What ever happened to Lisa?


I’ve fashioned myself into the therapist, and left behind the survivor. I wanted to move past, beyond, ever away from my own trauma. It is only recently that I realize how much it is still with me today. I am reading the article “Touched by Trauma” in the most recent publication of Counseling Today.

I tend to move so quickly through life that I see the magazines on the desk, but rarely read them. Why wouldn’t I read what others are saying in my field? I wonder if I avoid it because of realizations like the one I have had just now? It can’t be that though, because I read many many books and articles on such topics, but I tend to ignore magazines, perhaps I regard them as more a waste of time like tabloids, People Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.

Perhaps I am so hyper aroused all the time that I can’t focus for hardly a second. Perhaps this is not your garden variety ADHD, and something a lot more sinister. That requires a lot more attention that I have ever given it, because then it would become more real. And the fear is always that suddenly you will fall apart, or become swallowed by the associated feelings. They are too big, and there is no way to properly control how much of it you feel, when you are recalling. 

I never connected how much my Crohn’s Disease is probably an effect of my trauma. Instinctually I know, have read and seen how much cortisol, the stress hormone is bad for you. The article says, “Counselors also need to be mindful of the accumulative physical toll of long-term trauma. Research has shown that experiencing trauma- especially when it is prolonged and repetitive- rewires the nervous system in ways that cause hyperarousal and persistent anxiety. This continuous stress causes the body to release cortisol, which can cause chronic inflammation. Over time the inflammation leads to negative health effects. To help counteract this cascade of neurological and physical damage, practitioners can teach clients skills for calming their nervous systems. The treatment should be tailored to the individual client.” 

I’m still peeling back layers of my own abuse. 

When I read this I made an immediate connection. I have been inundated with physical health issues for the last 10 years of my life. I had problems as a child, asthma, and I’ve always identified as a hypochondriac. I was in and out of the hospital often. For awhile youth and enthusiasm to get away from my painful past kept me busy and disassociated from physical symptoms, but as soon as I realized I was not in the right marriage for how I was made and who I am I began to have a lot of problems.

It all began with heart palpitations. These sent me to the Emergency room several times, it actually took me years to realize, or have suggested to me that I could have anxiety, and it was not done kindly ever. It was more like I was too sensitive, making a big deal out of nothing. Anxiety was suggested to me as a personal flaw, not something that required further inquiry and comfort. 

Right now my family is out in the living room playing Trivial Pursuit. I can hear them and they are having fun, and to be fair so was I until my stomach began to bother me and I had to excuse myself. Once I read that and made a connection I went away to the place I so often reside, somewhere in my head trying to figure it all out. I’ve made the mistake of trying to figure it all out at once, because then the idea is perhaps I could be free of it. What it? I didn’t know what to call it. When we don’t know a language for something we tend to automatically internalize some fatal flaw within us. 

I just had a severe ringing in my ear, it happens sometimes, it came on suddenly. I have read more on symptoms and health than the average person probably ever will. My first thought as it happened was that my blood pressure is at some bad level and something is going to happen to me. I probably think about myself or someone I care about dying or suffering some terrible fate no less than 100 times a day. I can’t ride in a vehicle without jumping at any unforeseen occurrence. I am only now at 38 years old connecting so many of these dots.

I am able to do so because of this career as a counselor. 

I can still help people, in fact I am very good at helping people, AND it distracts me from my many anxious thoughts. This dispels the myth that you have to be fully healed in some capacity to be a healer. You just need to be healed enough to not unintentionally harm others. You have to be aware, and a good deal of the way towards acceptance of self and others, otherwise you can use someone else for your own needs. 

It has never occurred to me before this article and this point to be upset I have this disease, and a weakened immune system due to the trauma I have endured. I have worked so hard to keep myself separate from my beginning. I moved across the United States to get away. Another life and another me. I disconnected myself from it so much, that when I had a difficult time maintaining relationships all I experienced as a result was shame. There was no one to help me connect my triggers, behaviors, and anxiety related impulsivity, attachment fractured impulsivity. There was no one. Mostly I have lived marinating in shame and self-abuse as a means to shame myself into a new way of being. it never worked. 

I have so many thoughts to untangle about this. But the one this evening most prevalent is what in the hell happened to my mother and to her sisters to cause the type of toxic sibling rivalry that permeated my childhood. Who was the evil villain and how evil were they? Who is at the root of this, and how much damage has spread through the family tree? They worked so hard to look different than whatever hurt must have occurred, but my childhood felt terrifying in a variety of ways.

I have tried to minimize. I have tried to make myself responsible. I have tried to convince myself that it’s me who made all of this up. It’s unbelievable even to myself. I want to say I dramatized it. How can I trust any of those memories after all. But some of the memories I do know for sure. I know the gist. I know how I felt. And I know what I struggle with today…. and most importantly that this is not my fault. 

I can’t even say that and feel connected to it. It feels dramatic. My intense feelings have always been shamed. ALWAYS. By family, friends, and loved ones alike…. validation is not something I’ve had much of. I’ve often wondered why nobody saw me, why they didn’t notice a good heart, with behaviors that didn’t make any sense. So many people rarely look beneath the surface for answers. 

Where was that one person to come forward and help everyone make sense of it? 

People suffering from complex PTSD without being noticed are wounded warriors with no decoration. They have no percentage of disability, no purple hearts, and in fact are mostly invisible until they find their way into a Counselor’s office. Probably they will spend most of their life plagued by terrible thoughts that something bad will happen either to someone they love or to themselves. Running horrific scenarios through their heads. It will be difficult for them to travel or live any kind of a normal life unless they are disassociated enough to appear functional, but inside is a whole other story. 

My daughter came in to be snuggly and I was intense and in my head as usual. I want to erase this out of frustration. It will be seen as deep and dark, and no one wants to be seen like that. The kind view is no one should have had the experiences that cause them to feel this way on such a regular basis. With your kids you are supposed to be the parent, and present, and none of this is really something they can understand. So I only appear like I don’t care, or I am not present, then I feel guilty for being this way. Then I am shamed by my ex-husband, society, parents of the partners I dated before I connected any of these dots. Seen only for my behavior and my flaws. 

I want answers. I want to know what happened? I want to know if it’s fair to be estranged from my mother to protect my mental health, or if she too was a victim of some trauma I don’t know about and something could be done to heal it. The hope is always there that something could be done. With me healing was possible. What is the difference? Is it in the wiring? Could she have been wired from birth for narcissism, or was she so damaged a health self could never emerge, and if that is the case how can I make sense of any fairness behind all of my feelings towards her.

Where can I place this accountability if not always in myself? What if she never stood a chance? I never did either, but somehow I thrived and turned things around. Is the difference between us the severity of experience or the wiring?

I need to know. 

I don’t want to know.

I need to know.

I don’t want to know.

I distract by staying in the present, but we are never free from trauma that forged our entire nervous system.

I am a prisoner inside my own body is the dark side.

And I am a warrior of light and a protector.

If that isn’t confusing I don’t know what is.

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