Sunday July 7, 2013
Yesterday was both an enjoyable and incredibly difficult day.
I had the great joy of visiting with one of my favorite cousins yesterday. We had not seen each other in quite a while; I would estimate it had been over two years. And we had all of an hour to spend together. We met for lunch. She had her boyfriend and some friends in tow as well so I couldn't expect her full, undivided attention during our lunch. And I could certainly accept that as being only fair. It was nonetheless difficult for me when the hour seemed to fly by and I found myself out on a street corner crying and saying goodbye to her so soon. Sometimes, despite all the efforts I am taking which many times feel virtually Herculean in nature, I feel as if my life is passing me by. Too many times I wonder if I will create the life I ultimately want to have. I keep feeling myself weighed down by the consequences of so many early life events I had absolutely no ability to influence or escape.
After visiting with my cousin I went for my first day on a new job. The day went well enough and the job itself was relatively enjoyable. At the end of my shift, as I sat waiting for the first of two buses to take me home, I felt sad and dejected. Yes, by all appearances I am moving forward and making progress. The steps I am taking, though they feel like such small baby steps, are indeed steps and they seem to be taking me forward. They are taking me forward to a future I cannot at all clearly see.
Since receiving my diagnosis nearly two weeks ago I have found myself consumed with many different thoughts and feelings. And one predominant thought has been a question regarding who I will ultimately be or become once my current treatment is done. Let me reach for a metaphor to better explain what I have been thinking.
Have you ever seen a tree that grew in some strange direction or angle? Sometimes you can see such trees in parts of the world where the wind is almost exclusively blowing from one direction. The trees naturally adapt to this predominant wind by growing so that there is not undue stress placed upon them. They end up pointing in the direction towards which the wind blows. Even in places where the wind is variable it is possible to discern when a past event has affected a tree's developmental trajectory. And it seems to me the earlier in the life cycle such a distressful or disruptive event occurs the more likely the tree is to be profoundly affected in its future growth.
Such seems to be the truth of trauma in the human experience. Adults and children are able to process traumatic experiences differently. Why? It's called context. Adults have context and children have very little of it. Adults have the benefit of life experience to draw upon when they suffer a setback or unexpected stressor. They know, from past experience, that life isn't always easy. But they also know that 'this too shall pass'...eventually. Adults, by virtue of their life experience, can contextualize an undesirable experience and place it in the broader stream of their life journey. Context is so critical.
Children have a relative dearth of life experience and are thus not able to process trauma in the same way. And the younger the child is the less experience he has to utilize to contextualize a trauma. The younger a child is when a blindsiding trauma occurs the more likely it seems it will be that said trauma will seriously overwhelm the child's coping capacity and instigate the development of a pathology which will distort the child's development from that point onward (assuming of course no treatment is sought).
Some of my earliest personal experience of trauma was so early in my own developmental history that I am left wondering just how much of the person I am today is actually an authentic reflection of who I would be had the trauma never happened. Like a baby tree exposed to a fierce wind shortly after it is planted my first years of life were filled with a level of anxiety I would never wish upon any child. My experience was indeed akin to growing up in a war zone. It's no wonder I have PTSD.
And so I find myself wondering who I will be when this treatment is done. Will I even recognize myself? When I look in the mirror and look beyond my physical form to the radiance beaming out of my eyes will I know who that person is being reflected in the mirror? How much of the person I am today is a distortion due to the earliest trauma I experienced?
Yesterday, while working, a memory of my recent visit to Germany floated through my mind. I thought of the day I saw my mother for the first time in eleven years. And in my body I recalled the feeling when I held her arm and walked with her after we had lunch. And I was glad to hold and guide her in that way. But I also realize what happened due to that visit. I realize my own pain from those earliest traumas was awoken. I realize how much I wanted to be the one who was held and nurtured when I was a baby. And I realize how much I still long for that today so many years after it is "developmentally inappropriate" to expect the nurturing typically reserved for a baby. I realize how I felt (and still do feel) like I had missed out. There is a reservoir of grief and sadness in me. And now I am on the journey to enter the pain as a means to purge its grip on my present life. I pray I have the strength to walk this journey. It seems it might be the most challenging journey of my life I have ever faced.
I want to be a whole man capable of giving and receiving love. I want to be a whole man who enjoys a rewarding and engaging profession. I want to feel alive and comfortable with myself each and every day. These are my intentions.