I watch the Evening News. A mother is put into the squad car. A little girl-child walks from the house, in silence, hand-in-hand with the kind police officer. This child will not suffer a lifetime of borderline madness as I had. This child was seen. Someone made it stop. This child was saved. I had survived the abuse, but it had taken my childhood, and it had nearly destroyed my life.
My career of mental patient began at age 18. I was diagnosed early with schizophrenia and major depression. I was a gifted singer/songwriter and artist, and it was all going to waste. I was locked up, drugged up, shut up, and I survived. I was finally winning. I had successfully completed 15 years of good therapy that had saved my life and given me a chance at a “real life”. I was happy, productive and strong. I was doing work I loved, and I was in a good, loving relationship. But now I was having some disturbing flashes of memory accompanied by unsettling feelings. I called my former therapist and asked if she could see me. That day, in her office, Gravely Voice said “Torture”, and 6 other voices I did not recognize, came from my lips. Apparently, those many hospitalizations and years of hard work in therapy had brought me to a place where I was just strong enough to begin to know what had been buried since childhood.
I had come a long way, and with the speaking of a single word, I felt it all slipping through my fingers. “Torture.” Eight days later, at age 44, I was admitted to yet another mental hospital, with yet another diagnosis. multiple personality disorder. I was a child tortured by my mother.
If the previous years had been a battle, this was war. Memories and flashbacks of horrific childhood abuse flooded me. In order for me to survive repeated physical and sexual attacks, my child-mind had split itself off again and again, into separate personalities. Each had existed without knowledge of the others. Once Gravely Voice told “The Secret”, the others were free to make themselves known. Each part had come into existence to help this child survive. Each had their own history, their own story to tell. It was a time of discovery, and pain. There are, at last count, 44 personalities.
If I did not look for answers inside, I would not survive this. In the present, the real danger came not from my aged mother, but from within. One alter personality (a 10 year old boy) had no words, only fire. Through the years, he had repeatedly attempted to set himself (and therefore all of us) on fire. He was encouraged to draw. Again and again, he drew the small; child-body standing engulfed in flame, smoke rising bigger than the world. Surely someone would see this fire, and understand the bigness of the hurt, the bigness of the pain. He prayed, “The Angels will see, and the angels will say, ‘You are not alone.'” He had to understand that in 1994, he was no longer a child alone and unseen.
For the Little Ones, the Monster was there, in the present, waiting. The Monster would be back, they would be hurt, and there was nothing that could convince them they were safe. One of the memories was of being hung. Gabriel was present. He went to Heaven but would not leave the others behind, so he returned with God’s wisdom and peace. He alone could comfort the children who lived in horrible sadness, terror and pain.
The Little Blind Girl had witnessed the abuse. I had not met her until she stumbled around our living room, days before I was hospitalized. As other parts lived through the memories, and shared the sight of them, she regained her vision.
Another alter was known as The One Who Would Cut Us Open. A competent adult (an aspiring surgeon), he was intent on cutting us open in an operation of sorts. This was designed to let in the light and air, to heal that stuff inside that was killing us. It took one more hospitalization to find other, safer ways to deal with the past. Looking at, and speaking the truth would heal us of our childhood.
The One Who Walks in Silence explained that, “If you can’t say the important things, there is no reason to say anything at all”. She later became the voice for those of us who had doubts that this was real. She spoke with authority on the power of “saying truth out loud”. It was becoming clear that working together, we could learn to live with the reality of our childhood, and the reality of MPD.
My Life Today
Today, my life is again my own, but different. The Big Ones (the adult alters), are mostly “out”, dealing with the world. The Little Ones come out to say “hello”, to play, to laugh, to sing, to draw, to express their sadness, and their joy. We continue to work well together, and the days of self-abuse and suicide are over. The memories are now, just that. I remember the past, but from a distance.
I have moved beyond the memories, the rage, and the outrage. I have mourned the loss of my mother, and the dream of a real Mother. I have wept for the failure my father who refused to see, and, therefore, protect. They are, typically, in complete denial of any abuse in my childhood. They continue to insist that I was “a loved, and happy child”. My “memories” are proof to them of how “sick” I really am. We talk on the phone, without talking about anything of import in my life. They are pleased that I am “doing so well”. It seems to be enough for them. I do not expect more.
There is no one who can substantiate the truth of my history. There is no videotape of the crimes. No Department of Social Services report was ever filed. The kind police officer was never summoned to remove me from harms way. No one can speak out to corroborate, without exposing his or her own wrongdoing. No adult can come forward to say they knew something was wrong without admitting their own failure to act. No one in my family can afford to see the truth. They would have to face their own demons to acknowledge the reality of my childhood. It would appear that there was no one present during the outrageous events of my childhood except my mother, and myself. My mother denies she abused me, and I am convinced she is being truthful. Her memories are buried as deeply as mine were. She may well be plagued by occasional flashes, and glimpses of unknown terror, just as I was.
So it is left to me as witness to my own abuse to speak to a world that does not protect children. Instead, it is a world that protects the idea of parenthood, motherhood, and family at the expense of the undeniable evidence that often exists. It has become fashionable to idealize Family. The memories and pain of adult survivors of abuse are often dismissed as hysteria and craziness. Child abuse is real. The destruction that follows is real. My life story is somewhat typical, and I was one of the lucky ones. I am still alive to tell.
I have no doubt that the flashbacks I experience are memories of real events. I have no doubt that the pain in my body is remembered pain. The terror is terror relived. I have no doubt that the face I see before me, the eyes that peer with hate into my soul and glare at me in madness, are the eyes of my mother. These things, I know. I was there. I remember. The awful truth is that there was a part of my mother who could hurt her own child. Me.
We who suffered as children, alone, and in darkness will come forward. Each of us will, one day, step out into the light of day to speak the truth so that the world will know. The unspeakable must continue to be spoken, and written. We will speak it. If the world does not believe, we will believe each other.
If, in reading this, one person comes forward to report the abuse, or suspected abuse of one child, then a life is saved. If this survivor’s voice reaches one person, lost in the abyss of memory and madness, and they recognize themselves, then, good. If my voice offers hope, a reason to hang on, to walk the hardest walk, to ask inside, to search for the truth, then it does not matter that others believe or not. It matters only that you know that I survived the unspeakable, the unbelievable. It matters only that victims of childhood abuse and incest know it is possible to survive, and to remember. And, it is possible to survive the remembering. It is possible to speak the truth and to survive the speaking of the truth. It is possible to live with the truth. And we must live. We will live.