Saturday, April 30, 2011

Big Hiding

My father was my best friend.  He was my mentor, confessor, jury, judge, hangman.  In the back of my mind he was the most terrifying person I knew, but up front and on the surface I trusted him more than anyone else.  Relationships broken by incest are complicated.  In the last few years, going about my day to day I feel almost nothing regarding my father.  It surprises me but I believe it is shock.  The system I had to carefully guard my mind from certain realities had started to break down, and my hero daddy turned into a monster before my eyes threatening to rape and kill his own daughter.  In a matter of seconds my perception of what I was in his eyes went from princess to whore.  I don't know if I will ever get over that.  I don't know if I will ever come out of shock.
I have never heard of any relationship quite like the one I have with my father, not even from people in incestuous homes.  They seem to have a better grasp of what is going on, or better distance.  I have never met anyone who so attached themselves in love to the person most dangerous to them.  I have read and been told that this is a survival mechanism, quite an interesting one, but I don't like to think of the love I had for my father as only a necessity to survive.  His was the most significant relationship I have ever had.  Perhaps in part because I was trained through force early on to confess everything to him- hiding any thought or action always resulted in punishment.  Hiding nothing always meant things would eventually be ok.  If I hid nothing he was my friend.  And at times he was the only friend I had.  His was always the strongest source of love I knew.
Strangely since I left home I have little feeling or personal memory of my life there.   I remember things of course in flashbacks, but they all seem distant and impersonal.  It is as if I have cut off all feeling of my life and relationships before age 22.  The numbness often prompts me to act as if it is no big deal, I can just move on, but I know it is quite the opposite.  Not feeling anything worries me about the enormity of what I am supposed to feel, as if it was too big and my brain just shut it out.  Perhaps I will get it in more manageable pieces down the road.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Re-Training the Brain

     Growing up as children, we are taught how to live, usually with the purpose of turning us into capable adults.  With people that have grown up in an abusive household, that training is twisted usually not for the purpose of generating healthy strong adults but for purposes that serve the abuser.  The child that grows up in that environment becomes the adult who must either undertake to re-train themselves with healthy patterns or settle as a mentally and emotionally crippled adult without the tools needed to live a complete life.
     Living with DID, the twisted training I grew up with was so strong that I do not have the choice to settle as incomplete.  With abuse so severe re-training as an adult is the only possible way for me to survive.  My entire life I knew I had limitations but I did my best to pretend they didn't exist and somehow learn to adapt with them anyway, a adaptation that completely sacrificed my safety and health to preserve the lies of my parents.  I have to admit that it doesn't work.  I cannot pretend it doesn't exist.
     Growing up I was only safe when my parents were home if I was working or we were at the dinner table or we had company.  If they saw me around the house I would often try to look busy gathering or dusting, but I soon learned this was not good either so I spent as much time as possible hiding in my room reading a book with one ear always cocked to monitor their whereabouts.
      After 18 plus years of this training, I cannot just walk away and pretend it never happened to go and live another kind of life.  By the time I was in high school I learned I cannot be around people.  My hyper-alert mode is just too high.  I could go to school for the first four hours OK, since at school we were kept busy and on schedule, I could focus on that and be 'safe'.  By fifth period I would be wound tight broken into a sweat with my eye on the clock doing breathing exercises trying to convince myself I could survive until school let out and I got home to be alone.  I usually ran off into the mountains to wander the woods and let all the tension seep from me.  Oddly enough I felt safest far out in the woods by myself than anywhere else.  Hanging out with friends rarely happened, and when it did, I always excused myself early.  When I explained to my close friend that I simply could not relax around anyone, no one at all, not even family - she joked that I would make an excellent body guard.
     By the time I was in college, I could barely make it through a two hour class.  Two back to back classes became agony.  I did not party or hang out in college.  By my sophomore year if I decided to 'go out' with friends I would make it as far as the parking lot before doubling over with stomach cramps and shaking in a cold sweat.  Five minutes after returning to my room - alone - I would be fine.  I contributed this to having a sensitive stomach, and didn't pay much attention to how it correspondingly got worse in crowds.
     Now I can better recognize PTSD as part of  the cause, but I am still edgy around people.  It doesn't matter who they are.  No amount of trust takes this away.  I was, after all, trained to be this way by my parents.  After ten minutes sitting in the living room when people are home my muscles are locked and I have stomach cramps.  I simply do not feel safe in the presence of people.  Oddly enough, if I start cleaning or working outside, I feel safe again, because of the belief that no one will harm me if they see me working and being productive, especially for them.  I have discovered a loophole because of this, that if I am up and moving, I feel safer.  In high school I had been talked into going with a group of friends to senior prom.  Prior to the dance I felt wretched, but once dancing I was ecstatic to discover I felt fine.  Now I use belly dance as a great way to get moving and release tension.  While I have difficulty talking to someone face to face for any extended period, if we go for a walk I do OK.
     Now I am what you could call a hermit.  I need lots and lots of 'me' time, to find my calm.  I am sensitive to energies of people, and try to work with that (whole other post for the future there), but also just learn to tell myself that I am OK.  I am safe here.  I have to do the work.  I have to communicate.  I have to wrangle through it and face the facts.  Living this life takes incredible patience and persistence.  And honesty.  Un-crippling yourself goes slowly.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I refused to think of you as human
For my sake
But I remembered you loved this song
And how could god create a monster who loves music?
The surprised rapture on your face
As you sat completely still
So as not to miss a note
You are so human
I hope people get a chance to see you
I hope you get a chance to see you
They will sit as enthralled
As you did

