My Troubles with Trauma

My Troubles with Trauma

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Despite this post talking about trauma, it does not go into great, graphic detail – it is more a reflection upon the trauma which I have experienced.

In my previous post, I touched upon my concerns and issues related to abandonment – primarily how abandonment has manifested itself in my past romantic relationships and how moving forward, I will actively work towards communicating to my partner that this is something I struggle with and continue to work through. I suggest that my concerns with abandonment have primarily stemmed from my father, and his inconsistent presence throughout my childhood.

I actually recommend you go back and read my previous post first, before you read this post, as it provides greater insight and context into this situation.

Today’s post is an extension of the previous one – how despite clear abandonment issues, I struggle to accept and to grant myself the peace of mind that what I experienced was a form of trauma. I also struggle with feelings of validity in several different areas of my life – I struggle to feel valid in the very fact that my dad was absent. I struggle to feel valid in using the term absent to describe my father. I struggle to feel valid with how his absence and it’s aftermath still affects me today as an adult. I especially struggle with feeling valid as to whether I have permission to refer to the aftermath I am experiencing as trauma.

One of the biggest inner challenges or turmoils I have struggled with and dealt with concerning this situation, is if my experience with this could be classified as trauma – and if it is considered trauma, is that trauma actually valid? Writing this post, my head is telling me my experience is not worth sharing because it is not trauma – but how can it not be when what occurred in my childhood is now manifesting itself in adulthood? When what took place when I was younger, is now having residual effects on my relationships, creating a lack in my ability to feel safe and secure when I am with someone I care about?

The struggles concerning my situation when I was younger, play out in a narrative that goes something like this: Sure, my dad was absent, but he was around, sporadically throughout my childhood, whereas some people’s parents are absent, period. There’s no floating in and out of their children’s lives as mine did – they’re just not there. My mind tells me I could have had it worse, that my experience is somehow less valid or not valid at all because at least he was involved in my life, in some way, shape, form or capacity.

So … that’s got to be better than the alternative which is not at all – right?

Re-reading those lines, and another more rational, more kind and gentle part of my mind appears and says no, honey – it’s not better. Looking back now, I feel certain it would have been better if he was either always there, or he was never there. I feel stuck in this weird limbo where at least I had him for parts of my life, but am I truly allowed to refer to him as an absent parent if he was around for some of it? This is what I grapple with, too – not only the validity of his absence, but the validity in referring to him as absent.

I made this analogy in my previous post as well, but I compare it in my mind to a fishing rod in the water with bait attached. The bait is my dad and I am the fish. It’s like when he was around it was exciting, it was amplifying a pretend normalcy despite the fact I had not seen him in months, despite the fact it was anything but normal. I know most people at this point would say what even is normal these days? but you get my point here. It was for me, a little fish, being lured by bait.

Which is why I wonder if my life would have been better off, had I never seen or experienced the bait to begin with?

All that being said, if we look at the facts and how life panned out, how could I not refer to my father as absent? I didn’t see him for the last 6 years of his life. Even before that, visits and phone calls from him were like a Russian Roulette style of parenting – maybe the gun won’t go off and i’ll get to see him, maybe the gun will go off and I won’t see him for another 4 months.

After he died (and even in the last few years leading up to his death), I think I carried a lot of guilt about not making an effort to see him. I had his phone number – why didn’t I call him? Why didn’t I set up a get-together? He only lived 45 minutes away. I was fortunate to have my brother with me on the day we found out he died because that same guilt came back and washed over me tenfold.

My mom was always supportive of my brother and I not having any reason to feel guilty of this exact thing and would repeatedly remind us of this. He was the parent, we were the children – if he wanted to see us, he should make the effort. I think that in and of itself was trauma too – knowing your parent lives so close, but them never making the effort to see you. You begin to question your worth, and what you could have done differently.

