Today we discussed the idea that each person manages trauma differently and what is traumatic to one person might not be traumatic to another. Dr. Allison said that I managed to get through my childhood without developing PTSD, a personality disorder or an addiction, even though I was traumatized by my father molesting and raping me; however, it was the rape that “made me” bipolar. The thing to do, she said, was to figure out how to manage the bipolar now and I am to keep a sleep/medication section in my journal from now on to monitor my moods. Currently I am sleeping 12+ hours a day at night and with naps and have cut my Thorazine dose in half (these things are the case as of 5/23/20) and I have a call into Dr. Rosenburg for him to address these as either the beginning of a depression or the aftermath of hypomania.
But, it is interesting to think that everyone encounters some level of trauma everyday to some extent and that everyone deals with it based on how stable they happen to be at the time based on their life experiences, their ability to cope, even their level of sleep and the stability of their support system at the moment of their experiencing the trauma.
The rape happened when I was 17, a senior in high school during my parents’ divorce–I remember thinking the next morning as I had what I consider to be a nervous breakdown that I couldn’t handle what had happened, that my mother wouldn’t be able to handle what had happened, that no one could help me because it had already happened, and that the only thing to do would be to never think about it again because it was too much to deal with.
In his book, “The Body Keeps the Score, ” Bessel Van Der Kolk relates a favorite saying of his mentor, that it is “the lies we tell ourselves that cause our greatest suffering,” and I believe this to be true. I didn’t think I was a strong enough person to deal with my father’s rape, so I blocked it out for 23 years, when I actually could have been strong enough to successfully deal with it. I have put off dealing with it all of this time precisely because I didn’t think I could manage it–now, at last, I finally do think I can accept it, deal with it, and put it behind me.
During this last hospital stay, I met a woman who was also sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood. This woman is approximately 23 years older than I am. We have had long conversations about our abuse and our fathers. She never married or had children due to the abuse. She currently finds that dealing with the abuse is forefront in her mind.
After spending an afternoon with her recently, it occurred to me that I was feeling depressed–what was the point of trying to deal with childhood abuse in my forties if I would still be dealing with it in my sixties, I wondered aloud today to Dr. Allison? I was frustrated that there would possibly be no end in sight, frustrated that the work I was doing with her and on my own with the reading and workbooks and journaling might be to no avail and I could suffer a fate similar to my friend’s, get stuck without healing from my trauma for another 23 years–
Dr. Allison said not to compare myself to others and not to compare my healing to others. We do not know the ins and outs of another’s trauma and recovery–we can only hope to know our own. Everyday, each of us walks in our own healing journey. I can only speak from my own experience, but Dr. Allison and I are becoming fairly confident that if I continue to dig deep, I will be able to integrate the damaged child of my past into the wife and mother I am today. Next Tuesday, we will devote the entire hour to dealing with the rape itself and how I coped and continue to cope with it. Stay tuned.
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