Ruined

Research shows that people who have experienced sexual abuse in childhood are four times more likely to work in prostitution than people who have not.

It doesn’t surprise me at all. Because it’s happened to me.

I’ve done things I really shouldn’t have. I didn’t end up on street corners putting myself in danger, but I definitely put myself in situations in which I did things I didn’t need to. Yet it wasn’t just about the money.

People constantly judge, asking how someone could degrade themselves like that. But I was already degraded. I was already ruined. And it wasn’t my choice.

It’s inexplicable just how damaging it is when your first sexual experiences were with your own mother. I had sex before I even knew what sex was. I felt shame before I even knew what shame was.

My mother created a never-ending cycle, a lose-lose situation that I could never, ever win. I was programmed not to say no; saying no got you punished. Yet saying yes meant I was a whore. Any time my mother believed I was being remotely sexual (and I really wasn’t — what seven year-old is), I had to be cleansed of my sins. After a while, I started to wonder what was wrong with me, why the evil hadn’t left me. I’d been burned so many times, I learned not to feel.

It just got worse as I got older. There were constant accusations. I couldn’t stay after school to work on group projects because my mother believed I was having sex. She accused me of posting nude pictures online; I never did. She’d pull these crazy ideas from I don’t know where. Even when I was an adult, she’d accuse me of being in relationships with people at work. She accused me of having sex with my (female) boss; she was just my friend. She’d also accuse me of having sex with several coworkers. When I would stay late at work (to avoid going home), she claimed I was at work having sex. She continually reminded me how much of a sinner I was and what a whore I was.

None of what my mother claimed was ever true. And I knew that, on some level. But I became conditioned to believe that I was a whore. That something inside me made me this way. There was a defect in me that everyone could see but me. After all, normal, pure kids don’t do these things with their own mother. Maybe I made her do it. She always said she was trying to help me, but maybe I was just too damaged from that start.

I never had the chance to form my sexual identity. I grew to fear sex. Unless it involved my mother, it was somehow wrong. Yet in an intellectual way, I knew that if it involved my mother, it WAS wrong. There was no right way. It was all wrong. It was all bad.

Once I was a teenager and really understood sex and sexual identity, I realized that my body, my sense of self, was already ruined. While others my age talked about losing their virginity, I had already lost mine, more than ten years prior, to my own mother. It was never my body; she stole it from me. It was hers. All of it. All of me. It was hers.

The fear of telling someone no overruled my life for years, even after I managed to run away. While my body was no longer being damaged by her, I let it be damaged by others. I was already ruined; there wasn’t much more anyone could do to me to make me hate myself any more than I already did. All those years she called me a whore, it stuck with me. It was like a prophecy that needed to be fulfilled.

Before I left IOP over a month ago, I made a promise to someone very important to me that I wouldn’t engage in that type of shit anymore. I promised I wouldn’t put myself in any kind of situation that would cause that weakness in me. And I haven’t. It was easy to do, a lot easier than I thought it would be. One less thing to worry about.

Except I didn’t account for all the possibilities. I managed to avoid  not-so-healthy people who had been involved in my life before, but I forgot about the not-so-healthy people who I couldn’t avoid — the strangers, the acquaintances, the come-and-goers.

I was sitting on the bus the other day, on my way home from a doctor’s appointment. I was emotionally drained. There was man on the seat across from me; I’d seen him many times before, but never really engaged much aside from hello. This time, he started telling other passengers that I was his fiance. I told him to shut up, but he didn’t. He just kept saying it. When the bus emptied out a little, his comments got worse. He told me what I could do to him, and all the things he could do to me. I just frozen. As much as I should have told him to fuck off, I couldn’t say anything.

I could feel the nausea kicking in almost instantaneously. I showered as soon as I got home, trying to scrub away the feeling of being dirty. But as much as I washed, I didn’t feel any better. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head. This was my fault. I was a whore. He must have sensed it in me. That’s why he said those things and made those gestures. Somehow he just knew.

I was afraid. Afraid my mother would find out. Afraid I would be punished. I believed his actions were my fault, just like my mother taught me — look what you made me do. 

It was always something I did, something I was, something I said. It was never anyone else, and never her. But that was her falsity, not the reality.

One day I want to be able to decipher between the two. One day, I want to tell her, look what you did to me. Look how you ruined me.

Art

I haven’t been able to write much. There’s a lot going on, both inside and outside of myself. I’m hoping to write soon.

But as I continue working to get words on my screen that make sense, I thought I’d share some artwork (though I’m not sure it qualifies as art) that I’ve done in my time at PHP.

