Amnesia: the blacking out of trauma and its effects
By Crystal Hinshaw
I have always heard that birth of babies, weddings, and death bring out the worst in people. In many cases I have seen firsthand the accuracy of those statements. When my son for example was born the “friends” that I held so dear to my heart some how disappeared from my life the same way that many of our beloved Avengers disappeared from the Marvel movie. Still upset about that but I digress. My point is that in the moment where I needed most of these so called “friends” they weren’t available. In all of these things no one has ever mentioned the other side of these events the mental status. Going or being apart events like this can bring up past trauma, place us in a depressive state and give someone all kinds of anxiety.
This past weekend I attended the wedding of one of my favorite cousins. The location was beautiful, and the bride was stunning. All the guest in their best attire and smiles on their faces. Then there was me most of the time looking around and wondering if they could see the signs on my face or in my actions. My depression and anxiety were in over drive, I was doing everything I could to hide my frame of mind so that I could be in the moment. If you battle anxiety and depression, then you know there is always that feeling of just get out this situation as fast as you can. And though I love my family with my whole being I needed to get out of that setting ASAP. It wasn’t the wedding itself that triggered all these emotions it was various events leading up to that moment. It was being away from my son who battles his own forms of anxiety and depression. It was leaving my son to the care of someone other than his father to care for him and watch for his triggers. It was being around people who have torn me down countless times with passive aggressive comments and sly remarks about my deceased drug-addicted mother who died of HIV. It was being around people who have rejected me and made me feel less than, unloved and alone. It was just being away from my comfort level which lately has consisted of being alone in my house ignoring everyone and everything.
Depression and anxiety in some can be from a genetic predisposition. And in some, it becomes a part of their life through events or situational settings. For me, after years of therapy, I have learned that depression and anxiety are caused from the trauma that I have experienced over the years and the level of expectations I have placed on my life due to those traumas. I have always struggled of needing to belong, needing to be needed, needed to be loved and to love, and needing to the approval of others. My mother was an addict who dabbled in the world of heroine, crack, opioids, alcoholism, and prostitution. My early developmental years were spent watching these things occur and being left to find for myself. So, at an early age, I learned to self-soothe and self-care. I spent a lot of time alone so in those moments, so I would venture out in the streets of Chicago and I created my own world. Literally, I made friends with everyone who would talk to me. Can you imagine a little girl coming up to you asking a million questions about yourself and your life? Yep that was me mouth ran a mile minute.
During those times I found things to take my mind off things. Music and books became my entire world. I placed my mental state in what I was reading or what I was listening too. It was those things that helped me during those early years. As I got older I blacked everything out like everything. I didn’t want to even remember the good moments in my life. It wasn’t until I became a young adult that those things started popping out and forced me to handle them. I still wasn’t ready to deal with them or face the fact I needed help to work all the different emotions. So, I became self-destructive and started unraveling. Still struggling to find a place where I belonged where I felt safe. I had just recently turned 22 when I found out I was expecting and bam everything changed. Five days before my 23rd birthday I welcomed a baby boy and my life would never be the same. This sweet baby had just saved my grown ass by just being born.
I was so busy taking care of him I placed myself on the back burner. I again blacked out everything that caused my depression and anxiety even though it was still a daily struggle. His father and I eventually parted ways. I was broken, it was the lowest point of feeling abandoned and alone that I had ever felt. But here a little wild toddler needed his mom to be a mom. So, I started going to therapy just once a month and then twice month, eventually I was going almost every day of the week. I had finally begun to pull the curtain back on those events I had blacked out. Then like many I thought I was “cured” and I stopped going. My anxiety reared its ugly head more and more. Causing the most horrific thing to occur, my child began picking up on those same anxiety triggers. So, I found better ways to hide my anxiety and my depression from everyone including myself. It didn’t occur to me until I started graduate school that I seriously needed to tackle these elements just as I had tackled everything else in my life.
Every day is an up-hill battle, but it is also a new day to find ways to self-care and find healing. I have studied victim services not just to help victims of sexual abuse and domestic abuse but to also to help myself. Some of the things I hear or read are triggers for me, they are also small pieces that help me understand those events that occurred within my life. My anxiety of needing to belong and be accepted is a consistent factor in every moment of my life. But I have surrounded myself with people who are welcoming, encouraging, supportive and understanding. And therapy is a priority in my life. Just like washing my face daily making my appointment with my therapist is a necessity to live for me. But I think the most important thing for me is reaching to others who walk this walk with me. I can not express enough that self-care is an essential tool in this daily journey. For me it being away from all social media, my grandmothers living room, watching super hero movies with my son, curled up reading a good book, cleaning with some ole school blues playing in the back ground, or watching Golden Girl episodes for the 19th millionth time.