Acceptance

My mother was a living dichotomy.  She always lived in black and white, with no shades of grey or soft edges.  As I explore more about our relationship and her death in therapy, I see the effects of that dichotomy on my present life.  I loved my mother dearly and am very glad to have been able to help her.  That’s always been clear to me.  Lately, though, I’m also feeling a bit of anger towards her in terms of my role as parent for her.  Bit of a reversal.

Arguments with my mother never seemed to have true starts and stops.  Rather, they began very suddenly, hit a peak at some point, and died down.  I never knew when the same problem with start again, though.  She chastised me for crying, called me hard-hearted for being stoic, and mocked any sign of fear.  The day after such an argument, though, she was very verbally repentant.  In fact, I never knew how to respond to her feelings.  If she apologised and I accepted, it meant that I thought she was wrong and would always hold that against her.  If I said nothing, it meant that her apology was not accepted and that I hated her.  She would threaten suicide, talk horribly about herself and cause herself serious physical  harm, all because– if she was to be believed– I made her feel bad for having treated me badly.  The therapist told me my mother and I had an unhealthy dependence on each other; she started to take responsibility for her actions, but I did not allow her to.  I was always so confused.

Move forward a bit over a decade, and my mother takes her life in response to the thought that I would move away and leave her on her own.  The task falls on me, now, to break the pattern and get rid of the hold my mother has on my life.  This is really quite difficult, as it involves admitting the problems with my mother’s perspective and accepting that perhaps she was wrong about me.  This also means accepting that my perspective of her has been a bit skewed.  Not wrong, per say, as I always admitted she did some awful things.  I have not, however, looked at those things in terms of myself.  The therapist says I need to stop looking at what happened in terms of how it affected my mother and how I could have helped her.  Instead, she wants me to look at how incidents affected *me* then and how they affect me still.  Frightening prospect.

Driving home today, I was thinking about the emotions that surrounded my mother’s death.  In the midst of it all, that dichotomy still existed.  I was gutted by the loss, but a part of me recognised the feeling of liberation.  This is something I’ve felt guilty about for the past nine years.  Today, however, I learnt that it is simply a fact.  I’d give anything to have my mother back.  She is dead, however.  She isn’t coming back.  Full stop.  According to the therapist, recognising the possibility of freedom from the pattern my mother and I built is a step in regaining control and accepting the place– both positive and negative– my mother has in my life today.

Sarah McLachlan says it best in her song ‘Plenty‘:

I used to think my life was often empty

A lonely space to fill

You hurt me more than I ever would have imagined

You made my world stand still

And in that stillness, there was a freedom

I’d never felt before

Transformations

I think one of the saddest things one can see is the transformation in the eyes of a child who goes through tragedy.  This change was quite clear in my sister’s eyes, and I’ll never forget that.

My sister was an accident, to say the least.  The cult wanted my parents to have only two children.  With my sister’s birth, then, came rather serious punishment for my parents.  Actually, her birth is what led to my parents’ divorce and my father’s moving to America.  So much changed with that child.  After my father moved away, my mother sister and I ended up living outside the underground compound.  Needless to say, that was preferable.  The cult was still a major presence in our lives, but we were in society, for lack of better terms.  There was more than just them.

I looked at this as a chance to give my sister a better life.  She was only a few months old when we went above ground, and I was thrilled that she would have no memories of that.  Of course, things changed when I started my leadership training.  She was aged seven years when we were taken back underground.  Even though she had lived with some cult violence, as well as the violence our mother sometimes inflicted, she had not experienced anything close to that underground world.  The transformation in her eyes was immediate.

I tried as best as I could to protect her, but we were eventually separated so that I could continue my training.  I have no idea what happened to my sister during that time.  She never spoke of it.  She did, however, look hollow when we re-emerged, and her laugh was guarded.  Everything about her was guarded.  It broke my heart.

