Recently, there was an event. An event that led me to some monumental upheaval in my life, and in my mind. Or was it an event? Was it not still, as always, a culmination of both recent and not so recent and unhealed parts of myself coming to the surface? I find myself sitting in front of another therapist, finally willing to look at parts of my life, difficult ugly, and fragile portions of me that I had tried so hard not to acknowledge in many many years. I don’t even know if I possess the ability to try and explain all of these swirling thoughts in my heart and in my mind. But I owe it to myself, and to my readers, to try.
I was instructed to download/order a book by my therapist. A book which would help me better understand why I am the way that I am. Why my mind fires the way that it does. The premise is to “Recognize Patterns, Heal from the past, Create yourself”. Heal from my past? But I thought that I had already done that? Is that not what step work, confession, meetings, sponsorship, fellowship, etc. is all about? It is, but what I have realized in the last month + is that there are parts of me, parts of my past that I hid, even from myself if that even sounds possible.
What is Trauma? Have you ever experienced Trauma? How do you know that it was indeed Trauma, by definition? I personally never really fully understood the meaning of trauma until recently. I was just so used to saying things like “I’ve been through a lot”, or “I’ve had it rough for a long time”. I hadn’t ever really put 2 & 2 together until I was finally able and willing to speak some really ugly, and shameful truths about my life overall.
I suppose that I was so accustomed to chaos, and to surviving trauma, that in my recent years kind of developed a crack pot theory that went something like “I believe that, for some, the simple and basic process of merely growing up and living life, is traumatic.” And that is true, I believe, to an extent. My therapist said something like “Just think about it, the event of simply being born is trauma for some. Going from ‘sleep’ inside your mother’s womb, in the dark, comfort and warm, then seemingly out of no where, BOOM we’re thrust into these blinding lights and our life here on earth has begun.” I can certainly get with that, but what do we as new born babies really process? Or is it mostly shock and awe that we first experience?
It’s very interesting to me, how these ideas and memories have seemingly been unlocked in my brain recently. I suppose that I have adapted to so much over my young 36.5 years here on earth that I have figured out how to protect myself through disassociation and compartmentalization. What’s equally interesting to me, is the way that I have adapted certain “responses” in my repertoire without even designing them, they just sort of happened.
They say that we are products of our environment, which I agree with to some extent, but we also must find a way to not be. We also must find a way to heal, and to overcome the things that we were born into. But for some, that is much easier said than done, and for me, I didn’t even realize until recently, that some of the things that I needed to overcome and heal from even effected me. I guess, I was just continuing on with my life as if I had healed from them, like some type of arrogant survivor of great battles; but the truth is, I never even acknowledged them. I was doing the exact same thing, as I was conditioned to do, that I had always done my entire life. I was stuffing things deep down inside, hoping that nothing would ever “prick” those memories, self medicating, and hiding from it all. But those of us who do not learn or heal from the past, are doomed to fucking repeat it.
The last time I was in therapy was some years ago, and the wonderful lady that I was seeing for my sessions kept using the term “Trauma Repetition”. At the time, and during the sessions when this buzz word would come up I would nod my head in agreement as if I actually had any sort of deep understanding of what this meant. I didn’t, but I think that I am starting to understand it now. Those of us who are familiar with Recovering Addicts/Alcoholics, or have been around anyone who struggles with Mental Health or Substance Abuse have probably heard them say something along the lines of “Oh, I’m really good at bouncing back, I can ‘come up’ with the best of ’em”. But what is that really saying? Is it saying “All I know is the constant cycle of chaos/destruction/trauma, and how to burn things to the ground as a result, then compartmentalize it, dust myself off, and only bounce back as far as my repetition cycle will allow me to, only to go and do it all over again” ? I hope that that makes sense, because I can see it in my mind. And that’s what I’ve known, and done for pretty much all of my life. Trauma Repetition. The idea that I am only truly “Comfortable” in the turmoil, in the chaos, and in the “rebuilding” from said turmoil in some self preserving facade to “prove” (Delude) myself that i have actually made progress, when in fact, nothing deep down inside has actually ever been addressed- because I have never been spurred to actually go deep, go back, and open up those old dusty boxes buried inside my mind.
And what I am starting to realize lately, is that if I/we do not confront those unhealed parts of our childhood, or those painful parts of our adolescence then our current relationships and our current life are the ones who are going to pay the price for that. I think this is what they mean when they say “If we don’t heal from our past wounds, then we will bleed on people who never cut us.” We will bring our maladapted minds and existing internal wounds into our current lives, and still operate on the mechanisms they bring about- like the traumas are happening right before our eyes in real time. Even if it is 20 years later. So if I still possess abandonment trauma, I may live in the fear that my partner is going to leave me. Then I act out in various fear based ways, like being jealous, suspicious, or accusitory. Then when they have finally had enough and end up leaving me over my delusional ways- HA! I KNEW IT! I knew they were just gonna leave anyways, because I am unlovable and no one wants me. Thus reinforcing that trauma cycle and repetition all over again. Interesting.
The traumas that I endured, they seemed to have shaped my mind, and influenced my perspective on things. They very much influenced my ideas of people and of the world. And somehow stripped away my sense of self- my individuality. I suppose because I always felt so invisible and unheard, that I became a traumatized, violated, voiceless, and formless young man who’s only real model of adult behavior was that of addicted, untreated, unhealthy, codependent humans. I had no idea what healthy communication and processing was. I had never experienced real trust and bonding before. The only thing I knew about love, was that if I love someone, then there’s a very real chance that the person I love is going to leave me, and probably very soon. Trauma touched and shaped everything about me. Every single relationship I have ever had, even the relationship with myself has been viewed through my trauma lens. I had trust issues, major fears of abandonment and betrayal, and felt truly ashamed most of the time. Like, somehow all of the things that I had experienced had happened because of me, not to me. And so, because of all of this, and having zero ways to actually cope with all of it; possessing zero processing skills or people I had little choice but to find relief somehow. I believe that from a very early age, I began disassociating as a way to escape what was going on around me. Checking out. Like hopping into a little mini Space Shuttle, made for a little boy and flying away to a far away land. A land that was actually inside of me. I had to somehow find a safe place, even if that place didn’t exist. I had to create one. I began the life long practice of compartmentalizing and disassociating, in early elementary school. How very sad.
Any time a very high stress event, moment, or season would happen upon me I would hop into my space shuttle and off I would go.