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Thu Sep 27, 2018, 12:03 PM

How I experienced real trauma - watching the hearing brought this back to me from the past.

This did not involve any sort of assault. It was a pretty silly little example, by comparison to what we're seeing and hearing in Dr. Ford's testimony, and for that, at least, I'm grateful. But it's really illuminating and helps me "get" what these victims go through.

It was at recess in high school. My freshman year. We had some "sports day"-type events going on during lunch recess. One event was called "the VW Pile-in." The objective was to see how many people we could fit into a VW Bug. Silly and fun, right?

So I got in line to participate. I was one of the first ones into the VW. Climbed into the back, up against the passenger side wall in the back seat. Jammed in between the seat and the floor. The VW Bug at that time had windows in the back seat area, but they were sealed shut, and weren't designed to be opened or closed. I was crowded in, with my head right at the rear passenger-side window. As more people were piling in on top of me and the others who'd climbed in first, I started to panic.

I didn't realize I was claustrophobic until that moment. I was quietly freaking out. My hands groping at the glass of that window, clawing to try to open it. I was trying hard to breathe, to stay calm, to not start trying to flail my arms or kick anybody, as the other participants' bodies crowded in around and on top of me. I was literally starting to freak out.

The event ended fairly quickly (although it seemed like hours for me!), and as soon as the last person to shove themselves inside the VW got in so a photo could be taken. And everybody climbed out. Me, too, FINALLY, although it took time to get all the others out of there so that those of us first in, at the bottom of the pile, could get out, too. I was never so glad to get out of a car as I felt, that day. I was still shaken, and shaking. I was still freaking out inside, but trying to suppress it so that nobody would know how freaked out I was. I did notice that nobody else seemed to be freaking out. It was loud, noisy, (presumably) fun and silly and everybody was laughing and giggling and in a very celebratory mood at the silly stunt we'd all just performed. Except for me. All I could do was try to maintain some level of composure.

The first period after lunch was History. I LOVED history and I loved our teacher. I thought she was terrific, and the feeling was mutual. She liked me a lot because I was what she referred to as "my prize student." I loved her class, relished every session, loved doing the homework, loved doing the reading, just gobbled it up, and she was a good teacher who encouraged that. I got NOTHING but straight A's in that class. NOTHING but straight A's.

That day was the day for the weekly history test. I remember feeling brain-scrambled as I took it, only 15 minutes or so after that VW Pile-In. The whole experience had left me feeling like somebody had removed the top of my skull and stuck an egg beater into my exposed brain, hit the "ON" button, and scrambled all the soft tissue of my brain into complete mush. The test came back the next week, with a ZERO. A big ZERO at the top, with an exclamation point. My teacher was shocked. I completely bombed that test.

Obviously my brain was totally scrambled from that VW Pile-in. I recovered and returned to ace-ing every subsequent history test from then on, as usual. I was a GREAT student. Always got some version of A. My history teacher later told me I was such a great student that she wanted to give me an A+ on my year-end report card, but was denied doing so because "they didn't give A+'s." The highest grade possible on the report card would have to be a simple straight A.

But THAT DAY... THAT SINGLE DAY... Watching this hearing brought that all back. In my own VERY little, minimal, comparatively insignificant experience, I completely and clearly understood trauma. I realized I'm a claustrophobic. Learned it for the first time that day. Learned, first-hand, the impact and effects of trauma. Even "trauma" as silly and stupid and comparatively microscopic as crowding into a VW Bug. This was LIGHTYEARS different from a rape or attempted rape. But it lets me understand, even in the most minuscule way, what a woman like Dr. Ford experienced, at the moment, and in the aftermath.

I guess I suppressed this, too. Because I just recounted this memory to my husband for the first time, I started feeling the trauma again. I literally started shaking as I tried to describe it. Almost started crying. That was freshman year high school. I think I was 14. I'm 65 now. And thinking back on it in detail STILL freaks me out.

I can well imagine how an assault victim feels, right down in the gut. My little experience allows me a sense of knowing. And my experience doesn't even begin to compare with theirs. It allows me to empathize, and to understand. But it doesn't even begin to compare with theirs.

For whatever it's worth.

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Reply How I experienced real trauma - watching the hearing brought this back to me from the past. (Original post)
calimary Sep 2018 OP
CaliforniaPeggy Sep 2018 #1
calimary Sep 2018 #5
renate Sep 2018 #2
calimary Sep 2018 #6
Bluepinky Sep 2018 #3
calimary Sep 2018 #8
bluecollar2 Sep 2018 #4
calimary Sep 2018 #9
Nitram Sep 2018 #7
calimary Sep 2018 #10

Response to calimary (Original post)

Thu Sep 27, 2018, 11:48 PM

1. My dear calimary...

Trauma is trauma, no matter what caused it.

