not keeping the abuse a secret

a child-sexual-abuse survivor's blog


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little brides of Christ & the girl in the basement

I went to a Catholic school called Blessed Sacrament in first and second grades.  I loved it.  I don’t have any of the mean-nun memories so joked about.  The only scary part for me was when we were to have our first communion, be little brides of Christ as the nuns smilingly called it.

First Communion Class, Holy Redeemer, 1958 Madison WI

Wisconsin State Historical Society photo:
1958 Holy Redeemer Communion Class, Madison, WI

This terrified me.

So much so that, I was good and sick on the day I was to celebrate my own first communion with my Blessed Sacrament classmates.  Somehow, I was aware that brides “do married things” in bed with their husbands, and, I wanted no part of it.  Flat-out scared to death, I started the morning vomiting and got a reprieve.

Why was I so frightened?  OF, exactly, what?  (What did a 1950s seven-year-old know about “things” married couples do in bed?)

Christ or no Christ, I just knew I wanted no part of any brides-&-husbands script.

~~~

Memories from my first couple of years of elementary school include this particularly bizarre one:  I am with my father at the home of a friend of his.  The friend has just shown my father something in his basement, me in tow via my father’s hand, and we are walking back upstairs.  (I don’t know how old I am — somewhere between five and, seven?  Eight, tops — but I am young enough that, to hold my father’s hand, I have to reach upwards.)  The stairs are adjacent to the concrete basement wall and my father is on the side nearest the wall.  In my unobstructed right field of vision, I see a naked little girl tied to a vertical pole or column.  I can still “see” me climbing the stairs, a surprised me catching sight of her there, a rope going from her right wrist to around a concrete column or, pole.

“Why is that little girl tied up there without any clothes on?” I ask my father.

“Mind your own business,” he says.

Fade out.


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the dress girl and other mes

I honest to goodness thought there was just one of me.

I won’t go so far as to say, I thought I knew me…  Before my breakdown and even in the early years of my work with Carol-the-trauma-therapist, I often felt quite befuddled by me (although, I admit to having regarded “the many sides” of me as “quirky” and, a plus?  I.e., I was probably, not boring?).

But I did not think there was “more than one of me to get to know,” so to speak, so imagine my surprise when Carol mentioned nasty phone calls I was making to her.

“Horrible,” she referenced them with a surprised face and knit brows.  I had laughed — ME?  I don’t think so.  Not my style.  I hadn’t made any phone calls to her let alone mean or nasty ones, good grief; What was she talking about?!

“So it wasn’t you,” she said.

“Nope, nada.  Why would I even do that?  I like you.”  (Well, most of the time.  True, she did tick me off now and then.)

“It sounded like you,” she persisted.  (And apparently the content was relevant.)  “Has this ever happened before, has someone ever ‘thought’ you’d made calls to them that you had no memory of?”

Now I’m just merrily giggling away.  Hee hee hee.  What a concept. 🙂

We talked a little about dissociative identity disorder (DID).  I had never had any experience of any other mes but me running the show, nope.  Well, okay, Dr.-Josephson-the-psychiatrist I’d seen a couple times way back in the early 1970s had one day questioned a casual statement I made that I’d walked to his office from campus “on auto-pilot,” no memory of what I saw or heard along the way — this was in response to his asking me about “the weather out there” or some such, I forget — leaning back in his chair and hooting with laughter, saying, “Not possible.”  To which I, genuinely puzzled, had replied, “Oh, possible; I do it all the time.”

All the time?!”

I revised this.  “Maybe half the time, but at least half.”  Good grief, like, doesn’t everyone?  You know, sort of highway hypnosis but on foot.

Josephson answered in the negative.  Smiling at me though, like, What a neat idea, so when he next asked, “And just out of curiosity, where are you when you’re on auto-pilot?,” I didn’t feel threatened and confided, “You know, just, not there.”

Well he just seemed to love this.  What a creative girl I was [as opposed to, Oh gosh, we just might need to lock her up in the loony bin?]

“You’re simply ‘not there’ ,” he repeats.

“Ya.”

“For about half the time.”

“Uh-huh.”  I shrug my shoulders.  Big deal.  Like, who needs to “be there” to do a simple task like walk down the street, or, sit in a really boring class, or, just sit with people somewhere?

“I do,” he says.  “Most people probably do, or they’d walk into a tree or a parked car.”

Huh!  I guess I was more graceful than I thought.

“So, you’re not there in classes too, and social situations?”  He was thoughtful.  “What kind of grades do you get in the classes you’re not there in?”

“Yes to the first part of your question, and, As or Bs — you have to be there for hard classes; I’m never not there except for easy ones.”

He regarded me thoughtfully.  I can still see his face puzzling away.

Josephson was a good doc.  Smart.  If I’d had health insurance or could have otherwise afforded it, I would have continued to see him.  His was a wonderfully easy-going manner, and, although male, he behaved in such a completely non-threatening manner that I felt safe.  I bet he could possibly have helped me.

