every therapist i’ve gone to has taught me something integral about myself. something i’ve needed to know about some core part of me. well, they’ve led me to figuring it out or helped me to see it or gently suggested/taught me things that came to be huge revelations and building blocks in my development.
the second to last therapist i had was in the program, but she also dealt with trauma issues. now, at this point, i had never really considered myself ‘traumatized’ in any way, because up until then and including right now, i have no conscious memories of anything remotely resembling what i would categorize ‘standard’ trauma. being locked in a closet, being shrieked at, being beat with things, being raped or sexually abused, having food or water withheld from me, being left alone for days, being caged, being cruelly punished. this absolutely was and is not my experience of childhood. it had led me to years of telling people i had a fairly ‘normal’ childhood.
however, as i’ve gone through therapy, it has been pointed out to me that having a dad that was chronically and somewhat fatally ill for most of my formative years isn’t really what one might deem ‘normal.’ add a little burgeoning alcoholism/alanon-ing to the mix (and a WHOLE bunch of undiagnosed bipolar), and you’ve got yourself one HELL of a dysfunctional family. i say that not to blame anyone, but merely to say what is. there’s lots of people who have dysfunctional families. i think that’s more the ‘norm’ than not, really. just like i have a hard time finding ‘normal’ drinkers, i think it’s rare to find a ‘normal’ family.
so, i learned that there were ‘survival behaviors’ i adapted very early to learn to cope with what was going on around me. a dad that was really sick and could potentially be dying/leaving. a mom who was really wrapped up in losing her husband and potentially worrying about raising two little girls all by herself. being really smart/precocious and figuring out all of what was going on and having a hyperawareness of all of this and probably also feeling like i needed to be strong for my younger sister, too. lots of shit going on for a 5 year old, who probably also just wanted hugs and kisses and to know *she* was okay and loved and that she could be the center of attention and stuff.
it makes sense when i think of it from an adult perspective. cause frankly, i don’t have any real childhood memories. i’ve said forever “i’ve always thought the way i’ve thought.” and now i know why. i stepped up and had an adult view of things from day one. i decided i had to take charge of my own feelings and thoughts and make things happen for myself. i had to run the show, or else it wasn’t going to get done. i don’t necessarily remember consciously making these specific decisions, but i know i always wanted to know what was going on. i always hung out with people older than me and wanted to be in on the adults’ conversations. i was always afraid of missing out on anything. i felt like if i missed something, it could be key to something i’d need to know for the future. i always wanted to be one step ahead of … someone, something, somehow. i didn’t even know what that was about. but i knew i needed to know.
when i think of that, that just speaks of living in fear from a very young age. not being able to trust anyone to tell you the truth. not being able to trust that you’re being taken care of properly. knowing that you need to fend for yourself and being the investigative reporter. knowing that you need to make sure you get all the facts, because adults lie and fudge and won’t be straight with you. knowing that you are smarter than they are sometimes. knowing that you need to be on top of everything that goes on so you can make the best decisions in any given situation. what a terribly stressful way for a child to live. shit, i type that out and i think, ‘what a terribly stressful way to live, period.’ that doesn’t speak of having a trust or belief in a higher power, that’s for sure. that just speaks of a lot of stress and worry and tiring one’s self out. sigh.
anyway, the reason i started this post, wasn’t really to get into all that exactly. the point just was to give backstory and say that i’ve realized that i AM a victim of trauma or PTSD, but just in a different form than other people. i’ve always been a flincher when people raise their hand near me (even though my parents never raised their hand to me like that — i got occasional spankings as a kid, but never slapped across the face). i’ve always been super jumpy, super skittish. i’ve always been a great hugger, but always real vibe-y with people, too. very hyper aware of what is going on in a room at any given moment. always looking out, keeping track, making sure of what’s going on.
the thing that’s happened to me in sobriety a bunch is that people like to come up behind me and do various things. there’s a girl who likes to hug me from behind. i think it’s her shit that she can’t be more forthcoming with her intimacy from the front. that’d be too close or something. but, i kind of want to turn around and shove her. like … um, you’re dealing with a drunk. why the fuck would you come up from behind like that?
i had to tell my really good friend that in a group of young people, many who were newcomer guys, she could NOT greet me by coming up and goosing me. she was likely to get a punch in the face on accident one of these times. she obliged me and stopped.
the other problem is that i already have a tendency to live in my own space out world, and tend to get lost in my thinking and stuff, if i’m somewhere safe … a public place, an okay street in the day time, etc. i’ve had people say ‘i saw you walking down the street, and i honked/waved/called your name and you totally didn’t respond.’ and the thing is, i’d know in my heart if i saw them and blew them off or something. and i know i didn’t see or hear ANYONE that day. so, i must have been in la-la land.
something must be changing in me, because the most recent example of this was that i was standing in the mcdonald’s at chicago and state, totally trying to decide what i was going to have (i don’t know why, cause when i go to smackdonalds lately, i always get the same thing — small fry, standard mcburger, grilled chicken snack wrap) and sort of spacing out, when my other friend came up and gave me this HUGE gorilla hug from behind. the adrenaline that shot through me was incredible. i was SO scared. and then SO fucking furious. i wanted to fucking kill her. and she’s all happy to see me and stuff.
and the thing is … i couldn’t shake it. i was SO mad. it lasted and lasted. i stood there for a minute and just took some deep breaths and i still wanted to fucking punch her in the face. and then i wanted to go into the bathroom and cry and cry and cry. it tells me i need some work. big time. cause this is all sort of new. the fact that this is all happening means i’m getting my feelings back. i was still able to not scream, not punch her in the face and not lose my shit, which means i still have a decent capacity to cram feelings, but the feelings were THERE in full force, and they scared the shit out of me, to tell the truth.
it just calls to the idea that all the stuff i can’t remember (even all the stuff during sobriety … all my ‘sober blackouts’ around things that are weird or mildly embarrassing or stressful or whatever happens when i just can’t remember shit that should be pretty damn easy to recall) and all the years when i was a pretty blank slate when it came to actually feeling stuff. you take the robot and turn her back into a human, and the results can be pretty unpredictable and crazy. there’s got to be some horror movie that teaches us that lesson somewhere. i’ll never see it, but it’s got to be there.
anyway, it would be a lot more fascinating if this were a book about someone else, rather than an experiment in my own life.