You Can’t “Outsmart” Trauma. That’s Actually Not How Trauma Works. Or, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Traumatized and Increasingly Unable to Function.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trauma lately as I contemplate my increasingly vulnerable and terrifying station as a chronically ill woman who will have to rely on the long-term care and concern of others if I am to survive.  For some reason I found this topic exceptionally difficult to write about in a coherent and meaningful way and in my experience as a somewhat seasoned social critic, that usually indicates that there is some thought-termination around the issue and that I am working my way through something that is not meant to be dissected and understood and that is probably the case here.  For whatever reason, this post seems like it just does not want to be written, and as a writer and a creative person I can and do respect that, so I am giving up on the idea of writing a proper post about it.  I have scrapped a dozen versions of this post and I’m glad they are gone.

But there is something that I — not my muse — would like to say about trauma, about women’s experience with trauma, how it affects us, and what little can probably be done about it.  But little is not nothing, and where there is anything women can do to avoid trauma and to avoid becoming traumatized, women seriously need to do everything in their power to avoid it.  The effects of trauma on our long-term physical and mental well-being are just too serious to ignore and we cannot keep letting this happen to us; we are told that “what does not kill us makes us stronger” but this is a reversal, and a lie.  And besides, there are probably worse things than death and it seems to me like trauma may be one of those things.  In reality, the constant traumas women experience that stop short of killing us only make us weaker, sicker, and less able to function.  For women, the effect of constant trauma is that we are neither here nor there — we end up the walking dead.

As I approach middle age I am beginning to notice that a distinct physical, mental and emotional toll has been taken on the women I know including female friends and family, and probably even myself.  Women are becoming physically ill, cognitively impaired and emotionally retarded, their minds and organs are failing and they do not react with strong emotion or decisive action when they should and they consistently over-react to everything else when they shouldn’t.  Women I know are not aging well and I think a lot of this has to do with the cumulative effects of chronic stress and trauma over time.  Trauma is not making us stronger.  Trauma is slowly but noticeably killing the us in us.  We are no longer anywhere to be found.

Looking back on my life I can identify several instances of trauma that have irreparably changed me and these are traumas that I could have and should have avoided.  Being there when my younger brother died gruesomely of congestive heart and multiple organ failure after a lifetime of hideous medical interventions traumatized me, but what was I to do about it?  Now, I think I should have either busted him out of my parents’ care and control and (somehow) provided him with a life free of medical trauma, or I should have thrown out the baby with the bathwater and abandoned my sick-ass fucking family completely.  None of this half-in half-out shit that in the end left me no choice but to “be there” to comfort him when he died hideously because of what my parents and other Western medical professionals did to him, while I watched this happen for 21 years of my and my brother’s lives and I did nothing of substance to stop it.  Fuck that.  I should’ve been braver.

But I wasn’t brave, and instead I was seriously traumatized for which I likely continue to pay the price, in my case, my coward’s debt is probably being paid with my seriously failing health.  I even said at his funeral that being there when he died that way “destroyed me” but still being young and relatively healthy I had no idea how right I would turn out to be about that, or that there was any way I could’ve avoided it.  Note that I am talking about — and demonstrating — situations in which the trauma could have been reasonably avoided.  I know that not all trauma can be avoided and I am not talking about those traumas.  I do not blame women or myself for that.

In a similar vein, when I stayed in my home during 2 hurricanes instead of evacuating, did I really know what I was getting myself into?  The first one, hurricane Irene turned out to be a nothing burger (for my neighborhood anyway) and was not that traumatizing where we were not in physical danger and did not sustain damage.  But the second one, where I had to literally swim out of my apartment in chest-deep water at midnight and then somehow survive the aftermath on a devastated and destroyed island with no power, no supplies and sleeping on my ex-mother in law’s prehistoric couch definitely traumatized me.  I should never have lived on an island in the first fucking place, and I never ever should have moved to an island to be with a man and especially not where he and his family were to be my only lifeline in an emergency.  Never!  Once the storm hit, the trauma was inevitable and I did the very best I could under the circumstances, but therein lies the rub.  I never should have been there in the first fucking place.  I only went there with him to begin with because I had nowhere else to go.

