Trauma From The Perspective of a Stubborn Survivor Who Fell Down The Rabbit Hole

I see so many posts on social media that start with the words ‘trauma victims are’ or ‘trauma victims do/do not’, as if trauma and the responses to it are universally the same. These posters often claim to be professionals who claim to have a magic bullet or pill or program which costs the small sum of $99.99 a month, plus the cost of their latest book series, with optional ‘workbooks’. It is an industry of offering fixes to something that cannot be erased.

Trauma cannot be wiped out. Perhaps if you took away a person’s memories, if you wiped clean the memory of the incident and every moment after, splicing together time, then I wonder if that would even be enough to remove trauma, but I doubt it. Trauma is written in the bones and the skin and the autoimmune system. The body remembers trauma, even if the brain tries to protect its owner and wipes it out from memory. The damage is indelible. If your mind does not remember, I guarantee your body does. My did, and however tough my mind was, however capable I was of that old ‘one foot in front of the other’ dance of determination, my body simply gave up on me. The damage caused by withstanding so much trauma for so very long simply took me down. The doctors say I will not recover from the autoimmune disease. I am going to try and prove them wrong.

The Verizon Foundation and MORE Magazine Survey shows that women who have experienced domestic violence are significantly more likely to suffer from a chronic health condition than those who have not. Seventy percent of women suffer from a chronic health condition.

The Verizon Foundation and More Magazine Survey: EXPLORING THE RELATIONSHIP
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I do not need to be unwell to prove I suffered and am still suffering from trauma. I think I used to hold onto pain for longer than I should have because it proved that what happened to me was wrong. I used it as proof, as explanation, as my birth right, as an earnt badge of suffering that was mine to have and to hold onto. Me and seventy percent of women who have survived domestic violence have gone on to develop a chronic disease. The number rises to 88 percent for women who survive sexual abuse and violence. Trauma hurts the body beyond the damage caused at the time by violence.

I had a childhood where I was the victim of various kinds of abuse. I went on to therefore be homeless by the age of 17, addicted to drugs by 16, lost a romantic partner to cancer at 17 years old, was the victim of male violence outside of my childhood family unit by the age of 17, and put in numerous dangerous and potentially life threatening situations by that age too. I still managed to pull my life back together and go to university a year late. I was then in a tail spin, but still managed to graduate, despite the pattern of male violence against me continuing. Add to that surviving the 2011 Japan earthquake and nuclear meltdown, extreme domestic violence – physical, sexual, emotional and financial, and having to flee for my life with my children. That was only the beginning – I had to cope with being victimized by the Hague Convention against parental child abduction and pursued legally for running to safety, the trauma of what happened to my children as a result, the fires on the west coast, homelessness with children for over five years, having to be undocumented in order to survive, losing my only help and assistance in the country, and now becoming so very unwell that I now know what will, in all probability kill me – the result of the trauma, this dire autoimmune disease.

I have often been shamed by others (though not my darling Sister, Ruth who has been nothing but a great comfort to me) for my lack of trust. They call it a pathological inability to trust others, particularly systems and official organizations. I get accused of being antisocial and reactionary. I call it learning by experience. I am not about to take risks because people who have had normal lives lie that the risks do not exist and that I am inflating them just because they have not suffered the same fates as me. I will not have my hard earnt ability to keep myself safe pathologized by those who have got lucky in life and not suffered and survived as I have done.

When every official organization that is meant to help has twisted the facts, gaslit me, threatened me and caused great harm to me, I would be literally insane to trust any of them. I received no mercy, no succor, no comfort, no understanding, no support, not even any praise for saving myself and my children, as best I could, from being annihilated by my husband, their father. Is anyone surprised when I therefore steer clear of such desperate unfairness and bias towards a man who essentially destroyed my life.

If he had killed me and murdered the children, then I would be blamed for not saving us all. I was blamed for getting us out of there, when no official system was willing to do so. He refused me a divorce and in Japan, once they refuse it has to go to years of mediation. In the meantime I would have no money to survive there, nowhere to live in Tokyo, and would have, as a foreign woman, lost custody of my children to that monster. When I first was beaten by him in Japan it was not even illegal to hit your wife, and only became a civil matter in later years. I never received a moments protection from the Japanese police. Instead they would apologize to him for bothering him if the neighbors called them, worried that I was being badly hurt. I was utterly dismissed by anyone I reached out to for help. The only time I got compassion was when a doctor saw me in Japan and I was badly beaten up.

