Someone once said, of a traumatized psychiatric patient: “This man is suffering from memories.” Learning more about how our worst and scariest memories live on inside us has been one of the most grimly fascinating parts of working on this book.
If you’ve known me for awhile, either in person or online, you might remember that I was hit by a U-Haul truck while driving on the Alaska Highway a few years ago. The oncoming truck drifted across the yellow line and into my lane, and when I realized what was happening, I was just barely able to swerve hard enough to avoid a head-on collision. My vehicle was destroyed by the truck’s sideswipe, but somehow I managed to walk away unhurt.
That incident and its aftermath make an appearance in the book, as does a more general discussion about trauma and traumatic memories - the fearful moments from our past that won’t let us go.
I wrote the part of the book that deals with the crash a couple of months ago, but it’s been on my mind again this week because of this paragraph (pictured above) from the book The Body Keeps The Score. I still have lots of dark and unsettling memories from that crash: when I swerved, I didn’t know if I’d be able to get out of the way in time, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t survive a head-on. But there’s one brighter memory that stands out too.
After the accident, I checked into a motel room in rural Alaska, and had the most overwhelming urge to call my parents and talk to them. So I did. A few days later, still filled with the urge to talk to them, to see them, I booked a spur-of-the-moment, cross-country plane ticket to go visit in person - something I had never before done in the middle of the precious Yukon summer.
Four and a half years later, I read that paragraph, and I realized: Maybe, sometimes, we understand more about what we really need, how to heal ourselves, than we can consciously know.
I’ll leave you with that hopeful-ish note for this time around.
ps: A thematically related reading recommendation! Mac McClelland’s Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story
is a memoir about how the author acquired post-traumatic stress disorder on a reporting assignment, and what came after.