Is there anything, anything at all I could’ve done to avoid that?  Probably.  It would’ve been ugly and I would’ve had to start planning early, like building some kind of community independent of my family and which did not revolve around men — for me as an incurable introvert, and likely an autistic to boot, this would have been ugly, and gnarly, and hard, and it might not have worked.  But I never should have been there on that island, that much I know.  And I should’ve been around people that were smarter than my dumbass boyfriend and his dumbass mother who lived on a fucking island, where islands are known to be vulnerable to hurricanes and coastal flooding and where hurricanes and coastal flooding are known to cause trauma.  Duh.  But because I was a dumbass, and associated with dumbasses, I ended up irreparably traumatized and in fact my already-failing health quickly and steadily declined after that.  After that I was never well again and considering that I now have an incurable progressive disease, I will probably never get better and I will only ever get worse. That trauma was probably the very last thing I needed and may well have been the final straw.

Or, maybe there really was nothing I could’ve done to avoid that or different or even worse trauma, where if I hadn’t gone with him after we both graduated from law school I could’ve ended up homeless because I had nowhere else to go.  You know, like what I am facing now — in the end it appears as if I merely delayed it.  Okay, maybe I had no meaningful choice but to end up on an island with a man.  But maybe, just maybe if I had avoided a dozen earlier traumas, this one wouldn’t have been the one that did me in, but I didn’t avoid a dozen earlier traumas did I?  No.  I just kept walking into and out of trauma after trauma like it was nothing.  And many of those earlier traumas were dealt to me by men because I kept fucking — and fucking dealing with — men.  But trauma isn’t nothing, and the effects of repeated traumas seem to aggregate over time.  I know that now.  Now that it’s too fucking late to do anything about it, I know it.  Well done on my part innit?  Gah.

And don’t even get me started on my “choice” to put myself through my last year of college by stripping.  No, definitely don’t get me started on that.  I thought that I could outmaneuver or outsmart trauma, you see, because I was young and smart but no one is young enough or smart enough to outmaneuver or outsmart trauma because trauma doesn’t work like that.  I thought that if I just stripped — and let men objectify me — with “intention” and if I put up “appropriate boundaries” that I could get in and out of this relatively low-risk sex work unscathed and untraumatized but I was wrong about that.  After stripping — and letting men objectify me — for just a year, one year, I have been unable to maintain eye contact and constantly survey the exits during conversation and believe me when I say that this very noticeable behavioral “tick” did nothing to help me achieve (or fake) middle class because middle class women do not act that way.  And middle and upper class men know what class of women do act that way — sex workers and other extremely traumatized women who they will never respect ever.

My plan to achieve middle class by stripping was a complete bust and I am still paying for that one where 20 years later I am still unable to maintain “normal” eye contact and I still survey the exits in every room and every situation in which I find myself.  And where middle and upper class men still clock me as “something” even if they can’t put their finger on exactly what it is.  Particularly old men, meaning middle-aged and older seem to love me and consistently want to mentor me but their attentions never actually helped me professionally or materially in any way.  Weird, huh.

So.  Could my trauma of relatively low-risk sex work where I stripped for men for money have been avoided?  Yes!  Because in my case, I lost my “normal” and relatively untraumatizing job as a cake decorator when I left for a month to be with my brother while he died, and to help my mom with funeral and other arrangements later.  By the time I lost my cake decorating job, which I really enjoyed by the way, I was so traumatized by what had happened with my brother that I actually prefered taking off my clothes in front of and for strange men to the prospect of getting dressed up and going on a proper job interview, let alone working a normal job.  If I had successfully avoided the extreme trauma of what happened with my brother, I would have also avoided the extreme trauma of stripping but I walked right into both as if they were nothing.  I suspect this happens a lot.  And although it felt like a lot longer, it was only a year — one year! — between all of that and when I met my would-be boyfriend who I ended up following literally into the eye of a hurricane.  One fucking trauma after another, after another.  And so it goes.

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Below are 3 videos I have embedded here before but I think they are worth rewatching in the context of trauma, specifically medical trauma in the context of serious chronic illnesses like Crohn’s that are largely untreatable and both incurable and progressive.  What risks are women taking when they leave their health in the hands of misogynistic sadistic capitalist patriarchal medicine which delights in undermining, controlling and damaging women on its best day, and how does the resulting trauma affect and continue to affect our lives?  In the case of chronic illness, how does ongoing medical trauma itself impact our chronic conditions and overall physical and mental health where we are often made worse by painful, toxic and dangerous treatments necessitating even more treatment — and more trauma — that only causes more side effects and so on?

