December 07, 2007


The Tragedy of the Abused, Dissociated Child: The Soul Has Retreated; The Light Has Gone Out.

This post is lifted from my Microsoft Word journal.

I gotta get some of this down on paper. This will be long and rambly, so I'm going to type it rather than hand write in my spiral journal.

Right now, I'm really oscillating between: being depressed that the fantasy escape cruise is over (getting the stomach flu as soon as we returned didn't help); wanting to continue "going about my business" and acting like I'm perfectly normal...whatever that is; and feeling scared about I'm not sure what.

I wonder if I'm afraid that Lisa--my rebellious, young party-girl part--is going to wreak havoc. I've got this Christmas party on Saturday that I'm going to solo (David's leaving for an out-of-town conference). Part of me wants to walk to the party (it's only blocks away and then I'd have no worries about drinking and driving) and get really drunk. I've lost 15 pounds since May and I look better than I have since before I got pregnant with Daniel. I've lost the weight this time in a healthy way, and without smoking, too! I've kept the weight off, even with Halloween candy, birthday cake, a Thanksgiving feast, even the gourmet food on the cruise. I went out and got some new clothes--jeans that are fairly low cut. I look kinda sexy. Uh oh! Danger! Unsafe! Scary!

I dunno. Lisa's been pretty quiet. I have to give her credit: She's done a wonderful job of compromising and living fairly comfortably with the fact that David is my husband and Daniel is my son. I think she's actually starting to like David somewhat.

I don't think it's Lisa. What am I so scared about? Is it Christmas? I know I'm feeling overwhelmed. We came back from the cruise and BAM! All of a sudden we're in the thick of it--it's the holiday season. I haven't purchased one gift. The Christmas cards we ordered need to go out. We were four days late on our advent calendar. December? How could it be December already? At least I got the rotten pumpkin thrown out and the scarecrow and fall wreath put away. At least I put up a Christmas wreath. But, I have no interest in putting up the Christmas tree. If it weren't for Daniel, I wouldn't buy a single present.

Yeah, I'm frustrated and overwhelmed with Christmas, but I don't feel any urge to run away. No, I don't think that's it either.

There's definitely a lot of fear. Maybe it's not about what might happen now or in the near future. Maybe it's from the past. (Oh, gee, ya think?) I got really scared the other day about taking a shower. (Good God, how much trauma processing and therapy am I going to have to do to finally get rid of that fear?) David was even here with me--his turn for the stomach flu and he stayed home that day. After I forced myself into the shower, I felt okay with the water on my body. But, the prospect of putting my head under the water to wash my hair got my fear all going again.

I really had to ground myself. The lavender body wash aromatherapy strategy didn't work at all. I smelled it and felt slightly nauseated. Weird! I did use the aromatherapy hair conditioner, though. It worked well. And I told myself that, if I could just get the shower in and look presentable, I could go to the mall, get the advent treats, get myself a treat and buy myself some new, properly-fitting jeans. That seemed to work. I got it all done and picked up Daniel on time from school.

I was feeling scared and not wanting to get out of bed yesterday. Some fear is still lingering. What is it? For some reason, I think it has to do with my mother. Why? Hhhmmmm....maybe it was that dream the other night. It was an horrific nightmare that was really gross. My therapist used the word "icky" in therapy yesterday. That describes it: "icky." Why should I feel so afraid about something gross and icky? Shouldn't I just feel nauseated instead? Why scared?

Come to think of it, I was nauseated recently. Of course, it was that flu bug. I didn't vomit like David did, but I sure felt like it with that stomach flu. I don't know if I'll ever get over my fear of vomiting. I still do anything I can to avoid it, no matter how sick I am. Maybe it was the flu that brought on the dream; it was really sick and gross. It was more gross and "icky" than it was violent and scary (although it was those things as well).

(Disturbing content will be bracketed for your protection and convenience.)

It was one of those "movie" dreams where the characters are strangers to me. The two main characters were these obese women who looked like nobody I've ever seen in real life before. I guess, since there was the obesity, they could have symbolized my mother. But, there were two of them (sisters?) and they were much younger than my mother. Physically, their features looked nothing like my mother or anyone else in our "family."

It was violent, as usual. It involved knives, as usual. (Will I ever figure out what the hell that's about?) There was one scene where the perpetrator-type woman was slicing the other woman's cheek with a knife. It was bloody and terrifying.

