Childhood trauma: Bucket analogy

So I’m going to use an analogy to explain how childhood trauma can feel in life. Its sort of a response to terms like “dysfunctional” or “maladaptive”, and was kind of inspired by the Spoon Analogy that people who suffer from chronic pain have adopted.

When you are little, you don’t have a lot of tools at your disposal to fix things to deal with stuff. You are evolved to rely on the grown ups around you to use tools, and show you how to, as well as where to get new ones, if you need them.

Quite often though, children who live in dysfunctional homes have adults who have very few tools, don’t know where to get more, or worse yet, don’t care to, and don’t teach you how to use even what they have in their repertoire. That doesn’t mean that monkey see, monkey do isn’t still applicable.

So lets say that one rainy night the roof starts leaking and one of your parents puts a bucket under the leak to catch the water, and it takes a very rainy week before someone comes to patch the roof.

You watch the roofer and marvel at their tools, and how brave they are at being so high up, and you try to climb the ladder to join them. Obviously thos is dangerous and you are chastised for trying.

So the roof leak is dealt with, but the kitchen plumbing springs a leak. Out comes a smaller bucket. It’s a couple of months before someone fixes it.

Another bucket is used for cleaning, and theres a pen holder that is a bucket, and a bucket to catch oil from your family car

You see buckets as handy tools, your parents use them all the time. Tape is the only other competitor in your parents tool box.

So you adopt the use of buckets… and tape.

One night, the roof springs a leak again durning a particularity rough thunderstorm, and out comes a bucket, then another, and another. This time there will be no roofer to fix the roof. So the buckets stay, and it becomes your job to empty the buckets after every rain.

You may know that other people have different tools to manage stuff, but to get those tools, to learn to use them is dangerous.

Eventually you go to school and you bring your buckets.. as many as you can carry. Now the school’s roof is pretty sturdy, but there are different sources of water.

You start your days laying out your buckets “just in case” but there’s not very much room around your desk for them. You trip on them, other kids and teachers trip on them, they’re a distraction, they’re noisy, it’s difficult to play with other kids because the buckets get in the way.

Some kids throw water at you, and some teachers too. You use your buckets the best you can to stay dry, you take your scotch tape and make a suit of armor with your buckets.

Problem is those buckets get in the way of learning, you can’t see very well, talking is noisy and rattles your ears, it’s hard to hold a pencil, or even move your arms. So you hide in your armor of buckets and scotch tape.

This becomes handy, because it keeps you dry when your parents throw water at each other or at you. Or the roof leaks over your bed, or you are scared and lonely on the bus. You feel like a knight.

As you get older, you modify and perfect your bucket armor, have extras for catching leaks and have even figured out how to male a show of your bucket tools, it’s lile a rolling stand up comedy routine.

But one day you notice the buckets attached to your body feel extremely tight, and you can’t take them off. No need for scotch tape, you grew and they didn’t and now they’re bonded to your body.

You may try to ask for help to remove the buckets, but people around you see them as intrinsic to your personality. Or you may think this may be how you are supposed to just be, even though it hurts all the time.

There are professional bucket removers, so one day you decide to go to one. The bucket remover uses an very direct and rough approach to remove on or two buckets and it causes a most horrifying pain, and hands you a hammer.

They tell you to practice with the hammer, but you really can’t hold the hammer because there are still buckets in the way, and you don’t want to get more buckets removed because the pain is excruciating.

You try romantic relationships with people thatthat have different tools, but you find that you relate best to other bucket carriers with leaky roofs.

They are also suffering the weight of their buckets. Both of you help carry each other’s loads, trade buckets, tackle leaks together scotch rape yourselves together, but, you never really get close to each other, because what makes you both so similar, your buckets are also in the way. Eventually there’s a fire. Neither of you are equipped for it.

The relationship ends, and many more to come, with the same fiery ending. You know your buckets are in the way, they’re painful and too small, but you’re terrified of the pain of removing them, and terrified to climb a ladder and learn how to fix a roof.

If you’re lucky, you might find a suitable and gentle bucket remover and you might learn to use other tools in life, and even climb ladders and fix roofs, but you will always have buckets near by. You may find better ways to store them, but here and there, they will end up out of storage or fall, and you will trip on them.

