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Affairs of the First Order

I’ve just eaten one of those wonderful banana sandwiches that are popular in the Deep South, and washed it down with a cold glass of, even more popular, sweet iced tea!  I sit around the kitchen table in our cozy mobile home where my mother is gathered with her friends.  Finishing my lunch, I am “shooed” away.  I run to the living room to play with my dolls, but I notice that the women are watching me out of the corner of their eyes, leaning in, and speaking in hushed tones.  I know enough already to know that they don’t want me to hear what they are talking about – so, of course, this cues me in to listen ever so much more closely!  I grab a toy and half-pretend with it while staying within earshot, feigning disinterest.

“They say that he was in the car…naked,” says one of the ladies.

“Naked?” my mother’s voice squeaks?  “In the car?”

“Yes”, she replies with a reserved nod.  “They say she was naked, too.”

“Right in the parking lot?” my mother’s voice has this strange weakness in it.

I’m not sure what this all means, but I know it’s naughty – and I know it‘s bad news.  This is the first conscious memory, of my current self anyway, of feeling the sexual energy of…well, anything!  I can feel the forebodingness as tactilely as I had moments before experienced the sweet taste of the mayonnaise from the sandwich upon my novice tongue.  I can feel the pain striking my being, coming from some place deep in the chest of my mother.

When I was the tender age of two, my father was found out in his first affair with another woman.  He and my mother had just celebrated the birth of a second child, my younger sister.  My poor mother!  What with the post-pregnancy hormones and the two little children depending solely upon her for care, what with the deep and committed love that she felt for her husband, it was all too much.  Her reaction to my father’s affair was that of a total shut-down.  She experienced what we Southerners call a “nervous breakdown”.

It was discovered that while my mother was still asleep, having not yet awakened from the drugs administered during the birth of my sister, her husband had been in communication with his lover.  He had told her that his new baby was another girl.  “She knew before I did!” I’ve heard my mother lament.

It has always seemed to me that my mother has a “touch“ of second sight.  She tells a story of experiencing a vision a short while before the affair surfaced.  I like to think that this was a preparatory warning for her.  “I was ironing clothes,” she says, “and in front of my eyes I suddenly saw a picture of myself, like watching a movie of someone else.  In the scene, I was walking up the hill to Mama and Daddy’s house and I was carrying the baby and hanging on to your hand and trying to make it up the hill with both of you.  I was weak and could hardly walk, but I finally made it to their door.  I stepped inside and called, ‘Mama!’  She came to me and I started sinking down to the floor as she took the baby out of my arms.

“A while later, I found myself doing that exact same thing and I knew that it was what I had seen myself doing in the vision.  The only difference was that when I got to the door, it was Daddy, not Mama, who met me and took the baby, and he yelled, ‘Mama! Geraldine needs help!’

“I wound up laying there and I could hear them talking to me and calling my name – but it was as if I was in a dark tunnel and they were a long way off.  At the end of the tunnel, I could see a light and I was going to it.  I wanted to go to it.  I lay there and tried to will myself to go away.  I wanted to die – but I could hear my parents begging me to come back and telling me that they needed me and that my kids needed me so I finally decided to come back and I came back to [consciousness].

“After that, I had a hard time taking care of you kids and doing anything for a while before I fully came back to myself.  Your Aunt Doris came and helped take care of you and your sister because I would even forget to feed you.  I don‘t know what I‘d have done if it hadn‘t been for her.  I was in bad shape for a while.  Daddy would come and check on you girls, and check on me, and he made sure that he was around a lot.  I know that he would worry about me.  He would say, ‘Dene, you know, I’d give my life for you if it would make you happy.  You know that, don’t you?’”

When I hear my mother tell this story, and as I write it here and ponder it, I try thinking about it in terms of understanding and analyzing the affect it probably had on my own dissociative disorder.  The first time that I lay down and “tried to die” I was ten years old.  Had I recorded the events of my early life and replayed the tape of my mother’s experience?  Was I genetically predisposed to have my emotions affect me so strongly that I sometimes wanted to die for lack of being able to bear them?