But, it was the yucky grossness that bothered me more. In once scene, the two women were naked and writhing on the ground, their bodies distorted and grotesque. They were doing this writhing, but they were not in pain. What was that about? A big mass of fecal matter comes out of one of them. Then, something else comes oozing out. What was it? Did I know at the time of the dream? I guess I've conveniently forgotten. Whatever it was, it was even grosser than shit. Both times, the excreted mass was enormous. This wouldn't be physically possible in real life...I hope. The thing that stays with me the most is the fact that both of these women seemed proud of their disgusting nature. They seemed to revel in grossing somebody else out.


This aspect of the dream is confusing to me. In the attitude about grossing people out, the two characters seemed together--in on it together. But, in the violent scene, one obviously seemed to be in the role of perpetrator and the other victim. Maybe this has to do with my confusion over discovering that my mother was much more than just another victim of my father--she was a collaborator.

Yep. The fear is about my mother. I was thinking about this as I was waiting for a slice of bread to toast yesterday morning. Would I really be that afraid if I faced my mother today? Yes, absolutely. The fear was still quite palpable when I saw her at my cousin's funeral a year-and-a-half ago. I was scared to death of her. But, I handled the confrontation so well. I took care of myself and kept myself safe. I didn't even allow her to touch me or chit chat with me. I could do it again. I could be a strong, resourceful adult and take care of myself(ves).

As I stood there, at the kitchen counter, I thought about what I would say if I chose to confront my mother. I said it aloud: "How could you allow your husband to torture your child, and then make her feel guilty for it as if it were her fault, telling her she was bad, dirty and evil? How could you do that? How could you do that to your own precious, beautiful, innocent, defenseless little child--the child you once carried inside you?" Fuck! No matter how many times I think, say or type the words, it's just incomprehensible!

The temptation to ask the ridiculous, answerless question, "How could you?" is so strong because the concept is just so incomprehensible. It just seems like an impossibility for any human who ever had any empathy, compassion, nurturing instincts, mothering tendencies...basic humanity.

I was thinking about this and talking about it in therapy yesterday: I've faced the inhumanity, as frightening as that is. I've faced the horror. I've dealt with the terror. I've processed the torture. I've looked at the fact that I was treated as less than human. I've faced the fact that, as a child, I had no basic human rights. Is facing this "icky" grossness as bad as all that? Can that be even more scary than what I've already looked at?

Well, maybe it's more related than I first assumed it was.


It popped into my head like a flash: something I only watched on TV the other night for a matter of seconds, and then quickly turned the channel. It was some crime show about serial killers. They showed photos of the victims in a mass grave they had discovered. Aaaahhhh! Oh my God, this one picture hit me really hard. I'm sure you've seen photographs like this yourself--even worse, they were probably real photos (not something made up for a television show). Maybe it was a photo from the Holocaust or some war photograph. You know how you react, when you see a picture of a charred body of a person who's been burned to death, or maybe the skeletal remains of a victim who was starved to death? All you really see is a skeleton--a heap of bones. It's become such an "it" rather than a proper "who." It's like it's not really a human person you're looking at anymore.

Yeah, that's it. It goes back to the inhumanity again. This is what I just can't truly admit to having been through. This is what I'm struggling so hard to face. This is what I am so afraid of. Now, what I have here is just a different way of looking at it. This is simply a different spin on the same inhumanity issue I'm struggling with. Yeah, and it's more than just the actions of those people--those people who were supposed to be my guardians--that were inhumane. It's the fact that they saw me as less than human. My status was less than that of a dog. I was that black, charred heap of body parts. I was nothing more than flesh draped over bones. No wonder I've always felt like garbage tossed on the trash pile.

That's what happens, you know. That's what happens to bodies that used to be people. That's what happens in war, to those "others," those unlucky saps who found themselves on the other side. That's what you see in those mass graves, in the clean-up from the remnants of the gas chambers. You see piles of corpses. Your eyes become slits as you squint to look at the photograph. What is that? It can't be human. And it no longer is. The light has gone out of the eyes. The twisted, contorted expressions on what used to be faces are monstrous, not human. Was there ever a person really in there? It seems unlikely.


(If you haven't been able to read the above, just go to the comments section and leave me a cyber hug, will ya? I could really use some cyber solace. I feel so scared, devastated and alone.)

The real tragedy is to search a face and find no human there in someone who is actually still alive. Oh dear God, maybe even a child! The soul has retreated. The light has gone out. No ordinary human could endure such inhumanity.

