In-patient: Day 19: Group Therapy – PTSD

I’ve attended this group 3 weeks in a row, it’s the best group. The group is patient-driven, & one of the topics that came up was whether someone with PTSD (or Complex PTSD) could shed their victimization. A, who brought it up, is 19 or 20, posed it like this:

“If you were harmed by someone when you were young, can you ever stop feeling weak?”

So it got the whole group going, because who doesn’t identify with that in some form? One of the other women said to try to look at it like “it’s not your fault.” Well, that’s PTSD 101. I didn’t have any advice, per se, but I remembered the precise moment when I stopped operating as a victim, when something literally clicked in my head and the ability to be the Aggressor, or at least a mighty Defender, welled up and never left. So I suggested that for some people maybe pregnancy or parenthood could be a trigger. Some of the people said it was easy for them to defend others but when it came to standing up for themselves they had difficulty. I told my story anyway. Probably just to inject a canine into Group Therapy. Or maybe it’s because we’ve had a massive shift in patients here and there are only 3 others left from when I was admitted, and the new group is, um, how to put it…a rough crowd.

Here is the story, detailed:

My Victimhood, as Interpreted by…me

I dropped my victimhood like a case of railroad nails the summer I was pregnant with my first child and became fed up with the local psycho Doberman pinscher.  I was 20 and without the baby-weight, amounted in stature to 5’3”, 90 pounds.  This figure of teeth, muscle and erect ears was always prowling the neighborhood, by Revere Beach, and just like everybody else, he became crankier, and therefore scarier, as the summer and its abusive heat wore on, tormenting passersby and never contained by what could only have been an asshole of a keeper.

I was headed to work one morning, walking to the Blue Line train where I got to drag my giant belly up several flights of stairs to be tossed about the ancient subway car until I switched to the Orange Line for a brief respite before switching finally to the un-air conditioned and always crowded Red Line. I dreaded the commute. And here was this dog, large, muscular, ferocious, ready to grind my bones to ash.  He began with a stalk and then started his growling and snarling that preceeded the volley of heart-stopping dog-shouting, threatening horrors beyond imagining.

The mother-to-be in me rose in a surprising fury. I recognized instantly that this Doberman was not the boss of me, not now, not ever, and that this was his desperate plea for me to put him in his place.  I had had it with this evil fuck of a dog.  I turned on him and he stopped short as if he’d reached the limits of his lead.  I spewed pure mindless fury.

“Back the fuck off you stupid son of a bitch, what the hell is your goddamned problem? I am through with your intimidation.  Guess what? I’m not afraid of you or your cropped tail or your pointy ears or even your perfect attack-dog teeth.  So you bring it motherfucker, go on, right now, do your worst badass-dog thing and be sure you enjoy it because I’m going to tear out your fucking throat!”

People, most people, decline to give our animal counterparts due credit – mental, intellectual, emotional.  This dog, he understood every word I said, nay, SHOUTED.  He absorbed the authenticity of my tirade, the sincerity of my threat, the legitimacy of my ability to carry it out, to realize my brutal promise.  He turned and fled from my otherwise vulnerable frame.  I never lost that aggressiveness, the quasi-courage that this dumbass dog wrenched out of me.

He must be over it by now

But as the discussion continued, it became clear that most of these people were still victims. It made me wonder if I’M still a victim. I guess I’m a victim in my own mind, but certainly not for other people. But many of these patients are still victims, active victims, as many of our mentals-bloggers may be. And it got me to wondering why I wasn’t, aside from Fido out on Revere Beach.

I’m trying not to discuss my personal trauma here –  just the illness. The Cenobites. I have a few stories in one of my other blogs but the contents are password protected, and they’re not really polished enough to be read, I need more of the story to give it context.  I’ll get to it eventually. But, I’m getting off topic – I think I have never been victimized (consent-driven victimization notwithstanding) because, while my mother WAS a victim, and she victimized me, she was also a notorious fighter, and based on everything I saw, I can only imagine what she was up to when I was not around. Somebody posted something on my facebook page:

Except Mama DID raise a lady who doesn’t take shit from anyone…this is so sexist!

We lived in the city and she knew of the dangers, racial and not racial. I think the thing she tried to instill in me most was her time-tested method of backing your way out of a corner. She said if I was ever cornered by a group of kids at school, on the bus, public transportation, wherever – “start behaving like a raving maniac.” And she proceeded to describe how a raving maniac might behave. It didn’t hurt that she was one much of the time. I have used it. Recently even. It WORKS!

