The last few years of my life have been, well, like nothing I’d have ever expected or believed for that matter–in both good and bad ways. The seven or so years before this my life was quite productive and filling up with things like love, the obsession of staying busy or occupied (in my mind) so as not to journey too far into unknown territory–I was breaking down then but very very slowly which allowed me more time to work on me and see where I wanted my life to go. I met White Buffalo Woman who read my Animal Totems, I minored in Sociology (in love with the way people work, like you could actually map it–it thrilled me), I explored Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity a little, the Beat Generation, Alan Watts, meditation, looking at the world through wide open, fearless eyes, testing and sometimes criticizing, trying to see where I fit. For awhile I went through this phase (Emma was a baby then) that I had to move to India, or some kind of place away from materialism and media down my throat–I had to raise her where life was about living and being and using your hands. It drove me nuts.
In those seven somewhat healthy years, I went to college, I began to write and write (which turned into a pitched fever as a spelled out the past and I began to decline, in my late twenties), I made the Dean’s List, worked full-time, and had a baby girl, and all the while I had no idea who I was or what I had been (or what I was going to become).
Maybe God or the godhead or the powers of the universe blessed me with a few years of peace (and ignorance, I knew it would all come to a head) because the future was an awaiting nightmare, and the past was a numb journey through alcohol and drugs, music, men, and me giving myself away to anyone who’d take me.
Now before those seven “ignorant, peaceful” years, I was a subtle train wreck, running and running away from myself, and I had become so numb in my early twenties that I had nearly vanished. I felt that there was one small piece of me, though, that hung on, always hung on, even when I was a little girl, and this tiny piece of myself was enough to help me survive. And surviving was all I wanted. It feels strange to recognize that truth, how ambiguous we are, because at the same time I was clinging to a shard for survival, I was also finding myself standing on top of downtown buildings in a bigger city, high on Ecstasy or Coke, feeling less numb, less afraid of death, less afraid of everything–except for my life. I was terrified of me. Of what I had become. Was it reversible? Reparable? Each night I’d sit up in bed in the dark room, burning with “what have I done what have I done to myself.”
It’s kind of easy to, when you’ve been abused and abandoned most of your life, to think you’ve actually done it all to yourself–all the chaos, all the emptiness, the loneliness you’re too proud and fake to admit, the terror in the night when panic attacks make their first marks on you. It’s so easy to look at your pathetic self in the mirror, someone whom you thought was pathetic before you tried to ruin your life, and feel the guilt and shame wash over you, drown you–only you don’t gulp for air, you don’t fear the drowning, you expect it, you don’t believe your little life is worthy enough to seek air, so you sink. And when I was sinking, I knew I’d pay for it some day, because I believe you must take care to every instinct you have about yourself. If you ignore what you can’t hear but see that it’s there, you’re not a fool because you weren’t wired to care about yourself, and in this sinking time you don’t realize that you were rewired by someone other than yourself. It’s not about blame and forgiveness and all that stupid worthless bullshit, it’s about believing and knowing that you did not do this to you. It’s about believing in the deepest part of you that there is something beautiful in all of this, you just have to find it, and that journey is cruel and relentless and so tiring, but I believe with everything in me that there is something beautiful about it all–the madness, the emptying and filling, the love and hate, the underlying of current of love from loved ones.
I’d try to vaguely remember the young girl I once was, if she ever was young; I have to go back to the sprite I was before the age of five, before I was molested and beat and then abandoned by those around me that could have saved me. My mother, she left me there, wanting to believe so bad that she had found true love with a “real man” unlike my alcoholic father. And to make it worse, she loved me in a different way, different even from my sisters, different from anyone else, because she loved someone she allowed to get hurt and damaged and broken. She watched him throw my little body around the room and into the sides of a truck and off a dock when I couldn’t swim and boots and belt and humiliation. It is not so much the physical that gets you, it’s the power-raving lunatic who terrifies you with his presence and threats, his child pornography and secrets. It’s still hard not to be so overwhelmed and furious with my mother (furious is such a small word) when I look, now, at what I’ve become. Granted, the emptiness is gone and there is a kind of peace in me I’ve never ever known, but my life aside from that is, well, sad. Very sad. How can I not think sometimes (especially we she shows no respect for the work I’ve done to get this far) that if she were given the chance, if the same opportunity should arise in a different disguise, she would again, leave me in the back where it’s dark and the sick prey on you.
The only person that can save me from this very present is, quite clearly, myself. Most of us with Complex PTSD I believe already know self-reliance, how to fight your way through anything, how not to give up, and know the quiet resiliency of getting back up, again and again, no matter how many times you have fallen after they’ve quit kicking you down. Rewiring. You’re falling on your own. You seek out any means of obliterating your potential. You begin to master what they (they being whoever your perpetrator/abuser(s) are) set out to to do. And yet still, buried beneath all that self-hatred and self-abuse and loathing, you’re still hanging on, like you did as a little girl, because your instincts told you, even then, that your body was your temple, and anyone intruding was vile and ill and they knew of no things like faith or love or God. There was, in that early moment of intrusion, self-awareness. And you knew that self was worth protecting–extremely worth protecting. She was sacred. To you. You loved her. You treasured her. So you stowed her away inside because you were too little and too…human…to face the unbearable.
What got me thinking about these things is oddly much more universal that what I’m saying here, yet I can only write about my experience, not that of others. But I was imagining all the pain in the world humans endure, all the sweet little children that have it so much worse than I did, and then those that seem to go through life unaffected. First, I imagine this pressure on the globe, and for the first time I understand why Jesus wept for us, why the Hindu’s and Buddhists seek nothingness and that that is everything–we have to learn to rise above our pain, and that, now that is a beautiful thing to see. Pain and love are one in the same. There is no good and bad, no black and white. So I imagine pain teaches you the makings of your guts–your will–and love, love compliments it by filling you, filling you up so that when pain comes around again, love hasn’t dressed your wounds but is your wounds, your scars. We fill with love and then are tested through pain to see what we’re made of, what others have made of us, and what we will make of ourselves. I imagine with each great pain we can a peek at the love inside that has grown and is growing, and we can bear more, because we are so full, and they both bring us to tears.