Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have


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Why Sex Abuse Continues: Focus on Female Perpetrators(Potential Trigger-Read With Care)

It occurred to me today, as I sat looking over a book on female sex offenders, that we may be ignoring a large reason for sexual crimes happening. The book gave accounts from those who had suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, babysitters and other females. These aren’t your usual suspects when you hear about a sex crime in the news. Females are largely ignored or downplayed for their role in sexual crimes and abuse towards children. Males have tended to get all the attention and women have been ‘let off the hook’ due to the belief women don’t harm children. Furthermore, there is the belief that women are not supposed to want sex, let alone be aggressive and hurt children sexually. So we’ve let many females go ‘Scott free’ because nobody has been willing to face the ugly reality of one’s mother or sister, etc. being capable of sexually abusing a child.

Why do I care so much about this issue? Well for one thing my mother committed ‘moderate’ sexual abuse against me all through my childhood beginning by 2 or perhaps earlier. I will spare you the details of what she did to me and how I endured it. What I will tell you is we have gone long enough as a Society(in Western culture) believing women can do no harm when clearly that’s not the case. The news is only just beginning to scratch the surface with their coverage of women committing sex crimes against children. For years nobody touched the subject. It was too taboo to even think about, let alone utter out loud.

When you hear about sexual crimes, such as rape and child molestation, people assume the perpetrator to be male and for the male to be disgusting. But what do you think when you hear a grandmother or babysitter has been sexually abusing a child? Is there equal disgust and revulsion as there ought to be? or is there the thought that since it was a female offender it couldn’t have been too horrible? Well let me demystify any illusions lingering on the subject. When your mother, sister, grandmother, babysitter, or any other female, sexually abuses a child-male or female-damage is done. That damage is long lasting and creates confusion for the victims. We are taught to think what has happened to us is either ‘normal’ or not a big deal. Guess what? It IS a big deal! Especially considering most sex crimes against children done by female relatives are carried out over long periods of time. Even if the event happened ‘only’ once that’s enough to cause distress and life long trauma for the child.

People think if the victim is a male child that it is not as serious because boys ‘want it’, thus it’s just early training. Bull Sh*t! Grandma raping her young grandson isn’t training him for future sexual encounters, at least not any of a healthy variety. Likewise, mom fondling her daughter or getting her to perform sex acts on her isn’t okay either. We have to stop sugar coating reality and making victims feel like they are crazy for feeling bad or damaged. You’d feel bad, crazy and damaged too if you were made to believe horrible things done to you were nothing or insignificant. What I want you to understand is when we downplay/minimize these awful crimes against children we are creating generations of misery to follow. Sound like an exaggeration? Well not if you consider most people who sexually abuse others have been sexually abused themselves.

What if we told every child sexually abused by a female they were harmed in a serious way and needed help? Wouldn’t that lead to a more positive chain of events? Little Johnny doesn’t grow up to hate women and rape them and little Suzy doesn’t grow up sexually abusing her child(ren). We think if someone has been abused they would surely want to avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse on the next generation; however, when it comes to trauma many children repress the memories. Some dissociate or use fantasy to cope. As adults the abused children ‘forget’ what was done to them fully and feel compelled to do bad things to their own children. Not in every circumstance mind you, I am aware there are those who seek treatment or therapy and avoid harming their own children, but many more avoid therapy believing they’ll be okay without it. Or maybe they couldn’t handle therapy because someone heard their story and minimized it so they went away believing they were making mountains out of mole hills. If that is the standard response from those who are supposed to be helping the victims how can we expect them *not* to abuse? If you don’t acknowledge something as harmful you can’t treat it as something to be abstained from. It gives the false impression that the damage isn’t real, or at least not significant enough to be concerned about.

I titled this post as I did because I believe you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. You can only treat something once you’ve identified it as a problem. Until then you keep believing what happened was minor or you somehow deserved it. If you, as a child, were brave enough to tell someone about what happened to you and all you got was ‘poo pooed’ what is there left for you? Repression if a single incident, or dissociation and fantasy if more frequent. My mother was sexually abused by her father and other male family members yet her mother did nothing. I believe my mother repressed certain traumas and dissociated heavily due to the abuse. When she had my sister and I we were subjected to various forms of sexual abuse. I got the more physical side of it, whereas my sister was used as a trusted confidante concerning sexual matters from age 5 on. I can’t say my sister got off lightly because she didn’t and we both had to endure a lot of similar secondary sexual abuse in the form of listening to my mother’s sexual experiences. We were children once but I don’t recall having much of a childhood.

So why do sexual assaults happen? If you want my opinion/theory it has to do with revenge. Unconsciously sexual abuse  victims learn to silence their hurt and anger through any means they can. Drugs, alcohol, prostitution, becoming a pedophile, and committing rape. You learn you are not worthy of love and care so you end up self destructive and/or becoming an offender yourself. Men who rape women aren’t simply sick or demented, in many cases they were sexually abused by a female when they were a helpless child with no opportunity for justice. The anger and hurt build to the point where women are representative of the original female perpetrator. Rape becomes an escape valve for the pent up emotions never allowed to be acknowledged or taken seriously. Women, on the other hand, end up sexually assaulting or raping children if they’ve never dealt with their feelings. Again, not EVERY woman sexually abused will rape or abuse a child, but there will be a significant number who do because the same was done to them.

We can’t afford to continue making female sexual perpetrators a taboo subject. It was once taboo to talk about males sexually abusing children yet we all accept it as fact now. The same needs to happen with female sex offenders committing sex crimes against children. If we keep burying our heads in the sand the abuse will continue. But if enough of us stand up and shout “STOP” maybe we can face an uncomfortable reality. Maybe if enough of us are brave and willing to challenge cultural stereotypes of women as incapable of harming children sexually we can begin the healing. Those of us who have endured sexual abuse at the hands of our mother, sister, babysitter, or whomever, deserve to see justice. We have suffered enough and it’s about time females were held legally accountable for their crimes against innocent children. I support women’s rights and am a woman myself but I was also sexually abused by my mother. For that reason I can’t stay silent and pretend nothing happened. Abuse is abuse no matter what the gender of the perpetrator. Trauma doesn’t discriminate based on gender either, meaning if your abuser was a woman you are still going to have emotional scars. Please take my message seriously and educate others if you have the will to do so. It’s not your job but I feel it’s mine to get on my soapbox and tell you about female sexual perpetrators. Isn’t it time we used some of that equality for the sexes in the justice system?

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.

 

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A Documentary Tribute of Sorts to My Mom

Bourbon at Crazy in the Coconutshared this video(about DID) on her blog-a clip-and I found the full version. After

dissociative identity disorder 2

dissociative identity disorder 2 (Photo credit: hunnnterrr)

watching it I felt I’d been watching my mom and felt so sad for her. Hilary, the woman in the video, died at the same age as my mother did (60). The documentary is called When the Devil Knocks. It’s a Canadian film so I found it easily through the CBC website here in Canada. Anyway, I wanted to share it here because it made me think of my mom and I felt a lot of sadness for the little girl she once was going through trauma. Hilary had the same kind of face my mom did in her later years. They both had the same propensity for more masculine than feminine clothes too. My mom’s hair was longer than Hilary’s but otherwise they were very similar. Of course my mom never went into therapy so that’s a big difference. I don’t know what my mom would have been like if she had gone into therapy to the point where she integrated her personality like Hilary did. I do wish she had sought therapy though. It might have spared me from having to go through a decade of personal therapy.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/The+Passionate+Eye/ID/1767552887/?page=2&sort=MostPopular

 

*Mom, I forgive you. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me and were too traumatized to go through therapy. I’m sorry you were abused and traumatized by your family and wish you had a better life. If you were still here I don’t know that I’d have reached this place of acceptance so soon. But I want you to know I love you and forgive you. I hope you are at peace now and are able to live a happier life in your next incarnation.

©Reflectionsonlifethusfar, 2012.


Dealing With Triggers: Sinking or Swimming?

I have been considering how I react to triggers in my daily life. Sometimes I face news or comments from people that

English: Angry cat

English: Angry cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

brings a difficult memory up for me, something emotionally charged. At times I can cope with it better than at others. It seems like  if I have PMS I am more likely to be angry or irritable over triggers. As some of you know, if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know I live with my dad. My dad worshiped my mother when she was alive and still does. Every so often he gets going on one of his spells where he can’t say enough good things about my mother. I had a really difficult, troubled relationship with my mother but my dad usually forgets this. Well, it’s also because I don’t like bringing up the past with him; especially where he has such fond memories of my mother (seen through his rose coloured glasses). Anyhow, when he starts going on about how wonderful my mother was it makes me angry. I try my best to be nice and not interrupt but sometimes it’s too much. I’ll end up getting irritable and be short with him.I feel like I should be able to simply let him talk about the woman who hurt me in a positive manner because it brings him momentary happiness. But I end up gritting my teeth and wanting to rain on his parade with the truth. He didn’t spend much time at home(he was a workaholic) so he never had to be around her very much. Unlike me who was around her far more often.If you only see someone for brief periods of time it’s a lot easier to remember them well, as opposed to when you are around them full time.

