Trauma and Un/healthy Coping

People do lots of things to cope with terrible things that have happened to them. Some choose socially acceptable methods. Like pouring themselves into work. Or identifying so closely with their family that they lose themselves. Or getting married merely because you’re pregnant, and only married people are supposed to have kids.

Others choose less socially acceptable means. Such as heroin. Or profligate, anonymous sex. Or binging and purging. Or drinking until they pass out, or say something they regret, or assault a stranger. Or saying the most outrageous shit just to get people to pay attention. Just for a moment.

So. I came out publicly on Facebook this month. First, “I’m out.” But what about the content of it? Second, “I’m bisexual.” I thought this was easier to explain to people.

Then I talked to a friend at work about it. I told her, at first, that I was bi. But for some reason she seemed safe. So I told her that I lied earlier, that I was actually a “pansexual.” I then asked her if she knew what that meant. When she said yes, she responded, “Why did you tell me you were bisexual earlier?” I explained why. She told me to live my truth, and if people didn’t know what it was, they could always ask.

I thanked my coworker the next day. Our conversation prompted me to come out as “pan” on Facebook the day before. Want to know what’s cool? She asked if she could hug me. Consent is cool.

All of these disclosures in a short amount of time began to weigh on me. People came out of the woodwork to support me. Others met me with a-near-deafening silence. Also, with these revelations, I wanted to give people the choice. With my full self now in their view, others could now choose how they wanted to relate.

I don’t know about you, but it is often easier for me to remember traumatic events than it is positive events. That seems to be how I’m wired. So when some people expressed some negativity, I felt it. Hard. This wasn’t trauma. I just want to say that. But it brought up lots of past trauma.

My coping mechanisms have typically been incredibly self-destructive. I’ve almost destroyed my marriage before. That will be another blog post. But the one I really wanted to get back into? Cigarettes. Now I don’t think this is a terrible coping mechanism, but it’s not great either. It shot my singing voice. I stank. It literally took my breath away. It hurt my throat sometimes.

So I was left with a barrage of choices. Do I take up smoking again? Do I put up with the terrible negatives of smoking, because the most destructive coping means distract me the most from my pain? What about now? What about this gas station? No, I can put off the purchase until the next gas station. And the next. And each day I won this battle, it helped me face my pain directly. I sat with it. I did need a new coping skill, however.

And I met my new one: my trusty, blue, Bic pen. It’s a lot cheaper than Cook County cigarettes. It doesn’t smell. It strengthens my bite. While it doesn’t function well as a distracting coping mechanism, it gives me something to do as I muse. I haven’t arrived yet. But this is something new. I’m here for it all.

My chew toy