Scar tissue is a funny thing. Be it a noticeable mark on your skin, or an invisible impression on your psyche, it serves to remind you of a wound that was.
Was. Not IS. I think that’s an important distinction.
A very good friend of mine recently celebrated a day that he almost was murdered at the hands of a criminal. I say almost because a (then) perfect stranger intervened and saved his life. He got to continue living, got to meet his wife, got to meet is baby girl, all because of the deeds of another man. I can think of no greater gift to give someone, or better reason to celebrate. While the circumstances of my near demise were indeed very different, I think this friend is one of the few people who understands why we celebrate those days. We celebrate the continuation of life.
Celebrated or not, those terrible events do leave scar tissue behind. We get to live (hooray), but we are burdened with the weight of remembering the details. Minute by minute. While I may not think about it everyday, it is always there. Sometimes, however, when I am least expecting it, that scar gets touched and there it is, popping up to say hello. Case in point:
I’ve spent the last few days at a traumatic casualty care class. A very basic introduction to tactical medical care. This training has been on my to do list for quite a while, and I was pretty excited to get it on the schedule. As you might expect, the subject matter focuses on things I suspect most people would rather avoid. Rendering aid to traumatically wounded people isn’t pretty. The people who do this for a living see some pretty terrible things. While the slides and videos presented during the lecture barely touched the awfulness of those situations, it’s still more than most of us see on a daily basis, and I believe it takes a certain type of motivated individual just to show up. I almost envy those medical professionals that can treat critically wounded victims without batting an eye. Just go to work and stop the bleeding. Theirs is God’s work, and carries a weight all it’s own.
The first two days of class were spent not on the range, but in the classroom learning about anatomy, physiology, and how that applies to critically wounded victims of traumatic events. Additionally, this means learning how to assess a wounded individual, provide potentially life saving aid, and to communicate their status to others, usually under stressful conditions.
The last exercise of the day was a simulation of sorts. We partnered up and were tasked with simulating immediate assessment and treatment a critically wounded individual. I took my turn as the respondent, which was predictably clumsy and awkward. That’s kinda how I roll. I got through the exercise with some things to improve upon and then it was my turn to be the victim. It occurred to me, as the roles changed, that the scenario felt familiar. My partner happened to be a law enforcement veteran and clearly far more skilled at assessing and talking to people than I am. While lying on the tile floor, almost immediately, I flashed back to my accident. I was still in the room, but I was also laying in the side of the road. All that fear and confusion came flooding back like rogue tidal wave from a broken dam. My partner asked me the same questions, in almost exactly the same order. He asked me if I remembered leaving my house. Asked if he wanted me to call my wife. Asked me my son’s name. This was all part of the exercise, but it felt incredibly real. I maintained my composure, focused on breathing in and out, and began to relax. It’s a training exercise. The accident was almost six years ago.
Indeed a lifetime.
While I drove home, I spent some time reflecting on that moment, lying on the floor, being flooded with memories of my own traumatic event. I thought, what would a “rational” person do? Not go back to class? Continue to avoid the subject? Choose to forget it ever happened? Maybe. But that’s not me. Instead, I wondered if maybe there was some strength to be found in that moment of weakness. I have long held the belief that courage and strength come after doing the hard things, and the things that scare the bejesus out of us. I was a little intimidated going into this class due to the subject matter but I had faith that the presentation of the material would ease its way into the heavier stuff: Crawl, walk, run. I didn’t allow those feelings of apprehension prevent me from stepping outside my comfort zone and facing a subject that is as important, if not more so, than the other skills I have spent hundreds of hours training to perfect. So, pulling on that thread, I should not allow this uncomfortable moment to keep me from acquiring a new skill that could save my life or the lives of the people I love. Or a total stranger.
This turned out to be kind of a strange day. One I was not expecting. But rather than dwell too long on the scars of the past, I’m going to focus on tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Because what is the point of surviving if you can’t continue to live?
Sixteen thousand, one hundred and fourteen days.
Yes, traumatic events stay with us but ideally, their intensity decreases over time. Thinking about what you can learn from that experience is a good way to continue to process it. You are turning your traumatic experience into a strength. It gives you a deeper capacity for empathy for whoever you end up helping with your new skills and with people who suffer a different type of traumatic experience. I hope you never have to use this new skillset.
Sent from the all new AOL app for Android
Damn, man. You’re very good at capturing moments when you write.
Much respect for what you’re doing, but, as someone who spent way too long staring at awfulness, trying to put the world back together, remember you can never unsee the stuff you’ll see, unmeet the people you’ll meet. All of that is why they invented alcohol. May you be stronger than I was.
Glad you’re alive, man. We should try to live forever. So far, so good, right?
The cosmos has thrown a few curves my way but I have no complaints my friend. No complaints.
I don’t ever expect to encounter anyone else’s terrible day, but I like to have a plan. There have been a couple times in my life, including that one, that having plan saved my bacon.
I like bacon.
In that spirit, acquiring skills that help with the formulation of good plan is never a bad thing. When you operate in the “what if’s” having options is the way you get home.
I also like home.
The cosmos has a lot to answer for. That it does.
Bacon and home are very good things.