“Seriously? Again? Now?!” I frequently hear myself exclaiming these words in exasperation and despair. Hundreds of times I have spoken these words when I have been triggered to a traumatic scene in my past by some innocuous event or object in the present. Mostly recently I was insulating a crawl space under an old cabin. Batts of insulation are fitted between the supports of the floor and held in place with carpentry staples around the edges. These are the same kind of staples my biological brothers used to fire into my legs while molesting me in the garage. Even now, with each metallic thwack of the staple gun I cringe, feel like I will be sick, and I rage against my struggle to stay present. “Seriously?!” I demand from myself and from God. I am angry that I have the memory in the first place and that it still knocks the wind out of me.
About a year ago I sat in Open Hearts Ministry teaching time and the kind man speaking said something, said just two ordinary words that prompted my heart to ask my mind a question. The answer poured forth in a vivid and horrible memory of my oldest biological brother beating me with his belt and then raping me. “Now? No! I want to sit in this chair and listen to this man’s words, not get plunged into every sound and feeling from years ago!” This kind of triggering feels so wicked because not only am not able to remain present, but I was missing out on another’s story and brave wisdom. Triggers can have seriously bad timing.
Frequently I hear my heart say “Again? Really? I thought I could do better this time.” I feel these disappointing words hang like a dark cloud when another has touched me in comfort, but I feel fear flash through me like lightening instead. I muster my bravery again and again to let a loved one hug me and hope I will feel something good. Sometimes I can focus on their touch hard enough that I feel it a little, but mostly I am either numb or spinning through any one of thousands of toxic memories of when I was used, hurt, and betrayed. It can be so difficult for me to believe that those who love me now really are true and are not evil like those who raised me.
When will I no longer doubt goodness? I hate that I keep questioning my loved ones. However, I have let it happen three times now where I let someone hold me when I was very broken. They were beautiful times when I actually felt seen and loved in the middle of my pain. “Seriously? Did this just happen? Did I really just let myself cry in this person’s arms and not hide my hurt?” I ask in unbelief. It feels risky to want this comfort as the normal and not the exception, but I really do
I also know that the forces of evil in this world do not want me to find strength and comfort in another’s love for my wounded soul.
Not only do I need to muster strength to risk being cared for, but I also have a spiritual enemy actively stealing, killing, and destroying any good thing I can find? The enormous difficulty and uncertainty of finding healing for my broken self has historically caused me to give up and condemn all hope. But then I read a book that gave me an unexpected change of perspective. The book is No Hero, the Evolution Of a Navy SEAL by Mark Owen, an actual Navy SEAL. Near the end of the book, Owen is preparing to finish another season of traumatic combat and fly home. All of the SEALs are required to spend thirty minutes with a psychologist before being cleared to return to the states. When his turn comes, the psychologist hands him a sheet listing off all the symptoms of PTSD. He laughs to himself, realizing he has them all and then some. Owen asks the psychologist how it is possible that he is still functioning. She responds by reminding him of the extensive training he went through to become a SEAL and of all the missions he completed during his deployment. Basically, she tells him to remember how very strong and driven SEALs are. They are tough enough to endure the trauma, and they have the fortitude it takes to heal from it. I love her words and have taken them to be true for me as well.
Somehow I lived through a lot of horrendous stuff a human was never meant to experience. My mind and heart grew strong in unique ways to protect my young self, and I am still the same person today. Mark Owen and other soldiers I have read about inspire a spark in my soul that says “bring it on!”. I want to be so brave and driven that evil stands back in unbelief asking “Seriously? Did that girl seriously just get back up again?”.
Even when I don’t feel it is true, I am strong. I have been strong enough to stand on my own and I think I might be strong enough fall apart and let my broken heart be held and healed.
Emma Casey is a multifaceted combination of childlike whimsy and battle hardened warrior endeavoring to reclaim the best of both. Living in the remote mountains of Colorado, while she’s tinkering on her motorcycle, playing with her horse, or lounging with her corgi, she’s cautiously exploring the possibility of the restoration of desire and joy. She loves classic literature, all things Disney, and playing games with her family.
Your bold words resonated deeply in my soul. My childhood holds similar memories, and I know the reality of being slammed out of nowhere with uninvited memories. Grateful you are alive, and doing this hard work of reclaiming.
Thank you. While I rarely muster the ‘bring it on’ bravado, these words are what I will breath in and trust to be true for myself: They are tough enough to endure the trauma, and they have the fortitude it takes to heal from it. Thank you again.
Emma, The parts of your story that you shared here are excruciating and heartbreaking. I weep for what you endured that structured your brain to respond as it does – and it makes so much sense and deserves to be honored and cared for with deep tenderness. I’m praying you will find soft and gentle places for your “broken heart to be held and healed”. Thank you for sharing so vulnerably!
Oh my gosh, Emma, I love this post.
“I want to be so brave and driven that evil stands back in unbelief asking “Seriously? Did that girl seriously just get back up again?”.
YES. This is my new mantra.
Thank you for your strength and inspiration.
How kind that you honor both your strength in standing on your own, as well as the strength in falling apart and allowing yourself to be held. The darkness and evil so evident in your traumatic memories is palpable, making the hope and redemption evident in your fight for life and goodness that much more stunning. So glad you are speaking your story here. ❤️