So that is one of my triggers, listening to too much praise about my mother from my dad and anyone else who was never around her full time.  Other triggers are personal and I don’t wish to go into them, however I will say how I react. When I get triggered by something besides stuff related to my mother I find I either detach/go numb, or I become angry. If I’m angry I end up irritable, impatient and tense in my body. I’m not sure if I am dissociating or not but I don’t think I am because I remember everything. Although, it does feel uncomfortable.

Usually if I am pressured internally to behave better I’ll end up annoyingly becoming almost passive. It’s like I get so

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

frustrated that I need to become the opposite to decompress emotionally. There doesn’t always need to be anyone else around. Sometimes it’s simply that I dislike being in a crappy mood. I do suffer from PTSD so likely a lot can be explained that way. But it’s frustrating. I just want to be healthy. It takes a lot more to trigger me than it used to so I think that’s progress but at times I think I should be able to “just get over it”.  Why can’t I be more understanding and patient listening to my dad babble on about how awesome my mother was? Why do I feel like there’s a vein in my forehead ready to burst when he goes into a “praise fest” for my mother?

How do I learn how to better manage my reactions to triggers? Do I avoid them whenever possible? Work on becoming as patient as a saint? Work at focusing on my breath and try ignoring the trigger in question (if possible)? Continue meditating and hope I reach a place where nothing bothers me? Start reading fantasy novels to escape reality? But I don’t want to escape reality. I’m trying to become more present so no fantasy novels I guess.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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The Courage to Change

Change is hard for everyone no matter who you are. Some handle change better than others but that’s not my

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wond...

Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

point. My point is everyone has some degree of trouble accepting/adjusting to change in their life, however that manifests itself. If any of you reading have experienced trauma or abuse in your life you know that moving past the pain is a huge effort. To not stay stuck in the memories and negative beliefs from our past can really challenge the best of us. Some of us get trapped in self limiting ‘stories’ about who we are as people identity wise. Our pain becomes our identity to the degree we can’t see any other way of being in the world apart from ‘damaged’ (or insert your word of choice you use to describe yourself negatively).

What we must do is not let our present slip through our fingers as we find ourselves in safer contexts but stuck in the past. This is at the heart of dissociation. It doesn’t matter if you have a diagnosis of DID, PTSD, BPD, or whatever, it only matters that you are wasting precious moments in the here and now thinking of your haunted memories. I realize the memories aren’t always in our control until we’ve learnt techniques to manage them from our therapist but assuming you know enough now to manage unpleasant/scary memories, isn’t it better we employ all of our strength to stay present in the present?

I am aware of the enormity of the challenge for some people to change and realize everyone needs to go at their own pace, so to speak, so I’m not going to lecture. When I was attempting to stop dissociating on a constant basis in 2010 I found it frightening at times. But ultimately, once I’d achieved some mastery over myself the reward was how liberated I felt. It was rocky at first and I stumbled, fell, swore and then got back up again. My eating disorder decided to return for a bit of fun just so I could delay progress by being engrossed in calorie counting and weigh ins; yet my spirit prevailed and I kicked my ED to the curb. I struggled to regain myself (literally and figuratively) after being beaten down by my food restrictions, weight loss and my self-esteem bottoming out. I wasn’t going to stay in the trap my ED had set for me. Sure it snared me but I wedged free.

Thanks to my compassionate and patient psychologist, I made it back to the land of the living. She could have dropped me but kept me on as her patient even after I’d stopped being a registered student (she worked in the university’s counselling services) and saw me ’til I stabilized. I owe her a debt of gratitude for not abandoning me when she had no reason to keep seeing me (we were well past the 8-10 session allotment they allowed students). Some therapists really are gems. I wasn’t paying her so she was seeing me on a purely altruistic basis. With her there to support me I was able to finally quit my constant mood shifts and stay in my body for longer periods of time. The anxiety lessened and my desire for escaping was replaced by a desire for staying present. Thank you to my psychologist and mindfulness meditation! I highly recommend it(the meditation) by the way.

