Trauma truth: Just because there were goods parts of your childhood doesn’t mean your trauma is invalid
Trauma is REAL! It’s been a few years in the making, longer if I’m being real, but after doing some self-reflecting for the upcoming new year, I started thinking more about the families in anime and my own. Most anime (that I watch) don’t always reflect on the families so much as the characters/main character themselves.
I’m starting to realize that my parents actually did do their best. It wasn’t their fault that they didn’t know how to raise a manic depressed child in the deep south. I was never diagnosed or given treatment until I was 24 and moved across the country. In fact, I didn’t even know I WAS manic or depressed. I couldn’t understand why I was so hyper and loud at times and completely quiet at others. It would be years before I would find out I was manic (also known as bipolar) and depressed.
There were good times in my childhood and teen years but there was a lot of bad days as well. Things are a lot better than they were. I’m more stable now and have very few high/low days.
But I still question if it happened at all…was it cptsd? Was it real?
Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender is a classic case of this. Zuko’s home life was less than ideal. Besides the fact that his father always seemed to be disappointed in him, his practically sociopathic sister didn’t really help matters. But the real kicker here is that Ozai was incredibly abusive toward Zuko. He was constantly belittling him, always favoring Azula, and always reminding him that he was lucky to be alive because he willed it.
And then there’s the infamous Agni Kai duel. What kind of father forces his son to fight him in a duel and then burns part of his face as punishment for refusing to do so? And he then made it out to be Zuko’s fault. It’s no wonder Zuko was so messed up when we first meet him. Underneath it all, Zuko was still very much a traumatized young man.
Then we have Angels of Death (a favorite of mine). Zack was lit on fire as a kid and then given to an orphanage that did not care for the children. He was made into a “tool” and made to bury all the other kids that kept dying. Barely fed or given the essentials to living, Zack learned how to survive. He saw a slasher movie on the tv at the orphanage and his young mind just broke. He killed the owners of the place (can’t blame him for it) and lived on his own until he started working in the building under Reverend Gray as one of his angels. Rachel was just as messed up as he was. Her parents constantly berated her, beating her and then she watched her father kill her mother before attempting to come after her.
So, trauma is a reaction, not an experience.
One person can be slapped in the face by their mother and it can cause them agony for life. Another person can be unaffected by it, flip her the bird, and saunter off. Some people will be like Zuko and go after their honor and try to defeat the avatar while others will become like Zack/Rachel and just become so traumatized they become a sociopath (yes, there’s a difference and we go into the reasons Zach is one here).
So there’s no “event” that we define as trauma, there is a REACTION that we define as trauma.
I feel like I switched a lot, especially being bipolar between stoic and not living and a super energetic person who was doing something they would deem productive.
Not being hypervigilant was a crime at my home. I was taught to be stressed always, at all cost. Being productive was rewarded with not being yelled at, sometimes. Relaxing, feeling safe, was dangerous. Today not being aware enough, being too relaxed for too long, is still one of my biggest triggers, as when I am relaxed once, a voice in my head tells me that I am in danger. I learned how to become invisible. If I stayed perfectly still, not really living but just surviving, I would be okay. When the parents were home, I would be quiet. If they were close enough in eyesight, I had to be doing something they would think was productive (housework like laundry/dishes). I don’t know if that’s something they intended or they just didn’t notice…I’m still not sure.
I’ve spent so much time questioning whether I was just crazy or if my fear/feelings were real. Someone posted this little story/analogy and I thought it fit perfectly.
“Image that you’ve broken your leg, so you go to the hospital. There, you explain to the doctor how your leg is in excruciating pain. You can’t even walk, let alone move your leg.
But the doctor assures you that you still have many non-broken, good bones in your body. (If he even believes you when you say your leg feels like it’s broken, that is.) He sends you home, telling you to just focus on the bones that aren’t broken. “You should consider yourself lucky,” he says, “I’ve seen people with so many broken bones, your’s is nothing. Just stop wallowing in it.”
So you go home, telling yourself you’re just being selfish. You commit yourself to focusing on the positive, non-injured bones in your body. Hell, maybe your leg is actually fine, maybe you are just crazy. It hurts, though. It hurts so much you can’t really walk at all, but you learn how to hobble when you really need to. And it refuses to heal. Most days you lie in bed. Maybe you end up drinking and doing drugs to help make the pain stop. You constantly wonder why the fact that your elbow doesn’t hurt isn’t making up for the fact that your leg is radiating pain 24/7. You think this makes you a failure.
(…and then people will look at you and say “No wonder she can’t walk right! She doesn’t even try. She just lies in bed all day, wallowing about.”)
This has been my experience with how people see CPTSD and childhood or traumatic experiences overall. People will say “At least you’re mother did X! You’re so lucky she was there for you like that. Just focus on that.”
This story stayed with me. Did you know that some people don’t even believe in CPTSD? Or that only PTSD is real and happens to people who were in war. There are OTHER types and CPTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder) is very, very REAL.
You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to just focus on their working limbs and get over it, so don’t tell people with trauma to just focus on what wasn’t traumatic and get over it.
You’re not “broken.” You don’t need to be “fixed.” Your past has included some serious crap. But crap is fertilizer. And beautiful things grow out of crap.
Let us know how you’re doing in the comments below. We’re always here to listen!