Determined to Escape
When I was 8 years old, I was determined. I guess that’s not surprising. I have always been determined. But at 8 years old, I was determined to solve problems that no child should ever have to solve. I was looking for a way out of my family. I wasn’t just determined. I was desperate. And I thought I had found the way. That summer, I made a friend in an older college-aged kid. He was safe because he was gay. And at the end of the summer, he was leaving for college. I was convinced he would take me with him.
I have no idea if he ever indicated he would take me. As an adult, I understand the absurdity in that. He would have been charged with kidnapping. Instead of going to college, he would go to jail and make enemies with my evil father. But as a child, I was convinced he was my ticket out of hell. I was sure he would save me. I finally had hope.
Not surprisingly, when he left at the end of the summer, I was devastated. I was partially devastated because the only person I could trust (or so I thought) was gone. But I was more devastated that I wasn’t going to be leaving my family behind. I was stuck there. And my hope was gone. The pain was so intense, I made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide the night he left. After that failed, I made a decision to repress my memories. That was the night that I forgot the pain of my past because there was no way I could cope with it.
For many years, I thought that was it. I put that pain in a special Pandora’s box, never to be opened. After that, any new abuse was stored in the same place. I had put in all away. I was done dealing with it.
Recovering What Was Lost
Of course, that was not the truth. I spent thirty years desperately trying to ignore my past while dealing with anxiety, depression, dissociation and emotional outbursts. And then I chose recovery. And I am glad I did. I have spent so much time with that 8-year-old. I have loved and cared for her. I have helped her to understand why she could not escape the family, why the college kid had to leave. I have told her that none of it was her fault. I have complemented her on her top-notch coping skills. And we have healed together.
My recovery has been a co-conscious process. By that, I mean that I can communicate with her while I am still conscious. I don’t lose time. I am here while she is here. When she writes, I am doing the writing. It is similar to channeling. And while I have to go back and re-read it to ensure I remember everything, I can absorb many of the words as they are written. If you have not tried this, this may sound bizarre, but this is inner part expression in a nutshell. I embody that part and allow them to communicate. But I am still present.
The Latest Discovery in my Journey
While I have never claimed or been diagnosed Dissociative Identity Disorder, I have worked with many who struggled through the realities of lost time and uncooperative alters. I have always related to them because my own parts have been fairly pronounced. But I have been a bit surprised by my latest discovery. In my latest round of memories, I have discovered that my 8-year-old has done more than store painful abusive memories for me. She has indeed taken over. I have lost time. Most of these “take-overs” happened when I was teens and twenties. And they had a similar theme.
She was still searching for that rescuer. If she sensed that someone could take her away from her life of pain, she would begin a desperate chase. Imagine a twenty-five year old acting like she was 8 years old while trying to get the attention of a potential rescuer. And of course, they were all male. And of course, they were not healthy. Going through these memories, I am doing my best not to cringe. I want to support her in her attempts to save herself, while at the same time, educating her about the need to take a different approach. And I am happy to report that these experiences halted when I started working directly with her in recovery (with one extremely infrequent exception).
But I can’t help but wonder if she would come back if faced with another abusive situation. She is the holder of my trauma, my freeze response, my lack of voice, my search for a savior. She holds it all. And while I am working to integrate it, I can’t know for certain what would happen. I want her to let me handle it as an adult, but I don’t know if she trusts me enough for that yet. Maybe that’s why she waited so long to let me see her “take-overs”.
So I move forward in recovery with yet another realization, a new understanding of my journey, a journey that now includes a full-blown alter and time gaps. And I continue to be amazed by the tremendous ingenuity of children in pain. And I continue to be a bit overwhelmed by how deep dissociation can run. Will I ever know everything? I am not sure. But I won’t stop here. I will keep moving forward in understanding. I will keep integrating and healing. I will keep bringing this information to others to release the shame and stigma of dissociation. I have not found a more powerful, complex and misunderstood phenomenon than what happens when children cope with trauma. So I will press on. And I hope you will too. Together we will figure this out.
If you are looking to establish a better relationship with your parts or alters, I offer one-on-one survivor guidance sessions to help you build awareness in your life.