The Hole Reality

| By Paul | | Comments (10)

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.

10 Comments


Ann M Garvey said:

"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."

Hi Paul, :)

The quote above is our favorite part of your words today. I love the clarity that you see in life - I know nothing clear about being "in the hole." I know that when I try to write in our blog, we try to do it with all the truthfulness we as a system can understand and communicate. Sometimes we ask questions of ourselves or others, and then other parts contribute to the general knowledge and if we stay painfully honest, then we can trust what parts tell us their/our truths, and then collectively we go forward. Your words put this kind of thinking much better, but I know going back to our doctor's office twice a week, we can be proud of our effort to go forward and face whatever is most important of us that day. It's long, long road, but feel they aren't as broken as perhaps in need of a chance to communicate. Love them "to pieces!" Just takes time and endurance to get to everyone. :)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ann M Garvey:

Thank you Ann. Clarity isn't always there, but it is nice to have now and again! It's awful hard to hold onto as you know. Best wishes to you as you heal.

Nansie said:

Paul this is incredible stuff! You have a continuous flow here that is all connected. This is a milestone for me to see you have. The flow of your day (in your memory) is everything in one stream. I am afraid for me it is still choppy...actually huge gaps. I am working on it though and my T tells me eventually the connections will happen in a way that it all flows...like you just described. I am so impressed as this is what I am looking forward to. I am still calling on different compartments for information and while I think some compartments have made a connection and opened up the flow to each other...they are not all connected. It's so inspiring for me to see this in you! I so wish you well and continuous success with this! So much hard work and so painful too. But all of us here know...if we can get through this and do it there is nothing in life we can't do....I think this is the hardest thing any of us will ever face. Be well!!!! :)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Thanks Nansie! Memories are choppy. Because there is communication, it doesn't really change the experience of life having been and being choppy. For me I think the biggest step was to accept parts, and then things moved forward fast. You are facing it. So, kudos to you!!

Michael Lang said:

Hi Paul,

I've known of your blog for a long while, and have admired your work, writing and insight, both in your own blog and in your comments on those of others. I don't believed I've commented in your space before, but I wanted to, now. This post you've written is tremendous. It takes stock of a long and difficult journey, and examines it with great insight. It is very painful and authentic, but it is filled with the power of your conviction and hope. Thank you for sharing it.

There would be so much to discuss about what you've written, but I definitely wanted to share that I really like your idea about not calling the dissociative injury a disorder. I've been holding onto that idea myself for some time, as I have gained so much respect in my work for the resourcefulness, internal structural creativity, and just ability to survive that many people possess. Of course, there is a great deal of injury, and people have the scars and difficult "symptoms" (loss of time, memory, derealization and depersonalization) to prove it. At the same time, to me, dissociation and dissociative identity is about *functioning* and surviving something unspeakable and unescapable. When that is accomplished in such an organized and functional way (and again, with respect to whether such coping is eventually seen to contribute problematic aspects), who are we, to say to someone that they have a "disorder", perhaps even a "deficit"?

Paul, I hope you will be ok with this, but I really wanted to share … I have a client who, I instinctively felt, needed to hear the voice of a survivor … one expressive, eloquent and matured. She does not connect with other survivors for various reasons, and her lack of exposure, while protective, has also held her back from realizing there are so many others like her. So with her prior permission, I read your post to her in session. She was so very affected by hearing something which often, as she said, described her experience to a "T". It brought her to tears, as well as to an experience, I believe, that she is not alone. Thank you for that, Paul.

Best to you,
Michael

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Michael Lang:

Thank you Michael. It has taken me a long time to get back to the comments, because they've been broken on the site for a while. Thank you for your kind comments! I don't really know what to say. I have looked at DID as both injury and disorder. I wrote about that years ago. I think it can be tricky if one only thinks of it as an injury without feeling the need to change it. But like any injury, it needs/deserves to be healed. I must say I don't really like to talk about DID as an amazing coping. I mean it is. But I can't stay there. Because the ways in which it becomes problematic are huge, and some of it (at least for me) can be really dangerous and objectively I can look at it and it doesn't feel so great. I am of course glad you found this worthy of sharing with someone you thought needed to hear it. There are so many ways in which people are isolated in their own "stuff" and I see this not just with trauma or dissociation but just life in general. But of course with this it's really hard to connect with people who have common experiences. Thank you so much. And I'm glad you wrote!

Evan said:

Great to hear from you again Paul.

That is a very fine piece of writing, thanks.

Paul said:

I apologize that the comments have been down a couple weeks. I just finally sorted it out!

Tracie said:

This really resonated with me today, "I always assumed it was in plain sight for the entire world to see," because it was how I felt for so many years. As if anyone could just look at me and see the whole story on my face. But they couldn't. And I had to learn how to talk and tell and share and heal. One step at a time.

I like what you said about dissociative identity injury. It made so much sense.

There is so much hope in this post. Keep up the fight. You are worth it. Healing is worth it.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Tracie :

Thank you Tracie! This was perhaps the hardest and longest reality to get to: that what happened to me is not visible. Of course many wear their past on their sleeve, and that is up to them. It's just not what works for me. Yes, it's all worth it! Thank you! And thank you for hosting it on the Blog Carnival!

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This page contains a single entry published on August 8, 2013 4:00 PM.

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