Thanksgiving and Dissociation

I’m sitting here not knowing what to write. My mind feels blank, empty. I’ve been in this place before, many, many times. I have always come up with something, and most of the time I was satisfied with what I had written. That doesn’t mean I’ll be able to pull it off today, of course.

It’s a very familiar feeling. There is a pane of glass between me and the world, and whatever is “me” has stepped back, several steps behind the glass. Quiet, unengaged, just looking outwards toward the world. No judgment, no reaction, no words, no thoughts.

It’s dissociation, of course. At this time, for whatever reason, I am more dissociated than usual. If I fight it and scold myself for being so unengaged, so uncaring, it is unpleasant. I start brooding on what might be wrong with me, and why I haven’t fixed it once and for all after all these years. This leads to a fair amount of self-hatred.

If I just experience it without all that useless self-improvement chatter, it isn’t all that unpleasant. It’s nothing – no pain, no anxiety, no pleasure. Isn’t this what you are supposed to achieve when you empty your mind during meditation? Just observe the thoughts as they float by, don’t try and catch them and remember them, just observe without judgment, and then let them go. When the thoughts have gone, isn’t this what is left? Probably not, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what being dissociated feels like to me.

Dissociation, of course, takes many forms. It simply means that things that were once together have gotten separated. One’s self can be split into separate parts, each holding a part of the original self. A memory may be split, and parts stored separately so that only a smell is recalled. Or an image, like a still photograph. Or the emotion that was felt at the time the memory was formed.

We all learned to dissociate as very little kids. It was the only way we could survive what was done to us. We learned how to ”leave our bodies;” that is, we separated our bodies and our minds so that we could be unaware of the pain and the threat to our very lives. We floated up to the treetops and looked at the stars, or floated into an angel’s arms, or became a little bird perching on a branch, ready to fly away at any moment. Or, like me, we became nothing.

Thanksgiving has always been difficult for me. I think that is why I am so disengaged. I am re-experiencing the state I was in during those childhood Thanksgivings.

It’s interesting – I only have one memory of a Thanksgiving up until my twenties. A little glass bowl was filled with celery stalks and olives. I have memories of Christmas, Easter, and my birthday, all difficult days for me throughout adulthood. But Thanksgiving remains a blank. The celery and olives have no meaning, as far as I can tell. They are neutral, neither liked nor disliked, with no attached symbolism. Probably that is why they are remembered. I focused on something banal to protect myself from whatever was happening around me or to me. As neutral as leaves on a tree.

Today, despite feeling totally detached, I am making a point to see that the plants are watered. The cat will be fed every day this week, and the litter box will be cleaned. I will pet him every time he asks for attention. I may feel that I don’t care about the plants and the cat, but the plants won’t notice, and the cat probably won’t either. I will try to get a few things done, just not as much as usual.

And I will try and accept this eerie, quiet feeling. Not accept as in, “fuck it, it’s here, so I shall put up with it until lit goes away.” More like, “Gee, this has some advantages. The little voice that says, ‘hurry, things need to be done, important things. Stop daydreaming!’ is quiet. It feels sort of nice to float along, not caring or worrying so much.”

Thursday will come and go, and I will come out of this stasis and start feeling again. Meanwhile, I have ordered 120 bulbs on sale for my spring garden, cooked four artichokes, and eaten one. I made my bed and my laundry is done. I have actually been taking care of myself without thinking about it. Friday, I will feel good about the things I did while I was sleepwalking. Today, it is enough to just notice them.

Dissociation Was a Real Friend on Christmas

* Detailed instructions for making comments are in “News Items.”

* Background on pagan winter holidays is at https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/yulewinter-solstice/

* And here is a post on how I handled Christmas through the years. https://ritualabuse.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/ephemeral-equilibrium-another-christmas/

* Don’t forget that I’m putting together an anthology of accounts of survivors’ loss of babies through forced abortion, sacrifice, or forced adoption. I am also looking for submissions from husbands, partners, close friends, therapists, or pastors.

You can ask me questions or send your submission through this blog’s comment section, rahome@ra-info.org, or PO Box 14276, 4304 18th Street, San Francisco CA 94114. And tell your friends!

