Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
And then one day, suddenly, it makes sense. It all makes sense.
I’m reading Pete Walker’s Complex Trauma (CPTSD) book. It’s the text I hoped I would one day find. I’ve never given up trying to make some sense of how my mind works – I’ve read and read and then read some more and suddenly there it all is; Neatly laid out in a single book. The thinking patterns, the constant flashbacks many times every day, the reactions. The feelings, the fears, the coping mechanisms. None of it attributed to personality quirks or character defects, or even to the lack of beatings as my father liked to suggest. This boy’s problem is he wasn’t beaten. No, I’m fairly confident that would not have made things better.
Like most of the other cases Walker cites, including his own, I spent years being diagnosed with things and trying to find “solutions” only to end up back in the same place. Treatments and medications have all had their limitations. My ability to deal with the outside world has remained restricted. When I’m outside of my safe zone I enter a hyper-vigilant state. Ready for fight or flight. I experience humans as mostly dangerous. There are few exceptions which are entirely dependant on a feeling I get when I meet people. Ever so rarely I sense safety. Mike is obviously safe. Summer Girls are safe. Tina & Maggie are safe (Montagne Noire Holidays). Mike’s family is safe. Some of Mike’s friends are safe. It’s a fairly short list.
It’s fascinating to see how this developed. And even how un-unique my history is. I’m one more case of a child who grew up in a dysfunctional environment where scapegoating and verbal and emotional abuse were all par for the course. To further complicate matters denial was built into the equation. Calling out the emotional abuse would in itself have been a betrayal of the family dynamic, of the hierarchy, of one’s identity. That would in turn mean the end of that flicker of hope of connection we have. The hope we have, despite all evidence to the contrary, that we were mistaken and it’s all a terrible misunderstanding – or bad dream.
But alas, here I am, understanding things. Preparing myself to confront this narrative, the real narrative. Not the stories I told myself to get through, usually heavily edited affairs with a near Proustian focus on the descriptions of where things transpired. Of floors and sofas and curtains. Of the artwork and the temperature and the wind. Well, that will probably all still be there, because I’m still me, but I’ll also talk about the things I ignored.
It’s hot outside and the garden is lovely. There’s the scent of jasmine in the air which mixes beautifully with the honeysuckle and white wisteria.