The Hole Reality
There is so much happening in my life and I do not know where to begin. But I will. I so want to write here because this place has always been vastly different from my journal. Writing here is always about perspective, taking a step back and making sense. A touchstone. A rung on the ladder.
As with all of us, when life becomes truly complicated, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Life can become one giant load of crap. It can easily not make sense. The metaphor I have been using for the past year is a "hole." It is not a new metaphor for me. Hole in the Sand was a poem I wrote 20 years ago.
But I am not where I was 20 years ago. Or 10 or 5 or 1. I am here. In this moment. Now.
Five years ago, when this blog was born, I was finally able to say "I am not going to accept the status quo any longer."
I said "I am not going to fight for my life only when it's convenient for me or someone else."
I said "My safety has to come first."
I said "I am the number one priority in my life, not any other person including my family."
I said, rather loudly, "I am going to do everything in my power to not fall into that fucking hole!"
But to say that, I had to first know and say, even louder, "I have power."
Twenty years ago I had no ability to make statements like these. But in 2009, just a year after saying such statements, I had finally brought myself to The Contract—my truths. Every day is now about living up to and building on that contract.
Lasting change requires embarking on a journey. A long, difficult, painful and joyous journey which requires scaling mountains, moving mountains if need be, doing the impossible, never saying never, and most importantly never giving up. This journey requires such brutal honesty and an unfettered willingness to look directly into the depths of your psyche and soul. It requires facing anything and everything that is difficult, no matter when it comes up. There is no picking and choosing. There is no putting anything off. The stakes are too high. It requires constant commitment, especially when you are stuck in reverse.
And even with all of that, change is painfully slow. Change is not linear and does not always move forward. That has been such a painful lesson, which has allowed me to cultivate patience.
Eventually, the truth becomes firmly established, and denial falls away. Then if your truth is ever questioned inside or out, you will always be able to stand up, maybe not in that moment, be certain of your truth and speak it, and not look back. For truth is not borne of arrogance or ignorance, but rather strength, perseverance and knowledge.
While I know it is not fair to compare my life or my journey to others, there is a simple reality that I will say just once and then leave alone. I am saying this because it is sometimes how our truth can be questioned—either we or others minimize, normalize or outright dismiss. Challenges some face are harder than others. Some journeys are more complicated, have more mountains and are longer. Some experiences are more traumatic than others. There, I said it! That is just a simple reality. That is life. It just is. It does not mean someone is better or worse than someone else. It just means that what we each face is different. For example, I cannot envision a life without legs (or arms). That, to me, seems impossible. I cannot envision a life where all your children die in a car accident in one fell swoop. And I certainly cannot envision a life where my bathrooms are not clean!
But I can envision a life of an adult who as a child of five was sexually abused in kindergarten, was sexually and spiritually abused by a priest for years in elementary school and middle school, and was sexually abused at the hands of other men through high school and college and beyond, even though I suppose I could have "chosen" to escape it. I can envision a life where religion was perverted and distorted at the hands of others. I can envision a life where the take home message from abusers was that I am worthless (despite the language of "love" sometimes used). I can imagine a life with an ever-present fear and, yes, terror. I can imagine a life where one abuse makes it easier for the next abuse, because my vulnerability was exposed and ripped open and manipulated. I can imagine a life ruled by guilt and shame, mostly because even when physically you escape abuse, inside you do not think you deserve better and you can seek it out. That is very easy.
That was my hole. I did not choose that hole. I was put in that hole.
That was my life—past tense. This, my healing, is what my journey is about—present tense.
My challenge is not so visible. This is the single biggest lesson I have learned from my friends because I always assumed it was in plain sight for the entire world to see. But if you look at me on the street in my day-to-day life, you will see me with my legs and arms. I try to dress nice and be presentable. I smile. I laugh. I love. I always try to be kind to others. I talk to friends. I have a family. I volunteer at my kids' schools and take them to their activities. I keep my yard and house neat. I play piano. I work. I am not perfect at all of these. But I try and I do the best I can. And, yes, my bathrooms are clean!
My challenge is the injury inside my head and the injury to my soul. My scars are mostly inside and they are deep. To survive, to stay alive, I had to do extreme things inside my head to compensate for the emotionally intolerable real-life situations I had to endure. To survive, to simply see another day, I took the different facets of my psyche, which every human being possesses, the different compartments we all hold memories and emotions inside, and drove them into another realm, another dimension. For me, it really has always been about life or death. That may sound overly dramatic, but it is entirely accurate.
