Three Quick Quotes and a FREE resource – 17 February 2021
What weather! But despite the cold, there are signs of spring!
In this week’s ‘Three Quick Quotes’ our free resource is the PDF version of ‘The brain on trauma’ poster. A low-ink version can also be found here.
this week’s free resource
You can download the resource here. Trauma is not about feeling distressed at something bad happening. Trauma is something that directly and enduringly affects the brain, and this poster spells out 7 key areas: attention, threat response, altered states of arousal, timekeeping, memory, self-awareness and integration. Trauma takes us out of daily life mode and into danger mode, where our back brains dominate instead of our front brains. This simple piece of psychoeducation can help trauma survivors realise that they’re not mad and they’re not bad – they’re simply experiencing the logical, natural and automatic impacts of trauma. The low-ink version is available here.
snapshot of my week
Less of a snapshot and more of a journal entry!
This week I met Sheila.
I was out walking Peps and just dealing with the back-end (literally) of a particularly unpleasant poo episode (Peps’, not mine) when I came across an older lady lying in the snow. Next to her was a young mum with two small children. I assumed that they were together.
For a split second I also assumed (I have no idea why) that the older lady was choosing to lie down in the snow. I approached with that very British sense of ‘Oh I don’t want to interfere’ but gradually it dawned on me that the lady had fallen and that the young mum was particularly ill-equipped to help her up given that she was carrying one toddler and trying to stop another from jumping into a nearby pond. What I realised next – and what I should have already known having been in this situation myself just before Christmas, when embarrassingly I had to be rescued myself by a much older lady, having fallen in the snow – was that people who are prostrate in the wet don’t immediately admit that they need help. But it didn’t seem the kind of situation that you could just shrug your shoulders at and walk away from. So I got involved.
Another passer-by offered to hold Peps’s lead while I scrambled down the slope to help. At that point I figured that snow-lady must have tumbled all the way down this slope too. But she was trying to sit upright and nothing seemed broken. Breaking all distancing protocols (albeit the air was cold enough to kill a woolly mammoth let alone airborne particles of virus), I helped her in stages to get to her feet. Someone else retrieved her bags, which for some reason were around twenty metres away. I helped her back up the slope and onto the path. And then it occurred to me that I really ought to walk her home and make sure she was absolutely 100% okay.
And so Sheila and I made our acquaintance. She was widowed twenty years ago. She’s lived in Buxton since 1939. She was married to an undertaker. We talked about her children, all living elsewhere. And my heart ached for her evident loneliness. I reached the front door of her sheltered accommodation and ensured that the warden would be able to check on her. And I said my goodbyes. I imagine she would be astonished to realise that she’s the unexpected star of the show in this week’s email.
What would have happened if she’d been immobilised by her fall? If no-one had seen her? If no-one had helped her? It was minus several degrees even at midday. And she was frail and elderly and I assume it was only the soft depth of snow that averted the breaking of bones. As I walked her down her gritted ramp to her front door, she kept saying, over and over, ‘I can’t thank you enough. I can’t thank you enough.’ She was concerned that I’d gone out of my way. I assured her that Peps really didn’t mind which way we walked as long as we walked.
‘I can’t thank you enough.’ People are so grateful for even the tiniest of kindnesses. I hardly felt a hero. It was instead my privilege to meet Sheila. I delighted in her stories of life since before the war as she breathlessly, gingerly shuffled up the road to home.
Soon after I got back I received an email from a fellow trauma survivor. In it she talked about her guilt at taking up her therapist’s time. Her shame and sense of unworthiness seeped through the screen. I told her about Sheila. I told her how it had made my day to be able to help her, just a little. I said how funny it is that we think that we’re an inconvenience and a ‘pain’ when in fact so often it can be a blessing to be able to help another person. ‘I can’t thank you enough,’ Sheila had said, again and again. ‘Actually,’ I said, ’the thanks is mine. Meeting you has made my day.’ And, completely against protocols, but with her permission and evident great delight, I gently squeezed her arm as I left.
Thank you, Sheila, for letting me help.