Trauma became my anaesthetic:
When violence becomes the norm in a society where children grow up, they dont know how to process it.
In this instance, I am talking about the violence beyond the four walls we called home.
Years ago, my family and I were on vacation in Los Angeles, California. We were browsing through various shops when suddenly we heard a screeching of brakes.
My sister and I looked at each other in anticipation, waiting for the inevitable sound of crunching metal to metal. Like a fortune-teller, we could almost predict the resounding crash that follows the screeching of brakes. We stood for mere seconds as we held our breaths. We were spurred into action to see what had happened, and by the time we got to the accident scene, a crowd had gathered. It was at a 4- way stop, and upon enquiring, we discovered that a car had jumped the stop street, nearly hitting the other. The drivers had gotten out, sat on the pavement, waiting for emergency services. My sister and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes as if disappointed about the "almost-accident," and walked away.
To us, there was simply nothing to see from an "almost accident," not when we had become accustomed to accidents. Accidents, where people were injured, with cars "wrapped" around trees, looking like pieces of scrap metal. Then there was the gang fights, the violence of growing up during Apartheid, and the domestic abuse that most of our neighbours of all ages, were "accustomed" to experiencing.
We walked away, then stopped a few meters, looked at each other, and, at that moment, we both "realized" that the trauma and violence we had seen or experienced had become "normalised" and served as a type of anaesthetic to soothe our inner pain. We had become like the adrenaline "junkies," except we chased violence and trauma and had a morbid fascination with it.
Our past had taken its toll on us, and though we "escaped" (physically moved) from where we grew up, it had draped around us like a mantel and left with us. We thought people who couldn’t survive violence or trauma were weak, and they needed to "toughen up" to "get over it" because that’s what we were told, growing up. There was no time for tears over a broken toy when you survived the army, the police, the bullies, the predators and often the abuse from your parents.
Life is not like that:
There’s a moment in your life when you understand that trauma did not leave you unscathed simply because there are hardly physical signs like broken limbs or bruised bodies.
Trauma became my anaesthetic when living in suburbia.
When I was hi-jacked ( car-jacked) at gunpoint, all I could think of was, "well, if it happened where I was born, I would be dead." When the house was burglarized, instead of feeling violated and insecure, my first thought was, " at least I am ok." But I was only ok recalling the "trauma of the past" to cope with the above situations. I used it as an anaesthetic to not feel as affected by these and other traumatic events because it "wasn’t that bad."
Much like my sister and I dealt with the "almost accident" incident.
All the "little traumas," we never addressed until that moment in Los Angeles.
I went for counselling, meditated, prayed and poured over self-help books to "shake myself" out of the traumatic zombie-like state I lived in. I no longer felt comfortable there!
When my children cried or were upset about something I considered"small," I listened, comforted and loved them because what was small for me was traumatic for them.
Living in constant trauma isn’t living 'in the world!" We are meant to live in a world that, though it contains bad, has so much good also.
So many of the people I grew up with have either died violent deaths or are struggling with addictions, and I understand. I understand the pain of numbness. What we consider "soft," is normal, and it’s our life situation that was abnormal.
I know and understand that I must leave this world a better place than the way I found it, and that isn’t possible while being under anaesthetic.
Trauma became my anaesthetic: