Keep Everyone Safe

Posted: March 21, 2019 in anxiety, Life, living, mental health, Panic Disorder
Tags: ,

anxious

CRASH!

The little guy woke with a start. He sat up in bed and looked around, blearily. The clock said 1:30. He had just learned how to tell time so he knew it was too early for breakfast.

He heard another crash, this time with some screams.

Alarmed, he yanked back the blankets and slapped his six year-old feet on the floor and ran to the living room.

Before he got there, he heard his father bellow something in rage. So he stopped just in time and stood just outside the doorway.

He heard everything. The unfocused anger, the faint sound of a fist hitting flesh, his mom’s whimpers and his grandmother’s loud protests. He didn’t know what to do. This was all wrong and he wanted it to stop but he didn’t know how. So he stood there, trembling.

……………

Eventually, this scenario repeated every weekend. Then, almost every night. For so many nights, the little guy listened to his dad bellowing in drunken rage, and his mother trying to stand her ground.

He didn’t hit her every time. But he came close quite often. And every now and then he lashed out. Once he hit her mother too, for trying to stop him.

……………

The little guy was the oldest of two children. After that first drunken blowup, four more children were born, bringing the total to six.

The little guy listened attentively to his mother as she coached him into behaving as quietly and as unobtrusively as possible, so as to not “set your father off.” He interpreted that as her giving him the mantle of keeping everyone safe.

He took that responsibility seriously. And he remained serious from then on, ensuring his sisters and brother behaved properly, so as to not “set dad off.”

Secretly, he wished he could balloon up to 400 pounds so he could eclipse his 350 pound dad and pound the shit out of him until he stopped being so mean to everyone.

But, even in his teen years, he had a very slight build and could not gain weight no matter how hard he tried. And all during that time, he held the responsibility of keeping his family safe. He actually called the police on his father twice, but they turned out to be useless. (In later years, he grew to understand that at the time, police had very little training in the handling of “domestic disputes” as they called it.)

……………

His father eventually got into AA and the abuse stopped. By this time, the little guy was an adult with a marriage and children of his own. His mother had eight abuse-free years after his father’s death before she too passed on.

The man, now grown, found he knew how to mediate very well. He prided himself on being able to see all sides of a dispute, and help the parties come to a mutual understanding. After understanding, he knew an agreement was imminent. Most disputes, he knew, came from one guy not being able to empathize with the other, and vice versa. He saw his role as painting pictures for them both, to allow them to see the issue from all sides.

The problem of course was that the man was mediating disputes all over the place, even in some cases where there was no dispute at all. He was good at it, and he hated conflict, so he worked hard to keep everyone safe.

……………

During one of the final nights of the Panic Disorder therapy group, the man noticed he was carrying some anxiety. He knew it only because he could feel his chest tighten up, and his breathing quicken. As soon as he noticed it, he felt it go down.

This particular group session was all about how to spot triggers for anxiety. The therapist mentioned that triggers can happen long before any anxiety or panic attacks happen.

Meanwhile, he kept noticing his anxiety going up – and then going down as soon as he noticed it. It was puzzling, and he couldn’t think of anything that would warrant the anxiety.

Except….later that night the shoe finally dropped.

During the Panic Group session, there was some unsettling behaviour going on. There were moments where someone was expressing his or her issues and it seemed like there was something unpredictable about it all.

What happened was the man’s now-ingrained response to “make sure everyone’s safe” was kicking in, and the anxiety was ramping up appropriately. Everyone was not safe because not everyone was happy and calm.

……………

This revelation was just as much a surprise as it was obvious – only in retrospect. Of *course* the little guy’s completely understandable anxiety and wish to keep everyone safe would become a habitual response to any uncomfortable or unpredictable situations.

The difference now is: he’s a grown adult, his dad is dead and gone, and no one’s really in danger.

And maybe I don’t have to keep anyone safe anymore except myself.

Comments
  1. I’m so sorry. My heart ached when you said your mom had “eight abuse free” years… I’m real sorry you had to deal with all of that as a child and even as an adult. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • wolfshades says:

      Thanks Carmen. It was pretty tough. I’m kind of jazzed about realizing why I’ve been holding so much anxiety all these years. I had no idea until yesterday exactly why.

      I’ve forgiven dad years ago. He didn’t deserve it, but I did. So we’re square. : )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bob Tadman says:

    Thanks for sharing your story Doug. Hard to read knowing the it was your reality. Glad for your insight. My it only deepen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. darlenebloggityblogger says:

    I know how drunken rages affected me as an adult, so I could cry thinking how it must have affected a child. It sounds to me like you are overcoming all of that which makes me happy. I hope that you will overcome completely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. contoveros says:

    It takes an act of courage to write something like this. It reminds me of what Hemingway once said: Anyone can write. All they gotta do is open their vein.

    Great insights here and a big help to those of us who deal with life’s problems through the therapy of Blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

    • wolfshades says:

      “All they gotta do is open their vein”. Yeah, that’s it. : )

      I really hope this particular entry is of use to someone else who might recognize themselves. Childhood trauma has so many far reaching effects – many of which I’m convinced remain hidden to us throughout our lives.

      The fun now is trying to figure out who I can be without the baggage of anxiety. It’s a fascinating time for me. : )

      Liked by 1 person

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