Surviving trauma isn’t easy. I was once told by a therapist that having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was in essence like living with a terminal disease. It sounds very dramatic, I know, but it makes sense. People who have violent things happen to them are forever altered and there is simply no going back to who you used to be. Not only do we have to reconcile how to exist in a world whose reality can be very extreme due to the memories and other long-term effects of our experience, there’s also the exhaustive reckoning that forces us to wrestle with our exposure to a side of human nature that may challenge everything we’ve ever understood about justice, respect, safety, morality, or god. It is a very isolated place that many other people only experience via dramatic sitcoms, blockbuster films, or some panel on a daily talk show. Our mainstream culture is saturated in violence as a form of entertainment yet when it comes to actually listening to someone’s story or witnessing what they deal with, it makes people very uncomfortable.
I have lived in the limbo of knowing what sort of secrets otherwise decent people are proficient in keeping hidden and learning how to exist among the majority who are not like them. Violence wasn’t an experience for me, it was a lifestyle that I knew at an early age would never suit who I really was. I learned very young how destructive human beings are capable of becoming not only towards one another (especially those closest to them) but also to themselves. I lived on the helpless side of the coin as a kid enduring the misplaced tempers and needs of adults, only to become one of them as I grew older by following their example in making myself a whipping boy. In retrospect, I became the most dangerous person I had to survive because of my complete lack of self or sense of worth. In trying to cope with their mistakes, I spent my young adult life carrying the torch as I self-destructed into what they all told me I was only capable of becoming: a ghost.
While my life is definitely no coming-to-Jesus story, I have managed to get my feet underneath me just enough to begin to reacquaint myself with who I have always had the potential to be. Now I am living as a transplant 2,000 miles away from the place of my youth in hope that the distance will allow a little breathing room for perspective. And yes, I know one cannot run away from their self, but it doesn’t hurt to establish a fresh place where you can be introduced again. There are still many quirks that I wrestle with each day but I’m hoping a change of pace will at least bring about some rest. Now I need to figure out how to relate to and exist in a world whose kindness, safety, and ease are as foreign to me as any indigenous culture on the other side of the globe. Knowing what I know about life I may as well have moved to another planet.
However, my naivety isn’t enough to stop me from wanting to explore this exotic (to most it would seem mundane) lifestyle. I don’t care if I commit cultural taboos and seem very clumsy, ignorant, or simplistic – I want to learn about the sort of life where families hang out around a dinner table on the weekend, people have hobbies and join clubs, communities support one another, and there is a sense of dignity for everyone. Lazy afternoons at home, holiday dinners, trips to the beach, celebrations with friends – I want to become fluent in it all. This ambition doesn’t come from some stupid daydream that was planted by a TV show or other fake facade, but from witnessing its very existence with my own eyes. I wouldn’t have believed this shit was real otherwise because I’ve never felt the luxury to afford such an idealism. I know people who still think I’m making it all up. Most of all, I want to know myself again and while I get that this isn’t the only way it has to be done, it’s not a bad way to start.
This site is basically a record of this transition. I have made up an experiment where I am both scientist and lab rat to see if it is really possible for someone who has lived through violence to find peace during their lifetime. I’m not talking about finding comfort, going into remission, and keeping my fingers crossed the demons don’t ever come back. I want to heal, and healing is neither easy nor painless. Just like any sort of wound things need to be carefully examined, thoroughly scrubbed of all debris, dressed in the most appropriate way to avoid excessive scarring, and allowed time for the process to naturally happen. Yet, for the sake of practicing good medicine, I know I also need to understand how to approach things with tenderness, steadiness, and the ability to handle whatever may come up despite the story surrounding it. With all of my experiences it would not be an exaggeration to say that my entire sense of self has been covered in roadrash and I have finally found my way to the clinic.
So with a pair of clumsy hands, a change of scenery, a few good friends, and some professional support, let the work begin.
© Mayme Snow