When I was 10 years old I opened the front door to my home and, in an instant, my whole world fell apart. In Laura Lentz’s online writing group, her prompts drawn from mythology stirred my imagination and led me to write the story of what happened in a mythological way.
It Has Been Said There Isn’t A Bottom
The ten year old girl with the long, long hair lived a seemingly perfectly ordinary little life. Her hair was so long she could sit on it. Her mom would wrap pink foam curlers around her long brown hair every night so she woke in the morning with perfect spirals of curls cascading down her back. She was her mother’s little doll, dressed in the frilliest, pinkest dresses her mom could find. Pretty little girl, pretty little curls, pretty little dresses, safely ensconced in her pretty little house with her parents, her brother, and her little dog Susie. To the outsider, she had a perfect little life. However, outsiders never see the inside of perfect lives, do they? For the truth was, the little girl with the perfect life was living in a dream. And no one could see that The Snake Of The Hundred Heads had put one of its heads in every corner of every crevice of the little girl’s life.
She walked home from school one day, long curls bouncing down her back, with a quite unexpected bad grade from math class. The little girl felt scared and sad because she knew her father would be very angry with her. This bad grade was one of the Snake’s heads. The need to be perfect in every way for her parents was another.
The heads had long strong fangs, carrying a poison so malevolent that when the Snake decided to bite, lightning strikes would flash, setting fire to anything it bit. Causing everything in its path to burn and crumble to dust. Then the Snake would exhale forcefully, creating a strong rumbling wind to blow and scatter the ashes far, far away.
Unbeknownst to the little girl living in a dream, the King of Serpents was hiding inside the drawer of the teacher who marked her math test with a bright red C. This serpent was the King of The Snake of The Hundred Heads. When the little girl finally reached the end of the long walk home The King, with his foul putrid breath, commanded his servant Snake with a fierce “BITE!” The little girl reluctantly opened the front door to her house, saw her mother crying, and learned her father had vanished.
With a slithering slimy silkened hiss, the Snake whispered to the little girl, “And so it begins.”
The fire from the lightning flashes burned and crumbled everything into ashes around the little girl, and the strong wind blew away all the safety, all the ordinary, all the pretty, all of anything the little girl had ever known. Leaving only a deep dark abyss, so deep the bottom couldn’t be seen.
It has been said there isn’t a bottom.
And the little girl was so terrified, so frightened she thought “here I cannot stand or lie still because if I do I will fall into the pit and never see the light again.”
As she stood near the doorway frozen in fear, a beautiful goddess emerged from the center of the pit, where some roots still clung to the sides. The glowing goddess surrounded the little girl with a brilliant white light, taking her to a safe place, guiding her little body and spirit forward and upwards. To the clouds. To the dreamy ethereal place of Dissociation, which gently held the little girl’s mind in a safe place the Snakes couldn’t reach.
And so the little girl barely remembers the year and a half that followed. And that is good. And so her spirit and mind remained intact, held by the great goddess until it was safe to return. And that is good.
The beautiful, glowing goddess lives in a radiant ancient white tree with deep, tenacious roots and strong branches. And the little girl knows the goddess is always there, firmly rooted and ready to save her yet again. And that is good.
Loss takes many shapes and forms. Death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a pet, illness, and on and on. It can be any loss you’re grieving or have grieved in the past. This story is about the loss of innocence, of childhood, and of abandonment. The enormity of what happened was overwhelming, causing me to go into shock. It was more than my brain could “process.”
We all have inherent “defense mechanisms”, they “kick” in to protect us when our psyches are overwhelmed. Dissociation is a brilliant way our brain instinctively helps us to survive events which feel overwhelming and unbearable. It allows us to “disconnect and detach” from a traumatic event until we are capable of “integrating” what happened.
Many of my clients and many people I know, including myself, cannot remember parts of their childhood or other times in their life. Or have vague, hazy recollections of the weeks and months following a traumatic loss of any kind. It’s okay. It’s a normal response. I like to think of dissociation as a gift from the universe, protecting us and helping us to survive until it feels safe to “come back in to our bodies.”
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.