Friday, December 9, 2016
Magdalena Ball #25: Gut Feeling
Not everything in the memory banks is linguistic. At ten months, I had some language. For example, I was able to shout “Mommy” while banging on the bathroom door. I was able to walk, label many things, and to clearly articulate what I wanted. I wasn’t able to verbally explore the complexities of fear. It was more of a smell, a colour, a visceral sensation that might have had its origins in the pit of my stomach, rather than the prefrontal cortex.
I felt it coming on before the incident: a buzz through the skin, a sick anticipation. My mother was tired, pacing the apartment, not cooking, not eating, and crying continuously. I couldn’t articulate the foreboding and get help, though I groaned with stomach pain. I could barely say my own name. But in the moment when she disappeared into the bathroom, I knew we were in trouble, and if I couldn’t get that door to open, the world would end.
I banged until my knuckles were bruised. I shouted until my throat was raw, and though I don’t remember what happened beyond that point, help must have arrived in the form of my grandmother, who was always visiting. She took over, got my mother to the hospital to be painfully brought back to life, crying “I just wanted to sleep”. Once Grandma was in charge, talking sharply to my mother about my future and her obligations, and cleaning/cooking/sorting, it was clear that we were going to be okay and I could go back to being a baby. After that language flooded in.
Language became a panacea. I had learned that safety was temporary, and that fear was something I would need to learn to navigate. I would need to become stronger, tougher, and more fluent with words to survive.