Some readers of this blog might remember some posts I wrote several months ago as I went to a massage therapist – with hopes of making some kind of hoped-for progress toward – what? I was disappointed, of course, although I do not regret the experience or the money those two sessions cost.
But today I am thinking about some of the imagery that appeared to me in those 2 sessions about being face-to-face with a massive, impassable bramble bush. Today I realize that for severe abuse survivors who have experienced permanent and major physiological alterations to our development due to severe abuse, neglect and trauma during especially our earliest months of life when we were growing and developing our brain, our nervous system, our immune system, our stress-calm response system — NOTHING we experience about being alive in the world matches what ‘ordinary’ people experience.
At this moment I am thinking that my life has mostly been about learning to thrive in any way I can IN SPITE of that bramble bush. I am always learning how to seek and find treasures that nobody else would probably think are remotely important, let alone valuable, right there inside that bramble bush.
This is not a wrong or a bad thing. All the wishing in the world will not change what we experienced and what those experiences did to make our lives extremely difficult in ways non-early abuse, neglect and trauma survivors will never know or even be able to begin to imagine.
Lately as I watch movies in which ‘killing’ or ‘being killed’ is always portrayed as a disastrous thing I find thoughts wander into my thoughts sometimes that there is also situations in which remaining alive sure seems a worse fate than to NOT be alive. Yet life is a struggle on many levels for many humans, not just early trauma survivors. What is actually (to me) most important is being able to identify and to USE what many call either ‘resiliency factors’ or ‘protective factors’.
Survivors have gifts that brought us forward through our horrible childhoods. Our problem is that in the presence of our bramble bush challenges we often do not understand that we need to identify what IS and WAS good in our lives – has always been good and right in our lives – or – putting it starkly – we would be dead!
Never mind there are times when we might think being dead would be better than to remain alive with our suffering. Those aspects of our bramble bush existence are just a part of our experience – NOT ALL OF IT.
I do absolutely believe that every single one of us had something we loved when we were little. Many of us, most sadly, did not have a human being who loved us. That did not mean that we didn’t love SOMEONE, didn’t love a pet, didn’t love beauty, didn’t love music, or some aspect of nature that we noticed – and that for even the briefest of seconds put us into a time-space where we experienced a glimmer of joy.
One of the most important of my protective factors certainly was Alaska and our homesteading time on ‘our’ mountain. I still don’t believe I would have survived had our family not left the hideous horrors of Los Angeles for the pure wilderness that I loved from the first breath of its air I inhaled right before my 6th birthday.
I was also gifted with an insatiable hunger for locating beauty in the world around me – usually in the smallest of details. I did have crayons. Crazy Mother encouraged all of us to use art supplies. They were not always forbidden to me.
Something beautiful and good was available (and still is) for every single one of us that is directly connected to what I call soul – our essential self that will live forever and that no abuser can ever touch. I am not remotely into the ‘saved’ or ‘damnation’ kind of perspective on soul. I am far too realistic for that kind of vague double-speak that does not contribute to my desperately needed sense of some kind of peace and well-being and hope and connection to the immeasurable grace and goodness that most survivors have to search very hard to find in their early lives.
Survivors might in the beginning need to break through denial to find out what actually happened to us. But this is only a part of our story. If we don’t go back into our own self, into our own memories that we have chosen to keep, to find our own shining child self inside the hell we know of so clearly — we will simply feel more miserable than we have to today.
I am not being arrogant in any way when I say I know what it’s like to grow up being abused, terrified, traumatized by a psychotic madwoman in hell for 18 years. I know. But as far as I can tell it is not possible for us to still be alive without a WHOLE LOT OF GOODNESS having been present around us then and now.
In some ways I have a very Dr. Spock logical brain. What I am saying is simply LOGICAL common sense to me. I am going on 61 in August. I have worked very very very very hard to learn about myself what I now know. And I now know that I can go back through the corridors of my life now – walking – no STRIDING with confidence all the way back – because I have cleared out all the garbage of my childhood that really belonged to all the adults in my family (as I have written about on this blog).
This work was hard. But what I refused to let the abuse of my life take from me was my RIGHT to HAVE my own self in my own life — however I experience that self. I don’t buy the crap that was not mine.
If I could remember what I titled those earlier posts I would put links to them here – but I don’t have a clue. I know there are readers that go back through the growing list of archival posts at the right side of this home page. Every reader will have some kind of reaction inside of their own self to everything I say – and it is in THOSE REACTIONS that your own truth lies.
We have suffered gloom – but we are never gloom ourselves.
Yesterday I spent a wonderful day with a dear friend of mine who understands me probably better than anyone else outside of my dear family that I have ever known. Yet in spite of the glory of my day yesterday – I often noticed that on some level I felt as if I had just cried for hours and hours and hours…..
Many of you know that feeling — what it feels like to have cried so long and so hard you never thought the crying would stop. What you feel like AFTER that – it’s a kind of hangover that for severe early abuse, neglect and trauma survivors NEVER REALLY GOES AWAY.
After many years of educating myself about my ‘condition’ I nearly always recognize now that negative emotional states as I feel them in the present have nothing really to do with what is going on in the present. My body was built out of these kinds of feeling states – and they remain a part of me on the physiological level.
BUT – as with yesterday – I could carry on – as it were – ‘two conversations’ with myself at the same time. One was of the glorious loving friendship sharing adventure day that WAS my day yesterday. The other was a very gentle and kind recognition of the deep, deep what I now call PERENNIAL sadness that is so much a part of my body.
All I really had to do was to HONOR that due to the complexities of my entire life, I live a complex life – I am a complex person – and part of me can be very happy and relaxed AT THE SAME TIME another part of me is barely above the surface of such deep and terrible REAL sadness.
I HAVE cried – especially as a child – for many many many thousands of hours. Uncensored, genuine, appropriate, tears and tears and tears because I WAS HURT!
I honor that reality in myself – but I wish to experience in my present life ANOTHER REALITY as well. If I end up feeling BOTH realities at the same time – so be it.
But I WILL NOT let the sadness – or any other strong survival-related emotion – steal from me what joy I can tap into NOW as I live the best life I can.
Not perfect – not fair – not…… whatever we can add into and onto this list.
BUT – there is MORE to life and far more to us. We have a choice at every moment, not that any of us can make this choice perfectly, to find something good and true and right and beautiful NOW.
As we do this we can increasingly understand that we have ALWAYS done this — even through all of the terrible times of trauma in the past. We have ALWAYS been able to find joy somewhere, somehow.
As children we did this automatically and instinctively. As adults we most often need to make a choice to continue to do what we did so well as children — continue to live our own life of goodness no matter WHAT else was going on at times during our life that was so hurtful to us.
I fell into the trap during my 2 massage sessions that today right now I am getting myself out of. The therapist wanted me to find a way around the bramble bush that appeared to me – to make it go away – to escape it – whatever…….
No. I honor that bramble bush – and it is my personal and very special task to examine my relationship with that bramble bush – my way. This is a kind of making-peace with all of me, all of my life, that lets me at times live more than one life at the same time. I see nothing wrong with this — being happy AND sad at the same time!! The sadness does not need to be gone in order for me to – at the same time – be experiencing joy at the same time.
Perhaps this I am looking into a different meaning of wholeness…..
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