Saturday, January 02, 2010
Trauma, Change, People and Toasters.
********** WARNING MAY TRIGGER **********
THIS POST CONTAINS VIDEO AND THEMES WHICH MAY TRIGGER FLASHBACKS
THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE OF MY RARE DARKER POSTS, I'M SORRY.
Trauma changes people. There is no question in my mind as to the veracity of this statement. It is a fact, not even a theory or a nice safe construct by the mental health community. For years in public service I was aware this was a concept, but I had precious little understanding of what this really meant to a life.
Now however as a survivor of trauma, and lots of it, I can relate to it in ways I wish I wasn't capable of at this level. I am I fear, forever changed, altered, never to reclaim parts of myself, my life that I knew before. This periodically weighs heavy on my heart, because for all her flaws, to woman I was, did not deserve to die. What she had to offer the world, and brought to it wasn't horrible. She was kind and understanding, competent, useful, helpful and gifted. She had every bit as much right to a life as anyone else. But if you look for her in my eyes, well She's Not There. To be honest, no-one laments her loss more than I do in ways, because things that she never would have noticed, or cared much about, send me into a tailspin. I miss what she took for granted as something she could do easily and I cannot do at all.
In therapy we talk. And talk. And talk more. Always talking, really I fear at times I will tire of the talking. And in ways I have. I have not found a new therapist here in Ohio because I'm terrified of trying to find a new one, and worse, having to bring a new one up to speed. Not because I'm afraid to share what I've been through, but because the act of relating it, pouring it out again, is like a knife to my heart. Inserted slowly, turned, twisted and tearing away at me, but I don't die from it somehow. Nope, somehow I still go on, but in this kind of agony that often makes me want to sell out the resurrection ship and embrace the bomb.
For those of you who don't follow the new Battlestar Galactica I'll briefly explain her in a moment. For those of you who DO follow it, I just want to state for the record it still worries me that the character from the show I most identify with is Gina. She was the "Six" assigned to Cain's Battlestar Pegasus. Mind you out of the four seasons, she was a "minor" character and plot point that began and ended in short span of episodes. First a brief youtube video that struck me while looking for something to anchor this, and give those of my readers who don't know BSG some kind of idea what I'm talking about.
The series has any number of different women, different characters one can identify with. It says something about me that I should identify with Gina. Not something terribly positive, especially given her end. But I'm working on it. Not to mention the fact that while I have the frightening ability to understand now how, or why she might directly or indirectly take so many innocent people with her, it is still thankfully only my nightmares from childhood that have me taking life that does not belong to me. For those who didn't follow the show, Gina is the woman in this clip who is chained and abused, and eventually starts an atomic weapon counting down and just sits there waiting for the flash. Ostensibly it was a move on the part of a resistance group to deal a blow to the fleet, but in reality, she knew it was the only way for her to find peace.
In the series, Gina was technically a machine. A Cylon, which in the story arc is a race of self aware, highly intelligent machines created by man to serve, who eventually rebelled and started a war against their creators. In the story arc, the humans are with a few notable exceptions, unable to see the Cylons are real, as alive, as something more than machines. In Gina's case, she was discovered as being a spy, and because she was the lover of the ships commander, Admiral Cain, she was treated to some seriously inhuman abuse. But she's a machine, so who cares some people might say.
See that's the problem, it's way too easy for "people" to distance themselves from the horror they inflict on other people. Be they "machines" or not. Gina is of a race of machines, but that doesn't mean in this case that she doesn't have feelings. It doesn't mean her feelings or rights can be discarded on a whim because she's somehow less than, or inferior to anyone else else, regardless of their origin. In the story arc, Cylon's have a type of immortality. If a given body dies, they are downloaded to the "resurrection ship" and loaded into a new body.
In a powerful scene in the brig, after lying there catatonic for days or longer, her body a canvas of pain from the abuse the Humans inflicted on her, she finally asks Boltar (The geek with the glasses) to help her kill herself. As her story develops, she sees an opportunity to deal a crushing blow to her "own" people (the Cylons) and help the Humans in their fight toward freedom. She tells the Humans how to find and destroy the resurrection ship. This means that any Cylons killed, stay dead. It also ends her chance at immortality, because once the resurrection ship is gone, when she dies, that's it, her life is over.
