Sunday, February 4

Trauma Drama

(written a couple months ago because I couldn’t share it immediately)

Unfortunately I’ve had to analyze the word Trauma today. I feel like the reason is so fucking dumb on one hand, and yet the reality of my feeling a word as big as “trauma” has me writing.

First of all I have to acknowledge we all have issues. Nobody gets to have a perfect life with a perfect childhood, and nobody reaches adulthood unscathed. Fact. AND… and… one doesn’t even begin to reach adulthood until one is around the age of 40. So all of you 30 year olds… don’t be think’n you are grown up. You have so much more experience and perspective in this decade of life, before you are even close to being a “grown up”. And THEN… being a grown up seems to be largely about accepting how hard life is and how you “process”, “deal”, “fix”, “realize” things. Because you don’t really process, deal, fix, or realize things until you get old enough to look back and do so.

So… this word “trauma”. I’m personally using it in a situation that I am accepting in my 40’s that it was in fact traumatic for me. Anyone at any age in my life could have told me that this story/experience was traumatic, sure, however, it’s more that I have realized it myself that has me finally able to label and look at it.

Anything involved in a traumatic situation can be attached to trauma. So as much as I want to belittle MY particular thing, I know full well that any of my friends coming to me with a “traumatic” experience, even if it involved STRING or WATER or a PILLOW… it wouldn’t matter what their trigger was for a traumatic situation, I would listen. I would care, I would accept that their experience was real and a problem for them. And if they were telling me their story, I would do my best to offer perspective that MIGHT help. I would not belittle it for a friend, so I need to not belittle it for myself.

If I am perfectly honest, I’m so gawd-damn annoyed I’m even feeling this and having to accept something so “little” is a “big issue” for me. I seem to have two sensible sides of my brain at play here. One side is saying “get over it, it’s not a big deal”, and the other sensible side is saying, “It doesn’t matter how little it was, it was in fact a traumatic experience, and so you can’t just get over it, you need to deal with it, and in some way… heal if you want to move on”.

With both of these things in mind I say to myself: “How does one heal trauma?”

I think the best answer and one that most people would come to, would be to get counseling. The two times I had counseling in my life, they were about me crying over upset, and then someone telling me the sum up of: “what I’m hearing is…”. So I automatically in this instance have to wonder if blogging my upset about this “trauma”, is all I need in order to “get counseling”? Although nobody will necessarily read my words and offer advice, it seems to me that the larger aspect of counseling help is just in the telling of the story.

So here I sit, having cried far too much today over something that in my mind should not be this upsetting.

Before I tell the story, I have to say I’ve asked myself if it is hormones. I would kind of like that “out”. If this were just hormones, it would go away. Unfortunately, I can’t just wish that into reality. I have an issue. It’s a stupid issue. It’s one that is exclusive to me and my story, and frankly my trigger isn’t the way to fix it. I don’t actually know how to fix it. So… clearly, it’s not hormones.

I can tell I’m delaying. I’m not sure how this story will unfold, so I should just tell it.

I’ve said many times that after my father has passed, I will tell/voice some stories about him and how hard childhood was with him as my father. Not that he was so especially shitty as a father… no, that’s not really it… I do on some level feel that when one is overall not a top quality human BY CHOICE, one should not be surprised that there are “stories” to tell about them. Without a need to disrespect him or treat him poorly, I’ve said that these stories don’t need to be told while he is alive. And then today jumped into my face and my “trauma” over this particular story it has me writing.

When I was 10 I helped my dad build a chicken coop, and a pigeon coop. We lived on a third of an acre, and I was the daughter that fit the role of “son”. I was the one that helped with all the projects, all the building, installing, hunting, construction things. Mostly the “help” of a 10 year old is hand me this, hand me that. I don’t remember all the details of my helping build these coops… but I know I was the 2nd man in this 2 man construction outfit. I’ve recently learned firsthand that stress affects memory, and my childhood was full of stress, so I should not be surprised that I do not have solid memories of all things. Broken memories with vivid visuals is what I have. Sometimes it’s exact sentences I remember, sometimes it’s the full picture. I guess the clarity really depends on the level of stress I was feeling in the moment.