Cowardly Lion's Courage Medal

Cowardly Lion’s Courage Medal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days I could use some courage! I don’t have a therapist and am trying to deal with figuring out which direction to go in my life. Now that I’m actually in my body long enough to have consistent thoughts I find myself struggling to hear my own voice above society’s. I never used to give a crap about what other people thought but now I am conflicted. Pleasing everyone isn’t possible so why do I feel like I should have to do so? Why am I torn between what I want to do and what I think is least likely to receive doubt and criticism?

At one time I just followed my own will but now I think I’m turning it over to others. I’m worried what people will think of me. It doesn’t sit well with me that I might be considered too idealistic or ‘dreamy’ just because my dreams don’t fit into a box. I’m 30 for pity’s sake! Surely, I can ignore other people’s opinions. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be perfect though. Perfectionism doesn’t let go easily. Its grasp on me is far less now than it used to be but it hasn’t eliminated perfectionist associated thoughts completely. This is what I need the courage to change for! Telling my perfectionist mind to go f**k itself!

I started off this post thinking I’d expound on all my ‘worldly wisdom’ and ended up bemoaning my own struggles. Irony, I loathe you. Oh well now you have a bit of my advice mixed up with my own need for it! 😛

Related link: My other blog I wrote a post on:

http://findinghealthafterillness.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/the-transcendent-child-tales-of-triumph-over-the-past-lillian-b-rubin/

 © Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Forgiveness and Gratitude

A few of my fellow bloggers have written about gratitude and forgiveness recently which got me to thinking

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

about the two topics and how they relate to my life. I had been trying to think about how to write about my mother on here but couldn’t quite decide how to do it. Then I saw some of you talking about forgiving difficult people and I knew I wanted to discuss that more concerning how my mother hurt me. It’s difficult to really bring up the details but I’ll do my best to talk about things in a general way that doesn’t go deeply into the abuse itself-I don’t wish to blog about that…not now anyhow.

As I’ve mentioned before, in past posts, my mother and I had a poor relationship. It wasn’t a warm mother-daughter relationship in any way, shape, or form. Mom was abused in many awful ways as a child by her parents and never got help to deal with the aftermath of the trauma she had to deal with. A few of you who regularly read my posts know I have had problems pertaining to dissociation most of my life; well my mother hardly seemed to stay ‘present’ in her body for very long in the time I knew her. I’m certain as a baby I felt her dissociate but obviously can’t remember enough to verify it. All I know is she would switch from one state to another fairly often. By state I mean her mood would shift and she’d become different to me.

I was never able to have discussions with her because she never remembered doing or saying anything. The only stuff I could talk about with her was present issues but trying to bring up the past with her was like banging your head against a wall. She never admitted to anything. I felt constantly mind f*cked by her growing up. I am beginning to think she didn’t do it on purpose but really had no memory due to her excellent dissociative abilities. At times I honestly thought I was talking to different people though I knew she was the same person physically, apart from different style of dressing and mannerisms, speech, etc. DID sufferers will likely have figured out my mom had DID-she was never clinically diagnosed but it was too obvious for me to ignore.

Growing up with that level of daily chaos was very detrimental to my mental health. She did not merely neglect me benignly though. Mom abused me in lots of different ways I don’t wish to discuss here. I started dissociating around 5 or 6 years old, or maybe as young as three-I can’t be certain. At 5 I already felt trapped, like my life was closing in on me and things were futile. Depression set in and I didn’t know that I was dissociating to cope with my life but I was. My memory is not superb from childhood so I won’t, can’t, give you specific events and dates for when things happened. I’m lucky I am stable enough these days to not dissociate regularly anymore.

compassion hearts

compassion hearts (Photo credit: journeyscoffee)

What I wanted to mention here is that my mother has since died, four years ago this October 25, and in those four years following her death I have been able to find compassion for myself and for her too. I know mom never meant to abuse me but she did and I don’t excuse that; however, I do forgive her because I know she hurt more than I can even imagine. What she suffered at the hands of her mother and father was more than any child should ever have to know. It’s not a matter of me comparing my abuse to her’s though. All I’m pointing out is I have compassion for the suffering she endured and forgive her.

So gratitude. What am I grateful for? Well I am grateful for many things in my life but I think most of all I am grateful for compassion. I’m grateful to have been shown compassion(from therapists)and to have been able to be compassionate towards myself and others, especially my mom.

