The past week & half, since returning from Sri Lanka, I have seriously struggled. I didn’t deal with the present or my past. Instead, I foolishly tried to escape from it all. I’m ashamed to admit:
- I avoided everyone
- I didn’t return calls or messages
- I drank too much and lost it
- I locked myself away from the world.
All I wanted was escape from myself, my life, and my “epic failures” — past and future.
Compared to previous screw ups, this was pretty tame. Nothing really bad happened as a result, apart from losing my phone. I didn’t end up hospital, or hurt myself in any way physically. Unless you count a couple of epic hangovers as self harm. I’m more disappointed with myself than normal because I had made so much progress recently, this didn’t need to happen.
About a month ago I had everything set up to drive myself in a truly positive direction. I had some realistic plans that I intended to follow. It felt like something had really changed, I had a renewed sense about my future.
Things were pretty sweet, I had just spent an amazing month traveling around Thailand with Lucie. There were so many positive memories. From completing a Yoga course together in Chiang Mai to chilling out in the stunningly beautiful hill country of Pai (northern Thailand.) From getting drunk together at a random reggae night in Bangkok to meeting my father, who flew over for a 4 day work conference. My father’s visit meant I got to live it up in 5 star Holiday Inn luxury for 4 days then fly down to Krabi to spend almost two weeks on Koh Lanta island.
Koh Lanta island was actually a more cathartic experience than returning to Koh Phi Phi island — where I was caught in the tsunami. I was facing up to what happened while on the island and despite feeling a little uneasy at times, I genuinely had an amazing time. I even recorded my first YouTube blog post while sitting on the beach at sunset.
I had whole series of positive and uplifting posts that I wanted to write over the next month or two. They were all inspired by the month long trip. However, about a week after returning to Chiang Mai, after saying goodbye to Lucie, I received a call from home which changed everything.
My mum called from London to let me know my 94 year old grandfather had been taken to hospital,. The family had been advised he may not have much time left and should consider saying their goodbyes. Obviously, it wasn’t a pleasant call to receive. I was always close to my mum’s father as I spent a lot of my childhood staying with my grandparents in Singapore. The hardest part of the call was my mum telling me my grandfather had fallen very sick late last year and was also hospitalized, but my mother chose not to tell me as she thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the news leading up to the 10 year tsunami anniversary.
I understood her logic, she was worried it could derail all the progress I’d made. Personally, I was angry with myself that because of my emotional failures, I had not been able to support and be there for someone who had loved me unconditionally since birth. I felt so ashamed that my mother felt like she had to protect me, when really I should be the one supporting her.
The next day I flew down to Bangkok and caught a connecting flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. I spent about a week with my family in Colombo. The trip wasn’t easy on an emotional level, but I kept myself together, although I broke down on the last night after saying what might be my final goodbye to my grandfather. I hope it wasn’t the last time I see him, but that’s part of life. Possibly in a later post, I will write about aspects of my trip to Sri Lanka. For now, I want to stick with the past week or so.
In short, everything went well with the trip while I was actually in Sri Lanka. Apart from mum being hospitalized for 3 days with pneumonia the day after she arrived from London. That came out of nowhere and completely shocked me. Although it wasn’t serious, seeing my mum in hospital was difficult. The hospital brought back some incredibly painful memories from my past – being in a Colombo hospital in a panicked state.
I was sad to see my grandfather in such a weak and frail state. Each time I saw him, I was scared it might be the last. However, despite feeling like I was losing my grandfather, I definitely gained a niece and a nephew, my cousin’s children. There’s some balance with life I guess. Having a couple of nights getting to know two little additions to my extended family was something special. Although being called “Uncle Sam” felt a little alien, but in a good way.
The last night was rough, but I returned to Chiang Mai drained but with purpose and more determination to improve myself. However, after a couple of days of returning, everything hit me all at once.
The one thing I managed to almost block out while I was in Colombo didn’t last upon returning to Chiang Mai and when it hit, it hit me hard. To be honest it’s too painful to go into detail. I’ve managed to pick myself up the past 24 hours, hence that is why I am writing this post. I’m not blocking it out now, I just don’t want to think about how to word any of it…
I let it get into my head that I couldn’t deal with what happened. I fell into a cycle of avoidance and self loathing. I went through almost an entire week with out having a real conversation with anyone. I was lost in a kaleidoscope of trauma, all the countless vivid images I’d see were all interlinked. I couldn’t compartmentalize the pain of what I saw in my mind’s eye. The trauma of trauma was unrelenting. I made it that way, it was my kaleidoscope, I was the one control or not in control depending how you frame it.
It took an automated email from The Good Men Project which notified me one of the articles I’d submitted over a month ago had just been posted. This triggered the past 24 hours of healing. In fact, two of my articles had been posted while I went AWOL. The crazy thing is, it took reading my own articles — not because of my need for help — but rather just out of curiosity to see how my editor had changed them. Reading my words gave me the prison break I needed. The words seem weird to write, but reading my articles on The Good Men Project, and checking my numerous Twitter notifications, gave me the confidence to give hope another chance.
I know I’m too hard on myself at times. I’m disappointed by the setback but I’m ok. The week, or so, wasn’t productive, but I can put the events into perspective more easily now that I started writing again. Things will be ok, and I know I can get back on track because, to quote Matt my best mate here in Chiang Mai,
“it’s about progress not perfection”
and the past 24 hours and completing this post is definitely progress, I’m not bothered about the perfection.
Originally posted on PTSDJEDI
Photo courtesy of the author