MY Story: Split “Life” Disorder

Hi!  My name is Shauna and I am an Overcomer in Christ.  I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  I am a survivor of physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse in a previous marriage.  I am an overcomer of food addiction, love and relationship addiction, rage and anger mismanagement, kleptomania, co-dependency and people pleasing.

And this is MY story.

Most of us are aware of the term “split personality disorder”.  I sometimes think of my childhood in these terms, but instead of myself being fractured into multiple parts, my life was split.

My time in school is easily broken into sections by grade.  I had a teachers face to attach a lot of images to inside the classroom.  It is easy to remember the abuse done to me inside each classroom because I had a distinct location for this trauma.

Life outside of the classroom, but still within school grounds (or on the school bus) is harder for me to place an age reference to the “re-telling” of the incident.  It is hard to know exactly when it happened, and where to place it in the stream of recollection.

Life at home is even more challenging to place within the stream of recollection because it was the same – day in and day out.  Everything I experienced at home sort of blurs together, making it difficult to place exactly when something occurred.

And here is where the split happens: the struggles I faced at home were radically different from the struggles I faced at home.  The feelings attached to my memories at home are so dissimilar to the emotions of my school memories that I sometimes experience a sort of whiplash when reliving them. Things are so disconnected that I scarcely even know how or where to start retelling them.

At home there were consequences for my bad choices at school, as well as consequences for my bad choices at home.  But life at home was not all horrible.  I have a lot of happy memories, and I honestly thought my home life was pretty normal.  It wasn’t until I moved into adulthood, and shared some of my experiences with others that I realized that quite a bit of it was anything but normal.

I experienced the usual spankings, time outs, toy removal, sentence writing and television loss as most children.  But after that, the normality ended.  My parents tried a lot of different techniques in order to modify my behavior.  All the while, completely unaware that they were fighting a losing battle we could never hope to win.

Being “grounded” was actually pretty pointless.  I was an only child, and I was used to be ostracized by schoolmates, so being “sent to my room” did not have the desired effect.  In an attempt to facilitate the desired effect, the items in my room were removed little by little until I was left with absolutely nothing other than a bed, dresser and desk.  No posters on the wall, no decorations, no pretty bed spread, absolutely nothing that I could use to catch my attention.  Still, I was content to sit on my bed for hours on end.

We had textured walls and ceilings.  Did you know that if you stare at them long enough and let your eyes relax the wall will start to waver and all kinds of designs and details will appear?  It’s kind of like looking for shapes in the clouds.  That is what I learned being confined to my room for days on end.  I didn’t think about what I did wrong, heck, most of the time I didn’t even remember.  I spent my time finding elephants and boats.

My mom took away my dolls, and I just used my hands instead.  They would carry on full conversations with each other the same as if I had two toys to play with.  I would do “eenie meenie minie moe” type songs with my fingers until I had eliminated them all.  Then I would start over again.  It didn’t really matter.  I remember spending whole weekends sitting on my bed staring at the walls.  Not just an hour or two after school, but two whole entire days not leaving my bed except to eat and go to the bathroom.  You would think that this would be enough to drive any respectable 7-12 year old completely stir crazy and whip them right into shape.  But it did nothing for me.

As much as I found ways to entertain myself, I absolutely hated being confined to my room.  The silence and blank walls irritated me to no end.  But it didn’t motivate me enough to change my behavior because I never remembered what I had done wrong by the time I was finished serving my sentence. Not to mention that with the ADHD came a complete lack of impulse control, which most children lack anyway.

I remember weekend after weekend after weekend pulling weeds and picking up dog poo and working in the yard with my parents.  I knew at the time that these were consequences, and I know looking back on them that it was supposed to be a form of “punishment”.  Unfortunately for my parents, these were also completely normal occurrences in our household as well.  We had 1/2 acre and on that acre we had nearly every fruit tree you can think off, lots of grass and plants that constantly needed care and 2 dogs.  Those dogs had to be picked up after whether I was in trouble or not.  So to use this as consequences, kind of back fired.  I actually remember most of these days with fondness and togetherness — MOST of them.

There are of course, those exceptions that stand out like a sore thumb.  I do remember one summer in particular where the weeds in one section of our yard were nearly as tall as my father – 5′ 7″.  And the are we grew up in was granite rock.  You usually needed a pick axe to do anything more than a small hole.  And it was HOT.  My job for the summer was to pull the weeds in this approximately
12′ x 12′ section.  My “torture” would end when I finished pulling all the weeds.  That sounds awesome right?  Get them done quickly and I could go about my merry way?  Need I remind you that these weeds were bigger than me, growing out of rock at most had at least a 1″ thick stalk? Oh — and it’s usually about 99 -102 degrees, and I am probably between 9-11, with severe ADHD.  I couldn’t have stayed focused on eating long enough to finish my meal even if it was the last one I was ever going to eat.  My dad often joked that I was so forgetful that I would forget my own head even though it WAS attached.

And yet, the emotional undercurrent of my life at home did not compare to that of my life at school.  At home, as angry as I would get, as frustrated as I would become, I always felt loved and wanted.  I felt safe and secure.  There was a consistency and routine to my life that made it easy to cope with the disjointed mess in my head.  I may not have always been able to stay on task, but I wasn’t often surprised by the consequences.  And most of the time, there was an emotional disconnect for my mom.  Most of time, I did not feel as though her consequences and punishments were given out with shame attached.  She punished because I had done wrong, not because she was ashamed of me or simply angry with me.  I know I drove her crazy, I could tell she was at her wit’s end a lot of the time because my behavior was like a bad record stuck in a groove constantly replaying the same line, but it usually wasn’t personal.

At school, there was always shame involved.  Every aspect of every day was full of shame and worthlessness.  Teachers abused me, students abused me, teachers allowed the students to abuse me, and it was always personal.  It was always an attempt to squash, diminish, shame or otherwise destroy my integrity and sense of self.

There was a brokenness to my life, to my every day being and surviving.  In the differences of school and home, there almost was a sort of personality split within me that I still battle today.  The little girl who wants so desperately to no longer feel ashamed and broken and for others to accept her for exactly who she is constantly at war with the adult who has tentatively grasped at the notion that I am beautifully and wonderfully made.  I am a unique and eccentric individual who must not put her light under a basket.  My ideas are worth something to my family and the world around me, and the little girl who was always silenced and pushed down will one day soon stand strong and proud, and she will roar and be silenced no more.

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