I’m not an artistic person. Sitting in an art class makes me want to flee. But it’s not an option when you’re in group. You have to do something.

The first time I was in art, the therapist asked us to create something surrounding the words “I am”. While most people went right to drawing images, my mind went to writing words. But every word that was popping into my head was negative. It wasn’t that those words were untrue — they were my reality for a very long time. But they weren’t anymore. I didn’t want to ignore those parts of me. They still made up who I was. But I am more than that now. So for each truth of my past, I wrote the reality of my present. The totality of who I am.

That was one art class down. Only dozens more to go. So I decided to do a collage. At first, I chose to do one because it would take up a lot of time. I could spend several (collective) hours just flipping through magazines, killing time so I wouldn’t have to do anything artsy. And that’s exactly what I did. I flipped through at least a dozen magazines, cutting out whatever stood out to me. Words, phrases, pictures. Before I knew it, I had a whole baggie full of magazine clippings.

As I went through what I had cut out, I realized that every thing I chose had a purpose. Words that described me. Phrases that inspired me. Pictures that I liked. This collage is me. Every piece has a meaning. Each section is a story. Past. Present. Future. It’s me.

I may not have been able to write much these last few months. But these are my words; just in a different form.

Who am I? I don’t know.

In many ways, I am an open person. I’ve shared my life. I’ve shared my experiences. I’ve shared my diagnosis with the world. But there are still aspects of my DID that I am just not that open about.

I’m a member of quite a few online DID groups. I don’t participate very much on a personal level; I tend to stick with answering questions, diffusing conflicts, and offering support. I think some of that is because I don’t feel like I belong, I don’t feel like my experiences are close to most other people’s.

People talk about their systems like they are a well-oiled machine. Everyone communicates, everyone loves each other, everyone has a purpose. Hell, everyone even has a name. It seems so perfect. It seems like the exact opposite of what I have. No one wants to hear oh yea, I am pretty oblivious to many of my parts, and there’s a lot of anger and sadness and stress and my parts are existing in chaos.

And then there’s the numbers. It’s so common for people to introduce themselves and include a number. My name is Bobby, I have five alters. There is so much focus on how many parts each person has. While I was contributing my writing to the book on living with DID, I was asked to state how many parts I had. I was the only writer that did not include a number, and that genuinely surprised me.

How many parts do I have? Way too fucking many. I don’t count. I don’t keep track. That seems like the most daunting task in the world. Why do people need a number? Why do they need a list?

My parts don’t all have names. I may have a K and a Charlie and an Anna, but I’ve also got a whole lot of KJs and even more than that who are nameless. And some of them aren’t whole; some are pieces and pieces of pieces. I’m not Bobby with five alters. I’m KJ, and I’m a broken mess.

I go through life on autopilot. Who is running the show? I don’t really know, but it’s probably not me. I may wake up in the morning as KJ, but I can guarantee by the time I get to work, I’ve already dissociated at least twice, five more times by lunchtime, and a dozen times more by dinner. I may start a conversation with you, but 9 times out of 10, I’m not the one there when the conversation ends.

It’s my name on the paycheck, but it’s not always me doing the work. But as long as the work gets done, right? I play it off when my boss notices things. “Hey, your voice changed again!” I respond, “Oh, it’s because I’m not from here.” But I know that’s not the reason at all.

I don’t remember things. What I did last week. What I did yesterday. What I did ten minutes earlier. I try to fill in the gaps when I can, but it’s not always easy. People get frustrated. I just tell them I have a bad memory. How can I explain to them that I’m not always me? Hell, I don’t even know who me is to begin with.

I don’t know where I end and another part begins, or where I begin and another part ends. I don’t even know if I am someone, or maybe just a part. I know I exist, in the physical sense. But I don’t know who I am any more than I know who my neighbor is.

I’m so ashamed. I fear that if people really knew just how out of it I am so much of the time, they would know how broken and how out of control I am. They would know how much I have failed at my own life. I am too broken, literally and emotionally. To know that side of me is to know how much of a failure I am. So I try to hide it. I can admit I have DID, but I damn sure can’t tell you how broken I am. Let’s just keep pretending, please.

Who am I? I don’t know.

Who am I? Ask me again in five minutes or so. Maybe then I will know.

changed

Who are you?

Who are you?

A simple question. Just three words. Nine letters total. Yet, it is the hardest question I’ve ever had to answer.