We call how my head is structured dissociative identities. These days it is frowned upon to think of them as different people or even to say different personalities. I fully know they are not different people. But I also know the experience of them in the past, much less so in the present, is that they can feel like different people, act like different people, and can be in situations that if you objectively looked at them would say are the lives of different people.
I do not like to call how my head is structured a disorder. I would rather call it dissociative identity injury. Others can call it a disorder and that is fine. But it is an injury, plain and simple. While I often view it as a disorder myself, I must think of it as an injury first and foremost. I am not ducking anything by saying that. Saying that is not a cop out.
Imagine, for a moment, what a typical 24 hour video of my life back in the day may have looked like. Take a day that begins with me as a child not being able to wake up and not wanting to face the world; a day of waking up to fear. I go to school and have lunch and recess with my friends. It's an early release day, so I go to church with the priest where I serve as an altar boy then "hang out" with him in a twisted kind of way where I get sexually assaulted. I come home to milk and cookies and a loving Mom and Dad and friends and street hockey and dinner and studying. I struggle not to throw up (and sometimes fail). I feel terror building as bedtime nears and then I lay for hours staring at the clock minute by minute while trapped in fear. I would often get a phone call from the same priest on the second phone line in the basement and race down to get it so my family will not hear it and find out the whole truth. Because it's all my fault. Because I'm supposed to protect the secret. Protect him. Back in bed, I reenact the assault of earlier in the day until I bleed, purely to have my body be in my control (whatever that meant). Finally, at some hour in the middle of the night and still trying to will the clock through to the next morning, I fall asleep to nightmares of being chased by a murderer. And that is how I wake up, in terror, the next morning. While the details changed, that was the cycle. That was my hole.
Of course because of the way my head was structured, I didn't know all of this video with such perspective. Every piece of it existed in its own place. I could not tell you the "whole story" back then. That was the entire point of how I survived it all.
The sad reality: this is not a rare video. I have met countless others who endured similar intolerable abusive situations. It is not even a video that could only happen many years ago. It happens in the present. Every day. In our neighborhoods.
How I know the truth of this 24 hour video is that I have healed. I have learned how to bring the walls down between the parts of me who exist in different dimensions by building internal trust. I have learned to communicate between them—installing phone lines across "continents." Parts have learned to share—building bridges between "mountains." And the truly cold reality of how I know the truth of this 24 hour video, is that even though I have come so far, my journal in which I am constantly recording how I process my life, will often record such titanic shifts of experience and consciousness which makes it all so real. That is what is my reality. That is my truth.
A long time ago when I met others who said they were abused over and over again by multiple people in different contexts, I would immediately have a judgement and think "There is more to this. Surely, lightning doesn't strike two or three or four times." For years I chose to focus on what was "easy" and what was irrefutable. I was abused by a priest. It was simple. It was known. It was neat. There were records. Sure, I knew about the pieces of the bigger picture. But I was not willing to tie them all together. Until this past year.
That is when I came face to face with the hole last fall. And that is really what never giving up is all about. I stood up in the face of terror. The hole I wrote about 20 years ago came back to me full circle.
As one person, I am determined to live, to thrive, to heal, to be happy, to never wear my past on my sleeve, to never use being a "victim" as an excuse, to make the right choices, to do the right thing. I take responsibility for my actions. I don't have to try that hard to never ever whine about my past. I will not be beat. I will not give up. That is who "all of me" is.
But I have parts of me in a way that is drastically different than most other people. And the reality is that parts of me were broken in a way that I have come to accept is different from other parts of me. I am certainly not, as one person, broken or in a hole. But some parts of me are. Always. That is their existence. That is what they know. They know being hurt. They know how to be hurt. They do not see a way out.
Sometimes the walls go back up and the phone lines are disconnected. Sometimes the past is the present. Sometimes I fall into that hole. Sometimes I am not safe. Sometimes, as one person, I do experience being broken. Because that is reality to some parts of me.
While I have come so far, my journey is not by any means complete. It just changes. I keep going. I keep fighting. I fight for these parts and for all of me.
I hold onto the hope that they are not truly broken. They are still alive after all. I hold onto the hope that there are other parts of me near them willing to reaching out. That they can see, maybe across a long, narrow and tattered bridge, to the other side. I work to reconnect the phone lines. I hold onto the hope that they will connect. That they use their anchors. That they will ask for help. That they will not give up.
And when my fight is not enough... I fight harder.