Three weeks ago my family left for a high stakes trial in a different state. I stayed in Austin alone. The trauma being resurrected from our psychological graves seeped into my waking thoughts with violent force. My aging mother was scheduled to testify. I was terrified her health could be compromised by a brutal cross examination.
As the days went by, my thoughts started to spin like an overactive whirling dervish. My mom was so preoccupied with the business of preparing for her testimony that my sister took on the role of official messenger. Every evening she would text us the with the latest developments. My mom, we were told, was resting and preparing to have her life decisions and intimate family relationships dragged into the open. Explanations of “mistakes” needed to be carefully constructed and presented to the court. Suggestions of failure would need to be excused as inevitable and understandable.
At first I was doing relatively well here in Austin by myself. I stuck to a schedule that included building fires at night and watching gentle movies and shows on PBS.
And then, seemingly all of the sudden, I fell apart. The familiar touchstones that keep us rooted fell away from me. I was in an apartment in an unfamiliar city, with a cat I had no feeling for (I love my cat). I cried out to be saved from the approaching depressive episode. I heard nothing from God. God had ceased to exist for me. I asked my brother to light candles and pray because my connection with the spiritual had disappeared.
Then the grand psycho somatic incident began. As I was watching Antiques Roadshow with a nice fire burning, I started scratching my arm. I lifted up the sleeve of my t-shirt and saw several itchy bumps. I went to the bathroom to take off my shirt. I was covered with welts. To be honest, I wasn’t that freaked out because they weren’t on my face. I applied anti-itch cream and figured they’d be gone tomorrow. I was wrong.
The next morning I woke up to a hives free for all. All over my legs, torso, arms, chest and back. Oh what a lovely site it was. Yet it still wasn’t on my face or neck so panic stayed at bay. I felt only discomfort and repulsion.
Over the next hours, they’d come and go. I knew it was stress, and the trial wasn’t going to last forever. I was praying for my mom’s testimony to be successful, lighting prayer candles and listening to Gregorian chant like a zealous monk.
That night my psycho somatic nightmare reached its climax. Not only was my body covered; the hives climbed up my neck and onto my face. I competently lost any shred of composure that was left. It was a stormy night. I threw on a t-shirt and jeans but forgot a bra. My hair was a rat’s nest. I called three urgent care centers before I found one that could see me even though they didn’t take my insurance.
During the examination I was crying like an adult with problems serious enough to need psychiatric attention. So that was an accurate picture.
I was given a steroid shot and told to take benadyrl every four hours in addition to applying steroid cream. I won’t go into depth about my treatment plan because it’s of course boring to everyone but me.
Weeks later, I’m much better but still pumping large amounts of medication into my body. This isn’t a long term strategy but it’s necessary for now if I don’t want to be disfigured by hives. Emotional pain is often thought to exist primarily in the realm of our conscious and unconscious mind.
Let me tell you that my personal nightmare and countless other stories far more serious than mine prove that our mind and body are even more connected than all the new age gurus tell us.
For now I’ll keep taking my cold oatmeal baths every morning, lighting my candles and watching movies every night. I’ve watched some classics for the very first time, which has practically made this whole ordeal worth it. Can you believe I’d never seen Casablanca before?!
I’m glad to be back to writing and sharing since these activities make me feel like I have a purpose in life. I appreciate all of you.