Ordinary Evil: Memoir of a Buried Life
by Alethea Marina Nova (all rights reserved)
“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
― George Orwell
From my journal, April 10th 1993:
In the silence and darkness, I strained to see the clock; as always it read 3:00 a.m. The house was quiet and I had no conscious reason for fear, yet I dared not move my body; not even an inch.
Like countless nights before, my mind jolted me awake precisely at the same time. It’s never 2:59 or 3:01; it’s always 3:00 a.m.
This abominable hour has aroused me out of my unconscious for more than ten years, so assuming it’s just a coincidence is futile. My hope that the clock will read differently, turns into a sickness in my stomach, as the red digital numbers relentlessly glare 3:00 a.m., like a warning.
I even fear the clock.
In January of 1994, at the age of thirty-one, I suddenly developed nausea, dizziness, along with ringing and popping in my ears. Frightening pressure in my head and neck quickly followed. After years of being an active lover of the outdoors, my ability to exercise, greatly diminished and I grew fearful when unusual headaches started to occur. The pain in my head felt as if someone were squeezing it in a vise while stuffing cotton in my brain.
In a desperate search for answers, I began seeing several of the best medical doctors in my state. Each time that I sat on the edge of cold examination tables in my backless hospital gown, and with my legs dangling and my heart racing, I feared a horrific disease had enveloped my body, and my lifelong dread of an early demise kicked into high gear.
I was eventually told by a neurologist that I might have multiple sclerosis and needed to have an MRI of my brain.
It was well past nine in the evening when the nurse handed me back my clothing and jewelry after the magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI). The impersonal receptionist behind the beveled glass window said my doctor would call me the next morning. It would be another twelve hours before I knew if I had a serious disease, or a brain tumor.
While waiting the agonizing twelve hours, I was too frightened to speak, scream, or sleep so my body expressed my fear by literally twitching and trembling all night, as if I was having mini seizures.
The next day, my distress melted into relief when the results of the MRI came back negative, but with no indication of what was causing my physical suffering, the bewilderment and fear remained.
When disorientation, heavy fatigue, a lack of concentration, vision problems, and short-term memory loss joined the group of symptoms already invading my body, my existence became unbearable with pervading fear, and the fear fed my long-held, and always unreasonable, feeling that I would die an untimely death.
Over the next several weeks, I continued seeking help from several top physicians. Yet after enduring extensive tests and probing of my body, the doctors repeatedly told me, “You are one of the healthiest patients I have ever seen.”
As the dizziness intensified, I began to have a severe increase in appetite —to the point of shoveling food in my mouth at alarming rates. The insatiable hunger was felt not only in my stomach, but in my head and throat. Even after ingesting four burritos, the emptiness in my stomach penetrated and debilitated me.
Within weeks, my body erupted in mounting symptoms: sore throats, a pulling feeling in my lungs, swollen lymph nodes in my neck, terrible gas pains, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Driving more than a few miles became impossible without having to find a restroom. Pulling to the side of the road, doubled over with abdominal pain, became routine for me.
It began to take an extreme amount of effort to perform the simplest tasks, and depression attached itself to my mind like the pervasive overcast that creeps along the northern Pacific Coast each spring, gripping the mountains.
Unlike ocean fog, the haze in my brain never lifted.
I saw some of the best internists, neurologists, and cardiologists in the state, and my bed became nothing more than a place to lay awake at night, wondering what disease was killing me, only to be told by doctors that nothing could be found.
It was subtle madness.
Almost a year into the illness, more than thirty different physical symptoms haunted my daily existence, and I repeatedly suffered from outbreaks of shingles, which is a virus that attacks the nervous system.
The shingles always lodged itself as an eruption of unsightly blisters on the left side of my neck, right at my jaw line, and included terrible pain in my head and left ear. Although it was obvious that my body was desperately trying to send me a message, I wasn’t ready to listen.
I didn’t even understand the language.
By spring of 1995, panic attacks began. I couldn’t drive my car without a feeling of impending doom. Streets that I had driven hundreds of times before, now created an indefinable fear of death in my mind. Shaking, I would turn the car around, go back home, and lock myself inside with the shades drawn. Barricaded in the house, I waited until the sun went down before retrieving the mail. I screened all phone calls and rarely answered the door.
I told two close friends what was happening. One of them was extremely supportive. The other stopped being my friend.
