I met Kendalle,baby trauma llama (BTL), unofficially adopted daughter and collaborator on Traumallama.com while we were in trauma treatment last summer.
I can’t remember if I saw her at lunch or she was just walking across the campus. But I will never forget the first time I saw her. The first thing that caught my eye was her turquoise/green lipstick and rainbow colored hair. She was wearing a pink baby doll dress with a pair of converse. I remember thinking how beautiful she was. I had no idea that her appearance did not compare to her intelligence and sense of humor until I sat next to her in our first treatment group together.
It was in that group that she introduced me to the phrase “trauma llama.” (See our About page for the details of that story).
We weren’t put into the same daily process group together until our last month there. I was so excited to see her there the first day I walked into the room. From that day on we usually sat next to each other, whispered, giggled, and rolled our eyes (much to the chagrin of our therapist).
Our therapist had this strange way of glancing around the room out of the corner of his eye when someone was telling and a long and detailed story about their trauma. In his defense, I’m pretty sure that he was checking to see if anyone in the group was being triggered by the story. I always thought he was checking to see if Kendalle and I were whispering, giggling or rolling our eyes.
On one particularly hot, summer afternoon in Arizona. We dutifully dragged our hot bodies into our two-hour afternoon process group. We went through our normal routine of telling the group what our core feelings were. There was a chart on the wall with a list of 13 core feelings. We had to introduce ourselves look at the chart and say, “right now I am feeling….”
Here is a list of the 13 core feelings:
Most people would start from the top of the list and go down. I liked starting from the bottom of the list and going up. It helped me to remember that there was some good stuff going on before I got to the bad part.
Some people would just read the whole list. This seemed a little strange to me. I mean how can you say you are feeling lonely, sad, hurt and happy, gratitude and hopeful?
After telling everyone what our core feelings were, we had to tell them why were in treatment. Basically, what your diagnosis was. Some people had over ten different diagnoses. I noticed that the list would get longer the longer they were in treatment. Kendalle and I would just say that we were trauma llamas.
So, more about the magical clock… On this particularly hot afternoon, we took a break after about an hour, went up to the cafeteria to get some coffee and a snack and returned to the group for some heavy processing. This was usually the time that was reserved for group members that were having a particular issue, or group members would introduce themselves and tell their story.
We were gearing up for an introduction and a story. I know that does not sound as dramatic as you think it would. But in a trauma group, this can be an exhausting experience. There are usually a lot of tears and some dissociation.
The woman who was introducing herself on that day already had a reputation on the campus for frequent dissociation. She had a hard time trusting, and feeling comfortable, with our male therapist the first couple days. In fact, a few days earlier something had triggered her, and she ended up hiding under the therapist’s desk.
With some coaxing from the group and the therapist she reluctantly began to share her story.
If you are a trauma llama, you understand that sharing your story for the first time is not easy. The trauma brain randomly remembers facts and details. It’s not unusual to talk about an event that happened five years ago then regress to a memory you had when you were six yrs. old. This is why drawing out and presenting your trauma timeline to your group is one of the most healing therapeutic practices that a trauma survivor can do.
So back to the magical clock… about 1/2 hour into the story, we were all getting a little restless and tired. Fortunately, this woman was sharing mostly benign details that didn’t really trigger anyone.
I became vaguely aware of a strange clicking sound in the room. I looked around (secretly trying to avoid my therapist’s watchful eye). That’s when I noticed that the second hands on the clock above the door were going around ten times faster than usual. I immediately looked at Kendalle (who was sitting right next to me) and back at the clock. About the same time, Kendalle also noticed the clock. The look on her face was priceless and intense. So intense that I immediately looked at her and whispered, “Make it stop!”
I know what you are thinking…it was probably a good thing I was in treatment because there was no way that Kendalle was making the clock do that. But you don’t know Kendalle. As I said, she is smart as a whip, and with her rainbow hair and quick wit, there is something magical about her.
Well, Kendalle starting giggling. Of course, that gave me a case of the giggles. One of the gentlemen in the group (a great big tall guy with a laugh that you could hear across campus) noticed the clock as well. He was sitting across the room from Kendalle and me. The look of surprise on his face made Kendalle and me giggle even more.
That’s when we got the evil eye from our therapist. You know that feeling when you’ve been busted for laughing, but it just makes you laugh even harder? Yeah, that was Kendalle and me.
Fortunately, the woman telling her story was just winding down. The therapist asked if anyone wanted to comment or support her. The gentleman across the room, Kendalle and I could not talk because we were afraid we would bust out laughing. Not very supportive after someone has disclosed some difficult details.
As the therapist wrapped up the group, Kendalle and I tried to slide out the door without being noticed. Nope, wasn’t going to happen. The therapist politely asked us to stay.
After the group had cleared out of the room, the therapist looked at us in this exasperated way. I thought he was going to scold us. Much to our surprise, he busted out laughing. He had noticed the clock as well and was doing everything he could not to laugh along with us. Phew…dodged that bullet.
The moral of this story is this: even in the midst of exhausting treatment, it’s ok to take time out to laugh, and some of the things that happen and are out of our control.
Our therapist didn’t buy my version of the story that Kendalle made the clock do that. However, whenever I spend time with her now I always on the look out for other inanimate objects that she night cast her spell on.