And is there anything, even a little bit that any of us can do to avoid any of this?  Is there?  Maybe.  And it is absolutely worth thinking about, seeing how deadly serious all of this is and how fucked up and sick trauma can make us.  At the very least, it certainly doesn’t help.  Where I am now, facing looming homelessness as a seriously chronically ill woman in capitalism and patriarchy with no familial or other social and financial support is hell, pure hell, and I wish like hell that I had done something, anything, to avoid it.  Maybe I was born with Crohn’s and would’ve ended up sick anyway, maybe I was always sick and didn’t know it, but maybe I could’ve put off the inevitable a bit longer, maybe I could’ve worked for 10 years as an attorney instead of 6, and maybe that would’ve made a difference.  Maybe I should’ve moved to a cannabis legal state immediately following my diagnosis instead of submitting to medicalized torture for 2 years first.  Maybe.  Maybe.  It’s hard to not have regret when pretty much anything would’ve been better than this.

Does anyone have anything to say about trauma or medical trauma, or avoiding trauma when and where we can?  Please feel free to comment below.

 

12 thoughts on “You Can’t “Outsmart” Trauma. That’s Actually Not How Trauma Works. Or, What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Traumatized and Increasingly Unable to Function.

  1. “but I walked right into both as if they were nothing.”

    Something about it might be (for some) a pride thing. A pride that has been twisted 180 degrees from where it would naturally be. We learn to walk into trauma because we’ve been told it’s the “brave” thing to do (brave by male definition). We hear stories of soldiers running into battle, firefighters running into the flames. We never hear about the brave woman who recognizes her own worth and has the courage to walk away. We are never allowed to know the bravery of valuing ourselves enough to say “no” to so many situations (that our intuition is screaming like hell at us to avoid). Nope, we MUST “bravely” (aka foolishly) walk right into danger. Because we are suppose to be Super Woman, right? And our goodness and purity will keep us safe, right?

    “Rational” thinking does it to us too. Men are “rational”, and we are taught to think like them. We constantly try to rationalize situations that (like I said above) our sophisticated subconscious instinct has evolved a sharp sense of danger about. But no….we can’t trust our “crazy”, “irrational” survival instincts now can we? That wouldn’t benefit men now would it? Women looking out for themselves…pfft, men certainly don’t want that.

    Something else that comes to mind, Guilt. The guilt that male culture calculatedly conditions into us becomes a second nature. We learn to feel (on an existential level) that it is our Duty to carry the burdens and suffering of others, even if, in all of our powerlessness, we simply bare witness and do the emotional labor.

    Also, in my years working with children, and as an empath noticing the subliminal behavioral patterning in others…… When we feel that danger(trauma) is inevitable (as patriarchal environments make it so) we find that in the very least we can feel a sense of “control” when we “choose” to step into the fire. We “choose” to reenact our trauma. It’s actually a pseudo-control. An illusion. A delusion. A Strange twist of the mind….the twin sister of masochism, in which the mind tells itself that it “wants this”, and then we feel a flimsy and ephemeral “strength”…..but it feels better than truth. It feels better than being present with our experiences of being powerless, confused, trapped, and victimized.

    But yes. How can we have made any other choice? Hindsight is a bastard. We “choose” as best we can at any given moment, with whatever information we have at the time….. including traumatic information (traumatic patterning).

    Yes, you saying it so pointedly. “they do not react with strong emotion or decisive action when they should and they consistently over-react to everything else when they shouldn’t. ”

    Men’s trauma systems break our fight-or-flight mechanism, causing it to activate in trivial situations. And then also, to NOT active in the situations that are ACTUALLY dangerous. It’s a huge WTF, for me, but then of course it make sense. It is precisely designed to be so, because it benefits men, the parasites who exploit our every facet of existence. It benefits men that women don’t fight when we should, or run when we should. It benefits men that women and girls neurotically channel our fear, angst and RAGE into trivial bullshit. I was just thinking this earlier today while I was jogging. When I jog, I often find my rage bubbling up and I fantasize about being violent in ways that I have never even approximated in real life. I then thought about all the stories I’ve heard of women who say that after they were molested or raped as girls, that they got “really into sports”. Sports……all the rage that girls and women have about what men do to us……being redirected into running around, kicking and throwing balls, and trying to “beat” other women.