My sister was almost ten when we got away from the underground world and moved to London.  Eventually, she started to thrive.  She attended a school with a programme specifically for students with behavioural disorders, and she quickly proved to be the most intelligent student in her year.  She was like a little adult, for the most part, with wit and nerve that challenged even my friends, most of whom were at least seven years older than her.  Words cannot do justice to the amazing person she was.

There was a darker side to her, though, and I’m guessing that’s what led her to take her life that December almost eleven years ago.  She died three days after her twelfth birthday, and her death, much like her birth, changed everything.  I’ve ‘introduced’ her to my family-of-choice and best friend through stories about her life.  They seem to love her, although they will never get a chance to meet her.  My brother-of-choice recently said nobody should have to carry around the stuff my sister had to carry in her mind.  His words touched me deeply.  I wanted so much to protect this child who was so much more fragile than she seemed.

As my former therapist said, my sister went out on a high note.  Her twelfth birthday was quite the bash.  We had music, cake, and all of the unicorn stickers she could imagine.  We also had the people she loved.  Her eyes and her smile that day were not the least bit hollow.  They were genuine.  I’d like to think that at least her last few days were spent in happiness.

It’s quite fitting that my sister’s favourite song, ‘Shades of Gray‘ by the Monkees, carries a message much more mature and regretful than any twelve-year-old should understand.

May the gods, goddesses, and any other pantheon of beings take care of this special child who is, I hope, surrounded by love and happiness.

And may they have the strength to keep her in check.

_________________________________________________________________

I remember when the answers seemed so clear.

We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear.

It was easy then to tell truth from lies

Selling out from compromise

Who to love and who to hate

The foolish from the wise

But today there is no day or night

Today there is no dark or light

Today there is no black or white

Only shades of gray…

Hills & Valleys

I can’t seem to climb out of this grief valley right now.  I know I will, but for now the sun is rather dark.  That’s an interesting effect of grief- sometimes, sunny days truly do look dark.  It’s beautiful outside today.  The temperature is mild, the humidity is low, and there’s barely a cloud in the sky.  Still, I just feel like covering my head and waiting for the outside to reflect how I feel inside.

All of this got me thinking about the moment just before a funeral starts.  Most acutely, my grief involves my daughter.  I can’t imagine a more painful blow than the death of a child.  My world will never be the same, and it’s still not close to stable again.  In the moments just before my daughter’s memorial service, I wanted to run as far from that chapel as I possibly could.  I didn’t think I could get through it.  The music we chose was already stabbing at me, and I just knew the prayer of committal would drop me to my knees.

We had a little table set up with things to honour my daughter.  Someone gave me a beautiful ceramic angel in the palest of pink colours, and I ordered a sunset picture with her name written in sand.  The nurses took a picture of her after they had cleaned her and I had dressed her.  All of that looked somewhat out of place next to the tiny urn that held her ashes.  Life and death, beauty and desolation laid out right there before our eyes.

When the reverend came in, I stopped breathing.  His presence made things so final.  This was really the memorial service for my daughter, and she was really dead.  I made it through the service, staying relatively composed throughout it, talked to the reverend very briefly afterward, and completely fell apart in the safety of my best friend’s arms once we were alone.  Even now, as I write this almost nine months after the service, I feel like my entire body is breaking open.

Hope is missing from my life, as is the feeling that there is a rhyme or reason for the world afterall.  Even with the trauma in my past and all of the losses before this one, I was able to keep some hope and faith in something larger than us.  Now, I truly have trouble accepting that any supernatural being would be so cruel as to end the life of a child.  The service had a Christian theme.  My best friend’s mother, a devout Christian, planned the service, and I was ok with that.  At that point, an appeal to any being at all to take care of my child was fine.

We used the song ‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink.  I think anyone who has lost a baby can relate to this song.  You can listen to it here, and the lyrics are listed below.  If you’ve lost your baby, my deepest condolences go out to you and your family.  I hope that, regardless of faith, this song is a comfort to you.

