I have missed you. I have missed my muse, missed the sound of the words she sings, missed the song I call The Rapture, and now... now I miss the man who started it all, but that’s another story, one I will tell when the time comes.
For the moment, what I can tell you is that I have been on a healing hiatus. Unforeseen and unannounced, as most of my absences from life have been, it has lasted a year and a half. It was that long ago that I began The Rapture. I managed six chapters in six months and then.... It is a flat earth I live upon; it is so easy to fall off the map.
And so it is that I find myself here, a year since last I posted on Sins of the Eldest Daughter. It was a short post, two lines and a song, both dissolving into dust. It was all I had in me.
I tried to compose a note explaining my absence, some missive from the front lines, swaddled in plastic, pinned to the inside of my combat helmet along with a cherished photo. It couldn’t be done.
What got me here today, writing at last, was reading an article in The Sun that deals with the subject of chronic illness. Mired in a slough of chronic conditions, I have been soldiering on for decades now without destination or relief. So when I read that Dr. Gabor Maté “observed that those who had experienced trauma, stress, and anxiety at a young age tended . . . also to have more health problems,” I sat up and paid attention.
[Dr. Maté] saw the roots of [our] problems in “adverse childhood experiences,” such as abuse, neglect, poverty, or parental stress. At a time when medical science [is] increasingly looking to our DNA for the source of many illnesses, Maté was becoming convinced that experiences in our early years play an even greater role in brain development and behavior. The emotional patterns we learn as small children, he says, live on in the cells of our minds and come back to us as adults.
What Ails Us
Here’s how that translates for me. My nonstandard neurology-- for that’s what I call this conglomeration of mental illness and chronic pain diagnoses-- may be the result of a brain repeatedly traumatized while it was yet developing in my child body. Think of three-legged frogs and two-headed fish; the acid bath that is the womb of a polluted childhood yields a deformed adult. “The genetic explanation [of chronic health problems] is comfortable,” Maté says, “because it means that we don’t have to look at people’s lives or the society in which those lives are led for the source of our problems. If addiction is genetic,” for example, “we don’t have to worry that it’s connected to child abuse.”
Two years ago, I began my work with a psychologist who is among those pioneering in the field of PTSD. He specializes in the physical and psychological fallout-- the chronic illness-- that is a result of something called Complex PTSD. Because my PTSD events comprise the first couple decades of my life, give or take, and stem from childhood sexual abuse and neglect, the recovery work involves tearing myself down to the foundation of my being, demolishing that faulty structure, and rebuilding a stronger, more balanced sense of self from the just-a-twinkle-in-your-daddy's-eye stage up. It's interesting work. And by interesting I mean it has messed with my life in ways that, were I not possessed of a social scientist’s abiding curiosity about the emotional and psychological ramifications of cause and effect, I would never have taken on such a task. It has eclipsed everything: work, writing, relationships, social life, sex, self... everything.
It is amazing the poisons my subconscious has coughed up in an effort to clear my airways and breathe me back to life.
Challenges aside, I am happy to say that I’m at a point where my doctor all but guarantees a full and complete recovery. It's still painful, believe me, and I have no idea what recovery looks like; I can’t see it from here. Regardless, I hope to be back to writing The Rapture soon and to posting blog entries even sooner. But that’s not what’s important Here’s the most important part: You. All 47 million of you. You are the reason I show up in my jammies and lipstick to play strip poker with heart, body, mind, and soul. You are the reason Dr. Maté’s words struck such a cord in me. I write about myself, it’s true, but it is not my life that hangs in the balance.
Let’s look at the numbers.
As of the day I wrote this, the population of the US according the United States Census Bureau is 314,703,310. Let’s make that a nice round number: three-hundred-fourteen-million-seven-hundred-thousand.
Of the 314,700,000 people in the US, twenty to twenty-five percent of the population WILL BE sexually molested, according to The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. Let’s use the smaller estimate of twenty percent. That gives us 62,940,000. Did you read that right? Of all the Americans on the planet today, nearly 63 MILLION were sexually abused as children.
Three-quarters of all molestation is perpetrated by family members and other trusted adults-- coaches, neighbors, men of God-- people who are within what is called the child’s “circle of trust”. That leaves us, very conservatively figured, at 47,205,000. That’s well over 47 MILLION adults who have experienced the trauma of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of someone they trusted. Seems I am not the only wounded child warrior here.
And what about PTSD? Five percent of men and over ten percent of women in the US live with PTSD. On average, we’re looking at 2 1/2 million people with this diagnosis. That’s still an awful lot, though, so let’s cut it down: 47 mil, give or take, divided by 7.8% (the PTSD population on average) = 3,666,000... Wow, that’s creepy-- I was just ball parking it-- but the Devil, as they say, is in the details. Moving on.
Complex PTSD-- the minefield my psychologist is helping me to navigate-- is a new field of study that looks at an old but mostly unrecognized problem: the results of long-term trauma, the kind trauma that spans years. Shell shock, we used to call it. Here’s what the US Department of Veteran Affairs has to say:
What types of trauma are associated with Complex PTSD?
During long-term traumas, the victim is generally held in a state of captivity, physically or emotionally.... In these situations the victim is under the control of the perpetrator and unable to get away from the danger.
The traumas that the Dept. of Veteran Affairs includes in this definition may surprise you. They range from the obvious, external hells like concentration and POW camps to the hidden hells of childhood sexual abuse and physical abuse. Physical captivity isn’t the only kind that cannot be escaped. Pioneers in the field of Complex PTSD also include extreme emotional neglect, “the kind of neglect where no caretaker was ever available for support, comfort or protection,” (see Pete Walker’s article Emotional Flashback Management in the Treatment of Complex PTSD).
And there it is, my particular brand of fucked up childhood: pretty blonde-haired, green-eyed Barbie on the outside, gooey with greasy, grimy gopher guts on the inside. This is foundation of my being-- the reason for, the cause of-- why I keep wandering astray and falling off the edge of this flat earth. This is the death of a thousand cuts-- the effect-- that slowly cripples us, making us crazy or criminal or cut throat. And this is why I am writing. I write The Rapture not because it is my story but because it is everyone’s. Or at least 3,666,000 of you. Give or take.
Once upon a time these millions of numbers were children, kids who wanted to be heard, who needed protection, who wished they would die or could get revenge or, most glorious of all, be spirited away in the arms of some loving and all-powerful being. In the end, isn’t that what rapture is all about, being safe in the arms of someone who loves us? Isn’t that what we imagine healing to be, that kind of love, that kind of peace?
Well, The Rapture-- my Rapture-- isn’t going to have a hell of a lot of peace, but it will end with love. Eventually. First the sin and the sex and the sadness. For what ails any one of us, ails us all. If you can’t believe in that, then believe this. In its most recent study,
the CDC estimated the lifetime cost to society for dealing with all issues related to the... abuse of just one year's worth of traumatized kids [at] $585 billion.Cost is measured in many ways. In my life, it is measured by the years I spent in what psychologists call a severe depressive episode. That was a decade and a half. Give or take. Cost is also measured by the intermittent winters I spend on the far side of the moon, that place long past the edge of this flat earth. This last winter lasted a year and a half, and I feel no closer to sanity now than to the sun.
The National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (NAASCA)
But I am alive. And I am writing. And your stories are what I aim to tell. So, until next time, I leave you with the dreamscape sound of a song entitled “This Healing Dream” and with the words of Rumi.
Hear the story of sunrise from the Sun itself.
If there were no sunrise within
I would have set long ago.
“This Healing Dream” - Sunday Club
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