Category Archives: separation trauma

A Synopsis

I wish I had been aborted.

Actually, I wish I had never existed at all.

But I know that my mother could have had an abortion. Not legally, of course (before ’73), but I know she could have, and my father was willing to pay for it. Instead, I became a bargaining chip with, as it turned out, no apparent value. And since he wouldn’t marry her, then he couldn’t have me, either. She gave me away as much to punish him as because of her parents’ ultimatum: Come home without that baby or don’t come home at all.

She could have stayed with her brother and his family, as she had during the last months of her pregnancy. But she didn’t. She gratefully believed the social workers’ tales and “chose” to start “fresh,” and to go on with her life as if I’d never existed.

I was a nine-month abortion that didn’t die. I was thrown, still breathing, into the dumpster of life.

To this day, I truly do not understand why I continued to breathe or why my heart continued to beat. For the first few hours, perhaps even days, yes; I suppose I held out hope that my mother would retrieve me. But, when I finally gave up emotionally, psychologically, and psychically… then, why?

I can’t begin to fathom the profound depression I must have experienced before I finally just dissociated. Did I try to stop my heart from beating? Did I try to stop breathing? If so, I obviously failed.

I imagine I spent most of those first 1000 hours in a dissociative state, certainly fully dissociated by the time I was picked up by the offensive new “family.” Imagine the shock to my psyche at the sudden commotion and then, just hours later, being shut away again in a crib. Alone. In a cold, dark room.

Years later, they laughed and laughed about how cold that room had been.

I don’t remember when they remodeled, making my room into their new master suite extended over the living room below. I don’t know where I was kept during the remodeling. I barely remember my new little adoptive sister’s crib in our new room – the old master bedroom. She got even less attention than I, ostensibly because she had my company. And, from then on, I was to depend on hers.

She and I were more on our own than ever before, largely growing each other up in our wounded way. Yet, we were never close. We had little in common, and our respective blueprints for relationship were missing trust and security, both instantly dissociating at every little stressor; both perpetually hypervigilant, both traumatized in a world which denied our traumas. We were no help to each other. Were were merely unrelated victims living together in the same cage.

Our replacement mother was damaged, too, and insane, as was our so-called brother.

We engaged most often with our replacement father, a man who liked children but detested and feared females. After he lost his father at the age of twelve, his older sister and mother oppressed him – or, rather, his mother oppressed him and his sister was caught in the middle. His attempts to divide and conquer were ineffective as a boy. But now he was “all grown up” with two little girls he could train “properly” to know their place – to be helpless, powerless, meaningless… useless.

The mother as wife? Small town girl, oppressed herself by her insane, dictatorial father. Startlingly large breasts, not too bright, with her father’s inherent insanity. If she had a mind of her own, she kept it to herself – lest she risk divorce from him for the second time.

Their son was raised and treated as the heir apparent.

We, the girls, were spackle, whitewash, wallpaper, window dressing… integral parts of a fa├žade. As we grew, it slowly dawned on them that we were real – that is, we were not going to fade away once our usefulness was outgrown. They wanted us to go away from them and live lives of our own, but our “father” had already succeeded spectacularly in his training program: we had indeed become helpless, powerless, meaningless, and useless.

We each became like the proverbial dog dumped in the desert who keeps finding his way back home. We were too needy – no one else wanted us either – so, as painful as it was to be around them, we kept coming back. Our touchstone was a bog filled with soul-sucking leeches, an environment of shame and humiliation. Even when we were away, they followed us with their shaming. They wrote letters to us declaring their profound disappointment in us, signed by both of them as though the letters were legal documents. This lasted until the man’s death. I was 37 years old. My adoptive sister was 35.

Someone Else’s Life

My new environment was usually observed through a veil of vertical slats, though there was precious little to observe. It was cold, and the immediate surroundings outside that tiny prison were too dark to discern. Illumination came from a long thin beam of changing light and, from it, unfamiliar sounds erupted. I was not accustomed to hearing so many sounds. So many sounds, but I could not see their source.

A paradox emerged.

Despite my desire to be left alone and avoid these new strangers, a terrible loneliness betrayed me. My waking hours in that place were spent in ever-vigilant anticipation – and dread – of some commotion that might eventually include me.

I bleated. And hated myself for it.

Each time it occasioned a response, I was disappointed. Each time it was ignored, I was devastated. The former caused me to either be stripped and touched only where I had made a mess, or to be given the bottle that was not Mama. The lack of response was worse still: it taught me I was nothing. It taught me my feelings and needs – my very self – were unimportant or, at most, subject to the convenience of others.

I had the sense that a dreadful mistake had been made: I had been born into someone else’s life instead of my own!

On the rare occasions when I was delivered of my cold prison, I was subjected to startling noises, too-close faces, and disturbing bodily scents. I was passed from stranger to stranger, all of whom inexplicably disavowed my cataclysmic loss.

Included in this barrage was a kind of being I had never seen in those first 1000 hours. It was very small compared with the others, but equally as threatening and louder than all the rest. They called it “Billy.”

Billy was not ignored. Billy commanded attention. The importance of Billy was not lost on me. It was impressed upon me to such an extent that this became my first spoken word.

After a time, Billy began to cart me about the premises when he had tired of his latest toy. At those times I hoped he might continue on out into the world and return me to Mama. I believe this was his desire, as well. However, that dream was never realized.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

There was no returning me to Mama, this life was clearly not mine, and there was nothing I could do to change it. So I chose again the escape where there is no escape: I gave up.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Yet, again, some force beyond my control intervened.

Silence of the Lambs

From Wikipedia: A lamb does not bleat when it’s killed, making it a suitable object of sacrifice because this signifies its willingness to succumb to its fate.

Animal behaviorists affirm that injured sheep don’t vocalize, but their physiology under such conditions indicates no willingness.

Mama did not bleat when I was taken. Her silence was neither involuntary nor instinctive. Her silence was commanded. I cannot imagine her unnaturally muted torment. I am afraid to try.

I was not silent. But because my bleating was presumed meaningless it was deduced that I, too, accepted my fate willingly.

For a thousand hours, I bleated in protest of my obliterated world. I bleated in protest of my obliterated self. I did not exist without Mama.

I was no one.

Unremembered.

Unrecognized.

Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing… nothing.

I wondered what I was, not who. With every strange face that hovered over me, I waited for my definition. Was I a receptacle? A mechanism? What was my function? What feat must I perform?

No answer was forthcoming.

I cried louder, hoping with new hope she could hear and that at some magic moment the features of a strange face would morph into those of Mama.

No. At least, not yet.

If I accept this foul liquid, will Mama reappear?

If I accept your embrace, will Mama reappear?

Scanning, scanning, scanning. I was ever-vigilant.

Minute after minute. Hour after hour. Face after face, not Mama.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Eventually, protest was eclipsed by despair.

I became lethargic, a leaden heap. My heartbeat slowed. Sleep was intermittent, shallow. I had no sense of day or night. I wanted to disappear. I refused the bottle. I turned away from the strangers. I stopped growing. My bleating grew weak and dispassionate, until it stopped altogether.

I accepted my fate, and became the lamb.