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Before I start talking about myself, I want to wish all of you a safe Christmas. For those of you who are afraid you might be accessed, it’s not too late to work out a safety plan. It’s always a good idea to have a plan B just in case something goes wrong with plan A. Give yourself lots of credit for doing this because it is hard to think through the options and it takes a great deal of courage to face the possibility of present-day accessing.

For everybody, I wish you, not an absence of triggers, but the wisdom to handle them well so that they may contribute to your knowledge of yourself and your past and bring some resolution and peace to all inside. And may you get some joy in the day, whether it is from a Christmas tradition, being with people you care about, or something else entirely.

I used to send cards with a lion walking hand in hand with a lamb. It said, “Peace on Earth – may it begin with us.” May it begin with all our inner selves.

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I’ve been thinking about my childhood Christmases, wondering how I could ever have gotten through them after what happened on Christmas Eve. In my family’s tradition, holidays began at midnight. Sometimes they ended before dawn, sometimes they went through the next day, or even a couple of days, especially if they occurred on a Friday.

So the “night” Christmas was on Christmas Eve. The next day, exhausted and traumatized, we woke up to the regular “day” Christmas, which, in my opinion, was really over the top. My brother and I opened our stockings before breakfast and then, later in the day, were showered with expensive presents that we really didn’t want. Although I asked for books almost every year, I cannot remember getting any. Of course, we pretended to be delighted.

How did I get through Christmas? Dissociation. What had happened the night before was a thousand miles away, a thousand years away, tucked away in a corner of my mind that would not be visited for forty years. Looking back over old photographs, I can spot when I needed dissociation so much to protect myself that I was totally tranced out.

I have a picture of me on Christmas Day, in my pajamas, hair neatly combed. I am looking…at what? At nothing, because nothing had happened. There was no shadow to glimpse, no half-remembered bad dream. I call that tranced-out look “the thousand miles stare” because I am looking at what didn’t happen, what never existed, except perhaps a thousand years ago, a thousand miles away.

Looking closely at the photo, I can see lots of wrapping paper but no toys. It’s as if they, too, had never existed or as if they had disappeared, like magic. The only thing that brings a little smile to my face are the icicles on the tree. They were made of long slender strips of lead and they made the Christmas tree lights dance and reflect out into the room. The tinsel sold today is far safer for pets and babies but not nearly as pretty. The lead tinsel must have been expensive for we picked every strand off the tree and saved it for the next year.

Amnesia for the Satanic Christmas spread out into the real Christmas. I cannot remember what we ate that day. I only remember a few things I received – soap in my stocking, a doll that wet itself after you fed it, complete with a trunk full of clothes. This was when I was three. I remember a Lego set with directions on how to build a brick house. I must have been ten or twelve then. And chocolates in my stocking, although I was overweight. I asked my mother why she had given me candy, and she said that they had fewer calories because they contained nuts. That made no sense to me at all.

It was just one of an infinite number of double messages. Do this, but don’t do it. Don’t do this unless I tell you to and then it is your fault because you did it. Our regular life was filled with such contradictions. And, of course, I could not see the contradictions between my “day” life and my “night” life, because I couldn’t remember the “night” life. (Who knows what presents were given to children the night before Christmas?) My parents, who were also amnesic for all that, were just as dissociated as I was and just as full of contradictory messages. All of us were stumbling along in a sea of things that didn’t make sense, trying our hardest to keep our heads above water.

I could not have handled it if I had remembered and so, when things got rough, I dissociated. Not just from the horrors of the Satanic life I led, but from everything that was around me. In the moment this photo was taken, I was not aware of the tree or the presents or of my parents and brother in the room. All I was aware of was nothing, and that was a blessing.

I still dissociate at times when things get tough. But now I am in control and I can plan around triggers and can build new, healthier traditions. This year I am spending Christmas at home and a much-loved niece is visiting. We are going to have Dungeness crab and lobster on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are going to plan the days as we go, doing what we feel like when we feel like it. We will probably go out into the woods unless it rains all the time she is here. No presents will be exchanged. There will be no need to fake being pleased or to push the memories out of my mind because they were so awful.

It’s so much better this way!!!!!