    With every passing day, I am more convinced that the only appropriate way to deal with rage is to direct it at it’s source.

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  2. Hi sinbigger, thank you for your comment! I think you are exactly right about the fight/flight thing being totally backwards and hijacked now. Since I have been sick it has been mind boggling to realize what people (well, women) get upset about and what they don’t. They don’t think being chronically ill and facing homelessness is serious or important enough to spend any time thinking about or resources trying to avoid. It did not send off alarm bells early like, wow, that’s totally where you are headed, we need to do everything possible IMMEDIATELY AND FOR AS LONG AS IT TAKES to avoid that outcome. Even if they were doing it for themselves, to “save” me because it would be inconvenient and traumatic FOR THEM if I died (which it would BTW regardless of how they feel about me) they chose to ignore it for 3 years and hope it went away. An incurable progressive illness! Those do not “go away.” And now that the situation has become so dire, what they choose to get upset about is that helping me will cause a now 4-year old to not have enough money for college in 20 years (my sister’s response) and helping me will cause cosmetic home renovations to be delayed (that from my mom). As if burying a second child or a second sibling wouldn’t be worse (they also apparently think burying me would be free. Or is an unmarked pauper’s grave fine with them? Would they even travel to see the body? That costs money too). What the fuck.

    For my part, I now know what’s important and what really isn’t worth getting upset about. Having bad credit helps. Middle class people are really held hostage by their fucking credit scores! Like, this is a real thing, and it really is traumatic to be coerced that way where middle class people have “needs” that they cannot afford without credit. They think living in a trailer in a trailer park would be the worst thing in the world, and if they are still trying to pretend to be middle class, it wouldn’t be good for their image that’s for sure. The thought of being chronically ill and homeless seems to them like it will never happen or something, so it’s not actually worse than anything, or worth getting upset about, it’s just not real or something. It’s just bizarre. Now that I have nothing, all I want is a home with my cats. I’m not a hostage anymore, and things are still frightening, but…simpler maybe? Logical? IDK. It’s just so bizarre.

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  3. Rather than trauma, this post got me thinking about avoidance. Is it even possible, or is it always an illusion? I’ve been accused of being avoidant (dropping out of high school, dropping out of college, quitting jobs, moving cross country, moving cross country again, living alone, etc.) but every decision was, like you said, to avoid some trauma. And every decision managed to lead me into some OTHER trauma.

    Obvi my perspective on this is really limited (I feel weird commenting on it since I don’t know you and it must be a very personal thing) but I can imagine an alternate timeline where you are writing about how you regret not going back to comfort your brother. You might consider yourself cowardly for it, even though it would have been well within your rights.

    My gut is that freeing your brother would have been ‘impossible’ in the same way that your current situation is impossible.

    So there are our options: trauma, cowardice, or the impossible.

    Our convo through emails made me think- is “cowardice” women’s major flaw? I mean, is that the secret… that men are evil and women are cowardly? The more I sit with it the more it seems obvious.

    I might write more later. I’m thinking about how the effects of our trauma is so often thrown in women’s faces. Your ‘trauma bonding’ series covered a lot of that. Maybe I’m doing the same thing by calling women cowards, but I feel like there’s a subtle difference between cowardly and avoidant. I’m cool with avoidant. Avoidant = staying celibate or getting an abortion, Cowardly = birthing a child and subjecting it to the machinations of this hell culture.

    That was more than I wanted to say publicly, but I’m leaving it. 😉

    “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” –LOL! What a joke.

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  4. Hi Nat, thanks for your reply! I know, you’re right about it being impossible to avoid. I can’t even say I regret getting with my last boyfriend because he saved me not once but twice from homelessness. Once when we graduated from law school, and once after the hurricane. Of course, I was only in the hurricane in the first place because of him. Women’s homelessness is a huge problem and it’s no joke. It’s at the root of why we get with men if we are honest. Because the nuclear family is so awful and oppressive to women and does not provide a home. More like, the “home” of the nuclear family, for women, is a temporary place to be abused before you find a man to take you off your family’s hands. We are nothing but a burden they need to unload and that’s exactly how so many of us are treated isn’t it? Why don’t women have homes? It’s like moving a mountain just to get a crappy apartment (or a shitty used trailer) of our own and then how to keep it when we aren’t allowed to accumulate anything? Moving mountains is impossible so the simile is apt.

