It was after a seven month “reconstruction” in the hospital; 10 for tissue repair and 17 combined reconstructive facial, jaw and neck surgeries, countless skin grafts and the hideous experience of burn bag treatments – that towards the end of the grueling, painful and quite humbling experience of becoming a surviving “cut-throat”, that I began to suffer from paranoia and severe anxiety.
During all those blurry and fog-filled months after my ex-husband cut my throat, I was soothed by the drug-enveloped safeties of the good ol’ I.V. drip morphine machine, as well as a constant stream of nurses inquiring about my level of comfort; they all pitied me I’m sure- from the beginning, they would tear up at my side, as I looked in a mirror; or they would rub my hair during the bag treatments in the burn unit; one of them even started calling me her surrogate daughter after the first few weeks I was there. They were good to me during a time when nothing in the universe made sense; and I was essentially on a different planet during that time due to my psychological state in addition to the constant pain drugs my physical recovery required.
It wasn’t until my physical recovery from the traumas relating to my marriage were nearly “complete”, that I was able to begin to deal with the psychological effects of the life – and near death – I had survived, was continuing – to survive through.
The paranoia was the first experience that I had ever personally had with severe PTSD; and its first appearances, in combination with the waning effects of a year of non-stop narcotics – eventually began to play tricks on my fearful mind – in a subtle way at first. I would hear voices on the back stairs of my apartment (that weren’t real) and have other full-blown audible hallucinations during my first 6 months home from the hospital.
Before long, I was certain that my ex-husband (who had evaded capture and was on the run from police for cutting my throat) and his posse were following me. It didn’t make sense of course, as he was hardly the type of creature to be capable of stealth maneuvers, nor was the idea of his stalking me in his best interests after an attempt on my life. In retrospect, it’s quite obvious to me: that if he had taken to the idea of finding me and coming after me again, he surely wouldn’t have been lurking around in the shadows when he did; he’d have finished the job he had failed at before, without a second thought. He was never very standoffish about anything, especially something he was passionate about. Despite the “inner-boxing match” that raged in my psyche over this fact, at the time, I always found a way to convince myself that I wasn’t safe, and neither was anyone who was around me.
It’s peculiar, even in hindsight: the way that my mind worked as the result of being a battered woman; for even the short period of time (in comparison to 30+ years) that I was a full-blown victim of Domestic Terrorism, I was paralyzed with fear and hopelessness.
I had come to grips with what I had accepted as being my fate as the victim. My very livelihood had seemingly been rendered broken and out of luck, I remember feeling those things and perceiving them as reality in my former life. Because of those raw and fresh memories, there hasn’t been a single day since the first day that I cleared my head of the Morphine haze and hospital sounds and went home, that I have allowed to pass me by without being truly awestruck by the reality that I am walking around, breathing, reading, writing and simply being alive and able to do what I want.
As much I as I regret everything about those years of my life in that mental paralysis, without having my throat violently cut by my abusive and psychopathic ex-husband, I’d still be so clueless about so many of the human elements in the world that define who we are at the end of each day; I’d still be in the dark about so many essential and divisive things, and I would have missed the bonds I’ve built with so many people who’ve were pushed into my life as a direct result of my “victimization”.
The EMTs who rode in the ambulance with me, two total strangers to me – men who I’d never seen before in my life, one who was on a ride-along as part of his final week before retirement from the field – somehow becoming a magical, human-esque bandage and acting as tourniquet around my neck and face to cut off the flow of blood pressure before I finally blacked out completely; I remember the older man (who has become like a surrogate Dad in the years since that tragic morning) barking orders at me to “stay awake!” and “Breathe!”. When I came to in the hospital 2 weeks later, that same older EMT was at my bedside in a chair with a fishing and wildlife magazine, reading about the things he was going to do now that he had retired. Jack became one of my staunchest allies, he cried tears of joy when I got to leave the hospital, he has become a stationary fixture in my life since that time. He has introduced me to many (if not most) of the elements that define my current life; Jack is the reason that I was lucky enough to learn the lessons involved with volunteerism in my community and the importance of it (which in turn, has worked out to be the sole purpose that I have been able to hold on to any of my sanity throughout the aftermath of my violent injury).
I’d have never gotten that gift had I not been victimized during Jack’s last ambulance shift: bleeding my very life out.
These are just some things I think about sometimes when I start to feel sorry for myself or whatever…
Blessings, blessings – everywhere.