is this the real life, is this just fantasy . . . caught in a landslide, no escape from reality

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have always been great favorites of mine.  I still have the copy my dad had when he was young, passed down to me at some point when I was young.  The version I have has both books in one volume, with the ink sketches that so define Alice for me.

Image

 

In both books, young Alice finds herself inside a world that is much different from her own, where what she believes to be true may or may not be.  Reality is altered in these strange worlds, to a point where Alice has to really question her own concept of what her true knowledge really is.  While this question is the central concept of epistemology, it can also be disconcerting, even frightening, to have one’s reality questioned, or to question one’s reality one’s self.  

An interesting phenomenon that began to appear in the 1990’s is one called “False Memory Syndrome”.  Research supports that it is possible to plant a memory in someone’s head that is actually not true.  In abuse cases, this concept of false memory surfaced most often in psychological patients who were in what is termed “Recovered Memory Therapy”, in which they were led through “rediscovering” things they had forgotten about their abuse.  In fact, many court cases have hinged on whether or not memories were actually true.

One thing that all false memories have in common is that someone suggests them to the victim.  These memories do not just pop into someone’s head and become reality for them, except in cases of truly delusional individuals.  Another thing that researchers have found is that false memories are generally very narrative in nature and tell a whole story, from start to finish, as is Loftus’s “Lost in a Shopping Mall” studies (1994), which have been said by many in the scientific community to be unethical.

That being said, research also shows that traumatic events may be remembered little by little, over time.  According to Vander Kolk & Fisler (1995), 

When people receive sensory input, they generally automatically synthesize this incoming information into narrative form, without conscious awareness of the processes that translate sensory impressions into a personal story . Our research shows that traumatic experiences initially are imprinted as sensations or feeling states that are not immediately transcribed into personal narratives, in contrast with the way people seem to process ordinary information. This failure of information processing on a symbolic level, in which it is categorized and integrated with other experiences, is at the very core of the pathology of PTSD (van der Kolk & Ducey, 1989).

I do not have full-blown narratives of my abuse that I could share with you or with my therapist.  My memories of the things that happened are flashes of insight, sparks of memory, such as my stepfather kicking my cat across the kitchen.  My memory of that moment is very detailed.  The kitchen had the stove and the refrigerator on one side, the sink at the far end and countertops and cabinets across from the appliances.  The dishwasher was on the same wall as the sink.  When he kicked my cat, she slid across the linoleum floor towards the closed door to the basement which was across the entry hallway from the front door.  I was thankful that the door was closed so she did not fall down the stairs.

I remember my mother crying and pleading for him to stop hurting her; I remember laying on top of her trying to shield her from him–I was face up and could see the rage in his blue eyes.  The bedspread was sort of patchworkish, in browns, and their bed had a wooden headboard.  The bathroom door was right next to where I was laying on top of my mother on her side of the bed.  Her dresser was to the left of the bathroom door.

I remember her taking his gun out of the closet where he kept it and threatening him with it once when they had a huge fight.  I remember how crazy she looked wielding it in front of her.  

I remember being almost completely flat chested and when my stepfather saw me naked, he pinched my nipples, laughing and saying, “Button Pinchers!”

I remember April 2, 1982, when I drank a huge bottle of wine after school with a friend.  I remember watching her take out the mailbox as she backed out of our driveway when she left and thinking of how upset my stepfather would be by that.  I was supposed to work in the coat check room at the country club that night.  I remember him coming home and finding me drunk.  He was so angry that he shoved me; I ended up falling down the stairs to the basement, breaking the middle knuckle of my index finger in the process.  I remember they dropped me off at the ER and told me to call when I was finished.

I remember him coming home from work one night in 1985 and being angry with me about something (I honestly do not remember what; I may have not folded the laundry as I was supposed to, or any of a million things I could have done wrong).  He came at me with those eyes so full of rage and something inside me snapped.  This time, I was NOT going to be the victim.  And so I fought back.  I fought back so hard that we ended up on the slightly-Middle Eastern themed ceramic tile foyer floor, me straddling him and holding him by the shoulders, slamming his head into the floor over and over, yelling, “YOU WILL NEVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!”  And he didn’t. (This is how most abuse ends, when the abused actually fights back)

And I remember the wooden handle on the small kitchen knife as I sawed at my wrists, trying hard to stand the pain of cutting myself open long enough to get to the vein.  I was sitting at the butcher block table in the kitchen, sawing away at myself, sobbing, until I finally gave up and wrapped my damaged wrists in paper towels and tape.

Why is all of this so important?  Why do I share all of these fragments of memory?  Because they are NOT false, they are 100% true.  I am no Alice to question my reality.  This are my real memories, not imagined.  The bruises, the treatment, the abuse, all were seen by my friends.  I’ve asked–they remember too.  And as my therapist tells me, “Why would I make this shit up?”

