Thursday, January 23, 2014.  I am thinking this morning about the interface between how well – or not – we can operate in our ongoing life as severe early trauma survivors when there are many distractions continually interrupting us.  I have often thought about how my mother’s psychotic abuse of me from birth continually did exactly that:  Distracted me as she continually interrupted my self experiencing myself in my own life by the horrors of her abuse.  I have concluded that this process greatly influenced how my entire physiology developed and is at the center of my Trauma Altered Development (TAD).

TAD people have altered nervous and stress response systems that have been forced to live in and adapt to hazardous environments.  We either respond TOO SOON with TOO MUCH INTENSITY to even what would be totally minor stimulations to other people or we operate at the other end of the continuum and MISS cues from the environment entirely that should alert us to DANGER!  We can respond from both ends of this continuum at different times depending upon many variables and/or be so physiologically altered that we feel the stress/distress of DANGER nearly all of the time.

Yesterday I was feeling as if I were living on a very narrow tightrope-highwire stretched over a massive abyss or a raging inferno.  It can take TAD people so much energy and focus to work toward feeling OK and balanced that there seems to be nothing left of us to ENJOY life or to feel we can tackle anything else that needs to be done or that we want to accomplish.

I am reminded again of what came to me over 6 years ago at the moment I received my advanced aggressive breast cancer diagnosis.  How I felt THEN at that moment – and how I imagine nearly everyone at that kind of moment feels – is how I truly felt ALL of the time during the first 12 years of my life.  (As I matured past that point into my later teens even though I was still suffering the same insane abuse I had always known my larger BODY gave me huge additional resources to use to cope with it.)

Now, how did I survive THAT – and I don’t mean the cancer!!!  How did ANY OF US survive the horrors of our early life?  In many ways we survived because our BODY knew how to change its early development to keep us alive.

We suffer in many ways the rest of our life not so much from the specific this-n-thats of the individual horrors we endured but rather from what the continual INTERRUPTIONS that DISTRACTED us from our experience of being our own young self trying to do what young ones are supposed to do — become our own self as we live our own ongoing experience with our self in it — did to us!

A cancer diagnosis threatens ongoing life.  It therefore threatens the individual’s sense of their self in their own life – in the present and in the future! 

We lived with this kind of threat all of our young life and it is often nearly impossible to wrestle our own experience of self in our life AWAY from the very body we live in because it has been formed to take care of us in a threatening environment it was TAUGHT to adapt to and form-reform itself to survive in.  What our body learned about how to keep us alive is built into it!


Now when too many other things – both around me and within me – interrupt and distract me I can barely focus enough to think – to write – to do ANYTHING.  I think many people assess these kinds of experiences as being depression — but I do not give in that easily to a POP idea of what is going on for me in my life.

I need to evaluate how SERIOUS my current distractions are that are interrupting my well-being.  I am ten thousand times more isolated here than I ever was down south.  Yes, I see my rushing distracted over-stretched daughter a few moments a day when she picks up baby and for a few more minutes on the weekends when we race around shopping for life essentials.  But there is no TIME for relaxed time together. 

I won’t go into the details of being unable to drive, being trapped in a small apartment with a 40 below F windchill outside in the barren flatness of a winter in a city I detest, not knowing anyone except two people who said they were thrilled I was coming back here and have not in 3 months come to see me — of my poverty, lack of computer power to do the next stages of work for the existing 9 book manuscripts, the continual interruptions of my precious 1 1/2-year-old grandson I WANT to care for 5 days per week, etc. etc.

I have to tell myself that just as I say it was not the specifics of the abuse I suffered for 18 years(head bashed in toilet bowl at 4, locked in shed at 15, etc.) that truly matters to me now; it is also not true that it is the conditions of my physical environment now that matters to me so much as ——  WHAT?

The WHAT is the way trauma altered the early development of my body itself as those changes affect how it – and I – respond to change and to stress every moment I am alive.

How DO I overcome — and I mean marshal myself AWAY from the way my body is taking me through life — the disadvantages of being in hyper-survival mode all of the time so that I can make different choices about myself in my life on an ongoing moment-to-moment basis?

 I can give myself permission to validate exactly how I feel at any given moment.  I can honor the fact that there are reasons within my BODY that I feel what I do and suffer from the limitations (“disabilities”) that I do that are as real as anything in this lifetime is for anyone.  These are NOT disaster-ridden aspects of who I am in this life as they often feel to me to be.

I can give myself permission to expand my thinking about possibilities for a happier next moment and a happier life.  I can give myself room to breathe, room to imagine, room to explore options, room to entertain possible solutions to the problems I live with.  I can realize THESE choices I can make open up an infinite array of hope — as hard as this might be at any moment for me to realize and to DO.

I can use distractions and interruptions to my benefit as I seek to counterbalance the lifelong effects that early trauma implanted within me.  I can practice STEERING my SELF through my life rather than letting my body always do the responding for me as it wants to. 

This is response-ability.  The ability for me to respond to my life as I WANT to to the best of my ability.  But right now all that I SAY is very TOUGH for me to put into practice.  I am labeling this segment of my life journey as being among the top ten most difficult ones of my adult life, including facing and fighting that cancer.

Yet while I will not deny or underestimate this fact I also know that something as simple as putting food out for the cutest wild cottontail rabbits that run around here battling for their life in this terribly cold weather brings me rays of happiness.  And I still need to keep myself open to the appearance of beauty in this harsh place.

Yesterday I stepped outside my “prison” door for a moment and there in the southern sky I saw two huge brilliant rings around the sun so low in the sky.  The circles arched high through ice crystals against the blue sky with brilliant rainbow “sun dogs” to the left and right of the sun on the inner ring and directly above the sun on the outer ring.

This was one of the most impressive natural displays of wonder and beauty I have ever seen – and among the most unique ones.  I stood with my face uplifted to gaze at this while my face was being blasted by whipping snow.  I barely blinked (so there!). 

Although this vision only lasted another minute from the time I stepped outside before all but the two horizontal sun dogs vanished I will never forget it.  I felt as if I was being recognized, affirmed, even honored and guided by the natural world I so love.

Yes, I said thank you.  Humbly but also with renewed inner strength.  I am not alone.  This was a wonderful interruption and distraction in my day yesterday – and is one that I will carry within me to accomplish the same spirit-lifting I so need whenever I remember that sight.

I am a part of the circles of life – no doubt about it – so are you!


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  1. One of my friends came over today – and it made all the difference in the world to me to see her. She says she’ll come again next week – with a carseat in her car so she and baby and me can GO SOMEWHERE! YAY!

  2. Even my writing feels terribly disjointed today. My thoughts are distracted from ME and there feels to be no flow in my life. I miss the land of the southern desert and my garden and all the people and places of the life I built down there for 14 years.

    Yet I also feel I have wisely chosen to test myself here and now to find and to strengthen those areas of my character where I am weak if not nearly lost altogether. This experience is, then, a kind of exercise at this end segment (I am 62 1/2) of my life. If there are areas I need to seek out and improve in the person I am and want to be, NOW is the time to do that.

    That this process is proving quite difficult should not surprise me – yet somehow it does!

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