I’m not sure why I bother with this. Why do I write? I know I have a blog reader or two, but historically my blogging is too inconsistent to maintain an audience, which only begs the question of why I would have an audience in the first place. A few friends and/or family members have checked in over the years, but beyond that I know I’m just spewing my thoughts into the void, whistling into the wind. Why? What purpose does it serve? I know that said purpose is mostly self-serving. The self-reflection that writing affords has given me insight, and that surely counts for something, but I could do that just as well, and probably better, by keeping a private journal. Why, then, do I blog? I suspect that this, like so many other things, can be tied to my C-PTSD. I know now that C-PTSD sufferers often have issues with attachment and feel an intense need to be known, loved, and accepted. I certainly do. As Pete Walker, whose tireless work in the area of C-PTSD has suddenly become an invaluable resource to me, says: “When a child is consistently abandoned, her developing superego eventually assumes totalitarian control of her psyche and carcinogenically morphs into a toxic Inner Critic. She is then driven to desperately seek connection and acceptance through the numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment.” Walker writes a lot about childhood emotional abandonment as a function of the experience of many adult C-PTSD sufferers.
Of course my mother didn’t just emotionally abandon me; she emotionally abused me, but while I’ve always thought of my father as being loving, I’ve also spoken of having not one, but TWO unreliable parents. I’ve described my dad as being unreliable because so much (that is, all) of his energy went into dealing with my mom- responding to her impossible needs or tantrums and all the while trying to shield me from the worst of her abuse while steadfastly refusing to take the only real logical or effective step available, that is, to remove me from the abusive environment. Any attempt on his part to spend meaningful time with me when he wasn’t exhausted or otherwise occupied by dealing with her was instantly met with some action on her part that would thwart his investment in me. She simply couldn’t allow any show of love that wasn’t directed at her, and couldn’t receive the ones that were. All of that, then, is simply to say that my mother emotionally abused/abandoned me, but my father emotionally abandoned me too. My mother might have had a lot to do with it, but my dad still made plenty of choices along the way. Hence, I can relate to that “desperate seeking of connection and acceptance through…numerous processes of perfectionism and endangerment.” Look, I’m doing it now.
In my case, I experience that desperate need for connection and acceptance in part through a desire to be known as someone who has been through everything I’ve been through. I’ve spoken before about the cathartic release I used to get from telling my story. Like any drug, that effect has waned over time, and the repeated traumas in my life that led to my C-PTSD diagnosis have made for a story that I now grow weary of telling, let alone living. Still, part of me still so very desperately wants to be known, to be accepted and validated as a resilient survivor. Sadly, I know now, or at least think I do, that I want this so badly in part because I believe I can never be “good enough,” though maybe I would be if my efforts just to survive were known. It’s why the old Keith Green song with the lyrics, “My son, my son, why are you striving? You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you…” have always been so meaningful for me, because I’m ALWAYS striving, always trying to add to what’s been done for me in the hope that some day I might be good enough, good enough to be, to exist, to live in my own skin and in the world without having to justify my presence.
“Justify my presence…” As I wrote those words, I wondered, “What good am I?” “Why am I here?” “What right do I have to be here?” All of these are questions that haunt me, that drive so much of what I do. Lately I would say that I’m not much good at all, that I have little right to be here, that my presence serves little purpose. Oh, sure, I know I have a wife and sons that love me and need me, that depend on me for so many things, but then again I don’t really “know” it, and I wonder if even that would be enough if I did, especially since I’m currently so spectacularly failing to be the good father and husband I want and need to be (ah, the perfectionism of a C-PTSD sufferer). I’m equally failing to be the kind of employee, or runner, or citizen, or homeowner, or friend, or family member, or- God forbid- (ha!) “Christian” I know I need to be too, and I can give you legitimate, concrete reasons for each and every one of those assertions. I struggle to get enough sleep or sleep too much. I respond to my fourteen-month-old’s waking up at least eight times last night with anger, not the love I want and need to give (and so risk perpetuating the cycle of abuse I’m mired in). Speaking of anger, it sits there, boiling, just under the surface of my daily experience, ready to explode at the nearest driver who tries to pass me or coffee shop barista who grabs my nearly-filled-up-over-more-than-a-year’s-time frequent drinker card and summarily throws it out because it’s now expired. I’m not just angry, though. I’m stuck, inextricably mired in this pattern of not taking care of myself, not brushing and flossing as often as I should, again not sleeping or sleeping too much, not preparing my lunch or getting up on time for work, not running every day, eating terribly and overmuch, not reaching out and cultivating the relationships I know I need, etc.
The daily discipline of simply doing what I know I need to do every day feels so completely and impossibly overwhelming and unattainable that I am loathe to even try. If I was living the life I should be I would get up each day no later than 4 am. I would spend half an hour doing Daily (morning) Prayer from the Common Prayer book I so appreciate. I would then do my sit-ups and push-ups and then run at least 3 miles, all by 5:30 or so. That leaves time to eat, shower, make sure Samuel is ready for school, and then be on my way. At work I would be focused and perfectly caught up with everything, which right now during the “Special Ed crunch” is a nearly impossible task in and of itself. I would come home on time each day having already run and ready to assist Kirsten with whatever is needed, including making sure she can get out the door on time for work on any given evening without feeling harried or rushed. After she’s gone, I’d do the dishes faithfully every night since she so faithfully cooks such wonderfully healthy and often vegan and organic meals for us every single night. I’d likewise clean up around the house and care for the boys, perhaps taking Samuel to running practice if it’s a Tuesday or Thursday. I’d get the kids in bed making sure I faithfully read to Nathan so that he becomes as advanced a reader as Samuel is, not to mention singing and otherwise bonding with Nathan and getting him in bed. Then I’d do evening prayer with Samuel and go through his routine including the therapeutic stretching he needs for his Cerebral Palsy and practicing tying his shoes, etc. Only then could I turn to whatever work I’ve brought home with me and too often leave in the car. After that I should turn to whatever tasks are left undone (filing things, keeping up with bills, yard work, etc.) around the house before getting in at least a solid 90 minutes of reading and writing before going to bed. And I ought to go to bed by 10 if I intend to get up at 4 and start all over.
Now, look. I know most people could give a similar list of all their responsibilities and it would be equally- if not much more- overwhelming. Some of this is a function of the kind of lives we lead in our society. I wouldn’t dare to think I’m overly special in this way. I’m merely trying to relate my experience of my own life and describe why I currently find it debilitatingly daunting. The fact is I’m struggling to do a bare minimum of that stuff and I continue to feel desperately abandoned. As I thought/said when my Dad finally died, “Well, now I guess I really am alone.” I had always suspected I was, after all. One part of me “knows” that I’m not, but I guess this just gives credence to my diagnosis. What to do with it all is the task I’m confronted with now. I just wish it didn’t feel like yet another task. I’ve got too many of those as it is.