    Maybe the only traumas that are possible to avoid are the smaller ones, but that’s not nothing because they do add up. So maybe causal sex and casual dating should be avoided? That’s something to think about, except if the plan or just the stark reality is to find a man to keep you from being homeless, the game has changed a bit recently especially for young women now. Sex is expected before you are even in a casual relationship! You are “demi sexual” if you don’t fuck literally everyone and use any discernment at all. Maybe tattoos and piercings should be avoided? Is that literally the only pain that’s optional for us while the rest is required? I don’t know. If you want to reliably avoid the “small” things I’ve mentioned here, you almost need to be a member of a religious cult! No trauma there for women! Haha!

    I do think women are cowards, actually. And that men are evil. So yes, I think you are onto something there. How to not be a coward though, and how to avoid the fallout from being brave? To be honest, I don’t think this conversation is even possible to fully flesh out without talking about suicide, and most people aren’t willing to go there. What I am getting at is drawing lines in the sand. Are we willing to draw bright lines or not? If not, why not? It’s not a good idea to talk about suicide in public spaces if it’s safe to talk about it at all. So I think I will leave it at that as food for thought. I will add that it’s not a taboo subject in every culture though so it’s not inherently problematic to talk about or consider. So pearl clutching is really not an objectively reasonable response to me or anyone casually mentioning it. It’s cultural, that’s all, where the internet is global. I’m just saying.

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  5. Also, I would like to clarify WRT my brother, I might’ve regretted not being there for him at the end, and it might not’ve been the “right” thing to do to have abandoned him early on along with abandoning the rest of my family. But I don’t think it would’ve been TRAUMATIC to not be there. I don’t think that’s how trauma works on the brain or body. Mere regret or missing out on life experiences doesn’t cause actual trauma, I don’t think. I think we need to seriously think about this, about what actual trauma is and isn’t, and then start avoiding it.

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  6. there’s so much i want to say about trauma, but its hard to organize my thoughts thanks to a surplus of traumatic events and how that permanently alters the brain- but hey, it seems like we are at least “allowed” to accumulate suffering, stress, damage, disease and loss…? yay, patriarchal generosity at its finest! not to mention trauma is generational and i’m certain all the females of my line have been domestic slaves with various health issues pushed aside and ignored. yay for inheritances too.

    anywho, my dad had always said the family motto is “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. so, it took me 8 years to admit i was raped at college, and not just a lazy quitter and waster of precious family funds. i don’t blame myself…much…but there’s plenty of stupid things/ppl i should have avoided that made me an exciting target to predators but i prob just sped up the inevitable. all my *near death strength training* has done nothing but make me sick, disabled, depressed, anxious, suicidal, and annoying to the ppl i depend on so i have to hide it or be homeless.

    after disassociating for several years, i then started dating and living with guys i met on the internet. (hahaha, yeah. there’s that illusion of pseudo control.) a few days after moving to maui with an accused rapist, i got really sick. the more i had to be hospitalized and see drs the more he cheated and drank and then totally abandoned me during a week long power outage and tropical storm. i finally left after figuring out he’s a sociopath but i’m so fucking dumb i went back again for the healthcare/drs and thought we could live as platonic roommates. sighs. there’s so many more instances of playing with the patterns of trauma and trying to have that pseudo control. but the biggest joke is that i was a femdom- aka dominatrix. I’ve been paid big money to do sadistic things to shitty men (tiny silver lining) and be in a position of total intimidation and control yet i still can’t stand to make eye contact for long even with ppl i know well. it’s just “too much”.

    i agree that men are evil, selfish parasites, but if women were cowards the human race would not be here. i actually think its easier to be brave when you’re ignorant. i think flipping out over little stupid things is all women are allowed to do and then we villify them for being petty when they are domesticated livestock. i think constant trauma and abuse are meant to domesticate and disassociate the 99% and it’s intentional social engineering/ domestic terrorism. but i’ve been depressed and suicidal from a young age, so i’m only now realizing it’s a normal reaction to such a fucked up world… but i still feel like i am missing part of the big picture bc im too close to it and biased by my own trauma. it makes me hate myself even more since i went to college for forensic science and had a photographic memory.

