Monday, May 22, 2017

Hidden Trauma: Dealing with Crap You Didn't Even Know Bothered You

It started with a post about someone having to sit next to a wriggly, rambunctious child at the movies. Before I knew it, I was on the attack and when it was over, I started crying... for an hour.


I ended up talking with my husband, and I realized that I was especially sensitive about the idea that parents shouldn't take their kids out in public unless XYZ (usually to do with the behavior of said kids).

Now, to be clear, I get as annoyed as anyone when some little jerk-monster is being a pain. But I also remember feeling completely abandoned by all friends and most family for almost FOUR YEARS.

When I got pregnant, I stopped going to the bars with friends. Seems obvious, right? Well, none of them ever came to visit me or call to check up. I'd already established myself as someone who really doesn't like to "bug people", so I'm very unlikely to call someone just cuz I'm lonely.

Then I moved to eliminate the hour-long commute to work. On several occasions after my son was born, it hit me that if I was somehow incapacitated by
illness or injury, not a single person would notice for days at a time, except my coworkers, and I'd just get fired as a no-show.

My son is ASD (autism spectrum), and he was a fussy, fussy baby. I couldn't go out in the evenings, because he cried for around 2 hours every single night. No reason. Just cried. I couldn't do any of the evening activities that might have gotten me out of the house and around other people.

He also cried in the checkout lane. He'd be perfectly happy shopping, but no matter the time or how long we'd been at the store, he'd cry in the checkout lane. Three times I was told to abandon my month's worth of groceries if I couldn't keep my infant from fussing. As a single working mom, that wasn't even an option, but it didn't keep people from telling me I didn't belong in a public place with a baby.

When my parents came to town, they often took me out to eat. As a single parent breastfeeding, I spent my evenings eating take-out (usually cold after taking care of baby1), so I happily passed my son over to my mother and ate decent hot food that I didn't have to try to cook with an infant. Twice, my own mother asked why I didn't just leave my food and leave the restaurant when my son got a bit (trust me, that was only a bit, people) fussy. I may have gotten a look on my face similar to a starving predator facing down something that wanted the gazelle for itself.

At that point, I didn't have internet, except at work. So I spent my days working and my nights feeding the baby while I watched cable TV. Alone. For months at a time.

When I moved to my current small town, I went out ONE time with coworkers. We went to the bar for my birthday. It was my 30th birthday. One of my coworkers called my mother because she thought I was getting "too drunk".

I can't even explain how being collected by my mother at 30 years old because people don't TRUST me to be able to take care of myself... how that completely shut down any further attempts I might have made to have any kind of social life. After all, it was a small town. Everyone knew my mother.

So after 4 years of no social interactions outside of work and a few minor events, I started a business, met my now-husband, and got pregnant again. For several reasons, which have since been resolved, I started my daughter's life as a single mother still. My mom took us to see Juno. I got to watch 30 minutes before baby2 started to fuss.

I had no car - I was there with my mom who was still watching the movie with my son. So I spent the entire movie pacing the hall with a fussy baby. For some reason, I wasn't really eager to try that again any time soon.

So, that's all ancient history, and it sucked but it was what it was and now I'm okay. Except, apparently, I'm not okay.

Even now, just thinking about all of this (not something I usually do), I am fighting back tears. It was hard to think that after all the people telling me I'm a good mom, and I did so well when solo, etc., etc... I was traumatized.

Even now, the thought of being a single parent again is so painful that I just want to curl up into a ball. I am literally gun-shy of it. It closes my emotions off except for this bitter, clogging pain. It shuts my mind down except for these memories going through my head over and over.

And I never even knew that it had affected me so deeply. Despite the fact that I do Shadow Work ALL THE TIME, I never knew. I dig for things like this, regularly, but I had no idea it was there.

So the lesson here is this: Shadow Work is never done. There is always more to work on. And just because trauma is hidden, doesn't mean you are not traumatized. And just because you are traumatized, doesn't make you broken... just a little chipped.


  1. Now, I understand some recent posts elsewhere. And, hey, you might not even be a little chipped. The memory of trauma is usually sharp and painful, even intimidating and frightening. But, that's okay. The trauma does not own you. The memory begs to be dealt with because hiding in the shadow only gives the pain more power. But, you know these things. And often, we who deal with healing and freedom miss what is in our self. That is why, like it or not, we need other people. May your openness bring you power to dis-empower the memories. I hope you don't mind my intrusion. But, I value you.

  2. Good stuff, KaliSara. It's one thing to get annoyed at toddlers climbing over things and destroying stuff without being checked in a public place, it's another to get mad at mom because her baby is crying. That's why they turn the volume up so loud at movie theatres.

    And you notice that even in two-parent families, it's always Mom getting the short end of the stick on this and not Dad? When my son Dan was six, he was a terror on wheels. We used to be really involved in the SCA, and we stopped going because people were getting mad at us because he was crying in his tent at an event. Now, understand, it was midnight and he didn't want to go to bed because there was a drumming circle and he wanted to go be part of it, but he was being a little shit so bed it was. The event had gate guards and took place on private property. Everyone who entered was registered, and there was even a family friend whom we lived with sleeping in our encampment, but because he was crying alone in a pup tent, we clearly had abandoned him, and had to be bothered with said person *bringing us our son*. Why the hell didn't they come get us instead, if they had an issue? No, they had to make sure he was up for at least another two hours. And neither did they listen when we told them that we had a babysitter in the camp who was sleeping, he was just sulking because he couldn't come play, and he was *fine*.

    I guess as a result, I stood up to a lot of people about where new moms could go. One of my friends, for example, was doing readings at my store. She had a baby and she was nursing. My mom wanted her to go into the bathroom to nurse the baby. I adamantly did not tolerate this. She could nurse wherever she pleased, as far as I was concerned, and usually went to the back where the Reiki table was anyway.

    Others in the Pagan community wanted parents not to come if they had babies. Now I understand the need to forbid them to active ritual if there are toddlers climbing on things, because nobody else can get anything done. But babies? Just stop the ritual for ten minutes and let the baby cry. They'll get over it.

    1. I see it as a kind of santization. People don't want life to be messy/noisy/chaotic, and kids are messy/noisy/chaotic. I get not wanting kids, and that's a totally valid choice, but it too often goes into policing who can be in public places because the nature of their existence might disturb someone.

  3. It's something it takes us by surprise. The pain. But what we do with it? That's the challenge. Kudos to you