Sunday, June 22, 2014. It is time for me to write something, no matter how incomplete and inadequate I may feel my writing to be. I doubt many stop along the way to document in written words what their experience of rappelling a cliff side feels like in mid-climb. Or in mid fall because falling is what I felt like yesterday. Free falling into a bottomless well or falling helpless over a cliff as I worked to grab anything I could find to hold onto to stop my fall.
I called good friends who know, love, accept and understand me best because they, too, live under the effects of lifelong consequences of severe early abusive trauma. They offer me a kind of rescuing. This rescuing comes from them helping me to verbally describe what I am feeling at the same time I work to clarify triggers for my feelings of deep distress both in my current life and in my past so I can begin to fit puzzle pieces together of a picture where I can feel more solid again. More cohesive. Less desperately fragmented and far less hopelessly lost.
Over a decade ago one of my sisters recognized how good things happening in my present life can themselves be directly tied to trauma in my childhood. She knows what my childhood was like. She was there even though she lived with my other siblings in the “good” world our psychotic Borderline Personality Disorder mother’s mind created for everyone else in our family to live in except me.
So I am today calming down enough within — becoming more oriented, my thoughts more organized — to pick up the knowledge and truth in that puzzle piece to identify that during this past week when my baby (who is 29) was here visiting a hotbed of good experiences directly shook up my inner trauma-built reality — because he had to leave. (It had been five years since I had seen all three of my children together. This was the first time I was able to see my son with his nephews.)
My son has gone home over 1500 miles away from here and such a wake of massive sadness in me arose to greet his departure I became nearly swallowed up whole by the tidal force of its power to disrupt what is now always my fragile — and vulnerable — equilibrium.
Overload and overwhelm. How familiar that feeling is to me from my 19-year insanely abusive childhood (from birth).
Absolutely NOTHING stood between infant-child me and the force of the violent, brutal, on-going abusive rage and hatred of Mother toward me. Any solace I found, any break of temporary reprieve I ever found was generated by me inside my own young body-brain-mind. And then always my inner sense of fragile equilibrium would be exploded again by yet another insanely abusive attack my Mother. I then had no choice but to pass through those times being obliterated as a person on every level but my suffering through what she forced me to endure on a daily basis. This pattern usually happened to me many times a day and often during the worst of Mother’s rage-filled storms for days, weeks and even for months on end.
Raising my three children — an occupation that took the span of 35 years of my adulthood due to their age spacing until all three had reached age 18 — somehow miraculously stabilized and solidified me. When my youngest left home ten years ago my world really did crumble, disintegrate and fall apart and I never saw it coming. I did not (because I could not?) prepare myself to lose myself at my children’s leaving the nest I did everything in my power to create and sustain for THEM.
Yes, the trail my children had to take through their childhoods had to follow the tangle of me trying to make my way in a world I can never understand and was profoundly and absolutely NEVER prepared to live in. But being a mother centered on raising my children to be whole, healthy and happy was the glue I used to keep me in my own life together.
I knew none of this consciously. And there seems to be an infinite number of levels to awareness. As I told my dear friend yesterday as soon as my son returned home from his visit here I was plunged again into a boiling cauldron of powerful, trauma-created emotions (being conveyed to me through my super-charged right limbic brain centers).
Love coupled with joy overwhelmed by sorrow.
This is what my body knows and it inextricably combines my past with my present. The speed, the force, the power of right-brain-fed emotions to disintegrate any cohesive sense I have of myself moving through time in my life is as stunning as it is unimaginably devastating.
Dr. Allan N. Schore writes about the neurobiology of early infant rapid right brain development that takes place through the infant-mother attachment relationship as the mother literally, according to Schore, downloads her right limbic brain into her infant’s rapidly forming right limbic brain. Face-to-face extremely rapid interactions create and sustain this infant brain building process. (Google search the terms “schore mother infant attachment stop the storm” for background information.)
Because in the past 24 months of my life (I am approaching my 63rd birthday) I have finally achieved the most bedrock understanding of how Mother’s hatred of me was entirely created and sustained by the psychotic workings of her sick m ind, I am learning how absolutely devastating to my own efforts to live a balanced life the impact of her psychosis was and will always be to me.
There was NO SANITY in Mother’s interactions with me from the first breath I took. Oddly enough it was during my drumming lesson with my most professional teacher yesterday afternoon that I was stunningly presented with one of the most fundamental effects of the abusive trauma I suffered as it continues to impact me.
I marched my feeling broken and most sad self the mile walk to lesson, sat down across from Brett in that tiny sound-proofed practice room with the drum pad stand between us — both of us with our drum sticks gripped in our hands. Arms raised in the beginning classical drumming position. And the freezing began for me.
My teacher is amazing. I chose to tell him some of what I was experiencing because he asked (and I could tell he could hear me). I WILLED myself to bring my hands down, each in their own time, slow sticks to the practice pad head. As if I could BEAT my way forward and through and free of the trauma triggered block I was trapped by and within.
A few strokes of each hand later and my left hand froze in midair and would NOT move. I was staring forward directly across the pad into Brett’s eyes as I spoke the words that formed at that instant in my mind: “It is not safe to force my left hand into motion at this time. Doing so activates my right brain which is currently overloaded with emotion. I have to let it rest. It is not at all wise to further stimulate my right brain by left had movements at this time.”
I saw nothing in Brett’s eyes but complete calmness and acceptance of what I was saying. He held our gaze and what immediately happened for me next felt like an instantaneous opening of a tunnel or a channel through time directly to myself as a very young child. This sensation then changed into a fast-forward in time until I was around age six or seven.
As I stared into Brett’s eyes — the only physical action I could muster at that time — a profound awareness came to me both in feeling and in words within my mind: “Oh my God! What I survived! HOW IN GOD’S NAME WAS I EVER ABLE TO LEARN ANYTHING?”
Dr. Martin Teicher’s research (Google search the terms “stop the storm teicher article” for more information) describe’s from the top down what kinds of brain changes happen during traumatic infant and childhood development. I know that what I experienced so clearly yesterday in that lesson was a living example of what that trauma altered brain development feels like for my right limbic (emotional) brain hemisphere, my left (rational) brain hemisphere and for my trauma-altered corpus callosum region that transmits and integrates information between brain hemispheres — as I try to live my life under these circumstances.
The freezing of motion in my left arm and hand was clearly intended to PROTECT my right brain — and through that protection to protect and preserve the integrity of ME.
It seems, then, that when life in my childhood overloaded me that the horror of the forced isolation and stationary solitary confinement patterns that were a part of Mother’s ongoing psychotic abuse of me were necessary to my own survival of everything Mother did to me. The truth of this seems so darkly bizarre in its essential consequences that no part of my rational thinking processes can grasp it. How could it be that something as horrible as this isolation and solitary confinement I was forced to endure throughout my childhood in between horrendous beatings and attacks HAVE BEEN GOOD FOR ME?
In fact it appears most likely they were required by me so that my body-brain-self could in some way recuperate enough to go on living.
What I see today is that I am a miracle of survival. I need not berate myself for needing to have QUIET times within which my entire self on every level can recuperate enough to settle down from the extremes of stimulation that happen for me just by being alive (AKA PTSD, etc.) My life has to be very simple and as clear as possible from unforeseen events that can so easily topple my inner balance — that has grown to be more and more fragile the older I become.
It seems I have nearly maxed out my bank of inner resources. My son is fine. All three of my children are fine. I could not be happier for them!
I, on the other hand….
I am a special needs case. I am continually learning more about what that means. All I know today – right now – is that most gratefully I have yet once again stopped falling.
Not that everyone isn’t special. Just that truth and fairness indicate that severe early abusive trauma survivors live a special kind of life in a special kind of trauma-altered body that requires a special kind of knowledge to facilitate anything like smooth passage through life.
We are the only ones who really know what living “in here” is like. There is very little we can take for granted. Yet we do have shimmering glimmers of light rippling across pure waters just as we do sometimes have hard times of darkness. At this moment I am most grateful I am seeing glimmers and I hope the same for you.
PS. I am practicing drumming again – most gently so when that need appears.
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