    i’ve actually been wanting to message you privately, to ask about your take on rape culture, but didn’t bc you’ve already written a lot about it and i agree with everything you’ve said. you’ve even written about obsessing “on the why” of things when they are too hard to accept at face value. so i feel like i should shut up about it bc its obviously rape culture and patriarchy that perpetuates and ignores(?) the epidemic of assault on women, but i really don’t get why, for example, the prison industrial complex, courts, states and fed aren’t interested in making money off rapists by having a huge new influx of convict$? the pharmaceutical and psychiatry industries seem to be doing very well pathologizing trauma and making money off everyone’s problems without fixing them…

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  7. Hi Lady Love, thanks for commenting! There’s a lot to respond to there. You’re right that the only thing women are allowed to accumulate are traumas and damage. I think my entire line has also been female domestic slaves with ignored health problems. Crohn’s is genetic and I remember my mom’s mom having “bathroom issues” and now that I know how hellish Crohn’s really is, I am horrified to think that she lived for any length of time suffering from it without relief. No wonder everyone thought she was a bitch! I admire her restraint for not killing us all, starting with her husband. The unrelenting agony of untreated Crohn’s is nothing I ever could’ve imagined before it happened to me. Actually, I’m not certain women’s restraint is admirable. I got that line from an old episode of Roseanne where she was reading about a woman who stabbed her husband 48 times. LOL. Asked to comment on the news story, Roseanne said she admired her restraint. It was a funny line, but what if she had said she was sick of women holding back? Same idea but sounds completely different when you say it like that. The latter might tend to give women ideas.

    “Coward” is a loaded word, so I am not beholden to the word but I’m not so sure women’s “bravery” is what has kept the human race going. TBH it makes sense if women’s cowardice IS in fact what has kept the human race alive when for one thing it’s morally the wrong thing to have done especially recently and especially white women and white people. I won’t comment on whether indigenous people should exist or not. They have more of a right than colonial whites do I suppose. Perhaps indigenous women can comment on whether or not they think it’s been worth it. What if the observed female tendency to “back off” when threatened is what has kept the human race going considering what men do when women challenge them: they go insane and become insanely violent. Is that not cowardice on women’s part, even if the reason they back off is so men don’t kill their kids? Why would they want their kids to live in such a fucked up culture? I have never understood that! Is this a relatively recent development or have women always done this shit? The closest I have gotten to understanding that is now that I have cats, all I want to do is spend time with them, and if they are happy I am happy. That is literally all I need now. Is that how women feel about their kids? If so, I would still have to object because kids are repellent repulsive creatures, especially boys. If that is a female response, it is misfiring drastically if they are using it to protect kids because kids are not worth protecting or bonding with that way IMO. Animals might be. A way of life would be worth defending but how is “backing down” and “defending” the same thing? If they were brave wouldn’t they kill whoever was threatening them instead of backing down? None of it makes sense, but I have yet to see anything resembling bravery from most women I know or have seen or am aware of. Bravery meaning principled and decisive action I suppose, rather than just some irrational lizard brain that will do anything to survive no matter what hellish conditions they are facing.

    I have realized much to my dismay that I have something of a lizard brain thing happening too, where I am not 100% sure what I would do if I were faced with (for example) being homeless with a serious chronic illness. I always thought I knew, but now that it’s looking like it may actually happen, will I actually try to survive anyway? Jesus what the actual fuck! I am really disappointed in myself and really, really scared now that I’ve experienced this lizard brain shit firsthand. This “survival instinct” thing is a real bitch. What the fuck. Anyway that’s it for now. I may respond more to your comment later. Thanks for reading!

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  8. Your clarification gave me a lot to think about. Trauma as a physical response distinct from the feelings that might have caused it- fear, sadness, humiliation, pain. Those are what we can’t avoid, does that mean we can’t avoid trauma?

    I feel like there’s some connection between trauma as physical response – lizard brain – women “walking right into it.” I mean, men have written for centuries about women’s “masochistic nature.” They were observing SOMETHING, even if it isn’t what they think. It’s neither our inherent nature nor just a desensitization, but more like a kind of addiction.

