Sometimes adults find it hard to understand children who have experienced trauma…and in not understanding…even ‘professionals’ let them down. Maybe it would help to try looking at it from a different perspective…
Ok. So imagine you were 6 years old, and you had already been through enough seriously scary things in your life…so many that you would need all of your own fingers to count them, and probably need to borrow a few from someone else too…
Imagine that one of those things happened when you were 3, to your whole family, when you were all at home, at night, when you were safe in bed…and since then the only time you feel safe is when you are at school.
Imagine that what you saw when you were 3 has etched itself into your internal memory video…that somehow just presses ‘play’ all by itself, whenever you are in your house…and it doesn’t ever run out, or stop when it gets to the end. Imagine it turns into a loop that just keeps going round and round and round…and even when you keep your eyes open, you can still see and smell and feel the terror you felt half your life ago….when your Dad saved your life by throwing you down the stairs. Imagine those feelings being so real it seems like it’s happening again…right now.
Imagine how people tell you that was in the past and it wont happen again…but without your permission, your body tightens automatically every time your step through the front door… and the tightness intensifies through every single muscle as you go upstairs each night to go to bed. Imagine how you are terrified to go to sleep, how you can’t sleep, won’t sleep; your life depends on it.
Imagine how relieved you feel to have made it through another night, and get to get up and go to school with your siblings. Imagine how reassured you feel walking through the door of your classroom, and suddenly how heavy and tired your body feels…and how much you finally feel like you want to sleep…’cos you know nothing bad happens here.
Imagine how you really try to follow the teacher’s instructions, but your ears seem like filters and just hearing 1 or 2 words in each sentence spoken to you makes instructions really hard to understand. Imagine that the feeling of being safe here, doesn’t mean it’s nice, or that you enjoy it. Imagine how your brain feels like it has got stuck…it just doesn’t work anymore…but it’s been like this for half of your life now…so you are kind of used to it…and there are some things you can do like everyone else…but the counting, and writing and spelling….imagine how different you feel to everyone else.
Imagine how you are so used to the struggle…and not being able to do what everyone else is… That it is time to face the fact: it’s clear you must be stupid.
Imagine how you feel when you hear your parents are going to take you to see a man who will help you. A man they have been recommended by another grown up who you like at school. Imagine how he must be OK…’cos you like the grown up at school, and she wouldn’t make you go do anything nasty.
Imagine how brave you are, when this stranger… that you don’t feel safe with…but your parents brought you so they must trust… this powerful-do-what-the-man-says grown up, asks you questions…about what happened when you were 3. About what you remember. About the pictures on your private video. Imagine how much you didn’t want to talk about that…if you’d known he was going to ask you to talk about it…to officially remember it all…out loud…you wouldn’t have come. You’d have kicked, or screamed, or been ill…or disappeared inside yourself or something.
Imagine the sense of freedom to finally hear after just 2 times, that you wouldn’t have to go and see him anymore… Imagine the relief that the horrible talking is over…and imagine the quiet sadness that even the expert man couldn’t help you. Imagine overhearing your parents talking about the letter they got from him that said you weren’t mature enough…imagine realizing that you weren’t better…you were just the same…and it was your fault….just like you can’t do things at school like the others is your fault.
Imagine starting to change the video in your head…so that you didn’t get woken up and thrown down the stairs with your siblings…that your life wasn’t saved…that you had died that night…half your life ago.
If this is life…I want it to stop. Imagine.