At the same time, I don’t think I would have wanted to see him or have gotten together with him. I am currently working on another post addressing his alcoholism (which brought with it even more trauma), but within the last 6 years of his life, his state/condition/however you want to refer to it, got really sick, to the point I ended up changing my phone number as a result of it. Bear with me on that post, it is coming. I know I mentioned it in my last post, My Mother: 10 Lessons at 60, but it’s a doozy, and I need to make sure I write it and capture it right, considering it involves both my mother and father’s side of the family.

Reflecting on the whole situation, I recognize that trauma is not one size fits all. Trauma looks different for everybody. Some will experience trauma to a greater, more severe degree, than others. In the same breath, just because my trauma may not be perceived as severe as others, who have endured much worse, that does not make my trauma any less valid.

I now recognize that in an attempt to take up less space with the trauma I experienced, I did not allow myself the space to heal, which probably would have made me a lot healthier and a lot happier. I said previously as well, it was not until I went to therapy that I made the connection that trouble within my romantic relationships may have occurred due to past abandonment concerns, and therefore the trauma experienced from that, is what has manifested itself in my relationships. Bottom line, I am working on granting myself permission to recognize my own trauma, by being more openly communicative with myself about my needs, as well as communicating to my future partner(s) about those needs, too.

Thank you for reading as always. If you liked what you read, give my post a like, hit the Follow button on the top right-hand corner of this post, and turn on post-notifications, so you never miss an LE blog post! Don’t forget to join my monthly email list by signing up below, for updates, bonus content, and recommendations from yours truly!

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Confronting my Fear of Single at 30

Confronting my Fear of Single at 30

Estimated Read Time: 12 minutes

Watching my friends move on to new stages in life, I can’t help but wonder – what if I stay stuck?

It’s a question I often ask myself. It’s a fear that pops into my head when I cheer on friends from the sidelines as they move on to new life stages (move in with partners, get engaged, get married, have a baby, buy a new home, have another baby). It’s a fear that creeps in when my romantic relationships end, when I find myself randomly thinking of when would be the best age to have children.

A point of concern which has manifested itself for me in my life, especially within the last few years, has been the fear of turning 30 , more specifically, the fear of being single and turning 30.

Credit – Giphy

I’ve started and stopped the creative process of writing about this fear numerous times on my site. Why? Because I feel someone who is 30 or over 30 will read this and say you’re being ridiculous despite it being a very real and very looming fear of mine. As it happens, I am currently living through that stage in life when people close to me are starting to take the next steps. I know this stage will pass eventually, but that is exactly the fear – everyone will advance during this stage and by the time I reach 30, I will have remained in the same place as when I was 25 in the realm of love and family life.

It’s gotten to the point that in my effort to finally write this post, going back and pulling what content i’d already created, I had 3 drafts saved – 3 times I started with a thought, then shelved it, out of concern that others would judge my fear, or that the fear would come off to others as something I don’t need to be concerned about, when it actually concerns me deeply. So today, I’m going to sit down, and I’m going to confront it – you’re welcome to join me for the ride.

Truthfully, part of the fear comes from having irrationally built it up in my head that 30 is this be all, end all age – a milestone by which time I should have my shit figured out. The logical part of my brain recognizes there are many people who are 30 and older, who are single, who are married, who have children, who do not, who are doing just fine. The logical part of my brain recognizes 3 to 5 years from now, I will look back at this time period when I stressed about my single self and wonder why I worried so much. The irrational, anxious part of my brain however, recognizes that as soon as I hit 30, time really starts ticking to begin breeding miniature versions of me.

Of course then the what-if’s role in – What if I don’t meet anyone? What would my life look like if I genuinely never met anybody? What if people keep telling me “you’ll meet the one” but one day I wake up and I’m 40, and I still haven’t met the one? What does the one even mean or look like these days?

What if I become the eccentric single friend who plays fairy godmother to all of her friend’s children because she doesn’t have any of her own – which actually doesn’t sound too bad – spoil the kids with gifts, play with them, then give them back at the end of the day – a grandma before my time, because that’s what a grandma does.

