I had coffee with a friend tonight. I think it was just supposed to be an easy “how’ve you been” sort of coffee, but that’s not what it was.
How do I explain this? I have met few people in my life who experientially understand deep trauma, and, realistically, that’s a good thing. I would rather not meet people who have suffered profound trauma. The world needs less of that. I would rather not cause my therapists to acquire secondary trauma just by being my therapist, but it happens. Seeing one’s therapist cry is not a goal. It’s painful.
So, my friend and I circumlocuted. We talked around the subject of our current therapeutic circumstances because neither one of us wanted to actually get down to the nitty gritty. We know each other’s stories, but neither one of us wanted to discuss details. We are both neck deep, yet again, in the therapeutic process. I know why she’s in therapy. She knows why I’m in therapy. We’ve both been riding the therapy train on and off for years. We’re both tired of it. When does it end? It does end, doesn’t it? Eventually?
What choice, however, do we have? Complex PTSD does not heal itself, and C+PTSD is not the same thing as PTSD. There are different kinds of trauma. Acute trauma exists. It sticks with you for a while. It’s painful, and it throws a wrench into the physiological works. I don’t minimize it at all. Profound trauma, however, that annihilates one’s identity is a different animal. It changes a personality. It can change the course of a life. It can leave a person forever broken if not effectively tended to.
I wish I could understand it. Why do some people find functionality in the midst of it and others wither and die? Theories abound, but that’s about it. How is it that some people left Auschwitz, for example, immigrated to America with no family left alive, and started over successfully? How is it that refugees from war torn countries build new lives for themselves after watching family members, friends, and fellow countrymen die in front of them in sometimes very grotesque ways?
I have been a witness to extraordinary violence to both animals and humans, and I will always carry those memories. That’s what the EMDR will be addressing. My friend has as well. She doesn’t know anyone else who has experienced anything close to what she has except me and I her. And, much to my surprise, she actually understood what I meant by the term the Event Horizon.
What is the Event Horizon? Well, it’s the name I’ve given to an all-encompassing emotional experience that overtakes me out of the blue. I dread it. I first experienced it after my ex-husband moved out. It was very surprising to me. I was all but elated that I was free from the oppressive circumstances that I had no idea what this emotional shit storm was about. It felt like a primal fear had taken hold of me, and the overwhelming nature of it was so strong that I felt like I might die. My friend knew exactly what I was talking about. She had the same experiences.
Really? I was relieved that I wasn’t alone. I asked her what she thought this was about. When I told my therapist about it, he just nodded and said, “It’s trauma.” Trauma?! Well…I’ve been dealing with profound trauma since toddlerhood. I’ve never experienced this before. Why now? Her input? How many rounds of major trauma have I experienced? I’m on my third go-round: 1) Mother and Father 2) Abduction and trafficking 3) Domestic violence. I think the domestic violence got to me in a special way, hence, the onset of the repeated Event Horizon experiences.
What fuels the Event Horizon experiences? Dread. Fear. Panic. Inordinate grief. Profound emotional pain. The brain spins its tales. All brains tell stories. Brains do that. My brain spins nasty tales based on past experiences except my past experiences are so extreme that, when in the midst of one of my Event Horizon experiences, I can’t be reasoned with. I simply have to white knuckle it until it passes. The stories my brain throws at me are all plausible based on past experiences. Unfortunately, I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been raped numerous times in the trafficking environment. I’ve endured the “breaking in” process. I’ve seen another person murdered. I’ve endured torture. I’ve been betrayed by people I trusted implicitly. These are experiences that are very difficult to process. They don’t make sense. They are hard to put meaning to. What’s more, they profoundly erode one’s ability to trust others, and, honestly, they leave me feeling as if I’m on the outside looking in in terms of social interactions. That is one of the primary and lasting effects of this type of trauma. Where does one belong? What is normal in terms of life experiences? I can tell you what is normative for my life experiences.
Intellectually, I know what should be normal and healthy, but, on a deeper level, I wish I had more normative life experiences.
This is exactly why I will forge ahead with EMDR. All of these life experiences, as bad as they were, can be adaptively processed and should be. I don’t want to experience the Event Horizon anymore, and I don’t want to maladaptively identify with this trauma any longer either.
So, as I forge ahead, I encourage and even challenge you to do the same. No matter what your trauma looks like or feels like to you, you don’t have to live a life beholden to it. I refuse to. So, I will keep going. No matter how hard it becomes.
Fight for the life you want. That’s a fight you and I will never regret.