So we became something else. Didn't we?

I know some of you know what I mean.

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Please accept my safe
Hang in there.
I accept them with much gratitude. Thanks, Kahless. How very sweet of you!

They always seem to help. We're only an email away.

Over all though, it sounds like you are doing well.
I will leave you some cyber {{{hugs}}} as well. I found you through Enola's blog.

I have to comment on this...I've not read your blog before so I don't know any more about you than what you posted in this single entry. However, I am big into dreams as you'd see from my own recent blogging! Here are a couple things that struck me about your dream:
I think the two women may possibly represent the two sides of your mother...the mother you first knew as a "victim" and then the other side of her you saw when you discovered she was a collaborator (perpetrator).
Knives symbolize something you want to cut out of your life, often it's representative of a relationship you are trying to, or have, severed.
Blood can sometimes refer to a situation in your life that cannot be changed.
Violent dreams are about unexpressed anger or rage.
Nudity can often mean vulnerability, but in the context here...where you are disgusted by the nudity of another person, it signifies anxiety about discovering the (naked) truth about another person or situation.
Feces symbolize aspects of yourself that you feel are dirty and negative; things you judge as undesirable and repulsive.

So take from all of the above what you will but I think there is some incredibly strong symbolism here and yes, it certainly seems to be all about your mother.

More {{{hugs}}} to you.
Me too, I want to leave you safe hugs too!

Oh, having to process so much is draining. It sounds like you're really wrestling with the awful fact that you were treated as less than human. It's incomprehensible to you.

I know exactly how that feels, and it's a huge part of my own denial. How could anyone have treated me that way? They didn't really, did they? Not the ones who were supposed to love and protect me?

I grew up on bland TV shows in an era when sitcom families were all smiley (not snarly as they are these days); when fathers worked and were otherwise pretty feckless, and mothers all stayed home and did for their families all day long--and liked it. Most of them even lived in nice homes just like the one I lived in, so how could anyone do unthinkable things to me? No one did things like that to Kitten on Father Knows Best. None of the kids in these TV families had nasty little secrets to hide. I knew TV wasn't real, but it was supposed to reflect reality. So if none of these sitcom kids feared for their safety, why should I?

Well, that's me. That's a smidgen of why my head's so messed up regarding my own abuse. All that to say, I know what you're dealing with, I know how it hurts and confuses, and I am indignant on your behalf.

No one had any right to treat you that way.

If you lived down the block we'd go get drunk together. Or not. Maybe not, but at least we could consider it! Only you'd have to be the one in the tight jeans, ok?
Oh I hope the long comment I left just went through!
I have read it all - on my hand held PDA no less. I want to comment but it will be a long comment and my thumbs just don't work well enough for all that typing. I will make time among this moving to make time to respond. I want to know that you are heard. Unfortunately I relate all to well to what you write - I wish none of us did. Take care at your party. Remember that all of you have to live with the consequences that one engages in. I too have the option to drink into oblivion (DH does not drink so I always have a DD). But it will not solve anything and I will hate myself for it in the morning.
Wow! My heart is warmed by such prompt responses to my desparate plea for cyber solace! Thank you all so much.
Enola: You are so sweet and thoughtful to want to write a response during your move (You, too, Beauty!)

I appreciate you reading such difficult stuff.
I have to say that I agree with perfect about her observations about the dream imagery. My perceptions are very much the same.

I also have to say, I have seen pictures of piles of bodies from the German concentration camps and I didn't see the bodies of those poor unfortunate people as less than human. I saw the offenders who did that to them were the ones that were less than human.

I see between the lines of what you said that if you were treated so horrendously it turns you into something less than human. That is most certainly not the case. Victims are not less because of what happened to them no matter how scarred they are. It is the offenders who are responsible.They are the ones lacking in humanity.

The message says that you are holding yourself responsible for what was done to you. That is a message that is toxic and needs to be silenced and NOT believed.
Dear marj

Keepers know how you feel, how could you allow them to do that to me is a question we wanted to ask over and over. We hope you had a really neat cruise and we would love to hear about it someday. congrats on losing the weight also!! Sorry we haven't been around much lately but we are starting to feel better. sending you warm, safe hugs


Hang in there, Marj. You are in my thoughts.
Marj, Huge (((hugs)))!