These buckets are rudimentary tools for crisis management, and many people carry them around from toddlerhood to their death beds, never having the opportunity to experience life without the burden of carrying and being encased in their painful and constraining buckets and scotch tape.

Some wear them as a suit, some build their homes, or careers from buckets, some carry buckets of numbing agents like drugs and risky activity and some use buckets to break people and things, causing more leaks. Some people do all of the above.

This analogy may change over time, but it makes sense in my head right now.

Thank you for reading, and stay safe!

Happiness isn’t a choice

For the past decade or so, I’ve been struggling with waves of depression. In fact, most of my life was covered in a grey fog, with a few brief years in my 20s where life was relatively satisfactory.

I had an ongoing debate with an acquaintance over the course of a few years regarding the permanence of emotion.

He believed that people could be persistently happy, once you decided to be happy, and stay happy, well you’re persistently happy.

My side of the debate was that happiness was neither a choice, nor could a person be happy perpetually. A person could choose to live their best life, and choose enriching and fulfilling ways to spend time, but happiness as with any other emotion is transient.

There may be a disconnect and a lack of words in english in regards to what my acquaintance, and myself had been discussing. In fact, we may be discussing completely different experiences, and subjects that happen to carry the same limited labels.

My verbal definitions more often than not, lay in the literal definition, not loose definitions, and I wonder if instead the “people in pursuit of happiness” are actually looking to experience felicity.

Synonyms & Antonyms of felicity

a feeling or state of well-being and contentment

Happy is an emotion, no different than sad, angry, melancholy etc., where felicity is a state of being, not much different than being sad vs. being depressed.

So, if a person reframes the language used on the topic, felicity is something a person can pursue and once gained, aim to maintain. Life can throw pain at them, but the inner core of felicity can be actively engaged with.

One still has to maintain the construct, but the steps become more clear once a person knows what gives them that sense on an individual level.

I suspect it involves a healthy and balanced intellectual, spiritual, and physical life, where a person is “safe enough” to explore the scary and dangerous parts of their psyche and human experience.

Where the core is founded on relationships; First, with themselves, and then reaching out to other relationships. After that that individual would be able to navigate pain, fear, difficult decisions, loss, grief and responsibility with an element of grace. Felicity being always the anchor.

The pursuit of happiness will always be disappointing, but the action of developing felicity, can be built. Even for people living through or survivors of extreme trauma.

Cheers, and stay safe ❤

Disconnecting to reconnect

Today I quit social media, and Google. I downloaded the Duck Duck Go app to test it out, and so far I’m relatively happy with its functionality.

I’ve been a Facebook user since 2007, and as Facebook works now I may as well say I was a cocaine user for the damage my use of it has done to my real life.

The current algorithm that Facebook as well as Google uses sets up your newsfeed to generate engagement in order to stuff advertising in your face.

That advertising is what you trade for your “free” service. A long time ago the trade off was somewhat palatable, back when my newsfeed still showed posts from all of my friends and acquaintances. But now it only shows posts that contain words or meta tags that will be most likely to make me (and you) engage.

At first, it seems a bit bullish, but after thinking about the types of posts that I’ve been engaged in, the types of posts that are not being seen, and my general downward spiral in my mental health I had to take a step back and look.

What facebook has been feeding me, are posts and memes that are inflammatory at best and rage or depression inducing at worst.

Just to get me to unconsciously look at advertising. I can’t say that its happening to other users as often as me, but I really have to question it.

So, that said, no different than cocaine I used Facebook for 12 years for dopamine hit after dopamine hit telling myself it was to stay in contact with the people I “know”.

And this is really the sad part. The people I know and truly care about are a ext or phone call away, and vice versa. We can share photos and videos all the same, its just a touch less convenient sending to more than one person on the list. And we don’t have to absorb adverts and deal with the constant rage and narcissism being flung around social media.

There’s respect, love and a real connection. Which is what Facebook is preying on… our need and lack of connection in our crazy busy modern world.

