Who They Said I Am
I have been experiencing persistent voices in my mind who call me ugly. They point out specific aspects of my body that are ugly, in a tone that makes me feel as though my physical appearance is a crime.
Even though the internal comments about my body are the same from day to day, each time I hear them feels just as painful as the time before it, if not more painful. If I try to engage with these internal parts of my system in a way that could potentially provoke them out of the beliefs that they carry, they begin to call me selfish. Memories play in my mind, in which I am expressing my wants, my needs, or my truth. My system was taught very early on that it is profoundly selfish to have wants or needs, and it is wrong to know the truth—my truth, from which I have been forced to dissociate.
I was taught that my truth belongs to other individuals, just as my body does.
After being used for so many years by these other individuals, my body is sick. Yet rarely do I acknowledge it as being sick. I am more prone to see it as ugly and shameful—a body within which I am forced to live, a body within which I will never be loved or accepted. I was taught that ugliness and badness are inherent qualities of mine, and that it is my fault that I am this way. Thinking of my body as sick may imply to me that its appearance and its other symptoms are not my fault. Therefore, my programming often keeps me from acknowledging that my body is sick.
What They Said I’ve Done
I have also been called a murderer, by my own mind. I used to feel like a murderer, because as a child I witnessed torture and murder regularly. I was also used by others to commit murder, whether they used my presence (such as being part of another slave’s double bind setup), or whether they used weapons that they had forced me to create, or whether they used my hands. I have memories of being forced to kill my own little baby at the age of thirteen.
My memories of being forced to inflict harm begin at a young age. Sometimes I feel deeply surprised when I witness playing children, who are the ages that I was when these traumas were happening to me. I had not known that there were children around the world living such profoundly different lives from the life that I had been enduring. A child inside my system says, sometimes I feel surprised at what many children don’t go through.
In recovery, while processing these memories in which I appeared to commit great harm, I thought that I deserved to be shunned. I would not believe kind people who expressed that they liked me, unless they agreed to see me as a murderer first. I thought I deserved a teardrop tattoo. I had no sense of understanding or compassion for how young and how tormented I had been in those memories, nor for the impossible circumstances in which I had been living.
The Evildoer’s Experience
All alone, I experienced one long night where the pain of murder found my center.
I don’t believe this pain was my own pain. But somehow it had found its way into me long ago, through a process I am unable to describe. I spent that night overcome by the deepest depths of anguish and regret that I have ever felt.
I experienced the anguish, regret, guilt, and shame of a mother who has killed her own children. I simultaneously experienced the cold, crazy agitation of a serial killer who nightwalks the streets. I saw these two beings as though they were hovering right in front of me.
In connecting with the mother, it felt as though she saw no possibility in the universe to ever reverse the harm that she had done, or to reverse or heal the heartbreak of all beings involved, which felt as though it was pounding through her pulse. In connecting with the serial killer, the sense of emptiness in him was so active that it was though a large, flailing multi-tool was continuously attacking him from within.
Neither of the beings were a part of me, but the pain was so forceful, so present all around me, that even though I was confused about what was happening, I felt that I needed to allow this experience a full course through me. Even though these had not been my experiences in this lifetime, they had somehow gotten into my being, and there was a need for them to find a way out.
The experience was so penetrating that it made me wonder whether there would ever come a moment in existence where I would not feel swallowed and consumed by anguish and regret. The emotional pain was so strong that I was writhing. By the early morning, I knew that my spirit would never take the freewill action of murder, no matter what kind of lifetime it found itself in. The impact of murder had been felt completely.
These feelings had been influencing my relationship with myself. They had been inhibiting my ability to care for myself or accept care, as well as my creativity, exploration, and growth. They had been reasons not to cover my feet with a blanket, reasons not to make a new friend.
I was stunned by the strength of these feelings that I had finally released, but amnesic as to their origins.
I now believe that these were the feelings of some of the freewill murderers who had raised and nurtured me. I was able to consciously experience what they could not experience—the pain of what they have done, and the pain of their existence.
Since this experience, I haven’t been as upset by the notion of myself as a murderer, even though many abusers spent decades conditioning me to see myself this way. It is now much easier for me to connect to the circumstances I was in, when violence occurred. I can remember never wanting to create harm.
I know I am not a murderer, because I know I did not choose to take the action of murder. But what is ugliness? Does it refer to something I have done, or to something I have been?
Though I no longer view myself as a murderer to the extent that I once did, I continue to see myself as ugly.
I would hope that my mind would consider the identity of being a murderer to be much more serious than the identity of having an ugly body. But lately, I am much more impacted by feeling that I am ugly.
Recently, while taking a walk down the street and observing passersby, I was overcome with concern that they could see my ugly body. I asked members of my system how they would truly feel if instead, passersby were told that we were a murderer, and if they would see us this way whenever we stepped outside.
The responses that I heard back were: That would be fine. That would be great. They would avoid us. They would leave us alone. We don’t want them close to us. We don’t want them nearby. We don’t want their eyes on us.
I was curious if everyone inside had fully considered the impact and the seriousness of this notion, and I was wondering whether some of us were being rather cavalier in our supposed ease with being perceived this way. Something did not feel quite right about the way in which we had weighed up the criminality of murder and of ugliness.
