For those of you not parenting children affected by trauma, you might not know that term in the title. It refers to the fact that our bodies store traumatic experiences, and that on the anniversaries of those traumatic experiences can react as if they were happening again. It's weird, but true. I've watched multiple children struggle, and I couldn't figure out the reason until something later reminded me that a traumatic event in their past happened on that date. Adoption anniversaries are huge for this kind of stuff around here.
I knew intellectually what was going on, but will admit there was a small part of me that struggled to feel compassion, because, good grief, that was a while ago. Can't we just move on? (Remember, I tell you all the time that I'm not perfect, that this interior lack of sympathy is just a piece of that.) Well, this past week I had a personal experience that kind of changes all that.
I have been in a rotten mood all week. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was up. Things seemed to be all going quite well, yet I was experiencing some pretty extreme anxiety, my patience and temper, always a little difficult to keep under control, were hanging by a thread, I felt as though my skin was literally crawling much of the time, and I couldn't shake these very physical feelings. What on earth could be going on? Of course, any mom reading this knows all too well, that once you start down the path of easily irritated and short-tempered, then it doesn't take too much time before you also get to add a heaping helping of guilt to the whole package, because you know you are being a rotten mother. So there was that on top of everything else.
Completely unrelated, but I must have had some sort of glimmer in the back of my head, I got to wondering what we were doing this time last year. I couldn't quite remember when we put the Big Ugly House under contract, and when we started looking for new houses. I knew it had to be around this time, but just couldn't remember. Enter the good ol' blog. It is so easy to go back and look at this date last year to see what we were doing. Well, it was illuminating.
Just about this time last year, life for us was incredibly up in the air. J. had started his new job, so had started the monster commute that kept him away from home far longer than any of us were used to. I was trying to do my best to pare down and pre-pack belongings in order to get the house on the market. School had already been called for the year, because you can't put a house on the market and teach school all at the same time. Plus, I was struggling with some extremely mixed feelings about everything that lay before us. In short, I was kind of a wreck and the future was very, very cloudy.
It was at this point that I realized I was experiencing my own little traumaversary. Over the past week, I had to remind myself multiple times that this new house, this new place, was really where we were living. We didn't have to pack up and move. I had to remind myself of this because worries about where we were going to live were popping into my head. It also explains why I was feeling as though I was a walking exposed nerve, perpetually irritated at everything and everyone. It's how I felt through the whole period where there were so many unknowns. My body was repeating everything I had experienced the year before.
I have to say, I have significantly more empathy for my children. This particular episode was a pretty benign traumaversary. It was short-lived, things quickly resolved well, no one died. If this was my experience... and it was very real and very unpleasant... over this type of trauma, how must my children feel in the midst of traumaversaries for significantly more traumatic events? It wasn't just all in my head, it was physical feelings all over my body.
There is nothing like experiencing something for yourself to elicit compassion, huh?