each other

From my very first post here, I’ve written about how trauma has shaped my life.

Since before my first breath, I suffered the effects of violence from within my mother’s womb. This wired my nervous system in very particular ways even before I endured my first direct bodily blow.

I don’t write much about many of the specific blows I experienced. Most the specifics are lost to my thinking memory, stored instead in muscle, bone, and implicit memory.

Because most the specifics are lost to my thinking memory, I can be triggered–catapulted back in time, so that I’m confused about whether I’m in relatively choice-filled 2020 or choiceless 1988–without knowing why. Without knowing what sent me back.

A couple of days ago, my sister Rachael wrote “Meringue Pie & PTSD.” Continue reading “each other”

When I am done with words

Every weekday morning, I get dressed up for work. 

I’m not going to any office, right now. I’m not going anywhere where anyone but my husband and kids can see me.

A few weeks back, in “To walk through,” I wrote about the importance of boundaries as a many-trauma survivor in the era of COVID-19. For me, clothing is a boundary:

Dressing for work helps me distinguish between work and not-work time, when all these times are now spent at home. Continue reading “When I am done with words”

Matters of my/our health

On Monday, I didn’t feel well. On Tuesday, I felt worse, and so took the day off from work.

While I wasn’t suffering from coronavirus, there was an indirect correlation with it.

Understanding the correlation helped me set myself down a different path.

In my last post, I wrote about healing the enduring psychological consequences of childhood trauma.

I did not write about the ways trauma continues to impact my physical health.

In my first post on this blog, I wrote:

My childhood home was filled with trauma. Specifically, of the ten adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) studied by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, I experienced eight. As explained at ACES Too High, experiencing even one ACE can adversely impact a person’s lifelong health. People who experience four or more are at massively increased risks of poor health outcomes. 

I didn’t dive into detail about the “poor health outcomes.” But as Aces Too High explains, Continue reading “Matters of my/our health”

To walk through

Late last Spring, I read a paragraph that sent me tumbling into despair.

Leaning into that despair was the best thing I’ve ever done,

a fact most profoundly clear this last week.

Late one Spring afternoon, I was curled up in bed reading a book on self acceptance. I reached a chapter on trauma and excitedly dug in: Great! Here’s where the healing will really start happening!

Paragraph by paragraph as I read, I felt something unpleasant building within me, until at last I read one that released a landslide. I felt myself tumbling away from my body,
falling,
falling,
falling.

My body knew that feeling. I’d felt it time and time and time again in the face of violence I alternately witnessed and endured as poverty, abuse, and predation throughout my childhood.

I’d just never had a name for it before. Thanks to the pages before The Paragraph, though, I had a name for it. The fact it had a name meant it was real, and the fact it was both real and named meant I could not simply run from it anymore: Continue reading “To walk through”

Turning points

Two years ago, I took a few small footsteps that began my changing the course of my life. Those steps marked a personal turning point, as did many of the more figurative steps that followed them.

Early last year, a friend suggested childhood trauma continued to impact me in ways I couldn’t necessarily see. After first dismissing her words, I soon came to understand how right she was. I began consciously pausing, especially when I felt urgency to respond. This, too, was a turning point for me.

Recently, my ten-year-old asked me, “What’s PTSD again?” Before I had a chance to respond, he sagely continued, “Oh, right! It’s when you can’t tell the difference between the past and the present.” Continue reading “Turning points”

The Elevator Test

I grew up in poverty, chaos, and profound violence.

I spent so much of my childhood convinced I wouldn’t actually survive it, it still often surprises me that I did. More than surviving, I’ve even built a love-filled adult life with a gentle partner and kids who know what I experienced without, blessedly, “knowing” it as I did.

Why put quotation marks around “knowing”? The answer is often clearer, in my experience, to people who’ve already endured life-shattering violence than those who have not, yet:

There are different ways of knowing.

In security expert Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear, he writes at length about the power of intuition to enhance safety. Far from being silly and spun from misguided fancy, “when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways:

  1. It is always in response to something.
  2. It always has your best interest at heart.”

Unfortunately, for people without close personal exposure to violence, these words can seem abstract. Trivial. That intuition could provide meaningful data that thought-filled analysis alone cannot often runs counter to their personal experience of the world.

Not having seen the beast up close even once, let alone spent years in its presence, they misunderstand where it lives, how it moves, and what it looks like. Continue reading “The Elevator Test”