Recently I faced a situation that was highly traumatic for me. What happened was not life changing, is not uncommon, and it is something others easily cope with or even, I discovered, laugh off. It was, however, nightmarish for me and it left me shaken for a full day.
My story involves a cat. I have never owned a cat, but through living with people who did, friend’s cats, and the ones I care for in my life as a petsitter, I’ve come to appreciate them and truly do love the ones in my life. Recently, however, one of my little charges brought me a surprise gift at 1:30am that horrified, disgusted, and traumatized me. Without getting too graphic, when I went to see what was up, I almost stepped on a large rodent in two very defined pieces.
Rodents in general are problematic for me to cope with, and I’d certainly never been that close to one that big except from a distance walking at at night in NY, and I’d never seen anything freshly killed and bleeding like that in that condition. Luckily it was outside and I was able to find two buckets to cover the remains until the owner returned later that day. I was not capable of dealing with it any further.
The murderous kitty had jumped on the bed and my guilt over not appreciating the act of love I’ve often been told these types of gift show, wouldn’t allow me to kick her off, but I couldn’t cuddle. I also wasn’t able to sleep the rest of the night as every time I closed my eyes, I saw the scene in my head. Being the middle of the night, on both coasts, I felt this trauma was not truly significant enough to actually call anyone.
The next morning, I had my weekly meditation class and was afraid to settle in for the practice as the picture of the carnage was more and more present since the shock had worn off. Even when I was driving or actively focused on other things, the image lurked in my brain, circling in the back but ready to jump to the forefront again.
I told my teacher of my experience and fear of the picture in my head so he suggested I pull up a happy picture on my phone to stare at and absorb during practice. I made it through with a little help from that for about 3 minutes and then a more help from some meditative Match-3 games on my phone.
All day I felt a little bit off, a little bit in a fog. Luckily it was a busy day and I saw a number of different people, all of whom got to hear about the unpleasantness. After my friend got home that evening, we spoke about the cat’s gift and my resulting trauma. She pointed out that I was even starting to joke about parts of the experience and that just talking about it helps process it.
While the effects of this trauma were short-lived and mild, it reminded me how it affects the mind, body, and ability to function at full capacity. It also proved how sharing is key to coping with the impact of any difficult situation. Even though I am on a mission to promote this idea through The Silent Goldens documentary, I still need to be reminded of this simple premise when it comes to my own reactions to things other than suicide loss.