Ordinary Evil: Memoir of a Buried Life
by Alethea Marina Nova (all rights reserved)
The Plastic Sheet
“My mother hurt me more than my father ever did, and she never lay a hand on me” ~Former Miss America and incest survivor, Marilyn Van Derbur 1
From my journal February 20 1996:
The odd sensation has invaded my mind again, always disturbing a peaceful shower. One minute the warmth of the water is streaming down, cleansing me, and in the next moment, there’s a sick feeling flooding my gut. My insides are screaming at me like a built-in body alarm, “Something’s wrong! Something’s wrong!” I can’t understand why virtually every shower I have taken for the past six years has created an intuitive, but dreadful feeling about something unknown. It seems to come from a transcendental place, but feels like an inner madhouse.
The bizarre feeling in the shower had gone on for years, as did waking at 3:00 a.m., but I didn’t know these strange occurrences, combined with the new physical ailments, was my inner child attempting to make contact with me. A crucial message needed to be heard, but the truth remained too devastating for my conscious mind.
By March of 1996 the terrible fatigue in both my mind and body dominated my life. I was bed-ridden for days at a time and developed gas pains that ripped through my side. The dizziness had intensified, and I continued to stuff food in my mouth, but this was a starvation driven by my mind.
My lower abdominal lymph nodes became so inflamed that the throbbing woke me in the middle of the night, as did much of the physical suffering. Although I had experienced heart palpitations and an irregular heart beat since I was eighteen, my heart had now begun jumping around in my chest like a bouncing ball. One night, feelings of electricity shot through my chest and sent me to an emergency room. The attending physician and a top cardiologist found no cause for the abnormal heart rhythms.
The intense rapid heart rate grew into a daily experience. The thumping in my chest came in my sleep, while watching television, even while reading books; but it became strongest after eating food. I repeatedly saw a cardiologist in a desperate attempt to find an organic reason for the heart disturbance, but the tests always came back negative for any problems.
The nightmares were unceasing, and nearly every night, I continued to wake at the ghostly hour of 3:00 a.m, only it was no longer just the numbers on the clock which taunted me. Now when I woke at 3:00 a.m, I felt the hunger. Other nights I woke up choking, and each time the clock glared at me —3:00 a.m.
Therapy, while progressing in a myriad of ways, had become stuck on the issue of my mother’s lack of love for me. During this time, I had such intense diarrhea that food went right through me and into the toilet within a few minutes of eating.
My instincts told me the diarrhea had to be connected to my mother’s impending move to another state. My conscious mind had no loving thoughts or memories about the home where I grew up, nor for my mother, but I felt that the sale of the family home and her leaving the state was disturbing the child inside me.
My mother, like her home, was always meticulously clean. Her now grey hair was recurrently treated and styled at the beauty salon, and my mother loved to wear navy blue. She was never overweight, but she carried her body in a way that seemed as though she held deep sorrow, shame, or possibly repressed anger.
My mother had a quiet, yet harsh way about her, but it seemed hard to believe that such a well-groomed and relatively quiet woman could create such tremendous physical suffering in me. It’s not like my mother was a raging alcoholic or a belligerent person. She was more passive aggressive than anything —but would never admit to it.
In spite of my belief that the diarrhea was related to my mother, I went back to my internist. He politely listened as I rattled off my new list of ailments, and told him about the diarrhea. He scribbled more notes on my chart which had grown an inch thick. When he examined me and found nothing physically wrong, I explained to him about my mother’s move and that I had a feeling my violent diarrhea stemmed from feelings of having been emotionally abandoned as a child. My doctor said nothing, but he did raise his eyebrow and jotted more notes. I could only imagine what he was writing. Patient thinks her mother is causing her acute diarrhea. Patient is nuts.
