Sorting through the mess left behind after the trauma..... dusting off some treasures and setting them in a place of remembrance...... but what about the things that are not treasures?
I've come to the interesting conclusion that (for me, not speaking for all involved here), the recovery was almost more painful than the trauma. I know that sounds really strange, a little odd.... but it is true. It is not the events of this spring's adventure that keep me awake at night, that cause my heart to hurt and me to feel alone and bewildered in this place. It is the events of the recovery.... in the first weeks after and even until today.
I think I could have recovered from the initial events well enough with the littlest bit of care - a few nights to sleep, someone to listen, and a gentle re-entry to normal life along with someone to continue listening as I needed to talk. I think I would have been just fine.... this was not a trauma that took me totally by surprise, but one we had prepared for all along, a consequence we knew could happen.
What I never expected in my wildest dreams were the responses we got in the "recovery phase". I lost something there and I have not found it again. I lost a large part of my joy. I've never really laughed without pain since then. I've lost most of my trust - trust that was hard to learn in the first place. I don't know that I am even looking for that right now. I lost my confidence... nothing that should have been dependable was able to be depended on. I've lost loyalty.... used to think we were with a great group. Last week someone sat in our living room asking what mission we think they should look at. I could not recommend ours - world-wide, yes, perhaps... here in this country - no.
But I've lost some of who I was. I feel bewilderingly lost. People don't even know it - among my friends here, even, I doubt anyone knows it. I have friends that are not in missions - how do I talk to them about it? If I was to tell them what actually happened in the "recovery and debriefing", I don't think they could really believe it. What would the consequences of telling them be?
But I continue to feel lost. I don't trust enough to bring up the subject with anyone within our group. No one ever listened to me - never really did. In "debriefing", there was no time for my story... there just never was. A week and no time to listen. In team debriefing, the very people who left me alone without a visit or a call during the crisis jumped all over me for not doing enough to reassure them in the first days together. It got so bad that they all began yelling at me, ignoring the fact that I was head down sobbing, unable to even speak.
In the weeks after the so-called debriefings, we got accused of all sorts of odd things - making up stories, not obeying authority, being lazy, not telling the truth. The accusations came from primarily one place, and they were difficult, but what was harder was the silence of the majority who knew the truth but did not step in.
Then in the months after the chaos in the beginning, there came nothing. No one ever listened. No one ever said, "hey, how are you really doing? Do you need a chance to talk?" People moved on. I can understand outsiders who moved on - the event wasn't that horrible.... it was pretty bad, but it ended so well. They didn't know the trauma of the first two weeks of "recovery". But people inside our circle who knew what had happened, who had seen it or heard of it, also never asked if we were ok. Months went by with no time to listen.
Now months later, when I think I am possibly brave enough to clean out the mess that I just threw in a jumbled up heap into a closet and shut the door on, I still struggle with this - both being attacked when I was down and being completely abandoned by my mission, my coworkers, and my close friends. That deep feeling of being abandoned still lingers. And as bad as the abandonment is the deep wounding by people we work with. By people who have been charged with our care.
So, as I pull this out again to see if I can make sense of it and go on, I sit here still confused and in tears. I feel bewildered and numb. Deep, gut-wrenching pain over the simple fact that no one had the time or the care to ask if I needed to talk. What I feel about that, strangely, more than any other emotion is a deep sense of shame.... why shame, I can not explain. I feel.... not worth anything, perhaps... that no one thought I was worth hearing.... Or perhaps, because from the first week, even to now, no one inside or connected to our group has ever been able to listen to my story without feeling the great need to correct me. "No, you should not feel alone even though we did not come or phone, because we really did care." "No, you should not feel like we were intruding on your first night with your husband - you actually had an obligation to meet our need for reassurance before you met your own needs for rest." "No, you should not feel that we did not care because we were too busy, you should know we do by now." "No, you should not think....." It goes on.
Shame. Because apparently, I did not heal the "right" way.
Bewildered. Because I just am not sure who I can trust anymore or if I even want to trust anyone.
Numb. Because I am still stunned. It wasn't until this last week or two that I sat down and finally told someone - someone far away that I could walk away from if she did not listen - what actually happened in those "recovery" meetings. I'm still stunned, not really able to feel, hurting from it.
Last week, I told my pastor a small thing from those team meetings - about the calls at midnight on my first night with my husband, my first night to sleep in five nights... about the person who wanted us to put his needs above our own at almost midnight, about the anger later when I said that a lesson we could learn for next time would be to let those who have gone through trauma rest for one or two days first. I just told my pastor the tip of the iceberg - only now, nine months later. I thanked him for a message that helped me in a little way begin to deal with it.
He sighed and shook his head, "People need to understand that a marriage relationship is to be guarded and comes before work, before ministry, and that it is important to protect that."
Do you know what? That was the first time since it happened that someone had said anything like that. That anyone had validated what I had said. I began to cry, just a little bit at first, last Sunday... today, I cried all the way to work, actually crying with tears running down my face. Just that little sentence felt so wonderful... lifted some of the shame I've been feeling for not doing this healing thing right. It was ok to hurt about that.
I am still bewildered and numb from the pain of the "recovery". I likely could go through the trauma again with flying colors - it did not phase me as much... I could see God' hand in it, in protecting, in providing, in rescuing. But not in the "recovery". That was the time where God's people ripped me apart, and I'm still bruised.
I lost something there. I don't know if I will ever be the same again. That, honestly, is how I feel today.
They are all coming again soon - time for some team meetings. I will find my smile and cook and manage logistics. I will be polite. But my heart hurts - from attacks, from not being defended from attacks, from just being set aside and never listened to. I no longer truly believe people who say they care. I just don't. I believe what I see - people's actions and not their words.
I feel a deep sense of shame, similar perhaps what one would feel who has been left at an orphanage.... "What is wrong with me? Even my own do not want me."
That keeps me quiet, hushed... because, really, if I honestly told my home church and friends what went down during those weeks of recovery, their mouths would hang open in shock.
And I didn't want to tell them... they had worked so hard with us... they had prayed for days, they had given financially to make the debriefing trip a possibility, they had fasted and prayed through the night a few nights in a row - why steal their joy? I wanted them to have what I did not get to have - a few days of absolute delight in the miracle God sent to resolve this in the way He did.
Sorting through this mess, there is the good. I want to keep that, to put it in a place to remember, to cherish. There is the bad - that is the crisis itself. It is something that we can handle. Then there is the ugly - I don't honestly know how to deal with that....today no more than the day it all happened.
Now, in a few days, I have to face all these people again. They will all be smiling, hugging each other, having great fellowship. I will paste my smile on in the morning with my lipstick, but my eyeshadow will not cover the pain in my eyes, and I will serve them. But I have lost something... I no longer trust. I don't even know if I want to try again.
I should not admit to this since I am a missionary - but hey, I seem to do a lot of things that I should not do anyway :) - but I really struggle to see where God was during those times... why didn't He stop some of what happened - when His people attacked the wounded? I am really struggling with trusting God since then.
I wanted to be defended, to be cared for. No one did.
I'm this close to just wanting to go home and quit. To walk away. Not from the pain of working among difficult people - from the pain of working with difficult people!