Cry baby cry
When you’ve got to get it out
I’ll be your shoulder
You can tell me all
Don’t keep it in ya
Well that’s the reason why I’m here
~New Sensation, INXS
This is the one where i write about the good that came from being terribly abused as a child. This post will not be for everyone – perhaps not anyone but me. Regardless, i’m writing it and i’ll share it anyway.
This is me and how my brain works.
You see, what i do have is a very particular set of skills…
Let’s start with that one:
My dark sense of humour. I’ve always been able to laugh at anything. If not right away, it’ll come eventually. It started with my abusers expecting me to act like nothing was wrong, and i did so quite well. A part of that was adopting an everything’s-tickety-boo attitude around others. So laughing when i didn’t feel like laughing was de rigeur. Eventually it took root and grew into genuine laughter, a sort of fake it till you make it kind of thing, maybe? It branched off into finding humour in the terrible. I’d gravitate toward comedians who told the darkest jokes. I’m not talking about the punching down sort, i mean making light of awful things. It helps shake me out of my despair, it makes my burdens less heavy.
It tells Death it can take its toys and go the fuck home.
I remember it being particularly useful at school, when bullies made sport of me, and the weak sheep around them would stand by and watch (and often laugh). I never gave those crapheads the satisfaction of seeing me break or cry. I was either stoic, or i laughed, or i made the joke first. Self-deprecating humour can be a double-edged sword, to be sure, and sometimes i hurt myself with it, but at times beating them to the punch stole their thunder, and that felt fine.
Even if i can’t laugh at my circumstances, i instinctively go to comedy for help. Laughing is like the sun breaking through the clouds, for me. Laughter squeezes my guts and reminds me that i am alive – my blood is pumping, my organs are functioning, my lungs are filling with air.
Good stuff, Maynard.
Crisis management is another one:
If something awful is happening, you want me there.
There were abusive things happening in my home on the daily. I learned to take them and put them away so i could function in the world outside my home. Like say, if my mom brushed my hair in the morning before school, she’d usually whack me in the head a few times with it, either because i had too many knots in my hair, or i would wince when she pulled at one of them. (Every brush in our house ended up with the handle broken off.) Then the bus would be coming and the kids weren’t dressed yet. Mom’s screaming at them from her permanent spot on the couch in front of the telly, making the kids frantic and weepy. I’d put the headache and the bumps on my head in a little box and pick through the 3′ piles of dirty clothes to find the cleanest things for them to wear, dry their tears, and help them get their shoes on and out the door.
Once, when i was at a cadet survival camp, one of the other cadets nearly severed his thumb with a hatchet. There were no adults present, and he and i were in charge of a bunch of younger kids. The children were freaking, the other teenage staff were freaking, and i calmly applied emergency first aid, told another staff member to get on the radio and call for evac, and the other staff member to take the kids to the other side of the island.
The army nurse told me he might have lost his thumb without me, and i should consider a career in the military medical field.
It also came in super handy as a mom of 3 boys.
If they weren’t squirting blood out of their eyeballs, i could handle it.
And so they could, too.
I’m empathetic and observant:
I had to align myself with my abusers to survive. Knowing how to read their non-verbal cues enabled me to escape further abuse, upon occasion. I stepped fully into my mother’s shoes, feeling as she felt, thinking as she thought. Out of fear and self-preservation i learned to be a reader of people. When i paired that with being a survivor of severe trauma, i found a deep well of empathy inside myself. I can easily put myself in another person’s shoes. I think people know that when they share what they’re going through with me, that i’m listening intently, and finding a place for us to meet together, where i feel what they feel. I think it makes the load they’re carrying a little bit lighter.
Over the years i’ve also learned to use my ability to compartmentalise here, too. I can commiserate and relate and share what a person is feeling, but then i can put it away in a little box in my brain, because it’s not my life, not my feelings, not my burden. It’s not a cold distancing, it’s a healthy understanding of what is mine and what is not. I don’t try to fix anymore, either. Most times a person just wants to feel truly heard, and they know it’s their problem and they aren’t looking for anyone to live their life for them. They’re looking for someone to come and sit with them in the place they’re at – that broken and hurting place inside oneself can get so lonely. I can place my own heart inside their chest for a spell, and we’ll just beat together, in rhythm, until it’s a little better, just enough so they can get up and push on.
I’m well acquainted with pain and sadness. I’m not afraid to sit in someone else’s with them so they don’t feel so alone.
At this point, regular readers may be expecting me to move on to the gift of being a multiple.
I’m not going to.
Being able to pull up a split off part of myself to cope with something i’m having trouble with has most certainly been helpful – to put it mildly. It’s saved my goddamn life on countless occasions.
Being able to dissociate from intense fear, pain, and suffering enabled me to survive the unsurvivable.
And i love all my Bits N’ Pieces; they’re dear to me and that’ll never change, but i’m working on putting us all back together. I don’t think it’ll ever be what they call “integrated”, but it will be different. It will be homeostasis. All the other gifts i got from abuse i don’t want to change, but i do want to tweak this one, just a wee bit.
In closing i’d like to stress that i’m not glad or grateful for being raped and beaten and constantly emotionally traumatised as a child. I’m not one of those people who has no regrets and wouldn’t do anything different. I have plenty of regrets and would absolutely choose to live my life over again with loving parents who wouldn’t abuse me.
It’s just that that’s not possible.
Sleep baby sleep
Now that the night is over
And the sun comes like a god
Into our room
All perfect light and promises
The gifts that i have from abuse are gifts i gave myself.
That little girl that i was, was incredible. Amazing. So strong and sweet and beautiful and smart and kind and funny. WOW.
I’m awestruck at her resourcefulness and resilience.
And she is me.
I am all those things.
This work i do is to bring us closer together, because i love her more than i love anyone. She made me who i am, she made it possible for me to have the chance to become who i am, and i want more than anything for us to be reunited.
Salvaging the unsalvageable.
Creating beauty out of pain.
Becoming love in spite of being born into hate.
I told you
That we could fly
‘Cause we all have wings
But some of us don’t know why
~Never Tear Us Apart, INXS