Unfurling The Roots of Dissociation In My Life

There were cement drains above us, flushing water into the river to our right as I stood on the smooth rocks of the shore, my bathing suit pulled down by my father who went on to rape me.  I stared up at the drains and dissociated, telling myself “I’ll never forget this…”  yet I did, within a minute.  When he was finished, he just said, “ok, let’s head back now…’ as if all we really did was just take an early morning walk, all alone while camping.  When we arrived back, mother was there and smiling as she prepared breakfast…everyone cared about the facades, but no one cared about me.  I remember on one of these camping trips, I had said I craved French toast, and my sister declared that I was pathetic…when food was all I knew how to use to escape the memories, the pain of being sexually abused by my whole family all the time…

It startles me that I was actually aware enough in that state, while I was being sexually abused, to try and affix a memory in my mind.  Obviously it didn’t work, but it’s the first time I’ve encountered that in a flashback… I know I consciously tried to resist it, when the dissociation was of a much lesser degree following periods of my brother’s physical abuse.   I didn’t actually repress the memory of that, I just drifted far enough away from the feelings of the experience to put on a different face once my parents arrived home from work, and he couldn’t get at me anymore.  Promising that I would tell them that day and then forgetting about it was the only way I could comfort myself in the face of the abuse while simultaneously shielding my psyche from the fact that actually telling would be a meaningless and self-destructive act.

But my father actually fucked me in a public place, outdoors, in the forest.  I recall another time when we out to go swimming at a waterfall, and he complained that my brother and I chose to go behind trees to change into our bathing suits.  He didn’t say, “we see you naked in our bed all the time…” no, he said, “c’mon guys, we changed your diapers you know…”  Unlike my mother, who did say some really creepy and suggestive things, he took solace in stupid clichés to justify his apparent desire for some lurid scenery.  I suppose he felt more comfortable dissociating from the fact that he and his wife molested their children.  But this facade that they drew up around them was another hideous form of abuse, teaching me to dissociate, to live in two different realities has caused me so many problems.

Last week I had another flashback, where I was perhaps eight to eleven years old, and standing in the hallway, frozen in place by the sounds of my mother having sex with my older brother.  They were both groaning so loudly, with sounds I recognized from what they both did to me in turn, and I was…numb.  But when he came out, I hid from his sight, and the went in myself.  All those years later, they still had us taking “turns” to receive their sexual abuse.  I knew my brother had set up a regular routine of sexually abusing me after school, but I wasn’t aware my mother did it at some point too…I was lucky if I got out before my father arrived home from work, because then he would fuck me too…

I had an auditory flashback to her voice, calling me into their bedroom, where I was forced to undress and then bend over their bed to give my mother oral sex while he fucked me.  Suddenly the blinds shook, and I looked to my left to see my sister standing in the doorway, with a vacant look on her face; she closed the door again just as quickly.  I wasn’t worried, alarmed, or even interested by seeing her there, as I lied on the bed with our father still inside me.  I just went on with the mechanical task, waiting for them to finish so I could go and, without question, it would be forgotten by all.  I would have an ice cream bar, and read some comic books afterwards.

In the flashback, I recognized that my sister was in the goth phase of her senior year of high school…black velvet dress, black lipstick, and shoulder length black hair.  So she definitely did  know very well, in her own way, about my being sexually abused by our parents.  And there was no reaction to that knowledge.  One late nigh when she was sixteen my sister called me into her room and told me that she had picked her backpack earlier to run away.  She was two miles away when she thought of me and how I would have no one without her, and so she came back.  She was crying, and hugged me as she said this.   But she didn’t really protect me, and soon enough she would leave anyway, go on to continue our parents legacy of repression and denial.

With the sexual abuse, I was completely and utterly alone.  The plague of denial and dissociation in our family was incredibly isolating.  Everyone knew, but I learned very early on that I couldn’t share that knowledge with anyone.  I noticed in my teen years the way my mother would try to not merely act as if rather everyday things (which she nonetheless found inconvenient to her) had not happened, but speak of them to me in a very intentional way in order to convince me they hadn’t happened.  Did she really believe that she could put me into some hypnotic state when she just wanted to cover up any random thing she had said or done?  She was always pretending not to remember things whenever it suited her.

Even after I moved away, and the abuse had ended, I was still alone, because I continued to just dissociate and ignore anything that went wrong.  I had extreme difficulty talking to others about anything that was happening.  This is what they intended.  Just like in the story I spoke of in my last entry, where I was told that the extended family went away because I spoke up too much about my brother’s abuse, I’m sure that it was drilled into me from a very young age that I had to be quiet and pretend along with them that nothing had happened, that nothing was happening.  That if I didn’t, I would be utterly rejected, ignored, which would have been unbearable as an infant, toddler, or young child when the abuse was happening.  No, I had to conform to their unreality at the time, I had to dissociate.

I know that when my brother would hit me and I would scream, I was the one punished, for bothering our parents–they didn’t care what he did to me.  When any of my “family”  had just screamed hateful, insulting things at me, they would never try to resolve whatever the ‘problem’ was, never apologize, but just act a minute later like nothing had happened, they had done nothing wrong and how dare I take offense and not immediately move on, forget about it?  There was no room for a sensitive person in this incest family, no place for someone who insisted on speaking the truth and throwing a rock through their windows.  But I wasn’t the problem, I’m not the one who abused them, so why shouldn’t I talk about it, and loudly?

Years ago I had a dream where I was five or six years old, and my mother had taken me to city hall.  We stood outside the courthouse, and she told me that if unless I changed, unless I was “good” she would leave me there, give me away…what choice would I have at that age but to believe that the court building was some scary place where parents could drop off children who don’t shut up and do what they’re told?  Yet even as soon as months ago I still had this immense fear of my mother, the deluded, powerless, elderly criminal suing me.  It’s I who can leave her behind at the courthouse, once my bankruptcy case is finished.  It’s I who have stopped listening to them, and I have a voice, regardless if my ex-family or other people like them just ignore me for telling the honest truth about my life.


About proudlysensitive

Gay male survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
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17 Responses to Unfurling The Roots of Dissociation In My Life

  1. coconutspeak says:

    You are so brave and beautiful my dear.

  2. Hi Caden,
    Your last paragraph really struck me. I too became aware of a HUGE fear of my mother as I was trying to heal from the past and had many of these realizations that you are writing about. I too believed that I HAD to keep silent about the truth. And it was all rooted in that same fear; that she would leave me, that she would not love me, that she would reject me. I remember the day that I realized she had already rejected me and that she didn’t love me. I realized that my fear was a huge part of my survival mode left over from childhood, just like yours being tied to being told that you would be left at the courthouse.

    And we have no choice as children but to believe those threats and to comply because we ‘know’ rejection and abandonment equals death. I told myself for months and months (as an adult in the process) that I could take care of myself now. That I had a right to talk about MY life with whoever I wanted. I believed so deeply that she could SUE ME for talking about her, that I phoned a lawyer before I started my first blog. Those childhood fears are real and the fears they are rooted in are real too. But they are childhood fears and I had to tell myself over and over and over again that I was not a child anymore. She planted those fears in me so she could get away with all her shit. She used that fear to control me and although taking that control back was VERY scary, it was also the beginning of the real recovery.

    It was still a few years before I realized that if my childhood had been different, I would not have had anything to talk about.
    Hugs, Darlene

    By the way, your parents should be in prison.

    • Thanks Darlene. I love what you say about realizing she had already rejected and already didn’t love you. Keeping my abusive families’ secrets certainly didn’t win me any love or kind regard from them either. They took my silence for granted. It’s been amazing for me to come out of those childhood fears over the last months and look at them for what they really are; not based on reality today or on the legal system and who really has a claim against who in my situation. I agree with you, my parents do belong in prison. It’s shocking to really see the amount of arrogance and condemnation they displayed towards me, because like your mother, they were desperate to make me afraid and guilty so I would never figure out what they had done. But I guess they’ve failed.

      take care,

  3. Raw and sensitive. I am thankful that you are able to speak out. I know that finding that voice and using it has been highly instrumental in my own healing. Keep on speaking, never “SHUT UP”, scream it from the rooftops until everyone has heard your voice. You are a brave, intelligent and wonderful young man. 🙂

  4. Caden,
    You are very strong. I just read your entries and as a survivor of serious, damaging child abuse by two very sick parents myself, I see your spirit is alive and you have great awareness. I was taken from my home by authorities at 17, due to the severe abuse I endured and to this day have complex PTSD. I’ve spent my life in therapy and learning about the effects of abuse. Never had kids (didn’t want to bring children into a very violent, angry, fake-appearances family). I am also alone, by choice. I am ok with it, prefer it.

    After being ridiculed, put-down, attacked, pulled out of college because my vicious, narcissistic, competitive mother thought it was a waste of money (I was doing great), I have become successful despite them and their endless ways of putting me down every step of the way. Back then I had to live in my car or on friends’ couches because I couldn’t live at home..ever. Awareness and learning has been my way out of the insanity. Your parents sound like Narcissists, which both of mine are. And yes, I was always told that I am “too sensitive” too. Always. It’s easier to dump their crap on another than take responsibility for themselves. You are already a survivor at such a young age, good for you. I scrapped, lived on my own, had no money and struggled as my parents (who were wealthy) sat back an watched, ridiculed, laughed. They caused it and just blamed my bad luck all on me. Truth is, I had temp jobs and little money, it was tough. I scraped to take college courses, while my mom (who has a degree) took many and loved to torment me with how her job paid for them. She was/is sadistic. To her dismay, I got the training I needed, fueled by hatred of her and her cruelty.

    Karma bit them in the a$$ later..they are old now, went bankrupt, lost everything including their health and have a car that doesn’t work. They used to make fun of my old, $500 cars, but now their $500 car never works. I live my life in peace, as will you. I’m 49 now, and people respect me. I have a business, my own thoughts and life and am not the loser they told me 24/7 that I was. PTSD is still with me, but for the first time in life I am happy, centered. I wasn’t in my twenties or thirties. I cried a lot, Was horribly angry and asked “why me”. Now my life is my own and going strong. Bumps in the road aren’t so strong anymore..I have my life to myself and therapy made that possible. You are awesome, keep up the good work. There is sickness in secrets..and you let the abuse out into the light (as have I), only sick people hide in the darkness..and you are above it! Good for you :)) Sorry this is long, but I fully relate. Though I wasn’t sexually abused, I did get pretty much the same exact torturous behaviors like you have endured, done to me.

  5. Caden, You are Brave & Very Intelligent to have survived your Horrid childhood. I don’t like using emotionally loaded words, yet as I continued to read this post I became more triggered & emotional. The part that spoke to me was, “No room for a sensitive person person in this incest Family, no place for someone who insisted on speaking the truth and throwing a rock through their windows.”…Wow!…I can relate to being the “sensitive person” in my family. I gave away my empathy & sense of self for their approval & validation, based on fear of rejection & abandonment. Yet, when I reflect on this childhood fear, they were already rejecting & shunning me. These feelings have played out in adulthood, when I’ve been exposed or triggered by their drama & emotional abuse. My Foo are Narcissistic people. I’ve been no contact with them for over 2 months now & I do feel more grounded, less anxious & clearer in my thinking. You are an amazing individual!

    • Thank you Sonia. I can relate to what you say about giving so much away to and for them, and all to no avail. No amount of kindness on my part could ever win their respect. I’m glad you don’t try with them anymore.

      take care,

  6. Jim says:

    Be strong. Your life is ahead of you. Work on who you want to be and ignore them.

    You are further along with healing at 20 something than I was at 30+, married, 2 college degrees in hand. I was still in denial and just ‘finding’ my lost past.

    Be strong.

  7. CRS says:

    dear camden
    there are no words for what I feel after reading this.
    I too was sexually abused by my father and completely forgot it.
    I only know through flashbacks. I , to this day, still dissociate. It has become my art… a terrible one. I am trying to come back to reality.

    Reading it from you made me feel less a freak and believe more what has come up in flashbacks. Sometimes, I am in denial, cause I don’t want all the sadistic things to be true.
    you just showed me, I am not crazy.

    love and thank you

    • Thanks CRS, I’m glad my post could help affirm what you went through. I know what you mean, it can be difficult to fully believe and integrate the flashbacks. I always have a process I go through with each uncovered memory before I fully accept it, but in the end I know it’s real and all of it happened. You’re definitely not crazy!

      I wish you well going forward,

      • CRS says:

        hey caden
        sorry got your name wrong.
        you know caden, most of the stuff is so outrageous, I don’t know what to think about it.
        Like, he invited other men to rape me.WHAT KIND OF PERSON DOES THAT?
        and the answer is simple I guess: a pedophile.
        I always had the great memory of my dad that he was kind of cool, a little strange, very childish and aggressive to women except me.. and then with 26 I hit my head hard, had my first boyfriend and BAM the whole shit came up.
        I am just left in disbelief. With a new identity even… or two identities..
        One hidden and the old one..
        I really don’t understand how I could have forgotten. I am in therapy since years, but I still can’t understand how I forgot.
        your blog kind of uncovered this, gave me some answers for which there are no words.
        you gave it a language.
        and I was like WOW… WOW.. THANK YOU.

        I’m a singer (yeah, a real one) and process with my songs.
        I’ll jump over my shadow now, and reveal my (artist) identity:

        hope you like it.

        “crs” 😉

        • Linah, I’m really moved by the emotive beauty of your music–I especially love The Horror of Rooms, and Voyage Out. Thank you for sharing that with me, I can really relate to the lyrical content and you have a sublime voice. I’m going to get a copy of your album as soon as I can.

          It’s despicable what your father did. I’ve also been shocked at finding the depths of depravity in my relatives; it’s all much worse then I thought.

          take care,

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