I didn’t reveal my illness to my biological family because they had never been very functional at speaking about matters of importance. Uncomfortable subjects were forbidden. My three older sisters, Abigail, Kylie, Madison, and myself, all learned this lesson from our mother, who was highly skilled at maintaining relationships purely with superficial pleasantries.
Any memory of my mother being nurturing or deeply kind to me were non-existent. Our relationship had always seemed as though we both mechanically loved one another. We tried our best to behave as mother and daughter would be expected to, but for me, the unnaturalness was too much to bear.
Abigail was my oldest sibling, followed by Kylie, and then Madison. Memories of my childhood home were so scant, and I had little memory of Abigail and Kylie, as well as very few memories of Madison.
The only real memories I retained about my childhood were of attending Catholic school. One memory which always stuck with me, was sitting in Mother Superior’s office in third grade with another little girl, being reprimanded for rolling our plaid uniform skirts up too high. We squirmed in our chairs while being told that showing our knees was unacceptable.
I also remember frequently allowing two boys touch my crotch during math class.
My father died of cancer when I was twelve, but even in my teens, I could barely remember him. Until the time of his death, and even in the years following his demise, my entire childhood had been virtually extinguished from my mind.
I could recall my father’s overpowering height and hulk-like exterior, and family photos revealed an extremely handsome man in his younger years. More recent photos depicted a balding man with grey hair, but in my eyes, he always remained attractive.
My father had been a police officer, but no memory existed about this except that he converted our garage into a game room for Monday night poker, where off-duty police officers could stop by for a beer on tap. One of my only happy childhood memories consisted of trying to hang around the poker room, sneaking a sip of beer when my father happened to be in a jovial mood. Although I have no memory of his demeanor, as adults, my sisters spoke of my father as being dictatorial. His explosive anger was apparently common knowledge, and he had a dry sense of humor. I remember laughing at one of his jokes, and two fragmentary memories of his temper passed though my mind from time to time. Both involved him throwing objects across a room.
Other than Monday night poker, my family didn’t have much of a social life. As an adult, Kylie said she always felt trapped in our childhood home. Kylie said she only felt free while walking to and from school. She also told me that we never really went anywhere, or had anyone over to the home.
Abigail, Kylie, and I all shared memory that our father was an alcoholic, but any mention of this brought vehement denial from my mother; maybe because it was my mother who handed him his scotch and water when he walked in the door from work.
Denial and minimizing was the way my mother survived, so I knew that speaking with her about my illness would result in the same kind of negation, or attempt to minimize my physical problems.
From my journal, July 24 1995:
The nightmares which plague me have increased and are even more frightening. The majority of the dreams consist of intruders coming into my home, in an attempt to rape me. Other dreams are filled with waves the size of tall buildings about to envelop me, but I always wake just before drowning and before being raped.
Panic attacks come without warning. Sleep is little and tortured. When I do manage to drift off, the physical discomfort prohibits any real rest. The nightmares frequently wake me up. Bolting out of the terror, the clock reads 3:00 a.m.
By late summer of that year, while driving to see yet another medical specialist, I began to envision what it would be like to turn my car off the highway into the ocean. Looking out over the stillness of the water, I saw peace. The waves moved effortlessly, like a baby’s breath. In the water I would find no uncertainty, no fear, no more physical suffering or nightmares, and no more examinations from impersonal doctors. I also knew that turning the wheel in the direction of self-termination would not cure my torment, so I abandoned my momentary thought of suicide, and continued down the highway to the appointment.
Before long I was having instruments inserted into my ears by the Otolaryngologist. He was performing medical-induced vertigo and looking for tumors. After the completion of the invasive tests, the specialist concluded there were no tumors, but he felt I might be suffering from chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome (now known as myalgic encephalomyelitis).
At first I didn’t know whether to be relieved or scared; I was simply stunned over a diagnosis. Then the doctor told me there is no treatment and no cure for the disease. Bewildered, I asked what could be done for the dizziness, diarrhea, pain, and neurological problems. He casually replied,
“Rest in the afternoon.”
Uncertain of how to respond to the doctor’s cold and ridiculous advice, I thanked him for his time and left the office. Knowing this was not a sufficient answer for me, I consulted two experts on cfids/ME. Both doctors agreed with the diagnosis, and that there is no known cure. It became clear the medical industry could not help me, so I began searching for answers in books on holistic healing. Nothing proved valuable, except to confirm the illness.
By then, my daily routine was waking to stomach cramps and diarrhea, but still feeling the need to force food in my mouth. The gas pain, dizziness, and sore throats were close to unbearable by midday, and the fatigue felt like someone had drugged me and was holding me down with a giant foot.
