I’m taking a break from writing the adventures of Beauregarde–we’ll finish up next week, I think.
I woke up from a pretty intense dream this morning, and as I was writing it down (I love these for dream journals, by the way) I realised that the setting for the dream was actually someplace I’d been in my childhood. I hadn’t recognised it, because there are gaps around certain traumatic childhood and teenage events. Memory fuzzes into a particular sort of gray haze, and a rushing in my ears–a rushing I’m all too familiar with, the precursor to disassociation.
I learned how to disconnect very early, certainly before I was six years old. I’d focus on that roaring in my ears, for example while an adult caregiver was screaming or enraged, and just check out. It protected me from sonic or physical assault, helped me cope with dangerous, unpredictable adults. It helped me retain some psychic integrity while at the mercy of baffling, raging giants unable to be propitiated or calmed.
But there are still those gaps. I used to think that I should actively pursue those blank spaces, dig through them, expose exactly what had been done to me during them. Calm Therapist and Frau Doktor, however, both suggested to me that maybe I didn’t have to, if I didn’t feel like it. The deciding factor, both of them noted, was whether or not I felt there would be a benefit to doing so. “I should” is not necessarily “it would be beneficial for me to,” a lesson I find I have to keep relearning. Naturally I want to face such things so the monster isn’t behind me, breathing on my neck. (I hate that. I’m a firm believer in turning around and beating the shit out of said monster.) Balancing that against the idea that maybe those scars have healed and I don’t need to cut them open is strange, a skill I’ve only slowly begun to master. I’m hoping it’s like a bicycle, it’ll become habitual after a while.
Which leads me to thinking that perhaps the dreams are ways of processing, too, my body and brain drawing the poison from things so awful I chose to blank them out entirely. After all, you can wake up from a dream. For a long time, as a helpless child, there was no waking up. I much prefer adulthood, with my own car keys, bank accounts, and the ability to walk away from certain relationships and people who made my earlier years so incredibly damaging and toxic. Sometimes people ask me if I wish I was younger, and my immediate “OH HELL NO” and laughter has a bitter edge. The further I get from being small, helpless, and terrorised, the better.
I remember leaving my childhood home for good, and feeling relieved and vastly less terrified than I expected. The outside world, I felt, couldn’t be as bad as the nightmare inside those walls. I’m happy to say I was right. Nothing I’ve endured since has made me regret that choice or want to go back in any way–which is saying something.
So I’ll keep writing the dreams down, and leaving those rushing-air spaces to open in their own time, if they want to. If they don’t, well, I’m slowly beginning to think that they don’t have to. A traumatic childhood doesn’t have to define me. Now that the anxiety is being managed and my entire body has had a chance to rest from years of severe, daily panic attacks, it’s a lot easier to find other definitions. One of the great joys of adulthood is building those new structures.
There’s also bacon, kung fu movies, having ice cream for dinner, and raising my own beautiful, fearless children who have never been spanked, terrorised, or even yelled at, who can’t even imagine such things. All in all, I much prefer things this way.