News, Updates, Musings
I am sitting here tonight, a rather cold night, reading about a five year old boy, a very disturbed child who had been abandoned in a crib during a house fire and is being treated with play therapy by Annie Rogers. In “A Shining Affliction” Rogers writes about her therapy with this boy, Ben, and about how his trauma reopened her own. It’s not only a painful read, it is one that I find reopens my own trauma as well. As I read this book I almost, not almost, I really feel as if I am five years old again. And yet Annie writes as if in anticipation of the reader, too, falling apart. There is a quiet, felt reassurance. After the following passage I had to stop reading as it was becoming too much to hold;
“He did not give up. His vital being demanded contact. And now he goes on recreating the torment, trying forever to reinstate the missing response. I am certain that his pain is precisely as serious as it sounds.”
This comes after having to restrain Ben as he bites and hits Annie, securing him to the floor so that he cannot harm either one of them. Annie interprets this as the only way Ben knows how to get what he truly needs and never got; an appropriate response and someone to keep him safe through contact.
This set off my own inner landmines and I felt sixteen again. At that time I was institutionalized for two years. Often I did such similar things to reinstate the missing response of rescue, of people to keep me safe. I would attempt to jump from high stairwell landings in the hospital, less to kill myself than to be grabbed and held to the floor, to be kept safe by someone, anyone, through the contact of rescue.
There was always a risk involved with every jump, the staff might not have reached me in time, but they did. I remember needing that, this extreme, painful risk, to know that I could be met with a good response, a rescue. It’s not ideal to have to get what we needed, long ago. like that.
The only way we know how to feel safe sometimes is to put ourselves in danger.
I can only read “A Shining Affliction” in small bites, how quickly it overwhelms me, to remember those two turbulent years of my life.
I think that some trauma is like a haunting, and while a house can be vanquished of its spirits for many years, there are still some nights when our ghosts must make themselves known again. Perhaps we’re supposed to make a reasonable amount of room for our ghosts, not banish them forever. Out of sight is not out of mind. Maybe some ghosts need to be held to the floor, safely pinned, reassured.
But I am not sixteen anymore. I am a thirty seven year old reading about a five year old who is reminding me of a sixteen year old. I am holding the ghost as best I can so that it cannot harm me or others. I am learning (will I ever stop learning) to love such ghosts.
“Language is a house with lamplight in
its windows, visible / across fields.”
This line is tucked into Annie’s book and takes my breath away. Language saves, holds to the floor, rescue, contact, and sometimes, by some wild and unknown grace, offers up the appropriate, missing response. Imperfectly. And so our ghosts must return. If ever they left.
“[We] made a new sanctuary within each of our stories. A place where love survives unbearable loss.” -Annie Rogers