My father was a very unstable individual. He was violent and it seemed far too often without conscience. I don’t dare label his level of actual conscience, that is not the point, but when someone acts in a way that by all accounts looks like one having no conscience, then… ya… we can wonder if conscience is there.

When I say unstable, I really mean angry with the inability to stop himself from being violent. I was hit by him many times before we finally left when I was almost 12. Between the age of 10 and 11 is when the chicken and pigeon coops were built, and we had somewhere around 26-32 chickens… I used to know this number because I had to count them. The exact number escapes me now. One day when my dad came home from work, he took his anger out on the chickens, not us. You could argue this was a good thing… but what he did was kill all of our chickens with a baseball bat.  No, I didn’t have to see this happen, but I have a memory/visual of a garbage can full of dead chickens. I have no memory of the WHY. Who upset him? Was it a person, was it the chickens? God knows. All I know is that chickens… squirrels, dogs, cats, rats… no animal will EVER deserve to be killed by baseball bat.

This is one of the facts I mentally refer to when I say I am nothing like my father. It is entirely outside the realm of possibility for me to kill an animal, and in such a violent way.

At the time… I did not cry. I did not question, I did not react in any way because it was not for me to question anything my dad did. Even being hit by him… it was his way… how it had always been. He always hit us, he always broke things, he always shouted, he was ALWAYS violent, so this was “the norm”. I almost wish “the norm” was something that wasn’t awful throughout my life, but the reality is that violence is not ok. NO part of me could turn his violence into something acceptable. I never became violent, I only saw who he was and knew it was not alright. Nothing he did was acceptable to my construct… to my conscience… to my creation. HE was the foreigner, HIS actions were the ones that stood out as unacceptable to my nature. I remember going hunting with him and him reaching into a bush and pulling a rabbit out by the ears. He had chased the rabbit into the bush, and then holding the rabbit at arms length he shot it. Nothing in me said this was acceptable. Nothing in me ever has. I have no desire to kill an animal, never have.

The chickens were replaced, we ended up with the same number again, somewhere around 30, and I was 11. My dad got yet another job and he told us that if when he got home on his first day, if the house was perfectly clean, he wouldn’t get mad, even if his first day had been terrible. So with the bribe of no anger, he went to work and we proceeded to clean an already clean house. Mom was the bread winner with a job she’d had for many years, so she was not home while we cleaned our hearts out.

Every morning the chickens were let out of the coop, and every afternoon, along with the two ducks, we put them back in the coop. I remember I was cleaning the kitchen sink when I noticed the time and went out to put the chickens away. Two of them refused to be corralled, and despite trying a few times, I decided that I would just go back out in a little bit and put get them into the coop. This was a common occurrence that a couple chickens would not feel “finished” and need more time hanging out in the yard.

Well, as you may have just guessed, I forgot about those two chickens as I continued cleaning. Dad came home from work, and instead of coming in the house to ensure it was spotless, he went out to the chicken coop and clearly counted the chickens and TWO were missing. His appearance from work entering the house was something explosive about the two chickens. I ran out into the yard looking for them, couldn’t find them, and as my dad freaked out shouting about these chickens, I moved into the next door neighbor’s yard to search… just in case.

This is where my memory is clearest. My dad was fuming, and as he often did when he got this angry, his mouth frothed. He picked up some rocks and started throwing them at me. “Find those chickens. Go find those chickens or don’t bother coming home.” Part of me knew that the chickens were never far away, so I could see this as him over-reacting. And part of me started to wonder, where the heck would I go if I didn’t find them? For a brief second I considered telling the police I couldn’t go home because I couldn’t find the chickens, but my sensible nature won out, and instead I wandered further than I ever would have guessed the chickens could have traveled. I went through the block to he houses on the next street… knocked on doors, and asked people if they had seen two chickens. House after house I knocked, until I had covered all the houses they could have traveled to. I retraced my steps, and I headed back through the neighbors yard that I started in, and although I did not see my dad as I approached the spot where he threw rocks at me, I did see the chickens. They were in the lilac bush IN OUR yard, next to the fence where I stood. They obviously would have been there the whole time… Literally yards from where they always wandered, and just chill’n in the lilac bush. My dad had been less than 5 feet from them as he threw threats and rocks. I walked back around to our side of the fence, I got the chickens out of the bush, and they went directly into the coop without any issue.

I do not actually remember telling my dad they were in the lilac bush, but I did. What I remember instead is him getting so mad at me he threw a big metal cylinder object through my bedroom window. Then he went into my bedroom, picked it up again, and threw it back outside.

Just below my bedroom window was a doll bed with my dolls and stuffed animals. Strewn across it, my floor, and my bed were a million pieces of glass. His only words I remember were to all three of us (my older sister of 15, my younger sister of 5, and myself) that we had to pick up every piece of glass both inside my bedroom and outside on the ground. This we did until my mom got home from work, and we finished as my dad sat in the living room telling the whole awful story to my mom… as though something was actually terribly wrong. He told her that he should have thrown the stove through the wall, and he used these words: “Next time I’ll start on people”. Those were the words I remember, and those were the words my mom repeated when she told the story of why we left the following morning for good. NOT that his words made sense; even as to the why.

In complete fear and panic we packed up everything we could and put it in a storage garage while dad worked at his second day on this new job. It was far more likely he would quit and come home than it was likely that he would stay and finish a day’s work. So we hurried, and somewhere around 4:00pm we left him with a plate, fork, knife, and spoon on the kitchen table in addition to a $20 bill and an empty house. My mom clearly knew this job was not going to last either… but she finally had to put our safety ahead of everything.

What I hadn’t necessarily considered until this moment, was that she was probably telling herself… “all this… over chickens”. We tried to leave when I was 6 and we disappeared to Canada, but he found us and came and got us; promising everything would be different. We went home, and nothing changed until the day after he freaked out about the two chickens missing.

It was years later that I realized the irony that he could beat chickens to death with a baseball bat, but needed to freak out over two simply missing. I think it’s fair to say that it was with that realization I grew up a little. He was never upset about two chickens missing. He was upset about who knows what. It would take a special kind of hypocrite to kill 30 chickens and freak out about two being in a lilac bush.

I don’t need to convince myself I am nothing like him because I’m clearly not. That level of stupidity is impossible to relate to. I don’t understand him, I can’t relate to such severe anger, and frankly, I don’t find myself one bit attracted to causing “drama”. What his drama did… what it always did, was create trauma for his wife and children. Trauma and drama are not part of me. Which is also why I’m writing this. I do not want to hold onto this trauma… it’s like creating drama as an adult.

The reason this trauma appears so real for me today is because of it hitting home what “having chickens” means to me. The story of why that seemed real today is a moot point, but it came up and I kind of fell apart. It’s impossible to sum up in a sentence, or even two how trauma is real… it’s attached to anything, it’s caused by anything, and as desperate as I feel like I want to minimize it, I can’t.

Although this trauma almost feels like I’m just making drama, I’m not. Nobody is making drama when they have a shitty experience attached to something small and find themselves needing to work through it so they can finally set it down. For me, I need to write. I can allow my mind to trust the writing to be the safe keeper and not continue playing the story on repeat.

When talking to an enlightened friend about it, he said that everything from childhood is a bigger deal. That’s where trauma’s easily occur. When we agreed on how helpful it is to write about these things, he said “It’s like the writing closes the loop that the brain was continuing to keep open. By putting it on paper, there is no longer the need to replay the open loop over and over”.

1 comment:

  1. I never heard this one told from your perspective, Nat. I had been so traumatized by it myself and just filled in the blank with the idea that we experienced it the same way. Pretty much the same except you remember way more than I do. I think I blocked out way more than I know. Some of the blanks you've filled in for me about other stories are evidence to me of this. And yep. Insanity. We were terrific kids. However much you and I may have come through, it was definitely a horrible loss to three perfectly good little girls.