013: Trauma

I had a pretty good life growing up. Two parent household. Private school. Toys to play with. Friends in the neighborhood to play with. Food on the table. Love in the house. Nothing to see here, really.

Now that I’m older (not sure about the wiser part), I realize that most all of us have some sort of trauma from when we were a child. The type and severity of that trauma can vary from person to person. But in learning about who we are and where we come from, as well as who we’re going to be, a great deal revolves around that trauma.

My parents are wonderful people. I pass no judgement on them at all as I write this. They did the best they could with the tools that they had to raise me and my sibling to be good people. I think overall they did a great job. That said, there were some things that they experienced growing up that did not prepare them for certain parts of being parents. Not their fault at all. But still true.

Whenever I was stressed out or sad about something, I went to my room. I didn’t talk about it, I just processed it, dealt with it, and moved on to the next day. Get bullied? My parents were simply not equipped to handle supporting me emotionally throughout my childhood. I would guess that their parents weren’t either. Who knows how many generations that existed through. But as a result, I often kept things in and didn’t ever ask for help. Two things I carried with me into adulthood, still to this day. They’ve impacted relationships I’ve had in the past, including the one I’m in now, and often times caused me to isolate when I needed to do anything but that. I am slowly but surely training my brain to relearn how to process these events in my life, and do the opposite of what my habits have been for most of my life. It’s not easy, but it is possible. With support and lots of help and communication with people I trust, it can be done.

There was one other specific type of trauma that I experienced as I was growing up. When I was about 14 years old, my Dad tried to commit suicide. He did ingested a bunch of pills and found himself waiting to die on our kitchen floor. Something moved him to pick up the phone and call 911, and thankfully the EMT’s were able to come to the house, pump his stomach and save his life. I wasn’t there when any of this happened, but I did notice things were different that day when I got home. His sportcoat was slung over the kitchen chair. Normally he didn’t get home from work until after 5pm on the bus or when Mom took me to pick him up. It’s all a blur, but that jacket on the chair I can still picture like it was yesterday. The next thing I remember was going to the hospital to see him with Mom. He was in ICU, restrained because they didn’t want him to try to hurt himself again. I didn’t know that, though. When I followed my Mom in, I remember him looking up to see me and trying to get out of the restraints. I don’t think he wanted me to see him like that. I was stunned. My hero, my role model, this man that I thought was superman, lying on this table in a hospital gown, unable to move. Tube down his throat. Unable to speak. I saw fear in his eyes. In my 14 years, I couldn’t imagine what made my Dad feel so much pain that he wanted to take his own life. My heart immediately felt this heavy empathy for him. I felt what he felt in some way. It was there that I probably first recognized my empathic nature, as well as my need to rescue people. I decided from that day on that my Dad would know that I loved him, did not want to lose him and that he better never try to leave me like that again. Not because I wanted him to feel bad, or worse than he already did. But because I wanted him to know that I loved him so much and that there are so many good things about him, if he could just see them too.

As I write this, over 35 years later, Dad’s struggle with Parkinsons Disease is starting to progress more quickly. He struggles to walk and stand, has to have someone help him shower, has difficulty swallowing and talking, among other things. It’s hard to see because I know he is just mentally and physically exhausted. He wants his body to work so badly, and why wouldn’t he? But it just doesn’t quite do it any more. All I feel is empathy for him. I’ve started to take him to appointments, help Mom manage his prescriptions, and try to advocate for him with his team of doctors to make sure he’s getting what he needs. He is embarrassed I’m sure by having me have to take him in a wheelchair into these appointments, or help him pull his pants up after he goes to the bathroom, or that Mom has to cut up his food for him so he can swallow it. But we do these things for him out of love. He’s done so much for us throughout his life. All we want to do is return the favor. My Mom and Dad’s relationship has changed so much. I see a real love there. He calls her “my angel”. I’ve never heard him call her anything so endearing before recently. But he does it every time I see them now. And she genuinely cares for him. It’s so nice to see.

The point of all of this is to say that some of the things I lacked growing up lead me to make some of the poor decisions I have made as an adult. Albeit inadvertently and through no fault of anyone’s. The fault for my poor decision making is my own, and I accept that, but also am working on recovering and figuring out what the triggers are and correcting them so I can be the man I want to be. Through recovery, therapy, and group, I am on my way. I just felt like sharing some more about what I’ve been through and where I come from. To what end I’m not sure. But I hope you got something out of it and can relate to some of it as well. If one thing I write helps any one person, it’s worth it. And so are you.

Thanks for reading! Be well!

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