How it all started
My first real memory is at 3 years old. It was November, 1963 and my Mother had driven to the end of the block and as we reached the stop sign on the corner, the radio announced that our President had been shot. I remember the energy shifting in the car. My Mother put the car in park and began to cry and wail. It was so scary and I had no idea what was happening until we circled the block and got home and family friends and neighbors began to call. Our black and white television set repeated the story over and over for days and weeks to come. There was two more dramatic events that same day. It was so confusing to see the chaos unfold at three years of age and not know why or what was really happening. It was my very first confrontation with trauma and it is embedded in my mind forever.
How could I have remembered something at such a young age? Because, no one was really paying attention to how badly this scared me and how frightening it was to see everyone around me cry and the only answer I got was that someone had killed our president. It was beyond my capacity to grasp at such a young age, but I felt the pain and I could see how the adults around me reacted. I had no way to communicate my fears to the adults and I sat alone in my fear. What if my Mother had held me and said to me that she was sad and that we were okay? What if we included children in conversations, no matter how young they are? I wish I had known that trauma can be passed down through three generations. I wish I had not passed these things on to my own son. But now that I know…I can talk about it. Maybe we could all just ponder on this to begin on this journey. What was your very first experience with trauma? Have you told anyone yet?
Until next week, think on these questions Write them down and keep a journal. Or just write them down in a letter.
You are not alone.
Pregnancy and Trauma
I was a problem child. I talked incessantly in school because I wanted so badly for someone to listen and to hear me. No one liked it very much. My teachers always got angry and left notes on my report card, telling my parents I talked too much and didn’t pay attention. It was true, but looking back on it now, I really think that I had so much anxiety stuck inside me, and I had no idea I even had it, or why. There were issues at home with my parents fighting. My Dad cheated on my Mom for years and she had lot’s of crying spells, yelling hysterically and she sometimes she whipped us with a belt if we did something she told us not to. She was deeply troubled, both from her own life and because of her marriage falling apart with two small children. She use to chase us under the bed and sling a leather belt, (or whatever she had available at the time). It was horrifying to hide under the bed from your own parent because you knew they were going to beat you with a belt. Once, she hit me with the buckle end by accident. I remember her crying and begging me for forgiveness. That too, was traumatizing. But I loved her and I could see her pain, and I felt sorry for her. I wanted to help her, but had no power to do so. This went on for some time until my father left one day to end their marriage for good and go live with his lover..
Mom always use to get angry with me, but would then tell me it was her fault that I was such a nervous mess. That I was mentally ill and needed help. This hurt me deeply and I began to question if I really was broken and needed fixing. She said my dad cheated on her while she was pregnant. She said she cried and worried a lot the whole time she was carrying me. She was in deep trauma herself. As a small child I was emotional, sensitive and intuitive to the point of irritating everyone, and as a child, I did not understand why no one liked me. I had no friends in school. I got bullied and teased because I had to wear corrective shoes, I was awkward and clumsy, I had to wear hand me downs and didn’t get one new stitch of clothing until I was 16. And I was a huge tomboy. It caused me so much pain for so many years. I had no idea that is wasn’t my fault.
I hid in my bedroom closet sometimes, just to get away from the yelling when my father was home, or to snoop and try to find out why my mother was crying alone in her bed. I would go into the neighborhood and find abandoned buildings, and garages and pretend that I had no family or that I was a Mom and there were imaginary kids whom I loved and pretended to make safe. I imagined I was someone else, but I didn’t know who or where. I played a lot of imaginary games to try to get away. I wondered if there were families that weren’t like mine, but in my neighborhood, all of the families were dysfunctional. I convinced myself that I wasn’t the only one, and…I wasn’t.
Chances are, maybe you felt this way too? If you did, how did you cope at the time? Did you hide, lie, talk a lot when you were at school to try to get attention? Feel free to share your own experiences. You were not and are not alone.