“…Sometimes it comes in a quiet voice that says, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”
When I was in my late twenties, I started collecting a lot of posters from the Successories store in University Town Center in San Diego. Some of them have been destroyed in one of my many moves since then, but a few have survived and now hang on the wall in my home: “Passion: Nothing in the world has ever been accomplished without passion,” “Perseverance: Our greatest glory lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall,” “Integrity: Integrity comes when character is tested; keep true and never be ashamed of doing what is right,” and…”Courage: You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.” (This last one came directly from Aristotle and the quotation from Perseverance is my signature mark on this website because for years, that quote has sustained my resilience through my life’s hardest falls and seen me pick myself up and start over again through sheer will and…perseverance).
In 2017, a therapist that I saw a few times while I was searching for the right one on a permanent basis said to me, “The only way out of the pain is through it.”
That was the last thing I wanted to hear – who among us ever wants to hear that we have to walk through the physical, spiritual and emotional feelings of pain in order to exit on the other side and start over…from the beginning…when we never wanted to lose what ended in the first place?
But that’s how it is…I am finding out…the hard way.
The only way out of the pain is through it.
During one of the last visits I had with a counselor whom I miss greatly, she shared a story with me about two arrows: the first arrow that pierces the heart is the initial pain.
The second arrow…the one that does not have to be…comes from the suffering on top of the pain that we bring upon ourselves.
I know that the cure for the second arrow is radical acceptance…and breaking silence.
There is no one definition of courage – for some, the courage to be silent is as worthy as the courage to speak out. Life is not black-and-white.
Neither is grief. Neither is healing.
Neither is the way out of the former onto the pathway to the latter.
I have realized, or learned (or both) in the last few years, but most acutely in this past year, that trauma hibernating in the dark corners of our memory – waiting to be awakened without warning, is a silent killer – it is not courageous, however, its remedy is the epitome of courage.
The problem is that trauma is stealthier than the most silent and cunning of predators, and make no mistake, trauma is a predator – of the worst kind. It lies in wait in the recesses of your brain – for years, sometimes for decades – and strikes before you ever have a chance to prepare yourself for it, much less fight back.
Trauma’s greatest ally is fear. Its adversary is breaking the silence.
Human beings, with the best of intentions and/or the primal instinct to protect ourselves, are unwitting perpetrators of keeping the silence.
Sometimes it is the individual. Sometimes it is within families.
Sometimes it is simply our unconscious brain trying to cope.
Recently, the TV sitcom, “Mom,” has brought the silent shame of adult women with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) into the spotlight, and I am so grateful to them for bringing this into the spotlight – if nothing else to bring those suffering in silence out of the darkness and out of their prison of shame.
Just like heart disease manifests itself differently in women than it does in men, so does adult ADD.
What was even more noteworthy and a revelation to me was tackling the connection between ADD and Trauma.
When I did further research later (to confirm it was not just sitcom writing for the bells and whistles of getting higher ratings), I discovered that it is true:
ADD manifests as a coping mechanism for surviving trauma.
I won’t get into all the details in the blog, not today at least, but I do encourage anyone who suspects they may have ADD (men or women, boys or girls) to read more and learn more.
I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders when I first read this and then I could not stop reading about it – I was starving for more knowledge, more explanations, more research and case studies to connect the missing pieces of how ADD and all its life-altering symptoms go back to the brain shielding itself from feeling the agony, the abyss of buried trauma.
In my last post, I referred to my past – to my childhood and adolescence, specifically – and that I am a trauma survivor, like so many other people out in the world who hide it, or try to, behind the face of normalcy and perseverance and yes…courage.
You may have heard the expression, “Be kind. For everyone you meet is experiencing pain you know nothing about.”
It may or may not be true about everyone you meet, at any given time, but I do believe, to one degree or another, it is true about everyone.
It is one reason I live by the idea of “there but for the grace of God go I,” and try to be compassionate to everyone, for, truthfully, I do not know what sorrows and what pain they bear behind their smiles, or frowns, or words.
I recently came to some realizations about myself, some of the most painful ones I have ever had to face, and from what I am reading, and have learned so far, the source of all of it is suppressed trauma, some of which I remember, some of which I don’t – and maybe, I never will.
Believe it or not I hope I do, for as I said in my last post, I know that the trauma has dictated – against my free will – things I have done and said that I wish I could take back, now that I understand, now that I know what I know now.
I wonder, if I were to share, if my speaking out, would help someone, anyone, to have the courage to do the same.
If nothing else, I do not feel that I owe it to the memory of the perpetrators, now deceased, to protect them, or what they did.
Some perpetrators are still alive, out there, and maybe they read this blog, maybe they don’t. I don’t really care. I no longer wish to be controlled by the fear of what they will do to me if I break my silence.
But for now, I will leave them alone, except I will say, about one of them, the one from 2006-2007, whom I found out no longer lives in San Diego (thank God) that: ever since the “Me Too” movement raised its voice in courage in 2017, I have felt the guilt of the previous decade rise to the surface, and that voice, “Why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you report what he did?” screaming at me again.
I know why I didn’t say anything.
I didn’t think anyone would believe me.
And I also knew, he was capable of killing me if I did.
How many women have felt that way?
How many children like me, were told, by an adult, a grown man – bigger, stronger, louder than us – that if we told anyone what he did to us, he’d kill us (or in my case, he would kill me and my mother).
I felt guilty about not reporting the man in San Diego because I knew that I was not the first and I knew that he would do it again, to other women.
When the “Me Too” movement came about, I actually tried to find out if I could report him – that’s how courageous I felt in the wake of the wave of women’s courage and their voices speaking out – and it was also how guilty I felt for not speaking out right away, when I knew where he was, and when I might have been the one to stop him from doing it again.
By the time my therapist had helped me unblock the trauma through EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), the man who assaulted me in my bedroom when I was 6 years old – my mother’s boyfriend – in a home invasion – had been dead for many years.
He was also Jewish, like us. He was a doctor, a prestigious cardiologist. And he lived in Beverly Hills – a place most Americans know about because of pop culture and Hollywood.
And I was just a 6-year-old girl whose parents had recently divorced.
I still don’t remember everything that may have happened. But I remember most of it, more than I wish I did. And it’s the reason why, to this day, I’m terrified of strangers having access to my home. Something that irreparably hurt my marriage in the winter and spring of 2012.
But, I didn’t know I had post traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t know I was reliving the trauma of that home invasion – or, more accurately, the fear of it happening again – when all of a sudden a real estate agent threatened to give strangers free access to me and my home – one month after I’d moved to Georgia, before I’d even finished unpacking my boxes, much less gotten my land legs after the first relocation of my life, from San Diego, CA to Athens, GA.
Every day, I wish I could go back to that time and do things differently (which I would – knowing what I do now and why I could not stop the terror and the behaviors in me it triggered).
But, having opened the door to the effects of one trauma on the rest of my life, I have found the courage to face the other traumas, the ones I remember at least.
In other posts, I will speak out, in the newfound courage I am finding to break the silence, but for now, I will leave it with this:
If there are any little girls or little boys out there, who are afraid to speak out, to tell your parents, or anyone else, that someone has hurt you, please do not be afraid to tell someone. There are people who care, who are there to help.
You do not deserve to lose your childhood, or any part of your life, to the fear of retaliation or any other abuse from someone who is such a coward that he or she would hurt an innocent child.
Trauma is the silent killer of truth and of happiness – do not be afraid to stand up to it and slay it through its heart.
Truth is your sword – trust that you are not alone.