I could see where this was going from a mile off. Probably because given the chance to do something similar, at one time I would have. To be clear, the single biggest reason I'm alive now, and working so hard to overcome my own past is because I know for a fact, that if I were to end this life, the pain would travel with me to my next life. How? Because in 1961 in a bathroom tub, I took my life. I remember every detail as clearly as anything that's happened to me in this life, I remember how it all felt. In some ways to be honest I remember it better than some of the details of this life. I remember failing. Oh I ended the body I had at the time, but how I felt, what I'd been through I remember in great and painful detail. Since there is no resurrection ship that I can have destroyed to render me mortal, I'm stuck dealing with this. All of it.
Now before you say it. No, suicide doesn't solve anything but not perhaps for the reasons you're thinking. We are all, each of us, every bit as immortal as the Cylons only more so, because there's no resurrection ships involved. You may not believe it but we are. And if you're thinking nothing is ever bad enough to warrant taking of one's own life, be thankful you have no idea what you're talking about. Ignorance truly is bliss in this case. So unless you've been imprisoned and beaten more than half to death, REPEATEDLY, please don't presume to tell me nothing is ever that bad. Because not long ago, I was in effect, if not in fact chained to that prison floor waiting and praying for the strength and ability to take my own life. I can more than just identify with Gina, for the purposes of what I'm trying to share here, I am Gina.
So Gina made it possible for the Humans to destroy this threat to themselves, but it was obvious that was a step towards her own goal of death. Because then she'd truly cease to exist, leaving behind the horrific memories of her abuse and pain, leaving behind the flashbacks, the triggers, the scars, both physical and more importantly emotional and mental. She would never again have to live through a flashback. Never again awaken screaming from a nightmare wishing she could die and finally escape. Never have something, a sight, a smell, a sound, a turn of phrase, a look or a touch trigger a flashback.
For those who've never lived through one, grossly over simplified, a flashback is when you are reminded, suddenly and without warning, of something horrific you've lived through in the past. But it's not as simple as a memory that you can dismiss. A flashback is often a full on reliving of what you experienced. Every detail, how it looked, felt, sounded, smelled, EVERYTHING in a level of detail so real, and so present as to block out what's going on in reality at the moment. Suddenly you are back in that moment. Being abused, violated, beaten and raped, whatever the case may be. I mention the examples I do because those are the things I went through.
Rape victims find it difficult or impossible to ever connect psychically with another human being. Those who've been beaten and raped by someone we loved, gave ourselves to heart, mind, body and soul to that person often find it difficult or impossible to ever connect with another human being more than just physically, but mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. Often the thought alone of having someone touch us makes us flinch and pull away, because we are terrified at some level that it could happen again. Regrettably, people who have never had to deal with anything like this have no idea what it's like to have lived through something like this.
So, back to Gina. She started out as someone confident, assured, capable, and even loving and loved, who happened to be an enemy agent. Does nothing to discount the fact that she has a heart, mind and some say, a soul of her own. As a Toaster (The Human Slang term for Cylons) some might argue that machines cannot have souls. Whatever the case may be, I'm not here to debate a machine lifeforms soul. Because truly, we Humans are factually merely a collection of inorganic compounds that have become a bio-organic machines of incredible complexity. The Cylon "Skin Job" Toasters are bio-organic machines of incredible complexity. We have souls, who are we to say that they doesn't have souls?
In Gina's case, she believed, and to the best of her knowledge and belief, the end of the resurrection ship would mean her death ended her pain, suffering, memories, flashbacks, nightmares and scars. All of them. Forever. She'd never have to relive that trauma again. You know there's a powerful allure in that.
The void beacons, "Come forget, have it all erased, never have to remember again."
