+CHILDHOOD DISSOCIATION, DEPERSONALIZATION, DEREALIZATION – I NEVER HAD A CHOICE TO BE OR NOT TO BE

June 1959 - Age 7 - Me on the right - excluded from the family
May 23, 1959 - Age 7 - Me on the right - excluded from the family
July 1959 - Age 7 - Me on the right - cut off from the family
July 1959 - Age 7 - Me on the right - cut off from the family
December 1959 - Age 7 - Me cut off from Smokey
December 1959 - Age 8 - Me cut off from Smokey

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I cannot improve the focus in these pictures.  I expanded from the originals because I wanted to see the similarities between the three pictures in terms of my body language reflected in the three of them.

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AND THIS IS HOW I SEE ‘THE WHOLE BALL OF WAX IN A NUT SHELL’

— the professionals back me up!

This describes what happened to me, to my mother, and the how and why of it all — the 18 years of severe child abuse I suffered — and how my mother became ‘mad’ enough to do it.

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Guidelines for the Evaluation and Treatment

of Dissociative Symptoms in Children

and Adolescents

International Society for the Study of Dissociation

Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, Vol. 5(3) 2004

Digital Object Identifier: 10.1300/J229v05n03_09 119

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Please follow (above) link to read this entire article and to find the exact references the authors are referring to in this section of their article (below):

“There is no consensus yet on the exact etiological pathway for the development of dissociative symptomatology, but newer theoretical models stress impaired parent-child attachment patterns (Barach, 1991; Liotti, 1999; Ogawa, Sroufe, Weinfield, Carlson, & Egeland, 1997) and trauma-based disruptions in the development of self-regulation of state transitions (Putnam, 1997; Siegel, 1999).

Newer theorizing ties maladaptive attachment patterns directly to dysfunctional brain development that may inhibit integrative connections in the developing child’s brain (Schore, 2001; Stien & Kendall, 2003).

From the vantage point of treating children and adolescents, a developmental understanding of dissociation makes the most sense.

That is, dissociation may be seen as a developmental disruption in the integration of adaptive memory, sense of identity, and the self-regulation of emotion.

According to Siegel (1999), integration is broadly defined as “how the mind creates a coherent self-assembly of information and energy flow across time and context” (p. 316).

In other words, Siegel sees the development of an integrated self as an ongoing process by which the mind continues to make increasingly organized connections that allow adaptive action.

Children and adolescents may present with a variety of dissociative symptoms that reflect a lack of coherence in the self-assembly of mental functioning:

1. Inconsistent consciousness may be reflected in symptoms of fluctuating attention, such as trance states or “black outs.”

2. Autobiographical forgetfulness and fluctuations in access to knowledge may reflect incoherence in developmental memory processes.

3. Fluctuating moods and behavior, including rage episodes and regressions, may reflect difficulties in self-regulation.

4. The child’s belief in alternate selves or imaginary friends that control the child’s behavior may reflect disorganization in the development of a cohesive self. 

5. Depersonalization and derealization may reflect a subjective sense of dissociation from normal body sensation and perception or from a sense of self.

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This condition and these symptoms originate with insecure early attachments.  I believe they lie at the core of many (if not most) later-developing adult-onset ‘mental illness’ disabilities.

These descriptions of childhood dissociation apply to me, except for #4.  I did not have enough of a self to even imagine friendship, real or imaginary.  I also believe they all apply to my mother, with a shift in #4.  She developed the imaginary belief that she could CONTROL her imaginary friends — her children (me being the enemy) rather than being controlled by them.

I can see the lost, empty child in these pictures, cut off from being a member of a family, cut off from the development of a clear and cohesive self.  Devoid of a connected lifetime of experience, I appeared simply as a physical body taking up space in the universe, not as an animated LIVING child present as an identity within that body.

At any given moment my exact existence was only determined by the situation I was present in at that moment.  If the conductor of an orchestra points the baton at an individual with a particular instrument, it is time for all to hear that instrument play.  If we place our computer cursor over a particular link and click on it, we expect and anticipate that a particular action is going to occur.

From the moment of my birth my mother determined in her profound and comprehensive control of me how Linda was allowed to be in the world.  Because she never knew me as a human being, nor wished to, I existed as a puppet-fied manifestation of her inner psyche – as her projection of the BAD CHILD.

++++

There was no room for Linda to exist at all, and I can clearly see that emptiness of personhood and of selfhood in me in these pictures.  I appear as a child ‘stripped of a self’.

