Trauma

I am about write an article that I can’t really finish. I’m not sure what I’m going to withhold or what I am going to share. I don’t even know all the details of this story I am trying to own because I don’t know the whole story. I don’t know the whole story because I can’t remember everything. I can’t remember everything because my brain will not let me remember.

Self-Loving Recital

In “Deficit of Attention“, I revealed my story surrounding my ability to pay attention only for short periods of time. My test for attention deficit disorder will be next month and in the meantime I’ve been coping by sleeping plenty, eating healthy food, drinking water, keeping a clean space, and avoiding caffeine and sugar. I have been drawing boundaries surrounding my work and my days have more structure than before. I have my weekends off and life is good. 

I made a goal for myself, that I will figure out how to prepare a recital with self-love by living a life of self-love first. I would rehearse with self-love, perform with self-love for people who love me (a carefully selected audience), and listen to the recording with self-love. I am inviting the people I love who have loved and supported me. A private event where I can be authentic and learn the truth about my ability to perform in a safe space. 

I wondered, why can’t I prepare a faculty recital in the same way? Why all the strategies? Why the shift and switch, why go to left field again? As much as I have discovered about myself in the last two years, I dream of the day I no longer have to dig up shit from my past and observe it to see why I am hearing this message of shame or that message of doubt. Today is not that day.

Web of Assimilation

I had to teach a clinic for highschoolers a week ago. Imposter syndrome bubbled to the surface a few days before and I did my usual magic tricks to shoo it away. I love that I have this ability and I also hate it. I’m tired of having strategies. I’m exhausted from my quest to find a safe space or to live a wholehearted life, to be resilient to the fear of disconnection, shame. I honestly thought I had observed every horrible story I have excavated from my formerly buried past. Alas, a few of these are SFDs (Brené Brown’s abbreviation for “shitty first draft”). This is when you think you have a story figured out, but the truth is, your story lacks the perspective that only comes with time.

The SFD at hand? I’ll just say it. I was abused as a child. Whenever I say that or write it, the first thing that comes to mind are memes that have gone around:

“I was spanked as a child and as a result I now have a psychological condition known as ‘respect for others’.”

There’s another one. Something like, “if your parents spanked you, you should thank them for preventing you from becoming an asshole.”

My brothers and I were hit as children. I have received a whap on the head or slap on the arm/leg here and there, a pinch on the ear or the back of the arm or the back of the thigh. The worst was the stick (a thin twig from our yard), it was always just thin enough to really hurt. I remember so little but I do remember having been hit repeatedly with it. The most vivid memory I had was once making my dad mad, seeing him turn toward the fridge to get the stick and I ran to the bathroom and locked myself inside while my dad shook the door in his rage. I didn’t get black eyes or bruises, so I never thought this was abuse.

The rest is a haze.

haze

The last time I was hit was in my early 20s. I had just graduated from college and I was living with my parents. Long story short, my dad said something that offended me, he was being an asshole. I cussed at him and he hit me very hard on the back of the head. I got up and packed a bag and darted toward my car.
Fuck this, I thought. I’m an adult and this is bullshit. My mom followed me out the door. This was the moment she chose to explain to me why my father had such a short fuse, a really bad temper, why he excessively hit me and my brothers. That was the night I found out that both my dad and my mom, in their individual childhoods, were victims of abuse. I knew they were spanked and hit as kids but I thought that was all it was. There was more. I heard the horrifying details and I stood there in disbelief. Neither of them told anyone but each other. They never received psychological help as children because receiving psychological help would bring shame upon the family. They were not only failed by their culture, they were failed by their families. My mom eventually got a little bit of professional help in her adult years (after contemplating suicide, possibly from post-partum depression) but my dad never did.

 

I told my brothers. Everything made sense all of a sudden but it was strange. I didn’t use this new information to apply perspective to my story. Somehow, I had assimilated my perspective of my dad to this new information. From that point on anytime I hated how he was acting toward me (after that, any abuse I received was limited to emotional and spiritual abuse) I just thought, “This is because of his unresolved abuse.” Not “I don’t deserve this,” or “I need space from this,” or “Well, this is straight up toxic,” or “fuck this, I’m out of here.” No, I simply saw his behavior through his unresolved pain and suffering, his weakness. “Poor him,” not “poor me”.

The last time I was threatened to be hit was in my 30s. I was not hit because my dad knows that I would not hesitate to call the police, press charges, and burn my family’s reputation to the ground. I stopped talking to my father and mother ever since I began to own this story. My dad, the abuser. My mom, the enabler, who chose not getting divorced and being super Catholic over protecting her kids. Damn near all of the shame that I experienced in my life have come from their action or inaction, their words. A lifetime of physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse…and yet the story is a haze. 

Inner Conflict

There were also good times with my parents. They made tremendous sacrifices to give me a way better life. They provided me with privilege. How evil are two parents who take their children to Disney World? The absolute most important thing of all? My dad took me to pick out an instrument, the trumpet, hands-down one of the worst instruments you can play if you’re ever dealing with anxiety (low flow rate, high air pressure, physically taxing), and unknowingly the key to my freedom today. Had this not happened I am quite sure I would have been married to somebody I hate, working a job I hate, while taking care of 2.5 children that I would treat like shit. So, I am grateful to my dad for this.

My parents were great with other people at parties or at church. They were great around my cousins and other extended family. I saw them be great around my nephews. My dad is so sweet with my nephews. It’s endearing and it’s also painful. I see the real people my parents are, kind and giving. I didn’t get their best but their best is within them. I don’t think my parents are evil and I don’t blame them for anything. I’m sure my parents loved me the best they could through their many acts of service, through their aid. They didn’t love me all of the time. They didn’t love me unconditionally, and it is not their fault. They were never extended this kind of love themselves. 

The trifecta that was physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, may be called multi-type maltreatment. I started to read up on child abuse and what its effects are. I came to learn that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is highly associated with physical child abuse. I understood right then and there what message was ingrained in me as a kid and later as an adult.

No matter what I do or what I accomplish, I can always be hit, reduced to size. Nothing I do means anything.

A lifetime of running away from this message has been futile, especially when my number one objective growing up was being the perfect daughter. It was time to take this information to my therapist. She revealed to me all of the rationalization she heard in my storytelling.

“Miranda, a child is not supposed to be responsible for helping a parent cool down his temper by running away and locking herself in the bathroom. That is not okay.”

Damn. She’s right.

I told my therapist that I couldn’t remember much even though I knew I got hit more times than I can count. Many times unfairly. Again, I once thought excessive spanking was something that many kids received. Normal. She said a word that I never thought to attach to these experiences:

Trauma

No wonder I don’t remember everything. I am now sort of in trauma counseling. Well, not sort of. It seems so weird to say. I’m currently in a really happy place but now I’m also examining my experience with trauma? I’m now to do certain writing exercises and I am supposed to follow my therapist’s instructions and prompts regarding the assimilation or accommodation of unexpected events from my childhood.

I don’t get to wrap this article up neatly. I don’t know what’s ahead. All I know is that I am departing my SFD surrounding abuse and I will be in revision for a while. I believe ownership of this story is ahead of me but I don’t get to piece things together. I was told not to do that because there is a chance I could alter information, make up a story in order to fit my view or idea of what happened. I’m to stick with what few things I remember, and over time, especially through my self-care and self-love, more will be revealed.

In the meantime, until I own my story, I’ll continue shift and switch to do what I have to do regarding music performance. I’m no longer annoyed that I have to resort to strategies. I’m grateful to have an option.

 (originally published on September 21, 2016)
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