Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My mother's story

When my mother was just three years old, she was molested for the first time by her father, the man who was supposed to protect her and keep her safe. The abuse continued for fifteen years and only ended when my mother was eighteen and married my father. My mother could not escape the memories of her childhood and when I was seventeen, she was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder. (Since my mother's diagnosis, the name has been changed to Dissociative Identity Disorder, which is its proper name as it is really not a personality disorder at all, but a dissociation from reality.)

We knew my mother had severe moods before she was diagnosed but we had no idea each mood was a different personality. We learned that she had fourteen different personalities in addition to her own, each with their own unique characteristics. One personality was extremely violent and lashed out at us many times, threatening to kill us.

As practicing Mormons, my mother's behavior was peculiar and caused us to be shunned from some within the community. As many have pointed out to me, however, the fact that we were Mormon really had nothing to do with how we were treated, it is the same in every community. Mental illness is a taboo topic and those who exhibit those behaviors are automatically labeled as "different" and are avoided if at all possible. Because of this, we never told our mother's secret for fear that we would suffer further humiliation.

When my mother died in 2004, I felt that it was important to tell her secrets in order to help others who may be experiencing the same thing. The phrase, "What happens in this house, stays in this house," was my mother's motto long before Las Vegas advertisers popularized it. The difficulty with this motto is that it allows the secrets to remain hidden. My book is an attempt to bring to light those things that most often remain in darkness. Too many families suffer in silence, fearing what might happen if the outside world were to find out their inner secrets. That is the trouble with abuse, in any form; it is not talked about, and remains a hidden epidemic, like a cancer that grows undetected until its effects are irreversible. Those who are abused remain silent out of shame or fear; those who are on the outside looking in on abuse remain silent out of propriety or discretion.

This book is my attempt to liberate those who are held captive by the idea that they suffer alone. It is my attempt to encourage those who are silent to break free and live. And this is my call to those who are on the outside looking in to stop looking and do something. Only then can the wounds be healed. My mother was abused as a child and kept silent. As a result, the cycle of silence continued throughout her life and forced its way into the lives of her children. This cycle can only be broken when the silence is interrupted and understanding begins to heal the scars that come from a lifetime of remaining silent.

I am breaking free from the cycle of silence and telling the world my story. I encourage all to do the same. Only then can we move forward and truly be liberated from our past.