Trauma in a Culture of Abuse

In late November, I planned a short break from my blog to focus on Trump’s Impeachment.

I listened in shock as witnesses like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to crimes that included threats on her life.

Screenshot_2020-05-21 Marie Yovanovitch calls Trump's disparaging tweet 'intimidating'

After the House impeached Trump for extortion, I watched in horror as elected Republican officials used their positions, and media access to spread the smear Trump demanded of the President of Ukraine.

Republican Senator threatens to impeach Joe Biden
I felt personally betrayed when the Republican Senate voted to acquit Trump without hearing witnesses.

I went numb with fear and shut down.

When faced with life-threatening circumstances, most mammals shut down and play dead and hope the predator will go away.

I felt like a five-year-old trapped in a community of violent and corrupt adults. I shut down. Threatened children must not be seen or heard.

CPTSD  and Institutional Betrayal

C-PTSD is a cluster of symptoms caused by chronic childhood trauma such as physical assault, sexual assault, food deprivation, sleep deprivation, and threats of violence and death.  People with C-PTSD often suffer from feelings of betrayal, defeat, and shame.

“Instead of a single traumatic event leading to mental and emotional symptoms, complex PTSD is believed to be caused by chronic or prolonged exposure to traumatic experiences. “It’s the concentration camp, the person in a bomb shelter in Syria, the soldier in war or child suffering sexual or physical abuse. It’s happening to you, or you’re witnessing it,” says Dr. Robert Shulman, associate chair of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center.” US News and World Report

As a child, I felt hopeless as the neighbors and social services that should have stopped my Mother’s abuse did nothing or became part of it.

‘Betrayal Trauma’ is the systematic abuse by a parent, a trusted leader, or an institutional authority figure, like the President and his government.

Institutional betrayal is potent because it represents a profound and fundamental violation of trust in a necessary dependency relationship. In that sense, it is similar to abuse in close relationships – it can be more harmful than abuse by a stranger. The breach of trust, unreciprocated loyalty, and exposure to retaliation are like a knife in the back. The Wiley Online Library

Recovery is finding the will to believe that life is more than a savage facade of well-mannered hypocrisy and hate.

The Shutdown

Stay Home
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I was in the aftermath of lingering flu when the pandemic and shutdowns began; my partner was away, taking care of his Mother.

I’ve spent the shutdown in isolation, triggered, and regressed to the darkest years of my childhood.

I’ve watched the President of the United States murder his citizens and gaslight us into accepting it.

A week in late November became an agony of months.

Writing this,  I found a recent essay at @CNN by

He writes about a world of people who are afraid to touch each other and how it feels to lose the lives we took for granted: life before the trauma of betrayal:

“Do you remember who you used to be? Before you were told that anyone could kill you? Before you were conditioned to avoid people the way you might avoid malignant obstacles in a video game? Before your brain rewired itself toward a continual search for the proper angle of evasion, the likely field of airborne dispersion, the space least contaminated by human touch?”

All this fear will have lasting consequences. We cannot know what they will be. Last Sunday, we had a visitor, a friend I’d known since childhood. Jessica knew and loved all our children, especially the youngest. Jessica got out of the car and sat on our front steps. We walked outside and stood at a safe distance. The 2-year-old ran toward her. Jessica told her to stay back.
“And she looked at me with the saddest eyes ever,” Jessica told me later. “And that broke my heart.”
It hurts to be treated like a monster.

How it feels to live in fear of each other

There isn’t a rape victim, an abused child, an unjustly imprisoned migrant, a hungry vet, or a homeless schizophrenic who doesn’t know how it hurts to be treated like a monster.

There isn’t an LGBTQ person on this planet who doesn’t know how badly it hurts.

There isn’t a parent who loses a child in a school shooting who doesn’t know
how badly it hurts.

We are a nation of traumatized survivors.

Can we stop the abuse, accept that it happened, and heal?

As I emerge from the ‘freeze,’ I can return to the blog.

Loyal Americans placed their lives and reputations on the line to warn us that we are under attack and on our own; we don’t have to be Agents of Shield to learn a few basic principles of psychological warfare.

People are hurting in different ways, and we’ve had a rough five months.

I hope everyone is coping and staying as healthy as possible.

I look forward to catching up with your blogs.

I also look forward to hearing about how you’re coping.

