I’m Not a Terrible Person, I’m a Trauma Survivor
I’m a trauma survivor. My husband knows this, my family knows this. If you know me at all, you know this. It’s by no means my key identifier but it’s part of who I am. And, to be completely honest, I really thought I’d healed most of my trauma over the last 15 years of working on it…and then Covid hit. And masks became THE “thing”, the prophylactic against Covid…first to “flatten the curve” and then to “slow the spread”…and I…I hit a wall. Imagine the Road Runner hitting a wall and sliding down it…
Except mine wasn’t physical. It was emotional. It was mental. Flashbacks, hands over my mouth, anxiety and panic attacks…I was baffled so I did what I do. I sat down and looked it in the eye. Oh hey, trauma I had no idea existed…what do you need me to know?
Let’s talk about that attempted mugging I never talked about where I nearly passed out when I saw the guy again in a mall. He was arrested. I was left shaking, but I “got over it” [read: swept it under the rug because I had no skill set to deal with it, nor support to turn to to say “I need help!”]. But he had his hand over my mouth, threatening to slice my throat. On a quiet metropolitan street at 1 AM…on my way home from work. I told him to turn around so I could see his face if he was going to kill me. He ran. And it was buried…until masks became all the rage with Covid-19.
That one summer when a grown man thought a little girl was pretty while they were playing hide and seek and the little kids had adults with them…and he started to touch me then stopped because we’d been found…he had put his hand over my mouth and told me to be quiet…we didn’t want to be found out…and he didn’t want me to get in trouble….I’d said nothing to the adults because children were seen not heard. I thought it was a dead letter…until masks and Covid-19 and was I transported back to that space, complete with vivid details.
Then there was my rape, his hand over my mouth…I tried to bite it. That works much better in TV land than it does in real life, in case you wondered. I was dazed and confused and trying to get my bearings…with his hand over my mouth telling me that I needed to be quiet and not scream so as not to alarm anyone…Now my rape, I’ve done the WORK around it. Years worth. I thought it was healed…until masks and Covid-19…But you can’t escape it when it’s virtually everyday…let’s relive slices of your trauma…daily. For 10+ months and counting…
I hear people saying “wearing your mask shows kindness, that you care”. “You’re doing it for others, not for yourself.” I do care, but here’s the deal. If I may be forthright. I abandoned myself in each of those incidents…it’s called a psychotic break. I’ve never met a trauma survivor who doesn’t have that “moment”. I will NOT do it now. I cannot. But I know many trauma survivors, some healed, millions unhealed with gaping wounds and dreaded red dot syndrome…who “wear the damn mask” because it’s the lesser of two evils. Because they don’t want to be looked at, feel the “what are you doing without a mask?” They’re on high alert, exhausted at normal activities, at having to pre-plan even a trip to the gas station or grocery store.
I’ve also been subjected to, “well, people are dying…” Yes, yes, they are. But that’s not a new phenomenon to 2020. I’ve buried quite a few people in this life, all of them before 2020. People die annually by the literal millions. It’s part of life. I’m not here to argue that point with you. I know that Covid is real AND I know that my refusal to wear a mask has nothing to do with my nice quotient. I don’t owe you, nor does anybody unmasked owe you, why they’re unmasked. In fact, it’s actually illegal for you to ask. If a business wants to deny me entry, that’s fine. I’ll take my money elsewhere, without grandstanding. In fact, I call first. I’ve been screamed at, cussed out, badgered about it.
I’m taking care of me so that I can take up for my family, my community. I’m healthy physically. I take my temperature daily, I shop during off hours and I stay away from people. Ditto my family. My kids know why mom doesn’t wear a mask, in kid language, because it’s not their job to defend me.
So, if I may, the next time you see someone without a mask on, mind your business. Are there people refusing to wear masks “because…”? Yes, yes there are. But let’s assume for a hot minute that they, too, have their own issues that this mess has brought to the fore. Fact is, you don’t know why someone is unmasked…try grace. Maybe they’re not a terrible person, they’re just a trauma survivor. And that, in and of itself, is a LOT!