You were traumatized. I'm sorry that you suppressed it for so long, that you didn't think of getting help for it. Undoubtedly, you probably felt that this was so trivial as to not be worth getting help.

I hear you. I hope that you will be able to go forward now, away from this scary incident.

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Response to CaliforniaPeggy (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 08:29 AM

5. Thanks, my dear friend.

Last edited Fri Sep 28, 2018, 11:40 AM - Edit history (1)

I almost didn't post it because - hell, crowding into a VW bug out in the parking lot in a silly little school stunt DOES NOT EVEN BEGIN TO COMPARE with the extreme trauma that Dr. Ford and rape victims and assault victims - AND abuse victims have endured. So curious now, all these years later, to realize that as relatively insignificant an experience mine was by comparison, it helped me "get" what they feel, how they feel - and THAT they feel. What it DID do is allow me to understand THEIR trauma, even from a microscopic level, and not just sympathize but empathize. It gave me a tiny window to see into their pain. Mine was an anthill. Theirs is Olympus Mons.

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Response to calimary (Original post)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 02:56 AM

2. It doesn't have to be violent to be traumatic

Your experience was real, and upsetting and scary.

Thank you for sharing it.

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Response to renate (Reply #2)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 08:37 AM

6. Hey renate - thank you.

I still remember looking up at that sealed window. Everybody outside was cheering and squealing with excitement as more and more of us were crowding into that VW. How many could we get? Could we set a record or something? COOL! Meanwhile I was stuck at the bottom, next to that rear window - reaching up to it, even clawing at it, momentarily thinking I could open it. I even looked for a window handle to crank open before realizing this car's rear windows were sealed shut.

It was such a huge effort just to stay calm and not start physically freaking out. Besides - there was no room inside there to do that. I forget how many kids got packed in there. It was a fair amount, for sure. The inside of that little car was STUFFED to the max. It's still unsettling to think about, all these years later.

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Response to calimary (Original post)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 03:29 AM

3. Thank you for posting this, I could feel your terror while reading it.

Dr. Ford explained herself well in her testimony. The pinning her down was devastating enough, but what really frightened her was when Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth, she couldn’t breathe and thought she might die. She was probably hyperventilating during the whole episode, so being unable to breathe, even briefly, must have been especially traumatic.
I can empathize with you and Dr. Ford.

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Response to Bluepinky (Reply #3)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 09:04 AM

8. It's so weird how those emotions can translate immediately to physical manifestations.

I get it. I'm just grateful I "got" it in such a silly, comparatively harmless situation instead of a rape or another form of sexual assault. TOO MANY OTHER WOMEN weren't so lucky, haven't been so lucky, and will undoubtedly continue not to be so lucky in the future.

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Response to calimary (Original post)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 05:49 AM

4. It's worth a lot...

It helps people understand trauma can be a result of many different kinds of experiences.

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Response to bluecollar2 (Reply #4)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 09:07 AM

9. Thanks, bluecollar2.

I guess it proves that trauma is trauma, whether it's the result of a silly little high school stunt or an act of violence. It doesn't give me a chance to walk in the shoes of a rape victim. But it does allow me to pick up those shoes and get a closer look at them.

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Response to calimary (Original post)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 08:41 AM

7. Thank you for sharing your very frightening experience. I'm glad no one was physically injured.

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Response to Nitram (Reply #7)

Fri Sep 28, 2018, 09:09 AM

10. Much appreciated, Nitram.

It's so weird - just the act of thinking back on that evokes a visceral reaction, to this late date. Shit. I'm 65 years old. I was probably 14 when that happened. And it still has an impact.

And no one was injured, except perhaps for the odd elbow poke because of how we were all crowded in there. Everybody else had a great time. It was an innocent, fun, silly little stunt - great for a yearbook photo for the end of the year. Nobody should have to feel what I was feeling. And I'm glad about that, at least. Guess I was the only claustrophobic in the group.

Btw - when we made out our wills awhile back, I included an additional note of my last wishes. Among them - regarding boxing me up and burying me: "MAKE SURE I'M DEAD." I have this weird fear of being buried alive - like in a coma or something that escapes medical notice. Saw some horror movie about that, decades ago, and it left a powerful mark. If anything, it changed my mind about being an organ donor. I was hesitant for awhile (envisioning doctors circling over me like vultures, maybe snuffing me out a little early, to harvest whatever's needed). But fuck it. Take whatever spare parts you want if they'll do any good for somebody else. Pretty sure at that point, whatever would be left of my carcass very likely would NOT still be alive.

Weird, I know.

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