———————————————————

‘Still’ by Gerrit Hofsink

I’ve been waiting for you
For such a long time
You’re always on my mind

And I’m lying awake
Most of the night
Waiting to hold you tight

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
This can’t be true

Chorus:

Lost you before I found you
Gone before you came
But I love you just the same
Missed you before I met you
On earth we never can
But in heaven we’ll meet again

Close to my soul
Close to my heart
Right from the start

Lost in time, lost in space
Can’t wait to see your face

Now that I do
And look at you
My heart is breaking
I know it’s true

Chorus

Sometimes I find myself wondering what to do
With this pain that I’m going through
But I know one day, God will take me away
And I’m coming home to you

And when I do
And look at you
My heart is healing
I know it’s true

Chorus

I Just Feel It

‘In My Life’ is my absolute favourite Beatles song.  It has a ‘looking back’ undertone, but it’s also hopeful.  It’s recognising that, although you’ll always look back at people you loved and lost, you’ll also move forward.  My sister had a habit of putting on really bizarre sunglasses, making a peace sign with her hands, and saying ‘I feel it.  I just feel it.’ when she related to a song.  That was hysterical coming from a child who hadn’t reached the double digits in age.  I’ll have to agree with her just this once, though.  When it comes to the song ‘In My Life,’ I feel it.  I just feel it.  🙂

There are places I remember all my life

Though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone

And some remain

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends

I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I’ve loved them all


Comfort in Strange Places

As anyone who knows me can attest to, I have a very hard time with outward expressions of emotion. Actually, dealing with loss is the only thing that has left me unable to control my tears. That is so very frightening to me. The comfort in strange places bit comes from a time like that soon after my sister’s death. The memory of the day I cleaned out her school locker still pierces me from time to time. The song ‘Box of Rain’ from the Grateful Dead album ‘American Beauty’ (if I remember correctly) kept playing over and over in my mind that day.  It was an amazing comfort to me. Sitting alone by the ocean that night, I was thinking about the image of a box of rain, and that helped me open up all the Stuff I had held back through the funeral and all the formalities.  The irony of the group’s name is twisted, if nothing else, but I’ve always loved their music, and you take any comfort you can find at times like that.

As I attempt to deal with my daughter’s death, some lyrics from that song keep popping in my mind. A box of rain will ease the pain, and love will see you through. Lately, I’ve thought about the losses in my life and wondered if my parents and siblings welcomed my daughter. Even a glimpse through this blog makes it obvious that my family wasn’t exactly healthy. Still, they were my family. I have no idea if they exist or where they are, but I’d like to think they are together and happy. I have so many questions for them and so many questions for the Universe at large. Sometimes the world really can be a phenomenally unfair place.

It’s just a box of rain

I don’t know who put it there

Believe it if you need it

or leave it if you dare

And it’s just a box of rain

or a ribbon for your hair

Such a long long time to be gone

and a short time to be there

On the Outside

I’ve been thinking a great deal about the ‘technical’ aspects of SRA lately.  The what is done and how it’s done bit.  Programming is *incredibly* sophisticated, and I don’t really want to go into that at the moment.  I do, however, want to recommend a song: ‘When I’m Gone’ by 3 Doors Down.  Driving to school a few weeks ago, I heard this song for this first time in years.  The first two lines struck at the centre of me.  So much stays locked up inside SRA survivors, even to those closest to us.  In talking with my closest friends, I avoid certain areas.  No one will benefit from hearing the more grisly aspects of life inside a satanic cult.  I’ve always tried to express what talking with ‘outsiders’ about SRA feels like.  That protective hesitance.  These lines from ‘When I’m Gone’ express it perfectly.

There’s another world inside of me that you may never see.

There’s secrets in this life that I can’t hide.

