I have been almost constantly triggered since Friday. I wish I knew why, but wondering about it seems to push me into a totally unproductive way of thinking. It seems to invite distorted thoughts to come and take up residency in my brain. So I try not to. That means I don’t really know. I have determined that any contact at all with C, even an indirect contact, triggers me. And I have been making more contact with her, because I feel like she needs more support right now. She has four more exams left to take, and she is then facing a separation from me and a reunion with her abusive parents. Yes, I think she needs extra support.
It triggers me, but I am an adult, and I need to suck it up and figure out how to cope. She’s a child, with no background knowledge of trauma or how it affects the mind other than what I have told her. She can’t cope. So I am doing things I know increase the level of challenge in my life, and I do not feel at liberty to just stop doing them.
I have just been cycling through trauma-inspired emotions. It isn’t fun, and I have that feeling like I am doing it wrong. I am in pain, and my response to the pain isn’t helping me, but I can’t think clearly enough to do it differently.
Anyway, this morning, I had a thought. I was thinking about my mom. I was thinking I felt I could not live up to her expectations: there was this feeling I had about being rejected by her, that I had failed, I wasn’t wanted. I hadn’t succeeded in being someone she could want or like.
And then I began to think she reacted to me in the way that she did because when I could not meet her expectations of me—whatever they happened to be—I touched her wound, which matched the would she was inflicting on me, of feeling she could never be liked or wanted. She got very angry, and she rejected me and abandoned me. She punished me for being myself, for being a child, and for being traumatized and angry and wounded.
It helps a lot to understand that. It doesn’t excuse it, but it explains it, and it makes it not feel personal to me. It was not my fault. I did not create that wound in her. It wasn’t my fault she reacted that way to me. I understood it wasn’t my fault before, but understanding the dynamic in a more specific way gives it emotional resonance and makes it feel real, like I can believe it, instead of it being something that is kind of like the revolution of electrons around the nucleus of an atom which it turns out does not really happen.
I was thinking this and a truck started up. I hate this. I really, really do. There are two triggers that seem to really get to me. They just assault me internally with terror in a way I cannot soothe: trucks and saws. I don’t know why the trucks do this to me, but they do. And they are both fairly erratic. There will be frantic sawing every day, all day for a few days, then tapering off, then nothing. I never really know when they will start again, or if they will work briefly or for 14 hours at a stretch. The trucks sometimes idle outside my house every day in the morning and again in the evening, and sometimes not at all. Sometimes it is also in the afternoon on weekends. They will idle for 10 minutes or for 30 minutes at a time, at different times. It is not necessarily the same time as the day before, so I can never prepare for it.
It’s difficult when I am deep in thought about some other trigger and already in a painful place, and they start up, either the saws or the trucks, and I have to deal with the present trigger in addition to the pain I have let into my mind because it felt momentarily safe.
That happened this morning. I was already in a painful place, and then the truck started up. I felt really angry. It is like someone comes into my house and assaults me. internally, it is an assault, and I have no control over it whatsoever. It might as well be a separate person: I have so little control over what happens to me even though it is entirely inside me.
I just sat there, and fortunatley it did not idle that long. Maybe only 10 minutes. It helps sometimes if I go into the kitchen, and work there instead, but other times I just strain my ears trying to hear if the truck has stopped. It felt like a morning when it wouldn’t help to go into a different room and so I just sat there, trying to cope with the truck.
I had the thought while I was doing this, that this is about my parents. This is about my parents not even providing me with basic protection, not even protecting the physical integrity of my body. They allowed other people to put things inside it. They placed me intentionally into situations where my basic, physical safety and integrity would be threatened.
This is not just about what happened, but about the bond with my parents. My parents are assholes, but that doesn’t mean I had no bond to them, or that that bond with them does not need to be grieved. My parents did not and could not care for me, and I think I had this idea that I ought to be able to face that without it hurting or without having to grieve. I had the idea that because the people themselves were so terrible, I would not have a bond with them to grieve, and that if I grieved it was a grief for something that never existed. But there was a bond. I am not grieving for my parents as people. I am grieving for the bond I had with them. Even though the bond did not allow me to get my needs met as a child, or to be loved and cared for, a bond was there. It still existed. There is sort of no way around having a bond with your parents. And it still hurts to grieve for it.
One of the problems I have had in recognizing this has been because of the frame I learned in therapy: that the pain is about my perception of myself. I think now it isn’t. The pain is about the bond. What I have in my head is a feeling of worthlessness. It’s the memory fragment from most traumatic experiences with my parents, in which I perceived that I did not have any value to them. The wound is not to my ego or to my feelings about myself. The wound is to the bond, and the actual emotion of it is most akin to loneliness. The bond meant I ought to have been of value. Normally, when we have a relationship to someone, they value us and are interested in us. They care what we think and make some attempt to understand what our experiences are like. My baby trauma flashbacks are memories of that not happening, and of having a bond with someone who was not interested in my experiences and did not care what they were like.
It’s a grief that could not be resolved when I was a child, because I needed to have a bond with my parents. There was no way around it. It was not possible to simply let it go. The problem in adult life has been—among many other things—that I expected not to have to grieve. Since I knew my parents were assholes, I expected I would not need to grieve for a bond with them. But there is a difference between the person and the bond you have with them. It is one thing to come to terms with their total inadequacy as human beings, and it’s another to grieve for the relationship you have to them. They are not the same thing. And I didn’t know that. I expected that I had come to terms with their personalities and that was the end of the matter.
I am never going to have a bond with a parent. It is too late to make one—I cannot go and invent other parents—and the bond I had with my own parents was devastatingly harmful to me.
I expected this not to hurt. It does hurt.