So I’m riding the number 64 tram home from work, just like I do any other day when I’m not cycle-commuting. It’s the end of the week and okay, it hasn’t been the best day ever, but it’s cool… and now it’s time to go home.
I’ve been on the tram for no more than five minutes when it starts breaking quite jerkily. There’s not much to grab hold of coz the tram is packed – every seat taken and those of us standing are just a few degrees off feeling like sardines. Skin touching if you move a smidge to the left or right.
Within microseconds I’m flying, almost horizontally really. So is every other standing passenger. The tram driver it seems, failed to notice a red light and at the last possible moment slammed on the brakes. The resulting game of passenger dominos roughly throws us all a couple of meters forwards.
Nothing I attempt to hold onto works out. A multitude of thoughts race by… oh no… what’s happening… I can’t stop myself from falling… is this going to hurt… there are people falling on top of me… there’s nothing to grab hold of… oh no…
It is only when the tram stops lurching that we mid-flight passengers land ungracefully and mostly on top of each other. My phone, which had been in my hand, is now on the floor and in pieces. Luckily not too many pieces and it can be put back together. When I manage to stand upright, I’m in a completely different section of the tram.
The haze of shock sets in.
The driver does not apologise. Does not check to see if anyone is okay. The tram keeps moving but much more carefully now.
I am not okay. I’m not sure if anyone else is hurt, but I’m too dazed and angry to find out. My already manky shoulder (luckily I have a physio appointment next Tuesday) is throbbing. My neck and lower back are sore.
I’m asked if I’m okay by a woman and her family. Passengers with seats, lucky things. The woman standing next to me and I are both having separate conversations about what just happened – she, on her phone (she’d helped collect the pieces of mine), and I with the family. The woman says that from her window seat she saw the red light, and how he didn’t even try to break until the last moment. It’s not as though a red light happens without warning.
They get off the tram a couple more stops down and I gratefully take one of their seats. I know I’m going to report this and ah… I can see the tram number, an individual identifier. I check the time… yeah, it happened just after 6pm. Along with the route number that should be enough information for the complaint I’m going to make.
Everything feels a little surreal. I make it to my stop and walk home unevenly. I feel the strain in my body – that always happens in a fall because our muscles futilely brace for impact.
It’s done. I’ve called Yarra Trams and explained very calmly. Yes please, I’d like someone to call me back and tell me what happened as a result of my complaint. No, I’m not sure if I’ll need medical treatment for the pain in my body, I’ll let you know. Okay, thanks for the reference number, I’ll write it down.
Done. And yet not.
Seems that trauma leaves physiological traces not just in the brain but also in the body. Oh…
I remember a little now. Yeah, this is what it was like. I can never remember properly afterwards, the same way you can’t quite recall how painful it was when you broke your arm. You know it wasn’t good, but the details escape you.
Until something happens to open the floodgates. I’m teary. But I don’t realise this, until I’ve been sitting in the dark for about three hours. Tears yes… and fury that looks like fear. I haven’t eaten. I haven’t done anything. Oh right, that disassociation thing… I stop feeling normal at all.
But I am okay. I know that. I know I didn’t die, I didn’t hit my head. I am not seriously injured, but it was close. Another half a meter and I might’ve hit my head on something upright and made of metal. But I am safe now.
And yet I start to hate everything. My body leads the revolt with memories of how it used to respond. Ah… the after-burn of PTSD thanks very much.
Mostly, my mind is not engaged at all in what’s going on. There’s so many reactions and responses going on. Things that make me wary of loud noises. Things that make me move very slowly. Things that keep the tears coming even though there’s nothing to cry about, really.
But it doesn’t stop. I take some homeopathic Emergency Essence (designed for treating shock). Actually I take several times the dose. And I head out on my bike to double check that the world isn’t still trying to kill me.
It’s late, but I find food and I wander around in an attempt to recalibrate my mind. But even once I’m back home eating my Satay Chicken Dinner Box, I’m not okay. See, these things always take time. More Emergency Essence before bed.
Sleep was fragmented and awful at best. And today I am all aches and pains with a side dish of trembling like a leaf.
It shouldn’t be that hard. Yes, the tram driver was a dickhead and I’ve done all I can in that regard. And I am okay, really.
And it’s been almost a year since the worst of my PTSD symptoms vamoosed. Yet a small and relatively harmless incident like this breathes life into the trace elements of my trauma response.
Luckily, I live with a yoga teacher and I hear she’s kinda okay at sorting out physical aches and pains. I’ll find some time for all of that later. Right now I have to go and do family stuff for my sister’s birthday. I’m bringing the cake. And there will be niece cuddles.
And I will be okay eventually…