I had a message from my mother last night.  It came in about 9:35, so I am pretty sure it was bourbon enhanced (note capitalization and spelling errors–something a perfectionist like my mother would not normally tolerate).  Apparently she saw my blog about seeing her at the mall the other day.  Here is her message to me about that, about me, and about my reality.

Yes, I walked away… but first I had to walk TO you! Had our roles been reversed I doubt that you would have taken that walk TO me, but would have run like a mad woman to avoid confronting the woman about whom you have leveled so many false accusations. You would not have had the courage to confront me. But I did the right and courageous thing. You must have seen me, because you were not at all surprised to see me! You said to me ‘We both need help,’ and I responded ‘We don’t BOTH need help — I am not an alcoholic or any of the other things you have falsely accused me of — YOU need help.’ You sobbed. No I did not reach out to touch you — nor did you reach out to me. How would you have responded to a hug, a touch…? What was I do to if not walk away? Crawl on my knees? Rant and rave? if you are so sure that your accusations are correct why did you ‘dread’ seeing me — or why were you ‘afraid’ I would find you there? if you were so sure, you would have welcomed confronting me with even more lies and delusional memories. You will always be my daughter — your heart and mine beat in synchronicity for nine months and that will never ever be taken from me. I love you and cherish you, but I will no longer insinuate myself into your life. You have chosen to sever our relationship, and I will accept that. I am here if you need me, but I doubt that you would ever admit any need. it is interesting how different the perspective is when viewed from different sides of a coin! You write well — even though what you write is in accurate and biased with the animosity you hold toward me. I feel sorry for you — it is so hard on one’s emotions to hate.

How do I know for sure I am not delusional?  Here’s some good, hard evidence.  This is my left wrist, some 30+ years after I sawed into it there at the butcher block table.

Image

 

Scars fade over time, but they never fully disappear.

my savior, my husband

I am addicted to Grey’s Anatomy, and I am addicted to films, books, and TV shows that make me cry.  Today I spent most of the day crying.  And what made me cry the hardest was this song, sung at the end of “Grey’s Anatomy: The Music Event”.  Callie Torres, near death, is in her alter-persona, singing this to her lover, and soon to be wife, Arizona.  And it sums up a lot of how I feel about my dear husband, who is my life, my backbone, my guiding star.

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you

I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules
But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do and I was made for you

You see the smile that’s on my mouth
It’s hiding the words that don’t come out
And all of my friends who think that I’m blessed
They don’t know my head is a mess
No, they don’t know who I really am
And they don’t know what I’ve been through like you do
And I was made for you…

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I’ve been
And how I got to where I am
But these stories don’t mean anything
When you’ve got no one to tell them to
It’s true… I was made for you

Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
I was made for you…

 
Today my heart bled all day.  I cried all day and literally had to force myself out of bed.  I don’t know what is wrong with me.  I know I should be okay; I should not feel this horribly bad, my work is not that hard, and thank god I have a paycheck.  But today all I want to do is lay in bed and cry. And cry some more.  And the only one whose shoulder I can cry on is his.  Even if he doesn’t really understand, he still holds me and keeps me safe.  He keeps the Bad Place from consuming me.  Tonight I would welcome the Bad Place; I would go there willingly, I would sleep forever, I would be at peace and my pain would be over.  But I cannot leave him.  He is mine and I am his and I was truly made for him.
 

suicide is painless

I have tried to commit suicide at least three times that I can remember, all during my adolescence.  I tried drinking myself to death ( I can’t drink that much, I guess), I tried mixing pills and booze, and then I tried slitting my wrists with a kitchen knife.  I knew enough to “go down the road and not across the tracks”.  But the knife I chose was not very sharp, and mostly I just sawed at myself.  I bled a lot, but not enough.

The next day at school, a teacher noticed the bandages on my wrists and sent me to the guidance office, where they called my parents and told them to come in.  They did so against their will.  I told the counselor about the abuse going on at home, I told her about it all, but when my parents arrived, they denied everything (they continue to do so some 30+ years later).  

The counselor suggested I be put into inpatient therapy until I was emotionally stable and “safe”.  My parents said they would think about it and we all left.  On the way home, they told me that such therapy was very expensive, and that I was not worth the expense. I think they meant that they did not think I was really in as bad of shape mentally as my actions indicated, but what I heard was “Your life is not worth saving”.  

Given that my sister died at 18 months of age, just 8 months before I was born, I have always been troubled by the way I was allowed to feel worthless and without merit.  It all started in 1975, when my mother remarried, and my life changed forever.

Image