Post-trauma is a psychiatric issue that stems from an external event in a person’s life, one that includes an element of danger or the chance of danger (for instance, having a personal experience involving murder, rape, or violence; a car accident; or battle — or even being a spectator). The experience a person has, even if he or she remains physically intact, immediately calls up feelings of shock, fear, and vigilance. Oftentimes it takes a while until these feelings pass, much like a physical wound, and sometimes they leave their imprint on a person’s mental world, which becomes more sensitive to things that are related to the harrowing experience the body has undergone. This is post-trauma. Post-trauma is a problem that can be solved through a long and complex mental process; in some cases, feelings of desperation, guilt, and anger can prevent healing.
Two and a half years ago, I was in a car accident. A car that was behind me reversed, hitting me, resulting in back and head injuries, a number of fractures, and most importantly, post-trauma. I cannot bear to be touched on my back. I cannot leave my house unaided. I have stopped driving and cannot ride on the bus. I cannot be with a group of people if my husband is not with me; in effect, I am unable to be far from him for extended periods of time. So, for example, I was employed at a workplace where my husband worked too; when he stopped working there, I resigned.
Obviously, the state of affairs makes daily life difficult; however, immersion in the mikveh has become even more problematic. My very arrival at the mikveh is fraught with fear. Being naked in such a place constitutes an opportunity for a tremendous number of triggers that I cannot always control. Not knowing whether the mikveh attendant will be kind and enabling or uncompromising and argumentative makes it impossible to mentally prepare for the complicated experience, making coming to the mikveh a trial. For the most part, when I do go to the mikveh, on my arrival I have difficulty breathing and an overwhelming desire to escape as quickly as possible.
Being in the mikveh itself is also no easy task. Some mikveh attendants allow themselves to touch my back without my permission in order to remove hairs, which is an immediate trigger for me. Moreover, because of my back’s sensitivity, the fact that a woman is standing behind me, while I am naked, sets off anxiety and fear. This anxiety, my awareness of what might happen, leads to a terrible mental state and a sense of disadvantage; being there at all is painful for me, and all I want is to flee.
There have even been a number of times when I chose to forgo immersion because I did not have the mental strength to withstand the tension that surrounded it. [Read more…]