Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pacing


The first time I felt the Black Dog pacing was at an impossibly young age. Age 6. I would not have known it was the Black Dog, of course. I would have called it being afraid and very sad.

At that age, I had had measles which affected my eyes with ulceration. It necessitated hospitalization as the infection had also spread to my adenoids. In those days there were no children's hospitals so I was put into an adult hospital. I remember all of my stay there, it stands out in a kind of gothic starkness. There were no children in the ward I was on. Just all these adults. And casual cruelties were thrown my way (my eyes were bandaged for about 4 days)- being deliberately misled as to where the washroom was, my few toys being hidden, my hair being pulled,another patient assigned to feeding me and deliberately missing my mouth, all this accompanied by raucous laughter,etc. In those days it was called "teasing" today it would be called abuse. I was wretched.

It was to get worse.

My throat was healing from surgery, my eye bandages were removed when my mother visited with some handmade clothes for my doll. Including a little nightie. When she was leaving, I followed her out of the ward and as she went down the main stairs I screamed and screamed until my throat bled. I fell on the floor until I was carted off (roughly I remember) and told to behave myself.

The following night my father visited. In a rage. He told me I had upset my mother terribly and if I didn't promise to behave myself she would never visit me again.

It was to get worse.

I woke up the following morning to be told there was a great surprise in a cot (crib) down the ward from me. Come and look.

I did and there was my baby brother, under a year, pulling himself up by the bars, recognising me, delight all over his little face. I remember touching his soft head, rubbing my hands over the bandages on his ears. It seems that the measles had given him massive ear infections and primitive tubes had to be inserted to drain them so he wouldn't go deaf.

I remember feeling overwhelmed. I remember thinking my parents had gotten rid of their defective models and were just keeping their perfect middle child (another brother).

I resigned myself to a life on a Dickensian ward, knowing that keeping my mouth and tear ducts shut would mean a possible sighting of my mother again.

My therapist said it was one of the defining moments of my life.

It certainly removed the foundations from it. The idea of abandonment has always haunted me. More than anything the abandonment of myself by myself.

On another note, in adult hindsight, I can't imagine what my parents were going through with two of their children in hospital.

Knowing the reason for one's anxieties and irrational fears will not fix them. I'm just very grateful the episodes get further apart as I move along on my journey.

I'm not at the point where I can chase the Black Dog off my psychic landscape yet. But his visits are shorter and I recognise his pacing and know that he will get bored very quickly if I don't feed him.

And I think I know what to do to protect myself. Very little contact with other, more 'normal' humans, and some contact with those who know exactly where I am.

Pace on, BD, pace on.

27 comments:

  1. What a vivid description of a perfectly horrible time. It is similar to a hospitalisation I endured at that age - for 6 weeks and with no visitors at all. I shall try and be positive like you - no feeding the Black Dog when he appears. Every Blessing

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  2. Six weeks? OMG Freda, how awful for you!
    In the Dark Ages of hospitalization the abandonment was more traumatic than the surgery.
    I am grateful that we can trace our feelings to the first time.
    And we are survivors!
    Enlightenment and empathy!
    XO
    WWW

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  3. Not sure whether I'm a "normal" human, WWW - but will tip-toe in to comment, in a whisper, that such childhood trauma as you describe must inevitably leave many scars.

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  4. too awful for me to know what to say.
    best wishes and hope you feel better soon.

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  5. My god, was it any wonder our teachers felt free to abuse us, when our loving parents treated us thus!

    I didn't get the measles, I'm happy to say, but because my older siblings had them, I was confined to the same dark room as they were, in hopes that we would all be infected at the same time. Because it was believed that blindness or deafness could result from the measles, we were all given blindfolds and earplugs, and our hands tied to the beds to prevent us from taking them off.

    I remember it as fairly traumatic, but nothing compared to what you went through. My heart goes out to that little girl.

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  6. WWW, I am sure you are familiar with a phrase that was in common use during our childhoods: "Children should be seen and not heard!" Do you think they took it literally?

    I had the full plethora of childhood ailments without much trouble, it was my ears that caused me heart ache and pain - a pain I have never forgotten. As a result my tonsils and adenoids had to be removed. We had Temple St Children's Hospital, in Dublin, but the rules were very strict and visiting times short. No such thing as parents staying over like they do these days.

    Since word verification is 'culater', I'll be back soon to keep the Black Dog on the move!

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  7. Adults were extremely cruel to children back the. I'm so glad that we don't live in the 'good old days' anymore. They never existed as far as I'm concerned. I feel very sorry for the little girl you were back then. I feel sorry for us all who were little children back then. It's good that you acknowledge the cause. The cure will be easier. Nourish yourself.

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  8. In 1972, in a Toronto hospital, I was tortured by a doctor by doing a urethral/kidney examination with no pain killer or anesthetic.

    No wonder I have no faith in hospitals or mainstream medicine.