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Upcoming Holidays

December
12/21 Yule/Winter Solstice
12/22 Full Moon
12/24 Christmas Eve
12/25 Christmas Day
12/31 New Year’s Eve
January
1/1 New Year’s Day
1/13 Satanic New Year
1/17 Feast of Fools/Old Twelfth Night/Satanic and demon revels
1/20 Full moon
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
February
2/2 S Candlemas/Imbolc
2/14 Valentine’s Day
2/19 Full moon

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
1/30 Hitler named Chancellor of Germany
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons. Christian and Jewish holidays are often desecrated.)

My Brain is Wired to Forget

Everybody has ways of defending themselves against thoughts or feelings that are just too hard to face. Know anybody who says, “Oh, it’s nothing,” when it really is a pretty big deal – like an abcessed tooth, for example? Or “I don’t really feel sad,” when a pet dies? That’s minimizing, a defense that allows you to feel calm instead of flooded by strong feelings.

It’s normal to have defenses. And it is also normal for a person to have one or two ways of defending themselves that they use a lot more than others. Favorite defenses, defenses to turn to automatically every time the going gets tough.

The more a defense is used, the more it becomes “wired” in the brain, and this happens pretty early in childhood. In other words, the kid’s brain thinks, “Well, it worked last time, let’s try it this time.” If it works often enough, it gets used over and over. If it doesn’t work, it loses its appeal and doesn’t get chosen very often.

My go-to defense is forgetting. I was carefully and systematically taught to forget what happened in cult settings. I was taught not to speak to outsiders about anything that happened because it was none of their business. I was threatened with harm to myself, my pets, or my brother if I remembered and told somebody and I was also hypnotized to forget. Anybody ever heard the phrase “Remember to forget and forget to remember?”

I learned very well how to forget. To the best of my knowledge I told nobody until my early fifties – and when I say nobody, that includes myself. I was totally amnesic for what happened back then.

Besides serving the cult well, my skill at forgetting protected me most of the time against constant terror, fear, and guilt. I couldn’t have strong feelings about what I didn’t know. Instead, those feelings were dampened and displaced onto other things. But forgetting spread out over innocuous things, too. I no longer forgot “that:” I forgot everything.

Of course, everybody forgets to some extent. Things they stop using, like algebra, fade out and make room for more useful things, like how to use email. But I experience that in spades. In school, after I took the final exam, the course material rapidly faded until in a few months it was as if I had never taken the course.

I lived in a house for twenty-five years starting in my late twenties. Now I am driving myself nuts trying to remember details. Where did I store the towels? The dog food? Who did we give the purple couch to? What did we sit on before we got the purple couch, and what happened to that first couch or those first chairs, if there was no couch?

I knew a man who could remember lots of facts, including a huge number of nice meals he ate. I imagine that his mind was filled with sensory details that wove a rich tapestry. And the pleasure he got recalling them! His life must have seemed much fuller than mine, even though I had more varied experiences than he did, to put it mildly. Knowing that this is possible for some people makes me sad because, when I look back, I remember so little that my life seems really empty.

I had hopes that dealing with the abusive events that taught me not to remember would free me up to remember more every-day things, but the results were temporary, for the most part. I’ve come to an acceptance that things may get a little better, but I can’t expect anything spectacular.

As I explained in a previous post, I went a little crazy fearing I had incipient dementia from memory loss. Now I have started to be able to separate my base-line memory problems from new developments. It’s reassuring to find out that not much is new. Still, I wish I were more like that lucky man. <sigh>

 

Upcoming Holidays

March 
3/30 Good Friday/Death of Jesus Christ
3/31 Full Moon (Blue Moon: second full moon of the month)
April
4/1 Easter Sunday
4/1 April Fool’s Day
4/8 Day of the Masters
4/29 Full Moon
4/16 – 4/23 Grand Climax/Da Meur/ (Preparation for sacrifice in some Satanic sects)
4/30 Walpurgisnacht/May Eve
May
  
5/1 Beltane/May Day/ Labour Day in Europe
5/13 Mothers’ Day
5/28 Memorial Day
5/29 Full moon

Dates important to Neo-Nazi groups
4/20 Hitler’s birthday (Note: Hitler was born on Easter, so Nazis celebrate his actual birthday, 4/20, and Easter of the current year. His alternate birthday is 4/1 this year.)
4/30 Anniversary of Hitler’s death
(Some groups also mark Candlemas, Beltane, Lamas, Halloween, solstices, equinoxes, and full moons.)