I woke up feeling worthless. Utterly so. There were pictures in my head of smashing my own skull. It was, in some way, extremely childish—like 2-year-old rage. I could tell myself all the reasons I was unworthy if I tried, but when I slowed down a little and just kind of watched the pictures go by, I realized it had that quality of being completely undirected, the way toddler rage loses its direction and focus because it has become so intense. An angry toddler hates everyone and everything. There are times when she stops wanting the thing she wanted and couldn’t have that set off her rage in the first place.
Anyway, it was like that, so I sat with the rage for a while. I got a coffee and a hot water bottle and sat there and felt this undirected rage.
What I have realized over time—this is how it seems to me anyway—is that I have feelings now in the present, but our experiences are always linked associatively to other things. That is how we “know” things. What I know of rage as I feel it is connected to the way rage felt and seemed at every other time I felt it.
The hard part of it is that the most intense experience of a feeling–any feeling–and therefore the most memorable is always trauma. But so many trauma memories or unprocessed or only partly processed. So I have a feeling in the present, it recalls the past, and it’s not a past I “get” in any sense. It’s a past that sometimes makes me think, “What is that? What am I even looking at?” Because of that, the sense-making involved in understanding the present situation is hugely complex and sometimes overwhelming.
I didn’t go combing through the past for the sensory memories that would be connected to the emotion. That would overwhelm me with 50 over horrors I can’t handle as I combed through the files of horrors to find the correct horror. I sat there and some stuff came slowly up.
I think it took about an hour. Maybe 2 hours. I mention that in case it helps to get a sense of the process for me. We can compare perhaps.
Eventually, it seemed to come to light—in a fragmented, confusing, indirect way—that I was really frustrated and angry that I could not help Nadia or really anyone. I did what I was told, and what I did was bad.
I wanted to punish myself forever to having been so bad.
As an adult, I know that perpetual atonement will not help. It will not undo anything I had to do or bring anyone back. It will just make my life more difficult.
I think that brings me back to the present. I have been thinking that, while there is this almost physical process of forming memories out of the bits and pieces that have stored of what happened, there is also this other process that is a grief process and it unfolds exactly like any other grief process. It’s a grief over what happened, over the actual people who were harmed, and also over its consequences in my present and throughout the rest of my less-traumatic past.
You move in and out of the same stages: denial seemed to be a long stage. It took the form of first, Can I pretend it didn’t happen? And then, Can I pretend it didn’t have any long-term effect on me? And finally, Can I pretend I can remove the effect? I mean, can I get through what I need to do in a week or a month or a year from now?
At last, there is where I am now: I understand it has altered the course of my entire life. My life will always be different than what it might have been or what I would choose it to be. It need not be a psychic death sentence of sorts, and the particular way it will affect me I cannot know before it happens, but I will not be who I would have been and my life will not be what it was. The trauma in the past also creates constraints that other people don’t have. I don’t know what those constraints will be in the future. I know what they are now. I know there will always be some constraints though. Not necessarily impairments, but realities I need to accommodate. And I know I do not really get to choose them. They are simply there. I can fight them and make my life miserable, or I can work with them and have a satisfying life anyway.
Anyway, this seems to be the anger stage. At present, I am angry at how the trauma impacts my relationships. I have come to terms with how it impacts my functioning on a day-to-day basis. My social life is slim because of it. I don’t really have much energy left for hobbies or enjoyment. I have accepted that. It is how it is.
But it also makes relationships very difficult to manage. It impacts every interaction with C, and maybe I have mostly kept it together, but I did not earlier this week. I am frustrated by that.
It is how it is though. I am doing the best I can. It may or may not be good enough. I cannot control that.