Be Your Own Flying Saucer! Rescue Yourself!

I have been thinking quite a bit about trauma lately.  By “quite a bit” I mean “more than I can express in one coherent entry”, but it’s time to start what will probably turn into a series.

Let’s go back to what I was like after five years or so of not dealing with a particularly traumatic event.  I had gotten through high school, and done very well academically by repressing everything as much as I possibly could.  I read Holocaust memoirs obsessively, immersing myself in the details of people whose lives had been taken apart and filled with degradation and horrors so much worse than anything I would ever experience.  If anyone survived that, there was no way I could have any mental scarring from one single, tiny event in my own otherwise comfortable happy life, right?  Wrong!  You know that’s wrong.  You’ve had your own terrible experiences that have kept you up at night and turned you into a sobbing mass of pain.  You don’t have to tell me what it is; your feelings are valid.  That, readers, is why in my world we do not play Trauma Olympics.  Some people have had an easier life than I have, and some have had it much, much worse, but as soon as everyone starts trying to win the title of Worst Experience, everyone loses.  Mental scarring has to be dealt with or you’ll end up with mental keloids.

Back to the story: I had finished high school and started university.  I had an experience that, on its own, would have been bad enough but because I hadn’t taken care of myself it set off an even worse series of nasty emotional reactions.  At the time I didn’t know what was going on; I was too overwhelmed by painful emotions to examine what I was feeling and why.  The only action that seemed reasonable at the time was one that landed me in the hospital and, after I was patched up enough not to die, in a mental institution.

There’s a lot I don’t remember from that first hospital stay and the months after, since I was being fed one drug, then another, then a higher dosage, then a combination of drugs.  The one clear thought I remember having, after I woke up in hospital, was that none of the people around me had any idea how to help me.  They could do a damn good job of keeping my body going, but everything on the inside was invisible to them.  Later, as I was living in the half-awake haze of medication, I came to the conclusion that none of the doctors I had seen could fix me with drugs.  If I was ever going to be a whole person again I had to figure out how to make myself strong enough to deal with my problems and live.  *

** Drugs, and more drugs, and I was getting terribly tired of all the side effects.  During the era that I held onto those drugs as a way of fixing myself I treated them like an amulet that would somehow work its magic, and when it didn’t I still tried over and over and I subconsciously believed they weren’t working because there was something wrong with me and not with my diagnosis*** or the drugs I was being given.   For a brief time, the drive to fix myself via chemicals alone put me into strange situations that deserve their own discussion.

During the slightly later period in which I was growing more disillusioned with the medication route and starting to wonder about the conflicting ideas my various doctors had about What Was Really Wrong With Me, I met the man I told you about earlier.  He helped a lot, and then he made everything worse.  After I left, I had many more adventures, some good and some bad.  I cannot sum up the years between him and my second husband in this entry, which is why this could be a rather long series if I want to turn it into one.

The point I wanted to make when I started this entry – the one that is so important to me – is that ignoring all the illness that life can offer is not a management option for me.  Neither is giving up that management to another person, be it a doctor or a lover.  The only thing that has ever worked is really looking closely at all this shit I’ve been talking about lately.  Not because it’s fun or because that’s what drives the misery memoir market, but because it is the only way I have of taking care of myself and actually making anything better.  The fact that I’m using a nominally public forum for it may be helpful or it may not.  I like getting comments and feedback, and I know I have at least a few lurkers by now who aren’t ready to offer any.  Just knowing that everything that ends up here is saved in a place I can refer people to might save me (and them) from a lot of long stories in the future.  And the whole self-rescue mentioned in the title?  Part of it is right here.  I have figured out that I can take better care of myself and be stronger if I actually make myself work on it, and this is all work in that sense.  Different methods appeal to different people, and this has always been mine.  I’ve talked to a handful of people recently about their methods, and they always interest me, too.  The other part of this is not just examining the past, but taking present events and when they bother me or upset me or remind me of something I don’t want to think about being able to stop myself from shying away as I used to.  I might need time to sort through things, or a day or two of self-care before I can start sorting, but that process will happen because it works, and I need it.  Hiding just makes it all hide in return, so it can come back up and get at you at the worst possible time.

As a final note, I didn’t get around to explaining this title.  I often don’t.  Without Googling it, identify it in the comments and you win!


* I do enough self-examination that now, years later, this is my main method of dealing with things.  There have been times, though, that I have used various medications to help me through a rough patch.  I also am lucky enough to have friends and family who will listen to me and offer advice.  Also, this is only my personal experience.  I don’t judge anyone for relying on doctors or medications.

** This entry has been in draft limbo for about three weeks.  This marks the spot where I’ve taken it up again, since the next part of it was something I wasn’t ready to talk about at the time.  I covered it in my Death Goddesses I post, so now I’m over that writing hurdle and can get back to my main point:  The Flying Saucer.

*** I have had no fewer than five diagnoses by now.   That alone interests me, and also makes me a bit less enthusiastic about psychiatric treatment.


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