With this new blog, I am committed to writing regularly again. Carving out time away from all my many obligations and writing about my journey to a life of thriving after significant and prolonged abuse. I am struggling today. I don’t want to write.
I want to go lay down.
Tired isn’t really descriptive regarding what I am feeling. Weary comes closer but really the term malaise is more accurate. I am literally so tired that the very thought of doing anything else is soul shattering. And yet, this morning, I have done dishes, cleaned up from ritual last night, prepared for a class that was held this morning, sorted laundry, said good bye to a good friend who stayed over last night, finished a crochet project, and led an hour-long class on energetics.
This is what thriving requires. I gave in to this soul crushing exhaustion once and ended up in a mental hospital in Atlanta after literally being in bed for six weeks. The more I “rested” the more fatigue crept into my life the more I stayed in bed and the more I binged True Blood. I was escaping from the world that had become overwhelming to me.
I had been diagnosed with a disorder I couldn’t see or control, Mast Cell Activation Disorder with Neurocardiogenic Syncope. I continued to battle Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my childhood and I was completely lost. Cut off without a community and set adrift in a sea of emotions that threatened to drown me.
The fatigue is partially a real bodily fatigue from my various medical conditions, but the feelings that accompany this fatigue says, “I can’t handle one more thing going wrong,” or “If anyone is mean to me I will cry,” or “I want to curl up with Cas[ Castiel, call name Cas, is Dia’s service animal.] and pretend the world doesn’t exist.”
It is as if I have gone passed the place where the things I have seen, been forced to do, and had to experience are pouring out of my pores like a sickly sweet smelling sweat. I am drenched in the feeling, sticky with it. The smell is pungent in my nose and there is no escape from the insistence that even a shower wouldn’t rid myself of these overwhelming feelings of violation, hurt, and devastation.
The secret truth of trauma survivors is this…. we feel like this every day. Today isn’t some special exception to my life. This is a mind numbing normal that I cannot escape even with years of cognitive behavioral therapy – years…as in I was 18 when I started and I am 52 now.
Overtime, you learn to present your indomitable spirit as the mask others see first, refusing to be beaten by the trauma of your past and the chronic illness that past created. It becomes this second skin that simply suppresses the vile and vitriol the trauma creates in your emotions and mind. You learn to mimic the smiles and mannerisms of those who can’t smell the stench upon you. You learn to keep your disassociation to a minimum least it take over and ruin the house or cards you precariously balance upon the trauma ruins your life began with.
Some later time, I will do some research and explore more effectively the biological changes made in children who suffer severe trauma at young ages. Today, I am tired and I will stick to what I know.
Disassociation is a way that the mind copes with trauma and stress. We all will disassociate some: on days we binge, “Murder in the Building,” or read an entire book or lose ourselves in a world of crafts, video games, or watching sports. Some take this disassociation to horrible places by drinking too much, taking drugs, or doing other destructive and harmful things.
Disassociation for trauma survivors is not just a way to cope with stress it is a conditioned response to stress. As a child as stress and tension rose in our homes, we looked for escape which was reading, being outside and away from the abusers, going to other people’s houses, playing pretend, or literally disassociating from the current real moment by simply drifting off into the ether world where nothing was or is and certainly nothing is raping the mind as the pedophilia rapes the body.
The problem as a adults is that stress to the body is the same biological response as it was when we were being raped. Our body doesn’t understand that today’s stress is my overflowing basket of papers to electronically scan and file and not an active rape. To my body it is just stress. And disassociating is how my body has learned to handle stress.
When I do not comply and check out of my current environment.. my office and desk of cluttered papers in need of filing, my body fights back. It says to me, “Sleep. Your tired. You have earned it. Just close your eyes and sleep.”
I suddenly want to finish a book I am reading or there is some crocheting I could do or I could just give in and take a nap.
There are consequences though to giving in. Laundry doesn’t get done. The kitchen doesn’t get cleaned. My filing continues to pile up. My writing goes unwritten.
Which, when I am not disassociating, exponentially raises my stress level, which cause my body’s need to disassociate to grow which makes it hard to be motivated to get things done, which causes my stress to grow….
A cyclical return of never ending stress and the pressure our past puts upon us to do nothing but emotionally, intellectually, physically hide.
Food helps. But food is, in and over itself another coping mechanism that I can use to fight the stress and need to disassociate. Being addicted to caffeine when your heart is physically fragile isn’t such a great way to cope with the fatigue need of disassociation.
Exercise helps but who wants to exercise and be even more physically exhausted.
In fact my sister[ Any sibling or family member I refer to is a chosen one and not biological unless specifically indicated as biological.] has educated me on the term “self soothing.” A series of behaviors people do to try to alleviate anxiety and physical stress. I knew immediately what she was talking about because I knew exactly what I did regularly to try to alleviate my stress and anxiety levels. My biological mother did it too.
My biological father had been on a tear. I could hear him raging through the house knocking things around and screaming at my mother. The side door slammed and the loud rumble of his suped up wood paneled station shattered the hot, humid southern afternoon. It trundled down the road gaining moment with the increasing sound of his retreat, signaling the all clear to the children who had scattered and hidden when his rage had begun.
I walked into the piano room in the house and my mother was all huddled on the patten leather green chair that had somehow survived the 1970’s to live in my childhood home. It was hideous and my mother, for some unknown reason, loved it. I walked in and she was sucking her thumb and completely disassociated from the world I was currently walking in. I called her name softly, “Mama?”
She started and ripped her thumb from her mouth and then with venom said, “Don’t you tell anyone,” jumped out of the green monster and left the room.
I understood. I sucked my thumb until well past middle school and my biological parents spent lots of money trying to make sure I didn’t go through my life with horrible horse teeth caused my the “voracious” thumb sucking, one orthodontist quantified it.
But it was soothing and required nothing but my own body to help ease the ache of trauma all around me. I wouldn’t and didn’t judge my biological mother for thumb sucking something I caught her doing multiple times. I understood it and longed to be able to do it myself.
When my sister told me about self soothing, I was on the phone with her. My right hand thumb was laid along my right jaw line. My first two fingers of the same hand were curled up under my nose where I could feel the soft breath from my nostrils move the hair on my hands. With sudden clarity I saw myself and realized my was still sucking my thumb it just wasn’t in my mouth.
My hand jerked to my lap after that jolt of understanding hit me. I felt exposed and vulnerable and shamed. Like my biological mother I suddenly realized that this habit exposed some truths about me and my past and present, even when I thought my mask was firmly covering the stench of my tiredness.
Now I live a battle to not “suck my thumb” in public or when people are around. I catch myself doing it daily. Invariably I can’t help but feel some kindred with my biological mother over the similarities of our coping strategies.
For now, I am tired and will finally allow myself lunch and the hope of not wasting my day asleep hiding from the stress of my life.
Thank you for sharing. You are brave and wise. And even thought your self understanding is a burden, it is also a great gift.