My emptiness, my dissociation was on an on-again, off-again condition.  The few times that I was left alone to be with myself simply existed in their own dissociative bubbles that never connected themselves to the ongoing experiences of me in my own body, in my own life.

I existed in relation to myself as I existed in the world these photographs captured – isolated, cut off, alone, unanimated, empty – like a husk of a child, a shell of a child – a body that existed to be battered, shoved, yanked, slapped, hit, punched, etc.  As an empty person to be screamed at, stormed at, thrown around in every imaginable way – at any time for any reason or for no reason whatsoever.

As an individual child-person, I was not allowed to exist.  I was not given permission to exist.  I ONLY existed as a figment of my mother’s twisted and brutalizing imagination

I no more had an identity or existed as a person (let alone as a child) than did the stone we stood on, the background trees, the tumbling rivers, the passing clouds, or the freezing snow.  I was less alive and less whole than was our dog, Smokey.  I was an apparition, a wraith, a mirage of a child.  Linda wasn’t there at all.

I was a missing child, and nobody noticed because nobody cared.  I experienced no difference between the cells of my body, the skin I wore like my clothing, the earth I walked upon or the air I breathed.  Moment to moment I could not count on anything.  I had always lived in an insecure, unpredictably unsafe world.

No child can for its self, its one self, if it is not allowed to.  I was never given permission to exist, so I didn’t.  I was as invisible and as intangible as the sound of rushing water or the wind.  I was given no more permission to exist than a leaf is, and less permission to exist than Smokey the dog was.  The homestead was more real to my mother, to both my parents, than I was.

++++

If I isolate the image of myself out of these photographs what remains is an unfocused child posed in a rigid standing posture.  That, sadly, is about all there was, a child existing by posing as a body – like a tree exists by posing with a trunk, limbs, branches, twigs and sometimes leaves – its root invisible beneath the soil.

But I had no roots.  From moment to moment I had no history of my own.  I didn’t even have the history of what mother did to me.  Even those experiences were not retained, kept, stored or retrieved in any stuck-together ongoing autobiographical coherent story-of-an-ongoing-child’s- life.  There ONLY existed each separate ongoing moment, and each of those moments was a likely to change into something else, something terrifying and painful, at any second. — unpredictably, unexpectedly, unfathomably.

Nothing mattered any more to me nor did I matter any more than if I was a snowflake, a scrap of cloth, or a pot to be scrubbed or pounded upon.  I simply existed without a self as a body that continued to grow over time without ME KNOWING I was in it.  I was my mother’s chosen ‘evil-bad’ projection, barely an object, not a person — and most definitely NOT a child.  Does an object have a sense of itself?

Just me age 7 in a body on a rock on a mountain
Just me age 7 in a body on a rock on a mountain
Just me age 7 in a body, rigid, at this second no more real than the grass I am standing on
Just me age 7 in a body, rigid, at this second no more real than the grass I am standing on
Just me age 7 in the snow in a parka that meant more to mother than I did with a dog mother could love even though she could not love me
Just me age 8 in the snow in a parka that meant more to mother than I did with a dog mother could love even though she could not love me

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My mother was a master magician.  She was an expert at her craft.

Often she would banish me “from her sight”

— sometimes for days or weeks at a time —  so I would vanish from the family all together — body and all.

In the family pictures taken of  bringing in the Christmas tree in 1957 when I was 6, our first winter in Alaska, I am nowhere to be seen.

I have disappeared completely.

I am ‘missing in action’ and nobody seems to notice I am gone.

I am invisible.   I don’t exist at all.

I was erased.

+++++++++++++++++

See

++MY CHILDHOOD STORIES

Age 6 - Mother's magic -- Linda has completely vanished from the family picture of bringing in the Christmas tree
Age 6 - Mother's magic -- Linda has completely vanished from the family picture of bringing in the Christmas tree
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20 thoughts on “+CHILDHOOD DISSOCIATION, DEPERSONALIZATION, DEREALIZATION – I NEVER HAD A CHOICE TO BE OR NOT TO BE

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I have also felt the way you are describing in this article throughout my childhood. I recently joined a college class where I was often the only female and I was being sexually harassed by a few of the guys there. As I was walking out of the classroom, one of the guys came behind me and sexually assaulted me by pushing his private parts right behind me. As this was happening I did not even respond to the situation because it was not real to me. I simply continued walking and even held the door open for that guy. The class did not want to befriend me and they had no respect towards me after they saw that I did not fight back. Afterwords, I joined a martial arts and group exercise club where I slowly healed. As I finally felt connected to the world, the last time I remember feeling this connected was when I was about 4 years old. Now I am a lot better and I finally feel like an individual with a personality.
    I too was ignored in school throughout my childhood and adolescence because nobody cared to include the quiet girl and I was always isolated in the community. I was dissociated inside and I felt like the only person in the world since nothing was real to me.
    I didn’t experience my childhood and adolescence properly and now I have to go straight into the world of being a responsible adult.

