About three months ago, I was nearing a mental breakdown (or, at least, that’s what it felt like – you ever feel like your lungs are gonna pop and your heart beat right out of your chest?), so I got on the Google machine and searched for a shrink.
Side note: Why are they called shrinks? What gumped-up algebraic equation turned psychiatrist into shrink? This is what happens when you mix the alphabet with math.
After the massive search engine purposely skewed my results by filtering out any conservative shrinks (hey, that’s that big tech does, according to the fair and balanced talking heads at Fox News), I found a number to call. I punched the digits into the dial pad of the 6.2″ pocket computer I carry around with me and, after struggling through the stupid-ass auto-attendant, I finally got to a human who scheduled an appointment for me.
Another side note: Why do I have to press numbers to speak to a human? Why can’t a human just answer the damned phone to begin with? Every one of us spams the 0 until a subpar human actually answers.
That appointment was today. Good thing it wasn’t an emergency, huh?
The appointment consisted of light interrogation. I say light because, hey, at least I wasn’t waterboarded. I had to go through my family history of mental illness and basically a condensed memoir of my life so that she could get some semblance of the road that led to the broken human before her. Then she hit me with the question about trauma.
Have you suffered any trauma?
My immediate thought was, “No, I haven’t suffered any trauma.” I mean, I’ve never been seriously injured. I’ve never had any near-death experiences (that I know about, anyhow). No traumatic events ever happened to me. I was never abused…
I started turning things over in my head, which was rough because I forgot to spray with Pam first. Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Different events affect people differently, so what may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic (or as traumatic) to another. Humans aren’t made with cookie cutters, after all.
I thought back to my 7th-grade year, which was pretty traumatic for me then. My mom was arrested and placed in a mental institution. Her arrest was due to events that occurred at my school, so all the kids bullied me. Okay, not all, but enough so that my teacher assigned me a buddy specifically to keep an eye on me and my mental status. I ended up seeing a shrink, in group therapy, on medication, and nearly institutionalized myself.
So, I did suffer through a traumatic event.
I thought ahead a few years to when I was 20. It wasn’t physical abuse (at least, not until I tried to leave several years later). It was emotional abuse. I tried to end a relationship I didn’t want to be in – several times. Each time I tried to tell her I didn’t want to be with her anymore, she threatened suicide. I finally stopped trying to leave when she shotgunned an entire bottle of Benedryl one night. I endured her emotional abuse, suffered through her bipolar episodes (she didn’t seek treatment until after I finally left 9 years later), and was physically assaulted in later years – many of those instances after I left and occurred when we would exchange custody of our children. Traumatic? Probably. I’m sure all of that broke some pieces off of my mind.
How about that? I was abused.
Near death experience? Honestly, I don’t know how close to death, if at all, I ever really was when I had thyroid cancer. But cancer is always carrying a death threat. Like American Express, it never leaves home without it. All I know for certain is they dissected my neck to get my thyroid and cancer cells out of my body. As a result, I have a scar across my neck that required 16 staples to close and makes it look like I survived a hanging. My body hasn’t been the same since then. I’ve still yet to regain the physical stamina I had before the surgery. Maybe I never will. I also went through radiation therapy, which permanently damaged my salivary glands. The loss of my thyroid seems to have triggered a case of gout in my right foot. Often times when I take the meds required to treat all of this shit at night, I feel like I’ve eaten an entire meal. Traumatic? Maybe. Maybe not. Sure felt fucking traumatic to me, though. Sometimes, it still does.
It’s weird. All these things happened to me, and I’ve never really considered their impact on me. Or how others may perceive them. It was just crazy shit that happened to me. I never considered anything that happened in my first marriage abusive until I wrote about it, and everyone who commented expressed how abusive it really was. I mean, I never really knew emotional abuse was a thing. Sure, she assaulted me, but never really hurt me. I was kicked and punched, but she wasn’t physically strong enough to injure me. The one time she could’ve seriously hurt me was when she threw a picture frame at me, but luckily, she missed.
Before today I never really stopped to consider whether or not the events that took place during my 7th-grade year were traumatic or how they shaped me (or de-shaped me). It’s just something I recall sometimes and think, “Yeah, that year sucked.” But how exactly did it shape me? Are those events and how I was treated by so many people the foundation of my misanthropy? Who knows?
I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this anymore. I’m not sure how to end it, either. I guess after I stopped to ponder everything I’ve endured I was shocked to find that, yeah, I have gone through some traumatic events in my life even if it doesn’t always necessarily feel like I’ve had a traumatic life. It was surprising that my gut reaction was to deny anything awful ever happened and I had to actually analyze these events to see them for what they truly are.