Although the main character, Tara, (played brilliantly by Toni Colette) has Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder), and I have Borderline Personality Disorder, I love this character very much, and she reflects a lot of my own experience.
For example (I am on episode 20, which is partially into Season 2 out of a 3 seasons total), Tara has a “knowing” deep inside that there is something that happened to her as a child that she cannot recall. It’s something her subconscious has blocked from her memory (an amnesia of sorts), all in an effort to protect her psychologically. But as the pieces and memories begin to surface, she begins to realize that something, indeed, did happen.
At this point, she hasn’t figured it out yet. I know this type of longing for answers and wanting to know the truth about my experience. I have plenty of memories that justify the PTSD symptoms and even my development of BPD, and these are readily available memories that I can vividly recall and describe to you. But I also have a period of a few days when I was a young girl – I’m guessing around 7 years old (I don’t really know), when “something” happened. I only have bits and pieces of the experience, and the rest is repressed.
I’ve considered going into hypnosis to piece together the puzzle, but then I worry that if my conscious mind hasn’t revealed these memories to me, it may be too traumatic to “force” them out of hiding.
Here’s what I do remember…
(Warning: Possible Trigger Alert!)
I was around 7 years old, and my Dad had taken me and his friend “P” out to eat. When we got out to the parking lot, I told my Dad that I needed to lay down. I was overcome with tiredness…completely overwhelmed. I remember that I could hear them talking, but I was so weak that I couldn’t speak. I was so afraid. I heard my Dad say, “This isn’t like her to just fall asleep like this.”
Now, I have NO EVIDENCE that this occurred, and I always attributed my falling ill to food poisoning (perhaps that’s what the adults around me told me it was), but recently, I began to wonder if my father’s friend had drugged me. I only say this because I saw an episode of “What Would You Do?” where they talked about the symptoms of a date rape drug. The symptoms sounded eerily similar to what I remember experiencing in my body and mind as a child. And, when I woke up at… P’s father’s house – a man who I had never before met, I had no idea where I was. I remember being very frightened, having no idea how I ended up there.
For about what seemed like two more days, I stayed on P’s Dad’s couch, and although I kept vomiting, felt very feverish, and my skin was as red as a lobster, I don’t remember EVER having a dialogue with this man. I don’t remember him speaking to me. I don’t remember me saying anything to him. I don’t remember WHY I didn’t pick up the phone and call my mother or Nana, or why I didn’t ask where my father was.
When my father finally showed up, I was very dehydrated. What he said to me and the way he behaved set up a major trigger that I have dealt with for decades. (How can an adult be SO UNAWARE of the potential consequences that their words and actions can have on a precious, impressionable child? How can they not know that they may scar and damage that child and that they may have to live with the effects of this well into their adulthood?!) My father made up a concoction of Sprite soda, Alka Seltzer, Tylenol, and Pepto Bismal. He told me that if I didn’t drink it, I would die of dehydration.
Scared to pieces, I drank the concoction. I have a lapse in memory as to what happened after that. My next memory is being at a pizza chain called Papa Gino’s with my father and younger sister, and my Dad saying, “You’ll need to go to the hospital if you don’t eat or drink.” When I still refused because I didn’t feel well, he said, “If you don’t go to the hospital, you’re going to die.” I again have a lapse in memory. I don’t remember if I got well on my own or went to the hospital, though I don’t remember going to the hospital at all.
What I do know is that at any sign of dehydration through out my adult life (with the last time being June 11th of last year), I have always rushed to the emergency room and received IV fluids – terrified that I was going to die if I didn’t. To my father, who passed away many years ago – do you see what you’ve done? I know I told you I forgave you when you were on your death bed for all of the abuse and turmoil you caused me, my sister, my mother and grandmother — but I had no idea how long your abusive, irresponsible, horrific behavior would affect my life.
I am tired of being your victim. Since I have been going to DBT classes and maintaining a sense of stability in most areas of my life, I realize that as an adult, I am responsible for taking care of myself. Never again will I let myself believe otherwise.
I no longer run to the emergency room because I am now “hip” to this trigger. That’s right, Daddy, I am healing. Memories are coming to the surface. I will know the truth, and even more importantly, I will be strong enough to face it and move on with my life, knowing that neither you nor anyone else can abuse me ever again. It is with a a bit of apprehension and, of course, uncertainty, that I tread in these waters, but just as Tara in United States of Tara is trusting the process and pressing on as her mind unveils her secrets to her in a timing that she can handle, I, too, am trusting the process.
Even if I dissociate from time to time, I trust the process. I have the tools to ground myself and keep things from completely unraveling. I am ready.