I have spent my entire adult life trying to understand my childhood. Something, I don’t know what, is driving me to comprehend my parents mental illness. I wonder though, what will I gain by knowing? Will enlightment change anything? Give me more compassion? Will it bring me freedom?
So many people throughout the course of my life have told me to let go. To keep the past in the past and that I am an adult now, I can not blame my present problems on childhood abuse. But the truth is they are wrong. So very, dead wrong.
For example; I took the car to get detailed and as the man was talking I could smell his deodorant. The smell took me somewhere in my mind, to a memory of my dad reading “the jungle book” and me giggling at mowgli being in his ‘underwear’. My dad kept pushing my hand away whenever I would point at his crotch and giggle. I am reminded of this memory often whenever an associated smell, color etc. trigger it. As an adult I recognize my dad was uncomfortable and it makes me uncomfortable now. I wonder if I was uncomfortable as a kid when the event happened?
I was first diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder when I was eleven and the diagnoses has followed me to every therapist and psychiatrist I have ever seen since. I am now thirty two years old and I don’t even feel like I have scratched the surface of what PTSD truly is. Up until last week I believed flashbacks and triggers were only with the big stuff, like the going to the dentist. I believed that it could only be associated with PTSD when I lost control of my emotions or lost my grip on reality, succumbing to the memories. But, talking to my therapist last week even the little memories like the one of my dad reading the jungle book are a part of the PTSD. That information scared the hell out of me because if that is the case, I feel so, so screwed. I’m triggered every day! Just the other day I was triggered standing at the sink running water over a dirty dish! I stood there for a good 2 minutes lost in a memory.
There are also times where the memories hold my mind hostage. I will be staring off into space, lost and locked into a particular thought. I will see the event happening but I can not physically move my eyes or shake my head to clear it of the unpleasant memories. My body will not move until it is over. My eyes will be staring at nothing anyone else can see, but they are focused and I can not move them to look at anything else to break the movie reel in my mind.
So please, tell me again to get over my childhood. I fucking dare anyone to ever say that to me again. I spend my days scared of triggers, reliving emotions and memories I work so hard to heal from and people want to brush them off like I am being dramatic. Lord help us all!
I woke up at midnight like I normally do and I was some how reminded of my stay in the state hospital as a kid. I could not even identify the trigger and that bothers me because being able to identify the trigger grounds me in reality, locks my mind into place and does not allow it to get lost. But tonight, I got lost.
If you have never been a patient at any state hospital, believe me when I say you are not missing out. The energy alone is enough to traumatize a healthy mind. I want to share this memory for several reasons; One being to help free myself of it. My journey of healing is done mostly by instinct and my gut tells me that if my mind wants the story told; to remain in my conscious mind opposed to repressing it to my subconscious, then I will tell all my minds stories until it no longer feels the need to lock itself into places of my past. Secondly, people need to know. The mainstream population needs to be made aware of where we are sent when they no longer want to deal with us. No, I should not word it like that, I am being facetious. I honestly want to make people aware, maybe one day things will change.
The sheriff’s office drove me the four hours to big springs state hospital from the private hospital in my home town at my mothers urging. I first went inpatient at the private hospital for a suicide attempt and my mom begged the judge to have me sent to state because it was my millionth inpatient stay and my second suicide attempt; She felt I needed extended care. I was only 13.
During the drive I don’t remember saying a word. The female sheriff tried talking to me (who wouldn’t try to show a little empathy to a mentally ill 13 year old child on her way to hell) but I did not respond so she gave up. I wanted to tell her so many things though, beg her to sooth and comfort me, but I was too far gone to let myself ask for help again. My trust in people had been broken one too many times.
Pulling up to the hospital the ghosts that haunted the place hit me like a metal plate. I would have said brick wall, but bricks can be broken. The energy and history of this place was too strong for a brick metaphor and metal can only be dented.
My fear melted away and I was left with a macabre feeling of curiosity. The history of the building was so alive and electrifying I was actually getting excited (I’m a glutton for history).
After being checked in I was taken back to where the teenagers were held and made to shower where they deloused me. I was a shy kid but the thick snot looking phlegm covering the floor dictated my attention more than the staff member looking at my naked body.
In the day room you only sat if you no longer cared what you sat in; and if you wanted to get discharged you had to care. So sitting was a no go for both reasons, but especially because every piece of furniture had been peed on by the two girls with intellectual disabilities housed on our unit.
Walking to lunch one day I remember one of the adult patients standing on the other side of the chain linked fence yelling at us as we walked by. The staff members were too busy trying to shoo him away to notice what we were doing, and we were looking at what he was trying to show us. It was a cockroach he found in the kitchen and the bastard was the size of my damn hand. I grew up terrified of roaches so needless to say I lost a lot of weight.
The girls on the adolescent unit all showered together in the same room with nothing more than a shower curtain to separate our bodies. I was always such a modest person that if I had cared a little less I would not have even bothered showering. This is where I first learned what a bush was and that other girls my age shaved theirs.
I just realized what triggered this memory! I woke up thinking about my mother and how she pollutes so many people and pulls them into her way of thinking. A family member made a comment to me a few months ago about my mom being upset she would not get to meet my brothers baby. This cut me deeply because she has never even met or tried to have anything to do with my seventeen month old daughter, her only granddaughter. The memory of the hospital was triggered by me trying to think of a time when she cared or felt any kind of guilt about what she had done to me. I would never have been sent to state if she had not pushed the judge.
With this realization fresh off my fingertips I realize that, yes, there was a time my mom cared about me and felt guilt. But also that she tried doing what she thought was in my best interest! That alone makes the hell of state bearable. At one time I had a mother that loved me.
But what if my expectations of love are impossible? What if I just demand too much from people so I can feel justified when I push them away? Would I send one of my kids to a state ran facility if the need called? Knowing what I know there is no way in hell I would, but my mom did not know. I don’t think she did anyway.
An ounce of forgiveness begins to creep in with understanding. So yes, enlightenment is a game changer. Now I wonder if my mind is doing all of this to push me to this very conclusion? To sift and wade through the muddy waters of my childhood so that I can learn to forgive and let go? Is that the undiscovered scientific reason for PTSD? Food for thought!
Forgiveness by Emily Dickinson
My heart was heavy, for its trust had been
Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong;
So, turning gloomily from my fellow-men,
One summer Sabbath day I strolled among
The green mounds of the village burial-place;
Where, pondering how all human love and hate
Find one sad level; and how, soon or late,
Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face,
And cold hands folded over a still heart,
Pass the green threshold of our common grave,
Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart,
Awed for myself, and pitying my race,
Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave,
Swept all my pride away, and trembling I forgave
Dickinson, Emily “Forgiveness”. Famous poets and poems. com
No date. Publication medium, web.