Jennifer Eikenhorst has kindly agreed to let me post this essay, which explores the provocative question, “Am I a killer?” and also considers some of the other big questions that many CADIs ask. Her insights and sensitivity offer us hope. In fact, Jennifer hosts a great podcast called Accidental Hope, which integrates the wisdom she has gained from the tragedy of becoming a CADI with her faith perspective – Please check it out. Comments to Jennifer about this post can be sent to [email protected], and we will forward them to her.
Am I a killer?
That’s a dramatic statement. Abrupt. Possibly triggering (please forgive, if so). But this question, am I a killer, plagued me tirelessly after my accident with fatality in 2016. And if I’m being honest many questions like this or worse left me in emotional pieces. I was not very kind to myself during that time.
Logically, the answer was no, the accident was not intended to harm, but yet I doubted logic. No longer trusting the logic part of my brain because it was shut down and silenced to the emotional overload I was experiencing. I questioned my entire being, past, present and future.
Have you experienced this kind of overload?
All the questions chanting and marching around in circles like protests throughout my neural pathways. The voices weren’t synchronous or in harmony but competing for answers.
Why did this happen?
Am I still a good person?
How do I recover?
Is it okay to recover?
The list is long of thoughts that taunted me, kept me awake, exhausted much of my energy and brain power. Perhaps you share some of these questions you asked during or after your trauma. Questions and self-reflection are normally healthy; it’s a natural process. Ever spent time with a toddler? That’s the exploring the world phase and everything is questioned. We are in a sense exploring our new world post-trauma. Do you remember coming of age when you suddenly questioned everything and argued with everyone? Also natural. As the brain develops we use questioning to learn and synthesize information. Some life-experiences are life-altering. Often I hear C.A.D.I.s refer to themselves before and after the experience. We are a new version of our previous self and with that sometimes there is also grief.
I think trauma produces similar processes to developmental stages. The question is, what to do with the questions we will never have a sound answer to? Dr. Kristin Neff, author and advocate of self-compassion, said this, “Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves of debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.” In my journey, as I began to actively seek healing and normalcy these are my thoughts on what to do with all the logical, illogical, soul-crushing and sensible questions.
We make peace with not having an answer. We breathe in and breathe out, we relax our shoulders and loosen the grip of our clenched fists and release it to the “out of our control” bin in the brain. Perhaps time, little by little we will see glimpses of things that help with that peace.
We reframe our questions to give us agency, such as what now? How can we bring purpose from this pain we experienced? Who can we help with our shared experience? Could I be a compassionate ear for the next person? How can I show gratitude for the present strength gleaned from past hurt?
We carry on. We put one foot in front of the other stumbling at first, but at some point our wobbly legs become strong again, and some when we put in the work will be running in life despite the trauma. Not separate from it but carrying it as personal growth with great stride and humble endurance. Breathing easier once again.
I don’t know if you share similar questions to mine or your experience brought about a whole different set, but I think it’s important to write them down, avoid stuffing or ignoring. These voices will just whisper relentlessly or holler a little louder from the back of your mind if not acknowledged. Take them as they come, know that you are not alone or crazy. Seek a trusted friend or professional to help you sort them like weeds from the thought-garden.
Be kind to yourself in this process,
Resources I love: