Client Stories About Their Journey
Invisible Oceans is our space dedicated to the many voices of our clients. We invite clients past and present to contribute a piece of their experience of working through trauma and dissociation. We want to offer encouragement and knowledge that you can get through to a better place. And we also want to acknowledge the pain, the weight, and the burdens that come before recovery, as well as the unexpected weight, pains, and burdens that come with it and after it.
Fundamentally, we hope these pieces touch you in a way that says, "you are not alone".
Each piece is written by a current or former client of mine. It's been my privilege to witness some part of your journey and I cannot tell you just how much it has meant to me.
Invisible Oceans was inspired by the client and their first piece in this collection....
Trigger warning.... while we will not post descriptions of abuse, these pieces are raw and powerful expressions of the client's experience. If you have suffered much, endured the unimaginable, the unspeakable - know through these stories - you are not alone.
It was a piece within a piece - a small blurb inside a longer, rambling journal. But it was the kind of ramble that sticks out: an emerging lilting style, distinct and poetic, that pours out heart and soul into describing the indescribable. There's a flow between torment and grace; a call-and-answer gently woven underneath the words, bringing an overlap of Inside to Outside and back again.
We can identify this particular dance down to one specific partner - an absolute mystery of an essence with the name Caleidoscope. She is part of a Trio we ended up referring to as The 3 C's. Creative, i know.
Caleidoscope is a Queen, a Witch, a Mystery made of ice and snow - prismatic, great, terrible, and merciful. She's the one who first spoke about a wall, or a tower, that is constructed from ice blocks - and within each ice block is a tiny child part, tucked in safe, warm, and frozen in their Mercy Sleep. These tiny, fragmented parts are kept asleep because their dreams are an escape from their reality; their experiences, their memories are too overwhelming to function with. To have these critically wounded and extremely unstable parts awake and active would be too destabilizing and dangerous for the system as a whole - and so they slumber, and with them their memories. i don't know what their dreams are, but they sleep, so we can Live. And so, we Live for them.
There were times, especially early on in recovery, when the pain felt too heavy to bear. There was just so much of it, welling up from inside, seeping in from outside... it all became so unbearable. And for our entire life we've been driven to shed a light on our lived experiences, to find some semblance of meaning in the chaos. We always turned to writing, trying to put words to the wordless, giving the pain a proper place to melt into the page... and hoping that would lessen its grip enough that we could breathe again.
We gave open permission to Hammil for this little bit, this tiny mess of words, to be shared with other clients as he saw fit, and the feedback we've gotten since has been astounding. Heart-breaking, profound, and encouraging. This stream-of-consciousness scribble of a raw and desperate plea into the void has helped people.
In our mission to share our recovery journey, especially lately, we tend to want to focus on the progress, to show how possible recovery can be. To be able to point to a place higher up on the map and say, "we did it, we worked through it!" But we're reminded that it's also important to share the pain, the weight, and the burdens that come before recovery, and the unexpected weight, pains, and burdens that come with it. It's not a pretty journey, but it's a worthwhile one. When you're inundated with just So Much, it's easy to feel lost, alone, and drowning in an ocean nobody else can see. If nothing else, i hope that by sharing this, we can say, "I Know. I know this pain. I know how it feels. I know the burden of carrying it. I Know. You are not alone."
* * * Caleidoscope's Pain * * *
"...there is so much pain, there is just so so so much pain. it's piling on, and rising up. every heartbeat heavy like lead. each step, a strangling struggle to walk through a sea of electrified molasses. there is just so much pain. heart pain, head pain, skin pain, bone pain, soul pain, world pain, past pain, future pain... seeing a handful of greedy people push pain on others like it's the greatest game in the world... blatant, flagrant disregard for the human experience... pushing pain upon pain upon pain... poking the bruises of the past, all while laughing at the expressions of a tortured life, saying it's all in your head.... bottomless wells of sorrow, loss, betrayal.... my pain is their pain, their pain is mine. the world's pain is overflowing, and its edges rub against mine, flint, stone, and tinder, and i can't breathe. i look for the Good, i look for the peace, i seek the questions, contemplate so many answers, ache to live in Truth... i witness the stories, i observe the present, and i preserve the light... but there is so much pain, so much pain.... of just one, small, broken little girl who was nevnever given a fair starting of a chance... so much pain that she had to become thousands just to hold it all, just to live, just to stay alive.... wild and feral, the pain feeds her, and drives her on, pulsating, furious, determined... in the face of it all, stubborn tenacity, refusing to be completely consumed.... but it hurts... oh it hurts... it all hurts..."
The Village Witch
Okay. So it’s all burning. Okay. So the fields were razed and the ground has been turned with salt. So the cattle are covered in boils and the mice got to the grain, and everywhere, everywhere the taste of blood. And what would you have me do about it? What fantasies have you stirred up that let me make it all okay? I call the rain, but the salt runs into the water. I kill the mice but the fleas jump into your children’s warm beds. And where to begin with the blood? It’s always been there, don’t ask me. So fucking what. Let me see you try any better.
