Trauma is hard— My lived experience

It was 2:34 am

I was awake

In the dark of those early morning hours, It sounded like sobs.

I thought he had awakened from a bad dream… and I, rolled over and put my left arm around him— I kept saying quietly “I’m here, it’s ok”

His body shaking uncontrollably.

It was then that I realized something was very wrong.

Through the vast darkness and the smallest orange glow from a dimmed salt rock lamp in the living room, it appeared he was choking.

I remember every detail.

Right then and there, something inside of me died with the thought that he was going to.

I asked him, “are you choking?”

No response.

Again, louder this time? Yelling.


Hoping he could signal for some kind of sign to tell me without words. There was no response, just movements that appeared as if he was pointing to his throat. Tears streamed down my face, through my incessant screams of “no”. The No’s resounding loudly in my mind and reverberated our bedroom walls as it repeated from my lips.

I just remember that word— No.

It’s as if I was screaming loud enough for god to hear, begging to be woken up from this nightmare and find him sleeping beside me.

I attempted to do the heimlich on his 180 lb body that was face down. Me on top, trying with all of my strength to get my fists under him, quickly tracing my memory for those posters I had seen on a wall somewhere.

I remember thinking, you’re the one who knows how to do this

I remember thinking “you’re a lifeguard—you know how to do this…”

“Tell me how to do this”

I was straddling his back— my arms wrapped around his torso— thrusting violently.

I couldn’t remember how.

In my mind I was failing him.

And me.

And his family.

I distinctly remember thinking, “if I don’t do this correctly, it will be my fault”

I thought he was going to die.

And suddenly,

I just stopped.

A moment of peace surrounded us.

If i can explain it I could only describe it as a divine hand on my shoulder— stopping me— as if to peacefully intervene.

I walked to my side of the bed and called 911.

I turned the bedside table lamp on.

As she told me to breathe and asked me questions I could barely answer.

She asked me if he was breathing.

I couldn’t tell.

“I think” I said.

There were subtle movements.

There was blood on the blue and white patterned pillow case.

She asked more questions and called me ma’am.

“If you have any pets, I would advise putting them up now, as they are approaching your apartment.”

Lettie would not leave his side.

Hard knocks at the door.

Lettie barking.

Me feeling like my soul had left my body.

I managed to get her into her crate.

I opened my apartment door not 5 minutes later to what I suspected would be, two emt’s and 8 cops walk in, accompanied by the EMT’s.

Eight cops.

It didn’t dawn on me why so many police officers were in my apartment.

I was in shock.

Later I remember I had to describe my boyfriend by race and gender

“Hispanic male”

This is only an assumption. But it was as unnerving as you could imagine it would be. One cop standing inside of my closet. Others dispersed in other areas of the rooms.

It didn’t anger me until later, how self entitled they were to be taking up so much space in my home while my boyfriend was unconscious and not one asked me if I was ok.

They weren’t the ones helping. They were just there. Looking around.

The only worry I could muster was, him waking up to these strange people surrounding him.

The medics were talking too loudly.

The other EMT pulled me aside and asked me basic questions in the left corner of our bedroom.

His birthday year left me.

His full name, I could hardly say it. I got it wrong and said what he goes by. I corrected myself as the information came through my voice that could barely speak.

My body was shaking.

The bedding was on the floor.

He began to come to as they took his blood pressure and attempted to ask him some questions.

A moment of hope I had lost minutes ago, returned to my flood my body.

At the hospital, the doctor ruled it as a mild seizure, although they couldn’t confirm it.

I think about the hand on my shoulder. The moment of calm that stopped me.

The minute of not giving up, but a surrendering to.

This happened in January of this year.

I haven’t been able to write about it, because I haven’t been able to allow myself to relive this experience.

Until now.

Trauma is hard. Im not writing to talk about how I healed from this, because I still have no idea how I’ve managed to heal from this. The rules no longer applied to me— to this.

I could no longer sleep in our bedroom.

For weeks after I couldn’t even be in there after dark.

For months I refused to wear the brown sweater I had slept in that night it all happened.

I had panic attacks at the slightest noise in the room. Sometimes until the night turned to morning, and my mind could rest within the light. It was the darkness that brought the experience, night after night.

I write this to say, that our resilience as humans, always reaches for our inner most depths and brings them to the surface. The good stuff.

The places where we haven’t gone, to bring our strength, we maybe didn’t know we had.

We’re told to find the gift in things.

But that’s hard and I haven’t.

Maybe the gift was that I was witness to something bigger than me.

Or maybe, it was the fact that after it happened, he told me “it feels like everything is new”

A rebirth of sorts. I think that was his gift. But what was mine. I still don’t know.

I just know, by some unworldly resource,

I am on the other side of that terror.

And I count the moments more closely.

I cherish the inbetweens and the mundanes and the longer more obvious ones, too.

I didn’t know the depth of my own love, until this.

I guess if I’m looking for the gift, that would be it.

Yeah, that would probably be it.

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