Post from my other blog concerning wellness: http://findinghealthafterillness.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/wellness-is-achieved-through-practice/

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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A Book I Found Helpful During My Recovery

I’d like to share with you a book I found helpful to me during my time in therapy whilst still working on integration. I know there are some people here who read my blog that have a diagnosis of DID or a related disorder. Although I never specifically sought out the label for myself, I found reading the book I’ll share here in a moment very useful. It helped me to become aware of certain things that had confused me. With the help of my therapist I was able to address certain things in a way that normalized my dissociation. I did not bring up the word DID in therapy, only dissociation itself. Frankly, the diagnosis scared me and I did not feel like having it formally on any records of mine. So I addressed the dissociation as a symptom and worked on gaining greater control over the frequency of it.

The book is called “The Dissociative Identity Disorder  Sourcebook” written by Debrorah Bray Haddock. It is extremely concise and seems to have everything in it necessary to understanding the disorder. It really helped me to accept my reality better-even if I did refuse to raise the issue of DID to my therapist. I think we both were in agreement on wanting to normalize my experiences as much as possible. For some people this may not be appropriate but it was what I felt was right for me. I chose to view my reality through the lens of CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) because that’s what my psychologist used. She challenged my faulty beliefs and thoughts. So I agreed, in my head, to act as if I could be whole. It seems to have worked because I don’t dissociate much anymore and remember information a lot better than pre-therapy.

Ultimately everyone is different and has to find what works for them and their situation. One’s core personality is a major factor. I’m intuitive but quite cerebral so found CBT helpful. For someone else it might be an entirely different approach.

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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The Pervasiveness of Childhood Abuse and Society’s Collective Denial

How is it that there can be so much suffering around us, before our very eyes, and yet continue to deny its existence? I was never any good at holding up pretense and “appearances” in my life. My family is a prolific producer of dysfunction. Few have sought treatment opting to pretend everything’s fine instead of being honest and self- reflective. I’m putting a stop to it though. Therapy is a wounded person’s friend. It’s been mine for over a decade.

I ‘get’ that trauma is painful and we’d rather not talk about it but if we keep sweeping it under the rug isn’t that an invitation to bring more abuse? Shame tends to breed in the dim light of secrecy where only the bravest of those of us abused dare tread. Once the lights are thrown on the ugliness shame can’t hide anymore. My hunch is the Christian value of honouring your parents corrupts the intention to be honest about what has occurred. If, however, you are like me with no belief in such rules, you can air out the family’s dirty laundry and be the black sheep of the family. Yay for me! Forget honour thy mother and father. If your mother and/or father molested you or abused you in some other manner-well that’s a d*mn good reason to NOT honour them. When does honour make it okay to pretend our pain never happened? That what we experienced happened in the minds of imaginative children? I don’t think so!

What I am trying to say is abuse happens to children all the time by one’s own family. It really shouldn’t be so hard to accept that fact. All blaming the victim does is let the perpetrators off the hook and leave the child feeling full of shame. The child grows up to be an adult filled with shame and chances are good, if no extensive therapy’s been sought, the pattern of abuse will repeat itself on the next generation. I say this not to sound like we’re facing the apocalypse or something but rather to bring attention to an ugly truth. Maybe we’ll finally see the damage abuse causes and not justify it because it happened at the hands of our family members. Perhaps the acknowledgement of abuse will finally stop the introject of our abuser from doing the exact same thing to our own children. History has an unfortunate pattern of repeating itself until we acknowledge whatever it is we’re supposed to learn from it.

My parents were both abused to varying degrees by their family. My mother far worse so than my father. Unfortunately, my mother did the child rearing and I suffered as a consequence. I won’t get into details here about all that went on, suffice it to say the damage was done and I developed all sorts of mental health issues that required years and years of in-depth therapy to undo. The shame my mother faced from her abuse lead her to avoid seeking psychological help, favouring instead to use her children for that purpose (among others). I could literally tell when an introject of my mother’s mother or father was coming out in her. It was both frightening and undeniably creepy. Some days I really curse my overdeveloped intuition and perceptiveness :(.

