*this post contains profanity
I’m doing trauma work with my therapist, starting with an event in my childhood that I’d only recently started calling a trauma, even though I remember it clear as day despite it having occurred when I was in fourth grade. At the time, after the initial shock, pain, and shame that washed over me, I just went sort of numb. I never told my parents, or my therapist at the time, or anyone, because the event itself had instilled a permanent uncertainty in my head about my view of things, such that I discounted its impact and that of similar events that proceeded through adolescence, young adulthood, and, occasionally, even now. I thought of them as singular instances of pain come and gone, rather than, as I have only lately come to realize, cumulative.
I still find myself thinking it was nothing, really. I doubt it burned itself into the brain of anyone else in attendance, particularly the other students, who, while probably thinking it was a dick move by the classmate who caused it (no surprise because class consensus had long been that he was a dick), did not disagree with what he said. He said it in response to a poorly worded question by the teacher as to whether any other students in the class were singled out or made fun of. I remember immediately realizing she’d messed up but saying nothing about it, as the one social truism I had learned by ten years old was that it was unwise to draw attention to myself in such situations. She had, of course, intended to ask if any other students felt singled out or made fun of, but the way it was phrased, after a brief pause, the little dick raised his hand and said my name.
I’d had no idea the class felt that way about me, which I now see was at least as upsetting as the fact itself. I’d never been “popular,” but I thought I was somewhere in the middle between the popular kids and the kid who’d complained about the bullying to her mom, setting in motion the turn of events that led up to my discovery. I had a sudden realization that my confidence in my perception of the world was horrifically misplaced. Not knowing I was autistic (or possibly even what autism was), I decided that something inside me must be deeply flawed, if not missing entirely.
It left a cavern inside of me that I could never fill, this conviction that whatever I thought or felt about a situation was wrong and whatever got fucked up about it was my fault because I was irreparably broken inside. Adding to this, no one ever stuck up for me, or defended me, or pulled me aside later to tell me that it was the other person, and not me, who was to blame for what happened. No information to counter my view of myself was offered until well into adulthood, and, to this day, never in one of those situations. At any time, I am in danger of finding myself adrift in an antagonistic sea, where nothing I grab on to is ever secure enough to float on.
I write it like this and it seems ridiculous that I had not realized the event’s impact or how devastating it was until now. The feelings I’m describing are textbook trauma responses. But the thing I’ve learned about self-destructive thinking patterns is that they don’t feel wrong or out of place among more mundane ones. They just wriggle in and clothe themselves in the same insignificance as which sweater I should wear with these pants. They don’t wear reflective vests or have blinking warning lights or anything. So this trauma remained in my head, doing its dirty, undermining work, unnoticed and unaccountable, for decades. Decades.
So I’m angry, too. And as upsetting as it is, I want to get upset. I want to feel it. My mental health team has expressed surprise at my willingness to dig in and go through the pain and tears to finally uproot it, but I am thoroughly tired of this particular tail wagging the dog and I don’t care how much crying and hurting I have to do to rip the damn thing out because I am done and I am really mad that this one brief thing, this terrible thing that happened that was wrong and was handled wrong by the one person (the teacher) whose job it was to not do these wrong things (or at least try to fix them afterwards) completely dropped the ball, has left me scarred ever since. Fuck. FUCK. I am DONE. Pull the rotten tooth that’s been poisoning me for so long. Scrape out all of the leavings. Dig in. Leave marks. I don’t care.
It reminds me of my physical pain, that horrifying, fifteen month ordeal where I was in indescribable agony, where I would beg massage therapists and physical therapists to dig in there and try to break it up or soften it or whatever because anything was better than feeling like someone was scraping a serrated knife under my shoulder blade relentlessly, all day, all night, despite the pain medications, the injections, everything. Just get it out, I would think, tears pricking in the corners of my eyes that I would shove back in because I’d already wasted too many on it and was sick of that, too.
That’s where I am with this trauma. I’m tired of the gut punches I’m never prepared for, that suck the air out of me and leave me in a quicksand of despair that I am never able to pull myself out of without help. I’m tired of feeling wrong all of the time. I’m tired of hating myself for it. Why anyone wouldn’t go to any lengths to have it stop happening is beyond me.
I’m not close to being done, of course. I get myself a Valentine’s Day card every year to remind myself to love myself, and this year, for the first time since I started doing it, instead of delighting me, it rang hollow and made me sad. It’s still beyond me to think that the gut punches aren’t normal, that not everyone has a quicksand of despair in their heads that sucks them down anytime they are wrong about something or hurt someone without meaning to. Apparently, most people just feel bad for a while, apologize if appropriate, vow to do better next time and then move on. Just feel bad for a while. What I wouldn’t give to just feel bad about something instead of ductaping myself to a chair and whipping myself mercilessly about it for hours, if not days.
That’s not normal? Fuck. Fuck.
So I’m done. And eventually I will be done with this trauma, too. We’ll both be done. Bring on the done-ing.