Some thoughts: I know that part of what I had to process was how people who at times could be loving at other times could do such horrible things to me. I also had to process whether I was in any way like them. (And when you hide parts of yourself away so they can survive--even if you're not mulitple, just hiding parts of yourself--you wonder at what's left and worry.) I had to look at how and what causes these possibilities and what I would do to make sure I never became a monster, too. That's when I came to the belief that if we can learn to love and believe in ourselves that's the best insurance we can have that we won't.

Again (((hugs))).
Thank you all so much for the warm cyber hugs. I can't believe how much that helps me.

I'm feeling quite a bit better today. I think a big part of what's going on is that I'm just grieving. My T said I've really just scratched the surface of the grieving I probably need to do. I agree. I want my parts to know that they are worth the grieving. What happened was important! So the grieving is worth it.

April: I've diversified quite a bit from my Christian upbringing, but one of the things from my childhood church teachings that I will always firmly believe is that we have to love ourselves to love others--so your point is well taken. Thanks!

RR: I continue to struggle with blaming myself/forgiving myself. Thanks for bringing this up. I'm going to talk about it with my therapist. You are right, I don't have to BE what those monsters tried to project onto me. No way! Thanks for your insights.
Your last lines have stuck with me. I want to say that while *I* believe it is true that the soul retreats (I've seen those eyes in my own mirror)...I believe the soul is not gone for good, but returns and/or makes itself known often. My evidence for this is the survivors who chose to not pass on a life of abuse. Those survivors who reach out to other survivors and try to help...etc. The light is still there, wanting to shine.


How was the party?

The grieving part is hard. My T said it's similar to grieving the death of someone. But I found it more difficult because while I was grieving the loss of relationships, those people were still around - and I found it hard to stop hoping they would change and morph into "normal" people.

How are you feeling after the weekend?
Sera: YES! How true! Maybe that's why so many of us refuse to be silenced. We also refuse to allow our light to be hidden or dulled anymore. The light is there and we just have to let it shine. (Reminds me of a Sunday School song I learned as a kid.) Thanks!

Enola: You're so kind to check back to see how I'm doing. Actually, I really enjoyed the party. I had some very nice conversations with women there. Unfortunately, the wine didn't help me sleep well. I slept awful and had some of the most horrendous nightmares of my life. Uuugghh! But, today is a therapy day, so I'll get to talk it all out there.
Yes, I DO know what you mean.
I don't feel good, either.
Lynn: It feels better to not be all alone with this. But, I'm so sorry that you DO know what I mean and that you feel bad.

Thanks so much for the safe hugs. I will come by your blog and give you some, too. Maybe they will help us both, at least a little bit.
thoughts to you.
Thank you, Karma and Patches, for the thoughts and hugs. They help more than you know!
I certainly feel unrelenting darkness at times. That the years of abuse, my brother getting into my bed, trapped me for the rest of my life. Years of feeling I didn't have a right to say yes or no. But there's also a part of me that's simply more aware and empathetic because of it. And there is a lot of transformation going on too.

(hugs) - A Journey to Wholeness
Thanks, Matthew. I'm glad that both of us are finding transformation...even if it is quite a painful process at times.
Marj, I am glad that you are doing well enough to write all of this. Thank you for the courage that it takes to share all of this pain.

I have been grieving for about a month now. Sometimes, I do this between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sometimes the grief is for the fairytale family that I always wanted and never had. Sometimes it is for the still sad and hurting little girl inside of me that believes she is worthless. Sometimes the grief hits when I realize that my husband and I are still suffering from the effects of the abuse and the unfairness of that.

My mother was a colaborator to the abuse through her silence and unawareness. She didn't do anything to stop the abuse that she didn't want to know was happening. She was an emotionally shut down woman who couldn't deal with her own pain therefore she couldn't see mine.

Fear of being blamed by my mother is what kept me silent for so many years.

Looking at the part that my mother has played in the abuse has been the hardest thing to look at. Our mothers are our role models for the woman that we are supposed to become. Who I am is so tied up with who she was as a woman and mother since she was my role model. I grew up knowing how I would never be like my mother in certain areas. I did do what she did and shut down emotionally. It was the only way that I could survive the abuse and not split into different personalities. I learned from my mother not to feel. That is still the most difficult thing for me to do.

I am sending lots and lots of hugs to you. For many years, when I was beginning to deal with my fears, especially night time fears, I slept with a teddy bear that a friend bought for me. It helped to have something to hug to me like I was rarely hugged as a child.
Patricia: Safe, gentle hugs for us both--
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