In the early morning hours of Father’s Day in 1996, several nightmares and the sound of my own crying woke me up. I could not remember what the dreams were about, but by the end of the day, I continued to have difficulty shaking the intense emotional pain that lingered from the dreams. When I searched my diary pages from previous years, I realized for the first time that Father’s Day always created a multitude of symptoms and nightmares. I just had no understanding why, and attributed it to his death when I was twelve.
In late summer of 1996, my mother and sisters decided to unite for a reunion at a resort lake in the mountains of California. Although I knew that being around my mother might be a challenge, I looked forward to using my mental tools and testing the progress I had made in therapy over the previous year.
I fully expected to enjoy the trip with hopes of drawing closer to my mother, but the moment the reunion began and I stood in her presence, time and space were swept away. Once again, and with considerable disappointment, I found myself reacting to her like a child who longed for her mother’s love and approval.
I could not understand why my mother’s close proximity caused me so much stress. Big steps had been made in therapy with regards to my feelings for her, yet something was very wrong. Every time I became closer than ten feet to her, my neurological system went haywire. My body shook, and it felt like electrodes were zapping me. My body behaved fearful, yet I had no conscious fear of her.
The second day of the trip my mother slipped and fell from a canoe. She was soaking wet and unable to pull herself back onto the dock so Madison and I had to physically lift her out of the water. My mother acted a bit shaken, but she quickly assured us that she was physically fine.
However, she had been so embarrassed by the fall that she made my sister, Madison, and me swear not to tell anyone. Standing on the dock, dripping wet, my mother looked at us with conviction, and almost as if it were an instruction, not a request –she said,
“It’s a secret; you have to keep the secret.”
As I stared blankly at my mother something stirred inside of me. Those words awakened an undeniable feeling that I had heard them as a child, but I had no memory of ever hearing those words before. Yet, that command struck me as being connected to something shrouded from the past. “You have to keep the secret.”
What power that request had!
After returning home from the trip, the dreams of being raped returned and invaded what little sleep I managed to have. Although the rape dreams were frightening, I always assumed they were merely the result of normal fears that women have from time to time. Yet, their frequency and intensity could not be ignored. The majority of the dreams ended just before the rape took place, but occasionally my mind experienced the terror and pain of the physical violation. My therapist did not interpret the dreams as anything too urgent, or as real events, but she did feel they were linked to issues with trust.
A few weeks after the reunion, early one morning, just as consciousness crept into my sleeping mind, I heard a man’s voice in my memory. He was angry and authoritative when he demanded, “Do what I say or I’ll kill you!” The words shook me straight out of sleep and I froze in my bed. The threat came from my subconscious but differed from a dream. They seemed more like a memory.
I wrote the words down in my journal, but quickly stopped wondering about it, and just hoped it wouldn’t happen again.
I quickly discovered that pushing away subconscious messages is detrimental.
My father died an agonizing and spiritless death in a rented hospital bed in the den of my childhood home. I was twelve years old and always retained a vague recollection of sitting by the hospital bed looking at him in a coma.
I could always recall the skeletal body that lay motionless, but I could still see him breathing. He died in the quiet darkness of the middle of the night. I was told by one of my sisters that he died at 3:00 a.m., but I have no memory of that.
I could always clearly remember watching the emotionless medical technicians wheel his body out the front door in a body bag. There was also a vague memory of my mother turning my head away in order to shield me from seeing the strong and tall father that I loved –seeing him reduced to a corpse in a black plastic bag. To this day, it is the only memory I have of my mother that involved any kind of love or compassion.
From my teenage years, and well into adulthood, I carried an almost defiant certainty that I mentally blocked out the vast majority of my childhood because of the death of my father, but this really made no sense. If my father’s death caused my lack of memory, then surely I would have retained wonderful recollections of him. Certainly I would have remembered fond moments between father and daughter, fun filled vacations, birthdays and Christmas mornings beside the tree. If his death was disturbing to me, and if he had been a loving father, or at least a decent man, then I would not have blocked out my entire childhood.