    That’s why they make sure to fuck us up early, as kids, it gets the whole train going. But I’m covering old ground.

    What I’m saying is- maybe it’s moot to ask if we CAN avoid trauma, when in general women don’t want to. I feel like that’s the brick that’s been beating me in the face since I first read the word ‘feminist.’ Or since I was born. Yo.

    I laughed out loud at your comment about your cats. I’m the same with my pets, and yes boy children are little maggots. I do feel that if I could raise a girl child the same way I care for my animals- giving her the best of everything, watching her grow strong and surprise me with her unique “self”ness everyday, I’d probably love that. But that is SO FAR from what motherhood is in this universe. Maybe the draw of what “could be” is just too strong for most people. I don’t just mean when deciding to get pregnant, because that isn’t usually even a choice, I mean deciding to live each day. To continue the species. It always “could” work out.

    That doesn’t really explain what stops us from stabbing our abusers though, so we’re back at the cowardice idea. LOL@ the Rosseanne quote!

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  9. Hi Nat. I think part of what makes traumatic things “traumatic” is the base injustice we face where we are not allowed to kill our oppressors. Is rape really so traumatizing especially when women have transactional and other unwanted intercourse all the time anyway? Or is it the aftermath that’s so traumatizing when we realize that there’s nothing we can do about it? Rape victims consistently report that they are re-traumatized or re-raped by the justice system afterwards. They seem to be identifying an additional and separate trauma but I have never seen it compared directly with the initial trauma of the rape. Is it worse? Different? What would change if rape victims were allowed to kill our rapists or if our families, friends or whatever were allowed to pursue vigilante justice on our behalves which is the only justice rape victims will ever get? Maybe the gaslighting after the fact is even worse than the rape? Or maybe women hate themselves for not killing the man in the act?

    The injustice of what happened to my brother was probably the worst part of it for me and maybe for him too. Being with someone who is dying of congestive heart failure isn’t inherently traumatic, I don’t think. The gaslighting was intense and prolonged in his case, where true justice would have included killing his tormenters, or at least being able to extract him from the situation. But where instead we were forced to “love” our parents and worship the Gods of patriarchal medicine who all kept torturing him and sadistically “saving” him from the quick and painless natural death which was his birthright I suppose, having been born with a serious congenital heart defect that was not supposed to be survivable. And then in between medical crises he was treated very unfairly as well where his limitations were not respected. Now that I am sick myself I totally understand what that is like, and how horrible it is that people do not understand that you are indeed limited in between crises. It’s not the same thing as a healthy person being sick sometimes. More gaslighting and more injustice, and more othering. Is that what is so traumatic about some traumas? Othering is actually very traumatic because it’s basically Them telling you that your needs don’t matter, that you are completely disposable like a Kleenex or cheap appliance, and that they don’t care if you die, and then they proceed to try to kill you. Of course, this is different than how most men experience trauma.

    Trauma also requires a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm, I think. But we know that “vicarious trauma” is real where we know that people in the helping professions (women mostly) who deal with severely traumatized clients end up exhibiting signs of PTSD themselves even though they weren’t in any immediate physical danger themselves. So how can both things be true/accepted and why are “onlookers” ever traumatized? Maybe you start to see through the facade and realize how perilous your own position is when you see how easily things happen to other people who are basically just like you? Maybe this is traumatic where you realize you actually are in extreme danger yourself even though you never really knew it, or you did sense it but were constantly gaslighted about things being “ok” and you being “safe” when you could sense the opposite? I became severely traumatized when I worked at an anti-poverty nonprofit and saw what particularly women went through and how little social and financial support there was available to women who desperately needed it. I was only ever a paycheck or two (or a serious injury or illness) away from being where they were and I always knew that, but seeing how bad the bottom really was terrified me. All my fears were completely validated and I realized I had been lied to that I was safe and that everything was ok, or even that “good things happen to good people.” Haha! None of that shit is true. What is true is that the bottom, at least in the USA, is a horrific place for women and we are all in extreme danger all the time. So yes, these “emotions” you mention that are related to trauma, humiliation, fear, pain etc may not be traumatic in themselves, but when you have to keep smiling and keep going humiliation after humiliation you do start to realize how fucked you really are, and the kind of physical danger you are really in. It’s orders of magnitude worse than stepping off a curb and almost getting hit by a car, even though that might be a more obvious immediate physical danger that would probably be traumatic. What do you think? It’s a bit more complicated than we have been led to believe I think.

