Let’s talk about Trauma. Fun!
And I’m not talking about the kind of trauma you get from thinking you’re badass enough to put a glob of Habanero hot sauce the size of a U.S quarter on your tongue without an 8 ounce glass of milk near you.
*Tip* Water makes it worse. Why? Water spreads the chemical compound capsaicin (C18 H27 NO3,) while milk breaks it apart, putting it generally.
And while making the mistake of sipping your ice cold water on top of your gulp of Habanero may very well traumatize you enough to keep you away from hot sauce for a while, it’s much less likely to reduce your functioning compared to, well, a near death experience.
Compared to child abuse.
Compared to sexual assault.
Compared to emotional and verbal and physical abuse.
If someone tells you they were abused as a child, and they give you the honor of actually sharing those painful memories with you, do the best you can to not to judge how abusive of a situation they were in.
Emotional and verbal abuse does not leave physical scars or torn innards, but it does shape how someone’s mindset is. It shapes how their brain reacts to every portion of their environment, to every social relationship, to every coincidence, to themselves. That’s essentially the person’s entire life.
There’s one type of trauma I feel isn’t talked about much, and reading what I’ve read recently from a health textbook used to teach students going into health careers, it’s obvious it needs to be talked about *RANT ON THAT COMING SOON, MARK YOUR CALENDARS*.
And that’s the trauma that is a mental health crisis. You hear people give credit to the overwhelming medical model and biological “basis” of mental health issues simply because there’s a gap in people who struggle. In other words, you see people from all over the world, with all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds, coming down with these “illnesses”.
Let’s take psychosis.
Picture this: you’re a young adult with blonde hair and blue eyes. Your family is upper class. Your parents don’t ask too much from you, or too little. You learned how to clean up after yourself, you learned how to work, you learned how to handle some emotions, maybe not all, but some. Everything in your house is fun and laughter and love and happiness, except for when that one uncle comes over and gets a little too drunk.
Then the fucking alien assholes start contacting you and the government starts freaking out about it, so they track you to your residence and, in the middle of the night, sew a tracking device in your wrist and the aliens keep telling you they’re after you so you start trying to protect yourself by hiding in the gutters at night.
Then you’re held down with restraints and medication and no one’s telling you anything, so it’s probably the CIA trying to do experiments on you so you fight them and they fight you and finally a few months later you come to a vague conclusion you’ve been in a hospital and that’s really only after they hounded into your head both heavy, heavy psychotropics and the heavy, heavy idea that you’re really sick.
Then you’re sitting in a chair staring at the wall wondering if anything exists.
If that’s not traumatic, than I don’t know what is. If that’s not something that needs to be addressed, that needs to be processed, that shouldn’t ever be responded to with “you’re just sick, sorry, get over it, learn to live with it, or don’t, whatever.”, than I don’t know what is.
I’m not going to sit here and argue with everyone who believes in the medical model. If you do, fine; if you don’t, fine. That’s not really the issue here. The issue here is that more often than not, mental health crises are written off as just “something that happens”.
It’s ignored that the feelings of fear, of mistrust, of confusion, of the million other emotions running through your head are a result of what you’ve just been through–not your “symptoms”.
It’s ignored that those feelings need to be processed, not repressed. Not summed up as “sickness”.
Still iffy? Alright, I’ll put it this way: as a child, and to this day in my adult life, if I butter my toast by holding the knife in my left hand, with the blade ridges facing away from me, my father will undoubtedly yell at me and tell me I’m buttering my toast wrong. If I dispute one of his beliefs, he’ll most likely launch a laundry basket at my head and call me a bitch like he did the other day.
There are a lot of feelings from that: anger, fright, sadness, confusion, frustration, exhaustion. You would probably agree that 1) those incidents are ridiculous, and 2) that those feelings should not be repressed, but processed and outed. If so, you get an:
When I was in the hospital, my self-harm wounds that were obviously bleeding and staining my clothes and, although not deep enough to kill me, but deep enough to cause concern, were called scratches and they didn’t ask me why I’d done it: it was just part of the depression. My lack of eye contact and refusal to speak until someone reached me on a human level was also chalked up to depression. When I said I wasn’t depressed (because I wasn’t, I had other things going on), they didn’t believe me and told me I was depressed.
So, the fright that came with being hauled away by the sheriff, of having all these nurses crowd around me and take my shoes and all my belongings and of the counselors repeatedly lecturing rather than talking, of having to ask to use the bathroom, of the yelling match between the nurses and the man about him not pissing in the cup at 5 in the morning, about the guy who bolted across the floor on his hands and knees, about the man who kept wandering up and down the hall muttering to himself and never receiving any more interaction besides an occasional “hello” from a nurse, and most of all the threat of being stuck in this fucking place for more than twenty four hours, were never processed. I ran out of the doors, free, laughing hysterically when I left. In the short time I spent there, I’d already felt the harsh sting of institutionalization.
I can only imagine the fright and anger and terror and mistrust and pain and hurt that comes with being forced in there against your will, stuck in restraints, or completely isolated.
And none of those feelings were ever asked about. None of it was ever processed. My privacy was continually violated as they asked me in front of eight other people if I still wanted to kill myself, as if that wasn’t private information. It’s as if they figure, hey, they’re all crazies, who cares how they feel about anything.
And that’s how people get worse. Repression. Repression. Repression. Invalidation. Invalidation. Invalidation.
It’s not just about “disease”. It’s not about “sickness”. It’s not about “disorder” or “illness”. It’s about emotions and your reactions and how you’ve been taught to react. It’s about learned helplessness.
It’s about feeling deprived the right to process your own emotions. And, as someone who says they are in control of their health, you have to take that right back.