So today I quit, and reach out in the real world spend more quality time with the people I like, do healthy activities with all this new time I have such as yoga, reading and organizing the disaster that is my house, and even just stare out the window and let my mind wander again.

Cheers!

Being thankful

One of my previous employers and friend passed away from a heart attack on Friday at the age of 47.

He was a tremendous person, and my heart is aching. A gentle giant of a man with endless smiles and compassion for other people.

He was always open, and willing to have honest heart to heart discussions about life, the universe and everything. He was well read, and soft spoken and always learning.

I worked as a laborer and then framers helper for over a year and a half, which actually had started quite by accident.

I had lost my job in IT, and my boyfriend (now spouse) said they needed a person to apply tyvek to windows and doors. So, I went in and stapled and caulked like a mad woman.

The boss Desi asked me for a hand with some lumber after a week of working there and he figured out quickly I knew how to read a tape. The next thing I knew he was teaching me how to cut, and several weeks later, I was his laborer, and he took the time to teach me, and allowed questions.

Maybe to some this seems relatively unremarkable, this is how a person should learn how to do a job. But for me, and likely many other people out there, most jobs were a matter of a short training session and being left to sink or swim.

Desi taught as a mentor, took time and allowed questions and mistakes, no yelling or reprimands. He allowed and even pushed a little to get me to go out of my comfort zone, even as far as to have me “run” a crew as a green guy. (I just had all the experienced people pick from a list so I wouldn’t step on toes)

But, here’s what was remarkable. He saw my potential, and offered guidance and just enough belief in my ability and worth to keep me motivated. He believed in me, we discussed facets of personal growth, he even bought me books that he thought would help me along in my life.

Over the years we developed a wonderful friendship, he was also friends with my spouse, even coming to the hospital the day we had the twins.

But as things happen life changes, and we went our separate ways. The last time I saw him, we were leaving the province, but we kept in touch.

Now he’s gone, and thankfully nothing was left unsaid. But after the initial heartache and sadness for all of his loved ones who mourn him, i still hear his voice and see his sparkling eyes and wide grin.

He was the first person to ever invest in me, to actually mentor me, and take the time to see me and believe in me.

Even when I didn’t and still don’t.

Yes he had a loyal laborer, and it certainly wasn’t selfless on his part, but he never once had to be a friend or take me under a wing or offer his support. But he did.

And for that I’m eternally thankful.

Dear Manchildren

It isn’t cute after months of playing up your boyish charm. Especially when you are in your 40s.

You aren’t manly, dignified or even respectable when you refuse to get off the couch for a cold, yet expect your partnermommy take care of two puking kids in the middle of the night while she herself is puking her guts out, and expected to miss another day of work to take responsibility for the kids that you supposedly wanted.

It isn’t attractive when you call your partnermommy “HONEEEEY” with the exact tone and inflection of a whiny tantruming 3 year old.

Your partnermommy didn’t sign up to be your caregiver while you play childish and irresponsible games.

The powerplay is over.

The entitlement is horse pucky.

If you think you can justify not taking responsibility for your living space, your offspring and your relationships with those you live with because you are the financial support?

Guess what?

Mister manchild, if you continue to refuse to grow up by taking responsibility, taking initiative and treating your spouse instead of a partnermommy, you are going to end up single, providing your great and wonderful financial support, without being a a burden to the mother of your kids.

You will come home to an empty house, that you will either have to clean or pay a cleaner to deal with, wash the laundry, cook your dinner, meal plan amd shop and remember all those cool dates for kids events you handily ignored your partner about, lest you further disappoint your children.

Responsibility will come crashing down, or you will spend your life in endless heartache and dirty dishes as women wise up to the manchild and his ways.

Dominion crashed

When the story was written that God gave Adam dominion over all the living things on earth, it was actually about the development of agriculture.

But, somehow this became men have dominion over all things and women and children go under that label “things”. Because power corrupts.

So for 7000 years these crazy goat herders values became the tenets of modern society, and as as it stands, the things, the beasts of the land the ones who weren’t given dominion are rebelling.

Rebelling the abuses of power… finding ways to heal the Father wound from ancient times.

7000 years of it ever concentrated to a select few…It’s hard to silence 5 billion people though. It’s impossible to silence the fury of mother earth.