I hope that anyone who has been abused by family stops protecting the abuser(s) and finally lets the truth be known. When we stop pretending that everything is fine we give our wounded self permission to heal-permission to grieve. For abuse is something that robs a piece of us never giving it back and we need to grieve for that loss. We shouldn’t have to apologize because we choose to protect ourselves through less interaction with whomever abused us. You wouldn’t tell a person abused by a stranger they had to keep that relationship up, would you? So why do we think it’s okay to make someone abused feel guilty for wanting to stay away from the person responsible for hurting them? I just think it’s time we stopped denying bad things happen to innocent people through no fault of the abused person.

Let me know what you think. Have you been ‘silenced’ by family about abuse to preserve appearances? Has there been pressure to keep quiet about things, either subtly or not so subtly?

Related Article from Lisa’s blog “forcing myself happy”http://forcingmyselfhappy.com/2012/09/08/day-38-forgiveness-part-two-forgiving-my-parents/ 

© Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Zen Lady Meditating and Reflections On Life Thus Far with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Dissociation and Wholeness Post-Therapy

ImageDissociation has played a major part in my life so I figured I’d devote at least one post to it here. As a child I started dissociating to cope with a mentally ill parent who would not acknowledge their illness, nor seek help. Being thrust into an environment everyday your whole life that emotionally eats away at you is horrible. The only ‘escape’ I had access to was through my mind in the form of dissociation. My other parent was oblivious to what went on at home seeing only what they chose to see. Thus, I had no respite from the turmoil caused by being raised in a home that was chaotic more often than not. Each day was one in which I never knew what to expect. Some days weren’t so bad but generally that was more the exception than the rule.

I’d wonder who my mother was sometimes because she could easily dissociate too, having been raised in a brutally abusive home as a child herself. She could be different ‘people’ at times making me wonder years later if she had MPD or DID (multiple personality disorder and dissociative identity disorder). After all, she had been through ‘Hell’ and back as a child and teenager at the hands of her parents. But I don’t want to dwell here on my mother’s experience with dissociation, that can be for another day.

After spending my childhood and teenage years, as well as most of my 20s, dissociating from my experiences I became sad thinking about how much of my life I’d ‘slept’ through. As though a sleep walker waking from a terrible dream I ‘woke up’ fully in 2010 to experience my life for the first time in vivid technicolour. Painfully, I began to deal with my emotions through the practice of mindfulness meditation; negative feelings were the first to surface and I cried more in six months than I had my entire life. Following, perhaps, six month or a bit longer, I began to experience neutral emotions, then, gradually, positive ones. It was like learning to be human for the first time despite having worn a human’s costume my entire life. No longer running from reality I could experience more than despair and hopelessness. Suddenly I  felt ecstatic to be so fully alive and present in my body.

I should mention I only achieved this state of ecstasy with the help of a psychologist; left on my own, I know it would not have been possible (I’d tried before without success). There were many steps in between that I have left out so as not to bog this post down in details but you can tell it wasn’t something that happened overnight for me. It took a massive amount of work to reach the stage where I’m at today.

No longer dissociating in a dysfunctional manner-we all dissociate to some extent for brief lapses such as when we drive home and don’t remember the trip, I appreciate being present in my body. What’s more, I don’t have that Cartesian mind-body dichotomy anymore, rather I experience them as one. I think it was crucial to abandon my former mind body split to reach wholeness. I’d been told more than a couple of times by different therapists that my identity was fragmented. Well it isn’t fragmented any longer. It feels wonderful when you reach an identity that doesn’t constantly change like the colours on a chameleon.

In past times of stress and discomfort around people I didn’t feel comfortable with, I’d dissociate into whomever I thought the person(s) I were with wanted. Essentially, I would ditch my true self in favour of who I believed was desirable in present company. It was extremely destructive to any self esteem I might have had because it made me feel worthless. I also felt very lonely knowing nobody really knew who I was, so being my true self became even scarier as a prospect since I believed if I were to be the real me I’d have no friends. It became a very painful place to stay, yet I feared what taking the risk of being myself would mean. Would I have any friends at all? Wouldn’t it be easier (and better) to simply play the part I thought was wanted in each situation? How could anyone like me for me if I kept dissociating to avoid myself?

Well here I am being me, my true self, I don’t have very many friends left but that’s okay. The old ones were mainly people I didn’t want to have in my life anyway. It’s a challenge to be your true self in this world. The odds are stacked against being authentic. There’s no rewards for letting ‘it all hang out’ so you have to be prepared to be alone for awhile, whilst people get to ‘know you’, and your old friends often disappear. But I wouldn’t change a thing if it means I can face myself in the mirror each day, not hiding behind a mask.

Thanks for reading.

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