+BIGGER-THAT-LIFE STORIES OF TRAUMA

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I think it’s rare for someone who does not have an abuse history that began at their birth (or even before when traumatic influences affected their life in the womb) to understand why “everyone” can’t move forward in their life leaving abuse and trauma in the past.  Certainly the center for Disease Control’s research on the lifelong problems created for survivors of multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences is helping to dispel the myth that ever being able to escape severe early trauma is possible.

Blissful statements made to survivors that belie the facts about how traumatic stress and the permanent distress it creates especially in babies and toddlers during the most physiological formative stages of life only serve to further hurt these survivors, not help them.

Without the power that the pristine forces of Alaska had to sustain and heal me I would not be able to work my way through the telling of my abuse story.  I know now that even though I lived long enough to escape the cauldron of hell I was raised in, there was no possible way I could simply scoot off into some glorious new future free of the effects my 18 years of traumatic abuse had on me.  Nor was there anyone standing to greet me as I walked from the jet plane that had taken me from Anchorage to Baltimore on my way to Naval boot camp the day of my escape who was interested in debriefing me from the horrific life I had lived up until that moment.

I have always been left to accomplish that task on my own, and here I am 44 years later debriefing myself as I do this writing.  I think about the millions of people who have not been able to get this far.  Those whose sickness inherited from their family was never preserved in any kind of spoken, written or photographic record of any kind.  Their record lies only in their broken heart, the shambled record of their own broken life, in tears, rage — and most clearly of all, in their confusion as they lack any ability to comprehend how what was done to them hurt even the body they live in.

Where are the stories these people deserve to tell?  Given the gift of Mother’s writings and of the pictures she took along the way of my childhood as all this was preserved, I am creating a story to share with others whose lives stretch out behind, within, and ahead of them — broken.

Left without words our trauma stories tell themselves out in the dramatic patterns of trauma reenactments that so few can recognize for what they are.  My mother lived her trauma drama as she sucked her family helplessly into her wake.  Sleep walking.  Sometimes sleep racing her way through the years of my childhood my parents created all the stages our shared drama played itself out on and in.

Without insight.  Truth buried so deeply within Mother about how hurt she had always been as a child that it could not be brought even into her mind.  Anywhere.

The patterns in the cycles of her moves do appear in the words of her writings.  Each of her moves were unconsciously designed to alleviate her hidden pain, frustration, confusion and even her rage that was so big she could not find a way to give it all to me no matter how hard she tried.  She was fed and sustained by the unseen truths of her life as a child that remained out of sight because they had been transformed into lies.

Perhaps if Mildred had remained living in the same place long enough the buried lies about how wonderful her childhood had been would have begun to crawl up through the floorboards making themselves known when they accumulated in corners and cupboards.  Creeping and crawling around under the soles of her feet, shoes on or not, so when she got up to walk from one room to another they would have skittered out and chased her around as she — what?

Ignored them?  Blamed their existence on me?

Move.  Move again fast.  Always moving for one (really) insane reason or another.  Packing and unpacking boxes to make sure the bugs didn’t follow her that way.  Cleaning.  Scrubbing.  Polishing.  Shining.  Ironing out creases in fabrics to make sure not even the eggs — or — heaven forbid — certainly no larvae could exist to grow into the truth buried in the lies that would not stay put when she left them behind.  To move yet again.

Parts of Mildred’s truth always ran on ahead of her, waiting for some other door to be unlocked with yet another clean key.  Would she have cringed, would she have cried or screamed had she realized her truth had even found its way into the words of her letters to be preserved even in those boxes she taped and taped shut?

Hiding them away inside her storage lockers, these truths show themselves to me now long after her death.  I can see them.  I know where they are.  I am not afraid to let them out or to let them live through the minds of all the people who can finally read them.

One story.  One long, complicated and buried story come to life, come to light, somehow in these words.

A blended shared story that lives past Mildred.  That will live past me.  As unambiguously as I can tell it.  Will some parts of the trauma heal itself when the bigger context of the story appears through words?  What can be learned through the voice of trauma that speaks thus loudly for all the children whose suffering lies underground, under pavement, under solid or creaking porches where families have come and gone, beyond the ordinary spectrums of what we like to believe childhood is all about?

Trauma only wants to teach us that beyond all the barriers we might construct to pretend it isn’t there, it really is there.  In our bodies, those who lived it from before a single word had crossed their lips, at that threshold where lies become truth — or the other way around.

Those who suffer and are kept in silence rise again generation after generation.  Somewhere along the lines of time we can choose to stop and listen.  What trauma has to teach cannot be outrun, cannot be abandoned through the ignorant choices of the many who leave the hurt ones to suffer in silence yet again within another generation.

Mildred ran to recover something she lost in her childhood.  She didn’t know that what she yearned for had never actually existed in the first place.  For those of us who have suffered from abuse and trauma since we were born, we are not on a recovery road.  We will never be able to find again what we never had in the first place.

Nay.  Ours is rather an ongoing journey of discovery.  Ours is a creation of a better life, not a recreation.  We do not know ease.  We do not know solace.  Ours has always been a story whose central question has yet to be answered, “What’s the point to any of this?”

