I like to think I am relatively ‘easy going’. I’ve had folks tell me that I was a pleasure to work with. Huzzah. And I like to think that not many things send me into a point of anger. Of course, that could just be the CPTSD and the fact that I have virtually no emotions talking. But, hey. It’s chill. I’m good.
But then I meet folks who want to redefine my story of my life. They sit there and explain to me how my representation of my experience is ‘wrong’. Yeah. I ran into one of those recently. Oh… I really wanted to ‘rage post’, but my interior editor stopped me. Thank goodness for that titanium trap in my mind that usually keeps me from uttering something that might later be – ahem… unfortunate.
So, instead, I sat down and wrote this 100-word essay. I hope you enjoy.
And, just as a tip. When someone is divulging their truth to you, do not attempt to invalidate their experience in any way. It makes us grumpy.
You do not know my story.
Do not dare to soften my reality
to fit your comfortable limited view.
If I make you wince, good.
Is my honesty too much?
I spent years stuffing myself
Into silence for the comfort of others.
You will not use my truth as a tool
To advance your fiction.
I do not accept your rewriting of my experience.
I have come too far
To allow a fantasy
Composed by a stranger
To limit me.
I am my own.
You do not define me.
My truth is not yours to alter.
How do I explain the limits
that a child places on themselves
when faced with a certainty of
I tried to survive by becoming small.
I didn’t share the backseat with my brother.
I cringed in the corner between the seat and the door.
I curled into a knot.
Tighter, smaller so I presented less of a target to him.
Smaller still, curling in on myself
not allowing a hair, a thought
or an expression
to ripple the air around me.
Drawing in still tighter
I collapsed until nothing escaped,
becoming a single point
without boundary, mass or being.
As a child my task
Was to conform myself to my confinement.
Before I could walk walls were in my way.
Unable to define myself I wandered aimlessly,
Only defined by the banks around me.
Parents placed their levees,
Each one diverting me to another goal.
Dividing me from myself.
I grew voiceless.
I grew small.
I surrendered pieces of myself,
Cutting them away.
Am I small enough?
Am I quiet enough?
In those days in that house
All was orderly, predictable, controlled.
No one sensed the coming storm.
Not me. Not them.
Until the rising flood swept everything aside.
How do you explain a condition that can’t be seen?
With other trauma you can strip back your sleeves and say these are my scars.
When trauma happens early, before speech, before memory, what do you say?
How do you describe to people the way a glance or a laugh can curl you into a ball, hyperventilating, clutching at your ankles, knees pressed to your lips to stifle the cries.
How do you convey that the world is dangerous?
Not just in crime and betrayal, but love and touch and trust. The world comes to you wrapped in razor wire.
There are moments recovering from trauma where your mind connects two unrelated things.
That revelation’s power is enough to double you over.
You fall to your knees.
The unstoppable feelings pour over you.
It doesn’t matter where you are, kitchen, bedroom, or the street, you are struck immobile as your mind seizes this new connection.
You barely breathe as you trace this new idea back through your life.
Other parts of the brain begin firing.
The asphalt under your hands.
Slowly you right yourself and continue on clutching this new revelation tight to your chest like a gift.
I can think of a hundred reasons why I shouldn’t share this.
The meme itself is wordy.
Already shared the story.
The text is too dense.
It breaks the meme conventions.
even with all that
this simple image
with the tiny bug and the
tiny story just feels right.
Inexplicable, but there it is.
How do I explain the limits that a child places on themselves when faced with a certainty of violence? I tried to survive by becoming small. I didn’t share the backseat with my brother. I cringed in the corner between the seat and the door. I curled into a knot. Tighter, smaller so I presented less of a target to him. Smaller still, curling in on myself not allowing a hair, a thought or an expression to ripple the air around me. Drawing in still tighter I collapsed until nothing escaped, becoming a single point without boundary, mass or being.
Happiness is not a word that I generally associate with my life or myself. To me life has always been about what I must do for others. What was expected out of me. What I was and wasn’t allowed to do, think or even feel. Somewhere along the timeline of my childhood happiness was put in a box and stuffed somewhere deep in the metaphorical closet of my self. It was in my 20s that I first approached a mental health provider with the first of a long list of questions. She showed me that my happiness was my responsibility.