On Advocating Trauma

In part for reasons of meaning to be met with compassion by peers, in part for reasons to advocate in general I have become more vocal about the outcomes and symptoms of PTSD and/or C-PTSD in recent years. I had meant to educate those, who aren’t familiar with both conditions and their outcomes on what they do and how they affect a person’s life, even if one appears “normal” and functional on the outside.

After many such discussions and situations, where well-meaning friends and confidants offered their assistance, I have come to the personal conclusion that I fail(ed) to convey this complex, often torture-like condition to others. The bright side of this is that apparently my means for modulating my affective behaviours must be pretty progressed as I never “lose it” in such discussions. The downside of it, however, is that people don’t take you seriously on account of all the difficult-to-deal with symptoms that can amount to a debilitating condition (which they have in my case, rendering me disabled in 2008). I guess, if a person doesn’t kick and scream and yell and cry, then whatever they’re talking about can’t possibly be real, where “not real” is also often taken for “imagined”. I got that particular response an infinite number of times throughout my lifetime… It can become utterly frustrating just meaning to talk to someone in order to be met with a miniscule measure of humanly compassion…

The other aspect I believe to have found is that the majority of those who have never had close contact with a survivor of severe trauma or weren’t affected themselves, apparently tend to associate the term with the homophone (equal sounding) colloquial term “trauma”, where the latter denotes an event or an experience that ranges above your day-to-day “dramas”, but is nowhere near a real traumatic event in a person’s life. In other words, for an addictive “texter” (as in: a person frequently sending text from a smartphone), loss or theft of said device may be described as “traumatic”, but I guess those among my readers/visitors who can tell real trauma from this fictitious example, will agree that one is a minor inconvenience compared to the other. Coming from this “understanding” of trauma, it becomes more apparent to me, why trauma victims are often met with anything but compassion and oftentimes even without respect: Because people will assume it’s about “sucking it up, get it together, stick with it” and basically taking a traumatized person for a slacker who is unwilling to take full responsibility for their lives and decisions. Well, there could be a whole chapter or seperate blog entry on the latter. But I won’t go there for now, as it is sure to turn into yet another frustrating experience, because understanding how taking charge of one’s life including the outcomes others have inflicted on you, presupposes a clear understanding of the trauma dynamic. If that isn’t present, there is no point in trying to make someone understand, how difficult and frustrating it can become to manage the condition and make it blend as best as possible with the day-to-day challenges all of us face anyway. So enough of that.

There were times I have fretted and despaired over being met in such ways. It renders a trauma victim utterly lonely never to have a close friend to confide in on any of the particular challenges such a “life” brings about. It denies us the very thing, anyone else can at least hope for: Simple compassion. A person lending a hand, sharing in the grief or sorrow or whatever it is at the particular moment. In other words: It denies us being human, for anyone else who is fortunate enough to have a good friend gets to share their burden with that friend here and there. As a victim of trauma, we often don’t have that luxury. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but as far as the condition per se – I have never really come across someone in real life, who would have fit that bill. Luckily, there is technology now and so at the very least, I was able to communicate with you.

As far as the non-affected rest of the population, I had to bring myself to the understanding that it is simply impossible to find compassion for the distinct experiences one undergoes in a traumatic situation nor for the outcomes that make life so much harder than it already is. I guess, it is part of my reclaiming control and owning my fate by deciding that there simply is no point in trying to convey something that most people have no concept of whatsoever. Other than on here – and less frequently as I go along, because I need to have a life again at some point – I will most likely refrain from trying to advocate any more. There is little to no point to it, unfortunately.

Maybe the timing is not right. Maybe at some point, the sheer number of PTSD-victims will be so high that the general population will be more open and eager to hear about the outcomes of a condition that I have come to find a lot worse than getting killed… Seeing as an ever-increasing number of vets return from war with fully developed symptoms of PTSD, thus eroding their relationships and ultimately and often finding themselves singled out, losing connection with spouses, close family and friends, maybe as the number of such tragic turns of biographies increase in volume, the public will need to understand the underlying dynamics as well as becoming educated on where to find help and whom and what to look for.