In the evening, I usually had ringing and popping in my ears, abdominal cramps, and swollen lymph nodes. When the physical suffering was so incapacitating that death would have been preferable, I realized what one of the cfids/ME specialists meant when he told me,
“The good news about this condition is that you are not going to die. The bad news is that you are not going to die.”
In early fall of 1995, I developed sore muscles, numbness of my limbs, and new and unusual stomach aches. The short-term memory loss grew worse. It became necessary to re-do simple daily tasks because I could not recall having just performed them. Remembering common words and names grew increasingly difficult, and I began to experience extreme mental disorientation.
After sleeping until nine in the morning, unbearable exhaustion forced me to take a nap by noon. Awakened un-refreshed, I lay in bed for entire days at a time.
Something was horribly wrong. In a desperate attempt to be heard, my body screamed for my attention, but I was not yet ready to listen.
From my journal, September 30, 1995:
I can feel it entering my nervous system. I have become aware of it moving around, like an entity inside of me — a living energy traveling around my body. Yesterday it was blurred vision and a sore throat; last night, diarrhea. Today it has decided to attack my nerves. It’s like it has a will of its own.
After writing these words I forced myself to prepare a meal. Even making food had become a laborious act, but the incessant feeling of starvation meant a never-ending need to stuff food down my throat.
As I half-heartedly dragged the bread and cheese out of the refrigerator, my thoughts drifted to nowhere. Spacing out had become routine. While slicing the bread, I watched the motion of the large knife in my hand and wondered if I had the guts to cut my wrist. Get it over with. Kill the pain inside. In the weeks that followed, I often thought about driving my car off a cliff in the nearby canyon. Any possibility of ending the chaos in my mind and body could not be overruled.
My sisters eventually learned about my physical problems because the point came when I could no longer pretend that things were fine, and one of them told my mother about my illness. Shortly after, Kylie revealed that my mother’s response to my suffering and numerous doctor visits was to call me a “Camille,” a character from the Alexandre Dumas novel. Apparently Camille was always sick and she eventually died. My mother’s cold and ignorant remark gave me one more reason to keep most of the knowledge of my illness to myself. I felt it impossible to share my pain with a mother who would be so callous about her daughter’s agony.
When I first became sick, a friend referred me to her hypnotherapist, but I ignored her suggestion. Consciously I wasn’t willing to try something that I had never even heard of, and subconsciously, I was not ready to face the ugly truths locked inside my mind and body.
I tried to justify my decision to not call the hypnotherapist by reminding myself that I had already seen two conventional therapists and neither had helped me. The first, a psychologist, told me I needed to get out of the house more often. The other, a psychiatrist, prescribed an anti-depressant within half an hour of my first visit. I took one dose of the Prozac and subsequently suffered a panic attack. When I told him about my reaction to the drug, he said, “Oh yeah, that can happen.”
I never took another psychotropic drug again.
So nearly two years into the illness, desperation forced me to make a phone call that would change my life forever.
Even though the mainstream medical and psychological experts had been unable to help me, I was skeptical of hypnoanalysis. I didn’t know much about it, and didn’t even know what psychoanalysis was, but when I realized that suicide was my only other option, I made the call.
The hypnoanalyst lived in another state, so the therapy sessions would be done over the telephone. Although, at first, this seemed odd, I realized it would be no different from seeing a therapist in an office; the benefits of treatment don’t derive from seeing a person’s face. I was also able to have the therapy from the privacy and comfort of my own bedroom.
In the initial phone call, my hypnotherapist explained how conventional therapy concentrates on the conscious mind, whereas hypnotherapy, gradually penetrates the subconscious mind where our true emotions and repressed experiences are retained in order to protect us from emotional pain, and to enable us to function and maintain relationships with anyone attached to those experiences –those who caused the pain.
She helped me understand how the tool of hypnotherapy allows the client to discover what is causing their distress. They do so, by their own will, and in their own time.
Typically, conventional therapists place a label on their client after a few sessions of dialogue or they diagnose the patient based on a general list of symptoms. But with hypnoanalysis, my psychodynamics would come directly from the source —my own mind, and not from the personal conclusion of someone else, or from a text book interpretation of generalized symptoms. This organic method struck me as profound and I scheduled my first telephone session.
