[Written by The Blackbird]
[Image Credits: Florence Bridgman (she/her)]
Content warning: Contains discussion of extreme childhood and adult trauma of several forms; mention of cancer; discussion of poverty; mention of disownment; mention of psychiatric wards; discussion of paralysation; mention of self-harm; mention of drug dealing; discussion of violence.
… the sound of a bullet biting into skin.
… a face that dangles from a skull, held only by a piece of gum.
… the shadow that stalks the living with the full weight of the dead.
… having shining eyes that look at the others, those that are free.
… eyes that open and won’t close.
… eyes that look, tired and awake, at the cracking yellowed skin. And cancer that like the silence grows.
… « Taking the webby weight of [her] underarm » 2.. at 6pm on a Sunday night to drag your drunk mother to bed, and cook for your little sister. Only to answer the door a couple of hours later, for one of your mother’s suitors.
… your mother kicking you out when you turn 18.
… that scream that never goes away, and that big sister that they send « away ». She returns, with glazed eyes and something missing.
… visiting your aunt in the psychiatric ward for the third time.
… moving to Australia, to run away from it all, only to end up paralysed in a wheelchair two weeks later, waiting for them to let you into hospital, and the receptionist saying :
– « 100 dollars please »
– « What ? »
– « It’s the price of admission into hospital »
– « Okay, my credit card is in my trouser pocket. »
She reaches and grabs it, taking her time, it doesn’t matter, you’re not going anywhere, you can’t move your limbs.
… being sent away three days later, because they can do nothing for you.
… the flatshare you newly moved into, once they release you : A cocaïne dealers den ! The spoons go missing. Your flatmates steal from you. Your limbs are still impounded, but you can’t let weakness show.
… that friend you were supposed to meet in this foreign country ? Ran over by a garbage truck as she was cycling around central park on a holiday.
… fighting your body everyday.
… your little sister self-harming, your cousin drug-dealing.
Lists are a lazy way of writing, but trauma doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t flatter you with the usual narrative. It splinters like the glass jar you punched, it fragments and cuts.
It’s a knuckle breaking glass, and a hand bleeding. A scar open, and never healing. Trauma does not stop in time, it continues, it travels with you. It takes many shapes. If you’re flying easyjet, it will be the right size, just about the same as a cabin-bag. Trauma is…
… getting angry at your friends years later because YOU KNOW THEY TOOK THAT JAM FROM YOU (they didn’t).
… punching and punching again to make the anger go away.
… that insomnia lying in wait.
… the echoes of those screams.
… that paranoïa that haunts you.
… dirty fingers clawing at the weight of the world.
… thinking it’s too much, it’s too much.
… wanting the good good and the bad bad to go away, away !
… muttering to yourself, « Let me not be mad ! Not mad sweet heaven ! » 3.
… that foot hovering over the edge of the bridge.
Trauma is a web of emotions that refuse summary, that cloud, and cover, and covet your life and seek to steal and destroy the love and the good that you hold onto like a drowning man.
But remember, you’re stronger than you look. There are others like you. Find them. Help them. Love them.
You will not feel good today. Or tomorrow. Or even the day after that. But little by little, the better will grow bigger. You are not trapped. You are already free. Don’t look down, even if the ladder that leads up and out is very long. The light is shining so strongly up there. And when you reach it, you will glory.