Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shying Away from Happy

(Tomorrow I will explore this post's relationship to yesterday's about my friend, Ken.)

Our cat, Miss Emily, who could be as old as Methuselah for all we know, was a stray in our backyard when we took her in.  She is a bit on the crazy side, just like her namesake, Emily Dickinson, for whom she was named due to her color...only later did we realize their mental states also matched.

Miss Emily suffers from PTSD, most certainly.  She goes through definite times when she is "triggered" on a regular basis.  She has times when she seems completely calm and content, but then, for no reason (no reason we can see), she will start to bite a bit when we pet her.  Or when you reach for her, she flinches.

That is heartbreaking.  To see a cat flinch when you have only ever loved and petted and fed and taken care of her.  She had a life before us and I can't bear to think what it must have been like.

Marcy says that I am a lot like Miss Emily, and I think I could see that in her from the first moment I looked in her green eyes.  I had always told Marcy not to look in a stray's eyes (because I knew we would end up with 500 cats), but Miss Emily's eyes were magnetic to mine.

I also have times when I am more likely to flinch and to bite a bit.

These times get further and further apart and they tend to be a lot less severe and much shorter in duration, but they still visit.

Never more so than when I am really starting to feel truly happy.

I shy away from Happy.

It has smacked me one too many times.



Those smacks...they were so long ago.  Another life.

I am reading an academic text right now about trauma and the body, and it turns out that when my brain is triggered, it cannot distinguish whatsoever between past and present.  When I am triggered -- like Miss Emily -- my brain places me firmly in the Past.

This is not a matter of me thinking about or wallowing in the past; no, this is physiological.  Our brains do not know "time."  That's the invention of a human mind.

And yet, our brains are a huge part of the solution.  Not quite as huge as our bodies, though.

This is why dancing cures me.  My body, when she is dancing, is firmly in the Present and my brain goes right along with her.

There is no flinching or biting in my present life.


Elize said...

really fascinating, Christine! What is the text you are reading?? I understand completely with dancing bringing you to the present- it is practically impossible for me to NOT be "here now" when dancing!

strength & love as your body heals in the now....

elisabeth said...

yes yes do tell the book :)

lucy said...

Keep dancing, miss emily :) xo

Megan Matthieson said...

I flinch and bite too sometimes. aarrgg. (i'm going to class this morning.) yay!

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I experience that sensation from time to time -- when a triggering event makes you feel like a child again -- like all the intervening years of growth and success have never happened. It's a weird sensation. But totally real. You're right -- time has no meaning to the emotional brain.

inner-creative-voice said...

Oh yes...it helps me to be reminded about the brain not really knowing (or caring) if it is past or present. The feeling just IS.

I agree with you on dancing...that works for me, too.

Love this post...thanks for your honesty and cat connection:)

Fabeku Fatunmise said...

It's amazing how deep the hard stuff can go. For people. For cats. For all of us, really.

There's a specific drum rhythm I learned that helps us to let go of the stuff we hold in our bones, and grab some new, better, less flinch-ey stuff.

Thinking of you and your sweet kitty and all of us that have known hard while this rhythm runs through my mind.

Patty - Why Not Start Now? said...

Cats...dancing...creativity...healing. All the things I love and that make sense in my world right now. So thank you.

Carolynn said...

So totally and completely true. The mind has figured out coping strategies for survival from a very young age and has them very well sorted & cataloged. When we have an experience that looks familiar, the reference card is pulled & the instructions followed. To the letter. I've found that the best way to break that cycle is to recognize it for what it is, acknowledge it and then switch my energy. I'm getting better at recognizing it BEFORE the sequence unfolds, but there's still a lot of analyzing in retrospect that goes on.

Gentle Hugs for Miss Emily.

svasti said...

My kitty is a bit like that too, although she's gotten much better over the years. But still, she shies away from loud noises and people she doesn't know.

And so do I, I guess. I know what you mean about "happy" smacking you down, and also about how living in the present moment changes all of the fear. Seems like there's only one thing to do when fear strikes up it's familiar tune... keep dancing or yoga-ing or swiming or cycling or whatever works!

TheAnalyst said...

Very true about trauma. Those who suffer from trauma, are often stuck with those past memories, and they often lurk in our unconscious. Fortunately, for us--humans--we can work on these trauma and hopefully find peace.

For our pets, on the other hand it can be heart breaking. I too have a wonderful cat, who was homeless before my boyfriend first took her in. We love her dearly, and I know she can tell. But I still notice, after 8 years she can be a bit squirmish at times.