Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Identity Politics

At this time (in my recovery), I don't have a strong voice. This has made it hard to write. Right now I am trying to just write without thinking about it. Usually the voice that comes out in my writing is a driving force in my writing, so I really don't have much forward momentum for this. I often think about life as a journey, or path we travel, which has a certain linear progression about it. The way I feel is making me feel lost. A lot of what I feel is what is bubbling up from my past, sometimes triggered by emotions connected to things that are happening now, although it is hard to tell if the emotions are coming from the past or the present or a combination of both. So where am I? I have a life, and an identity, that is connected to events and circumstances happening now and from what happened to me when I was a kid. I am living in both, and I don't know what from either makes up who I am.

Trauma interfered with my emotional and psychological development. I had to shut down to protect myself. Now I'm trying to do some of that development, feel those feelings of grief, fear, anger, and confusion. I'm trying to process and let those struggles flow through me, and live my current, adult life at the same time. I feel disconnected. I have feelings, strong, powerful, intense feelings that are only loosely connected to what is going on in the present. I have adult relationships that make me feel like a kid sometimes. I have an inner life that often makes me feel isolated from the people around me. I live in two worlds. This is nothing new. When I was a kid, my life at school and with friends had to be kept separate from my home life. My home life didn't make any sense in the context of life outside. The rules of my family were different than the rules in the real world. Surviving my family took different skills than being successful in the outside world. My home life wasn't real, but it was. Everything I perceived and felt about my home life was contradicted by the power structure within that world. Most kids learn about how to be in the world; I learned how to straddle two worlds, neither one of which made much sense to me. I felt powerless in both. I felt crushed, dehumanized, attacked, belittled, ignored, and rejected. I felt numb, limp, empty, and insubstantial.

That existence was dry and cold. I looked around me and all I saw was sand, shifting into mounds that looked indistinguishable from each other, and empty sky. Now I've been pitched into a swamp, sticky muck, humid, and dripping into my face, covering my arms and legs, clinging to my skin. The thing they have in common is there is nothing solid, and I don't see any path forward, any direction. I can pick a random place and struggle my way there, over shifting sands or squishy mud, but is it really progress? I still can't see where I'm going. I'm just going on faith that I will eventually get to someplace different, a place where I can see where I'm going and make some decisions about my life that will mean something for my future.

Worse than that, I feel insubstantial. Whatever the opposite of solid is, that's what I feel like. Like I don't have edges. Mushy. All I have is rules and schedules and structure in my life to try to keep myself together, and this pulsating pressure that feels like it will rip me apart. I don't really understand this, why I feel this way, why I feel like the expectations and influences of other people can distort my whole being, why my perceptions and point of view, hopes and dreams and plans, seem like a fiction, as real and solid as smoke, or fog. I guess I kind of do know why- it's because I was made to feel like my feelings, my personality, everything that I was as a kid was wrong or unimportant. That's the foundation I have to build on, and since I can't build anything resilient on that, I'm trying to go back and strengthen the foundation without being able to completely pull it down and start over. So it's like I'm traveling two different paths, paths that keep pulling on each other like magnets. I'm not sure when or if they will come together though, and where I might be if that happens. Or who I might be. So I look around and see life that seems like it should be more linear, more straightforward, and I feel very far away from other people. Even though I now see and recognize different parts of me and how they split apart, I feel sometimes far away from myself. Disconnected. Then I watch Lost, and enjoy how complicated it is, and that the challenge of tying up all those loose ends is nothing compared to bringing my own life into some sensical order. (I know sensical isn't a word, technically, but it's the opposite of nonsensical.)


Anonymous said...

God girl ... you are so very eloquent when you write. You are already one of the strongest (and believe it or not) sanest (is that even a word?) people I have ever met. I am so very sorry that you have to be yet even stronger to deal with all this...I don't even know the words for it, but I liked your description of ...sticky ick. Your outside self is doing its job and you still look happy and beautiful- but I was getting and idea that you were working on something on the inside. Good luck - I truly believe you can do this! :) Sus PJ

Opal said...

I am continually awestruck by how brave and brillant you are.

Hannah Leah said...

I know exactly how you feel. At least the words you say feel like words I could say about myself. Though I don't feel so much from my fears from the past, rather I fear the future. That tears me in two. Two paths. Two identities. Which is me. Is either? It's so strange.

Tealrat said...

Thanks all of you. :) Leah, we haven't talked forever!