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Unexpected Damages

Updated: May 15, 2023

This past weekend's competative Minecraft session messed me up emotionally to a really unexpected degree and it's taking me a long time to recover. That means today's blog post will be a lot of me sorting out my thoughts and trying to figure out what exactly got triggered, so please bear with me.

I'm fairly sure I've written in previous posts about the insecurities that are rooted in my developmental trauma; because I don't have the energy this morning to go looking through previous posts and linking them, I'll give you a quick summary.

  1. Developmental trauma is when something isn't quite safe enough for an infant, leading to the baby being overwhelmed and traumatized. This can happen anywhere between conception and about age 2 or 3. Yes, in utero trauma is a real thing. Developmental trauma is often associated with attachment trauma because something interrupts the normal bonding process.

  2. My developmental trauma (from what I've been able to piece together) is a combination of a few things: my mom needing multiple surgeries shortly after I was born (one of which was huge and I was staying with an aunt), my parents/mom withdrawing emotionally when I was about just a year old as they grieved the passing of my stillborn brother, and the unique emotional landscape and psychological structure my mom developed due to the way she was raised.

  3. I have recently been able to identify that I have a schizoid personality structure; and while that sounds scary (because it sounds like schizophrenia), all that means is that I my internal emotional experience is so sharp and vibrant that I find external stimuli to be somewhat overwhelming. Most schizoid types have an extra sensitive nervous system and as a result have learned to turn off the strongest of their own emotions. I'm one of those. I am extremely aware of others' emotions, have often been puzzled why others can't seem to understand what seems to be obvious to me, have not understood others' intolerance for their own emotions, and simultaneously try to involve myself in others emotions while being terrified of being consumed by others' emotional storms.

When you piece all of that together, you get a little baby who's extra sensitive (schizoid type) who is suddenly without her mom (due to surgeries) for terrifying periods of time, and then eventually is back with mom but mom isn't capable of being consistent in her emotional availability (mom's grief, mom's emotional landscape, etc). To be clear, never once did I experience abuse in a traditional sense, it was all just a really complicated layering of vulnerabilities.

Now for the insecurities.

  1. Fear of Being alone. This one has been horrible. Before I could identify it, I used to call it "Big Empty House" feeling. Anytime I was alone I would wrap myself in a blanket and binge watch old black & white movies. The first time I had an office job, I was alone in the office every day and was literally incapable of getting anything done. I was 19 years old and had no idea what was wrong, but it was miserable. Fortunately, I've had some healing in this area already and am now (as of a few months ago) capable of being alone at the office all day without it bothering me.

  2. Fear of Doing alone. Not quite the same as being alone, this one is a weird incapacity that suddenly hits when I have to do something independently that I've never done before. And it's directly related to attachment trauma. Little kids who are secure in the knoweldge that their parent/safe person is attentive and accessible are able to run around exploring. And while I had a lot of really good secure years in my childhood, those first few months shaped my brain (literally) with a vulnerability in this space. During my own burn out from teaching and again during covid I was incapable of doing things independantly, even familiar things like getting groceries or going to church. I had to go with someone.

Now that I've written those, I think I can see exactly what triggered me during my game on Saturday. You see, I'd been both terrified and excited to start that series. I'm very unpracticed at making friends and tend to rely on my "professional" or "responsible" mask to get me through social situations. But I was intentionally stretching my skills and my comfort zone and choosing to let my inner child play and explore and build up her skills. It was a lot of work, but I spent four gaming sessions (3 hours long each) slowly gaining confidence and had a really cool team I was working with. I'd manged to find/create a safe place in-game to explore from.

Knights of the Realm (and Arren) - screenshot courtesy of Alex

Oh, and also for game context: these Minecraft Life games are a last-man-standing scenario where we each have between 2 and 5 lives. GreenLifes have 3-5 lives, YellowLifes have 2 lives, and RedLifes are on their last life before they're out of the game.

Last session, the two members of my team that I knew best both lost a life, dropping them to RedLife. RedLife means they're on their last life, and one more death will oust them from the series. It also means they aren't able to be friends with us anymore, and could very possibly be the cause of our next deaths. RedLifes are chaotic and hostile to other players. And then, if that weren't enough, our base was besiged. We had lava poured from above and had to evacuate, rescuing what few things we could in the short amount of time we had. Turns out that one of my former team mates had cleared out our storage just before they left, so not much of value remained. And although we resourcefully relocated to another abandoned (but intact) base, the RedLifes ended up evicting us from that one, too.

By the end of those three hours, we were homeless, destitute, and feeling hounded on every side. I ended up looking down at our abandoned and cobblestone-encrusted castle when I logged off. I didn't realize it until I went to get groceries that afternoon, but I was dissociating pretty hard. It took me until yesterday morning to realize I was grieving the in-game losses. Loss of safe people. Loss of safe places. Sudden feeling like I'm going to need to do things independently. Fear that I will be alone. Also an uncanny surreal feeling of "How am I still alive? How am I still Yellow?" and the accompanying fear-and-excitement of "What if I get close to winning?"

Lava-covered Castle - Screenshot courtesy of Kegan

This, friends, is where I'm practicing being brave. I didn't expect my silly Minecraft game to reveal so much of the inner work that I have been addressing. I didn't expect to have to field waves of emotion this weekend - none of the related to the real life difficult things that are happening (the forest fires mentioned in a previous post and my father-in-law losing some fingers in a woodworking accident). I didn't plan to need lots of extra recovery time from my silly Minecraft game because I believed it was just a silly Minecraft game. As it turns out, I've been doing some heavy psychological workouts each weekend. No wonder I'm exhausted.

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