So, it’s a day for speaking out. (PS: I still haven’t stopped smoking) One of those blogs that says nothing and something.
Some people who have known me for a long time are surprised I am still alive. In a nice way, but they are. One friend in particular, who has known me for a decade but who I see very infrequently, is flabbergasted that, generally speaking, I’m an optimist. I believe things will work out. More than being an optimist, I believe I have been lucky. That’s what caused him to drop his fork and go guppy-mouthed for a minute.
This isn’t a cheery, “Why, aren’t I brilliant” entry where I list just how my Positive Mental Attitude has helped me overcome. It hasn’t. The uncomfortable truth is that I’ve been through so much traumatising bullshit that I think I exist in a permanent state of being dazed. I overcome because nothing affects me so deeply anymore that it feels world-ending. I overcome because I have built a wall over my heart so thick that the plonky arrows tipped in flame and shit just bounce right off now. I have killed a part inside me so that I can continue living. Some call that strength. Sometimes, when I let myself feel and am curled up in a corner (rarely, so very rarely), I would call it sacrifice.
The childhood traumas which we have gone through, and which I don’t discuss here but which I bought up with a therapist who chuckled, thinking I was exaggerating, then went silent when it became clear I wasn’t, have affected me and my siblings in different ways. I have always downplayed the effect trauma had on me developing a mental illness- I wanted to believe it was all biology, all chemicals. Then I could mute and numb and realign my neurons and be normal. It didn’t work that way- no matter what you hear, it never does. My mum very likely has bipolar disorder, and my dad was yer classic alcoholic depressive, so there’s probably something amiss in my genetics. The wick was there and trauma lit the fuse. Or, the kindling effect.
Trauma continued into my adulthood- my dad’s death, my own illness wrecking havoc on my life, some losses, some recent stuff I do not wish to discuss but what my GP thinks turned my panic attacks into full-blown panic disorder- but I never really talk about it. I’m more comfortable with moods, with the sterile language psychiatry gave me. More comfortable with saying I have avoidant personality disorder than I am messed up due to trauma. There are times when I realise-acutely- that I am the walking wounded. Some things remain. A complete shutting down if someone shouts at me. The panic and despair I feel if I can smell alcohol, anywhere, when I wake up (if we have been drinking, I put everything in the bin before bed). Always preferring to drink bottles instead of cans because the “ttssst” makes me foetal, and being hyper-aware that I am honest, always honest, exposingly and stupidly and nakedly and anxiously honest, because I was a teenager that lied and don’t I don’t want to become a mother that lies. I panic when something I’ve said turns out to be wrong or false in case it looks like I lied. Terrified to make friends in case they all turn on me again. A general feeling that nothing and nowhere is safe, a horrible gaping need for someone to be proud of me.
I move in mental health circles, with fellow mentalists and fellow people employed in mental health, and retain a unique respect for people who talk about trauma, who talk about PTSD. I’ve been completely inspired and awed by some people I’ve met recently. And I have a certain jealousy, as I wish I had the bravery to be someone who could talk, and, because they could talk, get help, get comfort, and love and hugs and understanding which I cannot get, because I cannot talk. Because I can’t talk, I can’t open up, because I can’t open up, I can’t belong, because I can’t belong, I have no-one to talk to anyway. I am wary of putting everything on my husband. It backfires, and it is too much. When I do talk, it’s inappropriately, to the wrong people, at the wrong time, so I don’t want to talk anymore. It squeaks out sometimes. Usually when someone is telling a story and I get rushed by a memory. But I despise people pitying me and want to be judged on my merits and not as a some sort of sad sack who needs to be coddled, so I usually follow everything up with a joke or a laugh. Because I don’t want to be pitied, I can’t spend more than a minute feeling an emotion that would instill pity, therefore, the kind of, “That was shit, have a hug” validation that I probably need will never come. I can’t ask for what I need because I can’t bear to be pitied because I am self pitying enough as it is and don’t want excuses to be more so. Sometimes, I ridiculously feel I am not pretty and delicate enough for a hug, or to receive sympathy, or pity, or anything else.
Don’t get me wrong- I know how hard it is to talk. That’s why I am awed.
But I am lucky. You can have a shit past and be traumatised and still be lucky. I feel lucky. Things do generally work for me. Jumping off my nursing course, with no safety net, I jumped into jobs I loved. I was lucky. I am still alive, and I am lucky. My trauma isn’t as bad as so many other people I know, and I am lucky.
On the last point, people close to me say, well, it is pretty bad. And unless you begin to feel that it’s pretty bad, you’ll always be traumatised. But what if I have? What if I have just accepted it’s awful and shit and I’m okay now? Is this okay? Am I kidding myself I’m okay or am I kidding myself I’ve constructed a defence mechanism? Maybe it is nothing so elaborate than just being over it. Maybe, when I find myself ducking and shaking on a train, or staring at my scar suit, it is not.
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder