Shattered Like Glass

Part of the spirit dies a little each time it’s asked to carry
more than its weight in terror, violence, and betrayal.
         Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

It’s a complicated truth, and people don’t like complications.
Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff

What does one do with the dawning realization that your history and self are a “complicated truth?” That as a child you suffered trauma too dark for a little heart to to bear—shattering your little self into pieces, like glass dropped onto pavement. Your mind hides the trauma from your very self, and the route by which it did so. A gift of survival is given to some in the absence of the rescue, protection, love, and comfort so desperately needed.

It’s not a history or truth you can share with just anyone—even the closest of family and friends. People don’t like the dark realities of the fallen world we live in, and they certainly don’t want it to have happened to someone they know and love. It’s too close to home and stirs, I think, fears that they might be next, that their own truth might awaken, or that your having been trafficked as a child might somehow taint their reputation. 

This reality of self and personal story is both too weighty to bear alone, and a journey on which no one wishes to join you.

It’s difficult not to feel, as I gradually remember my trauma, that the world is not turning a blind eye a second time. It’s easier for others not to ask—to think you need space, that it’s too personal, to doubt your veracity, say you’re crazy, or worse. It would be lying if I said that suffering the resurfacing of trauma long shelved away, those options weren’t a temptation for me, as well. Who wants complex trauma and dissociative identity disorder (DID) to be their story? Any hands? I didn’t think so… Mine wasn’t up, either. It would be easier to believe I was crazy, or sick, than to accept the reality of “Man’s inhumanity to man.”

Am I like the storied Sybil or 3 faces of Eve? No. As a friend or family, would you recognize me as DID? Not likely in a way you could put your finger on— I’m on the other end of the spectrum. You might just chalk it up to moodiness. 

In the process of counseling, I’m discovering that my self is more compartmentalized than most, with a great capacity to take my mind away from the present—what I had termed “imagination.” Inside, it’s like I packed different parts of me and memories into boxes in my garage (if you are mono-brained, you have a garage without boxes). Sometimes the boxes are open, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes, like when you move, you know a box is there, but can’t find it: part of your mind, stuck in the trauma of the past, playing keep-away with you. This is a problem if that box holds answers to problems you face in life, or memories you need to heal from. Most often, it’s like having multiple opposing opinions in your head, and who wins out depends on the circumstance.  

Most difficult for me to realize about my self is that there is almost no part of my life that is untouched by what happened. That all of my greatest trials and hardships in life can trace their roots to the trauma foisted on me, and that I may have a permanent reminder in the shape of DID, every time I turn around: a set of internal children, born out of the rape I suffered. These are truths about the self you just don’t share. 

“Will I ever be whole again?” I ask my self. I don’t know. On that, at least, there’s consensus in my mind. I met my pimp very young—just a tiny 4-year-old—and in those subsequent years, I shattered into many pieces. It is almost all I’ve known.  But whether my life does or doesn’t forever resemble this mosaic of self, this much I do know: I’ll eternally bear the scars. And finally knowing pieces of my story that I knew on some level, but didn’t know, is the key to healing that I have been long searching for: the knowledge of my shattered self, and why it happened. The ability to grieve, to mourn, to wail. To ask why and gradually set it to rest, unanswered. For some things in life— there are just no answers.

Chava works in the medical field. She enjoys nature, travel, languages, flowers, expressive writing and chilling at home with her hubby and a beloved pet. A survivor of complex trauma, she is relearning to embrace the beauty of life. Chava considers it a deep privilege to be chosen as a guest writer by Red Tent Living, and requests anonymity for personal and professional reasons.