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I get inexplicably excited when I read blogs on other peoples’ sites that promote awareness and education on dissociative disorder and mental illness in general. THIS is how we begin change, by sharing our beliefs.
Continuation of There Once was a Girl who Loved a Boy….please visit my site to read the second half:
(The following events are true and are recollected to the best of my ability)
I can still remember what I was wearing that day.
It was a day like any other; a brisk day in November of 2012 and I had just returned home with my 5 week old son from a mother’s group. I balanced the car seat in my right hand while holding the waist of my too big maternity pants in my left to avoid tripping as I trekked up the stairs. My son was sleeping in the way only newborn babies sleep; with a boneless seeming laxity yet still maintaining a slight fetal curl. He had impossibly long eyelashes that fanned across his drooping cheeks and a head full of richly dark hair. I remember thinking he was entirely too beautiful to be a boy as I laid him in his bassinet and gentle extricated his fingers that inevitably seemed to always get lost in my hair.
I had stood there for a moment, looking at him, still humbled by the intensity of love I felt for this small being even after having experienced it already with my then six year old daughter. Before I turned to leave, I remembered that he was still in the other room.
My son’s father.
He had come to my house to visit our baby and talk about what was left of the broken pieces of our relationship. The rift created when he forced me out of our home and his life when I was 34 weeks pregnant had progressed to rupturing who we once were, the solidarity I thought we had. The beginning of our love affair had been vividly intense and unnerved me to the core because he had been the first person who I had ever truly let in, the first person to give his complete acceptance and support of the dissociative disorder I was so ashamed of and the sordid childhood events it stemmed from. It was the only time I had been shown the true meaning of intimacy and how it was distinctly different from anything sexual. The abrupt dismissal of me from his life at such a fragile period left me broken; but on that day as we talked I could still feel the hope and love shining in my eyes as I looked at him even as I loathed myself for being so vulnerable, so weak. I felt the silent pleading of my heart; the desperation to belong,
please love me
please, God, want me; want our family the way that I do
But the gaze that settled back on me was so detached, so cold, that I felt the hope swelling in me stutter palpably before withering away.
“I don’t love you the way I said I did; the way I thought I did. You and I…it’s just never going to happen. We are never going to be together”
The quality of the air around me took on a gritty haze as the edges of reality softened and became distant, like trying to watch a movie with bad reception. This always happened in times of distress as my mind instinctively tried to shield me from harm by fragmenting how the situation was assimilated. Something that increasingly had become the subject of scorn and ridicule towards the end of our relationship, so different from the earlier proclamations of acceptance and support. No longer a process that “we” needed to work through together, now it was a “problem” that I needed to get under control.
“You’re not normal, you always disappear from reality, there is no way I can trust you to take care of our son”
I immediately snapped back into focus and shielded my bleeding heart, ” I am his MOTHER, you know damn well my issues have never jeopardized my ability to parent, that its just the OPPOSITE because nothing in me could stomach inflicting what had such a profound effect on me growing up. We discussed this at length several times, together, with my therapist where you were told the same thing so don’t act like it hasn’t been addressed and don’t you dare insinuate I’m incapable of mothering our baby.” The flare of protective anger must have been evident enough that he quieted and it seemed the topic was closed, at least for now.
A door shut in the hall and I started, pulled back from my pensive thoughts. I self consciously smoothed my long sleeved black thermal; I was almost back to my pre-baby weight but still carried the discomfort of being in a body that didn’t quite feel like mine yet. As I walked towards the back door my ex came around the corner and stood awkwardly shifting his weight on his feet,
“I threw a load of laundry in and did the dishes for you..”
He kept his gaze averted and I selfishly hoped he was feeling bad for being so cruel earlier while I simultaneously tried to hide my surprise at his impulsively helpful gestures. Thanking him quietly I hurried out onto the balcony and inhaled sharply, letting the cold air shock my insides and distract my thoughts.
I remember standing on the edge of the balcony overlooking the street and absently thinking to myself how high up it was, around fifteen feet or so, as I scanned the side of the house mentally noting there was a drainpipe that could probably be used if I needed to reach the ground quickly. It was warped and fragile looking from years of exposure without maintenance but would do in a pinch. I shook myself of these nagging ideas and mentally berated myself for my bizarre train of thoughts, only you Jackie.
To this day I am tormented by not investigating the origin of these thoughts, by not recognizing the intuitive nature of them and acting on it.
The side door of the house opened just then and my ex appeared,
he must be leaving, I wonder why he didn’t come tell me he was leaving I thought
He had his back to me and seemed strangely uncoordinated, fumbling with pulling the door shut. As he quickly turned to go down the steps I refused to believe what my eyes were telling me hung from his arm.
Strapped in his carseat, my sweet boy continued sleeping peacefully.
“WHAT are you DOING?!” I screamed down at him. Instead of responding he quickened his steps, awkwardly holding the carseat as he made his way down the walkway. Towards the street. Where his car was parked.
I could not even begin to describe the all encompassing fear that engulfed me and spread to my bones, choking me, erasing any thought I had except getting to my son.
Without hesitation I clutched the handrail of the balcony and vaulted myself over the edge, grabbing the drain pipe in mid air in an attempt to scale down the side.
The pipe was much narrower then it had appeared, only about three inches stuck out from the brick making it impossible to grip. I was forced to brace my hands tightly on either side of the pipe as I began skidding down, dimly aware that I was also screaming for help.
