How did I end up here? What forces have driven me to be the person I am today?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past week. Like nature versus nurture, I wonder how much of an impact my experiences have had in shaping the person I am today.
If I was never told I wouldn’t amount to anything, would I still have striven for academic excellence, or would I have been complacent with being average?
If I never had to endure physical or emotional pain, would I still be working to alleviate this pain in others, or would I just be focused on my own needs?
If I never had to muddle through 14 years of therapy and a failing mental health system, would I still find it my purpose in life to become a therapist, or would I have ended up being a (much more financially stable) businesswoman?
If I never grew up being hurt by the very woman that gave me life, would I still be fighting for the countless others that have been abused by women, the countless others that have been ignored and disbelieved because our society doesn’t want to believe that women have the capacity to be abusive?
In many ways, I’ve beaten the odds. Despite being raised by a psychopath, I’ve developed a strong capacity for empathy. Despite experiencing abuse and violence, I’ve chosen to stop the cycle. Despite being programmed not to talk, I’ve become a voice not only for myself, but for others.
Perhaps innateness and experience aren’t that separate. I truly believe there had to have been something in me at birth that allowed me to survive. I know my DID helped me survive, but it had to be something else.
How did I learn what goodness was when my own parents were the complete opposite of goodness? How did I develop morals? How did I know that violence and abuse were not acceptable behavior?
During our last therapy session, my therapist and I talked about the role of my father in the family dynamic. I have realized in the last few months that, as a child, I idealized my father because he was the least horrible of my parents. I modeled some of my behaviors after him, especially the aggression and the physical violence. That probably explains why I never got along well with girls as a child. My rough nature fit in so much better with the boys. Then I guess there came a point when I realized that being like that wasn’t socially acceptable, so I changed.
My therapist asked what role models I had growing up. There had to have been someone positive in my life, someone that I modeled myself after. She asked if I remembered any television shows or movies that had an impact on me. I couldn’t think of anything. Truthfully, I can’t really remember a lot of my childhood. I wish I did.
Then my therapist told me “women who have experienced what you have end up in places like Chowchilla, but you haven’t.” (For background, Chowchilla is a women’s prison in California. The organization has worked with many of the inmates who were victims of mother-daughter sexual abuse as well as non-maternal female-perpetrated abuse). “I could have,” I responded as I thought about the countless times I imagined killing my mother and father, the countless times I researched how to kill a person without leaving evidence behind. I’m probably not that different from those women. The only difference lies in that I never carried out the action. My tendency to over-analyze and my anxiety saved me from ending up in a prison cell. Nothing more, nothing less.
This next week will surely be difficult for me. Holidays were a rough time for me before. I imagine they will still be difficult for me now, even though I’m no longer a prisoner of my own family. I’ve been trying to keep busy and not think about it, but that’s hard to do. I will get through it, though.