This is the opening mini-lecture of the third week of the trauma group. TGD then elicits examples from the group members as to how each one fills her own void and emptiness. The women in the group quietly give answers and TGD lists them on the white board with a fiery red marker.
I wonder if everyone is as embarassed and ashamed as I am to see the sins of our survival strategies posted on the white board.
I pick out my own shameful behavior and cringe at the thought of having to verbalize what is so blatantly obvious to everyone regarding the way I have tired to insulate myself from anyone. My survival strategy serves to insulate me from everyone. They see one of my many failures right before their eyes. At least if I were sexually promiscious, took drugs or was even an alcoholic, it could be hidden, but not the weight. Being overweight sends out screaming alarms to everyone. Not too obvious a visual.
The silence in the room is deafening and interminable. Guilt, humiliation, and disgust seem to spark a chord inside of everyone. Each one of these sins ignites a shame and embarassment that has stoked the fire of traumaike a joke birthday candle that keeps reigniting itself as an unsuspecting child keeps trying to blow it out.
TGD softly asks one of the group members, what she does when she finds a big dark void, a hole. When the group member responds to the inquiry, TGD then carefully probes a little more and asks, "Can you please tell the group, that when you find yourself in this dark lonely place, what usually reminds you or causes you to experience this hole? What are you thinking of?"
TGD begins to open this gaping raw wound for all of us.
As the group member relives her story of brutality and violence heaped on her by a parent, and the feelings associated with the traumas, I once again disapppear into that place in my psyche that I allow no one to enter. It's a double- edged sword- no one enters, but the memories and the perpetrators never leave- or are they memories? Is it then or is it now? The pain, humiliation and shame transcend time. The picture is clear but also cloudy. It's back to a time that sees the longing, the rejection, and the loneliness. But it's not in the past. It's still here. Still here!
At the same time, I am praying that TGD doesn't call on me to speak. Am I still a child in school fearing the teacher, not knowing the right answer and being called stupid?
No sooner do I think these thoughts, TGD turns to me and says, "Suzy, can you please tell us what images come to your mind when you look at the board and think about the various ways to fill the emptiness or voids"?
She knows me, she knows what I'm thinking and she fucking wants me to say it in front of everyone, not just in our private sessions. But there is something in her eyes, something safe, that allows me to trust her with my overwheleming sadness and not have to pretend anymore, and permits me to let her and the others in without fear of shame.
Before I know it I experience a flashback, that visual she knew I had within me, and I begin to recount to TGD and the group, memories involving food. A mother who probably didn't feed me. Memories of TV dinners being put on the table at 4pm with clear angry instructions not to talk and eat as fast as possible as my mother had to go back to bed before getting up for the all night shift. Sitting at that formica kitchen table after the aluminum tray was taken away and just feeling sad. That's all there was. No conversation, no sharing, just silence.
I have memories of going upstairs to the neighbors and knocking on their door to see if I could come in and be with someone, anyone. They would be finishing dinner and offering me their leftovers, seconds, anything that was left. "Eat it Suzy, or we'll just throw it away." The last stop before the garbage. Great, just fucking great. Seems like yesterday, and it probably was. No voids here.
I look at TGD through my tears and at once I am reassured that my "drug of choice" is nothing to be ashamed of. It was a survival tactic and I won. I am still here. My choice got me through the trauma when I could have just given up.
"If I won, why do I feel like such a loser"? I ask.
TGD explains that together we will sort through the memories, events, and traumas of my childhood and extract the past from the present and separate the trauma from the person. They are not one and the same anymore.
TGD will investigate where the hot spots are in the embers of my ashes and will identify the incendiary devices and the arsonist.
At last I feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.