I wish I had remembered this note existed when I was in graduate school and we were learning about trauma. When reading through this I found so many things I was struggling with relate to known psychological ramifications of attachment issues and trauma. I hope this is useful to those of you following this site to understand child abuse, foster care and trauma. I wrote this at age 22. I remember writing it while listening to Avenged Sevenfold’s Seize the day, and balling my eyes out.
For those of you following this blog for the diary entries from my time in foster care, there are more coming. It takes a while to type them up.
(This note is basically a mix of revelation, reminiscence, remediation, and confession. This note is written so that I can no longer hide behind the past but take control of myself and life.)
Within the last decade of my life final weeks of March have always brought upon new unexpected hardships or events. These occurrences, in themselves, have always been powerful enough to place me in a state of emotional turmoil which would throw my life, temporarily, into disarray. This March, especially the events of this last two weeks, has once again continued the pattern of My Ides of March. The difference, this time around, is that while I find myself mentally sorting through the current issues I have somehow escaped the disorder which typically follows.
In the past I have written notes about my plans or frustrations on events which have taken place on a social and shallow lever. Tonight I sit here ready, for the first time in my life, to write not about an issue which can be worked through and solved, but of my true self and internal struggles. There is much I want to say, this note is more for my own personal healing and growth than anything else. In my life I have come to see that everything I have experienced, no matter how horrific or trivial, became a tool which I could use later in life to not only help another but my self as well.
The 24th of this month marked the 10 year anniversary of the day I entered into the foster care system. The 28th of this month marked the 5 year anniversary of being a completely independent being with no familial system to rely upon for survival, comfort, or to share my life’s events with. In four days I will turn 23. I find it strange that in all the years before this one the weeks leading up to this time always filled me with anxiety, fear, and depression. I counted down the days to the 24th in the same manner in which a person counts down the days before a major surgery. This year the 24th came and went without my knowledge, it was not until yesterday that I realized it had passed. I do not mourn this loss of remembrance at all. Looking at the event from a psychological standpoint I think I have finally learned to let go of my past and live now.
During the course of my life I have come to find that I rarely make sense to someone be it by means of verbal communication, or writing. When looking at it from the verbal aspect I know that this is partially due to the fact that I speak at an accelerated rate which is hard for many to follow. The other reason for my lack of ability to properly communicate, a flaw which many of you have pointed out, is caused by my constant changing of topics, and minimal (if no) explanation when one was needed. I have blamed this on my overactive brain, dyslexia, and ADD. In truth I have always been conscious of my fast speech and constant subject switching. 90% of the time it has been intentional. Due to past conditioning, as well as internal walls, whenever a subject is broached which touches on my core I deliberately speed up my rate of speech so to cover prevent my true emotions from making an appearance in my voice. The erratic speech patterns and lack of explanation has always been my way of only touching the outer rim of the subject so that the emotions within me would not have a chance to show or break.
Over the last six months people have come into my life, both new and ones which I had not spoken to for years. During this time many internal issues, which I thought were gone and buried, have resurfaced. At first I continued on my old pattern of avoidance, but two months ago I decided I did not have the strength to run anymore. There are 3 main lessons which I have learned during these last two months. Those being:
- In the past I have always visualized my life as that of me standing on a moving boxcar. As the train rolled down the tracks people, seeing me sitting at the open door of the car, would walk along side the train for a while asking me questions, sharing a part of themselves and sometimes asking as to myself in return. Once the train moved beyond their point of comfort, carrying me to where I am destined, they would stop in their track with me. They would either leave abruptly, without warning by turning their backs, casually with both they and I leaving on a good note, or slowly with tears and frustration over loosing the bond which we had made. On very rare occasions someone would jump into the boxcar with me and ride for a while. We would experience these encounters with others together, share our life goals and plans, but eventually the time would come where we would come upon a town in which they wanted to stay and I was then left alone to continue on my track. I went on, ‘knowing,’ I would never see them again and thus clung to any thing they left behind (photographs, necklaces), as a comfort and reminder of my experience with them.
This view on my social existence served me well as a child (moving from state to state) and as a foster child (moving from family to family, town to town, and eventually state) in that it kept me from becoming overly attached. While it served its purpose as a method of survival, it has stunted my relational growth as an adult. When looking back over the last few years I see that when those individuals chose to walk along the side of my train, knowing that they would eventually leave kept me from experiencing our temporary relationship for all the benefits it presented. Rather than use that short amount of time getting to know the person and enjoy our time together, I kept them at a distance. I would listen to their stories, but never offer any of my own. If they would try to know me I would talk about the bird I saw that morning, or ask them if they should turn back now since they were getting so far from home.