I can’t even count the professionals I saw who were as helpful as a rock and, knew their business half as well.

But back to Carol-the-therapist and the bad phone calls.

“I didn’t do it,” I protested, laughing.  Gosh — who was this rogue client of Carol’s?  “I’m always ‘present’ on the phone.”  Oh wait a minute — Was I?!?  Drat.  Wow, if I could walk places and, sit in classes and get As & Bs yet not “be there,” Shoot…  Maybe I could do other things, too, “not being there” — like making phone calls?  But it seemed so far-fetched that I was still mentally merry, thinking things like, Quite the accomplished gurl here, could this be showcased somewhere?  Ha ha ha.

Okay, there was that weird time in the Rathskeller when brother Pete’s then-girlfriend Christine had claimed I’d said, “I wish I was dead,” to which Christine had turned to me and said, “I’m glad you’re not dead;” to which I’d replied in irate astonishment, “Well Jeez Christine I’m glad I’m not dead either!  Where the heck did that come from?!;” to which Pete had said very gently, “You just said you wished you were dead.”  Which was preposterous, I had said no such thing.

Or, Had I?  What was going on here?  And it all stopped being funny.

Weeks, months, years of therapy with Carol pass and I work up the courage to indulge my love of dresses.  (Long ago I used to make them.  In my late teens, early 20s.  I sewed a lot back then.  Even on consignment for a local boutique, at one point.)  I buy a dress, at the Gap.  I decide to return it though:  It really needs a belt, I decide, yet I don’t have one that quite works and, I don’t feel the dress is much of a bargain if I have to spend more to belt it.

So a week or so later I head back over to the Gap.  I’m at the register and I tell the cashier, “I’d like to return this, please,” and I hand her the dress and the receipt and, hum dee dum, she’s processing my return and, another clerk whispers (loudly) to her, “She’s worn that!  She was just IN here, IN it, the other day!”

Well I never!  I am quite indignant.  “I have not worn the dress,” I say firmly, with a glare in the direction of the offending clerk.  But as the words come out of my mouth I suddenly know they are not true, as, like a deck of cards fanned out in front of me, I see a series of snapshot-like images in my head.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  Memories, clear as day, but in weird snapshot format.  Me, standing in my apartment-complex driveway about to cross the street, wearing the dress.  Me, browsing at the Gap, wearing the dress.  Me, in a dressing room at the Gap, taking off the dress so as to try on a different one.

Oh my Lord.  I am blown away.

Thankfully, my cashier just pooh-poohs the other clerk and speedily processes my return and I am able to leave the store, because, I need to sit down somewhere, man.

So:  Dress girl.  Phone girl.  Girl who wishes she were dead.  (Person or persons “present” when “I” walk places “on auto-pilot”…  Person or persons “present” getting those “As & Bs in ‘easy’ classes” when “I” am “absent?”…  [Complicated, huh? 🙂 ])

Carol-the-therapist and, literature on the subject calls these “discrete alters.”  This seems a misnomer to me — I would have to classify most of my own “discrete alters’ ” doings as quite indiscrete, i.e. imprudent, lacking good judgment — but ordinary discretion, or lack of it, is not, of course, what “discrete” here references.

One website reads pretty generically but clearly on the subject, “In some people, dissociated memory and experience fragments are organized…into discrete ‘personalities’ or ‘identities’ which can be experienced internally as having separate experiences and histories.  Often personalities are so compartmentalized that they are not aware of each other’s existence.  This is called an ‘amnesic barrier,’…”

Aha.

I can especially relate to the amnesic barrier idea, as, I tend to experience my life memories as, snapshots here, mostly brief videos there — i.e., in pieces, not as a continual flow, which certainly is suggestive of something amnesiac going on.

Meanwhile:  the Dress Girl wants to wear dresses (and makeup).  I’m pretty easygoing, so, I’m working up to accommodating her on that.  (In fact, more & more, I’m thinking, I might like to wear dresses & makeup, too. 🙂 )  The Phone Girl doesn’t feel comfortable? safe? whatever, expressing anger at? dissent with? confronting?, people, so, I practice that one in the safety of Carol’s office.  (And interestingly, no more nasty phone calls to Carol…)  The Girl Who Wishes She Were Dead:  my last suicide attempt was in the mid-1990s and, it will stand AS my last:  I’m here for the duration now.  “You tried to murder yourself!,” Carol sputtered.  Angrily?  With tears in her eyes.  (This moved me greatly, notwithstanding that my first reaction was a giggle.)  Yes, I did, I register in surprise.  Horrified, Gasp.  Yikes — I never looked at it that way before.  (And, let me tell yoU, I am no murderer!  Indignation.)  The person or persons “present” when “I” walk somewhere “on auto-pilot,” and, who gets the grades in the “easy” classes when “I” am “absent:”  for these, I work on what may seem simple to some but has not been for me — “being present.”  Being more mindful, across the board:  mindful of where I am; mindful of my feelings; mindful of what I say; mindful of what I do.  Mindful, mindful, mindful.

