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November 30, 2012

What I Realized While Running: Thoughts on Trauma and How I’m Wired

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:45 pm

A Description:

This brain I have? I do not have it because of trauma. My thoughts and desires, my strengths and weaknesses, my proclivities and sensitivities and personality quirks are not simply the result of damage. Not really. Not any more than pulling a sculpture out of marble is a process of damaging the stone. (Which, of course, it is.)

Still, my brain is not the standard model. Nobody’s is. “Sanity” is a myth they use to sell you stuff or to lock you up when you’re too poor to pay. And when I fail to treat myself with the particular kind of tender loving care that a non-standard model brain needs to function at full capacity, I do that because of trauma.

This feels a little bit like when I realized there was a difference between my mother being “crazy” and her being abusive.* Which is to say that, when I was growing up, she was both “mentally ill” AND abusive, and the particular mental health stuff she struggles with did shape the details of the ways that she hurt me. But that doesn’t mean she was abusive because she was crazy — nor does it mean that the fact of her mental illness, and the fact that it wasn’t her fault, meant the abuse was okay.

I relate to the world how I do because I have, in some ways, an extremely sensitive psychology. That’s fine. That’s who I am. It’s a blessing as much as a burden. I have an extraordinarily resilient psychology in other ways, and that’s both a blessing and a burden, too. But when I interact with those sensitivities and resiliencies and atypical capacities and unusual curiosities in ways that derail my ability to “be okay”, that’s trauma talking.

I could easily take this post in some kind of prescriptive moralizing direction or other, but I’m not gonna.

. . .

* Aside: I recently had a conversation with my grandmother in which I opened up to her about the history between myself and my mother — her daughter. It was a hard conversation. Mostly good came out of it and hopefully more good will continue to come. But one negative piece stuck with me, too: She tried to shame me for talking about my experiences on the Internet. “Even if it did happen that way, I don’t know why you have to tell so many strangers about it! What if your mother saw it? And what if a future employer Googles your brother and sees HIS name attached to all this mess?? I’m embarrassed for you.”

I told her that I share my story with strangers in case it reaches others who are facing similar struggles, because when I was going through it myself, I thought I was all alone. (And that is certainly part of it. Trying to explain to my grandmother, tech-savvy as she might be for an 83 year old, that the Internet is my home and an extension of my mind seemed like too much for that particular conversation.) I realize this kind of “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” silencing is pretty de rigeur in conversations with family members about abuse. But that’s because it works.

When I started writing this post, remembering the conversation with my grandmother gave me pause. “Maybe I shouldn’t mention this. Maybe I don’t need to keep using the word ‘abuse’ so publicly. Maybe I can make this point a different way. What if Granny sees this and it upsets her? Is this really necessary?” But I’m posting it anyway. Because that’s what is most true. My mother is not a bad person. But she hurt me very badly when I was a child. And the word for the way she hurt me is “abuse.” That’s not a moralizing prescriptive. It’s an accurate description. And I need an accurate understanding of what I’m dealing with if I want to heal from it.

Which I do.

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