I’ve been working on my graduate school applications. The hardest part has been the personal statement. Nearly every graduate school requires one, and the two I am applying to are no exception. It should be easy, right? I’m a good writer. I’m intelligent. This should be a piece of cake.

Except it’s not. Because they want to know who I am. And I don’t know who I am.

In the first 29 years of my life, I never had the opportunity to be me. Everything I was, was based on what my mother wanted for and of me. She decided where I went to school. She decided where I worked. She had control over the food. She had control over everything.

That is why I have so much trouble, even today, making any kind of decision. I’ve had to have other people order food for me because I couldn’t decide on what I should eat. I nearly had a breakdown at Dunkin Donuts yesterday. The woman asked if I wanted the doughnut with or without sprinkles, and I froze. She asked again, and I struggled to find words. I wanted to cry. Over sprinkles.

Even the most basic facets of a person’s identity are complicated for me. The only thing I can say for sure, 100% of the time, is that I am a human being. Everything else? Complicated. Am I a woman? Yes, I have the anatomy, I guess. But I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in front of the restrooms in a public place and had to remind myself which gender I was, because there are times when I’m not really sure what I am.

For many, family shapes who they are. I don’t have that. I have no connection to my parents, no connection to my brother. I have no knowledge of my mother’s side of the family at all. Half of my genetic contribution, and I know nothing about it. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Shit, I’m still holding out hope that I was adopted. The very little I knew about my birth was a lie; I found out when I applied for a social security card last year that my place of birth was not what my mother told me. Was anything the truth?

Maybe I wasn’t even born. Maybe I don’t exist at all. I don’t even know anymore. Did I ever know?

Most times I don’t feel myself, if I even knew what being myself would feel like. Is this me, or is it a part of me? I don’t know how to tell the difference. What is my name today? I don’t know that, either. I guess I’ll just answer to anything.

I’ve had an identity that was always based on other people. I was never me, I was always Lori’s daughter. I am feeling angry, this means I am my father. I am a woman, this means I am my mother. I have never been me.

In many ways, my identity was stolen from me. I was never allowed autonomy as a child. I was never allowed to make choices for myself. Every aspect of my life was chosen for me; everything was controlled by my mother. How am I supposed to know who I am now if I never had the chance to be anybody?

I can’t be like her

I’ve written before about my fear of being anything like my mother.

That fear comes in all forms.

Whenever someone would comment about how much I looked like my mother, it made me sick. I would respond very calmly, “Please don’t say that.”

But they always continued to say it. Because I did look like her. And I felt the disgust and hatred and fear building up inside of me every time. I would run to the nearest bathroom and cry. I’m just like her. Other people are saying I’m just like her. It has to be true. I would punish myself for looking like her, as if it were something I had control of.

I hid my feminine attributes because I figured it would make me less like her. If I don’t look like a woman, I’ll be okay. I’d squish my breasts flat so I could look more like a boy. I’d wear baggy sweatpants and t-shirts. I changed my hair color and style (which didn’t work, because my mother would soon change her appearance to copy mine). I tried so hard NOT to look like her. I hated myself for being a woman because my mother was a woman. But that was something I don’t  have the power to change.

Even though now, I don’t have to deal with anyone saying how much I look like her, I am still reminded of our similarities in other ways. And I hate it.

I continue to try my best to be the total opposite of her.

I involve myself in relationships with types of people who I know my mother would never associate with.

I deny myself the privilege of having children because being a mother would make me my mother, and children don’t deserve to be hurt by me.

I have turned away from God because my mother continually paraded as a Christian.

It’s not even just the major things. I avoid her favorite foods and drinks: cookie dough ice cream, Dr. Pepper, Kit Kat bars. While I know eating and drinking those things won’t change who I am, a part of me believes it brings me that much closer to being just like my mother.I avoid things I really enjoy because they are things that my mother enjoyed. It’s not fair.

I was eating a chocolate Poptart the other day, and out of nowhere, realized that my mother also ate them quite frequently. I stopped eating it and threw it away, completely disgusted with myself. We like the same things. I’m destined to be just like her.

A big reason why I have problems with anger is because I associate anger with my mother. She would often fly into rages; it was her normal. So now when I feel angry, I connect that feeling with being like her, and I try to suppress it. Except that suppressing anger rarely works. Instead it builds up inside, and ends up exploding at some point. And then it proves the point. I am just like her now.

My mother: consumer of chocolate, soda drinker, Christian, woman, mother, narcissist, sociopath, child abuser.

Me: a product of my mother.

I don’t want to be like her. I can’t be like her. But I am.

