I am not my trauma
Sep 23, 2021
Yesterday, my youngest child came inside the house to tell me a bird had fallen from it’s nest.
As I neared the back fence, where all the neighbourhood birds gather in all of their breeds, colours, sounds and varieties; I saw it. It was a tiny little thing, making it’s way through our grass, spreading out it’s tiny wings and doing it’s best to exercise them.
I wasn’t sure what to do. I could see birds of the same breed flying across, in front of him, singing their song. I became aware of my anxiety as a Mother; an instant transference to my own experiences. How would I feel if my baby had fallen from the nest? How powerless might I be?
The fledgling’s incredible vulnerability hurt me.
I came inside and made contact with the right people in order to learn what to do.
I learnt that fledglings commonly fall from their nests and that it often takes time for them to get those little wings flapping. The family does stay close, checking in and feeding the little one.
I went out every couple of hours to check on the fragile little beauty, after having checked him over for injuries with gloves on.
As night fell, and rain set in, I popped him into a box with warm clothes and into a tent so he’d be dry. The door was open so family could still visit and be close, but he was guarded from the rain. And they were close, his family.
But I sat inside, worrying. Feeling powerless. Upset. Responsible. Awful. Like a bad person.
I became upset when my family reminded me that we are country people, we know there are processes and nature knows best, etc. Nope. I wasn’t having it.
I felt in such a complete dilemma, it was painful. But when I feel at that intensity, I do what I’m built for with this autistic brain...self analysis. I pulled apart the data, the feelings, the thoughts, the body symptoms, the hard time I was giving myself and I realised...
Neurodivergent folk, we can have such a difficult time discerning between intuition and trauma. Depending on our family systems, our educational experiences, our relationship with the world around us; we learn through poor experiences of being misunderstood that everything is our fault. That the world around us is always right, and we are always wrong.
It often begins in childhood with the constant apologising, and I recognise it in the qualifiers, the amount of excusing ourselves we do for taking up space in adulthood.
And, as neurodivergent folks, we arrive at adulthood watching this continue to play out in many early childhood interventions and approaches for autistic people.
Always placing the responsibility on the autistic person to speak the language, to behave in the ways, to adapt to the culture, is completely disorienting and disconnecting.
On that couch I sat last night, convinced I was not doing enough, was a bad person, was failing. I asked myself what I thought I should be doing for the bird. I couldn’t sleep out there in the tent with it (the thought most definitely crossed my mind). I couldn’t take the fledgling away from his Mother. I had been informed by experts on what to do, and yet I was still critical of myself in all of my efforts.
This is but one episode, one example, where there are many. Many experiences across the day where neurodivergent folks internalise self blame, self criticism, self loathing. Shame, confusion, anxiety and fear at doing the wrong thing, being the wrong way, never doing or being enough.
We are not our trauma. I am not my trauma.
As I stood out in the rain, staring into the tent at the fledgling, I saw a thousand images flashing through, accompanied by emotional connections with those images. All the times in my life where in my best trying, I was never enough for the people I should have been everything to. And yes, that is something I will carry with me forever.
There is pain. There is sadness. There is loss. There is grief.
Those feelings I have about myself in those moments of not knowing the answers? They are feelings. Not facts. They are feelings influenced by trauma. They are thoughts that arise from the place of not being enough. Of having to be responsible far earlier and far more than I should have been in life.
Being neurodivergent brings with it the lifelong process of having to discern between my inner critic, born from trauma; the part of me that carries on the criticism that was present throughout my life from others. And part of my daily life is not to meet that critic with contempt, but to invite it in for tea. To be in open dialogue with it. To hear it, to meet it, to know it and to understand it. And ultimately, to make peace with it.
Because I am not my trauma and I refuse to be swallowed up by it.
This morning, after I had this little chat with my inner critic, I went outside cautiously.
I was expecting the worst.
I peered into the tent, the warm and snuggle box now empty.
I looked around, not seeing the fledgling and deciding to let it go. And at the last minute, as I began to make my way back to the house, I saw some beautiful little wings happily flapping away. Stronger than yesterday. Mum and the rest of the bird family hanging around, keeping watch. And I was able to smile and say “Look at you! You’re doing amazing!” with excitement.
Did you know that fledglings can be on the ground for a week or so before they’re able to fly, with their families watching over them?
In many ways, I experience moving in and out of my own fledgling stage.