By winter of 1996 my mother’s lack of maternal love stopped coming up in therapy regressions and the diarrhea subsequently ceased. My father’s death now seemed much more important to my subconscious because my regressions began to take me directly back to age twelve and to the night he died.
The first regression brought the awareness of being in my childhood bedroom. The intensity of that night came into my memory. I had been dozing in and out of sleep that night because we all knew his demise hovered.
The age-regression brought me the awareness of my mother and my grandmother (my father’s mother) talking at the other end of the house. The light from the kitchen seeped through a crack in my bedroom door and at some point I got up to walk into the hallway. In that moment my mother came into my room. She and my grandmother stood at my bedroom door and I could read their faces.
“Your father has gone to Heaven” my mother said.
In the next part of the regression I re-experienced watching the technicians carry my father’s body out the front door and, in the regression, I attempted to experience the pain of his death. Up until that moment, I had consciously felt his passing had been dreadful for me.
Even in my teens, I had always remembered sobbing at his funeral, yet anguish did not surface during this age-regression. My certainty that this was the most painful event of my life deflated. I could not find an ounce of sorrow over my father dying.
My therapist had me end the regression by erasing my father from my mind with a giant magic eraser, but this would not wipe out what had been left unsaid at his deathbed.
Over the course of the following weeks, therapy regressions repeatedly brought me back to my father’s death bed where I sat staring at him in his coma. The only thoughts which had survived the passage of time were of a young girl’s confusion about why her father was leaving her, and there was some anger about his lack of fatherly love.
Then, in a breakthrough regression, I finally told my father how this made me feel. I also told him that it had been emotionally destructive not to have any memories of him ever hugging me or telling me that he loved me. I then told my father that I was sorry he got cancer but I would not allow any guilt to stop me from telling him off. These regressions to his deathbed alleviated a number of physical symptoms, so I knew the emotions of anger were true.
By the summer of 1997, after three years of immobilizing fatigue, and after a year and a half of therapy, I was finally able to ride my bike two days a week, and walk the beach every morning.
Being able to enjoy such simple luxuries without becoming bed-ridden, was a miracle of the therapy. Some physical problems remained and I was not able to exercise like I had before the cfids/ME first struck, but walking on the beach and feeling the wind in my hair while riding my bicycle, was like finally being allowed to come out of a dungeon.
In July of that year my renewed pleasure for outdoor activity and mental improvement hit a brick wall when I attended another family reunion at the lake.
Just like the previous year, I looked forward to utilizing my new strength in the presence of my mother. However, similar to the previous get-together, old wounds were about to be pried open with a pair of hot pliers.
I handled the majority of the trip well, and unlike the year before, my mother did not evoke much physical discomfort. I even enjoyed a portion of my time with her, but on the last morning of the reunion at the lodge, my life changed dramatically when we were all preparing to leave for the airport.
My mother stood in the kitchen of the lodge looking at me. She asked in an accusatory way, “did you strip your bed sheets?”
Her inquiry hit me in the gut. Her words affected me just like the previous year when she told Madison and me, “You have to keep the secret.” Only this time, unlike the command to keep her secret about falling in the lake, I knew exactly why her remark about my bedding had such an impact. Her question reminded me of the plastic sheet that lay between my mattress and my bed sheets as a child.
Unlike the vast majority of my childhood memories, wetting my bed until I was nine, remained indelibly in my mind.
If I happened to be invited to a sleepover, the plastic sheet came right along with me like an unwelcome guest; but until I heard my mother ask if I stripped my sheets, I had not remembered the absolute mortification of the plastic sheet.
The humiliation always began with my mother making a phone call to the parents of the child who invited me to spend the night. This is when my mother informed them of “my little problem,” and off I went with my overnight bag, toothbrush, and plastic sheet under my arm.
This had been the first time in over three decades that I allowed myself to remember the oppressive shame attached to the plastic sheet, and wondered if anyone in my family ever thought it strange that a nine year-old girl was still wetting the bed? The most likely answer was that —just like everything else in my family— no one ever talked about it and I was never taken to a doctor.