~~~

I like to think of it all as a “What About Bob” [the 1991 comedy starring Bill Murray & Richard Dreyfuss, directed by Frank Oz] thing:  Baby steps, baby steps…  They’ll get you there. 😉


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i don’t wear makeup. i don’t wear dresses.

I don’t wear makeup. I don’t wear dresses. I laughingly tell people, “Hey, I grew up with three older brothers, got used to being ‘one of the guys,’ what can I say…;” or I grin and go, “I came of age during the Woodstock era, we hippie girls shunned makeup and that headset just stuck, I guess;” or, I smile broadly and say, “Once a tomboy always a tomboy…”

What I don’t say is, I’m afraid if I look too girly I’ll be assaulted.

What I don’t say is, Well actually, truth be told, The Dress Girl once [once that I know of anyway…] put makeup on and wore a dress to the mall some years back – I don’t know what all she did there though except that, she did go into the Gap.

What I don’t say is, I want to wear dresses and I’m working up to it, I have two right now in my closet plus two skirts…

What I don’t say is, I would like to wear makeup if I feel like it but, it draws attention to a woman and that might increase my chances of getting assaulted.

At the same time, if anyone tries to sexually violate me again I swear to God I’ll take his eyeballs out with my bare fingers.

You could say I have mixed feelings.


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can’t remember the first time my father molested me/can’t forget the last

I cannot remember the first time my father molested me, just as I cannot forget the last.

I remember two “last times,” actually, unless they are both part of the same, one.  Dissociatively, I “see” both memories in snapshot format, or, “brief video clips?”:  in both, I am curled up, asleep, on my right side.  Top bunk of one of the two sets of bunk-beds in the room my sisters and I share.

In the first snapshot, my father has pulled my pajama bottoms down and I wake to his flacid penis against my buttocks.  I see myself as if suddenly erupting in, furious anger.  Righteously, I am so tired of having my sleep interrupted night after night after night! by his wormy thing pressing against me.

I have had it, I am not going to take it anymore.  I yell at him, “Leave me alone!”  He shushes me, my teeth grit, I am steaming, and I yell again, “Leave.  Me.  Alone!”  (Where did this furious strength “suddenly” come from?  Got me.  This is a snapshot — I don’t have any of what came before…)

Same scene the “second” “last time” he molests me, only this time, his penis is hard against my buttocks and he/”it” attempts to enter me anally.  The pain near levitates me from the bed and I am beside myself with indignation and fury.  Once more:  “Leave me alone!”  “Get OUT of my bed!”  I am shushed, but I am steaming and beyond furious and I yell again, “Leave me alooonnnne!”    I am shushed again until, exasperated by my failure to cooperate, he climbs down from my top bunk only to climb into, one of my sisters’ beds.

On the one hand, Hooray!, he finally leaves me be.  On the other, now begins my anguish that he molests my sisters.  Can’t win for losing.

I’m in 5th grade here.  My two sisters, 3rd and 1st.

I’m only 10 and, I just want to die sometimes.


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Thoughts about DID, Diagnosis, and Parts

What a beautiful blog-post on dissociative identity disorder (DID)! When I reached this line (fourth paragraph), my eyes actually teared up: “In my opinion it’s an amazing act of love and courage that deserves our deepest respect.” Thank you gudrunfrerichs!

Me, I am so tired of* the lack of understanding on this one, from the reaction that DID is “just an excuse” — for “bad behavior” or, not remembering, or, whatever — to, it’s “imaginary.” (I.e. we who have DID are “certifiable,” call us “crazy,” it’s “official.”)
*[I almost said “sick of” up there but, took serious exception to that word, “sick”…]

Gudrunfrerichs writes,

“….How can you capture the miracle of the creation of a new part of a person’s personality, a part that has been created by or within the mind of a…child, for example? Think about it! A child who is in need of care is able to ‘create’ as it were a copy of it’s Self that will take care of the child’s needs, whether that is need for love, for containing the hurt, for keeping the thread of consciousness, for learning, being angry, being social, performing every day tasks, and so on, even with it’s limited ability for understanding, reasoning, and conceptualising. That is a miracle! Is that not what the prophet Kahlil Gibran means as ‘Life’s longing for itself’?”

Amen!

Multiple Voices

Faces You might have noticed that I started telling the story of Anna, a person with multiple parts to her personality. If you want to know how Anna’s parts came to exist, and why, you will find many books, websites, and articles that talk about DID and alternate parts. I am getting a bit tired of all these clever explanations like the one in Wikipedia: “a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual’s behaviour with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness”.

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