The original sin wasn’t knowledge, it was the abuses that came with abundance. Affluenza isn’t new, domineering as a chosen one also isn’t.

Jesus was supposed to supplant and be the healer of the great father wound. To say that the father wasn’t a jealous, vengeful and angry, neglectful god and father.

Jesus was to take the suffering of the father wound, and soothe the wounded mother. But mankind could not let go it its need to dominate.

So we sit here, with those same wounds, that will not be healed until they are allowed to breathe in the sun.

One day to be wholly whole.

Birth and death

I want to get extremely personal right now.

The other day I told my spouse that the person he met, died on the operating table while giving birth to our girls. The person he met doesn’t exist anymore.

This morning I was mulling over life in general and trying to make sense of how I feel. Why I feel like I died, and why I feel like I shouldn’t be here.

When they wheeled me into the operating room I saw the anesthesiologist talking to my spouse and he was visibly shaken.

I was cold, tense and vibrating from the pitocin and extremely tired from 18 hours of labour, and my mind wasn’t particularly clear.

When everyone was in the room (at least 20 for an emergency c-section with twins plus a crash cart for twin b and one for myself, it was crowded and tense to say the least.

I had my epidural, my legs were numb, the big blue sheet up, so I couldn’t see the mayhem to come.

I was dosed up still shaking terribly, and so cold, and they started cutting me. I gasped and shuddered, and whimpered, “i can feel that…” nobody heard me. They sliced in further, and with what strength I could muster, ” I can feel THAT!.!”

The anesthesiologist said “What?!?” And leaned in to hear me as they kept slicing “I feeeel it” I croaked. He stopped everyone, doped me more and they tested my limbs.

Once everyone was satisfied they started cutting again. “Oh God I still feel it…..”

So they stopped. Decided on a local anesthetic. Twin b was losing her heart beat quickly and this was costing precious time.

Tug tug black hole tug tug pressure silence crying infant. Twin A was swaddled handed to her dad, photo, and then me and a photo blood pressure cuff, seeping black hole.. baby gone.

Tug tug pressure black hole. Silence.

Cries in the distance. I look at twin b I see my baby go, she’s safe.. they’re safe. Then the darkness takes over. I accepted that I was dying because they were safe, somehow I knew, and it was okay.

But. I didn’t die. I woke up and began my journey to hell. Maybe I didn’t and hell just emulates life really well.

It took three weeks before anyone told me I lost well over a liter and a half of blood then, and continued to hemorrhage the next day. Nobody thought to tell me to take it easy either.

They told me to try to walk.

I bled on the nicu floor around the device that was supposed to prevent it. I pushed myself, I walked to and from the nicu to see my tiny cherubs. And the hospital gave me the boot after 2.5 days because of a baby boom in the ward.

I fought to live, but something died that day. I let go, and being here was a shock. The challenges after were traumatic and surreal, and still are.

And I still feel like I shouldn’t be here.

How do I rectify this? I feel immense pain being here, and not gone.

I should appreciate this, but it’s hell. I feel guilt and shame that I’m not living with a zest for a life I could have lost. But so many things have happened, so many things gone wrong, my terrible loneliness swallowing me whole.

I live in a section of Canadian paradise and it is where I battle my construct of life, death and this in-between existence. A shadow waving in the breeze.

How do I rectify this feeling? How do I climb back to the land of the living? Or give up and get finished dying…

Visit… Spend Time

A dear friend of mine has breast cancer. This past year she’s been through rounds upon rounds of chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy, tests, more tests and now she has a lump starting on her chest wall.

We live two hours away and I’ve been a bad friend, caught up in the dumpster fire that is my own life and only been able to be present for her online.

But this week somehow luck was on my side, and I was able to go and visit with her.

I don’t want to talk about my feelings on the drive up, but I think it may be pertinent to the rest of the post.

The drive was relatively pleasant, but I was riddled with sadness, anxiety and melancholy. I forgot how to be a friend and I was terrified that I was going to fail supporting her, fail at our friendship.

I was so good to see her, she met the kids and I on the street… it was a relief to just be able to hug her and see her smile and hear her voice.

