Joy and Disassociation – a disaster story

When I was in Germany doing a bike tour a few years ago, I witnessed one of our group wipe out and get hurt badly.

I didn’t only witness it–I took point and administered first aid.

I should remember how this feels, I thought vaguely, fingers holding warm, bleeding skin, mind in a tunnelled state of purpose.

While this member of the group was ambulance’d off with her husband, the rest of us had hostel reservations at the other end of the day’s ride.

As we pushed through, a fine rain chilling fingers and faces, I felt surges of anger toward my helmet (she hadn’t been wearing one), despair that we were still bicycling, and vivid recall of moments after the accident.

I should remember how this feels, I thought, when I could back up from those surges and laugh at myself.

I knew what I was going through: trauma. (Thus the power of fiction: I recognized the state more from being inside the head of fictional people than from any textbook description.)

And I thought, maybe having an authentic experience will help me write these kinds of things vividly myself.

Also, I am clearly disassociating. Cool.

It was my first time to feel that outside-in perspective on a bad experience that many writers have discovered.

But what amazed me about this experience wasn’t so much my ability to act in an emergency, or the part of me scrutinizing my experience from outside.

It was how happy and hopeful I had been in preparation of the trip–and how happy and hopeful I was even as I rode out the first two days post-trauma.

Because honestly, my emotional baseline used to be so different.

I went into The Artist’s Way arguing with the text about being blocked as a writer (I was still writing!), about being depressed (I wasn’t sad!), but not about the importance of clearing out emotional junk.

When I finally looked back on my depression as something in the past I couldn’t tell you when it had started, or if it had ever stopped.

And I came out the other side of the Artist’s Way’s 12 week course, I had begun shedding a shell of pessimism about my potential for happiness, for healing. I had my work cut out for me, still. But I’d taken a light to that mental attic where core beliefs warped my experiences and ability to handle setbacks.

Part of the journal entry from two days after the accident, which had been the last thing I wrote about:

Sept 14th

Seems forever since I wrote that last entry, and yet jut moments ago I was in that particular hotel, writing it…

Today’s journey started in sunshine on a balcony, meeting–we had döner and wine the night before, up there.

Two more days! Of riding anyway… This is a trip I’m going to be sad is over and think about and wish for, for a while to come, I think.

To be honest, I’m surprised even now by the joy I was able to experience. At the end of the trip I saw our friend again, on the mend, and had a physical “crisis over” reaction that made it clear I’d been holding a lot of tension and worry.

It was another thing that a part of me sat back, observed, and laughed at.

The MoJo workshop is my way to pass on what journaling has given me.


When a few months after this incident I decided to study with IIN to become a coach, I knew I’d be taking what I already had learned from The Artist’s Way, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and other resources to be part of what I did.

I would like to invite you to join me.


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