A couple days ago, I was going to lunch with a co-worker, but I had to stop by the post office to mail a book I sold online. My co-worker asked why I was selling my books, and I said, well, I move so often, I just thought it would be easier if I weren’t hauling around so many books. He asked how often I moved, and I told him about every 6 months. (I calculated it later, being the good accountant. I've averaged about 7 month at each place I've lived since I stopped living with my parents.) He was shocked, and asked why I move so often. (I don't think he knows how old I am, either. He'd probably be even more taken aback if he realized that I'm in my thirties and I still can't seem to stay in one place.) I said, oh, I don't know, I guess I like the drama.
This is one of the reasons support groups work for me. When I talk, it is so stream of consciousness that sometimes it becomes stream of unconsciousness, and I say something about myself that my conscious mind didn't realize. I hate the idea of being a drama junkie, but as soon as I said it, I realized it was true. My life is chaotic, and while I had no control over that when I was growing up, I have maintained that lifestyle as an adult. It's the only life I know.
One of the most frustrating, anger and depression-inducing and long-term damaging things about growing up in an abusive home is that it is so unpredictable. It's not as if every day, every second you're home the abuse is happening. Sometimes it seems very normal, you have meals together, you play with the dog, you go to the grocery store, and you even talk, laugh, and have fun together. You want to have a normal life; you want it to be okay, but you know at any moment, it could become a nightmare again. In a second, without warning, your dad is yelling and hitting you. Your parents are screaming. Your brother looks scared. You want to comfort him, but don't want him to be too close to you in case your dad starts throwing things at you. You don't move, because anything you do could attract his attention and he could start hitting you again, or screaming in your face.
You start to think that "normal", "calm", "stable", "happy" is a lie. It's a facade, an act your family puts on so the world doesn't know, and to make you think that you're crazy for wanting out of this screwed up family. You start to wonder if you are crazy, because even people from the outside- neighbors, teachers, friends, who find out a little of what is going on do nothing. Even your own mother does nothing but argue with your dad. It does no good, so why doesn't she leave and take my brother and I with her? Why didn't she call the police, or the ambulance, or take me to the hospital instead of leaving me in my room bleeding, in shock, and with a concussion after she watched my dad beat the crap out of me?
I fell into the punk and street culture in Seattle very easily. Most of my fellow travelers had been abused- physically, an alcoholic parent, sexual abuse and rape originating both from in and outside the family, neglect, and emotional abuse. (A local punk band, The Derelicts, had a song called “My Dad’s a Fucking Alcoholic” that everyone loved.) We called ourselves Ave Rats (after the Ave in the U-District). We were like rats- we lived on the edges of society and stuck together. It was dangerous. Frat boys, skinheads, and the police beat up my friends. A skinhead almost killed a friend by hitting him in the forehead with a wrench. The police could arrest and put in jail any of us for 24 hours without charges. (Yet, they didn’t arrest the skinhead who almost killed my friend.) Many of our own kind took their anger out on each other. My female friends and I kept a mental list of guys we had heard were rapists, and made sure none of them came near us. There was no end to the people who would try to take advantage of our age and desperation. Perverts would come to the U-District and try to solicit sex from us-girls and guys. (We told those guys what they could do with their money.)
The biggest danger, though, was drugs and alcohol. We had been put through hell growing up, the adults in our lives had betrayed us, and we felt rage, mistrust, and rejection from and towards society and authority figures. Most of us felt that no one cared about us, and we didn't care about ourselves. With intense fury at the world and self-loathing, drugs and alcohol provided the oblivion so many wanted.
There were accidents. Friends were hospitalized, arrested on drug, vandalism, theft, and assault charges. (Thankfully, I was never arrested.) One girl mixed alcohol and prescription drugs, and fell down an elevator shaft. She was paralyzed from the neck down. I watched as, one by one, my friends became heroin addicts and I said goodbye to them. Heroin turns a person into heroin. Their voice becomes heroin’s voice, they walk like heroin, and they have the personality of heroin. The traits, personality quirks, and sense of humor, emotions, and values that made someone a unique person that I cared about were swallowed up by heroin. I decided I needed to say goodbye to the scene and the lifestyle because self-destruction is not what I want.
It’s been a difficult transition though. Still. I feel guilty for leaving them behind, especially when I know that I am like them. That life is a part of me because it is an honest reflection of how a big part of me sees the world. We are one step away from violence, chaos, poverty, hunger, and addiction. People who experienced horrific abuse, violence, mental illness, and hardship, who struggle to live, surround us. Perverts, abusers, and sadists also surround us (often in positions of authority). Maybe some people tell themselves that they are different, that could never happen in their life, but I can find no comfort in that. I know I shouldn’t focus on these things, but I’ve seen it, and lived through it, and I can’t seem to switch gears and start thinking that I can trust people even though I haven’t been able to in the past, that I can be happy even though the whole idea has seemed like a lie to me.
I feel like I’m running from something, but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s my dad. Maybe it’s my past. Maybe the problem is that I need to find a way to reconcile the bad and the good in my life, so that I can be happy while still acknowledging that there is a lot of unhappiness too. I think some people have a hard time accepting suffering. I have a hard time accepting contentment.
I continue to be attracted to chaos and drama because I’m used to it. I know how to deal with it. It seems like reality to me, instead of a pretense. Being comfortable makes me uncomfortable. I’m always waiting for it to blow up in my face. It feels like buying a house in a war zone. I’d rather keep moving, join one of the armies, or find a foxhole to hide in than sit in the house waiting for it to be blown up. (There I go again. It looks like I’m still in fight or flight mode. The third one is freezing. According to a book I’m reading, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma by Peter A. Levine, humans and other animals will freeze if fight or flight doesn’t work. The problem is, freezing suppresses all the energy generated for fight or flight, and humans have a hard time working out that energy, which causes Post Traumatic Stress symptoms. That is, they’re still in fight, flight, or freezing mode.) Of course, probably the war is not really happening, at least not the way I think it is, and I would be safe in my house, but try telling that to my head, okay?