My father provided the environments from which I most needed escape, and my mother taught me the method by which to do so.  These tender beginnings of mine would cultivate in me an ability to take myself out of life when it was too hard.  I began to unconsciously divide myself – in order to conquer the suffering that was a big part of what made up this incomprehensible world through which my emerging selves found themselves wandering.

Posted in My Inheritance.

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8 Responses

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  1. Yvonne says

    As usual, an interesting post delivered in a captivating manner. Good job, Deneen. My heart hurts for that little girl, who was forced to deal with harsh realities way too early in her life.

  2. Kim says

    I can’t believe you remember all this from only being 2 years old! It’s amazing. I litterally have no memories until I’m about 4 or 5 years old.

  3. charlene says

    an excellent bit on insight on why your life may have and probably did turn out as it has, at least as far as your DID is concerned. i do believe these types of disorders are hereditary. and we do learn many of our behaviors from our parents as well. we all use what tools we have available to protect ourselves…some of us are better equipped than others. do you feel yours worked well for you? i don’t know that i did well…knowing you, i see you struggle at times, but i also see you as a very positive and happy person as well.

    this is really great writing honey. i think the last paragraph is exceptionally well written. you can really understand the true beginnings of where your struggles with your identities began.

  4. Mike Bernier says

    An excellent posting! We’re really starting to see where all of the issues you’ve dealt with over the years got their start…and that start was in the generations before you. It takes a lot of courage to tell this story, but even more to have lived it. I feel even more honored now than ever before to know you and that I can call you a dear, dear friend!

    I hope that through this process of sharing your story that you are better able to overcome your past and help others who have dealt with, and are still dealing with, similar circumstances in their lives. I am eager to learn more of the story, and await each new posting with greater anticipation!

  5. Deneen Ansley says

    Yvonne – I also sometimes feel sorry for the little girl who was me, and with my dissociative disorder, it makes it even easier to think of my younger selves as separate people. I often wonder why it seems more okay to feel sorry for, and to feel the need to comfort people who aren’t really “me”? Why are we taught by society that to comfort ourselves is somehow wrong or a waste?

    Perhaps not all of us are taught this, but in my world, it’s a message that has been delivered loudly and clearly!

  6. Deneen Ansley says

    Kim – I have only flashes and bits and pieces of when I was young. One side affect of the Dissociative Identity Disorder is that the memories that I DO access have been preserved in this little time capsule of emotion that is separate from the rest of me. The positive aspect of this, from an autobiographical point of view, is that I’ve not “watered-down” the memory, or lost it among the archives of all of the other trivia.

    Sometimes, I’m pasting several bits of memory together in order to make a linear story. My young brain was just forming, and I’m sure that some of the details weren’t laid into my memory exactly correctly, but my task here is to share what I remember the way that I remembered it. It’s the emotion behind the memory that sticks with me most, and that is what I strive to bring forth most through the pages of this memoir.

  7. Deneen Ansley says

    Charlene – Do I think my DID worked well for me, you ask? What I can say about that is that I am HERE! I survived! That, in itself, is a miracle! I am grateful for my disorder, and I consider some of my alters the great heroes of my life.

    Children who aren’t so empathic, who aren’t so sensitive, who aren’t so (dare I say it?) intelligent, fare better in the environment like the one into which I was born. If I had been a different child, I would not have needed to dissociate in order to survive. The emotions of others have always had a strong affect on me, and continue to do so to present day. If I’d not been so sensitive regarding criticisms of myself, and not cared so much what other people thought, I’d not have internalized all manner of hurt. If ‘d been less intelligent, I could have accepted the world as it was presented to me and not have been driven insane (and I mean that quite literally) by the contradictions.

    As far as you are concerned, I think that you have done remarkably well in coming through the things through which you have come! I’m also grateful for your friendship because I know that you understand, REALLY, when I am in a non-functioning state-of-being.

  8. Deneen Ansley says

    Mike – Thanks for traveling with me, and for being open-minded and willing to learn about things that affect a lot of other people even though you’ve not, thankfully, had to deal with them ourselves.

    People are faced with different trials and struggles, and I think that communicating and caring about others, even when it doesn’t affect oneself, is the mark of a truly good human being! Hopefully, journeying with me here, your understanding of a lot of things will expand.

    At least, it’s good to know that my life has entertainment value! That’s a positive thing in the eyes of this writer that I am!

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