There are moments of abject terror when time seems to occur in frames, allowing you an almost leisurely vantage to observe what is happening. The rivulets of blood from between my fingers that flowed like fine wine as my flesh tore on the jagged metal, the damp moss creeping up the side of the building and the hem of my pants catching on the brick. My heart was lodged thickly in my throat as I alternatively gasped for air and screamed for someone, anyone, to help me. All of this occurred in a matter of seconds; I was still at least twelve feet away from the ground and my ex had not made it to his car yet with our son.
My baby, not my baby, please don’t take my baby
The drain pipe shuddered in protest at the burden of my descent before the bolts pulled free from the brick and I felt a sharp give in the tension.
to be continued….
I’m afraid to have nice things.
I can’t bring myself to unpack the last few boxes in my apartment even though I moved in five months ago. The shelving unit I bought from Ikea last month is still in its packaging and my little girl’s dollhouse remains neatly disassembled in its individual boxes.
If you came over you would think I had either just moved in or was on my way out. I have to force myself to even do general maintenance at times, because the prospect of exposing a comfortable atmosphere causes me to have heart palpitations.
It is an absolutely paralyzing fear; so palpable that I will literally buy a new hair dryer rather then risk unpacking something to find my old one. It makes absolutely no sense, giving outside observers the impression I am both lazy and frivolous.
This is anything but the truth.
I’m afraid to put down roots, afraid to care about anything anymore because I don’t want to have something someone would take. I am smart enough to know that this is a self-defeating endeavor and trauma re-enactment at it’s finest. Unfortunately intellectual knowledge of something is not the same as the reality of it and being told otherwise is as effective as using a toothpick for a shovel; futile.
I can apologize for my woefully disappointing ways to those around me and continue my valiant efforts at projecting normalcy but inevitably the characteristics that are so “uniquely” me wiggle through, and I grow weary of trying to articulate why. Words tend to lose their meaning after so many rounds of use anyway. I am still no closer to providing satisfactory explanations as to why I am the way I am, or think the way that I think, even love the way that I love. There comes a point where the explanation dissolves in the reason and I find myself struggling to sift through the wreckage to uncover the origin of it all.
My children’s room is beautiful, however. I had painstakingly selected a blue that rivals the sky for the walls and affixed their names in block lettering to it. The matching wardrobes in light toned oak stand tall on the side that is lined with carefully selected children’s books that are worn from generations of use. My son’s earth-toned pack n play is tucked into an alcove in the corner by the window, at night the moon dapples his blankets with silvery light. Every spare surface brims with photographs of my babies in various stages of laughter and cradled by me as newborns. It is a room that is perfectly set up for their individual needs and primed to bear witness to childish laughter and innocent slumber.
I stand in the doorway looking at this extraordinary place that I put my heart into making and note the stillness of it, as though the room were holding it’s breath waiting for them.
It is waiting for little ones that never come
This aching space of bitter disappointment and broken dreams now symbolizes to me how cruel and heartless the world can be at times. How an unimaginable pain somehow can become real and force you to live with the self recriminating guilt that all of this came to pass because of who you are. Who I am….what I have, cost me the very things I live and breathe for.
What a conundrum that is. I can only push forward through the hollow pain and keep fighting to regain what was so wrongfully and cruelly taken.
Meanwhile their cheerfully decorated room gathers dust as time passes.
I don’t clean it.
I turn off the light and close the door.
As soon as the words “mental illness” or “disorder” leave my mouth in a conversation I feel myself flush involuntarily with embarrassment. I brace myself for the awkward reassurance or feigned understanding from the other party, no matter what topic the conversation had been on up to this point.
Intellectually I know I SHOULDN’T be embarrassed, no more then a diabetic should be self conscious when explaining why they abstain from sugary treats.
But I am
I’m ashamed because the outside world has made it unacceptable to represent anything seen as imperfect, ugly, fat, stupid; Any quality that cannot be glamorized or marketed to illicit some sort of positive gain.Most of us are born with the basic outline of our belief system ready and waiting to be installed into our impressionable minds from our social settings.
I’m tired of trying to be politically correct, it’s just too damn hard.
So I repeatedly say out loud, on paper, to the mirror, that I suffer from depression and a dissociative disorder to try to desensitize the humiliation instilled so deeply in me. I feel as though I’ve lived my life apologetically up until now because of the effect my individual characteristics have had on those around me.
Like I should be sorry for making you uncomfortable in your uncertainty.
Well I’m not.
Sorry, that is.
I do, however, feel genuine remorse for the ugliness some of my actions and words have caused. These are things I will live with always and aspire to amend in some fashion daily.
Talking about mental illness in a personal fashion makes many people uneasy, I think it makes it too real and lets face it there are still those who believe “ignorance is bliss”.
If you share having a mental illness with someone close to you, that makes it REAL, impossible to ignore. It no longer is just a word, the premise of Girl, Interrupted or some form of slang to throw around. It has taken on a face which could easily be their own and is a reminder that bad things DO happen to good people.
Our lives are formed around this image of perfection; what we have learned and grown to believe signifies success. Too often people with dissociative disorders are seen as flawed
The reality is that this couldn’t be farther from the truth. People who dissociate are often survivors of the most unspeakable acts of abuse; traumatic events that threatened their lives and overwhelmed their ability to process it. It is a brilliant autonomous coping skill that can unconsciously stay on after the danger has passed and interfere with the person’s daily life. The process to alleviate involuntary dissociation is painful, raw and can actually be traumatic itself if not guided by an experienced professional.
All of this, from beginning to end, is done in order to survive.
I don’t want to just survive anymore
I choose to live
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