The whole song expresses quite well the things I could never say.  I’ve been trying to put into words what it’s like to separate the emotion (as much as possible) from the business of SRA, for lack of better terms.  That’s how it’s done inside cults.  I had to suppress emotions, sometimes as a means for survival, and carry through with things.  In the early years, thinking about my younger sister got me through.  There were so many times when we were separated, and I was terrified of what might have been happening to her.  If this song had been out all those years ago, I’d have told her to sing it to herself.  The chorus is exactly what I’d want to say to her.  I wanted to tell her she could keep her faith in me, even when I wasn’t around.  I wanted her to know I’d always be the something stable she could hold on to.  Still, she got me through so much– I *had* to get through in order to get her through.  In that sense, we saved each other.  I was never able to let her know just how strong and powerful she was, even as a small child.  She was my motivation and the strength I needed to get through some of the darkest times in my life.  She was amazing.

Anyway, the song ‘When I’m Gone’ is performed by 3 Doors Down, from their 2002 album ‘Away from the Sun.’  It was written by Brad Arnold.  Click here to listen to the song.

There’s another world inside of me

That you may never see

There’s secrets in this life that I can’t hide

Somewhere in this darkness

There’s a light that I can’t find

Maybe it’s too far away

Or maybe I’m just blind

Maybe I’m just blind…

Chorus

So hold me when I’m here

Right me when I’m wrong

You can hold me when I’m scared

And love me when I’m gone

Everything I am

And everything in me

Wants to be the one

You wanted me to be

I’ll never let you down

Even if I could

I’d give up everything

If only for your good

So hold me when I’m here

Right me when I’m wrong

You can hold me when I’m scared

You won’t always be there

So love me when I’m gone

Love me when I’m gone…

***

When your education x-ray

Cannot see under my skin

I won’t tell you a damn thing

That I could not tell my friends

Roaming through this darkness

I’m alive but I’m alone

Part of me is fighting this

But part of me is gone…

Chorus

Love me when I’m gone

When I’m gone

When I’m gone

When I’m gone…

Strawberry Fields Forever

I’ve had that song stuck in my head for several days now, and that’s not particularly unpleasant.  It’s a lovely song.  Listening to it today, though, I conceptualised the lyrics in a new way.  There’s a bit that resounds with me and will likely resound with other SRA survivors–

Always, know sometimes think it’s me

But you know I know when it’s a dream

I think I know I mean ah yes

but it’s all wrong

That is I think I disagree.

Coming out of SRA means learning how to live in a whole new world.  It’s definitely a much *better* world, but it’s still different.  Sometimes I’ve felt like a complete and utter failure in this new world.  That’s something the cult counts on– survivors who make it out really do feel disoriented at first, which can send you screaming back to what you know.  It’s the same with ‘regular’ abuse.  You go with what you know.  That’s how the world makes sense to you.  Leaving means creating a whole new world, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity.  I like my new little world, and I love the people who are a part of it.  🙂

Back to the song, then.  Sometimes I *have* thought it was me– I’ve thought that I will always belong to the cult simply because it’s what I deserve, like it’s what my life *should* be like.  When I feel like that, though, my FOC are always there to help me see otherwise.  And learning that it isn’t a dream– the good or the bad– is a struggle all survivors deal with.

After all this time, though, I’d like to think I’ve at least *started* to live my own life.  I know I disagree with what I was taught and the treatment all those hurt by SRA had to endure.  The outside world is life.  Friends and family are love.  The world, overall, really is a good place.  Reality is life outside of the cult.  Reality is breaking free from programming to live in this world.

And I know I know when it’s a dream.

The Initial Loss

This post is about suicide linked to SRA and is a bit graphic.  If you are a survivor of SRA, please take care in reading this and stop if you feel triggered.

My younger sister took her life on 7 December 2000, three days after her 12th birthday.  That day is etched in my memory.  It was raining.  I’d stopped on my way home from work to collect my mother from her friend’s house.  When we got back to the flat, I found my sister dead on the bathroom floor.  She had taken a fatal dose of pain killers and cut both of her wrists.  No mistaking that she was serious in her actions.  She also left me a beautiful poem and a note apologising for having gotten blood on my new jeans.  That’s the kind of person my sister was– quirky and creative, but with a dark sense of humour and wisdom well beyond her years.  I miss her terribly.

