I always thought I was over sensitive. This might be explained by the latent alcoholic disease or perhaps how I was brought up. In hindsight it’s probably a combination of both circumstance and cognition.
The value system I held as a youth didn’t equip me with the coping skills necessary to deal with violence, be that verbal threats or actual physical attack. I was told to respect my elders by listening to their wisdom. I was told it was important to have manners i.e. say please and thank you and think of others when doing things. I was told to respect authority and follow the rules. All of these instructions, in my mind, were under the premise that behaving in this manner would entitle me to being a worthy recipient of the same behaviour. Conflict was on the horizon.
Two incidents happened in my mid teens that had a very detrimental effect on my mental, emotional and spiritual well being. Alcohol would lay waste to what was left in subsequent years.
The first incident I remember vividly to this day. I was fifteen years old. My friend and I had spent the day in the city center. I recall it was a warm summer day and I felt confident, happy and excited to be independent. We purchased a club cassette tape from a dance music record store. We were too young to get into the clubs at the time, but this tape was soon to be blasting out of my speakers at home. The bus fare was 20 pence at the time which makes me feel incredibly old now, it’s all I had in my pocket. The bus stops at the time were sheet metal structures painted black, I didn’t pay much attention to the four individuals sat on the railings in my peripheral vision until I saw my friend going over to them. My heart sank, panic pumped out of my sunken heart until it reached the pit of my stomach. We were at the mercy of something that was potentially very sinister and I observed with an ominous yearning for escape. I slipped the nine carat gold tiger eye ring from my middle finger into my pocket and reluctantly approached the gang after being summoned. They had taken the tape from my friend’s possession; one of them triumphantly commented it looked good. The youngest of the gang did the talking as the remaining three loomed behind him. I was told to hand over the ring I had placed in my pocket or face a hiding. They didn’t know it was a gift from my parents and sentimental value meant more to me than anything. I was told to hand over my watch, and relinquish anything I had in my pockets. They allowed me to keep the 20 pence bus fare. The cunt put my ring on and said “nice fit” as I turned too my right to see the bus had arrived. Numbly I floated onto the bus and put the coins in front of the driver. Tear’s fell from my burning eyes, rolling off the cusp of my bottom eyelid and scraping my anguished face before plummeting to the ground. I was glad to escape but the incendiary injustice was ravaging my sense of value and worth. I felt the passengers eyes on me and wondered why the pedestrians looked on whilst I was being robbed. I felt shame, demasculated in the sense of not fighting back and living up to the expectations of being a man and displaying strength and courage. Returning home the emotional pain was crushing. I wasn’t physically hurt, however the mental scars would have far reaching repercussions, especially when I became aware of how alcohol made me feel in comparison.
The second incident happened a couple of years later. Again, I was stood at a bus stop chatting with a friend from from college when I was approached by another boy. He proceeded to shout abuse at me, exclaiming I wasn’t to go near his brother again and he’d do this and that. I was stunned, perplexed enough to step back to see if he meant me? I saw my friend disappear around the corner, abandoned I turned to face the person swinging at me, trying to hit me in the face as I flinched to dodge the haymakers. I noticed the much taller youth, built like a brick shit-house, stood behind him willing me to hit back. I sensed this would give the bigger fella justification to step in and finish the job. Escapism is my natural preference when faced with ‘fight or flight’ situations. Hence the reason why alcohol, with its intoxicating capability to anesthetise was so appealing in later years. So I saw my escape route and took it by making a B line for a nearby construction site. I hurriedly approached the workman in his over sized fluorescent orange jacket and hard hat remonstrating the situation to him, hoping he’d understand. My garbled appeal was met with a look of confused absurdity as he turned with disdain to continue his work. At that point I didn’t care, the boy had walked off accompanied by his accomplice. I walked home with tears of anger and frustration gathering like a tsunami. My mind was about to short circuit as I contemplated reasons for impromptu attacks upon strangers. I realise now that I was empathic enough to attempt to understand and process peoples behaviour to resolve the problems I had with it. The terror followed me in College as the boy who attacked me had the audacity to attend classes and walk past me like nothing had happened. I left shortly afterwards with no further qualifications.
Emerging from my mid teens to adulthood my experiences conflicted with the values I was instilled with. Coping consisted of saying I was ok when I wasn’t, suppressing emotions and avoiding possible situations. My childhood friends left me alone after multiple requests to socialise with them fell on deaf ears. I chose to pursue academia and victimise myself further by convincing myself that my friends had abandoned me instead of helping me. Following the death of my Nan, my first direct experience of death, I became agoraphobic and sank into existential crisis. The occasions I chanced upon to drink alcohol had become opportunities to release some of the raw emotions that I couldn’t face. The residual feelings from past trauma would erupt with the lubrication of alcohol. I recall really fretting, sobbing for no distinct reason other than the loss of innocence that couldn’t be retrieved and was now considered naivety through adult eyes.
4 thoughts on “Trauma”
wow, I’m sorry you had to go through those difficult experiences. Years down the road, you do still consider yourself hypersensitive? I do consider myself hypersensitive, and sobriety (and therapy) has taught me crucial emotional coping and regulation skills so that it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as in my younger years. I think being super sensitive is 100% ok and many of us humans are – it’s just a matter of what we do with our emotions. xxx Anne
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I think looking back I consider myself to be wiser and stronger. The alcoholism prevented growth both mentally and spiritually. The 12 Step program, sponsorship, belonging to the fellowship, meetings and concept of a higher power all combine to lesson the sensitivity and enable coping skills. I agree that taking care of our emotional well being is vital to achieve peace of mind.
yes 🙂 I’m happy that the program has helped you so much !! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your stories (they’re really well written!) xxx Anne
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We must me kind to ourselves and remain empathic so we can find the space to grow in terms of gratitude and forgiveness. Sensitivity can be a positive because the barriers aren’t there. Vulnerability can open us up to good. Thank you for the great feedback, you’re very welcome.