A Tribute

For some reason, I have  been missing my mother terribly over the past few days.  Grief for all of my lost loved ones comes and goes, of course, but it’s been a decade since my mother died and it feels new now.  I know it will pass.  Just quite painful in the meantime.

My mother was an enigma.  Due to her multiplicity, she could be sweet and loving or dangerous and angry and everything in between.  I played many roles for her.  At times, *I* was the parent to her younger alters.  At other times, I was a friend to teens or older alters.  Rarely did she seem like my mother, and rarely did the person who claimed to be my mother spend a significant amount of time out.  For as far back as I could remember, our relationship hadn’t been the typical mother-daughter paradigm.

She brought some amazing things to my life.  It’s through my mother that I met the first person who became part of my FOC and taught me what family was about.  She taught me patience and how to be accepting of others’ difficult circumstances.  She taught me respect.  In those ways, she shaped who I am.

She also scarred me physically and mentally to the point that my therapy sessions sometimes remind me of Freudian satires.  Through those injuries, though, I have learnt strength and endurance.  I’ve learnt to guard myself, even to an unhealthy extent, but self-protection isn’t always bad.  I try to draw strength from the dangers she sometimes posed.

My mother died in mid-Spring, just when everything was in full bloom.  Winter is here, now, but I think about the promise of Spring and the promise of her life at that point.  She was finally coming to the place where she might have had a chance to heal, but she decided to end her life instead.  I will never understand that decision, even as I work to accept it.

There are so many things I miss about her and so many questions I have for her.  I miss her both as a child misses her mother and as an adult who misses her friend.  Her life ended much too soon.

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Reminders

My holiday depression has reared its ugly head, and it is bringing a renewed problem with cutting.  This is something I’ve had more of a problem with this year than in a while.  Right now, it’s particularly bad.  The cuts are deeper than typical, as I’ve had trouble actually *feeling* the blade, even when I could hear it cut through.  It’s a focus– something to stop my mind spinning.  Cuts are deepened, scars are re-opened, and proof of my life is there on my arms.

My feelings vacillate between absolute numbness and complete overwhelm.  It’s chaotic.  SI breaks the numbness through the pain and blood.  In the day, the pain of bending my arm and the feeling of the cuts rubbing on my sleeves gives me a focus other than what’s going on around me.  When things get far too overwhelming, I can just concentrate on the pain, the one constant in my life right now.

Closure

I’ve been trying to write this post for days but stumbling over the words, just like I did whilst trying to voice them in therapy on Monday.  We’re taking a break from SRA work to focus on grief, particularly grief over my mother’s death.  She died in May of 2004 with the beauty of Spring all around her and the memory of a recent holiday we took together in her mind.  If one is to believe the suicide note she left behind, she felt very alone and like she’d never have a place in my life.  This confuses me greatly, as I always made sure she had a place in my life.  As I moved forward, I would point out how she and I could move forward together.  She would be there.  I took that thought for granted.

My therapist described my mother as an island– no matter how much she was told she belonged, she would never truly believe or accept that.  She could not make those connections completely.  Still, my mind returns time and again to that silly little question we all ask: ‘why.’

Why wasn’t I good enough for her as a child or as an adult?  Why couldn’t she trust that I’d always keep a place for her in my life?  Why did she feel so alone in spite of the people around who loved her?  And why did she feel like living was too big a risk to carry on?

Those are the questions I asked my therapist, and the look in her eyes showed that she felt every bit as helpless as I did.  She said I was searching for a mother I never had but always wanted.  As stereotypically Freudian as that sounds, it’s true.  I think.  It’s not something I can quite accept yet.  We’re going to keep working through this until I’ve reached a point of relative peace.  The therapist says she wants to help me find a sense of closure, to let go of the dark memories of my mother that keep a hold on me still and to keep the positive memories we’ll highlight along the way.

This type of therapy is terrifying to me.  It’s a different kind of fear from the SRA bit.  It’s more personal somehow.  Set any other girl in my situation and my family lineage, and she would have gone through the same SRA treatment I did.  The same can’t be said for what happened with my mother.  The emotions are so intense, and I am not good with that.  In fact, holding back the emotions caused me physical pain, but I still could not let go.  Knowing that we will have future sessions like this, I apologised to the therapist for the possibility of breaking down in her office.  She said she felt like I was supposed to break down at those moments and pointed out that I had wrapped my arms around myself quite tightly in what she referred to as holding things together physically.  That frightened me, but the therapist calmly told me she wasn’t going to unfold my emotions just yet.

As I was leaving, the therapist actually hugged me.  She is amazing, and I am so very lucky to have her helping me learn to let go of the loss and trauma, whilst keeping the good memories of my childhood alive.

