It has been shown that persons who have experienced extreme trauma tend to be more likely to have a sense of purpose in life! (1)
Imagine being able to live harmoniously amongst others without fear. I cannot. Cannot imagine it even a little bit. What can be created for people in my camp? People who are sensitive and had so much trauma in childhood that life among others is highly stressful, scary and worrisome? I’m allowing myself sanctuary-time alone, quiet time, time to write… yet… will things ever be different? Will I ever find my niche in this world, where I feel safe and able, valued and worthwhile, loved, adored and comfortable? I have no idea. And what about all of the others like me in this regard? I know there are plenty of us and our numbers are growing. Getting older seems to make things harder; I feel less resilient (in some ways).
I know I am not alone in this feeling. I see it in many, this loneliness. I see it and know it in all kinds of escape mechanisms, I see it in our eyes, our stumblings, our yearnings and reachings out. I see it in that we are writing as there is so much to say that is hard for us to articulate vocally, aloud. Every one of us is vulnerable to this feeling as well. A partner can die at any moment, or a relationship can go sour, friends can move away; we ourselves can be called to move. It seems our best social safety net is a larger number of connections, yet any of us can feel lost in the sea of large groups, incoherent “communities,” friends who are quite different from ourselves.
From these differences and challenges comes growth, yet in order to truly grow, we must crack at the core, we must reform, we must let new light into our dark places, our soil, the seeds deep inside that were planted long ago. This process shakes us at our core if we are willing to go through it. It cracks us and can feel immensely scary, yet we have no choice whatsoever – it’s life or death, we need to let new air in.
There’s a part of me that is utterly indignant, that KNOWS I should never be told (even by myself) to open up and trust anyone after what I have gone through. There’s a part of me that hates people who had happy childhoods, or for whatever other reasons are able to trust others and live amongst them in a way that feels safe. There’s a part of me that knows those people look at me with judgment, at least some of the time, some of them do, and that part of me wants to SCREAM. And cry. Because it is that judgment that limits me more than anything — that oppression which I have now internalized that tells me I must conform. And since I know I can’t, I feel doomed to die a failure some days. I feel certain I will never succeed by their standards, yet their standards weren’t made for me.
There are many who feel this way, no doubt, and when I talk to them I know they are far from failures. Just like when I write, “I feel doomed to die a failure,” there’s a wise woman in me who bursts out belly laughing. My eyes tear and I’m also heaving and wailing at once since dying a failure isn’t an option for me. It makes me cry to know in my bones that I have already done a lot of what I came to this earth to do, and the whole “die a failure” concept needs to die. Yet I know I am not alone, I know it is alive in many of us.
I wish there were something I could do about all this. If I could move this mountain, I’d really die a success. I want to move it for each and every one of us who feels doomed to misery due to programming in our psyches that happened early on and feels insurmountable (sometimes). I want to take away every limit there is or seems to be in the way of each and every person being healthy, strong, free, and fully embodied and alive. I want to measure the distance between here and there so I’ll have a map, a time frame, a sense of something that will, of course be called senseless.
Extreme trauma turns our mind inside-out. It makes us senseless. This may get us labeled insane, but I stand behind the fact that senselessness has within it the best gifts we have to offer. The same trauma that turns our minds inside-out and makes us feel incapable of action, turns our minds around just enough to open us up to something larger. This something larger is vision, it’s prophesy, it’s being a knower and seer, it’s seeing beyond the veil of “reality” as it presents itself and seeing something others have not yet seen. This is true inspiration and if we find it in the tunnels, we have found our purpose in life, our destiny. We all have this within us, yet for some horrible reason, it can take trauma to bring it forth. The meaning in the madness, that could have never been found in the humdrum consensual reality. The consensual reality we sometimes feel we’d settle for because the alternative can be agonizing.
Let’s face it: consensual reality is straight up boring. If almost everyone experienced life the same way, we might all want to bolt. We’d be bored out of our minds (with their perfectly predictable chemical reactions and neurosynaptic responses keeping us ever stable all the time). It is only when consensus is abandoned that any individual can find something new and find true, lasting motivation.
Hence the mental health system is a paradox, and a dead end, asking people to conform AND be motivated and purposeful in that conformist state. I just want to say to everyone, including myself, REBEL!!!!! Be yourself, however unhappy you may feel! For it is only in your very own journey through your very own tunnel that you will find your very own purpose for being here. Prozac may help you find someone else’s life purpose (or rather, put money in someone else’s pocket), but that will never be a substitute for your own. True purpose leads to true motivation and the only place to find that is in the tunnels of your very own consciousness.