Credit – Giphy

Why does it bother me so much? Is it because of some unconscious calling to wifely duties which I should be fulfilling by now? Is it the unconscious calling of a barren womb while friends around me seem to be pushing out offspring at a yearly rate? Okay, I giggled a bit at how dramatic that sounded when I typed it – barren womb – but YOU GET MY POINT.

While there may be certain life shifts going on which unlock my unconscious needs, wants and desires, I would say that the biggest piece in this fear comes down to comparison. Comparison is truly the destroyer of happiness. How do I know? I have partaken in it many, many times – comparing what stage my friends are at in their lives, to what stage I am at in my life. If I was happy, if I was fearless, if I didn’t care where others were at in their lives compared to where I am at, do you think I would be writing this article? Digging deeper to the root of that comparison, lies my own insecurities. If I was truly secure in who I am and where I am at in my life, I wouldn’t feel a need to compare myself to others.

It should be noted now, that I am still a few years away from turning 30 – I am only 27. I should also note that I have consistently mentioned to myself and others that I don’t want to have children before I turn 30, but that doesn’t exclude relationships, engagement and marriage.

It’s especially been within the last year, that this fear has gripped me. In the last year, I’ve witnessed 3 engagements, a wedding, a friend’s pregnancy, and another friend giving birth. I already see this cycle repeating itself this year and in the coming year as well. Of course covid is having a profound affect on all of these aspects of life, but the point is that they are continuing to happen.

If this is sounding like one big woe is me, self-pity party, I apologize. In a way, I think I manifested a lot of this fear and brought a lot of this on myself. Let me explain.

From 2015 to April 2019, I was single, aside from a 1 month stint with a guy who dumped me by text because he wanted to go snowboarding and ended up giving me infectious mono. Yes, that is the legitimate reason he broke up with me, no I am not pulling your leg – happy to share that story some other time .

During this time, I flip-flopped a lot. What I mean by this is that I would tell myself I was okay with being single, I was confident in being single. Heck I even wore it as some wacky badge of honor for a while. However, at the end of the day , I would stress out (and eventually convinced myself) that I would never meet anyone. A lack of confidence in being alone, secretly equated to the fact that I didn’t want to be alone (which I can now recognize as an invalid and unhealthy reason to want to be in a relationship. You should be relatively wholesome and content with who you are – if someone finds their way into your life it’s only because they make a wonderful addition – not because you’re half a person looking for someone else to complete you – or in my case, you don’t want to be alone).

Credit – Giphy

In addition to this, I lived a bit of a hermit life. I’d get invited to go out, but wouldn’t accept the invitation. I’d use an excuse that I had to work the next day, that the people attending weren’t really people I cared to be around or hang out with, or that I preferred the comfort of my couch rather than go to a bar for a friend’s birthday.

In retrospect, it makes perfect sense – how could I have expected to meet anyone when I didn’t put myself out there, nor push myself outside of my comfort zone? During this time period, I was on dating apps like everyone else, but in addition to that, I wasn’t meeting people any other way. I wasn’t going out and living my best life and allowing life to just happen – instead I stayed home. It’s almost like I was expecting someone to just show up, knock on my door and say hi, i’m the love of your life without putting in the work or making the effort to get what I wanted out of it.

Adding to all of this, while on dating apps, I interacted with and went out with a number of guys who I either didn’t click with, created poor dating experiences for me, or were just straight up f**k boys. If you’re not familiar with what this is (aka, you’re over the age of 40) I’ve included the Urban Dictionary definition for you:

A f**kboy is a guy with the body of a man and the mind of a perverted teenager. He has no heart — just a penis that he uses to paint the town.

Paint that town, paint it.

My experience with dating men tanked so hard, that I actually swore off them. Altogether. Completely. Forever. I’d tell friends this was my plan and their eyes would bug out from their head like i’d grown a third arm. In my mind, the few bad seeds I had encountered, ruined the many for me. So why bother to keep trying? For how long could I continue to “put myself out there” (in a capacity which I thought was enough to qualify as putting myself out there) before it was time to hang up my proverbial hat and call it a day?

