The problem with mental illness is that we pull ourselves away from people. I do this on a regular basis. One reason I write about what’s going on in my head in particular, is so other people might trip over my post and know they are not alone. Because, sadly, we are not. There are so many people in the US who have suffered severe abuse as children and are now trying to figure out how to navigate life without the skills they think everyone around them must have.
In The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes that child abuse is an epidemic in America. Those of us who were abused might realize this, but we might not. We usually feel very alone in our suffering because no one likes to talk about trauma, let alone childhood trauma. But all around us are people whose parents had no idea what they were doing because our species is not smart enough to figure out that parenting is something you learn, it is not instinctual. And when you learn it from your abusive parents, it is a never-ending cycle.
I’m not really sure if I have the time to keep something up on a daily basis, but I want to write when I can about at least one struggle I have each day. My hope is that, like the book has done for me, I can help someone feel normal. I do not intend to save anyone. I am certainly no licensed anything. I am just a person trying to live with the flashbacks and the social awkwardness created from living in survival mode for 50 years.
By this afternoon, I had nothing left to give. I couldn’t say why, and I became worried. Since my breakdown, I am constantly vigilant about anything that might indicate it is happening again.
However, since I started reading the book, I have learned that all these little things I go through each day are perfectly normal reactions to everything I have experienced in my life. Nothing I feel is wrong or faulty. There is nothing wrong with me. Still, today I worried.
It was around 7pm when I began to run through my list of reasons why I might feel this way. My instinctual thought was all the people. People can be a trigger for me. My family is very cruel and one thing they love to do is talk poorly about every single person they interact with. At family gatherings, as soon as you leave the room, they will start saying insults behind your back. But they will smile at you when you return. I do not miss them.
As a result of living with that for over 30 years, I live in fear of what anyone I was just talking to might say. I am certain that everyone hates me, because everyone in my family hates everyone. There is nothing anyone can do about it. They just hate people and treat them like garbage. When you grow up with that, it’s how you think everyone is.
But everyone is not like that. It’s taken me over 50 years to be able to accept that. Most of that acceptance has to do with my decision to go back to school. My college and my job at the college are such supportive environments that it has helped me begin to trust again.
I mulled over the idea that I was worried about the people and what I’d said to them, and I realized, and it was a surprise, that it was not that at all. For a change, it was just normal mental exhaustion.
On Saturday I took the kids to Walnut Creek and we hiked for a while. Then we went to Bonelli so Roger could play at Stonehenge and one of the other playgrounds. On Sunday morning, we did yard work. Then I drove J out to LA for her support group.
Also, my tire had a slow leak and that was a stress because there is nothing like being in North Hollywood, in the dark, hoping the petrol station the map pointed you to has an air machine, then finding out it only takes quarters and you have barely any coins on you. Such fun.
There were a number of stresses that were specific to the weekend, and there are a number of stresses that are ongoing, like where are we going to end up when I graduate? How will we pay the bills? Will the kids be able to go to college right away? And about five million normal things that are bound to drag you down.
One thing I’m trying to watch for right now is if this lull in my anxiety is just from reading the book, and am I transferring those feelings to another emotion, like anger or depression? That is often what happens.
This is a difficult thing to manage on my own. But I have yet to find a therapist who is trauma informed and affordable–ie free. The ones who are affordable seem to be perfectly content to try to force their version of salvation on me, whether that is meditation or shame or whatever else their issue is. As I said when I first discussed the book, most therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists cannot handle severe trauma and instead of finding a way to help the traumatized patient, they protect themselves by dismissing the patient’s feelings and experiences. It’s not right, but it is very normal.
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