Life could be a dream or have I dissociated?
Fast forward to April 2015 when I found myself walking by a canal not knowing where I was, who I was, or why I was there. I was hot and tired and walking manically. I was consumed by panic. Whoever I was, I had clearly lost the plot.
I found my phone and after fumbling for a while, started the map app. I discovered I was about 2 miles away from Wembley. Then it all started falling back in place. I recollected that I was on a house sitting contract and had set out for walk. I could not recall any other details of the walk or how I had lost my memory. It felt like I had somehow lost the defining sphere of memories that normally surrounds me, but then felt it reboot and slowly come back online encircling me in invisible data and telling me who I was.
Holes in my memory are not entirely new phenomena. I had previously managed to forget almost all of the sexual abuse that had started as a 10 year old. I had always remembered how it begun, but as soon as the scary stuff started, I was elsewhere, certainly not there. Even now I only retain nightmare like glimpses and those memories do not feel like they are really mine, it was as if they happened to someone else and I was only watching. Indeed this caused me to doubt everything and if it were not for other associated memories, events, illnesses and corroboration from other victims, I would be sympathetic for the case for the defence – none of it happened, it was all imagined.
I can’t describe this as amnesia. It was as if the memories were discreetly stored in an isolated compartmentalized part of the self, but independent, autonomous and not under the umbrella of I. If the self is a kaleidoscope of archetypes, this would be my sexual persona, who I am during sex. But to me, if not to my lovers, a complete unknown.
Sexual abuse continued throughout my teen years, but to all intents and purposes, it was this other me who experienced it. “I” still considered myself a virgin, told people as much and when I went on first dates fumbled ineptly, like someone entirely unaware of what his penis was for. This ineptitude for sex became part of my personal mythology and I have restated it through the years, believing it to be true. The part of me that was good at sex, the me who was playful and dexterous, mastering tantric techniques and multiple orgasms was someone else. Someone I switched into – occasionally – during sexual activity, conveniently forgetting about afterwards. I only realised this recently and it was quite a revelation, like I did not know myself at all.
As with many people, this disassociated part of the self is too some extent tied up with guilt. Born from shocks.
I was shocked by my behavior while I was still a young child, shocked that I went back for more, shocked that I was jealous of the attention the abuser gave to other victims and shocked just a few years later that I found myself, contrary to how I should feel, enjoying sex. (Anyone who sees this as a rational for lowering the age of consent is an idiot.)
But psychologically something else was happening too. I remember at fourteen being unable to decide if ordinary events like visiting people or doing homework had happened, or had been imagined. I remember having a mini existential crisis and wondering if what we called reality was a subjective fantasy, like a dream.
My identity, my concept of who I am, was built on a fault line. A tiny crack was left by those early experiences and it got wider and deeper with every subsequent violation. I can now see that this fault line runs through everything.
There are different degrees of dissociation. Creative writing is a form of dissociation; when writing I hear the story and rarely consciously craft it. All the best ideas seem to come from outside me, often as a huge surprise. But something similar happens with other behaviors. As my mood changes I may be unaware that I have ceased communicating and angrily ask,, “What’s your problem?” As if innocent of blame.
Then also I have throughout my life forgotten some fairly major occurrences and people, some of whom I have been told were my friends. As my memory is normally fairly sharp, I have had trouble believing this and have assured them that it is their memories that are at fault. However recent events have since made me wonder.
I believe some degree of dissociation is normal to everyone. I have described in other blogs how different roles we play in life require different personas. Just think of the morning after the night before for an inkling of this. But it is where there are complete breaks, walls over which memories can not cross that we have problems.
Having seen the film Sybill, I initially rejected that my form of PTSD was anything like that. But I have since seen that I was indeed displaying those same symptoms to a lesser degree. I was semiconscious that two poles needed aligning and integrating, this was the grand scheme behind my series of novels, the Quantum Twins. Unlike Sybill, I knew I was creating subpersonas with unique histories and identities. Although my perception of the caged inner child underwent some metamorphosis during the process, it was sort of on target. But the sexual aspect was entirely unexpected. Which is kind of weird as I am sure it would be kind of obvious to anyone who knows me.
This part of my story will I believe have a happy ending. The walls came down. I am still here. The disconnected behavior and patterns of thinking are still there, but now are parts of me. (Aren’t they my precious…?)