I remember reading, some years back, that the despair and terror felt by a trauma survivor are qualitatively different from that felt by normal people. I found this comforting, but it also explains why other people can’t understand what’s happening to me. The quote is, I believe, from Lenore Terr in Unchained Memories: True Stories of Traumatic Memories Lost and Found (Basic Books, 1995) I loaned the book to someone, asking that it be returned, but it wasn’t. I probably quoted it in my journal, but that was likely during the period from 1995 to 2003 when I wasn’t typing it up. It’s important to me to be able to give references, so I’m sorry I can’t give this one.
Trying to describe what terror feels like is very difficult. It just occurred to me that part of the difficulty is that the feeling is a flashback to infancy, when I was non-verbal. The dynamo in the chest is familiar, also finding it very hard to do simple things. I went through my breakfast routine – which is good because it doesn’t require me to make choices – but it was much harder than usual. Instead of doing it automatically which is what I usually do, I had to force myself to do each thing. I did do my supplements, a few days ago I just skipped that, but I didn’t do my stretches. Too hard to be with my body.
I can’t think, and I can’t see. Not seeing is odd because I do actually see things, it’s just that they seem flat, no third dimension and there’s some other way they seem unreal. Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, pp25-29) describes the experience of people who have been blind from birth and had their sight restored. They just see “color patches,” they don’t see individual things. Being able to see separate things is something that we learn, not something that we have automatically. This made me think that a baby would also see “color patches” with no meaning, so that’s how it would look to a baby. Another piece of evidence that I was traumatized as an infant.
The question of what I was afraid of intrigues me. Often if you ask “What is my catastrophic expectation?” you find that it’s either something highly unlikely, or something that you could handle. When I try to describe what I’m afraid of, it’s very difficult. It’s not death, an infant has no concept of “death.” The best I can do is it’s feeling totally helpless (a baby is truly helpless) and some nameless doom is coming down on me, I can’t stop it, and it’s going to last forever (a baby has no concept of time). One way I have tried to describe it: imagine you are lying in the street, for some reason you are unable to move, and a big steam roller is coming down the street, aimed right at you. The driver can’t see you, there’s no one nearby who would answer a cry for help.
From my journal
Saturday, July 11
Feeling so scared toward the end of the day, despite good talk with Erica, massage with Cory — it somehow got to beyond what I could handle by talking to younger selves. (See post for June 27) It was that whirling dynamo in the chest, breathless, feeling. First I took Calms (a homeopaths remedy for anxiety) which helped a little, then I took 1.0 Ativan last night. This morning I woke OK but the terror came in pretty quickly. Very very hard to get up. It’s also chilly which normally I welcome but today feels hostile or indifferent. Mocha stayed on the bed so I miss her company.
My guides said that medication was to help keep my life workable. It is not workable now. O gosh I just want to hide. I wish I had someone who would come stay with me and comfort me.
Called two friends for help, but they haven’t answered. This is very difficult for a trauma survivor from infancy whose basic trauma was being left along too long.
(I was unable to find that guidance piece in past posts. Because my parents were alcoholics, I was very resistant to medication, and kept trying to get off it. Every time was a disaster. When I asked my guides about medication they said “Medication is neither good nor bad. Your life has to be workable. You need medication for your life to be workable.”)
Sunday, July 12
This morning there’s a lot of tightness and clenched energy in my stomach area. I feel painfully lonely, a little scared, a little angry. I haven’t been able to find God. I haven’t been able to look at my broken self with compassion. There’s sadness here too, and just a hint of headache. O gosh I feel so cut off — from everything.
Erica has disappeared again.
Pain and fear and lostness. I feel so alone and cut off. I think if I could find compassion for my broken life that I wouldn’t feel so lonely.
O gosh I’m so scared I can’t think.
Erica disappearing is an infant’s experience if it’s before the age when it learns “object constancy” — that the thing is still there, even though you can’t see it.