Until then, I guess, I’ll resort to what I have been doing before: Not let on the underlying condition to the best of my abilities, and falling back on – apparently successfully and intuitively learnt – methods of self-regulation mixed with a measure of “upholding an external image” as well as a growing number of genuine, heartfelt experiences with non-affected peers, where the latter are… an almost miraculous series of small victories of overcoming. It can be done. I have done it before.

And then, of course, there’s still the hope to find a suitable therapist who is also willing to lend a hand in overcoming those incessant technical hurdles that my health insurance plan imposes on me.

Hope and perseverance – both maybe amounting to “faith” – must be the engine of continued survival on the journey of getting to express the genuine me, the genuine emancipated person who is capable of standing up for his true self and keeping past and potential future abusers at bay in mature, appropriate ways. It can be done. I’m doing it.

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2 thoughts on “On Advocating Trauma

  1. Hi “Late Shift”! I discovered your blog today.WOW. I identify with what I’ve read so far. May I say: I am sad for you. It is hard to keep going sometimes, I know. I’ve been trying to deny the severity of my disabilities for so long, and finally they grew progressively more debilitating until I could not deny them any longer. I’m at a very low (rough) spot right now, so not able to read much. but I will read more of your blog when I feel better.. I too have not encountered empathy or compassion, except from my daughter, but then again I ran out of friends a while ago.—so who would I tell anything too? 🙂 Take care, I;m glad you are blogging about your life with complex trauma. Today, you helped me…I do not feel alone with this. Thank you.

    • Hi Jacqui,

      first of all: I’m glad that my blogging made you feel less alone with this gruelling condition. That was the idea – next to getting in touch with other people dealing with the condition in order to get the same effects from it for myself 🙂

      Yes, unfortunately it seems to be a fact that one gets more and more isolated over time when suffering from harm OTHERS have done to us… it’s very bad and like you said in your latest post: Bitterness creeps in repeatedly. And why not? After all, we’re in the position we’re in not from our own CHOICES as some behavioristic or – worse – “spiritual”/esoteric teachings have us believe. Here’s what I’ve thought a lot and am in the process of applying: I think, our responses to what we endured are perfectly NORMAL! They actually come from those parts of our brains and bodies that secured SURVIVAL of the species for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years! So – WE aren’t sick, the EVENTS and PEOPLE that got us into this place were! I find it important to keep this in mind and remind ourselves of as often as possible.

      As far as compassion and empathy: I’m trying to bring myself to the understanding that it is simply not possible for those, who haven’t been to any of what we have been to to understand what we’re dealing with. It took me a loooong time to understand this. Because “understanding” usually means: I – or them – have been there, have experienced a particular situation in order to fully get it. Inversely, people who have never been traumatized really don’t know what it’s like… the flashbacks, the triggering situations and the “auto-pilot”, “hard coded” responses from our bodyminds…. I try to bring myself to being understanding on my part regarding their inability to grasp the situation. But … at the end of the day that doesn’t exactly remove the isolation, agreed. However, it may – maybe – help to connect in other ways – at the very least on the level of telling ourselves “I’m o.k. I’m human. What I’m experiencing is a perfectly normal response to the experiences I went through.” I think, this change of attitude can do a lot of good things. I recently came across an article of someone explaining their condition of Lupus by something they coined the “spoon theory” (I don’t have the URL at hand at this point, so you may want to Google it). Aside from Lupus being a totally different illness, it still drove the message home as to how difficult it becomes to manage such a condition in ways that makes us appear to others as being perfectly normal (because we are, we’re “just” shackled with an extra burden that noone can see). I found some comfort in that. I also found the most comfort – and some hearty giggles – in the “Ed Gavagan” story on “The Moth”. Bottomline: I think, we may be better off when we “own” the condition. And why shouldn’t we? A paraplegic “owns” it, a mutilated vet owns it – why shouldn’t we, too? Actually, I think, it’s important and empowering that we did. I don’t mean to talk you into anything, but after having lived with this debilitating thing for almost 50 years, it looks as if “owning” it was the only “choice” I had anyways.In any case: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

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