(a “journal entry?” by Timothy J. Verret, inspired by a painting I did today that had the words, “I GOT A VOICE FOR TRAUMA,” painted in red and purple and blue)
We ARE “caged up.” At least, we are supposed to be right now. “Stay home and stay inside” has become the “cattle call” for humans. We are being called to be “caged up.” And how is that working for us, I wonder? For me, it is SO reminiscent of my ENTIRE LIFE of being “caged up” trauma. I’m not going to insult the reader by defining “trauma.” If you don’t know what it means, you probably never needed to know it because you never felt it. How blessed are you indeed! But for those who know the word without having to look up the definition, yes, we know exactly how to define trauma. And trauma sucks….BIG TIME! I have no earthly idea where I am going with all this, and I am sure my “friendly” friends that are writers will want to say, “What do you mean you don’t know where you’re going? You ARE the writer, and you HAVE to know where you are going when you write!” Oh, really? Well, I don’t, so, there you have it. And correct me if I’m wrong but a writer must, first and foremost, write from THEIR truth, right? So, here I go with MY truth. You can take what you want and leave the rest….or just leave the whole thing NOW! I’m not angry (well, not really) but I AM honest. That much, I can tell you.
Since I never had to look up the word, “trauma,” I will say trauma is like death. Maybe trauma is EVEN death. It certainly feels like death and acts like death. Ask anyone who has been traumatized, and they will probably tell you, “oh, yeah, I was traumatized but I lived to tell about the death of it.” The death of it. Trauma really is death. It may not be the “physical death” we’ve grown accustomed to, but it is a death. Here’s why: When trauma occurs, something just gets shut off in the traumatized person. It’s like there were this person, see, and they felt like this person and they acted like this person and they even played like this person. But when trauma struck, this person became THAT person. And THAT person truly is someone they have never met before. THAT person IS a stranger. To them, anyway. And, more than likely, THAT person becomes a stranger to everyone who knows them and meets them. They, in essence, SPLIT right down the middle. And maybe the “split” ain’t that straight and narrow to be a 50/50. But it is a SPLIT nonetheless, and they get “fractured,” sometimes what feels like a million pieces, and they have no earthly idea who they thought they were, who they are not anymore, how they acted before, and how they are acting differently now after the trauma.
First of all, there is disorientation, massive confusion, because one traumatized is indeed acting and thinking things that they had NEVER acted and thought before the trauma. They might just be very much like the person who traumatized them, assuming the trauma came from someone else. They might take on the characteristics of the one who traumatized them, as a way to make sense of “how in God’s Creation could this have EVER happened?” If the one traumatized experienced trauma not from another person but rather a natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake, a near-death experience, or things man-made but not really from “one man” (or woman), that same someone will have actually experienced what is commonly thought of as “fight or flight” or the new one that has got some traction of late, “freeze.” Regardless of whether they fought or flew or froze, the trauma does create a SPLIT, a “fracture,” a “call,” if that’s the right word, and that can sound like, “I have now left the building.” And the ‘leaving the building” is that traumatized one who did indeed “go away” and now someone new has entered the same building but walking and talking and thinking and acting….differently.
When someone writes something “factual,” they are often compelled to start using quotes from well-known and well-researched therapists or others of substantial knowledge to get their take on trauma. But, I don’t need to quote anything from anyone except myself, because I know trauma first-hand and I know what it has done to my once “so-called life” and made me who I am now, which is often enough a stranger. But if it is quotes you are desiring right now, I don’t mind quoting myself: “Trauma is when your entire world has changed just like that (writer snaps his fingers)….you are a new person in a new world and everyone and everything looks new, totally unfamiliar to you, and you actually do experience what can be best quoted as, ‘dead man walking.’ You are void of any feelings that make sense and, in fact, if you are like me, you actually go into the most horrible and dreadful and just unbelievable, hard to fathom, place of NOT FEELING ANYTHING! Now, I don’t know where you are at in your emotional landscape. Maybe you are not all that in touch with your feelings and it needs to be that way. Or maybe you think that you feel too much (I understand). But none of that matters, because when trauma strikes, and especially if it strikes more than once, you will actually experience NO FEELINGS and, yes, you will wish for death. Trust me on that one. And you will probably want to take your own life and you probably will do just that (I pray no one you know has done that) and obviously if that is you and you have tried to take your own life, you are now ALIVE (maybe) and you are here reading this now.”
So, why did I call this piece “caged up” trauma? Because that is probably the best way I can explain the intensity of trauma. It makes you feel like you are in an actual cage, that there is a lock on that cage, and that you don’t believe anyone has the key to unlock the cage and let you out. I am a HUGE animal welfare advocate and I believe that I am so, because when I look at an animal in a cage who is “locked up” and has no voice, that is EXACTLY what the trauma I experienced is like. You do very much feel “locked up” and that you have no voice. And even if you did have a voice, you don’t think anyone can hear it at all. So, yes, when I see an animal in a cage locked up and no voice comes out of them directly in words like, “help me, please” or “please unlock this cage and let me out,” then I know instinctively that, yes, I am going to give them a voice and I am going to unlock their cage and I am going to let them out. That’s huge for me, because by doing so I believe that I will be unlocking my own cage and having my own voice heard and I’ll be free. Trauma truly is CAGED UP. It is “lock down,” “lock up,” “locked away.” And some might say, “Well, what about human prisoners? They’re locked up and have no voice.” I hear you and please know I don’t like to see human prisoners in cages either. But, please know, that a human prisoner in a cage fits either two criteria: One is that the prisoner is in a cage because he or she did something wrong to be put in there or, two, the prisoner is in a cage because he or she was FOUND to have done something wrong but has a voice to seek justice. Animals don’t have that luxury because animals are put in these cages BY humans and these same animals cannot seek help (except from yours truly, an animal welfare advocate) to be let out, and they have no voice to say whether they are guilty or innocent. The animals have done NOTHING wrong and yet they are locked up in a cage. And, yes, that means these animals are traumatized and like me, a human did it to them.
I am experiencing right now “caged up trauma.” The whole “stay home and stay inside,” has actually brought back the cage that I thought I had long left behind. But the cage is still there because the trauma has not truly been resolved. I’m not happy that I feel I am back in “caged up” trauma, but I do need to believe that yes, indeed, someone has the key (God?) and that same someone (God?) is hearing me RIGHT NOW AT THIS VERY INSTANT, and that same someone (God?) will unlock the cage yet again and let me out….yet again.
Yes, I know very well and all about “caged up” trauma….
Timothy J. Verret