So, what led to the bus? Two things: 1. Loss of identity. 2. Emotional damage.
I have a really hard time calling anything that has happened to me abuse. I do not feel like an abused person. I have (sadly) known people who have been abused, and I do not think for an instant that anything in my life comes remotely close to their experiences; my small difficulties are not on the same planet as true pain and suffering.
Yes, I know better than this. You don’t order oppressions; you don’t pit victims against one another to determine who is worse off. Still, I cannot seem to afford myself the kindness of saying yes, there are things in my life that that caused me pain, yes, I’m still reeling, and no, that does not make me weak, or demanding, or ungrateful. That makes me human.
Instead of abuse, I call the cause of my wounds trauma, mostly. For me, the difference is intention. Abuse is deliberate; an abuser wants to hurt, goes out of their way to do damage. Trauma is passive, careless. The wounds are real, but they are accidental. Nobody meant any harm. While that is a much kinder (and in my case, more realistic) view, the lack of intention makes it difficult for me to understand and make peace with my own history. If nobody meant to hurt me, how can I claim the damage and its effects? If I do own my feelings, how do I do that without throwing somebody else under the bus? Where do all these questions intersect?
They intersect in the pit of my stomach.
So, trauma. I’m in the process of unraveling two interactions that have shaped my life, that guide how I interact with other humans. I was born into the first: my mother lived with an undiagnosed mental illness (a form of PTSD brought on by real abuse) until I was a teenager. This left her unpredictable; she couldn’t provide the unconditional love and care that infants need. Her intention was all good, but she had to heal herself before she could care for anyone else, and you can’t heal yourself if you don’t know that you need it. My mother is among my best friends; I love her, and I know she did the best she could, and I struggle so much with the huge impact this whole situation had on my ability to form bonds and have relationships.
The second trauma was dealt by my ex, and that is the one that I’m learning to call abuse, not because I think he meant to damage me, but because that’s the common term. Though, honestly, in the moment yes, I think he did mean to damage me. You don’t say the things he did unless you want to hurt someone, deeply. So yes, it was abuse. And yes, I hate calling it that because I know how very easy I had it; I don’t feel like I have a right to those words, but maybe that’s part of the legacy of abuse. Super healthy, that.
They’re deeply connected, and they’re slowly coaxing each other out of me. As I remember things from my marriage, bad moments I’d tamped down so as to keep the peace, I also remember moments from my youth, nothing little moments that managed to cut me all the way to the core. Ultimately I’ll figure it out, but it will take time. And the courage to speak. We’ll see.
I went into the woods again this weekend, just me. It was beautiful; I always forget how much I like being alone outside, how it’s going back into the city that brings on feelings of loneliness. I walked for three hours and then I got the river all to myself before walking back.