Trauma is individual. Mine is my own. I cannot hold it up against what other people have suffered and have no desire to. I suspect my response to the things I have suffered and survived is somewhat muted, perhaps because of surviving such early trauma, or maybe I am just a little strange that way. Whichever, whatever, I am paying for it now.

To make out that all trauma survivors react in similar ways, to make it seem as if there is a standard ‘right’ response that ‘everybody who suffered’ has, and that other responses are invalid, or evidence of not having really suffered at all is more than unfair, it is dangerous. I am sure I am not the only one to internalize trauma and suffering and keep on going. It should not be seen as evidence that I am ‘ok’, that it ‘was not that bad’. Instead it would be more helpful to see me and others like me, with ‘non-typical’ responses to trauma, as individuals with individual personality quirks. Is strength such a bad thing? I often feel as if I would be more respected, treated kinder if I simply failed to function, as if people with normal lives require that from me as proof. To be frank, I do not have the time or energy to entertain such ideology. Nor is there any quick fix. I am broken in a way that is uniquely me. I like myself the way I am. I do not need to be fixed or changed, just accepted as I am.

I used to be very angry. I still am, I suppose. I am angry that I have only one child, when I sacrificed for two. I am angry that my life was ruined despite my best efforts to save it, by a man who should have protected me and instead hurt me. I am angry that I am unwell and in pain. I am angry that I never found the peace and love that I know I deserved. I am angry that I poured my devotion out and only my son gave it back to me. But nowadays that anger is muted under a blanket of medicine and illness. I once had a rabbit, big old rabbit with long ears that would never let a soul near him. He did not like being petted, he did not appreciate being fussed or touched. He would run away or attack in fear. Then one day this old albino rabbit became very sweet and affectionate, just out of the blue, he sought out my hand and nuzzled me. He was dead a couple of days later. I think he had simply given up the fight and was too old and unwell to carry on his angry shenanigans. I am that old white rabbit, fallen down a rabbit hole and staring up at Alice wondering if this is all a fever dream.

I don’t have the ability to express my anger any longer. It all seems so destructive. So unnecessary. So useless. I now long for comfort which I find in the realms that I explore in my attempt to stay alive. I might be more white rabbit than Alice, but I will not be ashamed of it. A combination of life, genetics, fate and quirk of mental make-up has brought me here. Instead I feel a lot of frustration, a lot of pity, a lot of sadness at the state of the world and the people within it. We are all learning, we are all moving with times and with events, we are all collectively traumatized by the mere act of living. What matters to me is kindness and gentleness and I try, despite the trauma, to spread that out as efficiently as possible despite the pain I am in.

If you are hurting, if you are traumatized, there is no way you ‘should’ be, or that it is best to be. Nor is your response to what you have suffered in any way ‘strange’ or ‘inappropriate’, as long as you do not hurt another soul in response to your own pain. You are an individual, not out of a mold the same as everybody else around you. You are unique, just as I am, and if you want to shout it out, shout it. If you need to work it out quietly, be quiet. I will always have the back of my fellow survivors of the terrible things that life and throw at us.

However you survive is the right way. However you respond, as long as it is not hurting anyone else, is the right way, and those professionals that peddle their hallmark card platitudes which fail to console or fix, but merely attempt to brainwash survivors into a uniform ‘correct’ response to trauma, that they see as ‘helpful’, are beyond cruel: they are damaging in the extreme. There is an industry that has sprung up around trauma, and whilst some professionals hearts are in the right plac,e there is not a single ‘one size to fit all’ way to heal or if not heal, to at least cope with the aftermath and the years that are left to struggle through after the fact. Until there is a professional that has walked my path, that has gone through exactly what I have gone through and understands intimately, absolutely what I have been up against, and how terrifying almost every single day of my life is as an undocumented survivor with entire legal systems against me trying to stop me and my son from staying safe, then they have nothing useful to say to me. Their cliches fall short and leave me sickened and isolated. Instead reach out your hand and offer comfort or practical support: it is the only way to help me and not try and destroy or change me. I am who I need to be to survive and live, do not take away my armor, it is not safe to do so for me.

I prize my stubbornness, it has kept me alive and able to continue my path upon this cruel old Earth, to do what I have to do with my time here, before I move on, like a rabbit down a hole, looking at her watch, very very late for a very important date.

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