Finding Clown Magic as a Way to Stay Good While Recovering from Complex PTSD

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Aurelia Lorca – Poet / High School Teacher

This Monday I  started group therapy  for complex PTSD. 

Three years ago, after my ex-boyfriend Chris died from an overdose, I went to grief counseling where I was told that I needed trauma therapy. Outside the grief counseling office was a Mystery Machine van from Scooby Doo- a real life sized Mystery Machine van. 

One of my writer friends in Santa Cruz – who sells old toys on eBay – had  a toy mystery machine van in his apartment when Chris and I first reconnected and my friend let him stay on his sofa. My friend’s entire apartment was filled with toys and typewriters and books. The living room was as if we had stepped  into the imaginations of kids like us who grew up in the seventies and eighties.  Chris kept laughing and asking what the hell kind of place he was in. This was in 2010 – the same year as my divorce and horrible family drama.  I had been drinking, had gotten hooked on a medication and had a few close shaves with overdosing myself.

Trying to help Chris get off drugs helped me remember my own life. Chris repeatedly told me my world was saving him. But since he was thirteen, he’d had substance abuse issues. My world, he has only been able to vacation in.

Since I was a teenager, my world has  been that of a geeky bibliophile who most loves the intoxication of the page. I never thought about how my world has always saved me. To do so would place me fully in the present – and I’ve always been too haunted by my past. Chris was part of my past- someone I knew from the nineties. Helping him in 2010 helped me return to my world and escape the deep seeded strangleholds of my family and their pasts.

When Chris died, I wrote out my grief as a way to face the present but never got into trauma therapy; it required going into my childhood that I just couldn’t fully look at until now. Nonetheless I decided that the Mystery Machine van outside the grief counseling office was clown magic, even though I didn’t quite understand what it meant. 

For the last three years, Chris has appeared  in my dreams, sometimes shouting at me to keep writing it out and live my life. And yet I have teetered on the delicate balance of living and going forward from a place of survivors gratitude versus a place of  survivors guilt, and manage the repetitive numbing and self harm and despair that comes with both of these mental states.

At Kaiser on Monday, I found myself shaking and feeling overwhelmed with a litany of self-judgement, and should’s, and the pervasive fear that no one would understand the generational trauma my crazy comes from. 

In many ways I feel like I’m cracking up….but ultimately in a good way. Trauma is trauma  – it spans across cultures, classes, and generations …it is part of being human. I think our inhumanity happens when we forget that. 

I don’t believe in ghosts – ghost stories are always about the living. But sometimes it helps  to think about the way the dead  would laugh at us and say yes to clown magic if there was such a thing as ghosts.

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