Standing on My Own Two Feet: Part Two.
Read Part One here.
Have you ever wondered, with certain traumas, accidents, incidents, experiences, who is really the traumatized one? The person who actually has the experience, or can it sometimes be the people around? Is it possible that a woman is sexually assaulted and it impacts her husband’s life more than hers? Or a father has an accident and his son is the one who is left with the scars? That maybe a person listening to a traumatizing story feels more pain than the actual person who lived through it?
Have you ever considered that sometimes our experience of a certain event can be influenced by the feelings, emotions, thoughts, points of view of those around us and the world around us? How much of what our experience of an event is actually ours, and how much is influenced by the experiences of those around us?
21 years ago, I was hit by a car and broke both my femur bones.
A few weeks ago, as I sat by the lake, I found myself once again crying about the accident and not understanding why. It didn’t seem like I had any pain remaining. I had dealt with my feelings and emotions. It turned out there was another part needing mending, a much deeper part.
I came to a profound and shocking awareness that day. Sure it was horrible, however it was actually not such a big deal for me, well, not in the way you would think. My whole life, I always felt I had to forgive myself for something, and I never knew for what. I have always been a caring person. I have never tried purposely to harm anyone or do anything bad.
I have always been aware of other people’s feelings, emotions, thoughts, energies — very aware.
During the accident recovery period, I was bedridden, unable to move, go to the bathroom, or even get a glass of water, for six months. After that, there were crutches for another five months.
I came to the awareness that the deep pain I felt was not because of what happened and all I went through. It was the awareness of how my family around me felt during that time. I was so deeply aware of their pain, frustration, anger (with themselves, me, and each other), helplessness, sadness for what I was going through, that I took it on as mine. It does not mean I did not have any feelings of my own.
However, it hurt me immensely to watch them hurt. You see, in my eyes, I was the cause of their suffering. Maybe they were more frightened, shocked and traumatized than I was. Watching me in immense pain, unable to walk, is not something easy to bare. It crushed their trust in life, their reality.
I watched how frustrated they would get to have to carry me to the bathroom, bring me water, or turn on the TV. I watched their feeling of helplessness.
It was extremely heartbreaking to feel their pain, or perhaps I was picking up on their heartbreak for what I was going through. In a way, I blamed myself. Somehow I created the belief that it was my fault, that I was responsible for what happened. I was never able to forgive myself for taking away their joy and putting them through that.
The worst part for me was watching my loved ones be in pain and not being able to do anything about it. I found myself saying I didn’t mean it. I felt shame. I wished I could have taken their pain away just as what they wished for me.
Isn’t it amazing how sensitive we are? To everything around us? How we form or take on beliefs, ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions? Heck, I realized I was even picking up on the shock from all the people in the village and the island, as it was a major traumatic event.
I realize that in many difficult moments, I was not experiencing through my body, but theirs.
I remember many, many years ago, asking my brother Prometheus (he was there with me when the car hit me) what his experience of the accident was, what it was like to be there, and he replied that he does not want to talk about it. I told him if he ever would like to share, I am here. I have yet to hear anything.
After getting the bars removed from my legs and finally walking to school, I felt so happy and fantastic! I was on top of the world, confident as hell, joyful, nothing could stop me. No one could understand why, mostly in school. I was the famous tragic event on the island. I thought something was wrong with me for feeling this way. However, I felt empowered. The whole experience had given me immense inner strength.
It was a privilege, and I became aware of my own power. Others felt I should be sad, broken — the general point of view of the world. I remember being upset when I would see people’s responses and comments when I told them what happened.
Even with the scars on my legs remaining from the bars, I had no problem having them exposed in full sight. I wore short shorts all the time because that’s what I liked. It didn’t matter to me. Then gradually, after watching other people’s responses, staring at me, viewing them as something terrible, I began to take on that view. I watched how it made them feel uncomfortable when I told them what happened.
