Living and Giving

The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part Two

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**Advisement prior to reading: This is a meaningful piece on foster care which also contains extremely strong language.

This is the second part of a two-part blog series on “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.” Read “The Legacy of Childhood Trauma, Part One.”

Junot Diaz, prolific writer and award winner, is also the victim of abuse. Read his beautiful writing to see how he felt, and how it impacted his life.   Here is a man who ran from life, but strived to learn, grow and rise above the challenges.

Maybe you, too, will decide to help. One of the ways is to become a CASA volunteer. Read on to be educated, inspired and to give back.   

Here’s an excerpt of Díaz’s “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma”:

“That violación. Not enough pages in the world to describe what it did to me. The whole planet could be my inkstand and it still wouldn’t be enough. That s*** cracked the planet of me in half, threw me completely out of orbit, into the lightless regions of space where life is not possible. I can say, truly, que casi me destruyó. Not only the rapes but all the sequelae: the agony, the bitterness, the self-recrimination, the asco, the desperate need to keep it hidden and silent. It f***** up my childhood. It f***** up my adolescence. It f***** up my whole life. More than being Dominican, more than being an immigrant, more, even, than being of African descent, my rape defined me. I spent more energy running from it than I did living.

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And in no time at all I was failing everything. Quizzes, quarters, and then entire classes. First I got booted out of my high school’s gifted-and-talented program, then out of the honors track. I sat in class and either dozed or read Stephen King books. Eventually I stopped showing up altogether. School friends drifted away; home friends couldn’t wrap their heads around it.”

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What struck me so poignantly about this article was how much the trauma stayed and affected all Díaz’s decisions. For me, this is critical to understand and to continue to understand.  You see, one of my foster care youth was raped by a gang member in the Mission in San Francisco, in her apartment building.

It’s that vulnerable, that close to home.

His article helped me understand, to any extent that I can…

My foster care youth is very joyful; very positive.

We have never discussed it.

But how she must try to stuff it down, lock that experience away, and then put on a brave face. That\’s what she\’s dealing with. Trying to live life positively, and yet one of the scariest, most hurtful experiences happened to her.

What Junot Díaz talks about is that this early experience broke his world.

 

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He approached multiple relationships and ran from them.  Intimacy was broken. Trust was broken. Hiding from his truth hurt him and hurt all those around him.

Yet still here can be hope, and there are opportunities.

Díaz was low, unmotivated and undirected.  Yet Rutgers college saw something in him. They gave him an open door and accepted him to college.   They saw his talent and heart.

It\’s that opportunity that so many of our youth deserve. They need that open door!

 

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Take a look at this passage, which helped me understand how trauma stayed on his brain. As Díaz was signing books as an accomplished, Pulitzer Prize winner, one of his admirers approached him, asking if he had experienced some of the trauma from the book. Díaz admits he scoffed and turned the seeker away:

\”I ran the way I’ve always run. Like death itself was chasing me. For a couple of days afterward I fretted; I worried that I’d given myself away. But then the old oblivion reflex took over. I pushed it all down. Buried it all. Like always. But I never really did forget. Not our exchange or your disappointment. How you walked out of the auditorium with your shoulders hunched. I know this is years too late, but I’m sorry I didn’t answer you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you the truth. I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for me. We both could have used that truth.\”

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I love above because even if we have not been abused, **we** need to hear that truth.  It\’s the truth of another’s heart. It\’s the truth of transparency. To really know and honor someone, their journey, their hurt, and hopefully, their healing.

 

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As I am reading the article, my heart leaps. Will Díaz find love, and more importantly, let himself deserve it? Let himself receive it, the love?  Here he shares trying to find love:

\”We clicked like crazy. Like our ancestors were rooting for us. I was the Dominican nerdo she’d always dreamed about. She actually said this. She didn’t have a clue. I fell into her family, and she fell into mine.\”

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But it wasn\’t to be. The mask, as he said, \”got more of him than he did.\”

This has helped me tremendously, for my youth has a very joyful mask and attitude. But what\’s really going on?

As a CASA, we can only listen, support and be a stabilizer.  I hope someday, my foster care youth will feel safe with me and tell me her heart. I have no right to hear her story. Perhaps my only hope as a CASA, is to create safety in our time together so that she has some peace.

I hope this has given you an idea of what it means to really care about a foster care youth… and it’s understandable if you don’t feel you can volunteer.  These are heavy issues. So if you can, please support CASA today. You’ll be making a difference in a foster care youth’s life — right now.

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Junot Díaz was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her, a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the cofounder of Voices of Our Nation Workshop.”

Bio from http://www.junotdiaz.com/about/

To read the full article from Junot Díaz: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/the-silence-the-legacy-of-childhood-trauma