Tuesday, September 9, 2014. Today is Day 4 of a collection of thoughts as I will post them here in the order they were handwritten:
I think a lot about depression, both my own and that of those around me who are “medicating” theirs. I know mine has been a part of me since I was a very young child. The only way I could survive the trauma of Mother’s continual abuse was to do nothing else but — survive it. Now I know she was psychotically mentally ill. This made her insanely unpredictable and insanely violent and dangerous to me.
From birth any response I could have had to utilize the energy of any “fight” reaction to her was forced into inactivity or else she would have killed me. Of that fact I have no doubt. I was alone in a hopeless, horrible situation — helpless in my own defense — for the first 18 years of my life from birth.
My depression has always been directly due to the situation of trauma that built itself into my developing physiology.
Yesterday the term “situational depression” appeared in my thoughts as if it were a massive tree planted in the center of my reality. My response was, “Yes. That’s what this is that I live and breath nearly all of the time.”
Most of my current “situation” amplifies the depression I already lived with before I left Arizona to move back to Fargo, North Dakota last October. Poverty. Tiny cramped apartment with completely inadequate windows and light. City which has never been good for me. Noise. Light pollution. Lack of privacy and of natural beauty. Not to mention the horrible long winters and the cumulative, disabling consequences of the severe early trauma. None of these things HELP me feel better about anything.
One can only step forward into each day making choices care-full-ly with good intent and then try one’s best to carry through.
I also think a lot about anxiety. (Depression itself is an anxiety disorder.) One can certainly be born with a body that contains more than enough anxiety within it, even so much so that the best safe and secure, loving attachment from birth cannot create a calm, tranquil, peaceful reality for such a young one. Attachments cannot, then, necessarily provide the safety necessary for the entire progression of “best possible” emotional regulation or social interplay to develop in such a child.
I am just now learning this. Such a child would end up with all of the “symptoms” of an insecure attachment disorder because the body can never bypass that super-built-in anxiety. Nor could the best attachment ever alleviate the anxiety. Attachment systems would essentially fail as surely as if there was trauma in early relationships themselves. This “trauma in the body” would leave such a little one perpetually living in a dangerous world because the anxiety “says” this is so. There would never be any safety or security.
Patterns in the nervous system and in the stress response system: Underactivation. Overactivation. Meet in the middle? Where is the true peaceful calm? Without this, where is there ever an opportunity for true playfulness?
Failed attachment is failed attachment, no matter the source or cause. There is too much we don’t currently know about causes and consequences of alterations in how our attachment systems and all their related physiology form and operate.
I would simply say that all experiences in our environment forward from conception are forming the physiological selfhood of everyone prior to the conscious autobiographical remembering self’s appearance. By the time we can consciously trace our self in our life the physiology that does this experiencing and its remembrance has been created.
At the same time it is critical to realize that every change from what is an optimal safe and secure attachment of the growing self impacts all development as an ongoing process. We do not escape the forces that form us even though the most important ones are owned in and by our body out of range from consciousness UNTIL WE LEARN as much as we possibly can about those forces as they probably existed for us from the earliest moments of our life. It may then be possible to mitigate some of the attachment failure physiological influences as they profoundly complicate our lives.
The kicker, I suppose, is how we respond to stressors. That includes how we detect them in the first place. Life is about change. Change ques systems in our body to attend and assess. How much of what kind of attention is in our response? I suspect this information passes for most of us as emotional reaction.
What do we notice and how? What then happens to any equilibrium we may have achieved before a detected change occurred?
As I age as a long-term early severe trauma survivor my thinking becomes simpler. Serious insecure attachment repercussions for me are so intimately connected in my physiology to PTSD I have begun to wonder if there is any earthly part of me that is ever NOT under the seemingly identical discomfort of a reaction from both of them to all change I experience. I therefore have to be very, very careful of what influences me.
My life simply is this continual battle to try to find some kind of equilibrium as I live in a world of constant change. Very little in my physiology except for basic operations ever finds rest. True rest is about safety in the world. I never had enough of that as my body formed to even really know what it is.
I have a trauma formed body. My self does not have any other body to experience life with.
I live with chronic, continual anxiety. It interferes with every aspect of my life.
A chronically “ON” attachment system operates in a kind of infinity loop with a chronically “ON” stress response system. Some combination of survival emotions of anger>fear>sadness are nearly always in motion. There is so little rest. Little peace. Little playfulness. Little true joy.
We are enslaved to our body as it has been created, changed through severe early trauma, as it knows one thing and one thing only: DANGER threatens SURVIVAL.
Continual application of the powers of the mind in attempt to counteract this “mess” are TIRING! Always the other signals compete for our attention. And always some version of survival emotions and their demands upon us are present.
This all combines to make our being alive — WORK!!
What keeps a seed alive? They don’t LOOK alive. Take any dried bean you can buy from a bin or in a bag. There it is.
Pass the bean down through the generations. Five hundred years from now if the bean has been stored properly it could be planted and up will rise another crop, same as the last.
I don’t know scientifically what the secret is inside a seed. Inside something as simple as a plain old bean. But whatever lies encased in mystery and miracle must be inside of me. No claim to fame. Humble of origin. Yet here I am. And I am viable.
Every day I have to remember this. No matter what storms of feeling or thought swirl and tumble me along through life I hold within me something intangible. Some kind of hope. Some kind of miracle.
And it keeps me going because I trust that. I AM that. I am so much more than what I appear to myself or to others. I am a part of something so much bigger.
To ask why any of this matters is to ask why I matter. I guess right here is where, for me, the line of faith lies. It’s where I have no answers. My faith is that there ARE answers. Gone ones, too. Ones that would make perfect sense to me if I knew them.
And then my faith — which must be very elastic — stretches further as I stand across from myself and say, “Just be patient. More will be revealed. If not in this lifetime then in the next one. Hang on.”
There are those of us who have lived through hell and beyond it. Even with what Dr. Martin Teicher says — formed in a malevolent world for life in the same — we DID find our way into a more benevolent world.
And yes, we are a mismatch as Teicher states, for this “other” world.
But what world, I ask, is a seed’s best world? Once it sprouts — where is its “seed self?”
Dead and gone? Or transformed?
This article contains the most important information that survivors especially of INFANT-TODDLER maltreatment need to know:
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 27 (2003) 33-44
Martin H. Teicher, Susan L. Andersen, Ann Polcari, Carl M. Anderson, Carryl P. Navalta, Dennis M. Kim
“In our hypothesis, postnatal neglect or other maltreatment serves to elicit a cascade of stress responses that organizes the brain to develop along a specific pathway selected to facilitate reproductive success and survival in a world of deprivation and strife. This pathway, however, is costly as it is associated with an increased risk of developing serious medical and psychiatric disorders and is unnecessary and maladaptive in a more benign environment. [page 39 – found by clicking on article title above]
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