My mother’s comment about my bed sheets had unknowingly aroused a malignant mass, which had lodged itself inside the depths of my unconscious for over three decades. Within a few short days of returning home, I suddenly lacked the ability to relieve a full bladder. I sat on the toilet in tears as only a trickle came out.
Assuming I had contracted a bladder infection, I promptly drank more water, as well as a glass of cranberry juice in order to flush out any bacteria, but my bladder felt as if it would explode. I tried to urinate again and barely a drop came out. In order to gradually release my urine, I continued to go to the toilet about thirty times a day.
Two separate gynecological exams found no infection, nor any medical problem. I eventually cut myself down to one small glass of water per day and only took sips from it every few hours. I deliberately went to bed with an empty bladder, but continued to wake up ten or fifteen times during the night, feeling like I had to urinate. Each agonizing time, nothing came out.
Therapy regressions for the bladder did not bring up any specific memories, but kept leading my mind to my life-long and almost obsessive fear that the good can be taken away at any moment. In spite of healing work for this fear in the regression, my bladder problem persisted. I confined myself to the house, became afraid to drink water, and continued to strain to release my urine.
When I could no longer bear such debilitating physical torment, I went to a top urologist. The doctor did an ultrasound on my bladder and inserted a tube up my urethra. Nothing was found. The doctor told me that if the condition did not improve it would be necessary to insert a camera scope up my urethra to check for a tumor. I said thanks, sounds lovely, but no thanks.
My decision to decline the camera scope was based on the other negative findings by doctors, and that my bladder problem began soon after being reminded about wetting my bed and the plastic sheet. Further research about chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome/ME led me to discover that the feeling of a full bladder, or frequent urination, has been linked to the disease.
I made an appointment with a cfids/ME specialist.
As I entered the office lobby of the specialist, the stark lack of male patients in the waiting room was immediately noticeable. Women occupied every seat, and they all had a familiar look to them. They were mostly my age or slightly older, and each of their faces portrayed desperation mixed with hopelessness.
After checking in, I sat down and waited my turn. I watched as each of the other women entered the door that led down the hall to the treatment areas. The women who came back out never looked any better, and I briefly contemplated bolting for the exit. My plot was spoiled when I heard the nurse call my name as warmly as they do at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I sighed and tried to remain as positive as I could.
As the nurse led me towards the specialist’s private office, I passed two women slowly wandering up and down the hallway. Both seemed in a daze. Other women were sitting quietly in dimly lit rooms, and some were receiving intravenous medicine.
The atmosphere resembled a mental institution with lost souls and bizarre medical experiments.
As I sat down in the doctor’s private office, I told him about my physical ailments and emphasized the bladder problem. While the doctor wrote his mysterious notes I asked him about the women who were drifting down the hallways, and about those sitting in dark rooms with IVs in their arms. He told me the women had been treated with drugs for their cfids/ME symptoms and were waiting for any affect of the medication to begin.
The doctor could see the perplexed look on my face so he further explained that people go to him when they are desperate. The women in his office were trying any medication available in order to make their symptoms go away.
The specialist then told me, “every day a patient begs me to help them with the symptoms. They tell me that if I don’t do something, they will kill themselves.”
In that moment I realized that in spite of the misery with my bladder, I had been extremely fortunate that the hypnotherapy had removed so many of my other physical symptoms.
Otherwise I would most likely be one of those women.
The specialist asked me about my family history and I mentioned my father’s unpredictable temper. To my surprise, the doctor told me that over half of his patients grew up in a home where they felt unsafe. I silently wondered if my father’s rage could be the root cause of the cfids/ME and all my emotional problems.
As the specialist spoke to me about trying a prescription drug to relieve the bladder problem, I heard my inner voice rejecting his words. I am strongly against flippantly taking pharmaceutical drugs, but I had become so despondent that I reluctantly ignored my intuition.
