An Inconvenient Trauma

My experience of the medical community is they're not interested in helping people who've suffered childhood trauma. Why? Perhaps it's because they're  representative of a wider cultural discomfort. There are exceptions of course, however they are few and far between.

I do not know or care much for classifications. I've come to despise the term 'Mental Illness' though you'll find it littered throughout my previous entries. I've always associated the term with words like 'broken,' 'substandard,' 'unstable,' 'incompetent.' And in truth I have often defined myself as such. Not because it's what I believed, more due to what has been 'mirrored' to me by my family, community and the wider society.

The truth is I'm not ill and I never have been. I've been dealing with the consequences of abuse and the subsequent trauma associated with it. I've done that in the best way I could with the limited resources available to me.

Those resources I'll express as internal and external. 

By internal I mean my ability to hold and understand my experience. As a child my life, mind and body's primary function was to survive, to deal with constant fear and anxiety. I did not cope with the abuse because a family member was at its chronic root, what was modeled to me was not in any way 'healthy.' As an adult my body and mind have retained the feelings associated with the abuse. The fear lives on in the most primitive parts of my neurology and physiology.

By external I refer to the resources and services available to me. These were limited, underfunded, poorly thought out. Human services sent me to a psychiatrist once and arranged a couple of visits from a social worker. Eventually I was placed in a school for a handful of 'broken' children. Some of us were self harming, using drugs, running away from home. Our classes consisted of art and smoking cigarettes. There was no therapy, no structure, no compassion and understanding. In truth I don't know if we'd have engaged had a positive opportunity presented itself, simply because so much damage had been done and this particular intervention, poor as it was, felt like it came six or seven years too late.

The way I've responded to the violence, bullying and sexual assault of my childhood was and is completely normal. If a child never feels 'safe' that child is unlikely to become a thriving adult. I was destined for a life of survival. 

Does the 'establishment' really expect people who grow up in environments of chronic maltreatment to function in the same way as children that benefit from a stable and secure environment? Unfortunately the answer seems to be 'yes.' I've been afforded minimal understanding for my exceptional circumstances. 'Just gotta get on with it haven't ya mate.' And it's not really getting any better. I've just finished reading an article about Bessel van der Kolk in the New York Times.

He recalls interviewing some kids at a United States Senate hearing into foster care. After the kids had been interviewed a judge walks past them and says "You're all doing so great! Look how terrific you all are." Bessel Van der Kolk challenges him to ask the kids how they're doing. Some are suicidal, others cutting themselves and using drugs to suppress the pain. All of their issues can be attributed to the abuse they suffered whilst in foster care. Van der Kolk states the judge is no more interested in them than he is in soldiers returning from war with PTSD. We are an inconvenience. The judge doesn't accept the challenge.

My own personal belief is that as long as our education focuses on success in terms of economics, rather than the success of our ability to care for each other we'll struggle to find a way to help those who are truly struggling with life. 

Lessons in emotional intelligence, Counselling and communication should take equal priority with maths, English, science and sport. But they don't do they. Parents are the customers, the kids are the product. That product is designed to benefit the capitalist system not to create a fairer/healthier society.

Until society, including the medical establishment, truly recognize their part in treating us as an inconvenience, change will continue to move at a pace that dictates an unnecessarily long healing process.

If you're really interested in definitions of illness then how about a society that isn't interested in demonstrating compassion for its most vulnerable citizens.

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