Trauma by Proxy

I briefly mentioned the trauma anniversary smack dab in the middle of all of my other emotional stress recently. Where it hasn’t really bothered me in several years I think the pain is a bit more acute this year just because my emotional threshold is so taxed. Even still as I’m aware of it, I’m not crippled by it as I have been in years past. I paid homage to the memory in my usual ritual; then I focused entirely on my self care for the rest of the evening.

This particular trauma is complicated at best. I only experienced it by proxy. My boyfriend at the time woke in a horrific night terror, screaming and crying for me. I’d left our bed to move to the couch because my back was hurting. Usually it didn’t bother him, but something that night triggered something in his mind which turned into a terrifying experience for me. I’d say for us both, but he has no memory of the event.

Let me tell you, hearing someone you love wail in pain and fear while scrambling around unaware of their surroundings is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced waking in the midst of his night terrors, but this one was one of the most significant. It still resonates through my mind as if I experienced it yesterday. It’s been 12 years now, and still those cries, his face contorted with fear, tears flowing, watching him trip and smash into the hallway wall before crawling to find me in the living room… all of those images will haunt me for the rest of my life.

This particular memory is actually what kept me silent about the general dysfunction of our relationship and abuse I received at his hand for many years. If he had been lucid, his behaviors could easily be dismissed as manipulative. He wasn’t. Something stirred a fear from his subconscious and it overflowed into the waking world before his full consciousness could catch up.

He screamed, wailed, pleaded for me not to leave him because he didn’t want to be alone. So I didn’t. Even after our relationship ended, and I moved on meeting and marrying my current husband, starting our family, working through my trauma and even the abuse I endured at my ex boyfriend’s hand. I still stood loyal to whatever torment I could help my ex avoid.

Which of course is entirely ludicrous. There was never anything I could do, nor nothing I can do to help him battle his own demons. Whatever brought forth such distress for him that night is entirely his own battle to face. A battle he doesn’t want to acknowledge, (or isn’t able to acknowledge) apparently since he has no waking memory.

Yet, today is still one of the most poignant for me. As much as I never want to see the man again, I pause and say a little prayer for him and wish that he will find peace from whatever so deeply tormented his soul.