    • You have so clearly communicated a universe in your words!!!

      I do not have a sexual abuse history that I know of – don’t know if you do – the dissociation is the same no matter where it specifically appeared in our lives.

      Mine began at birth and built itself right into my body-brain as I developed.

      Here is a perhaps seemingly trite example – but is about the day I most clearly noticed how dissociation can operate for me ‘in public’ – no matter what the circumstances are that trigger it. I did not know I was dissociating in the middle of this situation, but it became clear to me shortly afterwards.

      I was visiting a friend during travels a few years ago. We went to a video store for our evening’s entertainment. A man standing in the aisles began to speak with us about how he had recently made a decision to curtail the amount of violence his five year old son was exposed to on television.

      As the conversation continued, and as my friend was obviously engaged in reading movie titles on the shelf, this man turned to me and began to ask what I thought of a movie that was (I don’t remember which one) extremely violent. It was obvious this genre was the one he was going to pick from for his family’s evening viewing.

      Once he asked me his questions about the movie – I entirely froze and stood silently staring at this man as he waited for my response — until he turned away mumbling something related to how absolutely stupid I must be that I did not answer him!

      Now, this is about an aspect of dissociation I realized from this experience. I had TOO MUCH INFORMATION as I stood there! Way too much information to process – in the socially appropriate amount of time the interaction allowed for.

      Now, if you also (as I suspect you did) gathered this kind of WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION as that obnoxious man ‘attacked’ you – there was no way in that brief an amount of time you could process it all – contributing possibly to your inability to respond IMMEDIATELY in idiot-world-time — to that man.

      Histories of severe early trauma – connected to so-called PTSD — create in us an ability to be yes, hyper-sensitive on multiple levels to what is REALLY going on in a situation. We cannot make a response decision like a non-traumatized person can who does NOT gather the kind of complex info we do under duress.

      While my mind appeared at first glance as I replayed this video store scene over again in retrospect to have been frozen so that I was incapable of responding in the ‘allotted way in the allotted period of time’ — in fact my mind was SUPER busy processing all the disjointed attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions this STUPID (to me) man had spewed out to me.

      In the insane world I was raised in, how could I figure out what anyone’s motive was or what they meant or what they intended? How could I possibly respond to that man? What was I ‘supposed’ to say? What were you ‘supposed’ to do to that asshole jerk? What would the repercussions be? How would the scene play itself out – next – depending on which response we acted upon? ETC!

      I greatly admire and respect your choices to better prepare yourself to take appropriate actions in your life NOW. Me? I stay out of video stores – Netflix works great for me!! lol

    • I added a little to the end of my last comment – I am the Queen of editing – again, I believe, associated with the way my dissociating brain-mind works! Differently from ‘ordinary’!

    • I try to finally see my moms reasoning more and more lately since I have taken a refreshed course in psychology. I totally see how forgiveness is easier knowing more and this seems to also untwist weird thinking that was drilled into me at a very early age. I gain more confidence with my choices. No becomes a word that is allowed in my life not just my vocabulary. I believe the smartest people in the world not only edit what they write but also edit what they speak. Just be careful not to be overly critical of yourself.

      Wow I wanted to ask you also do you think moms similar to yours look to us as everything that they believe is bad and use us as there automatic brain therapy to try to forget what is bad or wrong to them?It is like there automatic coping mechanism to forget us and try to get she me us destroy by any means possible? This is hard to get into words.

      • Like instead of the good vs bad being in there own mind the bad became too much for their mind to handle then removed the bad from her mind over on to me. So now in her thinking she is never wrong and I am always wrong no matter what the circumstances .

        • With my mom, her perspective is so off many times it is comical at times. This would be the times in my life that were bearable enough to endure the abuse and to keep living,thriving , when my body was about to go canotonic.

          • My sibs knew Mother was nuts when they were kids – I had no clue

            Your story – wow – are you writing it?

        • Yes, in the case of my mother and evidently yours, as well – this is exactly what is going on. Interestingly, given that one of the core characteristics of BPD is their difficulties with abandonment (connected to their very serious insecure attachment disorder from very early in their life) – at least with my mother her worst terror – no matter how much she hated-herself-as-projected-onto me – was that I would leave the hell that existed inside of her – that she placed ME in – instead of herself.