It is true that ever since processing memories of forced harm, we have come into contact with the more deeply hidden sections of the memories, which illustrate our captivity, our lack of options, and our overwhelming circumstances, which include being vastly outnumbered in the room by psychopaths.
These memories also show us our fear, grief, and compassion. We chose not to disconnect from the murder victims. We chose to look into their eyes and breathe with them. Sometimes we would see their life stories pass through the air as they died.
After enough grief and understanding, we are much better able to identify who the real murderers are, and to recognize that we do not meet the criteria for this category. Murder is defined as a premeditated, freewill choice. By definition, a slave has been robbed of their free will.
But if our system is not a murderer, then who are we?
As I walked, I began to realize that as a system, we got more direct attention for being ugly than we did for being a murderer. Being a murderer was understood in our society. It was common, expected, and valuable. Being ugly was somehow placed at an opposite end of the spectrum. The shame was used to slowly destroy our emotional selves over time. Abusers shamed us regularly, and we were trained to continue the process ourselves.
While walking and conversing with my system, I began to understand that a person who has grown up in a relatively loving or sane environment, even if dysfunctional, would be more likely to equate ugliness with murder, rather than to oppose them.
I began to wonder if every single beautiful action in me had once been shamed and described as ugly. Meanwhile, murder had been cavalierly taught to me in a school setting, and I was graded and assessed on my progress.
In my life today, I do not harm or murder my body. I take care of my body every day. My body is sick and traumatized. I have not been able to bring sufficient healing to its illnesses, so my daily life feels slow, heavy, and painful. I do feel ugly. On small occasions I realize that I am sick, not ugly.
It is difficult to see myself as sick rather than ugly because my injuries were never lovingly acknowledged. They were mocked, ignored, and exacerbated, and many had been created by perpetrators in the first place. I recall being given medical attention only in order to cover up evidence of crimes, to prevent scarring so that I could continue to be sex trafficked, or to be healed because someone wanted to attack me in the same way again. I was physically healed in order that I may continue to work for the abusers as their slave. I was never given physical healing because of a value or regard for my life or well-being. As often as possible, I was forced to provide the physical healing for myself.
In recovery, my body does not respond easily to kindness or to attempts to meet its needs. I am not sure how well it can absorb, retain, or relax.
Often, taking care of my body makes me feel miserable. It feels as though I can only hope to work tirelessly just so that the illness does not worsen. This feels heartbreaking, like working several continuous jobs without any payment—which in fact is how I lived for almost all of my life, enslaved and continuously put to work while suffering internally.
I still do not know how to distinguish what is ugly and what is beautiful. I don’t want anything to be ugly. I want everything to be given a chance to express its beauty and its truest self.
I am searching for what is at the root of my harmful self-belief. Maybe it will help the internal voices stop echoing the original damage done.
I sense that deep down, there exist beliefs in me that I am bad, that I am not lovable as I am (or even as I could potentially be), and that I should not be allowed to express my true nature.
In considering the two topics in this essay’s title, murder and ugliness, I am compelled to notice that one is an action, while the other is a quality or a state of being. In my earliest years of organized, premeditated traumatization, it is understandable that the abusers’ focus would have been on attacking my beingness, rather than my actions.
Attacking who I am inside, and conquering my being, would provide them with the deepest and longest reigns with which to control me, own me, and make me into all that they thought they needed, and all that they never wanted to be, yet still became.
They took what they wanted to shake off of themselves—emptiness, self-hatred, rage, fear of life, and unendurable shame—and attempted to transfer it to me, a small child with a large capacity.
Lastly, they wanted to pseudo-return the reigns to me, so that I would be the one who ostensibly controls myself, enslaves myself. Then I could be used to continuously fulfill their needs or desires. Their efforts would gift them with the best possible actor, someone to engage with them selflessly, readily, without hesitation. These would be the easiest circumstances in which they could pretend that I truly wanted to serve them, because I had long been forced to pretend, both to them and to myself.
Because of my heart’s efforts to escape, the people who had cornered me into slavery for so long are no longer in my life. Yet there are broken pieces of my mind who still do not know this, who still live in moments that occurred years ago, decades ago.
Those parts of my mind need healing. I know this to be true, even while their voices move across my mind and call me ugly. I know that they have been programmed to remove the original perpetrators’ voices from our original memories of being deeply shamed, as a child. I know that they have been asked to pretend, to act, to substitute their own voices into those memories, so that my conscious mind believes this to be a self-attack.
But I was not born attacking myself. I was born very small, into air that was very cold, and my body was abused within seconds. i experienced verbal abuse that I both could and could not understand. Cruel words were spoken to me before I even had the musculature necessary to commit murder, or to commit any harm, or any act that might be considered bad, wrong, or ugly.
I think that being called ugly has, in some ways, struck me more deeply, because it has been an attack on who I am, in some ways an attack on something intrinsic about me. If I am ugly, then I am ugly everywhere I go. I may not choose to walk down the street committing murder, but I do walk down the street as myself, no matter how desperately I might wish not to be me.
I do not want to be attacked from within, and I do not think that those parts of my system want to obey outdated commands. I think they want to know consciousness, peace, and the freedom to express the truth—both the truth of the original crimes committed against us, including being called ugly during rape and torture, as well as the truth of who we are now and who we always have been.
I am not ugliness, I am nature. In recovery, I breathe so that I can finally express my nature.
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