Because of our circumstances, I ended up acting as parent to my sister.  I was very young, so she didn’t have the support she needed in a parent.  Still, I did my best to make her as safe and happy as possible.  Unfortunately, she got caught up in my mother’s abusive behaviour and drawn underground into the cult world as well.  I would have given anything to stop that happening.  My sister was my friend and my inspiration.  It was her who motivated me to survive some of the most difficult sra programming I faced– I *had* to survive in order to get her out.

We did eventually get out, settled in London, and into some semblance of a normal life.  My sister attended a special school for ‘troubled’ individuals, and she did well there.  She truly seemed to be healing.  Her death was such a shock.

She was an amazing person.  She was more mature as a young child than many people are as adults.  She learnt to speak early, composed little poems from a very young age, and spouted sarcastic jokes at all possible occasions.  She liked teddy bears and tea parties, although by the time she was twelve she would never have admitted it.  She was frequently my shadow, following me everywhere and quietly observing everything around her.  Her social skills were almost nonexistent, which made for some ‘interesting’ visits with her teachers.  No one seemed to know quite how to work with her.  Academically she excelled so much she probably could have *taught* some of the classes her age group took, but she nearly always failed at group work of any kind.  She was much more content to stay in our little flat with me there.  As mature and intelligent as she was, she was also incredibly fragile.  I guess she just reached a point where she couldn’t cope with life any longer.  Twelve years is much too little time, though.  She should have had more.  She should have had a chance to heal.

Her death started a chain of events that still makes my head spin.  Over the next four years, my brother and our parents had died as well.  I’m seeing more and more that, in order for me to heal at all, I have to process that initial loss.  I thought I’d done that already.  A few years ago a dear friend helped me work towards releasing my sister’s spirit.  I felt her restlessness and wanted to help her move on to wherever we go after we die.  Now it’s my own restlessness I have to deal with.  The chorus of a song called ‘My Immortal’ by Evanescence sums up my feelings well:

When you cried, I’d wipe away all of your tears.

When you’d scream, I’d fight away all of your fears.

I held your hand through all of these years.

But you still have all of me.

I need to reclaim the parts of me (in a non-DID sense) that I’d invested in taking care of my sister.  I have to let go of her once and for all and break the hold she still has on me.  It’s a difficult task, but it’s necessary in order for me to process her death and the events that came after.  I need to make myself realise that my sister is no longer here, and that the time has come now for me to concentrate on taking care of myself.  Tonight, though, I’m caught up in the pain of losing her and the anger about how she died.  I just wish she was here again and that everything could be alright.

New Page

For those of you who read the blog via RSS or mail programmes, I wanted to let you know I’ve added a page on song recommendations, called, appropriately ‘Song Recommendations’.  It’s at the top of the homepage and will be added to probably more often than one would think.  That’s another thing about DID– millions of opinions on the same subject.  🙂

The Boxer

Excellent song by Simon and Garfunkel that I relate to in an odd way.  It’s not exactly my story, but so much of it resonates with me.

There are days when I just feel tired.  Not in the sense that I didn’t get enough sleep, but in the sense that the weight of my past settles on me and I feel unable to stand with that weight on my shoulders.  It’s hard to explain, but I’m guessing many of the trauma survivors who read this will know exactly what I mean.

‘The Boxer’ talks about someone who leaves home early and survives the streets on his own.  The last few lines are what I relate to so well, and again, I’m sure this will resonate with other trauma survivors as well:

In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade,

And he carries the reminders of ev’ry glove that laid him down

Or cut him till he cried out in his anger and his shame

‘I am leaving, I am leaving.’

But the fighter still remains

Regardless of the trauma, people have an innate sense of survival.  Even if we have to back out sometimes or take routes we don’t exactly want to take, the fighters within us still remain.