Update May 23: The focus of Art by Rob Goldstein for the next 164 days is pro-democracy essays and art and articles from advocacy groups like #DemCast.

Screenshot_2020-05-23 Flip The Senate 2020 - DemCast
Graphic by Cris Palomino

 

Screenshot_2020-05-23 Opinion America’s True Covid Toll Already Exceeds 100,000

You can also find this post on #DemCast

(c) Rob Goldstein, May 21, 2020

This post is dedicated to my friend Scott Bader, who reminded me of why I write.  Thanks, Scott

Mental Health: An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters for People with PTSD and CPTSD.

The “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters,” by Portia Nelson is a mainstay of 12 Step Programs.
It is primarily used as an allegory to describe the addictive process. i.e. the insanity of repeatedly and consciously making the same mistake with the hope of getting different results.
The “Autobiography” goes like this:
“I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.”
Portia Nelson, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

I received my copy of “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” in a clinical setting, as part of a treatment group for people with C-PTSD.

For me, that’s a problem. Here’s why:

In my experience, people with primary substance abuse disorders know they are in a hole, even in their denial. They not only know where the hole is, they know how they fell in, and they know the way out.

Our for profit medical system sees “behavioral” health and 12-Step Programs as a cheap alternative to providing the more expensive services required by people with mental illnesses.

Some people with severe mental illnesses have substance abuse disorders, but they are secondary to our illness, and to the artificially induced poverty, that forces us into slum housing and into the arms of aggressive drug dealers.

I did not fall into a hole.

I was placed in a hole as an infant.

Any attempt to crawl out that hole was met with violent beatings.

After she solemnly read the ‘Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’ to us, the therapist who was running the group asked us what we thought.

I raised my hand:

“What if we were stuffed into a hole before we knew we were alive?”

She had no answer.

Behaviorism has few answers for people who need intensive psychotherapy.

***

For those of us with mental illnesses related to childhood sexual assault and trauma, I offer this Autobiography in Five Short Chapters for People with PTSD and CPTSD.”


Chapter One
“I wake up and I am in a hole. I don’t know that I am in a hole. The hole forms the circumference of my world. I base my options in life on its width and depth. It is uncomfortable but the hole is all I know.
I feel constrained and helpless.
One day I look up and see that light enters the hole through an opening at the top.
My eyes are so dazzled I cover them.
***
Chapter Two:
I live in a hole in the sidewalk but I am not certain of this.
I try to pretend that It isn’t true but I see that there are edges at the top of the hole through which the Sun shines.
I decide to climb toward the light to look beyond the edge.
I climb to the top.
It takes a long time.
I see that beyond the hole is a vista that is more rich with possibility than anything I have ever imagined.
My fear is so profound I fall back into the hole where I know I am safe.
***
Chapter Three:
I live in a whole in the sidewalk, which is where I was placed as an infant.
I try to forget what I saw when I climbed toward the light and looked over the edge.  The hole feels small and cramped but the thought of leaving fills me with dread.
I try to pretend that I don’t know that I am stuck but pretending doesn’t work anymore.
I am furious.
Why am I in this hole?
 It isn’t my fault.
I contemplate climbing out
***
Chapter Four:
I live in a hole in the sidewalk. My world is in this hole yet I feel I must leave this tiny world for the larger one above: the real world.
I slowly climb to the top of the hole and slowly pull myself out.
I stand at the edge of the hole, terrified and uncertain of what to do next.
***
Chapter Five:
There is a hole in the sidewalk. I’ve spent my life in this hole and once believed  it was the entire World. I am terrified and want to throw myself back into the hole, but enter psychotherapy instead.
Rob Goldstein 2014 – 2019

Heroes don’t Discriminate #HealingHands #Faith #Inspiration

from Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author

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The past few days I have been stunned and saddened by the catastrophic events that have taken place here in Canada and in the United States.

Instead of belabouring the senselessness of these acts of violence I want to focus on the first responders who stepped up to help when it would’ve be easier to look the other way.

Humboldt, Saskatchewan was the scene of a horrific vehicle accident three weeks ago. Sixteen people died and many more were injured. The hockey community, the country, the world mourned the senseless loss. But, the heroics of first responders on the scene and at the hospital filled my heart with gratitude. I can’t imagine the trauma they endured, and I hope and pray they can find peace in those they were able to help.

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A man, half-naked, opened fire on a Waffle House in the Nashville area and if not for the…

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