We wandered in and got situated caught up a bit, and talked.

The health system has failed her in so many ways, from late (stage 3) diagnosis to missed meds to minimal mental health support, and she’s frustrated to say the least.

But as we talked she brought up the amount of times she had told a loved one of her prognosis, and had to hold them while they cried, support her loved ones in their grief and shock.

She talked about how everyone seems to have disappeared and are in denial of the severity of her condition. Armchair cheerleaders as it were…

“You got this you strong woman!!”

I told her I cried when she sent me the news. I didn’t tell her I laid on the floor of my kitchen sobbing until my body screamed in pain after putting the kids in their cribs.

My grandmother had this cancer… this is bad… this is terrifying

But, my feelings are my responsibility, and its my job to manage them while minimizing the impact on the person that I’m emotionally responding to.

I could see her body shudder with sadness and defeat talking about it all. I told her it’s human nature… the brain does remarkable things to protect itself from pain.

“What can I do for you?” I asked in all of it.

“Visit… spend time.” She replied quietly.

Oh boy… I know this feeling all too well.

So she’s there, two hours away, and I’m here with two tiny people in tow, and my heart hurts for her. My heart hurts for her teen daughter.

I watched my grandmother do the same thing, and she had three different cancers at three different points in life, and time was really the big answer.

Time is the only answer.

But denial is like a big padded bandage on a deep and painful wound. Keep that bandage on and we won’t have to deal with the wound. But, we forget that wounds get infected, they fester if we don’t tend to them.

Armchair cheerleaders have good intentions, and the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

The dumpster fire that is my life came up, and I posed my daily question. Wheres my Village?

It takes a village to raise a child, I got a two for one deal, and no village. The few people willing and able to help are too far away, and after almost three years here, due to the isolation of parenthood, and further isolation of my life, I’m here alone with my kids and their dad (and he doesn’t get it)

But it’s really the same.

People are there for you until there’s a birth, trauma, illness or death. Then they pay lip service to how strong you are, and carry on in life.

I’m strong because I’m the only one lifting. So is she.

Many hands make light work, yet its so easy to refrain from pitching in because “someone else will do it”, or it can’t be that bad, or whatever.

Where’s the village? This many hands business, that thing we evolved to live within, in safety and security.. bonded loved and cared for while bonding and loving and caring?

Maybe its gone the way of Roanoke.

But people are people, and our culture fears death and illness, fears reminders of our own mortality, fears taking responsibility for their emotions or their role in the village.

And then we fail each other in support, fail at friendship, and fail ourselves. And sit down at the end of the day with regret… Anxious that it’s too late.

But it’s never too late, until its over. The one thing in life that’s certain is that it’s time. Right now.

Time to reach out.

Time to listen.

Time to face your fears.

Time to be there, and be better.

And time for bed for me. (It’s 2 am)

Happiness. There is an endless quest for happiness all around the world, as if it’s the holy grail of emotional experience.

Yet, very few people can talk about being happy all the time. Why is that?

Because feelings are transient, and language can be limiting in expressing abstract concepts.

The people that do consider themselves overall generally happy, all have different lives, different jobs and different things that do, yet all have more happy moments in their days.

What are they doing that is so different than the billions of people that aren’t happy very often?

They know themselves well enough to engage in fulfilling life activities, set healthy boundaries and share their zest for fulfilment with their loved ones. They make great cheerleaders, and when they are able, can offer a hand up to others.

Having a life full of activities that support, reflect and nurture an individual’s interests, aptitudes and need for growth and challenge is part of the equation.

Bonus points if they can find a career that fits at least some of the above. Don’t find a career that makes you happy, find one that fulfills some of your personal and inherent ability and interest.

But, personal fulfilment takes shape in hobbies and social activities, which many people seem to be lacking.

I know a lot of people, after a hard day of working, that go home and sit in front of a screen until bed time. There may be variation of the content on the screen, but the action is the same. The brain slows down, it processes in basic reactions to the content but there is minimal thought involved.

It’s okay to do this stuff here and there, but every day for years on end isn’t doing your mind, your emotional state and most likely your body any justice.

As we tell our children, get off the couch, go outside and Play!