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Running and Belly Dance

     I have never been a fan of 'pushing' myself in exercise.  I grew up hiding behind a book and in gym class usually scowled and muttered dark things at the instructor as I trudged laps and did a few feeble push ups.  My friends and I used to call gym class DDH (Daily Dose of Humiliation)  instead of PE.  "Are you ready for DDH today?"  Because really, what do adolescent misfits need more than to be dressed up in gym uniforms and forced to run in front of their peers?  In high school I refused to participate in school sports, I took weight lifting and martial arts.  In college, I took yoga and basic ballroom dance for PE credit.  Now as an adult, I have been introduced to the love/hate relationship that is running.  And when I say 'run', I mean running with lots of intermittent walking.  Getting chased by a dog would qualify as 'going for a run' for me.

     One thing I have come to discover as I try and move my body more is that it is hard to do, not only because of being self conscious or out of shape but because it requires a certain amount of presence and feeling in your body.  As someone who had spent considerable time learning to dissociate from the body, this was a bit of a problem.  I was extremely uncomfortable being in my body, feeling, noticing myself or being aware of other people noticing me.  Some people advise regular exercise for people who dissociate not only for health but as a grounding too.  Although having alters, I can still space out while exercising or not feel anything It just is less likely to happen.  In fact I have had instances where another alter would agree to take over for a run when I didn't want to go out in the icky weather and they did, and I felt as snug and listless as if I was still in bed watching the world through a screen.  Unfortunately that alter faded out two miles into the run, leaving me suddenly cold and miserable to walk back in the wind and rain.

     Other alters (ones who are not so fond of running) and myself have taken up belly dancing and we love it.  I still maintain my easygoing approach to exercise, but this is so much fun I can not think of it as work.  And it suits me.  Now when people say "I get up at five every morning and run twenty miles."  I can say, "Wow, that is really admirable.  I stay up till three every morning and belly dance."  I took an interest in belly dancing because I thought belly dancers were fascinating, and I had learned a few basic moves in high school.  I took it up again recently as therapy.  I needed to find something I liked about being in a woman's body, something fun that women do that I would want to be present for, that would make me want to do more than curl up in a hole somewhere.  Bingo- belly dancing.  It makes me feel good about my body, helps me loosen up, build confidence, feel sexy, outrageous, daring or strict depending on the mood.  And it turns out to be excellent exercise.  And it turns out to be excellent for my health.  All those gut problems- belly dancing helps tremendously.  And it's fun!

<a href="">Belly Dancer's Body</a> by Petr Kratochvil