May 1, 2018

How Dealing With Childhood Trauma Is Like Jars On A Shelf

When my mother finally died I was 22. I say finally because the threat of her death was constant from the time I was 11 until she died when I was 22. Every 6 months or so she would get meningitis, the doctors thought she was a carrier.
We would take her up to The University of Washington and they would give her a spinal tap. I held her hand tightly as she endured this pain.
The nurses packed her in a giant horse trough full of ice to bring her temperature down.
This happened many times after my father was gunned down.
After her death I felt such tremendous guilt that I wasn’t around as much as I should be. That I wasn’t a good enough daughter, I was too selfish, I didn’t do enough and at the same time I felt relief that she wasnt in pain.
I was coming of age, wanting to be with my friends, working, going to school and always going faster then my angel could fly.
I have learned over the years that our psyche can only take so much. I think of it like giant jars on a shelf. Filled full of all of our stuff. We all have these jars.
For me they were filled full of trauma. Gun violence, religious trauma, mental illness trauma, Grief, Loss, murder trials.
Some jars were so big it felt like if I opened them they would fall on the floor into a million little pieces and take me with them.
I remember that feeling after she died, I didn’t know where my mother ended and I began, I had cared from the time I turned 11.
A web of caring for her, guilt, fear, love, anger, frustration, longing for her to come back and relieved that she was no longer in pain.
I remember my theripist had me visualize these jars often. We would take a jar off of the giant shelf and open the lid just a little. I would process the jars contents and picture myself putting it back in the jar, tightening the lid.
It was such a great visual.
I share this because so often children of childhood trauma have a hard time forgiving ourselves, we struggle with self love, we struggle to regulate our emotions. We were so busy reading the room and deciding if it was safe enough, or reading the people in our lives and becoming a chameleon to fit in with the people who were caring for us.
As mother’s day approaches I think of those jars. For so long I have thought that I dealt with all my jars, and I arranged them so nicely on my shelf.
I thought I did all the work. The truth is I did and have done a shitload of work.
I have recently learned in my therapy program that I have to keep checking those jars because I look at them different at 45, then I did at 22.
So I get them out again and discover that this is all part of the process. Some people will ask, Why would you do this?
I guess I would ask back, “why would you not?”.
I know enough now to know if we don’t keep brushing our teeth the tarter comes back.
The same goes for tending to those jars. We can stuff them in the back, empty them, arrange them and sometimes avoid them but they are there. As humans what we don’t deal with comes out in other ways and it’s usually addiction or unhealthy ways.
We all know this.
What I know today is doing the work, it isn’t easy but somehow it feels so much better.
How are you taking care of the jars on your shelf? I would love to hear please share below.

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