The first medication didn’t work, so before I left his office he gave me a different pill, but it soon made me feel high. Neither medication relieved the urinary difficulty, so instead of trying more drugs, I honored my intuition, and allowed the hypnotherapy to be my path to healing.
As I continued working in therapy on the dread of good things ending abruptly and without warning, my decision to decline the medication finally paid off. My bladder gradually improved with each regression. I still had to use the toilet abnormally often, but it was no longer painful, and I was able to drink more water.
Yet, the persistent hunger assaulted my gut like a jackhammer, and the rapid heart rate, dizziness, vaginal pain, and sore throats continued. The rapid heartbeat woke me from naps, and at night from deep sleep. The pounding in my ears became so intense that I felt it in my chest, and each night, as I lay my head on the pillow, I felt my heart thumping in my brain.
Although dreams about my childhood home were not uncommon for me, after the visit to the specialist, they began to enter my sleep with great frequency. The dreams focused mostly on the hallway that led to the bedrooms, or my mother sitting in a chair reading a book, and they also concentrated on the hallway closet.
Even twenty years after my father’s death, my mother still kept his police uniform, hat, shoes, and his old coin collection in that closet. When my mother finally sold the house and moved away, she gave me his policeman’s hat, coin collection, and the flag that had been draped over his casket at the funeral. I loved my father, so these items were sacred to me and I promptly placed them in my living room where I could see them daily.
It seemed important for me to preserve his memory.
In late October of 1997 I woke each morning with tightness in my chest so powerful it prevented me from inhaling normally and I could not walk down the street without difficulty breathing. Once again I saw the cardiologist who pronounced me very healthy, and the problem was attributed to the cfids/ME.
During this period of time, dreams of drowning in huge waves resurfaced and I began to wake up in the middle of the night unable to breathe. Gasping for air, I sat up quickly in my bed and shook myself awake. Eventually I found my normal breathing pattern, but I became too afraid to fall asleep out of fear that I would stop breathing and die.
When I did fall asleep, my heart pounded like a loud drum, being beaten at a rapid pace. Halfway into a state of sleep I could feel it race at high rates, flutter, flip, and skip beats. I was terrified that my heart might stop out of pure exhaustion.
The only relief from my agonizing existence came in the form of a soothing and powerful voice which came to me one morning while still half asleep.
The voice had no gender, and told me, “You are going through a transformation.” It felt more like a supernatural experience than a dream. It was eerie, but at the same time I felt comforted. A sense of peace enveloped me because I felt it was the voice of my soul reaching out to me in order to assure me the suffering would eventually lead to something beneficial.
The morning after this took place, the voice came to me again upon waking, and as if my soul needed to confirm the message for me, the voice repeated, “You are going through a transformation.” My therapist also believed that my soul was helping me along in my journey.
In spite of this moving metaphysical experience, the multitude of physical problems was unceasing.
The tightness and constriction in my chest began to increase immediately after stepping into the shower.
By early November 1997, I felt completely ready to face my father’s uncontrollable temper, but my regressions continued to bring up other issues. My subconscious was in control during age regression therapy so I had to let go and allow my unconscious mind to give me what I needed, instead of what my conscious mind wanted to face.
In mid November, I had a very disturbing dream, in which I found myself in an unknown house, in an unfamiliar bedroom. The room had flower patterned wallpaper, and in the bedroom of the dream, I had sex with my father. I did not dream about the sex in detail, I just knew in the dream that we had sex. After we had sex, my mother appeared in the dream. She sat on the edge of the bed where I just been with my father. She then stuck her tongue out at me like a child. I woke up immediately after this.
The next day, I communicated the dream to my therapist. Although the dream was shocking to me, she told me it had nothing to do with actually having sex with my father. She helped me interpret the dream to mean something totally benign. Her explanation made sense to me and I happily put the dream out of my mind…
Coming soon…Chapter Three: Hallway of Secrets
- Used with personal permission from Marylin Van derbur
© 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.