This is repressed grief in a fine form, folks.  If you have had a recent loss, start your grieving and learning to cope now.  Putting it off leads to a very ugly situation that can overshadow your life in many, many ways.

Harry Potter & the Godric’s Hollow Graveyard

I identify quite well with the character of Harry Potter.  He’s a wizard; I’m a witch.  His parents are dead; my parents are dead.  His past is marked by evil; my past (and sometimes present) is marked by evil.  Yes, he is completely fictional, but I feel a sort of kinship to the boy stumbling about trying to put together the pieces of himself.

In the second-to-last movie, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 1, he goes back to Godric’s Hollow, his birthplace and the place where his parents died.  There, he sees his parents’ graves for the first time.  The scene is heartbreaking.  From experience, my guess is he realised in that moment that his parents truly were dead.

Fiction, be it in books, films, or any other medium, often touches our lives and sparks strong emotions.  That scene really stuck out in my mind.  I remember seeing my mother’s grave for the first time after her burial.  I struck out, charcoal pencil and paper in hand to trace the head stone.  When I got to the cemetery, though, I immediately wanted to turn back.  I knew my mother was dead.  Still, when I saw that headstone, it was like being kicked in the chest.  The realisation sunk in deeper than it had before.  The old cliche is that definite things are set in stone.  Seeing her name carved in stone with birth and death dates below was almost too much for me to take.  For a minute there, I literally could not breathe.

Death, at least in this incarnation, is set in stone.  We become attached to people, either through blood or choice, and we part by death or by choice.  Regardless, everything dies.  It’s the one definite in life.  The grief it brings matches the love it takes, which is one of the cruelest things about life.  We write about it, talk about it, and even chart ways through it, but really, there are no words for grief.  It is a silent thief that takes what we love the most.  For a time, though, we survive it.  I guess, in actuality, that is one of life’s greatest hopes.

Penance

Therapy has become very difficult.  We’re starting to work through memories of sexual abuse and assault, which is causing so many reactions in my mind.  This came about as the therapist and I searched for the root of my eating disorder.  She kept saying there had to be a trauma root, and I was completely unaware of it.  My therapy homework was to write out the negative thoughts that popped up in my mind when I did anything related to food.  One idea came up time and again: I don’t deserve to eat.  That’s when the trauma connection was made clear.

As a child, my relationship with food was disturbed, to say the least.  Sometimes, it was used for ‘reward.’  I got taken out for ice cream when I did sexual things that were required of me.  It was my ‘reward’ for being a ‘good girl.’  To this day, eating ice cream requires heavy dissociation for me.  We’re working slowly through those memories now, but that’s for another post.

Food was also a punishment sometimes.  My mother would choose which child got to eat on any given night and make that child eat whilst the others watched.  We were told that our behaviour determined whether our siblings could eat.  The chosen child felt horrible, because he or she had to eat whilst the other hungry children watched, knowing they wouldn’t get food that day.  The children who were not fed felt horrible, because they were filled with both hunger and anger.  We were pitted against each other like that.

There was a twisted middle ground, as well.  My mother would buy junk food, allow both my sister and me to eat, and then berate us because all we ever wanted was junk.  If we refused to eat the junk food, we were punished for being ungrateful; if we did eat it, we were taunted for being slovenly.  Not that that would cause food issues in the future, right?  It was the catch-22 we often found ourselves in.  Regardless of the choice, you would be punished.  The real choice was to decide what action would yield the least punishment or the easiest to take.

Fast forward to today.  I don’t want to eat, because eating makes me *feel* slovenly.  When I do eat, I feel guilty and like I should purge it all to avoid being selfish.  It goes back to taking food from others.  I can see my siblings’ faces as I ate when they weren’t allowed to.  Even thinking of it makes me want to throw up.

That brought me to an idea I know trauma survivors will understand: penance.  The things I put myself through, be it self-injury, bulimia, or anything along the spectrum are my penance.  People tell me all the time that it wasn’t my fault and that I don’t have to pay for the things done in my past.  Still, I feel the need to do my penance for all the people who were hurt by my actions and all the people who suffered simply from my existence.  I didn’t even realise this is what I had been doing all these years.

Penance, according to the folks at dictionary.com, is ‘a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.’  All the sins of my past, regardless of whether they were ordered by the cult or controlled by others, haunt my present life.  I do my penance for things I’ve done and seen.  And I have no idea whether I even *want* to move past this.

