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Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

I have previously shared that I have almost finished reading Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. I have about 50 pages left to read in the third book, Mockingjay. One of the minor characters is a woman named Johanna Mason, who won one of the previous Hunger Games. She is the tragic character who has both the strength and the weakness of having nobody left to lose.

Johanna makes a comment to Katniss (the lead character) that the one thing she thinks her shrink is right about is that you can never go back to being the person you were before the trauma (in her case, before the Hunger Games). For this reason, she must let go of trying to become that innocent girl again and, instead, find a way to live with being the person she is today.

It’s just a small part of the book, but it was one of the most meaningful conversations for me as a trauma survivor. Because my child abuse started at such a young age, I don’t really have a “before” to go back to, which I guess is a blessing in some respects. I don’t grieve the loss of the innocent girl I was because I don’t remember ever being that person. Still, I do grieve the innocent girl I should have been. I don’t think it’s the same thing, though. I grieve a concept while those whose trauma started later grieve a version of themselves that ceased to exist after the trauma.

I think this dialogue in the book resonated so deeply with me because it is part of the process of “letting go” that I am work through right now. Another thing I need to let go of is any hope of being someone who has never experienced trauma. That ship has sailed and isn’t coming back. It is unrealistic for me to strive to act and react as someone who has never been traumatized acts and reacts.

If I can accept this truth at a heart level, I can let go of my definition of “normal.” I used to tell my therapist that I just want to be a “normal” person. What I meant by this is I want to be like someone who has not endured trauma. That simply is not possible.

This reality does not have to be a “bad” thing. I have many strengths that were honed because I have survived trauma. I need to let go of the labels of “good” or “bad” and, instead, recognize and accept what “is” and “isn’t” without judgment.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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I received Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy as a present for Christmas, and I haven’t been able to put the books down! They are dark, with each book in the trilogy becoming darker than the last. The first book (the one that will be a movie in March) is about the Hunger Games themselves, where two children (ages 12 to 18) from each of the 12 districts are forced to represent their districts as “tributes” in the Hunger Games. Twenty-four children are placed in a dangerous arena, and they must kill each other off. The one survivor becomes the victor.

Book Two (Catching Fire) explores life after enduring trauma and the sickening realization that the trauma doesn’t end when the Hunger Games do. Book Three (Mockingjay) moves into trauma-induced issues of trust and grief. I am 2/3 of the way through Mockingjay. I simply cannot put these books down!

The blurb at the end of my book says that Suzanne Collins’ intent is to explore the effects of war on those who are coming of age. While the books do this, they run so much deeper. They really address the effects of trauma, which we child abuse survivors know is not limited to war.

The books explore how trauma permeates every area of the lead character Katniss’ life. If she was never brought into the Hunger Games, her life was on a course for falling in love with and marrying her best friend, Gale. However, Peeta, not Gale, was the one who endured the same traumas that Katniss did, which forges a bond that excludes Gale. When Katniss feels safe, her life seems to move back toward its initial course, but when she feels unsafe, she gravitates toward her trauma-bonded relationships. As the books progress, Katniss loses the ability ever to feel safe. Her nightmares become worse, and her ability to trust disappears. Katniss must stay on guard because being hypervigilance is what has enabled her to survive.

The books also explore how our connections with other people are both our strength and our weakness. Our love for others is what gives us the strength to keep fighting, but loving others also makes us vulnerable to those who want to hurt us. One of the strongest but most tragic characters in the books has both the strength and weakness of having nobody left to lose.

The books explore what we must lose in ourselves in order to survive trauma. They also explore how even the strongest of the strong can break inside as well as the coping mechanisms they turn to in their brokenness.

I don’t see how this trilogy can possibly have a happy ending. I suspect the goal will be achieved but that it won’t result in happiness. As we have seen with our war veterans, the effects of trauma on Katniss and others won’t disappear simply because the war is over.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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Today’s blog entry is a rant, and this is something that (unfortunately) happens a lot. I really, really hate it when people apply the word “trauma” to trivial crap that people will get over in a few hours or days. Let me give you an example.

One person told me about a woman who had trouble ordering a cake. The person in the bakery was asking a bunch of questions, such as whether she wanted to order a quarter sheet or half sheet cake. The woman who was ordering the cake did not know the answers and got upset. The bakery worker lost her patience and snapped at the customer. The person relaying story said that this woman was “traumatized” by that phone call.

