Trauma and our vain attempts to “do something” about it

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Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes — Taylor Swift

The actual truth is, band-aids don’t fix anything at all. Healing comes from within. Although we do try all manner of things to make it better.

I woke up from a dream this morning. I was rolling around on the floor with my kids. The oldest was maybe seven, the youngest still a baby. My wife was doing laundry in the other room and I was being the kind of dad I loved being. I spent those formative years with my kids working a second shift so my wife could be the career social worker she wanted to be. We balanced our lives to give our kids the kind of childhood we both believed every child deserves. I think we mostly succeeded too. The house they grew up in was a stable, secure and happy environment. At least until their mother got sick.

Her illness and death traumatized every one of us. Over the last couple of days I’ve been peeling back the layers of that trauma in my mind. I can only speak for myself here since I only have clues to the trauma they suffered. I mostly succeeded in maintaining a safe, secure home for the kids but I can’t pretend that it was particularly happy.

But for me, why things are the way they are is the single most important question. I believe healing is possible, but only when one understands the difference between the trauma and the symptoms that are manifest because of it.

Liz has been gone for almost nine years now. I’ve been applying one band-aid after another in an effort to heal my wounds. The first, an old classic Willys Jeep to restore. Something to take my mind off things, I told myself. Maybe the kids could help me and we’d bond over the challenge. The kids had no interest. But it did give me something of an escape, for a time. It didn’t heal anything, but it was a safe and harmless way to find some peace.

I bought a brand new motorcycle too. Another relatively harmless treatment for a broken heart. I’ve been riding for thirty-five years. I’m a decent rider and stopped the daredevil shit a long time ago. This wasn’t a bad idea, although it might be considered a bit of an overindulgence. Especially with four kids to complete raising and essentially a halving of the family income.

I drank too much. It’s kind of a relative thing but I know how much is too much for me. And I definitely went overboard. Still do occasionally. But it’s turned out to be essentially a waste of time and money. ’Cause who wants to waste a day being hungover? And when you’ve blown a bunch of money and gotten nothing but a hangover to show for it, you’ve wasted more than just yourself. Besides, it’s a particularly poor example to set for the kids. Drowning your sorrows is a completely ineffective solution to any problem.

Now comes the bad part.

Like almost everyone, I’ve entered into relationships I had no business getting involved in. Just to try to ease the pain. Sure, I didn’t think that was the reason. Not at first. At the outset it’s always true love. The excitement of first dates and first kisses. Oh, and the sex? It’s like soothing pain medication to the open wound. But it wears off. Sometimes quickly. Only this band-aid also causes pain to another person. And that’s the really bad part. You can’t heal a broken heart by breaking a different heart. It just opens two new wounds, one for them and yet another one for you.

Hurt people, hurt people. It’s a self perpetuating cycle. It comes from deep-seated pain that has never had a chance to heal.

So, how does one heal from trauma?

Therapy? I’ve tried it, the jury is still out. Time? Apparently, almost nine years isn’t enough. I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out. For now, I think recognizing my vain attempts at triage is the best I can do. Oh, and at least trying not to cause any more.

Thank you for reading

Written by

father, motorcyclist, old retired guy who’s just a little lost on a blue marble corkscrewing its way to oblivion

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