More layers

Always, there is the memory and then there is what it means to me now.

This one is dense. There is just a lot there, and by eight am, I am tempted to go back to bed. The whole thing just exhausts me.

Of all the wretched memories I have, this one seems to really bring it home to me. I think because there is no particular sexual element to it. It is not about murder or pain either. It is entirely about terror. I don’t know why that makes it seem different to me, but it does. My dad enjoyed the terror of others. It places him on the other side of some kind of wall from me, so that I really cannot understand him or relate to him in any way or at any level.

In my mind, it puts a different spin on the disastrous episode with C, and really on our whole relationship. I wanted so badly to deal with my issues so that she could be a part of my life and I could be close to her without my own issues making me frightening or harmful to her. I didn’t quite succeed. It isn’t really okay: I did frighten her. But I am lucky I can put pants on all by myself. If I can also get someone else to want to talk to me, it’s a miracle. If she doesn’t want to be part of my life anymore, well, fine. I put pants on at least. I mean, I have done really, really well that I can hold down a job, I can manage a social mask well enough to have relationships. I’m functioning more or less.

I have this other perspective now, sort of about the world. I had, I think, this idea that I was sort of “not good enough” because I couldn’t manage so many things. I don’t have close relationships, really. I don’t have an intimate partner. I don’t have family. I don’t have kids. I never do my job as well as I would like to and sometimes not as well as other people would like me to either. I spend an absurd amount of time just processing. I don’t even have time for hobbies.

But I put pants on all by myself. It’s a fucking miracle.

There is an audience in my head of people I don’t really know—my friends are not like this—who feel I don’t measure up in some way, and maybe feel sorry for me for what I have been through and for the things I still struggle with. I am having a “fuck them” kind of day. I have this sudden perspective on myself as someone who arrived at where I have only and entirely because I have extraordinary strength. I don’t know how to say this exactly, but I know the imaginary, critical audience wouldn’t last the morning with the shit in my head. They would not be able to function even half this well. And it might be nice to be more honest, to let the mask slip a little more, but functioning has to happen.

I suppose over the years I have met a lot of people who think they have it worked out. Maybe I disclosed something or maybe they just inferred I was having a hard time and seemed to believe they knew what I ought to do and if it didn’t work or I wouldn’t try it, then that was on me. I probably would include some psychotherapists in this group. I am not feeling kindly towards them at the moment. They did not have it worked out and, moreover, in my situation they would not have achieved pants-on-by-themselves status.

I need support. It is not like that. Those of you who read and compare notes and cheer me on are priceless. Absolutely irreplaceable. It would be terribly hard to do what I have to do without you.

Anyway, that is one aspect.

The thing about trauma is it breaks apart your ability to connect information. I know now why I was so anxious about C. I needed to make sure she had all her pieces. If you care, you make sure someone has all their pieces. It’s the very least you can do, to assist in maintaining someone’s physical integrity. I mean, she could suddenly lose one and what if I wasn’t there to help her put it back? She would die.

If I’d had that thought consciously—and sometimes I did, in parts—it would not have helped me to manage it, because it just sounds insane. Why would she lose her pieces?

But when I was in my dad’s workshop, I was so traumatized by it all that I did not connect his dismemberment of the bodies with the pieces that later lay there. I mean, I think I literally did not understand the saw had something to do with the body parts, although I saw both stages. I only knew in an instinctive way that they needed to be reassembled, just as my dad pretended to reassemble me—procedural memory is different than other kinds of memories. I had experienced what one ought to do. Doing would be remembered, like fear, but not what it what it all meant.

On the one hand, this meant that dismemberment seemed to be something that could happen to anyone, at any time. It might occur spontaneously. It was certainly always unexpected. But both the dead bodies and the process of dismemberment were so traumatic that the two could never be connected, and dismemberment never became something it was possible to be safe from. And the thing is that until I had this third element of it—the fake dismemberment of me—it didn’t help that much to know about it. I still could not grasp that she had all her pieces, she was going to get to keep all her pieces, and nothing was going to get lost. Probably because I could not connect it the anxiety I felt about losing my own pieces, which lay rooted in the memory of my dad pretending to dismember and reassemble me. It lay connected to that feeling of having “lost” something, but there wasn’t any resolution to it. There can only be resolution once you are calm enough to think again and the before and after and during all get connected, and that’s really hard to do. It’s really hard to be calm about any aspect of this.

There is one more element to this, which is that I need to cope with the terror well enough to connect my own physical integrity and that of others with the present. I need to calm down enough to understand that I will likely never again touch anyone’s body and find it is in pieces. It is okay to touch bodies now. They will not come apart. But it’s still really hard.


2 thoughts on “More layers

  1. desilef January 24, 2016 / 10:14 pm

    You were forced to live through so many life and death situations. Not once or twice but for relentless years. If that doesn’t make a person entirely numb, it makes relationships so intense, no? Is it possible that a relationship founded on tranquility doesn’t even feel like a relationship? That unless you are worried about the pieces, you suspect you don’t really care? And damn, as you put on your pants, it’s true: few others could. Ash, there are millions of people – and I’m sure you know many of them – who’ve achieved much much less than you have and never experienced great trauma. No one is liked by everyone. Your critics – well, what my cousin used to say, May they live and be well, far far from me. (I think she may have stolen that from Fiddler on the Roof.) I don’t think, however, the first part of the sentence should apply to your father.

    • Ashana M January 25, 2016 / 5:51 am

      I have no idea what it does to relationships now, to be honest.

      I want my dad to spend his life in Pelican Bay SHU.

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