort of thoughts go through the head of one who thinks they might be dying? I cannot quite remember. I think there was something about the journey ending here, begging for more time, being a total fuck up. There was a strong fear of sudden blackout, and wondering if people on the bus would get me safely to the hospital. I started to talk a bit with people as the bus wended through the lanes. An old man behind me reassured me. Still, I was extremely impatient and frustrated, although able to laugh a bit at the old ladies getting on and making small talk to ease their loneliness.
At last, about ten minutes after what could have been my last journey on the U3 (or was it the U5?) on earth, I walked the hundred or so yards into A&E. I felt a bit safer now; collapsing in a hospital is a good place to collapse. I spoke to the clerk and she asked a few questions about my health. Smoking, drinking, drugs and all that. I answered I was clean, but evidently not healthy enough to avoid smashing my head into things.
I think the fear of dying was wearing off. Waiting in the A&E alone, surrounded by people, I started to text people back at ‘home’, to let them know. I remember then having an extremely painful blood test, I was tense and taut, like an animal trapped in a cage. Where the needle entered, a soreness and redness persisted for many days.
Then I saw the doctor. He was reassuring. I felt safe in the authority of a medical professional (when extremely vulnerable, this tends to happen with me). No one really knows what was happening with my brain at the time, but the fact that I was articulate and sensate meant nothing serious (I had no idea at the time how much anxiety and stress could create such sensations and exacerbate fears. Even writing about this is bringing back those sensations). He gave me a small leaflet about head injuries (nothing about anxiety though), and told me to come back if symptoms persisted.
I didn’t have a doctor, and hadn’t had one for ages. Nor did I have a passport, and hadn’t had one for ages. I was in the wilderness, and the hospital is no place to find the care you need.
So I was discharged, and waited for Z to pick me up in the car park. I cannot remember much of the journey ‘home’, only my perspective, looking out at a drear town from behind the dashboard. And cookies, strange French cookies (I think they were on this journey anyway). Nor can I remember what happened when we got back, or how I managed to sleep that night. (Zeezee really helped me that day, I should be more grateful).
So began this saga. The coming days, which I will get onto soon, were the hardest I have ever lived through. The coming months would be shaken by the fall out of these early traumas, and open an emotional Pandora’s box that still has not closed.