And if I saw the same shapes in the dregs of the cup or in the cracked bones or in the entrails of geese, so what. Would you have believed me?
Let’s see it, then. Show me.
And when I’m paraded through the town square with my hands behind my back, will you say it then? The men just want a show, you know it as well as I do. Look how their eyes gleam, their teeth pressing at the corners of their dry mouths in anticipation. They already know what I am, but they just have to see it anyway.
Then by all means, gentlemen. Hold my head under water, cut my skin with silver, strip me down just to take a look. Brutalize me. Make me into a horror story. Are you done, yet? Are you not having enough fun? Are you pleased? Are you satiated? And your mouth, is it full with the taste of me?
Okay. So it’s my fault. Okay. So I called the plague or the flood or the drought or whatever the fuck it is, this time. And how would you have me repent? On my knees? I’d rather be burned at the stake. Didn’t you do this to me? Didn’t you want a monster? You should have been clearer. It’s too late to take back the claws and the teeth and the taste for blood. I am exactly what you all made me. I’ll call crows to peck out your eyes and rats to eat your tongues. If you wanted a lamb, you should have slit her throat before she knew any better.
- Village Witch; 5.4.22
Sweet girl. He says my name like honey. Always sweet. Only purrs and no bite to the tongue. I’m the best actress I know. They put me in the yearbook twice (a mistake) but sometimes I think it’s because they saw me twice. Two girls where there should be one. One smiling one not. Baby girl is all smiles. She’s never sour. Sure I think about lots but I never say, no. Never want a thinking girl. Beauty queen with her front two teeth missing. Pink like cotton candy or sex. I don’t flinch. I’ll do anything you want if you ask nice. Or not. I’ll eat anything except tomatoes. Dumb doll gets laughed at but glass eyes don’t cry, no. His fingers scrape my throat like it’s the funniest joke he knows. Dolls don’t feel a thing. It’s always a game but it’s never any fun, anymore.
- Peach May 6
Had I come across your cold corpse in the woods I would have thought, Well, good for her. It’s perhaps not the eulogy I had meant to say nor the one you truly deserve, but it’s the truth. Words are a poor facsimile for comfort, aren’t they? There are many questions I want to ask you, but none you deserve to hear. Were you scared? Did dying hurt much more than you thought it might, or was it more like a leak had sprung in your body and the warmth was replaced with a cold unknowing?
There are still other questions I think to ask the audience. Show of hands, who believes this was God’s plan? At what point does the suffering bring enlightenment? Now in this script I have placed a well-timed, and if you’ll excuse me, a well-deserved scream. It will be long and unbearable, and you will want to leave. I hope you’ll bear with me. Be brave, everyone.
[A rending of the throat]
Was that so bad? Yes, I’m sure it was. Well, I’m afraid I can’t apologise to any one of you except her, and what good is that, anymore? There are so many things I want to say to her. There’s no point. There’s never a point.
Forgive me. Where was I? The- the point is, we are here at her expense. Is that the point? How is any of that fair?
I know, it’s bad manners to laugh at a funeral, spare me your outrage.
I know, it’s not a funeral. Neither is she a ghost nor a zombie nor a spectre of my imagination. Is that any better? If I held her body in my arms and buried her in clean linen with my own two hands, you mean to say that this would be any worse than everything else that has happened?
Of course not. But we go through the motions anyway. Clean the skin, brush the hair. Close the eyes, even though she can still hear it all, anyway. What else is there to do?
We close the casket and bury it deep down. We cry. We pretend there’s no rot. We say the soft and worn lie: it’ll be okay. It’ll be okay.
This is the part where we close our eyes.
- A body delivers a eulogy for her ghost, 5.5. Ruby.
Hard Shiny Ball
I'm curled up in a ball to protect myself, inside of a ball of a hard, shiny metal. Others don't know the pain that is carried inside – they just see the shiny, polished metal. What could possibly be wrong with it?
But inside, there's not enough room to breathe. And you can't hear the cries of pain from where you stand outside, looking down on us. We reach out, but no one can tell, because they can't see. Even if they could see, they can't reach through our barrier that protects us. But we can't let you in past it – we don't know how, and there isn't enough room in here. And the pain and ugliness in here is so great we wouldn't want you to have to bear it anyway.
I'm curled up in a ball to protect myself, inside of a ball of a hard, shiny metal. You can't know the pain that is carried inside. Sometimes I think I might want out, to see some of the world outside of this pain, but it was the world out there that caused this pain. You say it's safe out there now, so many years later. But I can't get out anyway – the protective barrier we made is impenetrable. You can't get in to see the mess, but that means I can't get out, either.
I'm curled up in a ball to protect myself, inside a ball of hard, shiny metal. You know the pain that is carried inside of here. You've seen how ugly and messy it is. You're trying to help us get out of it, to see the world out here so many years later. You've been able to help us get through the barrier we made. The feelings of the world come in, and it was the world out there that hurt us. It's scary outside, and we aren't always sure it's a safe place to be.
But we want to try... maybe just a little bit...