The journey to this moment has been long and hard and chaotic and sometimes frightening. So, now that I am here, I am paralyzed.
This is certainly not the first time that I have fought my way through all sorts of trauma to find myself safe on the other side and stuck. Just stuck. It is like my self doesn’t know how to handle “normal” living. Which should not be surprising to anyone who knows me or my story well, because the great majority of my living has been disordered and chaotic and traumatic and totally fucking wrong. It isn’t a shock to suddenly feel all weird and confused by normalcy and calm.
But it is a problem.
Sometimes you meet people in life whom you believe create drama. I’m not one of those people, but I do believe that they exist. I understand why people could believe that I am one of those people, however. Because I share a lot of characteristics with those people, I am sure.
I don’t create drama. I’m not running around seeking problems and hoping to add them to my list of affairs. But I do have a life that attracts many dramatic or uncommon or challenging events.
For instance, this past weekend I discovered that my daughter’s father may or may not be the biological child of the man that he and we have believed him to be the son of for many years. And I found this out from the adult child of that man, whose stories while she was growing up, completely estranged from the “other family” the man had previous to the family he shared with her mother, are the proofs that we have for this new information. Is he my daughter’s grandfather? Not according to him. But that doesn’t change much other than the storytelling gene might be really strong among the men of this particular family. Or it could change everything, and my daughter, and the father she has never met and does not want to, might have a totally other family they are completely unaware of out there in the world. And the grandmother she never met—who then is more unfaithful and dishonest a woman than we imagined, which is saying something—is the only one who would know the truth, assuming she is still living (as I mentioned, we don’t exactly keep in touch with her dad’s family).
See. This creates all sorts of fucking drama. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. It is confusing and chaotic and leads to all sorts of questions that I don’t know whether to answer or leave alone. And it doesn’t just involve me, but a woman who may or may not be an aunt to my daughter, and a man who may or may not be her grandfather, and a daughter who may or may not want to know the answer to whether or not they are or whether there is an entirely other family out there somewhere. But then, how do I help her find that identity if we have no way of accessing that information without contact with a family we don’t want to have contact with?
There is an aspect of the life I am now living that creates this complication. It isn’t necessarily a simple choice to be or not be in the midst of drama. Sometimes drama comes for you, and you need to figure out if there are any ways to avoid it, or ways to tackle it without becoming completely absorbed by it.
My therapist likes to say, and I am getting good at saying it before she reminds me, that there is “no such thing as normal”. All of us have some things in life that others cannot relate to exactly. All of us have some things in life that are relatable to almost everyone. But there isn’t one way of living life, and there isn’t one way of living it correctly, certainly.
I know, however, that much about my life is uncommon or not very relatable for a majority of the people that I encounter on a day to day basis.
Not many of us can say that we were abused by a relative from a very young age and for an extended period of time, causing us to develop a complex form of PTSD that acts much like the trauma of captivity in terms of brain malformation, and because that disability and that abuse were not discovered or appropriately handled until well into adulthood, repeated traumas of all sorts were added on top of that early trauma, leaving layers and layers of trauma and pain and suffering and alienation and mistrust. So many layers. And then, because that trauma was not dealt with appropriately and all those layers were trying so hard to be forced into alignment with “normal” or at least “average” living during the everyday, our bodies took on that trauma and turned it into physical disease. Or at least that is one theory, and one that I can easily wrap my malformed captivity brain around. So, in the prime of our lives, as our little birds leave the nest, and we can go out and do anything we want, we are actually left with the option to A) live according to the very strict and challenging rules of the state regarding disability income and expense, letting decisions be made by another in most cases and feeling like we still have no agency all these years after abuses can supposedly no longer reach our bodies, or B) suffer and die.
And all the “normal” people will think that statement is overly dramatic. But they don’t have the life where the drama attacks you in the calm of a sunny Saturday afternoon when you see a message about a man named Marvin. They have lives without disordered thinking and layers and layers of trauma. They have working dominant hands. They have sisters who answer the fucking phone when they call—for the third time, to wish her happy birthday. They don’t freeze when things seem good or average or positive.
They call that fucking Wednesday!
To me it is like hell freezing over. And, granted, the temperature in Chicago this week could probably freeze hell. So, maybe that happened.
I don’t generally have the luxury of a normal day with positive normal things happening. There aren’t many days when some aspect of depression, anxiety, trauma, abuse, addiction, violence, poverty, pain, or some other messy, bad, or unfortunate thing is having an effect on me or the things around me. And it isn’t that other people don’t also have these struggles. I know that they do. I know many people who have similar struggles. But I know very few people who have ALL of these struggles. And the compounding effects are significant.
I carry the weight of a hundred traumas—not just three or four. So, a trauma-free day? That just doesn’t exist for me. I cannot imagine it. And it frightens the hell out of me.
I know that the more I work in therapy, and the more I work to repair or bypass the disordered thought processes that have become normative for me, and the more remedies and treatments I discover, and the more I work to deconstruct what others have crafted and build for myself a self and a life that I love, the more I will have days that are free of these traumas. At some point, I may even become accustomed to “normal” or “average” days. (God, I hope not! Lol) But I am not there yet.
So, while I should be rejoicing in the fact that I probably have an apartment, and that all the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together for my move to the northside, where it is safer and I am closer to amenities and friends, I am, instead, writing this. Because, I have been packing for months through chaos and threats from my landlord, but now that I have the promise of new owners and another lease, I don’t know what to put in a box. I’m completely stymied by the normalcy of it.
Can I really be getting a decent apartment in a good neighborhood? Can that be true? Can I be inside the margin? Am I allowed that?
Or is the bottom going to fall out and the earth is going to swallow me up, proving that hell hasn’t actually frozen over, but it was just waiting for me to be lulled into a false sense of security before it devoured me?
That question would sound like insanity … except for the fact that the bottom has been dropping out and hell devouring me for the last 35 years.
Yes. I should be packing right now. And by later today, or at least tomorrow morning, I likely will be, but for the moment I am processing this news slowly and cautiously—not wanting to get too happy too hastily, just in case. Not to believe in the good before the good proves itself to be existent.
Yes, people of the Jesus-loving variety, I know what faith is and I need no proof-texting from the book of Hebrews. I graduated from two seminaries. But that definition means nothing to the malformed captive brain. Only proof of the existence of the good works, and the only good guaranteed is that which comes from within, frankly. I can only control me.
And you can’t control me either, so that is probably a good point to state, just in case that isn’t self-evident.
I don’t make life complicated. It made itself complicated over time. And it now doesn’t become easy because I want it to become such. I don’t create drama. My life has had lots of events that were traumatic and the traumatic brings along the dramatic. The trauma doesn’t disappear because I want it to, and the drama doesn’t either. I need to deal with them, cope with them, work through them. And that takes time and hard work.
I don’t actually believe that my apartment with fall into hell. I don’t believe in a literal hell, so that can’t be a thing I believe. (I wrote a paper on it once for one of the classes in one of the seminaries. I received high marks.) But I do believe that the world should be kinder to those of us who have struggled much in our histories as we seek to find stasis in our present. It isn’t as easy as it looks.
It is easy to believe that walking on flat, solid ground takes no effort if you have never been out at sea.
Stasis isn’t a given in a life that has been largely characterized by turbulence. And choosing stasis isn’t easy when turbulence feels more natural. Choosing the unnatural thing continuously until it no longer feels abnormal, or hard, or foreign is a great burden.
Change of any kind is difficult. But changing patterns in this manner—taking what feels wrong and trying to tell your brain over and over that it is right, despite all sorts of triggering objections, is excruciating.
Packing right now is a devastating choice. It means hope beyond all telling, and if things go wrong and this apartment doesn’t happen, it means pain that I cannot ever express—not ever … I don’t have the physical capacity to express it and even now, imagining having to express it at some point makes me feel like I must vomit. That is what this means to me. That is what choosing stasis means to me. That is what “doing the normal thing” has invested in it. I feel like my head might explode and I want to vomit—that is what normalcy is doing to me right now!
I’ll do it. I’ll get there. But after almost 5 years of therapy, with 20-some medications, and in the best physical and mental state I have been for some time, this is still an excruciating moment. So, the next time you cannot understand why your child hasn’t finished their spelling homework, or your neighbor is dating another loser, or your grandpa gets all weird when you mention that son he rarely talks about remember this post. Remember that sometimes choosing normal is extremely difficult and painful. No matter how much being and having something—anything— “normal” is what we want.
Be kind to one another. And for heaven’s sake somebody come over and help me pack these fucking boxes!! lol