Oh, really? You mean that she had nightmares on a regular basis that caused her to awaken in a cold sweat with her heart pounding? She had regular panic attacks, shaking uncontrollably and hyperventilating? She was filled with guilt and shame, self-injured, and battled suicidal urges over her “traumatizing” phone call? Give me a break.

Yes, I am sure the call was upsetting to her. Maybe she even cried about it afterward. But traumatizing? No.

When people apply the word “trauma” to a situation that is “upsetting,” it waters down and trivializes true traumatizing experiences that are anything but trivial. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) comes about from experiencing a severely traumatizing experience (or many severely traumatizing experiences), such as being raped or watching your buddy getting his head blown off in a war. To take the same word that we use to describe these severely emotionally disturbing events and apply them to frustrations with ordering a cake is ludicrous.

Everyone goes through upsetting moments in his or her life. While you are in them, it might feel like the end of the world. For example, your first break up as a teenager might feel like the most painful experience ever and impossible to live through in the moment. However, we have all been there, and we all survived it without experiencing PTSD symptoms.

Call those experiences frustrating, upsetting, or even disturbing, but let’s reserve the word “trauma” for experiences that are severe enough to rock your world permanently.

Related Topic:

PTSD and Cycles of Emotions

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Fire (c) Rosanne Mooney
A fellow ritual abuse survivor contacted me with questions about “unbelievable” ritual abuse that she suffered. She was having a hard time believing that the ritual abuse happened because, from a logical standpoint, it did not seem possible.

Chrystine Oksana’s book, Safe Passage to Healing, calls this phenomenon “The Real Unreal” and “The Unreal Real.” What she means is that ritual abusers are masters at setting up the child to believe some things that did not happen while not being able to believe other things that actually did happen. To put it more colloquially, they are experts at the “mind f@#$.”

Here is an example of one of the mind f@#$’s that I endured. I am putting up a trigger warning because the incident is very disturbing. Please only read the section in triggers if you are in a good place.

+++++++++ ritual abuse triggers +++++++++

When I was around nine, the cult told me that I was going to be initiated into a higher level within the cult by killing a child. I did not want to do it, but the cult, as always, was not asking my opinion. They put me in a robe and laid a child at my feet. Her eyes were closed, as if she was sleeping.

The cult leader, who was wearing his black hooded robe as usual, stood behind me and placed a large knife in my hands. He then put his own hands around my hands so I was unable to drop the knife. He pulled my hands straight up in the air and held them there for a very long time, so long that my hands went numb.

As the cult leader held my hands up, he was making this long speech about inducting me into this new level. While I stood there, terrified and going numb, somebody shined a flashlight into my eyes the entire time so I could not see. (This was at night, so I could not see a thing.)

The cult leader finally forced my hands down hard with the knife, and I felt the knife sink into something. Lots of blood poured all over my body, much like in the climactic scene of the movie Carrie when someone poured pig’s blood all over Carrie at the prom.

++++++++ end triggers +++++++++

This was one of the few memories I recovered with another person in the room. My Reiki master “saw” the flashback along with me while I was receiving Reiki. I did not tell her about having a flashback. She just started asking me about seeing a lot of blood.

My first reaction to recovering this flashback was extremely intense, as you can imagine. I did not think I could survive having “murdered” someone. However, with lots of emotional support from the right people, I was able to see through the charade and realize that the entire episode was just one big mind f@#$.

The girl was not sleeping – she was unconscious. Unconscious people are not going to struggle, which means that there would not have been blood flying around as in a struggle. Second, even if I had hit an artery, there is no way that amount of blood would pour out of a child like that. The amount of blood involved was way over the top. Third, having a flashlight in my eyes at night would have blinded me to anything going on around me. I was relying on what I felt and what others told me was happening. And, finally, there was plenty of time to make the switch. The long speech was just to provide time to move the girl and replace her with something else – maybe a slab of meat.

She story sounds unreal, and yet the terror I felt in the aftermath was very real. If I had told anyone about the incident, the cult could have produced the child that I claimed to have “killed” and proven that I was a “liar.” Because I felt complicit in the “murder,” I was much less likely to blow the whistle on the cult. It was a win-win situation for the cult. Whether I told or did not tell, they had the power.

Ritual abusers do mind f@#$’s like this. It helps them break down the will of the child and ensures that the child never tells. Nothing is too “unreal” for ritual abusers.

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Photo credit:Rosanne Mooney

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