It gave them fear and sadness, so I began to view them as something wrong, something to feel ashamed of. I slowly began to cover them with more clothing, and be seen less and less in public until it became a never, and extremely uncomfortable if they were to be seen. I feared the glances and the remarks, the judgment. I actually love my scars, they are a part of me. My warrior scars, as I call them.
I remember having lots of thoughts during the whole event, where I still found it fascinating what I was going through. For instance, when I was in the ambulance, I thought, “Oh, this is a cool experience, this is what it is like. I wonder if I won’t have to go to Tang Soo Do class for a while.”
Or when I was lying on the road after being hit, and surrounded by all these strangers — all hysterical, screaming, trying to figure out what to do — I just wanted to be left alone, and thought, “Geez, they are being dramatic.”
I remember my sister recently telling me that she met someone from the same grade in my school, and he told her how my accident had a profound impact on him. He will never forget it, he said to her. How he watched the teacher call out my name day after day, and I was not there. I had no idea. I have barely ever spoken to this person.
When I first injured my back many years ago, and had a four-year healing journey, I have always said it was the best experience I ever had. This makes everyone look at me like I am delusional. It opened up incredible adventures and lifetime experiences ever! Discovering who I was, and finding my center.
Or when I fell and injured my knee, and it took five and a half hours for me and my friend to get to the car. We thought it was broken, and had to maneuver over rocks, hills and all sorts of obstacles. I actually had fun. Sure it was physically painful and scary, my predominant feeling though was Dude, this is so cool! It’s like in a movie! I was laughing and joking throughout the way.
It was so ridiculous though what we had to go through, and how creative we had to become. I never bought the point of view this should have been a horrible experience because it simply wasn’t.
Or when I got lost in the forest, and had to spend the night there. My sister, mother, ex and family were freaking out hysterically, even though I assured them I was perfectly fine and it was no big deal for me. It was an amazing experience, especially because of the free helicopter ride, hanging from a rope in the air, getting the whole view of the forest! It was awesome!
You see, as humans, we are so sensitive to other people’s feelings, emotions, and thoughts that we so easily adopt them as our own, as the truth. There is no ultimate truth, my friends. Only our truth at that moment in time.
I wonder how many times in our lives, when something happens — an accident or incident — how much of our experience, our reaction, and feelings are really us or due to our point of view on how we should be feeling, acting, based on what we are taught is good and bad. Do we ever know how the other is really feeling or experiencing something? Or are we looking at it though our point of view or society’s point of view?
What if what is painful, frightening, saddening, or traumatizing for me is not so for others, to the point where they wouldn’t even bat an eye? What if what is painful, frightening, or saddening, or traumatizing to others is not for me? We are all different. Are happiness, joy and fun not individual to each? Are we not all individuals?
What if we didn’t allow ourselves to create an event into an awful experience just because of how we should think or feel about it? Be it, only if it is coming from us, from within. What if it has nothing to do with willpower or strength? What if it is simply about whether it is us, or we are taking on some other person’s or the world’s point of view?
What if we asked questions before making assumptions, judgments about what is considered a trauma, accident, disability, or bad, allowing acceptance for the individual or individuals involved? What if doctors, nurses, therapists and healers asked these questions and had no point of view? Imagine how different the world would be!
I was aware of many gifts I received from this experience, and now I am aware of even more. The most important gift I received was the awareness of the impact just one person can have on the world around them. How one event can shift reality just like that. Imagine what we can create!
Gaia (Γαία) Giakalli is a therapist, writer, photographer, dancer, cultural anthropologist and nature-dweller. She loves creativity, and nature, especially trees. Her passion is connecting people with nature, in which she has spent most of her life in solitude, contemplating and enjoying its wisdom, and empowering people to be their authentic selves, reconnecting them to their true essence and calling in life. You can connect with her on The Tree Mouseion of Creativity, Gaia Giakalli World Productions, Facebook or Twitter.