We will not know what we need to know, not any of us, until we begin to link our stories together into one that lets us know that what we live is a story bigger than any single life.  Bigger-than-life stories have to be shared and told together.  We must create one big story of infant and child abuse that can no longer be shunned.  No longer ignored or misplaced or misunderstood.

We are a social species.  We are designed this way.

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6 thoughts on “+BIGGER-THAT-LIFE STORIES OF TRAUMA

  1. I have one advantage, and that advantage is knowledge.I know that I’m not to blame, I know that I can’t change the way I exist.I know that there’s no way i can live and carry on like I don’t have RAD.I have to lower my expectations of myself and remove myself from anymore trauma.I can’t take on another trauma altered individual- this means my husband has to go.He’s projecting his shame on to me, he’s hiding his shame by thrusting my problems out there for all to know.A normal loving spouse would protect and nurture a wounded spouse, he thrusts me out there for everyone to point fingers at.Typical shame behavior.My body and mind can’t tolerate him anymore.I’m actually at risk of dying…I’ve been binge eating, banging my head against the wall, sticking Q tips in my ears..I can’t handle all the shame he’s tossing my way.He makes me question my existence everyday..what kind of childhood did he have?His father molested me, his mother was mentally challenged..NO NURTURING WHATSOEVER!I would be ashamed of my existence if I were him.I would feel vile and disgusting after all, he was a violent, loner, dirty little boy…( so he told me).Its scary.Its a pretty bleak picture I’m painting.

    • Do you ever think that there’s a world after this one, a world of soul, that provides recompense in very special ways for innocents that have suffered from abuse and oppression? I do.

  2. My trauma doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the human race!It takes one bad bird to ruin the whole flock…we are a collective, you’re absolutely correct! I could go through my whole family history past 10 generations and regardless of who and where I’m from we all started in the same flock.I was born with potential, I was born with the potential to have empathy!It’s very similar to a flock of geese – one flies out of formation others are sure to follow!! The human race shares trauma..we can’t dump it on one particular person! I can’t demonize my mother – who was her demon?It all comes back to the fact that we are designed to fly together; so it stands to reason that we share trauma.

    I also believe that once you’re trauma altered, there’s no turning back, there’s no “healing”…I’m just flying in a different flock.You can’t re-create being in the womb or that eternal bond with another human being! So,my existence is totally different. My life is trauma altered. I fly with trauma altered .My flock isn’t the ideal way to exist- but it’ll have to do.I’m living with a narcissist.I’m a pathetic loser, I’m a liar and a bad mother. I’m the reason why we’re losing everything, I allowed my grandfather to molest me, I’m the reason why everyone is gone from our lives…AGAIN, the blame/shame game, NDP are notorious for dumping their shame.Horribly abusive man and I’m married to him!This is who I surround myself with.I don’t feel human… I’ve always questioned my humanity.Am I a human being?What is the point of living like this?Yeah, what is the point?!I merely exist.I’m never totally in my body, I can’t control my emotions, I don’t feel connected to anyone or thing…I’m a piece of meat and I’m chronically abused.Everyday, every hour, min, second I feel empty, lost and desperate, desperate for it all to end.Every morning I wake up alone ( I sleep alone in a basement), I get up and see evidence of human activity ( kids have packed their lunches and ate breakfast).Sorrow overwhelms me because I can’t get out of that “Neither World”..sleep just blends into dissociation.Where am I?Why is everyone living and carrying on without me?What’s the date? Where are the kids?Obviously they made it on the bus…but I didn’t feel any kisses on my cheek this am?Confusion and despair set in and I lie in bed, I leave the world AGAIN

  3. Dear Linda,

    I think that there are some pretty significant reasons that telling our stories is sometimes quite difficult…

    WAY back in time, when I first began searching for answers and balms for my emotional distresses by exploring various psychological & psychotherapeutic models…

    While exploring TA (Transactional Analysis) I encountered a few ideas that have stayed with me for years.

    One was the concept of “The 3 P’s.”

    One of the TA people (don’t remember the name now) suggested that for psychotherapy to be successful, the therapist needed to embody three qualities: Permission, Protection, and Potency.

    Permission
    …to explore potentially dangerous territories: memories of family circumstances, secrets and dysfunctions that may be under heavy taboos against being revealed (like the “Don’t talk, don’t think, don’t feel” rules many Recovery-based programs identify).

    Protection
    …from being attacked from within by parts of us that are fearful of the consequences of revealing things that are ‘supposed to be concealed’ (some therapies and spiritual teachings use the term ‘superego’ – TA talked about the ‘Critical Parent’ part that was presumed to be introjected parental criticisms and judgements).

    Potency
    …the psychotherapist (or minister, priest, or other person being turned to for support) must communicate to the person seeking help, by their presence, that they are a powerful and trustworthy enough ally. They need to be very attuned to signals that the client is, or isn’t, feeling safe enough to dive deeply enough into their own experience to really connect with it.

    I’m going to explore each of these at greater length later. For now I just want to suggest that these are qualities that close friends and compadres can provide for each other. I’ve always liked the term ‘simpatico…’

    Love, Sandy

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