There’s a story in the Old Testament where Moses strikes a stone and water gushes out. Nevermind what he strikes it with; de- and recontextualized, this is my story of self protection. Literally, self preservation. The stone is my anger. The water is sadness so deep I don’t perceive how I’ll outlive it. It’s been there since I, age four, learned that trees can die and so can bunnies and flowers and dreams. My porcelain-doll sister was only five months old at the time; she, too, would die? Even if she (and I) did everything right?
It was too much. So now, I’m really good at getting, being and staying mad. One reason is because I’m scared and so, like a frightened cat who fluffs out to make itself appear bigger than it is in order to scare whatever is scaring it, I swing sledge hammers and drop pick axes when I sense a threat. The other reason has to do with the gears of PTSD. The repetitive stress (the same thing that causes injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and some hairline fractures) of growing up having to contort, hide or de-face my real self in order to fit in, avoid ridicule or not get punished is the main source of my traumatic (read: toxic) stress. I was also locked down in the second closest middle school for eight hours during the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.
PTSD flags things – words, places, people, sensations – that were present during the trauma so that you will know what to avoid if you want to live. It’s your brain’s way of protecting you from going through that sort of mortal terror again. But if you have a terrible memory – that is, your brain is a recorder – than all of your experiences, including all of your flags, are present to you all the time. Life, as it happens for me, is one blazingly intense event after another, not the undifferentiated blur it is for many others. I have an overwound nervous system and get overstimulated easily as it is; when I develop triggers (more readily that other people, probably), they’re on a hair. The only way to survive such constant whiplash is to fight, and the only way to keep your dukes up all the time is to harden anger around the roiling well of unsurvivable sadness you don’t know how you’d ever live through.
The stone has cracked. Never mind what with; I don’t actually know anyway. I’m not ready, not least because throwing stars and anvils are pretty unhelpful tools in a flood. I had hoped to be in a stabler, less isolated place in my life before the inevitable rock-splitting I felt coming occurred. I had hoped to have more effective tools, particularly the ability to receive comfort, before this happened but, as it turns out, I’m going to have to learn how to navigate this great and long-feared inundation while in it.