They Say Time Heals….

The Operating Room….

It is nearly 11:00 a.m., my eyes fixed on the clock up on the wall. As I lie there on the starched bed, hospital gown wrapped around me, a heated blanket placed over me, my back aching from the angle of the bed, the female nurse standing over my left side, searching my arm for just the right vein to insert the needle for IV attachment….. I remind myself to stay calm. Don’t panic. Just breathe. “Practice your yoga breathing,” my husband is saying to me as he stands at my right side, holding my hand as I squeeze his. He is good at keeping the atmosphere light and the hospital staff entertained as he continues telling stories about his ventures as a medic back in the day. I know the nurse didn’t mean to push the needle all the way through my vein in my forearm, as I yelp out in pain. She apologizes, asking the male nurse to have a stab at my arm. I am dehydrated, over 12 hours since I last ate or drank anything. The veins in my arm still obvious but lacking luster. I brace myself for the pain that I now know is coming, staring off into the distance to keep my wits about me. My jaw clenched so tight, reminding myself I have to relax. I feel a terrible stab at my wrist. “Sorry,” he says, “I have to pull it back out.” “Not again,” I moan, as he taps around, joking that this is the most pain I’ll feel today, I’ll be put to sleep for the surgery.

It’s too late, my memory bank is now full of trauma, I squeeze my husbands hand even tighter now, the male nurse now tapping my hand where he plans to insert the needle now for a third time, but tears and a trembling jaw have taken over, unwanted and unannounced. “Why now?” I stare off into space, my mind reeling with memories, bad memories, memories of being yanked around by my ex-husband, the pain I feel not the present pain but a haunting pain from my past. The tears not for the present pain, the tears squeezing out memories from my past, a release of emotion portrayed through salty tears, trickling down my face, down my slender neck. My throat begins to tighten as my mind flashes to the brutish hands that were so tightly wrapped around my neck squeezing the life out of me. My husbands voice brings me back to the present, “You have had 3 kids, your tough, this isn’t that bad.” What he failed to understand was that lying here in the present was triggering darkness, past years of suffering at the hands of my abuser. I knew he realized after the words were spoken, as he softly said, “Look into my eyes, Ruth.” I slowly shifted my gaze from the blackness I had slipped into and gazed into his safe, dark brown eyes. It was going to be okay.

“Do I need a “block” in my arm, to put my entire right arm to sleep before surgery?” I ask the anesthesiologist. “Is it necessary?” I ask. I battle with claustrophobia, and know that this would put me over the edge. I am already scared enough about waking up from anesthesia, I don’t want to not feel my arm too. Glad to find out that it is not necessary, so, I opt out. Still feeling on edge, hoping I wake up remembering who I am after this surgery. Each time I have come out of anesthesia it is worse than the times before.

Next, a mask was placed over my mouth and nose. Told to just breathe, to relax. But, just as quickly my mind was haunted. I closed my eyes hoping to seal out the distant memory. But it too wanted to surface. We had taken the train into the city, he had another court date to attend to. I stopped keeping track of what each court date was set for ages ago, as this seemed to be a routine pattern for him. Me, clostrophobic since childhood. I love open spaces, hate trains, planes, elevators, closed spaces, … you get the picture. So we finally arrive at a large city building after searching on foot for quite some time, I was exhausted, pregnant with our first child. We needed to get to the second floor, no problem. I’ll take the stairs, as is my routine as often as possible. He takes the elevator. Meeting on the second floor, we head into the courtroom. The hearing finally over, the smooth talker was let off, once again.

Time to head back home. I’ll take the stairs, I head in that direction, but am coaxed into taking the elevator. After putting up a brief fight about not wanting to go down in the elevator, as he very well knows, I am ushered into the small, windowless box. Panic consuming my chest, my legs feel rubbery, I try to fight the shallow breathing, my heart begins to race, he knows I hate elevators and small spaces. Oh, but his plan is to make me overcome claustrophobia on his terms, yet again. He follows me in, his hand pushing against my shoulder, directing me forward. He closes the door, my life closes in on me. This is ridiculous, I don’t want this life I am living, but I find strength knowing the baby in my womb needs me.

He pushes the button to take us to ground level, and then proceeds to jump up and down with all his might. “What are you doing!! Stop it!! Stop it!!” I franticly scream inside my head. And then we are stopped, stuck, trapped in an elevator! Obviously I’m freaking out. I want out now! We are stopped, stuck, going no where. I can hardly breathe. He pries his fingers in between the doors and pulls just enough to show a crack, 2 inches of light at the very top of the doors. I nearly faint as I lie down on the floor of the elevator, one of my worst fears has come true. He pushes the big red emergency button, at least someone answered on the other end. Just breathe, just breathe I tell myself. Someone will get us out of here. We are told through the speaker that emergency personnel are at another location and should arrive soon. I really can’t breathe now. We wait, I close my eyes so as to see nothing and envision a better place in time. The minutes tick by, on the speaker the lady says the emergency team has been delayed. Over 45 minutes has gone by. At last a team arrives, another 15 minutes goes by before we are released from this claustrophobic prison. And I still have to get on the train for the next hour home. I am not cured, not free now from claustrophobia, this only made it worse than ever before.

My sweet husband is rubbing my feet, I am sweating from the anticipation of surgery, and from the triggers my mind has haunted me with while lying in this hospital bed. Everyone in the room unaware of what has been played out in my mind. The nurse brings my mind to the present as he tells me they are going to wheel me into surgery now. And in that instant, I am asleep, oblivious to the world around me.

I am waking up nearly four hours later, groggy, confused, people talking to me, but I’m not comprehending. But I remember those sweet, kind brown eyes looking at me, his gentle hands holding a cup of apple juice out for me as I sip through the straw. Before I know it, my husband has pulled back the covers, helped me into my cozy bed, I am home. The time now 3:45 pm. Comforted by the thought that I am safe, my husband of nearly four years living to love on me and take care of me. I sleep through the day, through the night. And sleep through two more days and nights. Fred, always there taking on all the duties as I rest and recover.

I think as I rest, eyes closed, how different this wonderful man is that I am now married too, so completely opposite from the 10 years I endured in Australia, married then to a man who enjoyed me for his purposes only. At times it all seems a life time away, but as with any trigger, I relive the years in my head all at once. The vividness of the memories of the mind debilitating at times. I lie here recovering from surgery wishing there was a healing surgery for the brain to escape PTSD once and for all. They say time heals, but I really wonder what that means sometimes. Nearly 8 years have passed since I fled Australia, escaping to share my story in the hopes of encouraging others to do the same if they ever find themselves in a similar situation. To bring awareness to those who have suffered through domestic violence, or to those who silently suffer from other fears and triggers too. I have the capacity to relate to others in a way I never would have dreamed of, to bring about hope when the light has been blown out.

“Ruth, I have your bath ready.” My husband helps me to the bathroom, candles lit all around the Jacuzzi bath tub, I can smell the sweetness of the bath salts, hot lavendar tea steaming, resting on the ledge of the bath. He carefully undresses me, holds my hand as he cautiously lowers me into the blissful retreat he has created for me. A fresh towel folded, placed on the bath ledge to support my right arm. He has wrapped my arm carefully in a bag to keep the stitches in my hand and elbow free from moisture. “Do you need anything?” he asks as my eyes begin to swell with tears. He is so good to me. “I am good, I love you,” I reply. “I love you too,” he walks out the door, a smile on his face, revealing contentment from the simple act of taking care of me.

My Love returns, he has made breakfast for me. He feeds me one bite at a time, giving me sips of juice through a straw. This man really loves me, I think to myself. Why do I ever doubt it? But I know why, too many years of mistrust from another lifetime, has scarred the life I now live. “I’ll leave you for now,” my sweet husband says, “Do you need anything else at all? Do you want any of the chocolates I got for you with your tea? Want the heater off?” “Yes, please turn the heater off, I am just right for now.” He clears the dishes and quietly closes the door. I rest in the warmth of the bath, my body fully at peace, content, relaxing.

And as I sit in the quiet, although quite content and safe, I began to think back to the time nearly 14 years ago, I was traumatized, my muscles tense as I watched my ex-husband in anger smashing and breaking our bedroom up. He had grabbed me, pinned my right arm behind my back. He was holding firmly to my wrist, my hand pulled up so hard that my fingertips were touching the nape of my neck. His knee digging into my back as he pinned me face down in the blankets covering our bed. I couldn’t breathe, I was suffocating and no one in the whole world even knew it. I was going to die tonight. I thought of heaven, of Jesus, of what I had learned my whole life from going to church every Sunday. My life was over, I didn’t even get too say good-bye to my family back in America. To read more on the events of this horrific night, see blog post, “In the Lion’s Den.” Written: October, 2017.

I stopped my thoughts while sitting in my warm bath. “No!” I told myself, “Stop thinking!” But, I began to wonder if the abusive damage that was done to my elbow and wrist 14 years ago, was the cause of the surgery I was now recovering from today. I had visited a chiropractor a few weeks after the horrific incident that had nearly killed me. The chiropractor had said, “Have you received any trauma to your right shoulder?” I began to tremble and through tears briefly described the violence I had endured from the hands of my abusive husband. “Well, that explains why your shoulder is slightly out of socket and the muscles seem to be damaged,” the chiropractor had said, as he then moved behind me and proceeded to crack my neck without warning. I didn’t even think about my elbow at the time. The years of tingling in my fingers, dropping glass objects, unable to use a sharp knife properly when preparing meals, the numbness I feel when I paint for hours on end, and the last six months of not being able to put much weight on my right hand as I practice and teach yoga.

I finally decided to go through with surgery for cubital tunnel and carpal tunnel release. My right hand feeling more tingly and at times numbness creeping in through the years. I love to play the flute, the guitar, I am learning to play the violin with my daughter. Just before surgery, I sent 300 hours worth of acrylic illustrations for my first children’s yoga book off to a publishing company. I love teaching yoga nearly every day of the week at my studio, Hummingbird Yoga, in the schools, and numerous private group sessions. Not to mention how much I love to play golf in the summer and snowboard and skate ski through the winter. So, the time has come to repair damage that was done years ago. So, if time truly heals mentally and physically, I’ll let you know. For now, I am living each day in the operating room of life as my memory bank continues to grow with new memories, good memories, creating a new life for myself with the support of my wonderful husband, surrounded by an amazing family, and incredible friends. I have been typing all day with my left hand, but my right hand hates being left out and now hurts so much, as I continue to recover. So, this is a good place to stop, until next time.

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