Emergency Department Trauma

I’m not unfamiliar with trauma. I suffered emotional abuse as I was growing up, and was physically and verbally bullied for many years. I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result, when the intrusive flashbacks and nightmares were at their worst. There’s the scale trauma I experience every time I am asked to be weighed, and the defensive mechanisms that spring from an inability to be touched by strangers, no matter how innocently.

On the eve of christmas eve, I attempted suicide. It doesn’t matter why. (And I’m still trying to work that out anyway).

But I was so intent on death that I refused treatment. I tore out the drip that was infusing me with medicine that would save my life, and prevent organ failure. I curled into a ball as they tried to replace it, and I remained silent when the psychiatrist spoke to me.

All I can feel is the hands.

The hands of a disproportionately high number of nurses restraining me. The hands that held me still as I was sedated. The hands that gripped tighter the more I squirmed, and the hands that didn’t loosen until I began to fall asleep. I can feel them on every part of me. Three on each leg, two on each arm, and one on each foot to stop me kicking. I can feel the strength of their grip, and the repulsion that bubbles out of my chest.

I have never felt so powerless.

And I can’t stop the feeling from flowing. I can’t stop feeling their hands.

I needed them; I did. I needed to be restrained in order to be saved. This isn’t a post about the misuse or overuse of restraint. This is a post about how to cope with being held down against your will.

How do I forget this feeling, when all I can feel and see is hands? How am I supposed to return to drawing, when the body is the focus of my art, and my body has become tainted? How am I supposed to return to the emergency department in the future, knowing that there’s every possibility that I will need restrained again?

How do I forget their hands?

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