So I have this idea that trauma, especially childhood trauma, is about having experiences that are not connected. They have not been organized in some mysterious way that is necessary in order for your brain to work right, for you to make decisions in the context of what you know about reality. The important bits of the memory are there, floating around in your brain, but there isn’t a robust web of connections around them and between them because every time they get touched upon, the traumatized person gets flooded with emotion and the brain goes into emergency shutdown mode all over again. This thing that needs to happen to make it a normal memory never happens. You keep remembering it, and the next step never happens. It ends up kind of like a loop. It’s flagged as a high priority memory, because it was LIFE OR DEATH, so it gets tapped into a lot, and you remember it a lot, and the actual formation of a memory doesn’t happen.
That’s my idea. When pieces of the memory surface as sensory information, or as thoughts, or as raw emotion, they need for the conscious mind to make a special effort at regulating their intensity, so that this process of forming a normal memory can happen.
There is all of this other stuff that emerges out of being someone who has trauma, but this is the main thing. Memories need to be formed. Which doesn’t mean necessarily declarative memories. That might be a part of it, but it is only one part of it. The actual sensations of it, the emotions, the thoughts you had at the time. That’s the memory that needs to be made into a coherent whole. And it doesn’t need your conscious attention. It will happen. What needs your conscious attention is regulating your emotions and your arousal state, because you can’t form normal memories in an overloaded state.
This is usually what I try to do. Regulate the emotions, so that the memories can form themselves. It’s hard, and it’s frequently extremely unpleasant, and it’s extra hard, because it’s my own idea. I don’t have a lot of validation outside of myself that this works. It makes sense with what I know about the brain, about children with trauma, and my own personal experience, but most people actively lobby against doing this. I should not sit with my misery. I should try to get out of it. But I sit with it. I sat with stuff a lot today, and it was really, really hard, and mostly I hated it.
I feel really worthless, like someone who can be discarded. For sure, that’s a memory, and it comes from so many different places. It is what happens, I think, when important people around you don’t have enough trust to risk vulnerability. It means they view those around them as sources of getting needs met or desires satiated, but without risking the possibility of rejection or dependency. They get what they want and discard you, because to maintain a connection with you after that is to invite actual connection. It is to risk vulnerability, and they do not have the ability to trust or to tolerate vulnerability.
C does this sometimes. “When you come in evening, can you bring momos and junk [food]?” I reply, then get nothing back, because she can’t risk vulnerability at this particular moment. Actually, for the last week, she has said, “Don’t come after Friday.” I told her I think this is probably unwise. She’s telling me to come. But it is shrouded within demands for tangible items. Then it’s just momos and my miserliness—not a rejection of her.
It’s not really a big deal, but I recognize it. Coach Ma’am only talks to me when she wants something. I have messaged her a few times just casually, in a friendly way. The kids at the high school told me she fractured her leg, and she posted piteous status updates about how hard it was to be alone. (It is. However, she was miraculously walking around cast-less a week later when I saw her.
She doesn’t reply. This has been her pattern for years. She has asked me for money and to be her girlfriend and a few weeks ago she wanted company to meet C.
Coach Ma’am isn’t of great interest to me, but C is close to her. I am sure when I was 14, I had people in my life like Coach Ma’am.
I am sure my parents are like that. My mom wanted my company when she was lonely. Not lonely? I’m busy, I’m sleeping, I’m whatever.
And then other people, maybe responding to my vulnerability, seemed to really care and did care, but then I needed too much. They had their own families to attend to, their own priorities. I wasn’t their priority. I wasn’t my parents’ priority. I was no one’s priority. And there is a very deep grief over that. This is all kind of an implicit memory. If you asked for a specific example, I don’t know if I could tell you. But it is a very clear felt sense, of really not being special or important to anyone and of being someone who could be discarded.
It got triggered very strongly on Friday, because a friend in the US who has been my friend for many years told me before I left that I could stay in her house when I got back and she has said this quite pointedly. Then the issue of C came up, I asked if she could stay in the house with me, and then it became, “Well, I have all of these other people in the house, and maybe it won’t work out for you to stay.” It’s mostly about C, but she has backpedaled on my staying in her house at all. And that is her right, but it calls up that feeling. I am not of particular importance to her, and since she has her own family to attend to, I can be told I am not wanted and that I am, in short, too much of a burden to take on.
And this is fine.
Except that I have never really been important to anyone. I was never not too much of a burden. I have always been a kind of disposable human being. I have never been very important to anyone, and I might never be. I have no idea what the real present is like, or what the real future is like, because this is heavily on my mind and I am not in a place to evaluate much of anything accurately. But I know it is true about the past. I didn’t belong to anyone, and people have cared about me, but not that much.
It’s terrible. It’s a terribly hard place to be in and to stay in, to just know that this was true. I have never had deep connections to anyone, because my family was not capable of having them and later I did not know how to make them. We make these kinds of deep connections with only a few people, and I may never end up making them. It’s doubtful I have them now, and I may never make them.
The other thing I have been mulling lately is just that it’s frequently hard to really communicate with anyone. I have friends, but actually almost no one is interested in what I really think of things or what life is like for me. If I begin to talk about my own thoughts, they are silenced very quickly. Maybe not intentionally, but that is what happens. My views are not of great interest to anyone. Almost no one is willing to take time to understand me. And probably this is about something of the same thing. It’s about those deep connections, where someone really finds you worthwhile enough to understand even if it takes effort to do so. I don’t have those deep connections, and no one much cares what I think.
And it’s terrible. It is so terrible it really feels that it would be better if I had not been born, and yet I was born, and the necessity of getting through life is unavoidable.
So I am having that kind of day. And now I am going to make pancakes for C and try to get through a conversation with her about how to give her money so that she isn’t freaking out about it all the time. Which did not go well on Friday. And might not go well tonight.
Oh, and it’s Father’s Day. My dad’s a serial killer. How the fuck did I lose the dad lottery like that?