It was a very quiet day, and so I took up some books from the shelves. One of them was The Little Prince. I never read it growing up, and I couldn’t really appreciate it when I found it again in my teens/early 20’s. Now, like The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, etc., I keep it near and dear to me as one of those simple stories that hold quite a bit of wisdom.
A coworker laughed a bit when he saw what I was reading, because it’s a “children’s book”. I sort of laughed, too, because while I don’t agree with it, there seems to be a grown-up rule saying “Thou shalt not enjoy fairy tales past 18”. It’s a pity, I think, like a lot of grown-up rules. The Little Prince talks of this too, as he visited the planets occupied by grown-ups. “Grown-ups are certainly strange,” indeed.
All the same, I am a grown-up, and I am who I am.
It’s important that I gave myself this reality check: in changing my name, or even just growing up, I’m not changing who am, nor am I discarding the abused child I was. That child is still me, I still love her, and this new name is to protect her and her story. My age is something I can’t help, but in my saner moments, I don’t see why growing up means I have to deny the innocent wonder I still have in nature and fairy tales, possibly due to her.
What with that new horror movie Split playing trailers all over YouTube, I’ve been thinking more of dissociation, specifically DID. While I wasn’t really formally diagnosed, it’s how I understand what’s going on inside most of the time. Either way, when a child is traumatized, there’s usually some level of dissociation that happens where a part of that person is frozen at that age/maturity, right?
When I’d drawn out my feelings recently, the “protector” part (Arbiter) has been present. I tried to reason with her, try to relieve her of her duties, but she still feels like there’s still danger around me. Meanwhile, with the other day’s upset, I realize the “little” and “angry” parts of me were triggered by the name change to be synonymous of when mother used what I’d guess was reverse psychology on me to stay when I was little and wanted to run away (helping me pack, holding the door open for me, etc).
A friend whose mother has DID said that while someone can be integrated, those parts still exist, and sometimes could separate from oneself when triggered. Again, I don’t know if I have DID or not “official”, but yes; I do still struggle with dissociation. It’s not as dramatic as some cases I’ve read, certainly not anything like that upcoming movie (oh Hollywood, why you do this?), but that normal inner division is a bit stronger in me than in other people.
It’s Not Your Fault talks about that, how shame causes one to dissociate, especially if one was sexually abused. I tend to escape the present by daydreaming or getting lost in thought. I realized, too, that my coping tactic of pretending my surroundings are submerged is also dissociation. I dissociate a lot, actually; I dissociate from my age, my gender, my sexuality, my body as a whole, my needs, my thoughts/feelings, etc. I even dissociate from my friendships, like with that guy, thinking of all this stuff that isn’t necessarily going to happen in the future instead of just enjoying what we have now.
I wonder how I can better stay in the present while assuring the parts of me stuck in the past that I do still care for them, that I’m not abandoning them. It doesn’t do to just tell myself “I’m 28”, “I’m a woman”, “I’m not a child anymore”; these statements give the feeling that the child’s dead when the girl I was is still a part of me. My doctor and confessor often said who I am was never, and could never, be taken from me. The tiny girl on the beach is still me somehow. A tiny seed that grows into a tree is still the same plant; same goes for humans.
I think Engel was right; shame covers that “who I am”. That’s why we feel like we lost our identity; we can’t see it under all the shame our abusers and/or other traumas piled on top of us.
But that shame doesn’t belong to us; it’s our abusers’. This shame isn’t mine; it’s my mother’s, my father’s, my uncle’s, those other men, those pretender-clerics, that woman from kindergarten, my cousins, my aunts, and maybe even that of society that victim-blames.
This shame is not mine.
I feel lighter.
When I read Unbroken, I read with envy and disbelief as Louie’s PTSD and alcoholism was seemingly all cured in one conversion moment. Starting with a Christian service, he goes home and systematically throws out all his addictions: alcohol, porn, cigarettes, etc. Then, he goes to read his bible under a tree where he weeps, realizing he wasn’t “the broken man” his main abuser, The Bird, made him out to be. It was so fast, so spontaneous, like St. Paul’s conversion story. It didn’t seem fair. I felt like God cheated me. These thoughts, I see, prevented me from actually seeing what was happening. That said, when I look at it now, I can see that he was shedding the shame that belonged to The Bird, and seeing himself for who he actually is.
I can’t say whether or not Louie had more or less shame than I do. I’m not sure if it matters either way; it’s clear this shame and dissociation is preventing me from seeing reality. The dissociation was helpful back then; it helped me emotionally/mentally survive the emotional, mental, spiritual, subtle-physical, and sexual abuse I suffered since I was a little girl. That abuse is no longer present, though, and therefore, it’s no longer helpful…as understandable as it is that I feel like I still need it.
I don’t think this is something that will happen overnight. I think it’s a step forward at least. If I’m not careful, I’ll step back. This is an unsafe and unfair world, but it’s not the war-zone I grew up in. There’s a light in me that stays lit, that has stayed lit, and will always stay lit. They can’t, and haven’t, taken that away from me, despite their best efforts.
…Maybe that’s part of why child abusers do what they do; they feel like their inner light is out, and want to steal it from a child, whose light is not hidden like us grown-ups who learned to, out of shame or just having healthy boundaries, veil it. The only thing they accomplish is heaping piles of shame via abuse to cover up said child’s light. They see the light dim, but get frustrated, wondering why they aren’t getting any of that light. So they pile on more and more until maybe they realize what they’re doing and change (the ideal outcome), or you get the situation my abusers, my parents, are in (the usual outcome).
I can’t say if this is psychological fact, but it certainly makes sense of all the stuff I’ve been feeling/thinking, my abusers’ behavior, and what my confessor and doctor have been saying. Like I said, it lifts the weight and pressure I’ve been feeling.
A part of me is scared that this is going to go away. I tend to forget lessons like these; I’m sure those of you who’ve been following me for a while can tell me best from how I repeat myself. Maybe that’s normal. Maybe it doesn’t matter either way.
“I’m not fully healed. I’m not fully wise. I’m still on my way. What matters is that I am moving forward.”