As if this were not bad enough when those few individuals finally did jump into the boxcar with me I allowed myself the illusion that they would never leave. It would be them and I on a journey till the end. When the time came for them to go I would cling to them, and even consider jumping off at their stop. In the end the partings resulted in a messy break.
In the last two months my boxcar existence has changed. Rather than existing as an entity on a moving train, I have become stable in my own existence. I am no longer in search of my constant, I am my constant. People no longer walk beside my train; they walk into my life/house. Some stand outside the door and chat for a bit, others enter in and sit for a while. In both cases the individuals leave, but I leave my door open knowing that new people will soon be at it, and the others may one day return. I have learned to experience my time with them, not with the end in sight, or by ignoring the inevitable parting, but by enjoying the moments I have with them WHILE I am having them.
- (Still using the boxcar reference.) There have been rare occasions in which I became attached to the walker, or fellow rider and when certain conversations should have been left off or approached when comfort levels were better I, afraid that they would leave, would pour out emotion, or say things less tactfully due to the fear of never being able to say them.
This latter issue was more due to the death of multiple friends during the course of my life. Whenever someone dies it is common to wish you had said things you had not. My problem came down to the loss of three individuals with whom relations were strained, and I was stubborn in my argument, when they passed. An example would be my friend Megan from HS. In 2002 she was supposed to go to Great America with me and two other friends. A few days before the trip she took the side, in a disagreement, between a girl I disliked and myself, on an issue. In my adolescent anger I told her that she could not come with me on my trip to America. While I was enjoying the rollercoaster’s with Rachel and Gina, Megan and her boyfriend, (my neighbor Chris), and her sister decided to drive to Door County to visit her mother. They died in a car wreck.
While the guilt over this tragedy ate away at me for multiple years my behaviors towards others did as well. I was no longer able to leave any friend or acquaintance with tension between us. My fear has always been that we would walk away in anger, not hate, and then death would steal them away before I could apologize, or with them thinking I hated them. Worse, I did not want my last memory to be of them hating me.
Because of this I became impatient in nature. Whenever stress occurred in a friendship, rather than giving it time to resolve, and let our emotions cool, I would cave and apologize. I wanted to do whatever I could to make the situation better then, not later. I would also keep friends, and stayed in relationships I should not have, because I was scared that when I left I would find I had not assessed the situation correctly and then they would die before I could make things right again.
In the last two months my perception on this has changed. I still live with the knowledge that every moment may be the last. What it has come down to is my wondering why I didn’t learn to treat everything like it was the last time. My greatest regret has been how much I believed in the future. When looking at the causes of the tensions and argument that arose in my friendships they were always over minimal things such as politics, liking the same guy, etc. In those cases I have learned to let go of those topics as a whole. I will no longer let topics, or trivial relations cause turmoil in my friendships. My new view also changes things on the relationship front. In the past I have had my share of abusive boyfriends. Fear of loosing the ‘connection” we did have, as well as loosing them for the reasons listed in this section I stayed longer than I should. I lived with the “he will change,” idea that so many girls follow. In my new view, treating every moment as the last time I will no longer stay in a negative situation like the ones I had in the past. I do not want my last moment on this earth to be spent in an unhappy relationship.
Wow, k enough of the morbid.
I want to clarify one thing before I move on though. Living every moment like it is the last, for me, does not mean partying it up and living in a constant state of hyper activity. It means learning to experience every moment to its fullest. Feel the sun on my face as I walk to class, notice the birds in the sky, the color of the clouds, everything.
- The third lesson/philosophy I have learned encompasses two ideas.
I have spent my life hiding from life. Due to fear of loss I never become overly involved. I would participate, but as an observer, recording but never fully involved.
The fact is no one can protect themselves from sadness without also protecting themselves from happiness. By remaining on the outside I did not experience the pain of things as much as I could have had I been involved, but I also never fully experienced the happiness that was there if I had only partook.
In my life I have lied, manipulated, concealed, fabricated, broken promises and related things told to me in confidence. I have not been perfect. In the past I carried these ‘sins’ around on my back. My guilt kept me from living in the present but constantly reliving the past. No more. I no longer regret the mistakes I have made. The mistakes I have made have become dead to me. I can make up for them by not repeating them now. I can not however take back the things I never did. So many opportunities, chances, gifts have been offered to me which I passed up because of fears, and walls. (Relate to one and 2).
I allowed myself to get caught up in the superficial of life, the highs and lows of emotion make a person feel like things matter, but they are nothing. Being reliable, being good, that is something.
