Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mildly Traumatic Childhood Events

Childhood is traumatic. 

And not just because of the hats.

Even the best childhoods are rife with embarrassments, injuries, heartbreak, or a combination of all of those. The world is terrifying as a child...and not much better as an adult to be honest, but hopefully by the time you reach adulthood you have learned some ways of appropriately dealing with the terror that is daily life. 

We create sayings like "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" to ease the burden on children and make them feel like all this suffering is actually benefiting them. The truth is, sometimes what doesn't kill us scars us for life, but try breaking that to little Jessica as she's looking for a reason why her older cousin threw her pet hamster out the 4th story window. 

Children are amazingly resilient though, and sometimes they easily shake off what should seemingly be a traumatic event. Other times, some event that seems rather meaningless and minor is the very thing that shapes them as a person. 

The following incidents didn't necessarily shape me, but I do remember them clearly, and that says something right?  

Thankfully there was nothing too traumatic (that I can remember). In fact, these can all be summed up as "first-world problems." I come from a loving, middle class family, so my privilege was very high from the beginning. Hartford wasn't the greatest city (still isn't) but I lived in a nice house in a safe neighborhood. Regardless, there's always incidents that leave their mark on you no matter how great your life is overall. I wouldn't say I was traumatized or defined by any of these events but they definitely made an impression. 

The first one happened on a cross country trip with my family when i was about 11 or 12 (again, privilege on high). At Bryce Canyon in Utah we went hiking in the canyons. At one point I was near a cliff, which dropped down hundreds maybe thousands of feet. There was one area where the ledge was on an incline. I walked up and looked over the edge, acting carefree. As I started to come down the incline, my foot started to slip. I crouched down, yet kept sliding, so I dropped on my ass. I continued to slip downwards, towards the edge. 

I envisioned a long fall to my rocky demise.

I probably stopped 5-6 feet away, but that vision of slipping over the edge  stayed with me long after I had stopped all movement. I didn't tell anyone and I tried to forget about it, but the memory never left. I was shook. It was traumatic in the same way touching a hot stove as a child is traumatic. It didn't give me a fear of heights (I've gone sky-diving several times after all) but it gave me a new respect for heights. 

The next moment was traumatic in a different, grosser way. Lying in my bed in Hartford. In the state of consciousness right before sleep sets in. I hear a "poof" next to my head. A few seconds later, I hear another one, as if something light was landing on my pillow. In my dream state, I pictured Tinkerbell or the Indian from The Indian in the Cupboard jumping up and down on my pillow. The beautiful naivete of youth.

Something tickled my ear. I brush it away. Then something falls on my neck. This wasn't fucking Tinkerbell. I jump up, throwing my arms around, slapping my neck, and shaking my entire body. I jump to the light switch. 

When the light turns on, I look on my bed to see big, black, squirming ants. 

As I swallowed hard to hold back my dinner from spraying all over my room, I rubbed the skin off my entire body and ran to my parents room. These were unacceptable living conditions. My room was above the garage so the ceiling was sloped, and a wooden beam at the apex had become infested with ants. There were so many they had started to fall out, right on to the sleeping adolescent underneath.  

I have flashbacks to this scene any time I feel something on my body at night or if I hear some slight noise near my head. Not only that, this experience completely ruined Honey I Shrunk the Kids for me.

That scorpion is a hero.

Absolutely traumatizing.

Finally, probably the most traumatizing event from my childhood. I think I actually repressed it for a good portion of my life. 

My family was at our friends' house up the street. The kids were playing while the parents hung out and talked. As the sun started to go down, my brother and I were still playing around outside with our friends. For whatever dumb kid reason we had for it, we started jumping on the outside cellar door. 

It was an old, rusty metal door that we had run over and jumped on many times. Nobody bothered to tell us to stop because it was so common. What was not common was crashing through the doors to the concrete stairs beneath, tumbling and falling all the way down to the landing. 

Dazed and confused, we sat there while our parents came rushing down the stairs. My parents, caring individuals that they were, took one look at our beaten, bloodied bodies and said, "Ok, time to go home!" So instead of the ambulance ride to the hospital and several stitches that we should have probably received, we walked down the street and went home, screaming our heads off the whole time. To their credit, our friends' parents asked my parents if they were sure we didn't want to go to the hospital or treat the wounds at their house. Nope. We'll just walk the 300 yards home, go to sleep and forget it ever happened.  

I'm not one of those "if that happened now" guys, but...if that happened now, we would have sued, DCF would have intervened, and I would have owned that damn house. Instead, I have mental scars and an irrational fear of cellar doors to this day. Thanks mom and dad!

I Love You All...Class Dismissed. 

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