It’s always the thoughtful opinion pieces in the New York Times that prompt me to think about the horrors of today’s events. So many current tragedies and suffering bring me to myself. A recent essay by Pico Iyer, in September 8th’s paper, entitled The Value of Suffering said that “Calamity cracks you open, moves you to change your ways. Sometimes.”
Over centuries, wise people in various religious traditions have speculated that suffering has the potential to bring clarity or illumination to one’s thoughts and life. That may be true in discussions among philosophers, but I’ve generally tried to prevent suffering in my life and search instead for rewarding experiences that bring happiness and satisfaction.
It’s not logical to compare my actual experience with those who are gassed in Syria or who lose everything to fires in Colorado, but my experience that day in August 2005 has made me always alert for danger that is possibly just around the corner. My hyper-vigilance, which fires up nerve endings and gets my whole body ready to fight or run, is still present, at every moment.
I didn’t die, obviously, when at least a dozen federal officers stormed into my house that day. I’m not maimed. From all perspectives, I have a pretty full and rewarding life. As it’s now eight years since the horror, I wonder why I’ve reverted back so intensely and re-created the internal reactions of my earlier diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I don’t want to die of a heart related illness so have returned to the EMDR therapist I had in 2008. This treatment was helpful then, and I thought I was on the road to recovery, so stopped before the jumping had truly departed. This time, I’ll continue until it’s gone. http://www.emdr.com/
My Exaggerated Startle Response, or “jumping”, as I’ve called it for years, is back — on steroids. My body reacts to any unexpected sound or motion. It’s as if I receive a strong electric shock that stuns and wounds my whole body multiple times a day.
This PTSD was caused by the federal prosecutor threatening me with arrest, telling me I would have to appear before a grand jury, that I was a person-of-interest and that that they would seize my house, any day now. This intimidation persisted for almost two years.
The federal prosecutor, who had my then-husband where he wanted him, locked away in jail, kept searching around for possibilities that might also show me to be guilty — of something. Charging two people would have been an even bigger catch than just the one he already had.
The prosecutor, distracted from his job, struggled with his own personal marital issues, which were openly discussed in the legal profession’s local grapevine. It was to my advantage that he was inefficient, not paying attention to what was going on. He must have known that his dreamed up fantasy accusations were just that – daydreams he hoped would be true and so might make him appear more competent than he really was. His plan was completely unrealistic, but in his mind, I imagine he thought, “What the hell. I’ll put as much pressure as I can on the wife. She seems way too innocent to be believed.”
I still wonder if the prosecutor ever thought how an innocent person would react to his made-up scenarios and fabricated anxiety. Perhaps he wondered, “How could she be such a goddamn goody-goody, breaking no laws, living a blameless life?”
I imagine he never once considered how lies and unjust stress could affect me. “I’m just doing my job,” he probably would have said, and not given me a second thought.
I don’t wonder how a wasp feels if I kill it. It was probably the same with the prosecutor, if he thought about me at all.
Wikipedia explains that Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy which emphasizes disturbing memories as the cause of psychopathology and alleviates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR is used for individuals who have experienced severe trauma which remains unresolved. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process these distressing memories, reducing their lingering effects and allowing clients to develop more adaptive coping mechanisms.