          Once I left home at 18 Mother’s deterioration took a dive toward the bottom and kept on going. I believe we are a part of their mind – there is no borderline-boundary between Mother-daughter. This is so sick it’s nearly beyond understanding (or words) except to those of us who have lived (and many who still do live) in this crazy mixed up ‘mirrors within mirrors’ world of a very sick Borderline.

          ++

          Again, this all-good vs all-bad showed up in my mother’s story – especially about Mischievous Bear that she wrote around age 10

          http://takecareofmothers.wordpress.com/my-mother-begins-her-childhood/my-mothers-childhood-stories/

          ++

          Perhaps Mother could have been healed at the time she wrote those stories – I doubt it – but given THEN more of what she needed including info about BPD – her life could have been very different – and better.

      • I find it useful and important to realize and remember – their brains DO NOT WORK in any ordinary way. Researches discover that BPD people do understand other people – but nobody (!!) understands them!

        • Yes I do agree. I am very thankful that I am not biologically related. I feel that this is a major reason that I was the chosen bad persona but if I had biological connections and was chosen as the bad persona would not of disconnected and continued the insanity with my children.

          Although your life throws this theory out the window. You are amazing.

          • I feel very alone reading your words – it is impossible for me to believe that it is inevitable that the projected-as-evil child of a severe BPD mother will inevitably ‘return the favor’ to her own children (and to anyone else she ever meets to one degree or another)

            True, few such children as I was are most blessed with the salvation our Alaskan mountain homestead gave to me – but I was already 7 when we got there. I believe all the machinery in body-nervous system-brain for BPD is put in place by the age of 6. Once the Theory of Mind stage of development is all but completed, if BPD is there – it will remain there.

            • Yes this is why you are so amazing. You are able to show me this. This is one way I have tried to disassociate with her. And my mind disconnected knowing that I am adopted. The great news is that the older I get the more my mind can now associate and love her even more. As with anything that comes natural I have a bad habit of being naive that others are the same. I literally do not know that others do not understand something when no one ever taught me and I just know. I then assume which is wrong of me. The older I get the more I embrace my differences as well as others differences. I am very happy to be able to talk to you because I do not think a lot of what we think can be understood by anyone but us unless we talk about it.

  2. I can almost feel the emptiness as I read. I was diagnosed with childhood dissociation at age 22. I never quite understood what that meant. Now I see. Thankyou for sharing that. My mother was also so obsessed with babies that each time one sibling reached kindergarten age she had another. It was like we were traded for a new model.

    • Yes, that was what my mother did — doll baby after doll baby — and, as I have finally figured out, my mother’s complete obsession with continual moving was probably related to ‘playing house’ – setting it all up but being so empty and lost when it was all ‘fixed up cute and cozy’ that she destroyed it and moved on – over and over again!! (Put a search term into this blog’s box and find more!) All the best, Linda

  3. I found you by accident, but I hear you. I do not share all your experience, but share some of your responses. My mother was less precise, but I found it painful and carry it with me now. I have not read all your efforts to effect a change, but am engaged in a similar process. I can not match your apparent clarity, but then I am fighting to manage a difference as a single parent with two sons. They are my world, but then my parents are also close in light of my role as eldest and carer. Much love.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, and for your warm note. There are so many variations on the ‘theme’ of inadequate parenting — even of outright abuse. I always try to understand how my mother’s earliest experiences changed how her body-brain developed and so removed conscious choice from her range of potential in many, many important ways.

      I really loved having children under my care — just a word about this: I was completely unprepared for what happened to me once my children no longer needed my full care as they left home into their own lives. I think we have to be especially care-full of ourselves as we move through our lives to prepare ourselves for this MAJOR change in our own close attachment relationships. That’s when my serious and desperate search for what happened to me as a result of the abuse was triggered!

      May you experience much hope always as you move forward through your life. All the BEST! Linda

  4. Very hard, as your sister, to see the reality of what you’re saying. The pictures do not lie. Impossible not to feel a level of guilt, which is so much less than your experiences, but debilitating in its own way.

    • And no less a consequence. I am realizing today that all those “dissociative symptoms that reflect a lack of coherence in the self-assembly of mental functioning” mentioned in the professional list I included in the post apply to mother. I’ve know there was a link to her obsession with dolls and babies — only at this moment I am realizing this is a symptom directly tied to a dissociative disorder — which lies at the root of all that went wrong with her. Her children were her imaginary friends personified. I was her chosen-designated imaginary enemy.

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