Leonie was very tired. Her shoulders have dropped and her head had fallen forward resting on her chest. Unable to muster the strength needed for balancing her head upright on her fatigued body, Leonie feels the floor opening and becoming a vortex inviting her into the never ending downwards spiral. She hears a seductive whisper beckoning her to succumb, “Let go, let go. You have fought long enough. You can rest now!”
Her therapist’s voice pulls her back into the room “You look very tired”.
“Am I tired? Leonie wonders before she responds “I am, I had enough. I have done many, many years of therapy. When I finished 4 years ago, I finally had reached the point of being ready to look forward. You know, I wanted to enjoy life. Having been afraid of most things most of my life, I was looking forward to do all the things ‘normal’ people would do, without feeling shackled by the past and the abuse. I started to make plans where and how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I started to do things, started to make up for all the years of being afraid and looking over my shoulder. I was determined to make the most of every day now. And then this happens. I am devastated”.
Leonie has experienced over the last few months problems with her memory. Sometimes she found herself wandering around in her neighbourhood, not knowing where she was, not knowing how to get home. She has times when she does not recognise people, even if they are neighbours of many years. Once she didn’t recognise her therapist. After a while she agreed with her doctor that she has to accept a caretaker coming every day to look after her.
She gets confused and scared, feeling out of control, feeling unsafe. Not only that, lately she is struggling withher balance and often falls down, hurting herself. Her doctor has sent her to have tests done, but the professionals are not sure what the problem is. They think it is some form of dementia or Alzheimers, but they’ve told her “You are not quite fitting the picture, you are much too young for these problems to occur”.
“You know, it reminds me very much at how it was when I was a child: completely out of control and not being able to do something about my situation. I feel like giving up”.
“What do you think, are the doctors on the right track and are you experiencing a pre-mature aging problem or is it dissociation? Is it that your parts have been triggered and are active again? It sounds very much like the experiences you had when you were dissociating and some part would take the body somewhere without others knowing about it”.
Leonie gave a lot of thought to her therapist’s comment. Having lived for more than 50 years with multiple personalities, she knew the feeling in her body evoked by parts going about their daily ‘duties’. With some discomfort she remembered the feeling of fading out and sliding into a space she never was quite able to describe to her therapist. How can you describe the nothingness that was both frightening and comforting at the same time; that was both light and dark? No, what is happening to her now was not the so familiar switching of parts. She knew she has arrived in very unfamiliar territory.
Leonie shook her head “I believe that the damage abuse causes the child comes out in a physical way when you get older. That’s my gut feeling anyway. In the 50 odd years of my life, my body had more stress than others have in a life time. So you can say my body lived a normal life time and is giving up now. Like the candle that burns down quicker when unprotected from the wind”.
Leonie’s journey is not finished yet. Whether her theory of the body=candle is right, we don’t know yet. It will all be revealed in the future. What we do know is that chronic stress leads to a raft of physical health problems. Excess production of stress hormones changes the body's functioning in many ways causing problems such as anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, infertility, hair falling out, acne breaking out, and increase in inflammations and central nervous system infections. Knowing this, Leonie’s explanation does not seem to be so far fetched.