1996: Description of Trauma before I Understood that I had been Traumatized

From my journal for March 1996.  Eleanor is my friend who was badly abused in her family of origin. She was herself dealing with PTSD, and kept trying to convince me that I was too. At that time, I thought trauma was caused by violence, I didn’t know about its dependence on the ability of the organism to process the event. My parents were alcoholics, but they weren’t violent.

Eleanor said she thought I was much better now than when she first met me.  She said that I used to just stay upstairs, I didn’t go out, I dressed in miserable clothes.  She said she was shocked by the state of our house when she first met us: no proper bathroom, no windows.  She said I didn’t have the capacity to make a home, but now I do.  I said that was all external stuff, she agreed but said it reflected my internal state.  She said when she first met me she could see that I was depressed, but that I was very defended, she says now I’m much more open and vulnerable.  I said that was probably true and as a result I was much more scared.  Eleanor said terror was better than depression because it moves.  She reminded me that when she first met me I was immobilized by the depression to the extent that I wasn’t doing anything for myself: no therapy, no workshops, none of the stuff I’m doing now.  (In fact I think it was Eleanor who told me about Kripalu, gave me a catalog.  I know it was Eleanor who dialed Debbie Alicen and handed me the phone.)  Eleanor said Dana said I was much worse in the black cloud/candida days, before she even met me.  I checked with Dana, he said I was sick all the time, couldn’t walk farther than Gaudette’s, was struggling with brain fog.  I’ve been feeling that the 1984 depression was a piece of cake compared to this one, that I had to go back to 1970 for something as bad, but perhaps I’m wrong.  It sounds like I’m much more conscious now, in 1984 I was deep in denial.  Well of course, that was the beginning of the Children of Alcoholic stuff.  Before that, I had no way to understand my misery except by seeing myself as inherently defective, lacking in will power, “wanting to be miserable.”

Debbie Alicen was a therapist I saw for a while.  Gaudette was a family who had a house partway down a road across from our house.

Another time we were walking with the dog and Eleanor talked about how she saw life, about how wonderful and sacred it was, how that was why she didn’t kill herself, because she could see that life itself was so precious even when her own life was so painful.  I didn’t say so, but I envy her.  I wish I had such a vision/ knowledge/ experience of life.  I think sometimes when I’m in my objective scientist mode I can see “life” as something enormous, mysterious and magical; I think of the time when I was returning from the Observatory at Wellesley and suddenly became aware of the uniqueness, complexity and preciousness of trees in contrast to the simplicity of stars.  A star is easy to make, it’s just a ball of gas.  A tree requires a long and complex process.  (This makes me think of Dana saying that he sees the physical world as just the tip of the iceberg.  I’m continually feeling trapped in the physical world, as though it were all there is.)  I have all the lovely images from Chaos Theory and Complexity and the plasma theory of creation, and there was a time when these ideas helped me imagine a universe I could feel at home in.

But I don’t feel that way now.  I don’t have that sense of reverence for “life” that Eleanor has.  What keeps me from committing suicide is the fact that Dana would be very unhappy.  So how do I see “life”?  I imagine this huge machine, something like a steam roller, a garbage compactor, a chipper.  It rolls over me without concern for my uniqueness or individuality.  First it flattens me, then it chews me up and spits me out, all mangled.  It gives me assignments that I can’t fulfill: I’m to be independent, strong, I have to take care of myself, I mustn’t bother anyone, but I’m supposed to enjoy and appreciate and be grateful for whatever happens to me.  That sounds pretty awful, and it also sounds like what mother did to me, on both the emotional level (when she flattened me, chewed me up, spit me out deformed into whatever mirror image her narcissism demanded) and the practical level, where I was given many messages that I had to take care of myself and not bother the adults.  She was my first experience of life.

Still, I think Eleanor’s first experience was worse, so how does she get her sense of reverence for life?

Question never answered.

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