Changes

After my therapy session and subsequent blogging Tuesday night, I decided to go ahead and make some changes for myself.  For the first time ever, I have control of who I am and who I want to be.

I wanted to change my hair color.  I could have just bought a box of hair dye from the drug store, but I wanted to do something different.  I went to a salon, for the first time ever.  I got 10 or so inches cut off and layered.  I told the stylist the color I wanted and she immediately made me feel like it was a bad decision.  She said it wouldn’t look right, and that I’d regret it.  Usually in circumstances in which people disagree with me, I give in to their wants without a fight.  But this time, I stood up for myself.  I told her I knew what I wanted, and eventually, she gave in.  I went from one side of the color spectrum to the other; the change was drastic…and I love it.  I received a lot of compliments on it, which made me feel even better about my decision.  The best part?  My mother can’t copy me.  She has no idea what I look like.  It’s freeing in a way that I can’t explain.

I also did some shopping for myself.  I bought new glasses, some jewelry, and a nice shirt.  I probably would have gotten a tattoo as well if I knew where there was a tattoo shop around here.  I should think that through a little more, anyway.  I don’t want to turn into one of those out-of-control youngsters who goes crazy once they get a taste of freedom.  I’m too old for that now.

As if that wasn’t enough for one day, I decided to go to the beach…by myself.  I was just going to sit on the far end away from the water and absorb the sun, but by the time I got there it was windy and there was not much sun.  I didn’t want my efforts to get to the beach to go to waste, so I took a chance and went into the ocean.  This was big for me.  I’ve mentioned in a previous post that I tried to drown myself in the ocean.  I’ve managed to avoid anything further than dipping my toes in the water for that reason.  I didn’t want a flashback.  I didn’t want to go back to that place.  And since I was alone, I was taking a chance that if I went back to that place, I’d have no one to pull me back to reality.  But I did it.  I went in.  At one point, the waves knocked me right down on my ass and I just sat there for a while as the water pushed and pulled me back and forth.  But I got through it.

Maybe it was the physical changes I had made that put me in a different place.  Maybe it was the Adderall I had taken the night before so I could get my paper done.  Who knows.  I feel like a different person.  Even small changes can mean so much to a person.

I am not my mother.

I am not my mother.

It is such a simple sentence, yet it is an extremely difficult concept for me to embrace.

I try to avoid thinking about it as much as possible.  But when I was at a group-therapy workshop this past Sunday, I participated in a body image project that brought up a lot of those feelings.  It took everything in me not to just color over my body outline and stab the paper.  I’ve always had difficulty connecting to my body.  I’ve always had difficulty loving my body because I feel like it’s her body.

I’ve mentioned before how many people tell me I look so much like my mother.  That makes it so much harder to separate myself from her.  Aside from her being a couple of inches shorter, she has the same skin color, eye color, and stature as me.  To make matters worse, my mother consistently went out of her way to make herself look even more like me.  I believe she did it because she knew it bothered me.  It was just another way to manipulate me.

If I dyed my hair, she dyed her hair the same color.  If I got a haircut, she got a haircut, too.  She’d buy the same underwear as me.  She would even take my clothes without my permission and wear them.  I remember getting picked up from work one day last year and she was in the back of the car, wearing a familiar outfit.  It was the outfit I got for Christmas from one of my best work friends.  I didn’t even get to wear it.  When I asked her why she took it, she said it looked better on her anyway.  It didn’t even fit her.

I avoid looking in the mirror because I constantly see her, both in body and in face.  I never see myself.  If I look like her, that must mean that I am like her in every way.  It is nauseating to me.  I hate my body because it’s her body.  I hate my face because it’s her face.  I don’t know if I can get past that.  I’ve never been able to feel like anything is my own, and that includes my body.

During my therapy session today, my therapist asked me about the body image project.  I told her about my difficulty in seeing myself as separate from my mother, and how that makes it difficult for me not to hate my body because of how much I hate her.  My therapist tried to get me to realize that I was not my mother, especially on a psychological level.  Our personalities are very different.  I am also more intelligent than my mother – and that was something that she hated about me and constantly made me feel bad about.

Despite the differences, I still have a hard time acknowledging that I am not my mother.  It’s hard when you grow up in a society that judges you on your looks before anything else.  Part of me wants to make a drastic change, because now she won’t be able to copy me.  Maybe I’ll dye my hair dark.  Maybe I’ll get a new pair of glasses.  I need something to help me feel different, because knowing it isn’t enough for me.