Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Traumatic Event

So, last week while I was stuck in bed because I felt like crap and couldn't do much else, a friend sent me a link to an online course called Heal Yourself with Writing.

Well, I've been trying to heal this anxiety and depression for the last couple of years, and I've found that therapy and yoga have been insanely helpful, and this course sounded like just the ticket.

Because I write by hand at the pace of a slug, I thought I'd create a little space here to keep track of my thoughts as I go through this class.

The first assignment from last week was to talk about a traumatic event.

For some reason, this made me angry right off the bat. First, because I couldn't think of just one single traumatic event. But I could think of one big, long traumatic event: my entire frigging childhood.

Can you imagine growing up in a house with a mother who suffered from such severe mental illness that she was afraid to get into the shower when there was no one else around in case she fell down? Can you imagine growing up with someone who was afraid to eat, well, just about everything? Can you imagine growing up with someone who hardly ever left the house, who needed someone home pretty much all the time because there was a fear of being alone, someone who could just lose it and deteriorate in just a few seconds?

Growing up, I dreaded most of my summer vacations, because we never did anything. We never went anywhere. We stayed home, day after day after day, and while I enjoyed some of the crafting things we did, I really got sick of watching I Love Lucy and Leave It To Beaver every single fucking morning of my fucking summer vacation.

I got tired of hearing stories about other kids who went on vacation, or went to camp, and who grew up having adventures.

I spent my summer vacations longing for the day when I would grow up and finally be free of this place, be free of the insanity that went on there.

I feel sad now that I wished away those days. Those could have been good days.

And, of course, even though I'm grown up, I'm only now just starting to come to grips with everything that happened to me growing up.

If I had to single out just one traumatic event, it would have to be the day I watched my mother threaten my father with suicide if he went to work. (This is the kind of shit that went on in our house on a weekly basis. For real. Is there any doubt as to why I suffer from anxiety and depression so badly now as an adult?)

My mother was having one of her bad days. She didn't want my father to go to work. My father was out of vacation time - if he stayed home, they would have docked his pay (possibly, probably), and the loss of income would have been hard for us.

My father told my mother for what seemed like the hundredth time that he couldn't take the day off from work and that he was going. At that, my mother grabbed a bottle of what I believe was Valium from the dresser next to the bed, poured out a handful of them, and went to swallow them all. My father, of course, reached across and started to yank them out of her hand, and I completely lost my shit and ran into my bedroom where I buried my face in the pillow because even at 11 years old, I felt like I could not take a second more of this shit.

I have no idea where my sister was during all of this.

My mother, while creative and talented, was a damaged person. And the whole thing just gets me pissed off that there was no one out there to help me when I needed it most. When I was a kid. Just a kid. There was no one to protect me, or to show me things, or to explain to me how "normal" people did stuff. There was just...this. A handful of Valium. More screaming and crying and threatening and yelling.

Is it any wonder that I just wanted to be like all the other kids? Is it really so hard to believe that I made myself miserable because I felt like I was never going to be like the other kids who seemed to come from "normal" homes?

I don't know what all the stories were of the other kids, but I was sure that none of them were going through what we went through at our house.

To be honest, I feel a little guilty about feeling this way. I don't want to blame someone for how I am today. But the one time when I thought that maybe I could get some help through a counselor, my mother screamed at me that I just went to therapy to bitch about her.

Which, of course, I did.

But it was just so horrible to hear that coming from her that I decided to quit therapy and didn't go back for many, many years. Because how could I have been such a horrible person to need help dealing with a mother who was so mentally ill that she believed she was allergic to pretty much every kind of food out there?

And so, here's the thing: I have to stop beating myself up over this. I do. Truly.

There was nothing I could have done. There is nothing I can do now to change the circumstances under which I grew up. My mother has been dead for 5 years. The thing that she spent my entire life dreading finally happened in July of 2008.

How else could I have dealt with the situation? All things considered, I don't think things were too bad. I could have gotten involved in drugs. I could have run away from home. I could have done a million things differently to hurt myself or get myself killed, but I didn't. Somehow, I managed to grow up, put myself through college, find a wonderful husband, get married, and have a beautiful little boy of my own whom I love more than life itself.

And I am just now starting to deal with the pain and the fear from those years, growing up like that.

If I tell the truth, I'm starting to feel like a wounded child all over again. I'm starting to feel like a scared and frightened little girl who has no one to help her.

I started therapy again in January of this year, and it was good for a while. And then I stopped about six weeks ago. Probably because I was getting close to making this kind of breakthrough.

So I think it's time to start up again.