We are each unique and have something different to bring to the table, which is inherently non-consensual in its reality, and at its best senseless, being a little more important than “sanity.”
Since you first wrote on MIA, I have loved your articles and have been meaning to let you know that, so I am know.
You really know how to nail it when others use the pretense of their own supposed normality to falsely accuse others of being abnormal as you did in your first post. I have found that it is the most pathological people who accuse others of being “crazy” since they cannot or will not ever accept responsibility for their own nasty behaviors and actions, so they must blame their victims.
Anyway, you look like a beautiful young woman in your post and your comments such that you are also a highly intelligent woman as well
I am sad to learn that you are isolating due to your trauma symptoms and past betrayals, but I think that trauma like other labels can become self fulfilling prophecies if we focus on it too much. I don’t mean that as a criticism of what you are going through, but rather with the hope that you will focus on loving yourself first and pampering yourself with all kinds of healthy, relaxing, fun, active, outdoor and other self nurturing activities while learning to be your own best friend.
Here’s a great quotation, “Don’t compare your insides with others’ outsides.” I love it because when we are so focused on our own flaws and self esteem challenges, we fail to realize that everybody else suffers from the same self doubt to a greater or lesser extent with the possible exception of malignant narcissists and psychopaths who are always right, perfect and the masters of the universe putting up with us lesser peons who are the ones who are to blame for all problems, especially theirs.
Here is a web site called THE GIFT WITHIN by trauma, abuse expert, Dr. Frank Ochberg, with various articles and recommended healing techniques. I’m starting with an article on spousal abuse because it shows the deadly dynamics of all toxic, traumatizing relationships. I love it when Dr. Ochberg acknowledges that “Prozac won’t change the truth.”
Hi again Chaya,
I prematurely pressed the post button before proofing to eliminate the typos; I hope you get my point anyway.
Here’s the link for psychiatrist, trauma expert, Dr. Frank Ochberg’s GIFT FROM WITHIN web site that has many articles and recommended healing strategies for trauma.
Given my performance here, I’d better take my own advice and get more sleep! “Little” things like that can do a number on us!
Thanks for sharing!
Chaya, you are wonderfully honest here, and I think there are millions of people who feel just as you do. I have always loved you and feel you are special and honest and dear. Yes. It is so much better to follow your heart, rebel, and experience each moment to its fullest and sweetest. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece.
“I know I am not alone in this feeling. I see it in many, this loneliness.”
“Let’s face it: consensual reality is straight up boring.”
There is so much to appreciate here, Chaya! Thanks so much for giving me a minute to think about this idea of purpose…and the effects of a lack of purpose.
Do you really think it “can take trauma to bring it forth” – I have found myself coming to a similar conclusion at times, given how so many people find their direction in healing. I don’t want to believe that we must be hurt in order to fully realize ourselves and part the veil, so to speak. Thanks for bringing up the idea. I’m still not sure what I think about that. Fortunately, I don’t have to know what I think about every single little thing.
I liked this sentence:
“This is true inspiration and if we find it in the tunnels, we have found our purpose in life, our destiny.”
Today I told the story of how when I lived in Portland and went to PSU, I would go down to the basement of the science building where they had this old seismograph, fully functioning and alone in the hall. I would just go down there to watch it.
Years later, I met another person who had watched that very same seismograph in that very same hall, which was like a tunnel.
I am not sure why I am telling you this story…other than that I somehow connected your use of the word tunnel to a visual of that basement hall, that lonesome seismograph.
I’m glad you’re writing here.
I hope to meet you someday in the not-too-distant future. Until then, I’m very grateful for your voice as a psychiatric survivor, speaker on trauma, and self-proclaimed rebel. Your leadership qualities and writing skills here at MIA inspire me.
Thanks for being authentic to yourself,
Thanks y’all. I hesitated to post this piece as it was written when I was in a semi-extreme state of despair. I am certainly not in that state all of the time or even most of the time. Yet I do believe it is worthwhile to write while in that state and not be scared to share it. Writing is my way through my own dark tunnels sometimes. Stay tuned for my next mini-article: “Why Notebooks are Better Than Psychiatrists.”
One major reason why I posted this is because it takes courage to admit that I have these feelings sometimes and experience this level of loneliness, yet I think many do, if not all or most of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves. So I hope that my expression of this will alleviate the loneliness for someone else if not many others.
