My Brain Helped Me As a Little Girl By Leaving My Body: Guest Blog by Ashley B.
This is a typical night when I was a little girl. I am describing the night backwards chronologically. Dissociating distorts a sense of time and so often people who experience it find themselves going backwards chronologically, not only in their mind but sometimes temporarily in how old we feel. It seemed appropriate to share it this way.
He is gone now and it takes all of my will power not to scream out loud or vomit or both. But I keep it all in and I feel proud of myself. I turn to look at my clock and fall asleep to its flashing lullaby, dreaming of floating in space and running through fields of sunny flowers and trying to pretend it won’t happen all over again tomorrow night.
My eyes are closed but I can tell he is standing beside the bed now. I can feel him staring at me, looking me up and down. I am 4! What could there be to look at? I can hear him breathing heavily as he gets himself ready, taking off his briefs and touching himself. There is an electricity in the atmosphere flowing directly from his excitement and it is too much for me.
Tonight I feel tired, more tired than any child should have cause to feel. No amount of running around outside in the yard or swinging on my swing set could explain the deep down heavy exhaustion in my soul. I sigh inwardly and think to myself, “Oh well. Here we go.”
I know I am not really free. I know the difference between real and pretend, even if my father does spend so much time trying to confuse the two in my still-forming mind. I know.
Still, it makes life easier to act as if I did not know. So that’s what I do. I go about my daily life at home and at school and with friends, pretending. I pretend that I am ok, that I am not frightened and lonely and confused all the time.
I jump slightly as I hear the doorknob turning but quickly still myself again. No matter what, I cannot let him know I’m awake. This is only a little game I play with myself, the challenge of not letting him know I’m awake. I know from experience it won’t change his actions, but it makes me feel like I have a little bit of control.
Not to mention, I am getting really good at going away. Every now and then he touches me in a way that hurts, or worse, feels good, and it brings me back momentarily but I always find my way out again. Out from underneath his too gentle hands, out from under the heaviness of his body and the smell of his breath. Out of this room, this house, this life. Out into the open where I can fly free.
I try to sleep but I’m too anxious and on edge, instinctively listening for his bare feet shuffling down the carpeted hall towards my door. I hear him coming now.
…flash 12:00 flash 12:00 flash 12:00 flash…
Those flashing red numbers deserve my gratitude, as they probably contributed to keeping me sane throughout my childhood in that bedroom. Staring at them night after night, I hypnotized myself into a state of calm nothingness, as my father used my tiny body to satisfy his desires. I was lying there, but I wasn’t really there.
I’m lying in my bed. It’s a beautiful bed- made of wood and painted white, with a yellow checked canopy that matches the curtains framing the large window in my room. I glance to the left and see the white wooden desk I love so much, the one that has a top that lifts up so I can store paper and markers and crayons neatly inside. I turn my head slowly to the right and stare at the clock sitting on the bedside table, getting lost in the red digital numbers flashing 12:00.
I feel proud of my brain for knowing how to dissociate to protect me as a child, but it’s been something I’ve had to overcome as an adult. After years of therapy I have learned how to recognize the signs that I have been or am about to “check out” and I’ve developed ways to keep it at a minimum. Still, it’s my first instinct when faced with hard things and personally I find that pretty cool. My brain loves me.
I am a writer, storyteller, and recently out of the closet lesbian from the deep South. I have a Master’s degree in counseling but currently work as a legal assistant. Before that I delivered groceries. Before that I was a barista. And before that I was an escort. I feel compelled to tell my story so others may be comforted, inspired, or just feel less alone. You can find me on social media if you want: