Monday, 14 September 2015

Facing One's Demons- by Julia Still
             
                                               The Beginning of Her End
                                                       22 July, 2015


    Has anyone carried forth a story within every cell of his/her body and the weight of that story creating such baggage that true movement is not possible? And I mean movement that is not fight, flight or even freezing up.

Today, I have the image of a possum mother under her litter of clinging babies- she is brave, instinctive and will nurture her young. She will also teach them to play dead when threatened. But from the first days of their birth, she will carry them...This is what I have done with my early history, but, unlike the possum mother, I have not taught myself to separate healthfully from its sticky details and its appetite to devour my healthy instincts, my ability and right to thrive, to feed myself on life's generous fruits or even to feel safe within my family, its brood.

In 1957, I was born into a family with one older sister and one older brother. I was born at a very chaotic and overwhelming time when my parent's marriage was coming to end and after six years of unexpected turmoil caused by my sister's emotional troubles. The first burden I had to carry was the hope that my presence could save a dying marriage. Added to that, I had an angry and deeply unpredictable sister who did not want siblings at all and who acted upon her rage and embedded sadness. I am uncertain as to what happened to my brother who was two years younger than A-perhaps my brother is holding the painful barbs of his history close to his chest.
As for me, within my first year, my parents realised that I was in danger after the first attempt upon my life in a flat in Paris. I was immediately kept in a separate part of our home under the watch of au pair girls. When I was over a year and a half, I disappeared. I still don't know where I went, but I was watched over and understood...I know that. What happened was that one morning, I just didn't respond to anything-to a mother's voice or affection, to being held by strangers and to life in general. I wouldn't hold myself up. Nothing. Terrified, my mother rushed me to a neurologist  in Paris. What he recommended was not to subject me to medical testing until after 6 months. If, after that time, I had not re-emerged from this protective yet abnormal cocoon, then we would see....

I did re-emerge, but there were behaviours of self-defence established and the cocoon never removed just invisible. Similar to Harry Potter's cloak of invisibility. What I had crawled away from was very much how I had left it- a chaotic, unpredictable household, an overwhelmed and unsupported mother, a non-functioning marriage and, of course, a violently aggressive older child ruling despotically over her two younger siblings who obeyed for their lives, their well-being...From looking at family photos, this story is hidden in images of holidays and family celebrations...Which is not to say that my parents , especially when my step-father courageously emerged onto the scene, clung to being unaware or refused to try all manner of positive healthy action. Not at all. They were young, conflicted and had such issues of their own. They tried as hard as Hell...My father less so after the divorce. He had far less patience with my older sister's behaviour and even less with methods of psychiatric investigation pursued by my mother and step-father. By this time, I developed severe asthma and couldn't breathe in both the physical and emotional atmospheres.

In 1960, my mother re-married and, with my step-father's help, slowly worked to make family life
safe, tolerable and under control. In 1961 or 2, my parents decided to send my sister back to the U.S. to the Devereux School in Pennsylvania. If the French nuns couldn't control my sister, perhaps more modern methods could. I don't remember much about that time. I was as happy as I could be without the shadow presence of a volatile older sibling. I believe my brother was happier as well, but I should not speak for his history. I was doted upon by a
loving and caring governess who proudly strolled the streets of Paris with a very blond and blue-eyed child. A rarity in those days. So, my history seemed settled and I was content.

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