The hypnoanalysis turned out to be nothing like I had expected. I maintained complete awareness of my surroundings, every word my therapist said, as well as each thought that entered my mind. Yet I found the sessions to provide me with the ability to be in touch with my deep emotions, and this caused my mind to revive conflicts and fears which I had not thought about in decades.
During the first few weeks of therapy, the sessions involuntarily stimulated the recall of the never-forgotten memories of normal tormentors that most children encounter in grade school. It impressed me to discover that even though I had not thought about these people in decades, they still had a subconscious affect on me.
After re-experiencing, and then expressing the repressed emotions, I created a positive solution, contrary to what had originally taken place. I did this by imagining scenarios that had been unavailable to me as a child. In the regressions, I faced the popular girls in class who had been critical of me. I told them that their friendship was no longer important to me, and I fired a teacher who had once been cruel to me. This way, the childhood event no longer affected me.
As therapy progressed, the people I had issues with were no longer schoolmates. They soon became an old boyfriend, a previous employer, and then…my mother.
Even prior to having therapy, I knew my mother never wanted to be pregnant with me. When I was an adult she openly revealed her feelings about not ever wanting children, but the power of this, and my mother’s lack of regard for me, had not truly shown itself until the pain of her emotional abandonment began to surface in my regression therapy.
At first it was tremendously difficult for me to deal with any suffering connected to my mother. Bound by my religious upbringing, which had commanded me to honor my parents, I felt a huge sense of guilt for discovering such negative feelings towards her.
It took numerous sessions before I understood that I was not a bad girl who should be punished for being angry inside. As I began to tap into my long-repressed resentment, it gradually became liberating to release those emotions.
Part of discharging the pain involved replacing my mother (in my mind), who never wanted me –replacing her with the perfect mother floating into my thoughts. The woman who appeared was myself, as the grown adult woman I had become, and instead of allowing the anger towards my mother to affect my life, I transformed it into a peaceful solution in the therapy sessions.
The process of learning how to love myself and to honor my true feelings had begun.
This became the first step in letting go of my need to have my mother be who and what she had no capacity to become, and this led me to forgive her for resenting me for having been born.
During the first few months of hypnoanalysis, there was no expectation of connecting my childhood with my physical affliction. I began the therapy in hope of driving away the depression and thoughts of suicide. To my amazement, after resolving the emotional deprivation of being unwanted by my mother, a number of my physical symptoms suddenly disappeared. The power of the mind was illuminating. Cfids/ME is a medical diagnosis, so I had no belief that any change would occur in my body. My therapist had not disclosed to me that my mind had the power to create the illness, and thus, the power to heal it. She instead allowed the process to gradually unfold on its own.
The blurred vision and lack of concentration were the first to go, followed by the unusual headaches and the numbness in my limbs. While symptoms were being expelled, my emotional well-being began to emerge out of the depths of my previous malady.
The therapy worked like a surgical procedure, removing pain from my body, but by using my mind, not a knife. It was not unusual to feel as if I was recovering from surgery. By the afternoon, or the next morning, I always felt clearer, more cheerful, and I began to reconnect with the person I truly am, the person who was once buried beneath the toxic clutter of hidden emotions.
As time went by, further exploration into my childhood triggered events much more disturbing to a child than having a mother who never desired to have children.
Something ugly stirred inside of me, and made itself known by manifesting physically. Symptoms that were linked to the less serious grief had vanished, but different physical problems began to replace them.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the new symptoms were memories that I had not previously been willing to deal with. Unbeknownst to me, the therapy was healing me, but also forcing me to begin slaying dragons that I never even knew existed.
One of those dragons had manifested itself in the form of a sharp pain which shot through my lower pelvic area. The stabbing came from inside my vagina, and was so painful, that it caused me to clutch the edge of the bathroom sink until it passed.
Although I had experienced the vaginal pain on many occasions -even long before beginning the therapy- it never before had such intensity.
Regular gynecological appointments had consistently ruled out any physiological problem, and curiously, the pain only came when I walked into my bathroom. However, my self-survival system depended on me pushing this knowledge into the back of my mind. It was easier to deny the existence of the vaginal pain, and thus, ignore the dragon.
In an attempt to fool myself into thinking that denial would be successful, I kept the pain a secret from my therapist.
Rather than deal with the haunting vaginal pain in therapy, I chose instead to ask my therapist if we could work on the shingles outbreaks. The latest attack had caused the pustules to spread down my neck more than usual.
As I drifted off into a hypnotic regression, she told me to focus my mind on my neck. As I followed her instruction, time slipped away. Suddenly it was the late 1960’s and I found myself sitting in the backseat of my family’s old station wagon. The second this memory surfaced, fear invaded my body, and I felt myself curl into the fetal position on my bed.
In the memory, I felt the afternoon desert sun beating down on the vinyl car seats, heating them like an oven. Someone was wearing a sun hat; my sister Abigail, maybe. As I vaguely recalled the vacation road trip, the memory brought back the awareness of all three of my sisters and my mother being present in the car. My father was at the wheel.
The tension in the car was suffocating. Abigail looked fearful as she slumped down in the back seat. My father was putting our lives in his hands by dangerously trying to pass a slower vehicle in front of us. I was aware of Kylie and Madison in the car but they were not significant in the memory. My mother, however, was prominent because in spite of another car rapidly approaching us in the same lane, she was disturbingly quiet. The rush of adrenaline punched me in the pit of my stomach.
My feelings as a child flooded my mind. My father seemed obsessed with his own needs and he lacked self-control. I could recall thinking that he felt driving recklessly was acceptable because he was a police officer. I’m sure he thought he was a great driver, but being on the police force didn’t give him permission to place our lives at risk, and instead of trying to protect us by speaking up, my mother just sat there and said nothing.
My body lay on the bed in the therapy session, but my subconscious mind was back in time, inside that station wagon.
My therapist told me to mentally make myself as tall as a building and to reprimand my father. Without thought, a child-like voice came from my mouth and I heard the child inside of me say to my father, “You have no right to put us in danger dad! Stop the car!”
The relief was immediate. After thirty years of holding in what I had wanted to say as a child, my body exhaled the fear and anger at my father.
I bravely told him, “and I’m going to take over the driving, you got that?”
In the session, in my mind, I pictured taking the wheel, and told my father to sit in the rear of the car with the ice chest and luggage. I scolded my mother for not protecting us, and this felt exceptionally wonderful. I really let her have it, “You should have told him to slow down! You didn’t do your job as a mother so I am taking it away from you. I don’t need you! I am my own mother now.”
In the next scene in my mind, I drove the family station wagon at a safe rate of speed, even hanging my arm outside the window. As I carefully cruised along the open road, I felt liberated. Unlike my father, I was in no hurry, and in my bedroom during this therapy session, I was no longer in the fetal position. Safety enveloped me. The act of rescuing myself from danger, and lack of protection, had begun.
In January of 1996, my first deeply repressed memory came afloat. In the regression, I found myself hiding in the closet of my old bedroom. Crouching down, I could feel the clothing hanging around my head and smelled the musty closet odor that made the memory all too real.
When my therapist asked me what I was doing in the closet, I replied, “I’m hiding.”
My words took me by surprise. My father having driven the speeding car seemed somewhat familiar, but this memory felt like I was touching on something more obscure. At the same time, I felt an instinctual awareness that this indeed happened to me.
Although no recall entered my mind about whom or what I was hiding from, there was a distinct understanding that I was a small, vulnerable little girl, cowering in the closet.
My therapist had me concentrate on the fear and asked me to tell her what was going on. I became aware in my memory that my father was approaching the bedroom. As the vibration of his powerful presence filled the hallway, my body froze stiff. I could not see my father, but I sensed the anger and relentless persistence in his footsteps.
During the regression, I had no understanding about what caused this situation, but knew I was a terrified child hiding from a threat. I heard it in my voice and felt it in my veins. Suddenly my fear diminished when the footsteps continued past my bedroom door and disappeared into the bedroom of my two older sisters, Abigail and Kylie. Had I been spared that time? The regression felt so real that I even referred to my sister Abigail as “Abby.” I had not called her that name in over thirty years. As an adult, I always called her “Abigail.”
No further sound was heard. My mind went blank, and there seemed nothing more to remember. My therapist asked me to end my regression by envisioning a magic wand that would take away the fear. She then told me to grow big in my mind and to come out of the closet without the fear.
As instructed, I imagined bursting down the closet door, knocking it to the ground, and my body heaved out terror that had been lodged inside me for three decades.
Relieved of the energies that were unknowingly bottled up inside my mind and body for decades, I ended the session as my own perfect mother -myself. I took my little hand and led my inner child out the front door of the home I grew up in.
My only question, was where was the extreme fear coming from?
I was not ready to know…
Chapter Two: The Plastic Sheet to follow soon.
© 2016 Alethea Marina-Nova. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.