Life can initiate huge changes in people’s lives without giving as much warning as the earth gets before a lightning bolt slams into it bringing life-sustaining nitrogen to the soil. While it would be traumatic for a human to be so bolted, the earth never winces. I have had the equivalent of a lightning bolt hit me in my life and I never saw it coming.
Or did I?
I find myself increasingly using the term Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) to describe HOW I am in my body in the world. Because so few “professionals” even recognize this disorder passing through childhood and into and through adulthood for survivors of severe early abuse, neglect and trauma I find myself tempted to throw “insecure” into the mix making this term as it applies to me into Reactive Insecure Attachment Disorder or RIAD. But for my purposes today I will stick simply to RAD.
I did not anticipate that when my older brother came to visit me on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 and left on Tuesday, March 5th that my life would blow up in my face. Now I know all the signs and clues were in place within me for this internal storm I am now in the midst of to hit me in exactly the way that they did. Someone more astute than I have been would have predicted that what did happen would have happened.
If I didn’t suffer from RAD nothing about me in my life would be as things are. That other ME would have read the tea leaves in the cup of personal significance and meaning and would have been proactively prepared rather than reactively triggered by recent events as they have tumbled over me. But, no. Here I am in the center of my own reactive storm whose resolution is going to tax every possible inner and outer resource available to me — and then a whole lot more.
I first arrived in Fargo, North Dakota in December 1971 to visit a friend who had returned home. I had met her in San Diego in September 1970 right after my 19th birthday. It would take several riotous, complicated chapters of a book yet to be written to describe all I had lived through between those two dates I just mentioned. Oh, what a troubled life I had lived already by the time I reached the flat shores of the long gone Ice Age Lake Agassiz that bosoms Fargo.
I had experienced nothing in my life up until that point that had not been an ongoing reaction to trauma from the moment I was born. In June 1972 I moved with my 18-month-old daughter to Fargo and began yet another long series of trauma-based reactivity patterns that should have left me broken into millions of incomprehensible pieces of a human being.
But, no. I endure, survived and reacted through a divorce, more relocations, another marriage, birth of two more children, another divorce and move after move after move as one rotten boat I climbed into with my children after another fell apart and sunk leaving me (and my children) paddling for the next available shore.
In this nutshell movie-trailer account of RAD-me in my life I arrived down here with my 8th grader son in the gorgeous high desert area of southeastern Arizona in November 1999. I still had upheavals and difficult changes to make it through. In March 2004 my youngest left home for the Air Force leaving me alone at 52 for the first time since I was pregnant at 18.
It is this ALONE part that loops around and plugs itself into my brother’s recent visit and what has happened to me since his leaving. At 7:00 pm last Saturday I snubbed out my cigarette intending that it be my last. After 20 smokeless hours I began to cry. When that kind of pain is triggered in me, by RAD takes over and my crying does not stop. I know myself well enough not to fool myself into thinking those kinds of tears are temporary or passing. By 4:00 pm yesterday I was smoking again.
I have lived continuously in this area — content — and in this house — content — for the longest span of time in my entire 62-year life. Yesterday the grand shock hit me that in the terrible sadness of my terrible lonely aloneness I am no doubt going to have to leave here and return yet again to Forsaken Fargo. (Oh do “natives” arise in defense at those words!)
My two daughters and my two grandbabies are there. I am here, 1700 miles away. They are not moving no matter how hard the frigid winter winds blow.
If the building blocks (as I see things) of a non-trauma built person’s life get knocked down, if such an ordinary person’s dominoes begin to tumble, they could say, “Oh, no!” True, everyone’s life has tough spots — for some, unbelievably tough spots!
If this happens to a RAD person something additional happens. In our reactivity the falling blocks and dominoes are likely to disappear. By definition we (I) do not have an internal safe and secure response system that reacts to stress, distress and trauma in ordinary ways that might allow for hope of a smooth ability to put the pieces of life back together again. Repairing ourselves and our lives can be a most difficult process.
If I say to an ordinary person, “Sometimes life can be hard,” everyone agrees. But having a body-brain-mind-self built and changed by responses to severe early trauma exposure gives survivors additional levels of difficulty in coping with tough changes that non-trauma-built people will (fortunately for them) never begin to comprehend.
I have made a true home for myself here not only for the first time in my life — but significantly for the ONLY time in my life. I mesh perfectly with the geography, with the climate and with the peaceful quiet tone and pace of this place. I have found and built upon a niche.
But the cold, hard, harsh truth is I cannot endure here being this ALONE. If there was any possible resolution for this problem I would have found it. I would NEVER choose to leave here if I didn’t personally have to. I am a person with a most critical unmet need for ongoing quality relationship based on deep love that cannot be fulfilled in this location.
In all fairness I own the fact that I hate and detest Fargo. I reserve that word hate only for use where it applies for me in powerful ways. I hate the Siberian winters. I hate cold and frigid darkness. I am a mountain woman. I hate flat land. REALLY flat land! I hate cities and city living. I hate being confined within buildings, trapped in a cage.
I have reached the point of being nearly crushed in my unsolvable paradox. Mine is a dilemma literally built of love and hate. I have no delusions that anything more minor is at play or at work inside of me at this moment.
Having my brother come and go smashed into oblivion any more hope that I can find or create any solution to meet the deepest needs of my heart while living here. I have known for a long time that if grandbabies appeared in my family that something drastic would change for me in my life. My oldest grandson is turning 3 today. I am not there to share that party in any way.
I have pondered for years what call of destiny would have transported an Alaskan mountain wilderness girl to the barren-beyond-words (from my perspective) region of the northern prairie. Divine wisdom? Punishment?
There must be a point where reactivity transforms into equitable adjustment to the changes of life, or we could not survive with any quality of life or experience of well-being, let alone of joy. We can call this “making peace” with something (or someone). This process can be difficult. It often is.
Returning to the place of Fargo will send me walking in alien ways upon the shadowy footprints of my so-troubled younger self 40 years ago. There is a level (an opportunity?) for me to make peace with myself in my return to that place. I have to dive into the deepest regions of my soul to follow into the future what feels like a blessed and a cursed decision. I cannot imagine leaving here and not grieving with a homesickness very similar to what I still feel for Alaska.
I have never grieved for Fargo! I do grieve for my loved ones.
I do not live in an immortal body. My soul knows better than to invest my true attachments to material aspects of my existence — and that includes mountains and warm climate. The tests for my soul are meant to grow my spiritual qualities. I wish I could say, “Oh Great!” And mean it!
Perhaps it is exactly this text of my soul that is so narrowing my options. To be a close part of my daughters’ and of my grandsons’ lives is a matter of spiritual significance to me. I am related to and connected with my family through our souls for eternity.
Sooner or later I am destined to leave heat and cold, sunshine and darkness, flat land and rugged terrain behind me. Sooner or later I will leave all this material existence including my body to then live in a world where only those assets of my character as I have chosen pathways and actions that positively impact the growth of my soul will come with me. I cannot alter these forces.
Where my soul calls I will go. I know that. I am scared!
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