Realizing how long this note is becoming, and with so much left to say I will try to shorten things down to the point. The following are the other revelations I have come to.
I have always tried to live my life under the wisdom “It is better to loose then never to have had.” While I agree with this opinion I have found that my core issue has not been in the loss of friendships or relationships. My problem has been in the fact that I lost something which I never had. I, quite honestly, was born into a family that did not want me. Because of this I have never in my life had the familial bonds which so many take for granted. When summer vacation comes, or the holidays, I truly go home to myself. I have been lucky enough to have friends include me in their family celebrations, but no matter how welcoming they have been their family traditions are different than what I grew up around and thus I always feel on the outside. When things in my life fall apart, or when they are going well I have myself to cheer me on. I am not saying this to discount all the wonderful friends and mentors that I have had over the last few years. What I am attempting to relate is that I have found that the hole I feel inside is the knowledge that your/their help has shown me. I did not know that I lacked love/support/stability until I saw your offering of it.
K, it is 2:55am so I apologize if I make less sense
Over the last few months I have also found myself at a crossroads as to what to do with my life once college is over. My confusion led me to believe that I did not know myself or my own desires. The truths I have come to is that my possibilities are the following:
- To give you a more concrete explanation of the first issue is to tell you what I have hard proof of. Every single personality test I have taken in my life has shown me equally balances btwn the personality types. A simple test which I can explain was one in which four types of personalities (extrovert, introvert, intuitive, logistically (science and such) were measured. My scores on each of them only differed by 1 or two points. In high school and recently I took those career tests in order to give me a better idea of what I should do with my life. Both in high school and now I scored evenly on all areas of occupation.
a. In my life I have never found a task I could not complete or a thing I could not learn. I truly am a jack of all trades. At the same time I have never found a task which I have felt the need to master. Over the course of mdl school and HS I learned to play 9 wind instruments. I never mastered any of them though; it was not that I became bored with them. What would happen is I would move through the lessons and suddenly think, you know I like the sound of the trumpet. I want to learn that one too. I have always wanted to know and experience everything; this is not the same as growing bored with and moving on.
b. As a child I escaped the abuse from my parents as well as the taunts from kids in school by retreating into books. Stories, science, history, all of those things were able to sweep me away from the horrific experiences of my youth. Looking at it psychologically my obsession with education is most likely the factor that kept me sane. By escaping I did not end up as emotionally and cognitively impaired as the majority of children do who experienced what I did.
Another part to this is that my parents were huge on education. They raised my siblings and me to believe that we were soldiers and our duty was to be more knowledgeable and stronger than all others. Only through that could we be successful in life. Without going into too much detail (to save time) it worked. My older brother is a musician who had had quite a few symphonies published, my sister is a model, my younger brother is moving up in ranks in the Guard, and I am somehow completing a double major and triple minor in five years with a hell of a resume to go along with it. At the same time all four of my siblings and I suffer socially. My brothers more so than my sister and I. Our training taught us to use our minds and passions, but not our common sense. We were isolated and due to that our social skills lacked.
c. My passion in life has always been, since the age of 13 when I started sponsoring a child through the Christian Children’s Fund, to better the life of children stuck in deplorable circumstances. I want to work with youth on matters concerning abuse, abnormal psychology, as well as bettering the social system as a whole. The problem is none of the areas involved in what I want to do, are truly involved in what I want to do. I changed my majors so many times because Social Work, while dealing with the youth in some ways, put more of a band aid on a broken arm. In education I would be censured in my ways of helping the children, in psych I am stuck behind a desk and not helping them in their lives. I know what it is I want to do with my life; I just have not found the tools I need to do it.
Anyway, long story short I have sat here over the last few days trying to figure out if
aa. My crossroads is due to the fact that perhaps this educational path was not the one I was meant to take. Education was my only constant and comfort in my life, yet I am dissatisfied with where it has taken me thus far.
bb. Perhaps my problem is that I have been searching for THE right career, and there truly is none for me. Since I am abnormal in thought patterns and ability maybe my career choice will be the same. I have never been able to stay on one focus for long. I am always finding new things that I want to help fix, new social issues which need to be brought to life. What if I never stop thinking and seeing problems in the world I can help, and want to help fix
I have spent my life observing the world, social situations and people. What I have found is what Albert Einstein once said “We are standing in front of a closed box which we cannot open.” The majority of this universe is composed of dark matter. The fragile balance depends upon things we will never be able to see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. Life itself depends on them. What’s real? What isn’t real? Maybe I am not observing and thinking critically at all. (that’s the tired Liz talking, time to wrap up.)