Another in retrospect learning lesson – I was allowing myself to interact with these sorts of low vibrational, pond scum-type men. This is not to say that all men who are on these apps are this way, nor all of the men I interacted with were like this – but upon reflecting on that time period (and up until very recently), I interacted with more shitty men than healthy men. This ultimately defined and shaped my belief that good men no longer existed, despite the fact I had been reinforcing this false belief by engaging with primarily crappy men.

It was during a session with a psychic in Fall 2019, when she told me she was actually glad I hadn’t met anybody during this time period. I too, was operating at such a low vibrational energy, that anybody I attracted, would not have been a healthy or happy match. This makes sense – if the energy and the vibrations which you put out into the universe and that you give to the world are low, what sort of energy do you think you will attract? Likeminded, Low energy! The more time I spent believing and focusing that I would not meet anyone, and the more I allowed myself to interact with and date low vibrational men (and therefore reinforcing my belief that all the good men had been taken or were non-existent), meant that I attracted more of the very things I did not want in my life. This in addition to actually living a very solitary lifestyle and not putting in the extra work involved, aside from just letting the universe do it’s thing.

So you see, the combination of engaging with and dating crappy men, my pre-existing belief that I was never going to meet anyone, my lack of effort in putting myself out there and meeting new people, as well as a lack of confidence in being alone, led me to manifest this fear. Add in the wickedness of comparison stemming from my own insecurities, and you got yourself a real winner here.

Credit – Giphy

Now would be a good time to point out that my intent in all this is truly not to bash myself, but to reflect on my actions and my behaviors, to be a healthier human moving forward.

I’ve recognized even in my most recent relationship, which was probably one of the healthiest I have ever experienced, that I wanted to stay with my ex because I was afraid to be alone/didn’t want to be alone. It would mean repeating the exhausting cycle of dating, hopping onto a dating app, small talk with a stranger, let’s get drinks, we hit it off or never see each other again. I think in a way I have to be okay with the cycle, though – I have to work in tandem with the cycle, regardless of if it’s on an app or not. It’s better to be orbiting the planet, as opposed to floating untethered through space, right?

I’m learning to recognize that being 30 and single does not equate to “being stuck“, as I said above. How can one be stuck, really, when there are so many other areas of life that are continuing to grow and flourish? If I am moving in a direction and growing as a person in a way which makes me feel happy, healthy and productive, then how can I or anyone else, possibly deem myself as a person, stuck?

Not to mention, is this piece of my life so significant that it outweighs all the other aspects of my life and their importance? I’ve got big dreams besides getting married and having kids – I want to go to Africa for my 30th birthday, I want to write a book, I want to become a meditation teacher, I want to run a blog that is successful enough that I never have to work another horrid desk job ever again, I want to purchase a vacation home, I want to be well-read – aren’t those significant, too?

Credit – Giphy

Maybe marriage and kids will happen, maybe not. I’ve learned that regardless of the situation, I need to be putting myself out there, in a capacity which allows me to live my life to the fullest and makes me happy. Sure, i’ll probably still interact with crappy men on dating apps, it’s inevitable, they are out there. The difference this time around, though, is consciously choosing whether or not to continue to engage with them, and taking back my power. At the end of the day, to express 30 and single as a defining factor in who I am as a person, is actually kind of an insult to my character and an insult to my other equally important goals and dreams. I have so much more going for me and am able to offer so much in the absence of a partner, a marriage, a pregnancy. (I’ve talked about this before in my article The Timeline Complex).

I’m also working to adjust my habit of comparison to more healthier outlooks – love, admiration, respect, courage. My friends are having babies – isn’t the human body amazing? My friends are getting married – when else is there a truer display of love between two people? If I get to experience those things, I will have considered myself fortunate. But I consider myself fortunate without them, too.

I need to stop letting comparison block my vision of the things I am working to achieve in the now. Is saving for a trip to Africa on my 30th birthday a tangible goal? Yes. Do I know when or if someone will waltz into my life tomorrow or the day after that, or in 6 months from now, who could be my future husband and the father of my children? No – perhaps they might. But I’m not going to sit at home waiting for this person to knock on my door any longer. I’m hustling to be the best version of me, and if they want to hop aboard the Lindsay train because they like the destination, then sure be my guest. What I can control is my attitude, my security within myself and my outlook in the years to come.

