Just recently my friend Robin at Motherhood Deleted mentioned dissociative disorder on her blog. I was thinking about that same thing.
From the National Alliance on Mental Illness
"Dissociative disorders are so-called because they are marked by a dissociation from or interruption of a person's fundamental aspects of waking consciousness (such as one's personal identity, one's personal history, etc.). Dissociative disorders come in many forms, the most famous of which is dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). All of the dissociative disorders are thought to stem from trauma experienced by the individual with this disorder. The dissociative aspect is thought to be a coping mechanism -- the person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience too traumatic to integrate with his conscious self. Symptoms of these disorders, or even one or more of the disorders themselves, are also seen in a number of other mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder."
When I was in the maternity home I wrote letters home to my folks. I have those letters now. My mother saved them and gave them back to me just last year. What an odd feeling. When I read them it was like I was reading the letters of a stranger. I didn't recognize the handwriting, I didn't recognize the words on the page, I didn't know the person who wrote them. It was like I was another person altogether. It was also interesting to me to note that on papers that I had written on previous to going to the home and after the adoption, my handwriting was completely different. In those letters I was telling my family what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear that I was okay. They wanted to know that I was handling things. They were the only people in my life who actually knew where I was and why I was there. I didn't have anywhere else to go afterwards but back to them so they were my safety net. I had to keep them in my world and on my side, where else would I go if not back to them?
Over the course of the years when I looked back to the girl I was at that time and the situation I was in, I know intellectually that I did the only thing I could do but there still remained the thought that I beat myself up with - the thought that I was 19 when I got pregnant and 20 when she was born and why couldn't I stand up to everyone around me and say - stuff it.... I'm keeping my baby! Why wasn't I strong enough? Do other mothers have this residue of guilt hanging around like some guest who's overstayed their welcome by about 20 or 30 years? Now as a middle aged adult (ok, slightly passed middle age) I know that going down the road of shoulda/woulda/coulda does nothing but hurt me.
Looking back now is like looking back on two people - the girl I was inside who was scared, sad and out of options and the girl who was working to make it to the other side. It was like I had divided myself in two in order to protect myself. It was a defense mechanism for my psyche. I was in survival mode. Understanding this and knowing that I did what I had to to survive helped me realize that I could let go of any last feeling of guilt that was hanging around. I could allow that I was young, naive and believed what I was told. Under those circumstances I did the best that I could with the experience that I had. It's easy for so many of us to look to the past and say... well, I would've done this or that. It's really easy for other people to tell us what we should have done. I've learned so much over the years about not only myself and how to heal from the damage done, but also about the adoption industry and the damage it does. The me of now needs to let the me of then off the hook. Does that make any sense?
The mind is a fascinating thing.