Gina, after selling out the resurrection ship, sets about making possible her own death. The certainty of oblivion that means her memories, feelings, her very soul is blasted into an incoherent morass of random energy by the atomic flash and pursues this end with a single mindedness of a woman on a mission. She sits there with the armed weapon waiting for the massive release of energy and light that will erase her from the universe as if she'd never been ... born? But to get there, she's become someone else. She cannot connect with anyone, cannot even allow someone to touch her with affection because of her fear that she'll be hurt again.
I can relate. It's been years since Earl and I were in the same room, let alone the same state. It's been years since he died. I've even been to his grave. But I still have trouble letting people touch me, connecting with people, even having them too close often causes me to back away in fear. I'm not the confident. outgoing, gregarious capable, talented woman I once was. I'm no longer able to do things I once did, and I often look back at what I can remember of the past and wonder at what's been lost. That woman, that unique and essential being is gone. With her, the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a future she'd dreamed of her whole life equally lost to time. The future she often looked forward to? Don't look for her because She's Not There. She's as gone as Gina, because I remain where she once was, and I'll be happy to make it out alive. By that I mean, not dying at my own hand.
Because I'm faced with the soul crushing fact that when this body I inhabit no longer functions, I'll be back to the other side of the veil between life and death, and I'll have some tough choices to make. Where to go, what next to do. Do I move onto another life, or spend some time on the other hand recovering from this life? What I want to know is why do I have to carry this with me. Why must this scar on my soul haunt me. I've been assured by people who claim to know that I won't feel this way forever, but I'm so tired now, sometimes it overwhelms me, threatening to engulf me, and have the darkness and pain return. Or worse, leave me so angry I do something rash and unlike me. Something the woman I used to be wasn't even capable of. Her heart and soul hadn't been poisoned, she hadn't had her innocence forcibly stripped from her by a heartless, selfish machine of a being that was so self involved that he couldn't or wouldn't see her as a real live person with a heart, soul, mind and body that mattered.
Earl was no matter how I chose to explain him, a horrible creature. A soulless machine bent on what HE wanted and the hell with anyone else. Did he have a soul? Yes, regrettably, because he still haunts me some. That's a story for another day, another post. I'm forced based on experience to acknowledge he has a soul, and I know that one day, in another time and place, he;s going to have to live through something as horrific and soul crushing. But I wouldn't wish that on him or anyone else regardless of how he treated me.
For me, I take things day by day, making progress when and where I can. Taking back what I can of life. I am not the same, not even close, to the woman I was before I met Earl, or even when we married. Trauma changes people. Forever. Once you've lived through something traumatic, you are never the same. Even long after any wounds have healed, you are left scared, broken and tired. You even get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sure, it sounds funny, but it's anything but. In cases where there is mental and emotional trauma to go with the physical, it's even harder.
I cannot tell you how many time I've said, with complete seriousness and sincerity that I'd wished that a stranger had attacked me in a park, beat and raped me there and left me for dead, because you know it would have been easier to heal. He'd have been someone I had no feelings for, had never given myself to, never trusted with my heart, mind, body and soul.
The woman I was in the time before would have had sympathy for Gina, but would never have identified with Gina from a first person perspective. The woman who dreamed of a future that included a home, husband, children and grand children, growing old hand in hand with the man (or woman) of her dreams on the porch watching the sunset and her grand children play in the yard? Well don't look for her on that porch in a home full of love and family, because She's Not There. And now she never will be. Because I'm not her. I'm terrified of letting anyone that close to me again and if even if I live to be 168 as she was once told, I don't see myself having that house, that porch, children and grandchildren, let alone someone that I trust with my heart, soul, mind and body.
Trauma changes people, and Toasters too.
I spent time on a floor a nearly catatonic mess, but the chains that held me were those around my heart. The scars not on my body but my soul. Eventually I got up off the floor, and since I know throwing my life away isn't going to solve anything, I'm working on living with something done to me for no reason. I'm left with the lingering damage to my heart, soul, mind and body.
I am not the same. And the majority of my time and energy is spent finding new ways to live in a world I don't feel safe in. Left with the knowledge that my trust, heart, mind, body and soul was betrayed and violated by the one person I thought I was safe with. The one person who swore he'd never hurt me, and would love me always. I have to learn how to trust again. I just don't know if I can, because I'm no longer the person I was.