For many years I worked very hard in order to get started in life. I worked, I tried to get through college, I changed careers and got a tech certification, I started a family. It was very hard going and even though I was still struggling with the effects of CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder), I had managed to get a footing in life and was able to function at a reasonable level.
But then there were more surprises in store and the past 20 years have brought illness, financial ruin and conflict to a level of just plain survival. Even so, we were able to maintain a standard of living which included a place to live and food to eat. This, of course is in contrast to many all over the world who have no home and are not certain where their next meal will come from. I often beratement myself for struggling as I do, when there are so many who have less and must struggle for bare existence more. It’s hard to reconcile and one of the things which angers me the most is that I’m seemingly not able to do more for those others. This is another reason why I’ve become a Quaker. If I’m not able to lead the way and help others, I can join a group and faith which does, contributing as much as I’m able to the larger efforts of the (Philadelphia) Quakers.
Part of this guilt and berate is part of the CPTSD. My parents always humiliate and shamed my siblings and I by pointing out that others have it worse in life. But this was an insult and an actual dismissal of those folks and what they struggle with. The actual reason for my parents telling us this wasn’t to make us aware of others, but to justify the life that they were creating for us: They were justifying the abuse by trying to make it seem more normal, even privileged.
I carry no physical scars, but there are wounds which the eye can’t see.
Perhaps I would never have developed and empathy or appreciation for the life threatening circumstances of others had I not been exposed to my own level of abuse. If this is the case, then I’m glad, to a certain extent, that I had those experiences. I find it unacceptable that anyone should have to be subject to any type of abuse, violence, displacement or starvation. But I may have gotten too much of a dose of it myself. I’ve been ground down over the years, to the point where just trying to do the dishes invokes acute resistance and intense emotional pain. Not being able to function, even for the benefit of myself, helps no one. I need time and space to heal.
I do what I can for those who are within my reach. My son has his own struggles, but he doesn’t struggle with the emotional and psychological deformities I do. His focus and interests are on “personal excellence,” which is the way my wife and I have raised him. His focus and efforts aren’t on comparing himself with others or trying to outdo others in achievements or acquisitions, they’re on achieving the best of what he’s capable of and manifesting his talents and abilities. This, I believe, is why he’s so liked and loved by others. He has no pretense. He’s willing to share of himself even while doing for himself. If I’m unable to presently help other children of the world, I can start by doing right by my own child. For now, that will have to be enough.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been supporting and encouraging my wife to reach out and find strong, talented, independent women to network with and further explore her own interests. When we started, she hated her job and felt trapped and unfulfilled in her life. Yet to do anything outside of what was familiar and comfortable seemed intimidating and impossible. She and I took many walks, for many hours. I encouraged her to talk and explore where she found herself, what was holding her back and how she felt about it all. I did research on women’s groups and women entrepreneurs. I showed her what I had found and gently challenged her and questioned her as my findings became our – and then her – exploration of possibilities. I didn’t push, but nudged her to contact some of these groups and women so that she could join them in meetings and lunches. I chased her out the door when she was trying to make excuses for not going to an event or lunch. I listened to her struggles and excitements. I joined in with her joys as well as her fears and struggles. In being there to help her take some first tentative steps, she became able to take flight and soar with her own determination and passion. This is what partners do for partners. If I’m unable to presently help other women of the world, I can start by doing right by my own wife. For now, that will have to be enough.
Supporting my own wife and son are easy. I have a high level of empathy and compassion. Knowing my own pain and fears, I’m able to help others overcome theirs. No, I don’t know the specifics and details, but fear is fear. Pain is pain. The validity of these things are found within oneself. Sometimes it just helps to have another person listen – to actually hear – and mirror back that which lays within.
While good with others, I still struggle with myself. Though I know I can influence and effect my thoughts and emotions, there are so many deep, festering wounds, that I need time and space to allow them to heal. Trauma can’t be turned off like a switch. It can slowly be dimmed and be metamorphosed into something else, but this takes time and a great deal of constant, determined effort (with the constant spike of pain and terror as part of the process). 20 years ago, those pains and assumptions (of thought) were fading. Things were getting better, to the point where I could function reasonably well. I was quirky and neurotic, but reasonably normalizing and healing. The past 20 years not only ripped open those wounds of the past, but they’ve multiplied and expanded their effects.
This is a path I must journey on my own. This has also been true for my son and wife. I could offer empathy, compassion, love and support, but their achievements are their own. My job as a husband and father is as a glorified cheerleader. I am not responsible for the successes they’ve achieved on their own, but I revel in them from my sideline perch.
At this point in my life, all I want is peace. If I could, I would find an isolated cabin in the Pocono Mountains (Pennsylvania) or the Adirondacks (New York) and spend the rest of my life walking through the woods in silent meditation. I would want to be alone to quiet the noises of the world I now live in and to silence those within my mind and soul. I would prefer this for the reasons Lord Byron wrote about “I love man not less, but nature more.”
I don’t know where my journey will lead or what the end will be. I won’t leave my wife and son because I made a commitment to them and have grown to love and adore the very sight of them.
…but the pain remains and I spend my days fighting off demons which never tire and know the most exacting ways to torment me.
I make my stand each day and do the best of what I can to heal in the best way that I can. But my soul is profoundly maimed and disfigured. Any movement of mind, body or emotion is excruciating. It’s difficult to deny and forgo a way of assumption and living which has been been so thoroughly imprinted upon my very soul. I’m working towards a way of life and living which a part of me is certain doesn’t exist. I’m trying to make my self see different things in those torturous assumed forms which seem so solid and eternal.
If I’m granted the time and space I need, I’m certain I’ll be able to work this all out. I’m not so sure this will be granted. To this point, life has had other plans for me, but I suppose this is the reason for faith. I do, because I believe in something I can’t sense and which there is no supporting evidence for. I soldier on because of my faith that there is more to my life and the larger world, than what I’ve been lead and taught to believe.
Be Well, My Friends,