Transmuting Teenage Trauma into Superpower / by grace mcgrade



When I was sixteen, I wore heavy kohl eyeliner, brushstrokes of fury, rimming my eyes and sunken skin. My aphrodisiacs contained in fluorescent orange bottles, pills for imagined pains, which I handed out like candy. My friends and I hung out in parks, or Melrose, or Venice Beach, inhaling fumes of smog and sweet pot under the beating Californian sun. I stole things compulsively, fueled by the belief that the world owed me something. This concrete and technological dystopia that I had inherited without wanting, needed to be punished and fought against. I was also funny, in a feral, untamed way. Perfumed with rage and angst. Caught between keeping up with unrealistic ideals of beauty, and cursing them. I  clumsily threw myself into danger, rolling under the stars in cars with boys, running away from everything, running into nothing. Suffocated by my parents, and simultaneously needing more love. Only consoled by open moonlight, by inebriated emotional intimacy, by reckless expeditions at two a.m. Yearning to live how animals live, purely by impulse and desire. This boldness is not a trait admired in young women.

Femininity had been bestowed upon me  like a delicate, linen dress. An heirloom of expectation.Not to be discussed, or too noticeable, but slipped into with an invisible grace. I found it itchy and too small so I tore at it with my teeth and fingernails, until I could fashion it into a mangled diaper or a witches hat.

In the height of adolescence, I was both uncomfortably hypersexualized and shamed by my peers.. Subject to the toxins of gossip and envy, because I seemed to invite them with my clumsy rage, and outfits that hugged my body, still new, sometimes forgetful of it's womanly curvature. Like any teenage girl you know, I procured trauma and heartache rapidly. Running too quickly to notice my bruises, summoning provocative reactions to serve a bottomless void.. Assuming with violent naivety that I was unfuckwithable.   Charging around in a stoned bubble, a child stretched too thin for an ill-fitting vessel.

Every immense high had an inevitable come down. As I sought out trouble, consequences eventually caught up to me. I became intoxicated by my own darkness, sometimes incapable of separating myself with the identity of being troubled. Locked bathrooms became sanctuaries. When I was heartbroken for the first time, I wanted to die. I sometimes slept with my arms crossed over my chest and prayed for death like a mummified corpse.  On a few occasions, I took a more literal approach.


This shadowy caricature of me seems light years away, but sometimes I send her my present day strength, parcels from the reserve of worth it took me years to find. I tell her she is beautiful, but she is more than the vessel of beauty that people seem to think they can comment on and criticize. I tell her that some of the pain she internalizes and then performs, doesn’t belong to her. I tell her that some of her pain is the heavy badge of being intuitive, and if she can deal with the insufferable vulnerability of feeling her feelings, she will notice that she sometimes lets things out so others don’t have to. I tell her that her life ahead will be embroidered by her most golden dreams.  I tell her she is magic, and that she will learn more about that later on.

In retrospect, I see that I have always been sensitive, a neptunian soul. Comprised of the stuff of water, music and dreams. A half foot in each dimension, giving the impression of being in several places at once. Even now, I feel sometimes so close to the veil, so psychically malleable  that I swear I am about to get sucked in to a alternate realm. I can see energy constantly dancing around me, and I now understand why I felt the need to be numb, or to be running, in constant movement away from myself. Sometimes, to be intuitive is to hurt.

My affinity for darkness is now cured by candle lit baths and black clothing, staying up till three amidst clouds of sage and dancing with spirits in my bedroom. I am sometimes scared that if I don’t do these things, the darkness will take its own path. Maybe explode, maybe swallow everyone in my sphere of influence whole. Luckily, I am too hopeful about the opulence in pregnant tomorrows, to flirt with death. There are better lovers and brand new fragrances,cobbled alleyways, glittering adventures, and dreams on foreign pillows awaiting ahead.

Had it not been for my various traumas, rebellions and heartache, perhaps I would have lived within the cornered confines of mundanity. Stayed in the toneless safety of my childhood bedroom.  I may have never heard the call from within, to seek. The need to seek magical dimensions beyond the visage of this dense, tangible reality. To find evidence of the web that connects everything that exists..  to possess the ability to see this world as a fabricated , shared hallucination..a veil before the infinite realms that call out behind inner silences.

Your wounds are not as important as what you did with them. How many traumas have you turned into strength? How many times have you transmuted pain, like alchemy, and emerged at the other end, gleaming brilliantly with the sweat of a brand new superpower? Those are the only traumas that count. They are the fertile soil from which we sprout, like plants from outer space. If you can persist without repeating your pain at the mercy of others, if you can triumph above the rage and the noise, you are indestructible.