I’ve been pondering this subject for a while. Pondering, as I continue to move through the emotions that these traumas confront me with, inevitably causing me to react in ways that shake-up my friendships. With the PTSD triggering off my flight or fight response whenever I feel vulnerable – which is often in the wake of my Dad’s death and the heartbreak that occasionally pokes me – it’s difficult to maintain friendships when I have so much negativity running through me. Sometimes I just want to fast forward to a time when I’ll be over all these events, but as I mention in my philosophy the only way to get over these things is to go through them. So, to me at this moment in time, a friend is someone who stands by me through those times when I’m self-destructive and inconsolable. To love me unconditionally through what is probably the most difficult period of my life.
Being in Asia around the diverse travel friends that I met almost three years ago reminds me of this. These were the people that I attracted into my life when I was at my best and it’s there that I want to get back to. As well as some phenomenally amazing friends back home who continue to skype me and send me supportive messages, my travel friends are a web of connections that continue to catch me as I inevitably start to crumble post trauma.
I booked my flights to Asia back in June when Dr Jenn and I planned to have a holiday together for a few weeks then I was going to have some solo travel time to build up my confidence again after the attack. We’d made a date to book the tickets one day when I was in Sheffield, a few days before I was due to fly to Mallorca and look for yacht work for the summer. Work that would top up my savings ready for the travel stint. However, the night before this I’d fallen down a flight of stairs at a friend’s party, leaving me in A&E the morning of the day we were meant to meet. With a bruised kidney and torn back muscles, I was rendered off work for at least a month. Sensing my misery over the phone Dr Jenn wasn’t deterred and she promptly drove over to the friend’s house where I lay and booked the flights for us, as I handed over my credit card and passport in a state of painkiller induced drowsiness. Regardless of money and injury, something felt right about getting those flights booked so we went ahead and did it. Besides, with four careers I can usually work out a way to earn money, even if it meant doing it from a couch.
Little did I know back then, that in less than a month’s time my Dad would suddenly pass away and my trip to Asia would be my therapy. The time that I fall back on to that blanket of amazing friends while I shuffle from country to country carrying a weight of pain and heaviness that only grief brings.
It’s these people who have been there for me in the most incredible ways that I could only ever imagine and I think it’s about time that I say thanks.
There’s the Irish friend who has constantly been a light in every dark moment I’ve faced in these last 8 months. Including dropping everything to jump on a train at whatever cost, just to be with my family and I, the day after my Dad died. As a distraction, as a shoulder to cry on, as anything that I needed as my whole World came crashing down around me. This woman’s compassion continuously inspires me and I’m forever grateful that she choose me as her hitchhiking travel buddy in Malaysia all those years back. Thank you.
Then there’s the friend who was brought to me by through serendipitous business connections whilst working out in Indonesia. The one who supported me in more ways than he’ll ever know, helping me put back together the pieces of myself when I was in my most self-destructive and vulnerable state. Laughing off the shame and embarrassment that I clung to after the way I’d behaved in my heartbreak-PTSD-grief stricken mess. Thank you for seeing past what I couldn’t, and being the strong man in my life when I needed one.
As these two have lived in the UK I’ve been lucky enough to build on these travel friendships, but there are also those friends who I haven’t been able to see in the years that I’ve been away from Asia, yet we still remain close. The four that reached out to me in the week after my Dad passed away, even though in some cases we hadn’t spoken for up to 6 months. As these friends aren’t connected to my friends from home in any way, and as I didn’t put anything up on my social networks, I don’t know how they knew that they needed to reach out to me at the moment when I was most in need. I wonder if there’s a connection that binds us together on a level which telephones and emails don’t reach? I know how ridiculous this sounds, airy fairy even, but it made me wonder why they thought to contact me when they did, that week when I needed friendship the most.
There’s the friend who sent me a Whatsapp voice message that started by him singing out “Shhhhereeeeeen…” and telling me that he saw my name pop up as he was flicking through his contacts, it made him wonder how this “amazing woman” was doing. This was on the 27th of July, 5 days after my Dad had passed away and at the time I received his message I was lying on my bed crying. I remember feeling completely empty and all I wanted to do was crawl into a black hole and disappear forever. Receiving that message reminded me that although I’d lost the man in my life who loved me more than anyone ever could, I was still loved by those who were far away. Thank you for the voice message that was my lifeline out of a very dark hole.
Then there was the one who reached out on the 29th of July, 7 days after the death. Asking where I was in the World and saying that it had been such a long time since we’d been in touch. The one who always accepts my crazy ways, challenges me to focus on what I want in my life and embraces me into his home and family as though I was his own sister. The one who listened to my ‘year of trauma’ without shame or awkwardness. The one who inspires me to be comfortable in my own skin and who told me that the point of life is to just do what makes you happy. Thank you, and thank you for bringing another amazing friend into my life too.
Then there was the Canadian who had actually met my Father a few months before he passed away and reached out to me a couple of days after he passed. The one who offers a chilled out perspective when I can’t seem to see the wood for the trees. The one who sees our friendship as a value higher than the price of a flight ticket and stronger than the oceans between continents. Thank you for continuously trying to figure out this weird thing called life with me, when I’m confused beyond no end.
There’s the other Canadian too who reached out to me too. The one that lightens up situations when I might otherwise feel negative. The one to help me laugh off even the silliest of scenarios, encourages me to be myself through her own self-acceptance and love. The one who accepts me for me and is happy to laugh through my tears as we joke about the awkwardness of public crying. Thank you for continuously bringing fun into my life when I’m finding every smile to be a challenge.
I’m still trying to work out friendship in my post-trauma life and I can only imagine how difficult it is for those people to stick around me when I’m at my worst and I have nothing to give. The best I can do right now is to keep showing myself compassion and try to heal what’s broken, whilst I continue to maintain mindful awareness to negative feelings that arise. Making sure that I acknowledge them and diffuse them rather than throwing them out at people who are close to me. The new and improved Shereen friend will be back soon but in the meantime, I’m grateful to those who sit with me through this discomfort and show me support when I need it the most. Thank you.
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