Monday, September 16, 2013. My nervous system (including my brain) was formed by abusive trauma not with the state of peaceful calm at its center through safe and secure attachment but rather with the state of frantic panic at its center. The older I get the more I know about what this means to me – and I suspect also to other severe early trauma survivors.
Given enough pressure over time – no matter how well we survivors put ourselves together so we could endure, survive and continue to function as we moved forward through our lives – if we had no safe and secure early attachment with anyone as infants/children our trauma altered physiology will appear eventually in such clear ways that we cannot avoid being forced to cope not only with the stresses of our adult life but also moment to moment in our conscious felt experience with what happened to us through an early life of trauma.
Whew! That was one long sentence! Our state of frantic terror that we knew as infants and young children has never left us!
Call it Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), anxiety, depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – whatever labels and “diagnosis” we use – we know what the disorientation, disorganization, and dysregulation of our entire being FEELS like – frantic panic. Yes, when these states appear our experience of being alive is not one of well-being. The worse our current distress/stress is in life the more our body and our entire nervous system will restore itself to this natural state for us.
Infants, young toddlers and very young children rely upon their adult caregivers to help not harm them. I know that every time I was attacked (frequently) by my psychotically vicious mother when I was little (from birth) my entire reality shattered at that instant as I was forced into frantic panic. I had no comprehension of what was happening to me and I had no options to prevent, escape or stop these attacks. My entire physiology followed this trauma survival track.
Nobody protected or soothed me. Nobody cared how I felt or about the harm being done to me and to my physiological development that has lasted my lifetime.
I did stay alive and I was able to fool everyone including myself for nearly 50 years that “It wasn’t really THAT bad. I am strong. I could take it. Now those 18 years of horrendous abuse are over and I came through it OK.”
I am NOT OK! I have never been OK! At 62 I no longer have any inner resources in reserve to convince anyone, certainly not myself, that the lie of OK that formed with me at its center was/is true. I live at that edge of frantic panic and I always have. I was not born this way. Early severe abusive trauma MADE me this way.
Perhaps it is because of “my condition” that I might need more than most others can comprehend of helpful, soothing, calming, competent, patient, wise people who TRULY love me in a circle around me. I can no longer pretend or fool anyone that I am OK. People who love me are willing to listen to me and to learn right along with me how my experience of being alive is sometimes quite difficult to deal with. People who love me — love me anyway.
These safe and secure attachment relationships are able to externally support, nurture and reinforce me, and even create substitutes for what my own body did not ever have a chance to create within itself as I grew up: An alternative to my deepest, oldest, truest inner state of frantic frenetic panic.
I was left from birth and throughout my childhood in vast periods where that is all I felt. This kind of chronic terror eroded me from the inside. While my essential self was able to endure intact the body my self has to live this life within has nearly reached the end of its coping rope.
It’s really hard to create and sustain a beautiful life under these conditions but I refuse to think it is impossible yet I MUST have an attachment family/village to interact with. I say “family” but I do not mean these people have to be our genetic relations though I am so fortunate to be able to include my own family as the core of my village. I must, however, go through this major move to be physically close to at least some of them – my daughters and my little grandsons.
Frantic panic, the horrible unending result of an over-stressed natural startle response while a young one’s nervous system is developing, is the antithesis of well-being. These days it is often my overriding chore to hold it at bay – in some way – or I become paralyzed. When frantic frenetic panic has my body in its grip I cannot think, choose, decide or act. Being so frozen in hell will not get me where I want to go or be.
Courage, determination, patience, hope and willingness. I must believe in GOOD possibilities in spite of what my body tells me. But I cannot create the sense of safety and security I need — alone.
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