The Body Keeps the Score
I've been listening to Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score during my commute this week.
(I wrote about van der Kolk's trauma research on day 76, and I've been thinking about it ever since.)
The symptoms of trauma mirror my depression and anxiety. I use sugar as a crutch. I pick at my cuticles until they bleed. I check email two, three, four times in the span of a few minutes without even realizing it. Yesterday I scratched my arm to ribbons. I only noticed this morning, when the shower made the cuts sting.
I look like I lost a fight with a cat.
That's what I said, at thirteen, when the depression came creeping in for the first time, and I started carving lines down my arms because the other girls were doing it and because it helped me feel: "The cat scratched me."
When the truth finally came out and my parents sought help, the doctors insisted that my behavior stemmed from childhood abuse. I lost count of the times a nurse or a doctor sidled up to me and asked: Has anyone ever hurt you? Did anyone ever touch you in a way that made you uncomfortable? It's okay. You're safe here. It's not your fault.
They always looked defeated when I told them no. Like we'd been playing a game, and we'd both lost.
Now that I'm listening to the research, I understand their conviction. All my symptoms aligned with trauma. I just happen to fall outside the majority. My sadness, my self-disgust, has no source that I've ever been able to discern.
But my arms. These subconsciously self-inflicted cuts. The parallels aren't lost on me. I may not have experienced trauma, but like trauma survivors, I'm blocking something. Even if it's only a supreme feeling of helplessness at not being able to stop the panic attacks and depression. They ravage my body and mind, seemingly at random. That in itself--dare I say it?--feels like a kind of rape.
Now that I'm finally understanding this dissociation for what it is, I want to bear witness to it. I want to take accountability, and ease into a more intimate relationship with the world.
Maybe that's one of those questions, as Rilke says--and as Bessel quotes--that I have to love like a locked room. Like a book now written in a very foreign tongue.