Sad experience on the subway

I’m taking a break from this blog but wanted to share a troubling experience my daughter and I had yesterday while riding the subway.

I saw a family of four get on the train — a mom, a dad, and two children (a girl about 9, a boy about 11). They were obviously tourists, not sure where they were from. As soon as I saw the mom, I knew something was wrong. She looked like she had zero self-esteem: the way she was dressed, the look on her face, the way she carried herself. Literally INSTANTLY I knew something was wrong.

She and the two kids were sitting, and the dad was standing with his back to me, so I couldn’t see him. I started reading something, and then my daughter said to me, “That man just hit his son!”

I hadn’t seen it, but I also hadn’t seen or heard the son do anything at all that seemed inappropriate. He and his sister and mom were playing a little video game. Not even saying anything.

A moment later, the person who had been sitting next to the son got up, so the dad had a place to sit. As he was sitting down, he slightly bumped his head on the bar (that you hold while the train is moving). He swore like a sailor! And the wife and two kids stopped what they were doing and looked scared to death.

They went back to playing the little video game, and the boy reached out to touch it (the mom was holding it) — just to see it a bit better. The dad said to him, “Stop grabbing!” And the boy pulled his hand back. I figured that must have been what led to him being hit a couple of minutes earlier.

The saddest moment for me of all was right after that: The boy tried to nuzzle against his father’s arm. No response at all from the dad.

I wanted to slip that woman a note, like “You’re worth more than this. And so are your children.” I had to stop myself from doing that, and from saying something to the dad which I knew might only get the family into deeper trouble.

I know I can’t help everyone. I should have done something yesterday, though. I could have given that woman a note without him seeing. Maybe it would have been what she needed to wake up to her situation. Next time, I’ll do something.

Will you?

Where is my voice?

Like many people who have experienced trauma, I believe my own inner voice has become buried under a blanket of others’ voices — including my own. Let me explain.

When I try to tune in and listen to my own inner voice these days, I am consciously having to tune out the following people (in no particular order);

– My abuser

– My father (who was not abusive but who was influential)

– My mother (ditto)

– My boss (who can be subtly abusive)

There’s another voice, though, that I hear all too frequently. That’s my own voice, but not the deep, inner one. This voice is Lucy the traumatized woman, the one who still occasionally flinches when people get to close to her on the subway; the one who “tracks” people around her to make sure they’re not going to hurt her; the one who doesn’t trust herself to make the best decisions.

So not only do I have to tune out those other people, I also have to tune out the traumatized version of myself. Only then can I get to the real, inner me — the voice I should be listening to.

This is an extremely difficult process for me. About the only way I can do is by writing. Writing a lot. Writing often. As a professional writer, I’m lucky because this process is fairly easy for me because of my facility with the written word. That doesn’t make the emotional part easy, though, nor does it make it easy to really understand what that inner voice is saying much of the time. Sometimes it comes out like a jumbled mess. Other times my voice is clearer, but rarely is it crystal clear.

The result is that I still feel as thought I’m acting on inner information that’s not totally trustworthy. I’m also sad that my inner voice is so covered up. I know it’s not lost, but it’s barely a whisper most of the time.

Pushing, pulling, doubting

I know that people have doubts.  Even the most successful people in the world — like the president, for example — have doubts. Do you remember the looks on people’s faces in that photo of the president, Secretary Clinton, et al., during the raid on bin Laden? That was a poignant example to me of how even the most powerful people in the world feel fear and doubt.

The difference is, when you’re dealing with symptoms of PTSD and the problems of trauma recovery, fear and doubt creep in all the time. One of my biggest challenges during this recovery process is learning to trust myself. I’ve written before about my struggle to learn to love myself. I’m also having great difficulty learning to trust myself.

It makes sense. An abuser like my ex-husband does everything he can to make you distrust yourself. Question yourself. You start to say things in your head like, “Is it ME? It must be me that’s causing him to act this way. What am I doing wrong?”

I still have this conversation with myself, every single day, about innumerable things. The difference is that I hear the words differently. I recognize that I’m doing it, and when I recognize it, I attempt to change the script.

When I hear that pushing, pulling, doubting conversation inside my head, I try — as often as I possibly can — to say this to myself, instead: “You can be trusted. You do have good judgment. You can be successful and still have a few doubts. It’s normal.”

Is it easy? No. Am I worth it? Yes.