I recently learned that I am experiencing a trauma reaction, stemming from the complex trauma I experienced as a child and young adult.
I knew the trauma happened, but I had a tendency to minimize it as something not as serious as depression or anxiety.
The cumulative impact of the Grand Jury Repory on Sexual Abuse by Priests in Six Pennsylvania Dioceses, the collapse of a ceilingcollapse of a ceiling in our home, the prominent conversations around sexual violence as a result of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifying about Brett Kavanaugh the rapist, and my own recent bout of harassment and abuse by FOX News readers because I don’t think Chick-fil-A is a good sponsor for children’s events … well, that’s a lot of trauma.
All of these things upset my apple cart. I am reliving my own experiences of sexual violence as a child and young adult as well as the omnipresent cultural defaults in our schools, our church, our neighborhood, and our homes.
The ceiling collapse was upsetting, of course. But it literally changed the quality of life in our house. Grit and dirt where everywhere. The smell of exposed wood set in place in 1872 brought the scents of wood fires, oil heating, and more as well as the damp, dank rain that fell without ceasing. It smelled like secret memories felt. And I was struggling to breathe. When another ceiling began to leak, I was filled with dread that more of our home would collapse.
Then, the Chick-fil-A defenders said every horrible thought I’ve whispered to myself at my lowest points. They found creative ways to call me ugly, question my morality, and try to destroy my credibility as a queer woman with an opinion on a sponsorship.
Complex trauma isn’t just a lot of traumatic events or a stressful period.
Complex trauma describes both children’s exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure. These events are severe and pervasive, such as abuse or profound neglect. They usually occur early in life and can disrupt many aspects of the child’s development and the formation of a sense of self. Since these events often occur with a caregiver, they interfere with the child’s ability to form a secure attachment. Many aspects of a child’s healthy physical and mental development rely on this primary source of safety and stability.
I grew up immersed in violence, addiction, poverty, abuse, neglect, and repeated failures by my caretakers to offer my safety, security, or stability. Adults in my family, teachers, neighbors, and certainly members of our parish whic was staffed by 3 predators over 22+ years.
I survived because I had one thing in my favor – I was very smart and excelled in school. Helping other students with their studies earned me a degree of safety from the bullying. It also was a way for me to help my friends who needed passing grades to escape predatory teachers. Learning was never fun or pleasant. It was a tool. It was my ticket out.
But physical escape wasn’t sufficient. The trauma came with me. Seeking treatment for depression and anxiety wasn’t sufficient even though I worked hard in therapy and took my meds. I even, regrettfully, left full time work.
Secure attachments are difficult. It might make for good blogging to tilt at windmills, but it is lonely and reinforces these core beliefs that I don’t deserve friends and that friends don’t want me.
I can’t continue relying on survival skills to help me cope in all sorts of fucked up maladdaptive ways. I don’t want to feel lonely and to find my self-worth through doing good works.
I was groomed as a young girl by a sexual predator who is long dead. Only now am I learning how that form of abuse damaged me and continues to slide into situations seemingly unrelated.
Living with anxiety, depression, and complex trauma is forever. Our world here is going to be more chaotic as we grapple with social ills under an Administration led by a fool.
There will be more reports, there will be more survivors forcing us to confront rape culture, and there will definitely be deniers willing to say or do anything to protect their reality.
How do we function?
For me? I’d like to get a psychiatric service dog, but that’s $10,000. I plan to continue blogging. I’d like to do more social media work with small businesses because it gets me out of my head and I feel good about that work.
And someday, I’d like to tell my complete story. I’m reluctant because other survivors share my story, so it may have to be post-humous.
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