I could tell you about how my trauma made me who I am, or about how strong I am, but that is some faux empowerment bullshit, and Kristine doesn’t subscribe to the fake shit.
The truth is I will never embody any of my struggles, the shit I went through was horrible, and it didn’t make me stronger, it made me paranoid and I could’ve died. This post has a lot of truths in it that my family and friends don’t know about. Even though I’m being open and transparent this is not an open letter to any of you, and this isn’t for sympathy, I don’t give a shit about that. This is about the importance of dealing with your shit to prevent it from building up. This is about the importance of self-love and self care. This is about understanding traumatic experiences and not embodying all the bad shit that happened to you for the sake of strength.
This is about how I didn’t deal with the death of my father and how it manifested into pure hell.
His death literally came as a surprise to everyone. It was my first significant loss and it took a toll on me, I tried so hard to lean on my faith and belief in God, but it wasn’t enough for me. I needed something real, something tangible that I could rely on. God just wasn’t enough for me. Like most black people, I was indoctrinated, so my faith in God was not a choice I made. The fact that I couldn’t find comfort in something that was supposed to be my security made me feel anxious and guilty I also stopped believing in God for awhile. Luckily for me, my NCO at the time told me to go to bereavement counseling and to this day, (over 6 years later) I’m still glad I did it.
On the first day the grief counselor asked me how did my dad die, real simple right? Well my mind went blank, and it had only been 2 months since he died. I couldn’t remember the date or what my sister or mom told me over the phone. I couldn’t recall the funeral. None of it. Everything was a blur, it was like I knew he died, I knew there was a funeral, but the details escaped me. So she referred me to a psychiatrist, because (according to her) my memory loss was a sign of trauma, and coupled with being 2K miles away from my family, I was a ticking time bomb. I needed help.
But, me being me, I knew I was cured already so I didn’t go. I could figure that shit out on my own. Right? WRONG!
Unbeknownst to me, I was most definitely in a traumatic state, and I let it go untreated for years. I never dealt with it, because in my mind, I was fine. Months went by and the pain of losing my father subsided. Except I blocked out his death completely. I didn’t talk about it and I didn’t remember much about it, other than the fact that it existed. I pushed everybody away from me, including my mom, I even fell out with one of my best friends. The more I ostracized myself, the worse shit got. I was a high functioning recluse. But to me, everything was fine, until 2 years later when my maternal grandmother died.
So here I am 2 years later, my second significant death and I felt like shit. I dreamt about killing myself so much that I was scared to go to sleep, so what did I do? Drink! Heavily! Every night. My trauma threshold at this point was extremely low, I never grieved my father, I was trying to grieve my grandmother, I was worrying about my grandfather, I was a functioning alcoholic and a recluse, and I also had to be there for my mother emotionally. My plate was full as shit.
These were two traumatic experiences, back to back, and I had never processed the first one. Not only was I emotionally exhausted, but I didn’t have any more room for trauma, and when your trauma threshold is at an all time low, you’re basically in a perpetual state of trauma, and that’s unhealthy. I was hyper alert, mix that with drinking heavily on a daily basis, and you have yet another recipe for disaster. Being in a constant state of trauma, (like I was) is a slippery slope. You would think as much as I was pushing people away, I would be able to avoid a lot of shit, NAH!
Quick Basic Breakdown: The memories of my father’s death, and the suppressed grief of losing my grandmother were traumatic for me, with that being said, those memories were stored in a part of my brain that didn’t register the memories consciously, therefore, they could only be triggered. I couldn’t make myself remember them, and when I tried to they were out of order and they didn’t make sense, which would make me depressed, and I would either drink, get angry, or sleep for hours at a time. So in essence, I was still in a traumatic state, consciously and unconsciously, and when trauma is perpetual like that, your intuition becomes foggy and you’re unable to practice discernment. So guess what happens? You inflict more trauma on yourself! How did I do it? I got in an abusive relationship.
My judgment was corroded, I couldn’t make sense of the abuse, I thought the gas-lighting, passive aggressive flirting was endearing, my trauma had completely obliterated my self-intuition to the point that even when the abuse got physical, I blamed myself. Even though I knew it wasn’t my fault, in my state of mind, it was. Even when I broke up with him and he pulled a Tyrese on me, I held myself accountable. When he threatened to kill my family if I ever left him, I felt obligated to stay and I even felt like I was falling in love with him. Why? Trauma. Lack of discernment. Also, this little thing called Oxytocin. Allow me to explain!
