War Stories #1: There Is No War Story Here

Remember when I was taunting the monsters to come and get me, because I was (sort of) ready for them?

I knew it was only a sort-of, that’s why I wanted them to come before my unpaid leave was up and I’d have to go back to work and survive somehow. So I could get practice.

Well, they’re here now. So what are they, really? Where do they come from, this particular crop?

Like most monsters, they are my father, really. Anything that caused him the slightest bit of stress would result in him lashing out. Anything. It could have been the smallest of things… perhaps the car needed to be refueled. Perhaps a lamp needed to be bought, and it wasn’t working and needed to be returned. Maybe the soup wasn’t warm enough.

And of course, any big stresses (paperwork, for instance, which I just had to file more of today) resulted in an explosion.

The insidious thing is that there were so many, nebulous causes for his rage. Also, the size of the stresser did not, in any useful way, predict the size of the outburst; you were literally rolling raw unadulterated d20s for his reaction check. To this day, I cannot clearly remember what encouraged my father to try to strangle me; something about coats and jackets. Or perhaps it was just because he was strangling me with my own jacket that left the impression.

It’s a wonder I haven’t killed myself yet to get away from the fact that every. single. thing. could have pushed my father over the edge. It’s no wonder that every once in a while I break down because I can’t take the constant stress.

But it is my father’s stress, not truly my own… he just found an effective way to transfer it, without it actually leaving him.

There is no one, defining incident that birthed all of my neuroses and phobias, which makes it hard to tell war stories sometimes. Oh, there are big milestone markers, like the first time he ran the door over my toes repeatedly to get me to scream, but in large part they aren’t stories. Stories have a structure, three acts, beginning, middle, end; yet these are pretty much random acts of violence wrought by a petty and abusive man.

How can you structure that? How can you even begin to encompass it?

How can you wrap all that up?

I have no idea.

I’ll probably end up writing more posts like these, trying to figure out the equation of mental torment that seems to outline my every reaction to circumstances—except for one.

The only type of circumstances that I thrive in is emergencies.

Such slices of life are a bit small to live on.

I suppose I’ll have to write it out of me….

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6 thoughts on “War Stories #1: There Is No War Story Here

  1. Maybe war vignettes? War alphabets? War Five Things? Write what you can and declare it poetry?

    Sympathies, best wishes, and praise to you: this is a brave and patient thing you’re doing, so it’s hard in multiple ways.

  2. That’s why they call it chronic PTSD, right? Rather than a singe trauma, an ongoing pattern of stressors that rewire the brain into thePTSD pattern.

    I mean, when I talk about my own (milder, so much milder, doesn’t even deserve to be called by the same name as hers, your stressors were petty by comparison, if you’e broken it’s because you’re brittle), I tend to tell the story of a single, dramatic incident when I was twelve. And it was the most dramatic, after all, and makes for a well-told story. Sometimes I add in another one, from the same year or possibly the year after (which year was it I covered my math book in a brown floral wallpaper sample? I forget) because it contains the element “I fought back, viciously, and after that they started to leave me alone,” which I like to offer as evidence that retaliatory violence works better in peer bullying than all the well-meaning programs in the world… anyway. Digression, lose ten points. What I was saying is, I describe a couple of vivid incidents, but those were merely a culmination of a pattern that started in second grade and intensified through eighth until my parents, on the advice of my therapist, sent me to a private school for high school. Six years of chronic low-level incidents is really what gave me the startle reflexes and hypervigilance, not just the couple of gaudy ones that make the good war stories.

    You had more years of chronic incidents at a much more dangerous level than mine – I was only in serious physical danger a few times. It’s hardly surprising that a) your symptoms are stronger and more disabling than mine, and that b) it’s hard to pick out single stories when it was a constant drumbeat of fear.

    I read Rachel Manija Brown’s memoir, “All The Fishes Come Home To Roost.” Hers was chronic, too, even though she has a few gaudy incidents that she tells as representative. And she was my lightbulb moment about chronic PTSD, when she wrote that “here’s what it’s like, fanfic writers who are Doin It Rong” article. The whole “what, these are SYMPTOMS? Not EVERYONE has shit like this in their life?” moment (especially when she described the nightmares) was astonishing.

    So yeah. Chronic. Stories are representative only of a life lived in constant high alert.Not having a single crystallizing incident to point to doesn’t make it less true.

    And, *hugs*. If what you have to do is tell ALL the stories? Tell them and tell them until the telling polishes them smooth and takes the rough edges that still cut you away.

  3. Yeah.

    I hope the existence of people who believe you is somewhat healing. The worst years of dealing with this sort of thing for me were when the one who was supposed to love me most actively disbelieved me.

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