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  10. Also, I have also had the thought that raising kids should be like caring for cats, and that if raising kids were like raising cats it might not be so bad for either the kids or the mother. I have really enjoyed seeing my cats grow and change and letting them come and go as they please, and only interfering if there is something really wrong. That’s how it should be I think. There is no judging them for making bad choices, or disliking their personalities or politics or friends or any of that alienating shit that raising kids entails. You do not have to socialize cats, you are not responsible for breaking them the way mothers are responsible for breaking their kids, especially girl children. You do not want your cats broken period! It’s been a really beautiful experience and yes it is “as it should be” or “what could be” that never pans out with children. And seeing Mama raise Chili, as a mother and baby outside patriarchy has been really amazing. Like when Mama didn’t want to nurse Chili anymore but Chili still wanted to nurse even though she was practically grown, Mama would kick her in the head if she tried to latch on. That’s the way it should be I think. Neither one of them were traumatized or alienated from each other when that happened, it was just a natural transition. They still sleep together and groom each other, Mama is still obviously the mother and grooms Chili more and more vigorously than Chili grooms her, and then they fight and wrestle like equals. They are so close and yet separate also. It’s just so beautiful and natural. I am so glad I got to experience that.

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  11. My take: There are simple physical traumas. Example, I really did get hit by a car as I stepped off a curb. I had the right of way. My injuries weren’t too bad, only a broken leg. After that, every time I went to step off a curb, I would have a startle response if I caught sight of a car in my peripheral vision, even if car was far off. A physical reaction to a physical thing. A medical trauma, in a way, but the startle response went away after a year or two. I didn’t feel emotionally traumatized by that event, in fact, I felt lucky to be alive and happy. But the trauma was burned onto my brain in some ways that later faded.

    But then there was a different kind of medical trauma with a dentist who was mean and terrified me when I was a young child and after decades, I’m still extremely phobic of dentists. That dentist was male and yelled a lot, and I only go to women dentists with kind voices now, but that doesn’t stop the phobia. Ha, ha, I did bite his finger, hard, after a couple of visits. Braver than I have been as an adult in response to later medical mistreatment. So, yes, being brave in response to trauma does not stop the trauma from leaving it’s mark.

    I’m glad for the cats in your life and love how you describe them/you. At some level I never, ever can understand the evil/cruelty in the world, when life can be pretty much like you describe. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it’s there. I had a great-aunt who wouldn’t set foot in a hospital and only very rarely went to a doctor. She had a number of serious conditions and a lot of home remedies. She was very introverted and also had cats. She lived pretty long. I no longer see her as a “strange hermit” which is what I was told as a child. I believe she wanted to live life on her own terms and thinking of what you wrote here, it’s likely she wanted to avoid trauma.

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  12. Hi Bluejay, thanks for your comment! I’m sorry you got hit by a car omg! And you can actually die from a broken leg (esp a femur break) so I am glad you feel like your injuries weren’t that bad and that the startle response went away. That’s really interesting isn’t it? And a useful distinction it sounds like: simple physical trauma versus more complex emotional traumas, or things that include both? It’s funny that you mention your dentist. I remember talking to childhood friends about the dentist and them bragging that they bit him haha. My own childhood dentist threatened to send us to a “little kid dentist” if we ever bit him and we for some reason thought that was a very serious threat. Even though that’s probably where we belonged since his instruments and the bitewing Xray films were too big for our mouths and were very painful and therefore probably traumatizing because of the pain. Xray films, if they are the correct size, are not supposed to hurt. Shaming children for not wanting to be in pain. Jesus.

    I keep noticing more and more how unfairly maligned “crazy cat women” really are. They are really severely hated aren’t they? Because they prefer the peaceful company of beautiful, self-sufficient cats to the chaotic presence men or children or dogs? And yes, so-called shut-ins could just be protecting themselves from trauma, and even if that wasn’t their intent that is what they would achieve in practice if they avoided men and male culture which is all there is when you leave the relative sanctuary of your home. That is absolutely not allowed.

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