It's tricky, like anything to do with human emotion is tricky, but this is probably not just tricky but also highly ironic. Trauma, hardship, pain, all of these things have positives all the while causing you incredible heartache.
On the face of it, there aren't any upsides to trauma because after all I doubt anyone would willingly endure trauma just so that they could learn a lesson or two. Either accidentally or by design, living through some difficult shit does have some good points. The key word being: lived. For some of us even living to experience the end of a traumatic episode was too much to ask. I don't blame them, I can't.
Much like an incredibly amount of sustained and violent preassure makes diamonds, so too does trauma and pain build resilience. Resilience and fierce independence, so fierce it is jealous and defensive. Learning to keep calm and make good decisions while under incredible fire is something you learn when you live in a family built like an avalanche. Survival, hard work, becoming emotionally distant to make decisions based on reason, learning to pacifying situations and aggressors, independence, self direction, emotional fortitude these are all the things I have developed. These are the life skills I've learnt because of the extremely difficult life I once lived. Maybe lived is not the right word because it implies consent or even agency; as if the traumatic experiences I've lived and seen were a choice. They were never a choice.
Even though there are better classrooms to learn things like resilience, fierce independence, emotional levelheadedness and survival I've got these skills and attributes in abundance by learning and adapting as I went along. I call them skills and not, say character traits, personality traits or Davidisms because they're skills, I learnt them due to my circumstances and then I've adapted them to get me through my first 18 years. Even though it was out of necessity, I have learnt these things and they have largely served me well.
They sound like positive, if not entirely desirable attributes don't they? Independence, fealty, the high levels of suspicion designed to sort out cheaters, liars, thieves and other undesirables, self reliance, survival. These skills are great in workplaces, giving speeches, solving problems in meetings, managing projects, balancing budgets, coping with the entirely illogical environment that is the office. These are not the skills that make you a successful partner, lover or friend.
Everyone (I think) would want to work in a team with someone who is proudly (stubbornly?) independent, no-bullshit, capable and unflappable. That person who excels at getting the job done, no matter how big the crisis or problem and gets through it seemingly unscathed. those are probably not the qualities and characteristics you would want in a partner. The skills that I'm proud of, the many adaptations I made in myself and my worldview to be unmovable in the face of a thousand tsunamis are incredible strengths that I possess. They're also the softest spot in my armour.
Our brains are absolutely incredible, they're such astonishing organs. Capable of composing Beethoven's 9th Symphony, designing Niemeyer's Alvorada Palace, or arriving at Einstein's e=MC2 or inventing the socratic method. Yet they can't distinguish from the very real evolutionary threat of a sabre tooth tiger from an imaginary threat that vulnerability through intimacy with a romantic partner may bring. To the brain, at least to mine any threat warrants the same response, fight, fight, fight, fight then once spent fighting, flight.
The things that make me good at work, don't make me good at the rest of my life. I think everyone understands that vulnerability is dangerous when in the wrong company, context or circumstance and yet to me, because of my wiring, all vulnerability is dangerous, everywhere, all of the time. The fierce and proud independence in me that keeps me clothed, housed, productive and successful is the same pride and independence that prevent me from saying "I need a little bit more care today." I'm good at weathering everything that comes for me, but not so good at sharing that it scalds me to pay an excruciating price for my formidable resilience.
I'm not good at asking for help, or affection or love or loyalty, or even asking for comfort, care or attention because the people that were meant to provide this for me as a boy failed so spectacularly so I adapted to relying on myself. It's not fair, it's not just, it's just business.
Yet, the warnings and alarms inside of me are the same regardless of whether it's a life threatening situation or it's someone that wants to share my life, ease my burden or match their baggage with mine. My reaction is to shut down, ignore, eliminate and cower away from any one thing that may pose a threat of emotional pain. It doesn't matter if that threat is real like the many times my parents would take to fist fighting with each other or imagined that a romantic partner may want to know if I need a cuddle because it's been a hard day.
My brain, my remarkable brain made out of the same elements of Mozart's and Beethoven's and Hadid's and Sotomayor's and Niemeyer's can't distinguish from an actual threat to my life to an imagined one. The same brain that had a brilliant flash of genius that would audio record my parent's fighting so that if my father killed my mother during their many outbursts I would have proof to present to the police. That very brain can't accept a genuine, heartfelt comment. That brain that still, to this day enters new rooms and immediately devises an emergency escape route in case I needed a fast getaway can't convince me to stay in a relationship to try and work it out.
My strengths are actually incredible weaknesses. It's hard to reconcile and balance those things that kept me alive when I was a boy with getting my emotional or physical needs met. The front-stage version of me is what i like to call 'The David Show'. That's the bit that is capable, resilient, unflappable, determined, strong. Except backstage I'm highly insecure, anxious, terrified and needy. I'm constantly needing love, affection, comfort and protection from the outside world. This creates this never-ending loop.
The David Show is what I put on every single moment of my life to everyone without exception: I'm here, I'm capable, I'm OK and I've got this all on my own. In my mind that is how I will earn your respect, your love and your honesty. You're going to love me when I show you how capable I am, except people just come to expect that of you. When you've seen a magical show, why would you want to go backstage to see how what felt like magic was really just an illusion done with smoke, mirrors and clever lighting?
An angel's face is tricky to wear constantly.
In this I sympathise with the Wizard of Oz. The Wizard is all powerful, all knowing and when Dorothy and her motley crew of characters appear before him, he is seemingly omnipotent, except he was just a scared, old man pulling levers behind a curtain.
That's what it feels like to be so invisible in plain sight. It feels terrifying to be exposed or to be vulnerable because as smart as my brain may be it can't distinguish between real threat and perceived one and it's reaction is inevitably the same: fight first, flight later.
Now I'm too hard to know, how can I ask anyone to love me this way? To those that tried, I noticed and to those that did, a million thanks, every day for the rest of my life would not ever be enough.
I'm too hard to know, but I'll pick myself up, I can do this, whenever I feel, as soon as I feel.