content warning: childhood abuse
yesterday we were prompted to explore the idea of who we used to be. That very question made me cry for a little bit before I could start writing. Here are some of the things I needed to cry about:
I don’t remember a time before I was sad, before I felt this constant heartbreak in my chest. I think sometimes I get these glimpses and I am not sure if they are true or just stories that I want to tell myself about who I was before trauma and grief.
I worry that I am setting up an idea that there was this good, happy, strong version of me before all the trauma. that if my grandfather hadn’t assaulted me, if my babysitter hadn’t exploited me, if my mother had been well enough to be present and engaged, I would have maintained a magic that I rarely feel now. And I also know I rely on this idea of who I was to motivate my movement towards healing. And I am TERRIFIED to acknowledge that it might be that I not only cannot get back to that self but that that self may be a fiction in and of itself.
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I often feel like I am chasing a sense of magic that I feel somewhere in my guts to be true. Chasing a sense of myself as a powerful, connected person.
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Sometimes I wonder if I am still that pre-trauma kid and that its not me who is the issue. Rather, I wonder if the major issue is social ideas about what it means to be okay, to be successful, to be loveable. To not speak your pain, your hurt, but rather maintain CONTROL in ways that mean you stay “on track”. These ideas of okay hurt me every day.
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I have also been a lot darker person than I am now. After my grandfather’s actions everything overwhelmed me. I constantly felt like everything was on overload. I was really fucking scared as I didn’t feel like I had anyone with power I could trust. It really fucks with you when someone who is suppose to love you and care for you hurts you so bad.
All that fear often manifests as anger. I remember telling my mom when I was 6 years old that I hated her. I couldn’t trust her. People who love you hurt you the most. I never wanted to be alone and yet didn’t have anyone I felt safe to be close to.
I never used to be able to sleep. When I would try I would hear this terrifying voice in my head. I don’t remember exactly what she was saying but do remember that she would repeat herself, speeding up until it sounded like a tape being fast forwarded. I would what felt like forever listening to this repeat in my head, in a total state of panic.
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Is there really a before? When trauma and pain feel like the basis of your whole life, how do you define who you used to be? A fuck-up? An abusive partner? A banana head? A shitty friend? A survivor? I feel like I am still all of those people some of the time. I feel connected to all these identities/experiences in some way. And none of them are wholly true.
And what do you do when you have so few memories? As a trauma baby I didn’t build memory for most of my childhood. and when I do get flashbacks, they tend to be of the shitty experiences of trauma and abuse. How do I wade through my past when most of it is out of focus? And when it comes into focus it hurts me so much. How do I understand who I was, what truly happened, and what I need to heal, if I am unable to get a clear picture of my past? Its like driving through fog at high speeds, with things coming into focus every so often just for a second or two. The flash of clarity shocks you, jostles you and yet you cannot hold it, don’t get to examine and understand it.
My past is mainly affectual. My memories are these flashes of things like feelings but less solid, less tangible, less coherent, less articulable. And this makes it so hard to remember who I have been , what I have waded through.
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I worry I am writing into my past in order to justify my present. That I am actually creating a fictional life that would justify how much pain I feel right now. Building a fictional past that would make it okay to be as fucked up as I am, that would justify being this broken.
One of my biggest fears is that if I was to truly know who I used to be, I would realize I was a monster. And, that I still am a monster. An unloveable, untrustworthy, unsafe monster. I fear if I could know my past selves I would realize that my mother’s responses to me as a child, her need to isolate herself from me from such a young age (3 onwards) were and are legitimate. I worry that I can never heal because at my core is nothing but darkness and evil.
I really want this to be false. And it is scary to think that healing might actually be an elaborate process of self-denial. Maybe I am just learning to justify my actions with words that make me seem self-aware and and accountable. I am not sure what is true.