    Yes, the BD lives. Intermittently, thank goodness.


    xoxo

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  9. When I was little I had to go to the hospital to have my tonsils out, I don't remember it being traumatic. If anything, I felt special. Apparently the operation was not all it could be, the wound reopened after I went home and had to be cauterized. They wanted me back in the hospital, which I was not averse to, I thought it would be an adventure. However, it was Christmas and my parents hated the idea so instead, I had my throat cauterized on my parents bed, without anesthesia. My parents held me down while the family doctor did the deed. I was thoroughly pissed off at having to forego the trip back to the hospital and having this awful operation performed without anesthesia instead. Merry Christmas, Bah Humbug!

    I suppose I should be grateful for having been spared the other trauma, but ungrateful child that I am, I never was. Perhaps the reason why Christmas has never been my favourite holiday.

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  10. T:
    I guess by 'normal' I meant people not subject to depressions that seem to come out of nowhere though in my case I know exactly where they are coming from.
    You don't have to tiptoe at all around me, my dear!
    XO
    WWW

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  11. Thank you Sharyn, one good thing about growing older is that we know the icky stuff passes.
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Tessa:
    Carte blanche to the clergy also. How awful for you to be tied down.
    It is hard for our children to understand how utterly traumatic our childhoods could be where a lack of emotion was considered bravery.
    XO
    WWW

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  13. GM:
    And that phrase came from the Victorians.
    I am so glad we are more enlightened these days, aren't you?
    XO
    WWW

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  14. Nora:
    I think it optimistic to think there is a cure. I think an understanding and acceptance might be better. I know it passes.
    XO
    WWW

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  15. Orla:
    Dreadful for you, scarred for life by this brutal 'specialist'.
    I think we base medical qualifications on all the incorrect criteria.
    Compassion should be measured along with the biology test.
    XO
    WWW

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  16. Annie:
    OMG, how brutal! A friend of mine had her tonsils taken out on the kitchen table of her home. Gave her a life long fear of any medical people. i.e she would faint on seeing the dentist.
    It is hard to fathom such brutality.
    XO
    WWW
    PS And I too am NOT a Xmas season lover.

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  17. When the bd visits, I want no contact at all, with anybody.
    At all other times I want very little contact. Perhaps that's a sign of being weird.

    I think your parents were very thoughtless indeed, it's all very well to say they 'did their best', their were 'suffering' themselves or 'they knew no better' (I have to say these things) but parents can be cruel. We all can. And then we spend a lifetime getting over it.

    From another bd infested person.

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  18. Friko:
    I think being weird is a good thing. I was never a member of the Blancmange School of Safe Living. And never want to be.
    Yes, we all can be so cruel and the scars never quite leave.
    BD is doing walkabout here today. I wait patiently and fill my head with other stuff.
    XO
    WWW

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  19. It was so common. I was hospitalized three times before age five and almost died on one occasion. And that depression is always lingering in the background of my life.
    That kind of cruelty toward children was the way of the world when I was growing up. Only my mother ever defended me, and she was ridiculed for that.

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  20. Hattie:
    I suppose we can't even imagine the horrors of our parents' childhoods. Personal space was unknown and infant mortality accepted by all.
    From the sounds of it your mother was an incredibly brave woman (encouraging her children in atheism, etc.)
    I'm gathering that some relief from the background depression is writing :-)
    XO
    WWW

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  21. I had to wait till I was 42 for my first hospitalisation which was for ten days followed by six weeks of recovery at home. This happened three times more when I was 44, 57 and 58. Recently, I was back for eight days and am still under house arrest expected to last till end November with relaxation to limited extend in December. None of these experiences were enjoyable but had to be gone through for long term gain. I can understand how it must have felt at such a young age when I felt quite alienated from everything even as an adult. Very well written WWW.

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  22. Ramana:
    Wow you have seen more than your fair share of hospitalization. I've only been there three times as an adult, twice for my children's births and once with peritonitis which I've written about.
    I wonder how they could be made more pleasant and less alienating?
    I am so glad you are on the mend.
    XO
    WWW

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  23. It's a wonder, after reading your story, that the Black Dogs don't come in a packs! Can't think of much worse than feeling abandoned.

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  24. That sounds like a pretty vile experience you had in hospital. It must have been a very defining moment, as you say. Luckily I was never in hospital as a kid.

    Very sensible to reserve your contacts to those who know "where you are". People like me who seldom get depressed and are inclined to say "Just get a grip" must be infuriating.

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  25. Pauline:
    Oh there were days with packs, believe me, this lone wolf thing is pretty refreshing compared to then :-)
    XO
    WWW

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  26. Nick:
    I can't imagine you ever being that callous as you have great empathy!
    XO
    WWW

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  27. I hate to say it but as a 9 or 10 year old i was a week in hospital with scarlet fever. i had special nurses around the clock. One evening they brought a little boy into my isolation room. A truck had run over him on his toboggan. I was a curious kid and kept asking "my nurse" questions about him. When i woke up the next morning he was gone. That stupid nurse said "you talked too much so they had to move him". Easier than telling me he had died I guess.
    What did we do before we had the www to listen to our troubles/;-) thanks Wise.

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