Credit – Giphy

Thank you for reading as always. If you liked what you read, give my post a like, hit the Follow button on the top right-hand corner of this post, and turn on post-notifications, so you never miss an LE blog post! Don’t forget to join my monthly email list by signing up below, for updates, bonus content, and recommendations from yours truly!

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My Name Is Lindsay and I Have Abandonment Issues

My Name Is Lindsay and I Have Abandonment Issues

I’ve been thinking a lot about my ex recently – and not in the way you might think.

Primarily, my thoughts have been about reflecting on particular moments, where I should have been more open and communicative with him and what I would say now if I had the chance. I always tout myself as someone who’s main solution of working through their problems and conflicts with others is by talking through them. I recognize that relationships take two to tango and not everything that created points of conflict between us was necessarily my fault (another blog topic we shall spare for another day – my Unhealthy All or Nothing Thinking Patterns).

What I should have been open about when communicating with him, however, was how unresolved trauma and abandonment issues from my childhood, may tend to manifest themselves in our relationship.

That being said, I can’t and won’t be too hard on myself. I have heard many times before that concerns which surface in adulthood are often a result of what took place in childhood, but it’s truly taken attending therapy for me to recognize this connection and see examples of it in my own life. It’s also taken therapy to make me realize the importance of communicating your mental health concerns and/or giving a head’s up to your current partner about your past trauma. Some people may read that and say Well of course Lindsay! Why would you not want to communicate that to your partner? I suppose in the simplest of ways I can outline it, I did not connect the dots that select arguments we had perhaps unconsciously stemmed, on a different plain, from my unresolved childhood concerns.

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

I should also note that we only dated for roughly 2 and half months and while we did share a lot of information with each other in that short time period (and even if I had in a hypothetical situation, say, “connected the dots”), I may have still held back from telling him because we were so new. Thinking back I feel too as though it would been a lot to handle, or too much for him to deal with – you want to keep things light and fun when you’re first with someone – would I make things too heavy if I had told him? I’m not agreeing with this necessarily – more so musing different outcomes in my mind. But even in the “honeymoon” phase of our relationship, concerns manifested themselves, so really, I should have been honest, regardless.

My own experience with unresolved childhood trauma, involves my father not being a consistent figure in my life. Yes – I have daddy issues. My parents separated when I was quite young. I was too young to remember it or to understand it, which for me, translated into it not having an affect on me in a profound way (which I am actually grateful for – some folks who’s parents split up when they are young, are greatly affected – this was not the case with me).

To sum up his life pattern in one word, especially in my conscious memory of him, it would be transient. He frequently bounced around to different living situations, in different buildings in different cities. I don’t recall there being one particular place he stayed in very long, the longest I think would have been a townhouse he resided in for a few years. I can’t remember his exact reasoning he gave to me as a child, when I would ask him why he was moving again, but I would wager to guess now he’d either a.) Skipped out on paying rent one too many times b.) Crossed a line with someone or c.) A combination of the two. It should be noted as well, that my dad perceived himself to never be in the wrong and never be at fault (it was always someone else’s fault), which did not serve him well when dealing with other people, as well as creating and sorting out conflict.

In addition to an inconsistent living situation, his presence was inconsistent throughout my life, too.

When he was present, I remember he’d take my brother and I out for dinner a lot, I remember gifts on random occasions which he would present to us, and randomly show up at our sporting events and moments of importance in our lives. This would irk my mum to no end, as when he showed up, he liked to pretend he was a fully fledged, fully supportive parent – “Joe Dad” as my mother referred to him – a facade of always being there, always supportive, all the time, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

On the flip side of this consistency and showering of affection, there was a gaping hole. Birthdays missed, not seeing him for weeks or months at a time, maybe a phone call – maybe not. My dad also walked through life with a poor grasp of money and what to do with it when he had it. So even if he showered us with meals out and presents, he couldn’t save money to save his life and spent it faster than he made it. I recall one particular situation when we were spending the day with him. He stopped for gas and he put $5.00 in his tank. What is an average amount of money to put in your gas tank – $30? $50? Even as a kid, I remember thinking that it was weird and not quite right.

