Normal For Me, But Not Normal.

During the processing of my childhood trauma, I started to think about the specific events that may have caused me the most harm, as a way of ordering them and unpacking things. I found it really helpful to start with the worst ones then move down a list, taking the time to let myself respond in whatever way I needed to. There’s been situations I’ve avoided thinking about for a long time, and it surprised me which ones I felt had the biggest impact and which ones were further down the list.

The trouble with CPTSD is that it comes from trauma that is acumulative, so it goes without saying that my ‘normal’ wasn’t really normal. By around 11yrs old I had gotten so used to living in a household of varying types and degrees of abuse I didn’t even register it. My mother’s third husband, who I shared a home with from about 10yrs old was a piece of work let me tell you (they weren’t married until many years later). At any opportunity of my mother’s absence (of which there were many due to the criminal circles she moved in), he would do random things like masturbate in the living room so he was likely to be discovered, I’m sure just to play out some sick teenage fantasy he was living at the time. I had gotten so used to this type of situation I would roll my eyes and go back to whatever I was doing previously. In the early days of his relationship with my mother he would suggest we play games like poker. At 10yrs old I was naive enough to believe that late night games were just that. But things would quickly turn into something hideous. Poker into strip poker, that kind of thing. There would always be booze available, which I never drank, mainly because my own biological father was an alcoholic. It took me a while to realise that these game nights of his had an ulterior motive. I avoided them after that.

He would make crude statements about what he and my mother were doing sexually and the kind of things she liked. He also made a point of reminding me daily that the home we lived in was his, and that he would always have a key to EVERY door in the house. Once I woke to him leaning over me, pinning me to my own bed. When I tried to struggle he gave me a lovebite on my face, right on my cheek, knowing that I would have to go to school the next day with it, a mark of ownership displayed for all to see. It was clearly a power play. He wanted me to know he could do whatever he wanted, whenever it suited him. He laughed about it. I solved this with a simple barrel lock on my bedroom door, fuck you very much. The barrel lock was a habit I would continue for the next 5yrs.

I had gotten so used to this weird narrative. Normal school day, normal friends. Fucked up home life. I never really knew what I’d find when I came home. An empty flat, maybe. A bunch of strangers high in the living room, possibly. A wad of cash or pile of drugs on the counter, probably. All of this became so normal I didn’t even blink at it. Our home was clean, dry and warm, in a popular location with reasonably wealthy surroundings. There was even generally some kind of food in the fridge. Or atleast cash for a Nando’s. I stayed out whenever I wanted and came and went as I pleased.

There were a few incidents that made me question my normal. One was a school friend staying over who drank so much she had alcohol poisoning. I didn’t realise other kids didn’t have access to alcohol at home. My mother covered for her for a full weekend until she was ok enough to go home. What a great parenting moment. The other incident was a teen friend sniffing cocaine, whilst making a joke about drugs. Ironically she thought it would be funny to pretend the pile of white powder was cocaine, which as it turned out, it was. Again, I couldn’t believe she didn’t know what it was, I mean, everyone did, right?

Sound the klaxon please.

This was my normal. But it wasn’t, as it happened, actually normal.

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