A soldier gets shot through the head. Another one gets blown up by an IED. They both suffer brain trauma.
Do you mock the soldier for his limp, or his inability to speak? Do you tell him: “Just get over it?” Do you tell him he should hide it or feel ashamed?
I don’t think so.
The same holds true for mental health survivors. They suffered injuries in their lives which lead to this “disease”. (Is a bullet wound to the head a ‘disease’? I don’t think so.) They may have been abused as children. They may have been ‘shot in the head’ by abuse. They, like ‘me’, may have actually suffered ‘brain trauma’ while they were growing up, trying to survive. Getting thrown up against a wall, deprived of oxygen – yeah, that’s bound to have an effect on you. So is being tortured, and caged in a camp where you cannot escape – just like a POW.
Would you fault a POW his issues? When it came to his nightmares, would you just say “Get over it,” and hand him some drugs? Or would you take his hand and try to guide him out of the darkness which encloses his mind? Would you try to help him, or condemn him because he ‘lost his mind’ while being tortured, starved, and possibly even raped by his own captors? Would you tell him to shut up?
Children are POW’s in a way, trapped in their childhood – especially when an abusive one. I automatically assume “C-PTS*” when I see or hear of an childhood abuse survivor. There was no chance of ‘escape’. Who can escape their childhood? Who thinks of escaping? As a child there is no escape. You are trapped in the environment you were born in and you know no other. For YOU, there is no ‘escape’ nor even the concept of escape. If you had asked me to ‘escape’ as a child, I would have asked: escape to what? And why? I know my brother and I discussed running away when I was seven. That’s when we learned. You cannot escape ‘them’. You cannot escape at all. Ever. Not until you’ve grown up. I suspect a lot of ‘you’ abused children and some spouses alike – know that feeling. That there is no hope and no escape. When you are a child you feel it even more, not knowing: there is life beyond this – this torture, the beatings, the sex, the drugs . . . it IS your life and there is nothing ‘wrong’ with it. It’s just the way life goes.
Studies have proven that abuse changes people inside, deep within their brain, the ‘wiring’ so to speak. Double – triple! – that effect as a child, maybe even more.
How about that soldier who got shot in the head not once, but a dozen times or more – a bullet through the head definitely changes ‘the wiring’, wouldn’t you think?
Abuse does that and more. At least the soldier who got shot knows it (provided he wakes up – a hint to those of you who have been abused and still refuse to face it). The people around them know – it’s obvious, look at the bandages around his brain!
But when it comes to little children all grown up – those scars move inside. They always were inside – not just the external wounds from being thrown around, but the effects the abuse had on the brain. The ‘rewiring’ of the amygdala and other parts of the brain. It is a very real and physcial effect which in recent years has become better documented as technologies improve (eg. MRI brain activity imaging).
I was recently told (by a group leader no less) – accusing me of “being proud of your mental illness”. I wish I had stuck around to reply; educate the man, for he is a minor military ‘leader’, albeit a poor one, considering this attitude – no wonder our soldiers suffer from such a high suicide rate! They are told to ‘hide’ it by the society around them – and ours.
And I was upset, naturally (so much so we have not written much) while I considered his charge. Was I ‘proud’ to be ‘mentally disabled’?, I asked myself. And it occurred to me: No. No more so than a soldier is of being shot through the head. Hell, even as a soldier I would asked: “Did you have your helmet on?” and if not then might have had a wry time accepting you did suffer from stupidity before . . . but as a child? They don’t issue helmets for abuse. Not even to the little ones.
“Did you stick your head up?” I ask my inner child – and no, it was always stuck down. He hid, tried to cover things as best he could. He tried to “be good” while being bad some of the time. He never ‘asked’ to get hit in the head. He never ‘asked’ for years of abuse at a time. He never asked for solitary confinement, six weeks at a time.
They tortured him, this inner child of mine. Would you fault a soldier for his pain? His inner agony and sadness at the time he lost spent in that dark camp of torture and pain? Would you tell him to “just get over it” and that he should shut up, hide his pain?
No, if anything, I AM proud of one thing: I made it. I’m the soldier who can walk – albeit with this limp of mine. I suffered brain damage – just of another kind. I was ‘shot’ by the bullet of abuse – again and again and again. I served my military father, and I was a military kid. I know these kinds of things. I have a wife, several good educations, and a list of careers to boot. I own my own house.
Out of 25 ‘survivors’ – friends of mine who ‘went through it’ – only 2 made it. Only 2 can claim the results I claim. The rest are all either mucked up, insane, locked up, or dead. The other is my brother – and trust me: he’s no charmer as well. With his own issues, he lives in denial of our former ‘lifestyle’ – blocking it all out. (shrugging . . . maybe THAT’s what you are ‘supposed’ to do: block the early beginnings out).
So am I proud? Yeah. I got ‘shot through the head’ more than any soldier – and lived to survive. I get along, albeit with a bit of a ‘mental limp’ – and you are going to fault me for it?
Take a hike, buddy – into a dark place. I’m going to be proud of my ‘successes’ in life, albeit they may not add up to YOUR standards. You didn’t start out being wounded in the head. I did.
But I made it.
You don’t fault a soldier for his injuries; you help him get back up. And when he’s shot from behind, you don’t tell him he should be ashamed, and good luck –
and then boot him out the group.