In which our hero revels in his own strength. And points out yours.
If you’re like me and still kicking, I want to celebrate your strength and courage. It takes a fucking huge amount of strength and courage to just keep getting up and putting your pants on when you’re carrying the extra weight of trauma. If you’re not like me, but love someone who is, I want to celebrate your strength and courage. It takes a fucking huge amount of strength and courage to just keep getting up and putting your pants on when you’re carrying the extra weight of their trauma.
It’s so hard to move past trauma. Our limbic system doesn’t do that. It lets the rest of the brain use denial or repression or suppression or whatever. The limbic system remembers everything about survival, no matter how painful or harmful it may be to the rest of the body. The limbic system remembers everything painful and drags that shit out every time anything even slightly resembles the actual horribleness of a traumatic event.
The body gets activated to fight or run, adrenalin and the other stress hormones kick into overdrive. The brain fires up old, damaged synapses and whatever. And we go apeshit. Well, at least I did. Rage on. Impulse control gone. Aggression on full.
But I couldn’t always tell why. To be frank, I very seldom knew why. I just knew I was angry and needed to react. I sometimes did shit I can’t even begin to understand. Once, I pretty much gave away thousands of dollars in firearms for pennies on the dollar. I have entire months of memories that’re locked away in my amygdala I’ll never be able to access. I can’t recall most of my childhood and adolescence, I was so screwed up with anxiety and depression.
I knew I was crazy. I knew I was different. I knew I could never be fixed. I couldn’t figure out why I did some shit, and I often regretted things I did. When I could experience emotions, they were overwhelming and took control of me. I never really felt calm or peace or joy, these emotions were unavailable to me. I learned there were times when certain specific responses were expected, so I’d laugh at jokes I didn’t find funny or show sadness I didn’t feel. I did it so people would stop looking at me like I was different.
I did it so people wouldn’t know I was different.
I couldn’t experience intimacy with another human. Not until my first wife and I had been together for a couple years. And, eventually, when she was dying and I was losing myself more and more to fear, I lost the ability to experience intimacy with her. I believe that’s part of what killed her. My emotional unavailability when she needed me to be emotionally present more than ever. I carry that guilt and remorse forever.
I scared a lot of people over the years, with my sudden rages. It was so much worse when I drank. It cost me friends.
I still have those emotions, but not the emotional outbursts. I still experience the fear, but I can recognize it and push it back into its’ proper place. I still have all the same symptoms. But I can control the reactions much better. And I can feel. I can feel sadness. I can feel loneliness. I’m so grateful for that. Because I can also feel calm. I can feel peace. I can feel joy.
Hey, man, if I can get here, after four decades of mental illness piled on trauma, piled on addiction, piled on grief, piled on everything else… well, you can too. It was totally worth the pain to get here.