The last several weeks I’ve been seeking out for whatever reason, things relating to PTSD. Maybe it’s because of the nightmares that happen so often that a night without one is a rare thing. Maybe it’s because of the place I’m left as result of my own “exposure.” I honestly don’t know why. I know that I’m always curious as to how people move on from such things. There are things unique to certain types of experiences when it comes to PTSD, but others that are quite common regardless of how one comes to be traumatized. I also believe there are three types of survivors when it comes to PTSD. There’s the ones that knowingly enter into a conflict of their own free will and become traumatized as result, the ones who are going about their daily lives and fall victim to something terrible happening by chance or by the will of others, or those like myself whom are born into a traumatic environment. I hear a lot of terms thrown around such as hero, victim, survivor and adjusted. “Adjusted” or “well adjusted” always get me. As if there’s a path that someone should inherently be on, though loosely defined other than the path one is on is clearly not the path to be on. Part of my experience.. A significant part, actually, was to wear away at my sense of self and self-esteem. There were many labels put on my in a daily basis. No exaggeration, either – it was literally daily for every day that my primary abuser was awake and within reasonable distance to convey all of the ways I was defective as a human being, a mistake and an utter fuckup in every conceivable way. If someone were to come at me in that way now I’d likely leave them rather physically and emotionally broken as result, but I was a child then. I was small. I was weak. I didn’t have a frame of reference as to believe anything other than what was being said. I’m told now that I’m “well adjusted” and that I’m a “survivor.” Neither seems accurate to me most days. I’m only so well adjusted as to hide how out of place I feel from a world that I simply can’t understand. The more I’ve some to understand and see the more I don’t want to be a part of it. I want to help others like myself, but I feel held back somehow. Maybe some of those messages of being too stupid or insignificant that I’d fail at anything that I’d come to try sank in to some degree. As far as being a “survivor” – that’s biology. There were points of physical weakness. Being starved regularly to the point of emaciation made me weak on many levels. I didn’t starve me, my abuser did. For years after leaving home I kept cupboards overflowing with food. I look back and see that as being rather silly on my part, but at the time I needed to have plenty of food in my living space to be able to sleep at night and at least feel like that one frightful thing was dealt with somehow.
I guess the part that I still struggle with is not fitting in. Sometimes it’s lonely – isolating. Sometimes I want to be a part of a community that exists for the sake of existing. I do fit in with trauma survivors, but with that comes a sense of mutual responsibility. I’m not shunning that – I cherish the relationships I have with others who’ve survived horrific things. It’s a group of people I don’t need to explain everything in explicit detail for them to understand what’s meant by “I just don’t want to be alone right now.” Or even when I say that I need to be alone without it being taken on a deeply personal level as rejection or something similar. There have been some that have wanted to join me in that place though. I’ve only let one who wasn’t a trauma survivor in. That didn’t turn out well for either of us.
I don’t understand the world around me. I truly don’t. I don’t understand the social structures, the structures of authority, how so-called leaders of state can disagree while wearing suits and being petty turns into rivers flowing with blood of the youth of our mutual countries, why borders exist only on a map and not in reality, how the “us and them” mentality exists and is perpetuated by those lusting for power, the excessive wealth in the face of the excessively impoverished, human trafficking and so, so many other things. I don’t understand how as a people – a common people – how we allow such things to exist. I despise the hypocrisy that we all exist in. I despise it in myself. I shame the excessively wealthy for being so greedy, yet I’ve decent means most of the time and I hold on to what I have. I’m not out leading the charge to end poverty. I do spare a few dollars here and there and am generally generous with people. I’m far from lowering my living standards to significantly improving the living standards of anyone else. I marvel at the fact that I work on a computer all day and make three times as much as someone who works their ass off all day in a job involving physical labor. My labor is mental, and most of that is to restrain myself from telling those pressuring me how utterly useless what I’m working on truly is. That’s why I don’t fit in. From the places my trauma has taken me, I learned a lot about myself and the world in those dark times, and more while trying to put some semblance of a life back together. I learned about the basic things that are important to survival and about what actual needs are that go beyond the scope of food, water and shelter. So, when I’m pressured to finish designing some piece of propaganda to convince someone to buy something they don’t need, or that they do need at some inflated cost, or to convince the masses to vote a certain way, it takes a lot of restraint to not tell them how epically unimportant all of it is. Deadlines are arbitrary unless it’s something that’s actually crucial to the survival of someone else. I mean that in a vital sense. I’m not religious, but I do have to wholeheartedly endorse the lesson that money is the true root of (almost) all evil. I’d expand that to lust for power and control as well.
I wish I knew where I was going with all of this. It feels like I only have one part of my life in order, and though that’s a great majority of my life, I still have practical matters to consider. I don’t have a problem with working to survive. I’d be bored if I didn’t have to work. I’ve taken few vacations in my life, and for the ones I’ve taken where there was nothing to do but relax I was ready to climb the walls after about three days. I’m facing the challenge of what to do for work when we relocate in the coming weeks or months. I’m seriously considering doing freelance photography and working part-time at some job that’s low-pressure and doesn’t command an income to keep me there if the working conditions are terrible. I’m left to wonder why though. Why keep trying for something better on a monetary level? Why bother with my creative endeavors? Why bother making new friends? Why bother trying to make family relationships work at all at this point? What is there to gain other than selfish notions of having value in some way? The odd thing is that this type of thinking I always associated with the deep depressions that lasted for so long each time. I’m not depressed – I’m really not. There still isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of taking my own life. I thought that it was just habitual thinking from the depression. It’s been a long time now and I still have that thought and urge every day. So, yeah, to the outside world I’m “very well adjusted.” The only person who has any indication that I’m not at 100% is my wife.
I don’t know why I feel compelled to write about any of this. I can only assume that I’m not the only one that feels like this, but I’d guess I’m in the minority. The wounds have long-since healed and I’ve learned how to laugh and smile. I even feel it sometimes. I pause though, when someone asks how I’ve been.. I say that I’ve been good and leave it at that. What I want to say is “you don’t know where I’ve been, and you’re so, so fortunate for not knowing.”