Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Personal History

TITLE: Nurtured Nature
DATE: 01/05/2004 08:37:28 PM
and 12/25/08 at 12:18AM

A bit of personal history: when I was in fifth grade, in England, I was spending an afternoon alone in the flat with no one but my father around. For some reason I don’t recall, I remember him appearing at the playroom door, his normally ruddy face apoplectically florid with rage. I must have done something wrong, but what I cannot for the life of me remember. All I know is that he soon had me by one arm, and was swinging with his free hand to swat my behind, and I was swerving to avoid the blows. We lumbered around in circles like some misshapen two-headed elephant. I was screaming and crying, more in fear and rage than pain, since he couldn’t get enough leverage to really hurt me. Then it hit me like sticking my finger in an electrical socket that he wanted to get a rise out of me. That was his single purpose. He would only be satisfied when he heard me scream loud enough. I realized I didn’t need to give him what he wanted, and I ceased at once both my protests and my seeking to avoid his paddling. I simply relaxed in his grasp, and the surprise at my lack of resistance made him almost supportive as he sought to keep me upright even as he continued to try to spank me. But now as I gave no satisfying howls, it was so dispiriting to him, he stopped hitting me. He let me go, leaving us breathless the two of us. But he wasn’t through with me, not yet. He still wanted to get to me. Only if he hurt me, could his own rage and impotence be relieved. That’s what I saw so terribly clearly. He thundered across the room to our precious tin and cardboard dollhouse and began systematically dismantling it and throwing the pieces in the waste basket. I felt immediately that I had no choice but to join him. Not only that, I felt I had to laugh uproariously, even while we trashed my favorite plaything that I had lavished both hours of my time and all my pocket money on.

Well, this did the trick. Seeing as he couldn’t hurt me, he couldn’t provoke me to tears or outrage, but only encouraged me to laugh merrily, he abruptly stopped what he was doing. He glared at me with murderous rage in his red eyes, and then, clearly fearful of what he might just be capable of if he didn’t leave me right then and there, he pounded out of the room and left me to my triumph. I fully admit I cheered, and jeered. I felt more victorious than if I had beaten my brother to a pulp! (See how gentle and generous I was?) I had won, and he could do NOTHING against me; he could not hurt me, no matter how hard he tried, not physically, not emotionally. He had tried and failed, and therefore I was the winner, and I gloated in my victory over the tyrant of 839A Finchley Road.

Did I pay a price for this? And why did I automatically resort to such behavior, rather than submitting to a "mere" spanking? Was I programmed by my genes to respond this way? It certainly felt innate, not learned, not conditioned. No one had ever taught me to react this way to abuse before. I just happened upon it, and understood that it was the only way to successfully beat him at his own game.

I wrote in 2004: I suspect that something innate in me leads me to see the world in black and white, in terms of absolute good and evil instead of shades of grey. I have never not been prone to such a division of labor, even when I myself am partitioned off into the all-bad category, as I usually am. Why do some people see the gradations in things, in events and people, and others, like me, see only the stark contrasts, and find it so difficult to accommodate to the idea of in-betweens and relativeness? Have I merely learned to be this way, or is it, as it feels, a natural native response that I must constantly keep in check?

I saw no other option that day but to destroy my dollhouse with my father. I could have sobbed or objected, or simply mutely watched as he went about his murderous business. But no, I felt obliged to join in, to destroy my own things myself, and to actually feel cheerful doing so, albeit somewhat hysterically so. And to this day I often choose to hurt myself if I perceive that someone else wants to hurt me. I’ll do it first, I reason, so I can control it and it won’t hurt so much. No one can hurt me as much as I hurt myself, I know that. NO ONE would dream of burning me with multiple cigarettes over large patches of skin. No one would slash my wrists or cut at my face just to get back at me. Yet, with or without the help of accompanying command hallucinations, I do so, and do so frequently. Or at least have done so many many times, each time without even considering other options, or simply waiting for the feeling to pass. It never occurs to me to think about what the scars will look like, not even on my face. I just lash out, and obey both the voices and my own self-poisoning hatred.

I write in 2008: I don't know why I said that I see in B & W except that I was told in some hospital that I saw in B & W and I was unable to think about it for myself at the time. In fact, I see the shades of gray (actually in millions of colors, but I won't quibble) quite well...It is others who wish to put me into either the B or W camps who have trouble with gradations. I don't think that it suggests a tendency to B & W thinking, the fact that one, say, has deliberately, that is to say, usually under orders -- burned one's face or arms. It merely suggests self-hatred among other things. But you can hate yourself and still see the rest of the world in shades of grey, I assure you.

It occurs to me that I say: "No one would dream of doing X and Y to me" but of course, that is just the world's expression I am using. As I use it, I mean to imply the very opposite: The problem is precisely that they might indeed do it to me, which is why I must do it to myself first...

How does all this fit into my having developed schizophrenia? The fact that I learned to destroy my own dollhouse and laugh while I did so seems significant insofar as it is not how most children would have reacted. I forgot how to feel, or how I was allowed to feel about the world that happened around me, and how I was allowed to react to it. They were making all these Rules for me at any and every minute that kept me on my toes...The Rules were the bane of my existence. I couldn't open or pass through a strange door unless a Rule had been made and then been broken on my behalf. This is still difficult. The Rules govern a great deal, though I am not supposed to talk about them anymore or give them any credence, according to Dr O. She believes I am cured, and if I do not talk to her about the voices or the Rules, she will continue to believe so, and will eventually allow me to get off the pills. Which is what I am stumping for. So that is why I will not tell anyone about them.

But there are all sorts of rules, like: if anything becomes too precious, give it away. Or answers to all sorts of questions like, if a cholera epidemic comes, should I offer my blood? (My blood is immune to cholera, They tell me); smaller or precise questions too, but larger ones like: what doors can I pass through, yes, but also what large spaces can I cross, where may I speak and how loudly can I say my name (if at all); how much water may I use; how much space is my body allowed to take up; Can I use a paper towel? Can I use a paper napkin? Must I re-use every yogurt container again... Other Rules: Do not throw away any reuseable food container. Do not look at other people unless they look at you first. But look at other people as soon as they look at you.

You know, this is so good: Get the eyes right, in other words. That is hard, but it is essential if you want to be normal. Believe me. It took me forever to learn to look at people. I still can't always do it, and some people I still have trouble with regularly or I just fudge it. But I can in general not look down now when I'm with people, so you see how far I've come. So some of the Rules are "right on" Rules...Just some of them aren't and I'm hard pressed to know which are good and which are harmful...And if they are not helpful as a lot then they really do me no good as a lot and I'm back where I started, just with Voices and Rules (no news, no news).

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