Thank you all for your encouraging comments!!!
I don’t know if our gifts always take trauma to be brought forth-I surely hope not…yet life itself has a certain intrinsic trauma. Just the experience of being separate from others is traumatic in a way. For me anyway. Babies come out screaming and crying after all… 🙂
I think that we are all very lonely, and with stigmas on race we all have to live with the idea that the bottom will fall out. We live with people who want war all the time. They want it all the time for any reason. They want sex trafficking, they want prisons, they want poor houses designed to make people look like less in a health illiterate and disempowered community and reconstruct their lives in a digitized format. Those that have health literacy, well they know where they get their money, and sometimes, I think it is reasonable to not expect everyone to be mother theresa? Does everyone need to put many people on stretchers the minute they see them, is tomorrow going to bring the end of industrial expansion and the promise of an agricultural, ecological and conversational culture going to develop, with language the highest human function truly respected? I am going to believe that, and avoid certain neighborhoods as is my right. You have no idea how many people I know that when they were drunk the other night, no one did the small thing that would help them out, instead they addicted them, and I am a bibliophile so I love these old psychiatry textbooks that will say, if it isn’t some time of toxi–sorry on the last part, addiction just doesn’t exist. It is more that dealers are regularly visiting, or there is bar after bar, just like psych meds, once those types of wittgensteinian constructions are gone?
I absolutely and completely related to what you’re saying in this piece! I can’t say I’ve suffered a tremendous array of trauma in my life, but I have grown up feeling unwanted and “different” from others, and still feel that way a lot. I am also a person of integrity and person (at least I like to think so!) and I tend to relate a lot better in general to people who have been through tough times or who have fought to resist the “status quo” than those who accept “consensus reality” as the absolute truth that we must adhere and adapt to. In fact, those other people scare me!
I think the biggest flaw in the current system isn’t the drugs, it’s the idea that people’s suffering has no meaning. This relates back to that idea of purpose. If we have no purpose, what’s the point of all this suffering? If we’re just a bunch of cells and our feelings are “imbalances” that can be “fixed” with the right chemicals, it suggests that our struggles are for nothing and our feelings mean nothing. I can’t accept that viewpoint! It’s too damned depressing!
We have a quote on our refrigerator, from a Melissa Chen, age 10 or so: “Always remember, no one is normal. Everyone is weird.” Truer words were never spoken. It gives me comfort to think that those who are “normal” are essentially very good at acting the way they’re “supposed to.” I can’t, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. We just need to hang together with others who can see “consensus reality” for the sham that it is.
Thanks for a great article!
I like tarthang tulku, for me all science should have a “buddhistic” approach, I am a secular, so I feel religion is the basis of everything. Is everything illuminated? or when I notice light, does it slant this way on thought, or does it rise, or is it an orb? etc.
You are blessed to able to write something as lovely as this.
If this had been a pen pal website your inbox would explode from all the incoming mail from all of us that want to be your your friend.
I read a lot,every day but this is extraordinary.
(And if you ever need a pen pal,ask MIA for my e-mail address.)
Thank you for the community service of making such an honest statement about your life!
Although each person has unique experiences (and I wouldn’t presume to understand your experiences), it seems that each kind of trauma offers a corresponding opportunity to connect to our common humanity. It took me a long time to recover from my trauma, but what guided me was my focus on working to prevent others from experiencing a similar (painful) lack of wellbeing. Working regularly towards the goal of preventing trauma for others eventually alleviated the pain of my sense of isolation.
Best regards, Steve
Chaya, every beautiful word of this feels like words from my own heart being spoken back to me. It makes me feel stronger to read them, to resonate in the purpose of these dark tunnels with you. You’re powerful. You’re wise and strong. You’re shining, righteous, beautiful. You’re a warrior and a prophet, and you bring light from dark places. And you remind me that I am all of these things too, and that the thought that we could actually be failures, that there is anything worthy to be judged in us, is as laughable as it is false and originated from forces that have always wanted us to define ourselves against ourselves, to see our strengths as weaknesses. Although they got into us when we were too small to have a choice, we don’t have to give them any room inside us anymore. I see that in you; I see how fiercely true you’re becoming and I’m awed by it.
What *can* be created for us? What we can create for us, together, all of us sensitives who feel this way. I’m for moving mountains with you.
Donna, Dorothy, Faith, Emily, INECLF, Steve, Licinita, Steve S. and Joey, thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. Wishing I could hug each of you right now.