Poetic Prose

The weather here has been gorgeous.  Temperatures have been in the mid 50s to low 60s Fahrenheit, which is a great departure from the average.  It’s returned to winter this week, though, and the words of James Joyce are dancing about in my head.  His short story collection Dubliners is a literary puzzle that I enjoyed both deciphering and teaching.  The last story, aptly entitled “The Dead” ends with one of the most beautiful passages in literature.  It brings me a sense of peace:

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

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Joyce, James. “The Dead.”  Dubliners.  Prestwick House, Inc, 2006

This Is New

I am *angry.*  Not the positive, motivating anger.  The boiling over, feel like screaming anger.  And I don’t particularly know why.  It’s not an emotion I’m accustomed to.

The obvious guess, of course, is that grief is making me angry.  Time of year, as far as SRA goes, also stirs up some powerful Stuff.  I realise those two issues are likely the cause of my anger, but I can’t quite pinpoint the specifics.  I just know I’m angry and, when I’m not angry, I’m incredibly sad.  Neither of those are particularly pleasant emotions.

The funny and somewhat frightening thing is, I’m not sure I *want* to feel better at the moment.  To some extent, I want to let myself feel miserable until I no longer feel that way.  Another part of me (in a non-DID sense) wants to fight tooth and nail to crawl out of this pit.  I feel too tired to work at not feeling miserable.  And I’m wondering if allowing myself to feel miserable for a bit (but not too long) is actually healthy.

I feel very vulnerable and open right now.  Quite possibly, the anger is protective in that nature.

There’s no real point to this rambling post.  I’m just trying to step out of my mind for a bit by putting my mind on screen, for lack of better terms.

Remember

Grief seems to be taking the forefront now that the flashbacks have calmed down.  This is how things work out with me- when I have a great upset, crisis mode lifts quickly.  Then, things take their turn until the lot of my past has had its say.

I read the poem ‘Remember‘ by Christina Rossetti at my sister’s funeral.  She loved reading and writing poetry, and she was rather good at it.  This poem still comforts me greatly.  Hopefully, it will comfort those of you who have found this blog searching for information about grief and loss, as well:

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann’d:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve;

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

Ghosts

Last week I had the absolute privilege and honour to stay with my family of choice who live at a distance from me.  I only see them once a year, and I cherish every minute of our time together.  Even though parts of the week were a bit mad, it ended with the peace, fun, and love we’re used to feeling while we are together.

Through the entire trip, my mind stayed on my daughter.  That’s not something I was expecting.  I take a bus to my FOC’s house, which amounts to roughly a 20-26 hour ride.  About half-way through, a man sat next to me and told me my daughter wanted to say she loves me and is safe.  Everything inside me went cold.  I guess that should have made me feel better, but it does not.

If the man’s connection actually reached my daughter, that means she can see and hear me.  Does she miss me?  Does she feel grief?  That made me feel like a failed parent, which is not hard to do.  Throughout the week, I thought about how my daughter would have eventually made those trips to visit the FOC with me.  She would have fit in to the stride of things, as well.

As we went through the week, my daughter danced through my mind constantly.  The grief felt acute.  Something about being surrounded by the love and acceptance of my FOC brought light to the glaring hole in my life.  I ached for my daughter.  I imagined her laughter, her smile.

Unfortunately, my sister-of-choice became very ill and had to be hospitalised.  While my concern for her was very deep and I would have done anything at all to help, the hours we spent at the hospital reminded me of that night almost eight months ago when my baby died.  That memory played through my mind so strongly that it seemed to be happening in the present.  I couldn’t breathe.

Surrounded by my FOC, though, I felt safe.  They had no idea my grief was acute at that point; they were struggling so much with simply getting through the issue they were facing.  Adding to their pain would have been the most selfish thing I could do.

I’m happy to report that my sister-of-choice is home from the hospital and seems to be doing very well.  I hope she stays strong and safe.  Hospitals are miserable places.  Even though people heal and are born in hospitals, those buildings are still so full of death and pain.  I wish my sister-of-choice all the best.  Please keep her and her family in your most positive thoughts.  I know they appreciate it.

Six Months

In a few hours we’ll reach the six-month mark of when my beautiful daughter was stillborn.  In part, I feel like it’s an accomplishment- I’ve lived with this pain for six months.  The prevailing feeling is one of fear, though.  I feel like she’s getting further and further away as time passes.  I always want her close.

My greatest fear is that she will become no more than an afterthought.  For me, she will always be significant.  I just want to find a way to make her part of my present life.  I want to know that the world won’t forget that she was here and that she mattered very much to those of us who love her.  I need to know that those close to me will hold her memory in their hearts, as well.

Tonight, I’m re-living her birth and her memorial service detail by detail.  I can’t stop the images, no matter how hard I try.  I miss my baby more than I can say.  She was supposed to have a chance at life.  I can’t imagine anything more cruel.