Does our body remember tragedy and trauma after we’ve convinced ourselves we’re over it? That was a question I had asked my Facebook connections. The overwhelming answer is: YES. Especially those who are suffering from PTSD.
And while many of them did not share their story of tragedy or trauma, I know from first-hand experience that my body does, indeed, remember. As autumn wanes into winter, the sunlight hours decrease, I feel my energy drain and if seems more difficult to fight off the dark place.
I love this clip because I relate to it so well.
“That’s my secret, Cap’n. I’m always angry.”Bruce Banner / HULK
I believe I’m always depressed; I just seem to have better days when I feel good but the status quo is always… meh. Is this because of the long-term effects of my past, most of which my conscious mind has forgotten but perhaps my body hasn’t let go of? Is it a chemical imbalance? Am I subconsciously looking for attention or love? Are the depths of my depression tied to the forgotten things of my past and remembered things in my present? Wait… Do I have PTSD?
Honestly, I share these things to connect with others who may feel the same way but have a problem expressing it. I don’t want pity. I reject and mock pity with derision because I don’t want people to pretend they feel bad because I feel bad. I’ve been at this long enough to know if I need to reach out to people who understand that I need a lifeline or space to sit in my dark place for a little while.
I usually get quiet on the internet between December through February. My good friends know I’m hibernating, and I’ve left clear instructions on what to do with my social media accounts when I’m dead. (I’ll leave that for another article.)
Let me unpack what’s been weighing on my mind and some of, what I think are, the contributing factors of my body’s reaction.
Grade School Bullying
I may have been a tyrant at home but I was an awkward and shy child. I did not make friends easily and tapping into my memory, it feels like my entire school experience, up through 10th grade, was filled with rejection, name-calling, and emotional battery. The turning point was 10th grade when I finally stopped hating myself and started hating them. After some time I’ve become indifferent to them.
I’m putting a question mark on this because, truthfully, I’m triggered when I see news about pedophilia. Recently, I was a juror on a child pornography distribution case where we had to watch the evidence that was gathered. It was horrific. My stomach hurt the entire time. I still see their faces.
I’ve also had a reoccurring nightmare ever since I was maybe four or five that suggests being trapped, unable to move, and violated. I’m not ready to share the details of the nightmare because I believe it but I don’t trust that it might be true. Does that make any sense? I mean, dreams have a way of being fantastical or distorted.
As a teenager, I was very afraid of sex but, when I eventually did have sex, I never really felt any intimacy. There was a period of time when I was a little promiscuous. To me sex either felt good or it didn’t. It’s never been a big deal to me.
Does any of this mean it happened? No. But I’m left to wonder if my body knows something that my mind won’t allow.
Someone recommended that I read “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
I probably will, one day, but beyond being mildly curious, I’m at the point in my life that I love who I am, where I am, and what I’m doing.
Witness to History and Change
I could probably spend a week writing about the tragic moments in history over the last 50 years, but most recently are my remembrances of September 11, 2001. The change in the New York City skyline is very personal to me and the new skyline is something I still have yet to embrace.
The space shuttle Challenger blowing up (1986) as we all watched was horrific. Then in 2003, space shuttle Columbia exploded upon re-entry. As a child looking to the stars and loving science fiction, these were devastating events.
Personal losses like the death of my father and my aunt from cancer, foreclosure, divorce, empty nest syndrome, shuttering a business, and just the daily beat down of working every day knowing that we are all guaranteed to die in the end… Well, it seems kind of bleak.
Perhaps my body remembers all the terrible things. Maybe it’s stored in my heart and one day there will be something that breaks it and kills me – literally a ticking time bomb. In the meantime, my mind has the capacity to rebound, spin lemons into lemonade, find joy in unexpected things, and keep going.
I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment or send me a message.