If people fucked with us, an adult say something rude or whatever: “They pull that shit again, you tell them your mother is a raving lunatic and doesn’t put up with anyone harassing her daughters.” I’ve told people my mom was a raving lunatic, but not as a defense. More as an explanation.

She would get into physical altercations with her own mother, throwing her down our front steps one time.  She’d fight strange women if we were at the cat house on Green Street. She clocked my aunt once, my father’s sister, but she was drunk and Aunt C wasn’t & C threw a clever punch and mom went straight on her ass. She kept talking trash, Aunt C yelled something at her and slammed the door to my grandmothers house. That was a weird one, although by then I was used to having to pick her up from time to time.

But I saw her in hard action. God did she BRAWL with my dad. 5’3″, 120 pounds soaking wet – at his heaviest, my dad weighed over 250 pounds, but it didn’t scare her one bit. She would throw things at him and he would throw her at things, but she always got up and went directly at him, she was unstoppable, she did not give a fuck.

And then there were the other men and the midnight runs and the late night highway jaunts – hitchhiking was called “thumbing” back then. I did it once on Martha’s Vineyard – no problems.  But she always carried knives – sometimes small – sometimes monstrous. She carried them pretty much everywhere, she had a leather jacket where she carried the biggest of the butcher knives while we were out – she stole both the jacket and the knife from a friend while we were visiting. I’d worried vaguely about her knife habit up until that night,  particularly given her ill-advised, midnight job (she should have just left me asleep) “J, I have to go out, you’re in charge, there’s a knife on the table if you need it.” I still have the scar – I cut my hand open between my thumb and pointer all the way to the bone and ran screaming up and down my street like a 5-year-old banshee.  But that gigantic butcher knife nestled menacingly in the lining of that jacket – it worried me. And it turned out that the knives were what ultimately got the State to remove my sister and me from her custody and eventually got her killed. Maybe I should have been getting rid of the knives as well as the vodka that last year. But I didn’t know.

Anyway, thanks Mother.

Why did my mom have to be sick? Not cool, genetics, not cool at all…



  1. I have often found myself wondering I don’t have PTSD (I know weird). I never slid into the mentality that someone who hurt me did so because of something I had done. NO! That person hurt me, they are the asshole! The same as you did with the dog!

    You should be careful about getting back into victim thinking just because others in the group may still be there. You know yourself!

    • Hi hon,

      No, I wondered for about 2 seconds & then realized I am only a victim to my own uncontrollable mind now. Thank you for your thoughts & AMEN to never sliding into that mentality. I imagine it just exacerbates whatever trauma is visited upon a person to begin with.


  2. Dorothy says:

    this is the first time i’ve read someone’s blog and really cried… struck a chord
    Hope when things settled down after you’re out we can do that walk round the pond

  3. Wow. Just wow. Beautiful stories, well-told. You’re an anthropologist of your self. And that picture of your mom and you, pure heartbreak. You are an AWESOME writer! Can’t wait for more stories!!! Giant hugs.

  4. Jill, you have a way with words! And your mom sounds kind of like my grandma. She was a brawler. Used to ask my mom to get knives and sticks for her.

    HUGES xoxoxxx

    • Thanks Paz, that’s great about your grandma!!! My husband recently asked me why I don’t have a knife collection, just the 1 big hunting knife. I think I need to invest 🙂

      • Yeah, it’s no wonder my mom was the way she was with me.

        Be careful! Use nun-chucks and learn martial arts instead! 🙂

      • Hahahahahaha, nah, knives are my thing. Instilled way too early. I LOVE them, the shapes, the colors, the textures of them, they’re magnificent.

      • Well, you are fierce! And I can definitely see why knives would suite you better. They give you a closer connection to your mami, one no nun-chuck would do.

        It’s difficult not to see ourselves as victims. It’s funny because most people who meet me say I inspire them. I never show my weak side around others, unless you’re close enough to know me well or unless I’m having a complete meltdown in which all other cases, I’m “depersonalized”.

        By the way, I’m assuming the cute baby is you. 😉 Cute cute cute.

        Stay strong lovely lady!

      • Thanks, and you babe!!!

  5. For some reason your posts have not been showing up in my reader. (ugh wordpress) Anyway I am glad I finally got back by. Loved the post, great stories told well. Look forward to reading more!

  6. PRECIOUS photo of you and your mom!! You both look so happy!! I’ve got one of me and my mom similar to that — to bad the happiness/closeness couldn’t last for us!! Still, some good memories to hang on to while trying to forget the bad!!

    Thanks for posting this!!

  7. Amazing work! This is actually the kind of data that ought to be shared across the web. %KW%

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: