Monday, 18 May 2009

Truisms?

One of the strangest parts about being on the other side of the panic attacks, the flashbacks, the incapacitating depressions is the "truisms". Yesterday's post held one of them "take/accept people as they are - not as you want them to be".

Others include: this too will pass; what doesn't kill you will make you stronger; don't make mountains out of molehills; pull up your socks, get over it, and do stuff. These and more may well be true. However, they are only true if we survive.

They are also only true when we aren't being driven by debilitating emotional impulses that are controlling what we do. Most of the time, it is because we are tapping into emotions that come out of the past. If we could only pick the right time to deal with them.

The truism are only real for those who don't have severe trauma in their childhood. Those mountains that we make out of molehills are just put there to help us avoid dealing with what is really wrong. Even when we know that they are molehills, we can never truly be sure that they aren't mountains until we burrough far beneath molehill. And that is always painful. The real problem is that we expend so much energy trying to avoid pain that it is inevitably difficult to keep on going. So, one day we have to dig deep because we can't avoid it any more. Keeping the memories behind the walls uses up too much energy that we need for other things. From experience, I can say that it has to be done - it just isn't easy.

The one truism that doesn't work is "time heals all pain" - it doesn't because the memories just won't let us be until we face the beast in the closet and the monsters under the bed.

I can only say thank whatever, we have tools now to help get to the trauma and the pain - now if we could only persuade "the citizens" that this is all too real.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Is forgiveness when you stop blaming someone for being who they were and are?

Forgiveness is one of those "trigger" words. This is particularly so for Christian "survivors". We are told that we will find peace, if we forgive our abuser. This is the way to healing - as we were forgiven, so we should forgive. But the word brings up all sorts of issues; among them are the following

How do you forgive, if you don't remember what was done to you?
How do you forgive when the past can't be undone?
Why do you need to forgive when you no longer believe?
Is the ability to forgive something that happens after enough grieving has been done?
How does one grieve when one cannot remember what was lost?

And then there is the problem of all of the people that we have hurt along the way, however unintentionally. Our own conundrums!
How can you say you're sorry, if you don't know what you did?
Saying you're sorry won't do a damn bit of good if the person isn't ready to forgive.
Saying you're sorry means nothing if the person that you have harmed doesn't remember what you did.
Saying you're sorry won't change the past; sometimes explaining why you did what you did helps.

But what do you do when there is no way to explain that when you are in the middle of a flashback crisis, there is really no way to control what you don't really understand. The world is truly incomprehensible and any attempts to control it are futile.

So you get lots of therapy and you finally understand almost all of what was driving you. Why you did, what you did - both good and bad. All the pieces of the puzzle are finally in place. Then what do you do? It can be overwhelming to feel so bad about some of the things that happened because you were driven to find answers. And you needed to find answers in order to survive.

You pray that somehow, the damage that you might have inflicted won't be fatal and won't last forever. And you need to learn to forgive yourself.

At one point over the years, I used to think that if I could just forgive God for abandoning me, then I could forgive my husbands, my parents. When I finally got around to grieving the death of my god, I found out that forgiveness wasn't a necessary component of anything. Understanding what I had lost was the key and I had to move on from there. It freed me up to understand that I had choices about establishing relationships and re-establishing relationships with whomever I wanted. The other side of the equation was that they didn't have to say that they were sorry. Sometimes they could, sometimes they couldn't. All human relationships are complex. They are made up of give and take. Maybe it is just a case of the good outweighing the bad and when the bad outweighs the good, the relationship is null and void.

(Strangely enough, I have never felt any need to forgive the priest - it was as if he was dead to me - what I would say today, is that there was no desire to continue any kind of relationship, so it wasn't an issue. Besides the long term impact of the evil that that man had perpetrated was unforgivable. He didn't just harm me, he harmed every relationship that I ever had.)

This brings me to the most complex of my relationships - the relationship with my mother. I have done a lot of thinking since writing my post on Sunday, September 7, 2008, How will we change the past, if we don't know what it is?

I have wondered just what is my relationship with her. Now that I have begun to put her life into some kind of perspective, how do I understand it. Maybe the word "forgive" is the only one that we have to explain what happens when you stop blaming someone for being who they were and are. My mother was and is as much a product of her past as I am. She did the best that she could have, given what I know. She was as driven by emotions that she didn't always understand as I was. We now have tools and understanding of how humans react to trauma that didn't exist even 30 years ago. Her inability to say "I'm sorry" had more to do with her avoidance of emotional pain as it did with anything that we did. She never spoke to her own mother after she was 27 and that after 12 years of not speaking to her. How could she have ever begun to deal with our emotional pain when she had never dealt with her own? There are many stories that could be written to explain that question. Those have to wait for a while yet. In all likelihood, she did better by us, than her parents did by her. We are all still here with her. She did love us as much as she could. There are many things that will always be sad and will hurt from the past. I am no longer angry about them.

I can only believe that I did better by my children. I know that there are many things that I would have done differently if I could have. I try to understand that I did the best that I could. At this point, the only thing that I can do when things come up is to be honest about my failings, say that I am sorry things weren't different, apologize for the pain that I caused and hope that they accept me as I am and know that I love them more than life itself.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The "little forgetting pill" and Dollhouse

One pill to Erase your bad memories. Would you take it?

I could have blogged on the healthkicker site but this is one of those constant questions that those of us with "bad memories" have: understanding that the past is the past and however painful, we have to learn to integrate it (if we can). Would I take it - no! Should anyone take it - no! I grant you that this was not an option for me, but I depended so much on my intellectual abilities even as a child, I doubt that I would have willingly taken a “forget me” pill.

Have you been watching Dollhouse, the new Josh Whedon drama? If Hitler's social programs are eugenics and genetic modification taken to its logical conclusion, then Dollhouse is the "little forgetting pill" taken to its logical conclusion.

Watching Dollhouse week after week is intriguing. For those of you who don't know what Dollhouse is, it is about a "corporation" that has brought the best technology (and people) that money can buy in order to be able to gather up a person's brain structure and put it into a largish USB drive and store it. The "dolls" are people whose minds have been wiped and then are kept in a high end "camp-like" place where they are monitored, kept healthy and wait until someone buys a particular service. [These dolls are the “Actives”; others are in the “Attic”.] A doll is then programmed with a variety of memories that will allow them to perform the required task. Each doll has a keeper who goes out on assignment with them and brings them back when the assignment is over. The show has always hinted that the corporation says that this is not creepy high end prostitution or jail, but rather that there is a greater good that can come of this. That, naturally, makes it all right to conduct experiments on other human beings.

The story line on May 1 was convoluted, but gave a hint at what some of these benefits of this process can be. Echo (the story's heroine doll) has volunteered to spend time at a youth home (i.e., an orphanage) for troubled children. The opening sequence has her reading a fairy tale to the children when one of the girl's starts acting out. Echo tells the woman who is in charge that she completely understands the girl.
Back at the Dollhouse, we are told that an experiment is going on. Echo has been imprinted with a brain engram (self assured and surviving well) that has been developed from the brain engram of the girl who was abused as a child. (where did they get the girl’s brain engram??) We are told the girl's back-story (addict mother dies, girl left with mother's pimp boyfriend who then sells her as a prostitute). We then see the healthy brain image that could develop if proper intervention can take place.

We return to Echo who is talking with the girl who is crayoning all over the pictures in the fairy tale book. The dialogue that takes place is on target. I have one major problem - Echo promises to return - given the trust issues inherent in the situation; what will happen to the girl if she doesn't? Echo's final lines about the abused girl are spoken to the woman in charge of the group home - "it will take time and it will be painful" but she will be fine.

There is no question in my mind that the ethical issues of this episode are raised deliberately and the writers of the episode put them side by side. The FBI agent is raging about the slavery upon which the Dollhouse is built; we get to meet Alpha, a male doll gone bad. Against this, we see the Dollhouse staff attempting to do some good, albeit with an ulterior motive, one can only assume. The Dollhouse is evil.

I hope it lasts. There are other Whedonites who complain about not being able to like any of the characters. In the beginning, it didn’t really go anywhere. But I remember the first few episodes of Buffy – it took a while to get going. I prefer to trust that man who gave us Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Dollhouse has great potential. Josh Whedon's latest sci-fi drama is about what makes us who we are. If we don’t have our memories who/what are we? Dollhouse pushes the envelope of what has been only hinted at in Babylon 5(watch it, if you haven't already).

In B5, it was the mindwipe. This was something that was done to criminals as a substitute for capital punishment. Their minds were wiped; they were given new personalities and spent the rest of their lives serving the community. The B5 episode dealing with the mindwipe is called "Passing Through Gethsemane” It starred Brad Dourif as a serial killer who had been mindwiped and was now a monk. He finds out that he was this serial killer and the person he has now become cannot live with the guilt he feels over what he did. One conundrum of this episode is “who is he really – the killer or the monk?”

Our brains already have ways of forgetting, of hiding our truths until we are ready to deal with them. Who’s to say that the little forgetting pill won’t leave traces – there will be gaps in time, for example. Take our cue from SciFi – monkeying around with the brain can cause big headaches.

Do we all want to end up as dolls? The “little forgetting pill” could take us there.