A couple of years ago or thereabouts, a friend of a friend asked me a question:
“Is the source of your trauma public record?”
I told him that I didn’t know and that I’d have to think about it. I wasn’t lying: I genuinely didn’t know. What do people actually know about my past? My friends, particularly my online friends, know more than is good for them, but what about the world at large?
I’ve blogged pretty openly about some of the shit that went down in my past, and the vast majority of my fiction is not actually terribly fictional, but I’m not sure that enough of my readers have read enough of my writing to get a clear picture. I’ve also not blogged about some of the harder stuff, for the simple reason that I don’t want to. I take an interest in self-defence and I have a vagina, so I’m aware of the fact that a whole load of people assume that someone, as some point, must have attempted a forcible entry into said organ. And yeah, that’s happened, but, to be honest, those weren’t pivotal points in my life. I don’t mean to trivialise the seriousness of sexual assault; it is just that the context of my life has been such that I had more impactful things going on. (Note: that is NOT a good thing. That’s not “resilience;” that’s “fucked up.”)
That was the second part of the question, the bit that I really couldn’t work through: do I have A Trauma? Do I, really? This is a line of thinking that shines a merciless light over the inconsistencies between what I think and know about trauma, and how I apply the concept to myself. I don’t see myself as traumatised. I don’t think I have a right to that badge. Nothing ThatBad(TM) has ever happened to me. I have never been hit by a single, major event that could/should have caused me trauma <<knocks on wood>>. As for the events and situations that left a mark, they shouldn’t have. It just so happened that I occasionally got hit in my weak spots, when I didn’t see it coming, or at times when I was unusually susceptible to certain stimuli. Unfortunate, really, but not traumatic.
I would never, ever apply this line of thinking to any other human. It would never occur to me to evaluate an injury based on my perception of the seriousness of what caused it: “Yeah, well, I’m sorry, but your leg just shouldn’t be broken. No crutches for you.” It would also never occur to me to discount the impact of an injury because other, worse injuries were also present. A broken toe is a broken toe and should be attended to, even if the whole leg is smashed up. Yeah, you want to prioritise the more serious injuries, but that’s not the same as dismissing the rest of them. Rationally, I know that I’m just not looking at my situation from the right angle, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve managed to do anything about it. I’m working on it, though.
Overall, that damn question, so casually thrown, has been plaguing me. The more I think about it, the more it seems to sprouts other questions to which I also don’t have answers. That’s vexing, but it’s nowhere near as vexing as the realisation I had a few days ago: the question wasn’t meant literally. The guy in question was asking me whether I wanted to talk about the traumatic event(s) in my life – a question that, in the context of our conversation, wasn’t particularly out of place. My literal-minded ass, totally oblivious to social niceties, has been chewing over the question like a damn koan, when the dude was just being tactful. I find that hilarious.