Wednesday, August 24, 2016. It has been a long, long time since a trauma memory from my childhood has appeared to me unbidden, returning over and over again in these days prior to my move hopefully south at the end of September.
But here it is again today, only it is not an it. This that is returning is a part of me. I have had no luck banishing it. This memory is of something incomplete. I know enough about early trauma to know this memory is returning because my experience with this one of thousands and thousands of childhood traumas – caused by my mother’s severe psychotic (most likely Borderline Personality Disorder) mental illness – has a message for me.
Trauma that changes our early physiological development is most often trauma in our earliest months and years of life created by our need to adapt to severe trauma in order to survive. Most of these early – mostly attachment related – traumas do not come to us often with any semantic/autobiographical detailed information present.
Our body ALWAYS remembers everything that ever happens to us. Even our trauma altered development IS a form of memory.
But in THIS experience I was old enough to have part of a self-memory form about what happened to me. Yet I do not have ALL of the details. I don’t need them. I don’t want them. I will NOT go in any way to look for them within me.
If I think about life as a kind of dance, a dramatic dance of motion and movement, of emotion, often of language which, with its pitches, tones, rhythms and prosody IS a kind of music, I see an unbroken, linked-together series of events that cannot actually be separated or even distinguished clearly from one another.
This is our life. And even as I approach my 65th birthday next week I know that this memory that is visiting me (haunting me?) IS ME. It is as much ME as is the ME that is writing these words.
I cannot predict at this moment how the story connected with this memory is going to form itself. I do not know its words or its phrasing. I will simply let this write itself as story. Once the information within me appears in story, it has taken a form “out there” that will give it a kind of integrity, a wholeness-of-form that doesn’t yet exist.
I am curious.
What will this memory say? What might it wish to tell me? What does this experience with its trauma have to teach me about myself?
It is important enough for me to try to find out….
I do not know for certain how old I was (am). My guess is that I was (am) ten years old. I COULD have been older, but the me here and now has a kind of felt-sense awareness – body then to body now – of being young but not TOO young.
It is summer time. We are living on our Alaskan mountain wilderness homestead. The Wild Geraniums are passing from full bloom into seed.
I am standing among them to the side of the dirt path that leads around a little bend to our outhouse. I am feeling excited, thrilled even. I feel enthusiastic. Happy. In this mix of pleasantness, so incredibly RARE at any point in my childhood and nearly always tied to being outdoors on the mountain, I have no thought of tragedy. No thought of Mother.
I have a small paper seed packet I have made with edges sealed with white paste. I have used crayons to draw images of the flowers of the geraniums on my little envelope. I am popping seeds of the plant out of their small drying pods to put in my packet.
I want to put these seeds into the letter I am going to write back to my penpal in Japan. I am SO EXCITED to share with that girl something of this land that I love with my whole being.
Out of the house comes Mother. I know at this moment that she had been watching me from the window over the kitchen sink.
“Linda! What are you doing?”
I had to tell her. I held up my little envelope. I told her what I was going to do with those seeds.
There was her mean, shaming, berating, belittling, heart breaking shouting.
“NOBODY WRITES A LETTER BACK TO A PEN PAL RIGHT AWAY! Nobody but YOU could be THAT STUPID!”
I could imagine the rest of the litany of horrible, devastating, soul-crashing verbal assault that followed – but I won’t. I can FEEL at this moment what she did to me – yet again. I know without following the memory that she most likely forced me to go inside to get the letters my Japanese pen pal had written on her frail rice paper in perfect cursive in ink. I know that she took them from me. I know she forbid me to ever write my friend again. If another letter ever came for me, I never knew it.
I know that I didn’t.
I know that at first Mother had to approve of me having a pen pal. I think her name and address had appeared in a child’s magazine we had a subscription to. I know that Mother would have had to give me stamps, would have had to post my letters.
I do remember part of Mother’s verbal attack had to do with her condemning my penmanship, comparing handwriting to the perfect writing “by this girl whose language isn’t even English!”
Why again and again am I having appear a picture child-me standing forlorn beside those flowers, unmoving, staring across the valley, alone?
She does not move. Me? I do not move in this image connected to my memory of this experience. At first I thought I was allowed to stay out there but I really don’t think so. But I have kept myself out there! For 55 years – I see myself standing there, thin in worn summer play clothes, dark hair chopped ragged at the nape of my neck, straight bangs Mother cut off-kilter and jagged – and so far I have not been able to change a single thing about this image or the feelings involved.
I do know as these moments and hours and days pass by in my current life I am terrified at leaving my two young grandsons (ages 4 and 6). I am terrified at leaving my daughter, their mother, behind.
I will be heading off yet again into an invisible future. Moving to a place I have never been to before. Where I know no one. Where my family will not be.
I also know that Fargo, ND and its climate, the size of its city, everything about it is toxic to me. I first came here 45 years ago. Never was I OK here, and I am not OK now.
I HAVE to leave. It is self-preservation that I go.
So, yes – a part of me is paralyzed. Immobilized. Terrified. Heartsick. And about to lose a lot. I am choosing this. Yet I have to. A predicament. A survival paradox.
There’s more to the story. The story then. The story now.
Mostly what I know in pondering this memory, this image that comes like a waking dream out of nowhere, is that I have NEVER been beaten.
And I WILL NOT let my life circumstances beat me now.
I also know that when I have really WORKED with a trauma memory from my childhood, with that experience – things change. They heal. The power of the pain dissipates quite tolerably. Most of the time things remain that way.
Something is different. This move is for many reasons an extremely threatening and difficult one. I will know more once this is all said and done.
Meanwhile maybe I NEED that child part of me standing with her (my) feet planted firmly on that mountain, like a warm, heart-beating statue upon my beloved mountain – staring back at me.
I think I do.
Truth is, that invisible girl in Japan was the only friend I ever had. Mother’s madness HAD to keep me being ONLY the designated evil side of her. To her I was not human. I was the devil’s child sent to kill her while I was being born.
She had to create a permanent hell within which to imprison forever ME as her projected evil self. I could have no relationship with anyone. Not my father. Not my siblings. With nobody. Not even an invisible girl in Japan.
And CERTAINLY a child kept in hell could NEVER be happy! NEVER!
Mother was an expert at making sure it never did.
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Here is my first book out in ebook format as it provides an outline of the conditions of my malevolent childhood. Click here to view or purchase–
Story Without Words: How Did Child Abuse Break My Mother?
It lists for $2.99 and can be read by Amazon Prime customers without charge. A daring book – for daring readers – about a really tough subject.
Tags: adult attachment disorders, adult reactive attachment disorder, anxiety disorders,borderline mother, borderline personality disorder, brain development, child abuse,depression,derealization, disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder,dissociation,dissociative identity disorder, empathy, infant abuse, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),protective factors, PTSD, resiliency, resiliency factors, risk factors, shame