Trauma flashbacks

THE thing about trauma is that sometimes when we’re experiencing it we don’t understand the depth of it — in psychology it’s called trauma blocking or emotional avoidance, which is basically the body’s effort to block memory to help get through a traumatic event.

The person in this situation then disassociates or detaches from reality in order to protect themselves. And often it’s years later, post-trauma, that something will trigger the memories.

This kind of trauma blocking happens in relationships too, where people either remain in situations they wouldn’t normally, or that go against good sense, good advice or even logic, in order to maintain their unions. These entail abuse, physical or mental, gaslighting, or any other issue that would usually result in the end of a normal relationship.

What traumatic things did a previous partner put you through that you wouldn’t tolerate now?

Jhanelle, 41:

This would have been my second serious relationship, and I met this guy at work. We hit it off, started dating, and soon he was staying by my place often. First time he hit me was when I told him that this other guy at work had made me a music playlist. That time he choked me, then apologised. Second time was him flaring up over some nonsense, and he hit me in my face, bursting my lip. Next day at work I had to lie to everyone that I’d hit my mouth on my little cousin’s head, while he sent me messages asking if he was the one who had done that to me. On top of that, he had a whole other girlfriend that I found out about after, and his reaction was that all men “needed seconds”. I stayed in that toxic situation until he resigned, and we fizzled out. When I look back I wonder what the heck was I thinking.

Fern, 38:

My babydaddy, who was living with his parents at the time, got two of us pregnant at the same time, and his parents convinced us both to move in with him and live as a ‘throuple’, so they could see their grandkids. I basically lived in a poly situation in California for two years, but it wasn’t any nice sister wives arrangement, the girl and I would fight like cats and dogs. There was always drama — we did everything, compared each other’s looks, compared who lost the baby weight faster, even compared which child was cuter. My family had no clue about my living situation, but when my mother came up to meet her grandchild and found out the story, she packed me up and took us back to Jamaica. They tried to stop us but my mom threatened to report them to the IRS and social services, so they backed off quickly.

Peter-John, 43:

My ex had me babysitting her daughter while she went out with men she met on Tagged. She convinced me that it was OK for her to date, so she could see what was out there, so that when we settled down, she would know she made the right decision. Sis even did a whole PowerPoint presentation to me to state her case, and backed up her theories with research. I loved her, and was a damn fool, so every Friday night I’d be at her house watching Wonder Pets and Backyardigans with a four-year-old, while she hit the town, and no matter how late she’d get home, I had to head back to my yard. I did that for probably a year, then she decided that she wanted to be with her daughter’s father after all, as she was more compatible with him.

Jennifer:

Where do I start? He criticised my weight and my teeth, alienated me from my girlfriends, got me pregnant out of spite, and then threatened to file for custody if I left as he knew lawyers and judges. As a simple girl from the country you could say I was fool-fool, and believed what he said, even though he was younger, and I was more educated. Funny. There was no physical stuff, but the mental toll that relationship took on me was enormous. I still haven’t regained the relationship with some of the friends he cut me off from, years later. Today, even though our kid is nine, I’m still shy about my smile and my weight, and he’s still a burden to deal with when it comes to coparenting, but at least I’m out of that situation and I don’t think I could get that close with a man ever again.

ALAISHA THOMAS

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