The final blow to the gaping hole came in 2010. I was 18 and it was my aunt (his sister) and uncle’s wedding. I had driven my brother and I, and I remember as we were leaving, my dad walked us out. He was drunk (now a particular detail which I view as insightful foreshadowing of the years to come), got teary-eyed (from the alcohol), and in his best “attempt to sound normal but slurred nonetheless” voice, said he loved us, and watched us drive away. That would be the last time I would ever see him. He eventually moved 45 minutes away from my brother and I to be closer to his sisters and for the next 6 years, until his death in 2016, he would on/off call to chat, but never make plans to see my brother or I. From here, we dive into a whole other story which I will share eventually, but for the sake of staying on track with today’s topic, we shall save that for another day.

I compare it in my mind to a fishing rod in the water with bait attached. The bait is my dad and I am the fish, being lured by the bait. It’s like when he was around it was like bait – exciting, amplifying a pretend normalcy despite the fact I had not seen him in months, despite the fact it was anything but normal. I know most people at this point would say what even is normal? but you get my point here.

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

So now we return to my ex and how this may have played a role in certain points of conflict.

We’d met in December, and spent most of the month together, including pretty much every day of the Christmas break. I work for a university, and the school had let out for it’s customary 2 week holiday break, so he’d requested time off from his own work so he could spend it with me, his new gal pal.

When January rolled around and he had to go back to work (as did I), I remember that first week back being so hard. I went from seeing him every day and talking to him every day, to now not seeing him and now not hearing from him for hours at a time.

I remember not being in a great mental state on that particular Friday when that first week wrapped up – we’d met up after he got off work, having already canceled dinner reservations because he’d been asked to work late. I remember him pulling his car into a grocery store parking lot because he needed to pick up a few things and I started to cry because I hadn’t seen him and it had been really difficult. Even writing that and thinking back to it now makes me want to cry. I’d communicated to him it had been hard. He’d tried to make me laugh to cheer me up, then reasoned with me that he has jobs where he can’t be on his phone or talk to me as much, which I understood.

Upon telling my therapist of this situation, she said the common theme here is that I felt unsettled. Feeling unsettled because my father himself was unsettled – moving around, all the time, never staying in one place too long. Feeling unsettled with the inconsistency my father created and manifested by always being in and out of my life. Feeling unsettled when I go from seeing my partner every day to suddenly not seeing him at all. While I saw my ex more consistently than my father, it would be fair to suggest that the same panic, fear and sadness I experienced that week of my ex not being as present and as with me as he had been, were unconscious emotions related back to my experience with my dad.

Of course, my ex didn’t literally abandon me, but perhaps my inner little fish felt baited again in a similar fashion as it had all those years before.

While it could very well have been simply me having a hard time adjusting to a new normal (as my mother has pointed out, it can be hard to go from seeing someone all the time, every day, to not seeing someone nearly as much), it’s possible I unconsciously felt slightly abandoned. This is what I would communicate to my ex if I could. That while I am content with my own time and recognize people have their own lives outside of those connected to their partners, I perhaps need a higher level of communication than other people when in relationships to feel secure – at least in the beginning stages of a new relationship when you’re working out common ground and feeling not as secure as say a year, or 5 years down the road.

I don’t feel shame surrounding my abandonment issues. On the contrary, getting them out in the open and talking about them, allows me to work through them. Identifying particular mental states which may not serve my future relationships well, but that I can communicate to my partner in advance, can help to mitigate them in the long run. Not to mention, writing articles such as this one helps me to better recognize my wants and needs in a relationship – it allows my partner to be better equipped in making me feel more safe and secure when I am with them, which ultimately translates to me showing up as the best (AND HEALTHIEST) version of myself for my partner.