aWhat else? So besides the harrowing brush with death, something else happened that I thought could only happen once. I was late, again. For the girl who's never been late in her life, I was going to set a record by being late TWICE in the country that SHAMES tardiness. The first time was totally the fault of the person who wrote the directions...but the second time was probably my fault. On my very second day of teaching, I was supposed to have an early meeting before my classes. I totally forgot about said meeting. I woke up, made breakfast, and began to eat when I got a call from my supervisor.
She was like, "Where are you?" and I replied something to the effect of, "just finished eating?"
"What? Did you forget?"
"Forget what?" I said, baffled.
"The meeting. The meeting we're having right now."
Instant, insane, and complete panic. I must have thrown on clothes faster than a magician. I tossed everything in my bag and practically ran. I looked at the time. By the time I was going to make it to the meeting, it would be half over. I sighed and felt immediate resignation. Maybe it would be better if I just showed up early for my classes (to be fair, I had to show up at least 2 hours before as per the Peppy Kids Club policy, but I was always earlier than that). I was at the station, when I got another call.
"Where are you now?"
"At the station."
"Going to my classes..."
"You need to be here. Now."
"I don't know how to get there..."
At this point, she passes the phone off to another teacher whom I haven't met because she can't deal with me. I get specific instructions on how to take the bus to the school. I first have to find said bus, because it's on the other side of the station. I get on the bus, but don't know what to do since this bus is different. The bus driver glared down at me from his perch and practically ripped the ticket out of the machine to hand to me. I muttered the destination, and he just said, "Hai". My stop came and went, I tried to get him to stop just after but he adamantly refused and told me to sit down. I sat down and waited for the bus to reach it's final stop. When I was getting off, I put the money and ticket in just like I did in Nagoya - expecting change in return. However, buses in Utsunomiya have a separate change machine for this purpose. I did not know that. The moment it happened, it triggered the bus driver into an unquenchable rage. He told me what I did wrong in Japanese and I shyly muttered, "Wakarimasen?" meaning, "I don't understand". He then proceeded to yell at me in a mocking tone, "Wakarimasen!? Wakarimasen!!!" The next sentences that followed were slurs against gaijins, I understood that much. I had never been so humiliated and hurt in public. He yelled at me to get off the bus and I did. I then had to run back to the previous stop as I choked back tears. When I finally arrived at the school, I took the wrong entrance (despite the instructions saying the contrary), and found nothing but hostility. The supervisor and my fellow teachers were cold. She took every opportunity to either ignore me, or belittle me. In fact, she soured every opportunity I had at a friendship in that circle. And every subsequent meeting she would remark on how I was, "finally on time" and "not like that other time when I was incredibly late".
When the awful, awful meeting ended, I found out there were no buses back at that time and I had classes to teach. I practically ran. Turned out, it was about a 45 minute walk. Ugh. When I finally made it back to the station, I saw some of my fellow teachers. They actually turned their backs on me and walked away. Then I noticed the station seemed very busy. I try to pay attention to the announcements before I finally take out my phone and find out all of the trains have been delayed to Utsunomiya. Now I was screwed again. I was going to be late to check in for my classes. I called head office and informed them the trains weren't running. They said just wait in the station and keep them informed. It took about an hour before the trains were back, and the train ride to school was about 45 minutes as well. I let head office know my situation, and they resignedly asked me to "try my best to be on time" and let me know it would still be considered my fault if I was late. Circumstances were apparently irrelevant. I spent the whole train ride prepping to run out of the doors when it stopped. And that's what I did. I practically flew by the man taking tickets, although he seemed unfazed - perhaps even found it amusing. I literally made it to the school within a minute of my deadline. I raced to the phone and called in. Head office was mildly impressed, and commented that I must have ran.
The next day was the earthquake. Truly, the week from hell.
Well, thank you so much for reading! If you like, I've made a gallery of photos from Nagoya! Ciao!
This time of year is always the most difficult for me - the end of April and the beginning of May. While at this point in time I do not wish to disclose the precise reason, I will allude to it. When I was but an adolescent, I experienced the worst trauma of my entire life. That trauma has followed me every step. I suffered from PTSD for a long time after - although at the time I didn't know what was happening. The flashbacks wouldn't end.
Flashbacks, in accordance with PTSD, can make you feel like you've returned to the scene of the trauma. They can make you believe that no time has passed and you're stuck in time repeating history. It's frightening, painful, and inescapable. Your mind is triggered backwards and it has a hard time remembering how to leave.
While many years have passed, and the flashbacks have slowed - they like to reappear annually around this time of year. I will be innocently smelling the night air, or perhaps laying in bed, when all of a sudden I'm back at the scene of the crime. Emotions flood my consciousness and I'm reminded of all the horrible things that happened, like it's happening in the present. I try to move past it, but I've learned a long time ago that flashbacks are not easily escaped, or for that matter, avoided.
Last night was no different. I spent a good piece of my present time remembering my excruciating history. It brings up so many dark memories, and darker feelings. Self-loathing, depression, anxiety, panic, fear...I felt myself falling backwards into torturous nothingness. Luckily for me, this instance had a rare exception to previous instances - I had a very loving and supportive partner. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been able to express myself openly, or as easily. I would have flailed in my own personal hell for a lot longer. Instead, they listened and held me, and reminded me that I was safe.
I think about all the other people suffering with flashbacks, and empathy pours out of me. I wish no one had to re-live their traumas. The mind is a delicate machine, that can be unfortunately programmed with undesirable routines. The trick is learning how to cope. While I understand the pressure to make it "all go away" (all too well), it's not the best solution. You inevitably end up hurting someone else - and perhaps even cause them PTSD, making it a vicious cycle. It's best to learn how to cope. The most important thing here is that time heals. While it heals rather slowly, it does heal. Perhaps there will be a scar, but it means you're a survivor - not a victim.
While I was thinking about coping techniques, I did a Google search for the hell of it. I turned out this article: Coping with Flashbacks by Matthew Tull. There's some good information there - I think next time I experience a flashback I'll try either biting into some peppermint gum, or cranking my music. It can't hurt.
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