- The reasons for which I held onto things from my past was that while memories with the associated people were painful, they also allowed me to feel like I was still part of the good parts of them and our experience as well.
- I have never been afraid of dying or being hurt. What I have been afraid of is the living. Life is much scarier than death. When a friendship or relationship ends it ends. The left over emotions, while they suck was not the part I feared, what I feared were the bumps in the road along the way. By remaining in my point of observation I was never hurt, but I never lived either. (though I think I covered this earlier.)
- I have found that despite my fears I have always headed through the fire rather than walk away. Whenever I meet new people I am optimistic and slowly transition into realistic. (Strange, I know.) Whenever things get tough I have found that rather than run away to hide I stand tall and let the blows come for me. This began when I was a child with my birth father and has somehow lasted through my childhood. I have come to understand that I would rather burn in the fire than cave and hide because at least by facing the fire I have a chance to some how escape. And even if I didn’t escape feeling pain is better than not feeling at all, isn’t it?
- Through out my childhood thinking is what kept me conscious that I was alive. While enduring beatings from my father I would retreat within my mind and contemplate an individual’s perception of color, think about what a friend was doing, or imagine myself in a different world. While thinking kept me alive in those situations I have found that my over analysis of things (such as those thoughts that led to this note) result more in my own confusion, imbalance, and lack of living than if I just went with the flow. The times in which I have acted on gut and not thought about the “deeper meanings’ behind things in my life have typically been the times in which I ended up happiest and felt the most involved in my own life.
- In all situations in which I have let my emotions completely over come my intellect rather than striking an equal balance neither I, not the person, idea, or object I retaliated against won. For example when my ex (years past) cheated on me I destroyed and threw out all the poetry he had written for me as well as the paintings he had made of me. In the end I still felt miserable, I did not do anything to affect him in a winning way, the only thing that benefited from that emotional outburst was the emotion of anger and destruction. When you let your emotions run wild it is never you that wins, or benefits, only the object used in obtaining your desire in that state gains.
- As of late multiple people have felt the need to project their own self perceptions onto me. This has resulted in the mixed messages of “You are bright and young and stable. Why would you not want to date or be in a relationship.” “You are not ready, you have things to work on, your self to find.” “I look up to you because you are strong, open, kind, and helpful.” “You are too closed off, you need to let ppl in and help others more.” The list goes on. The main thing that I have learned over the last month is that I am who I am at this moment. All of us have an idealized self that we strive for, and never obtain. At 40 I will not be the person I am now, and I will have a different person I want to be. None of us are ‘grown up’ or have ‘fond ourselves’ yet, and in truth we never fully will. We will have a better conception of ourselves, but that will change with time as well.
Life is not made with age steps for where you should be and when. As a friend once told me “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” There is no ideal time. There are things that certain ppl shldnt do, like my birth parents never should have had kids. Introverts should not be sales reps, but otherwise this whole “ready,” and “right time,” thing is a matter of personal conception. You will never know if another is truly “ready,” or have “found themselves” because you are not them. Perhaps you do not think the person has found themselves because the person is not what/who you want them to be.
My final point comes to the re-entrance of two of my birth siblings into my life over the last week and a half. While I had missed my sister greatly over the last three years I have found that her return has had more of a negative affect on me that a positive one. When talking to her I find myself drug back down into the thought patterns of my past, things which I have worked for years to escape. Violence, arrogance, pride, anger, these are just some of the things which I have worked to leave behind. When talking with her I find myself considering her statements that I have become weak and overly middle class socialized. When talking to my birth brother I find myself resorting to methods of argument that I do not agree with.
Talking to my siblings has been good for me in that is has given me a chance to reconnect with my past, acknowledge its existence, and let it go. I will never get any closure out of the past; the recognition of it has been enough. Talking to my sister has also helped me to let go because the lil sister that I have missed so desperately over the last few years no longer exists. The person I talk to has the same core spunk, but her ideals, life style; everything about her is foreign to me. Talking to her and my brother is like dropping myself into the middle of Berlin asking people directions to a coffee shop that doesn’t even exist.
Basically the conversations between my brother and I can be summed up as this. I say “potato”, he says “Ireland. You are a horrible person and should hate yourself for the rest of your life.”
When weighing the costs and benefits I am beginning to think it would be better to leave both my brother and sister off in the past as well. Yet I am afraid that by leaving them I will be permanently cutting out the only link I have to my childhood existence at all. Everyone around me talks about family bonds and the importance of family relations. Is it wrong for me to leave them when they have come to me? Or is it wrong for me psychologically to remain on speaking terms with them.
K. I’m going to bed. Any thoughts and such are welcome