One of the reasons most women stay with their abusers is due to the same chemical that is released when women give birth. O X Y T O C I N. This is important to keep in mind, so that you don’t seem like an inconsiderate fucktard when you ask women in abusive relationships why they don’t leave their abuser. When this chemical is released it causes memory loss! (Again, those memories of the abuse didn’t register to my conscious awareness) Keep in mind, I was still drinking heavily on a regular basis, I was still a functioning recluse, I hadn’t grieved the death of my father or grandmother, and now I’m being abused, and hiding it.
Anyway, back to oxytocin.
So, when this chemical is released it stops your memory, BUT it also increases bonding, hence its importance during childbirth. That’s why women don’t remember the pain of giving birth, it fucking hurts (I assume) and women need to forget that pain (trauma) and simultaneously bond with their child, in that instance oxytocin is useful. In an abusive relationship it is a hindrance, but it makes sense why oxytocin is released during abuse within romantic relationships. You forget the bad shit, and bond with the person you (supposedly) love. This is an important part of domestic abuse.
Victims don’t recognize the abuse as abuse, because they don’t fucking remember it, and if they do, it’s not accurate.
This is (one of the reasons) why victims stay with their abusers, and it was exactly why I stayed with mine, even though we weren’t really in a relationship, he stuck around and abused me for over a year. I couldn’t register the abuse as abuse. I loved him, I wasn’t completely in love, but I loved him enough to tolerate his shit. He mattered to me, I was still bonding with him, but it wasn’t a conscious decision. Due to my low trauma threshold, lack of discernment, and high levels of oxytocin I was in a perpetual state of trauma, abuse, and warped memory. I couldn’t make sense of anything, I was suicidal, and I didn’t tell anybody. Not one soul.
My brain was literally working against my intuition and it altered my judgment. That shit almost got me fucking killed, so believe me when I say, it fucking matters.
It wasn’t until my abuser choked me outside my job in broad daylight and pulled a gun on me that I realized the situation I was in could turn deadly. We fought all the time, so I was used to that, and he’d also pulled a gun on me several times before that, (a knife and a taser too), but it’s a different feeling when you see him cock a gun and you’re staring down the barrel knowing there’s a bullet in the chamber and he could end your life right then if he wanted to. Out of all the abuse I’d ever endured from him, that moment of being absolutely powerless, having no say so over my life fucking pissed me off. There’s something about that shit that jerks you back to your senses, or so I thought.
The truth is, the thought of losing my life in that second triggered my secluded memories, and it did so in the unhealthiest way possible. Staring down the barrel of his gun, while he choked me, and threatened to either kill me or my sister brought everything out, and I couldn’t hide it. Over the next month I was emotionally drained to the point that I literally couldn’t deny my grief anymore, everything reminded me of my dad, everything reminded me of my grandma, everything reminded me of the abuse he inflicted, it was fucking unbearable, so I sought help from a therapist, again. But this time I stuck with it.
The first couple of months were hard, I didn’t want to talk to her about my life or my family, I just wanted to FEEL BETTER! I didn’t care about the process, I didn’t care about the trauma, I just wanted to be me again. But through therapy I came to the realization that I would never be the old me again, and that shouldn’t be my goal anyway. My therapist forced me to stop seeking strength through my trauma, stop romanticizing what happened to me to create a faux sense of strength and perseverance.
I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
Let’s be honest, black women, are taught that our strength comes from our fortitude, our ability to suffer, and persevere. We’ve been taught to embody that shit. You talk to black women who’ve been through shit and the first thing they do is tell you how they survived, how strong they are because of XYZ, and honestly, that’s pretty fucking sad. I didn’t wanna be like that, I still don’t wanna be like that. I never want to be the woman who embraces her struggles and trauma just to be considered strong or to have a sense of character or wisdom. That’s never been me, I’ve never identified myself with the shit that happened to me, but when it came to losing my father and grandmother within a 2 year span, being in an abusive situationship for over a year, and falling out with one of my best friends, I lost myself. I forgot how I valued myself and I was beginning to seek strength through trauma, and for that I’m forever grateful to all of my therapists. They have helped me understand that just because it happened to me that doesn’t mean it has to become me. They taught me to stop embodying that shit, walk in my truth and value myself on my terms.
So, that’s exactly what the fuck I’m gonna do.
It happened to me, it did not become me; I’m still Kristine with a “K” and I’m still here BITCH! : )