I enjoy teaching, it is one of those things, along with writing, that inspires me and brings joy. It seems cruel that the joy comes with a price. Take my hand while we stroll together and take a look at this.
I had been looking forward to Tuesday’s training seminar, our first one just before the Christmas break last year had received rave reviews, and another new class of recruits awaited us. I was going to meet up with my co-presenter, we haven’t really had much time to talk this year and I anticipated having a chance to catch up beforehand.
We were travelling from different areas of the city, me from home, she was coming in from the Yorkdale office. I thought it should be a smooth trip up on the subway, it’s not rush hour. Oh, if only. Get down into the station, look up at the next train display, see 15 minutes instead of the usual 2 or 3. Ahhh … trouble in the system somewhere, oh joy. As the time ticks by, I send her a text, “subway FUBAR, will be delayed.”
When the train finally arrives, it’s sardine can time, and the platform was starting to get too crowded for my comfort. Time to put my CBT training to use. I’ve often said, forget that walk a mile in my shoes nonsense, try spending a day in my head … in this case, the ongoing conversation to get myself through the trip up to where I had to be.
We met up, I had already picked up our visitor passes so we could run out for a coffee/tea/sandwich and just zip upstairs when we got back. So, we’re basically cramming 7 weeks of catching up into 10 minutes … we are used to it after working together for the past 6 years, we talk fast, communicate with speed, we have our own verbal shorthand.
We have a brief meeting with the person in charge, checking future dates for training, a quick catch up, and then he mentioned they had rave reviews from their first recruits class, and they especially were looking forward to me repeating last year’s talk.
Mentally, I said DAMN! Externally, smile and nod and go with the flow. Oh well, set aside the new format, bring forth the old one mentally and prepare. Meanwhile, thinking to myself, can I edit this on the fly to cut out the more traumatic bits?
I think people believe that it’s a heavily scripted thing that we do. I have news for you, it isn’t. It’s more freestyle than you realize. I have had people sit in all three lectures we have delivered in a week, and then mention in their feedback that it was not exactly the same each time. I’d be bored silly if it was like that, so would my co-presenter.
We have a natural ability to play off of each other throughout our presentation. Our friendship outside of work means we will cause much hilarity in the room when we verbally bat something back and forth between us. The slides that I use serve as a reminder of things I should talk about at that point. We have our favourite lines/sayings, and some of these are stories we have told many times, so there is a pace to it that comes from experience. We engage in a conversation, not just stand and talk at people.
People think, ah, survivor, warrior, can face anything and keep going. Oh, that might be how it looks to you, but it’s not reality, it’s a mask. Admitting the reality means letting people get closer than my usual comfort levels allow. In a lecture, I can show more than usual, because I’m out to reach that one in the room who is in the same place and let them know, hey, you’re not alone, me too, got your back.
While delivering some new material, I’m still looking at that old stuff from multiple angles. They specifically want the old material, so strap in, dig it up, press play and run it again for the room. What I noticed looking back on it, I was talking to some space in the air, not really eye to eye with the recruits. We get through the class, people seem to respond well to today’s session, will wait to hear the feedback.
I managed to make it home before the energy crash occurred. Whenever I’m telling my own story, my experiences, what led up to PTSD and the daily battles with it, it drains energy harshly. Within an hour of the end of class, my energy hits absolute zero, but only when, I have found, they want to know all the causes, the details, etc.
Stretch out with my cat, think I’ll listen to some podcasts, relax and occupy my mind with something else. The body demanded sleep, particularly after battling insomnia since late last November. I must have done one of those head meets pillow, gone.
Close eyes, begin nightmares. This time it was a particularly heavy serving of horrors and terrors. It’s not flashbacks lately, but as the graphic above mentions, it’s pulling out the emotions from those moments, dishing up some gawdawful visions of hell from some corner of my mind and serve it up on a loop, non-stop, until I snapped awake and sat up sweating up a storm, gasping for breath, and my cat sitting on the bedside table looking at me wide-eyed.
What I would give to be able to completely turn off my mind at night so that I could sleep peacefully. I have lost count of the times that somebody has said, just give it up and get over it. Tell you what cleverarse, let’s trade, you take it on for a week and then we’ll go for coffee and you tell me how you could just give it up and get over it.
I do know that next time they request the old format, it’s entirely within my rights to say no, there is a new format now, I’ll give you that one, the old one has been permanently retired.
I still enjoy lecturing and teaching, give me a topic well in advance and let me run with it on the day of. I’ve lectured on many topics: healthcare, health policy, history, bridge building, community cohesiveness, mental health/illness/injury, PTSD and first responders, and more. Never a twitch. The problem occurs, when I have to dig up my own story with details of the traumas that led to my diagnosis of PTSD. People have heard the stories, but, they’ve only heard about 5-10% of the whole. There are things from the past that I will never discuss.
Not sure what it is, I have discussed this at length with a professor I have worked with for a few years now. We both think we are seeing the cause and effect of those who are subjected to a steady stream of reality television, gossip, tabloids, antisocial media, and more. They love “trauma porn”.
It’s something that Nat and I discussed at length last summer, when we both were on the verge of totally throwing in the towel on these talks and lectures. We can deliver the same material, but leave out the root causes, the trauma talk, and still discuss at length the after-effects of living through it.
Some years ago, I did a live to tape interview for a show, 4 hours, which was edited and broadcast over two 90 minute episodes. Toward the end of our time together, the host asked me the Pivot Questionnaire. Some of you may have seen it on episodes of Inside The Actors Studio.
The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot, after the Proust Questionnaire. The 10 questions are:
- 1. What is your favorite word?
- 2. What is your least favourite word?
- 3. What turns you on?
- 4. What turns you off?
- 5. What sound or noise do you love?
- 6. What sound or noise do you hate?
- 7. What is your favorite curse word?
- 8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
- 9. What profession would you not like to do?
- 10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I have often revisited question 10. I have not mentioned it before in lectures and talks, but will be adding it to the lectures this year. I’m considering asking someone in the lecture hall to join me at the front, and I’ll ask them these 10 questions (there is a teachable moment in it, because I will share my answers after they finish). I remember question 10 was the one that I got emotional with the answer. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? You made a difference, you were a role model, you saved lives, I am proud of you.
Be well, stay safe. Thank you for engaging in the conversation.
Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.