I’m almost finished reading Elena Vanishing by Elena Dunkle and her mother Clare Dunkle. (I know how it turns out because I just finished the mother’s book that tells it from her perspective). It’s a memoir of a girl struggling with anorexia.
(((SPOILER ALERT!!! But I’ll try to be somewhat vague))
I’ve just reached the part where she realizes that a trauma that occurred in her life at 13 really *was* a catalyst of her descent into anorexia. Until that time (I think it’s about 7 years later) she blamed many other things.
The title “Elena Vanishing” not only refers to her getting thinner, but also how her personality, the Elena that she really was pre-trauma, disappeared until she was a shell.
The realization I mentioned above seemed to be instrumental in her getting a handle on her anorexia. She was able to remember who she was and revisit this person and somewhat piece her back together. She had memories of love and connection and a strong life force.
This, my dear readers, is to me one of the most difficult and terrifying parts of being an adoptee …let me rephrase that, being an adoptee out of the fog of denial. (I know many adoptees who swear there is nothing wrong but hold their lives together with a super tight obsessive control of the details of their days, or in any number of other ways. “Oh, I’m just a control freak, that’s all…” Yeah, right.)
The adoptee who feels like an alien, who feels like a piece of driftwood, a pulled up sapling in a forest of deeply rooted people, one forever treading water…the adoptee given up early on in life has no pre-trauma personality.
That “shell” that Elena became after trauma? It’s all we know. We feel not just vanishing…but vanished. There’s no “me” to look back on to put the pieces back together.
I have a theory that so many adoptees contemplate or attempt suicide to put to rights that cognitive dissonance that occurs when they realize that they feel dead inside, a shell of a person. They want to make it whole again…either all alive (but how, when no one gets us and screams at us to be thankful for how we feel??) or all dead. (Dear readers, please please get help if this is you…)
I wrote this post, like I said, before finishing the whole book. In the last few pages, it was revealed…
(SPOILER ALERT! 🙂 )
…that her mother almost died in childbirth and was unavailable to really parent much for an amount of time as she recovered. The therapist in the book suggested that Elena’s mean “inner voice” was actually something that took over when her mother was unavailable, and that once her mother was “back” that Elena had, as a tiny baby, decided she “didn’t need her” , became hypervigilant, because she had gotten along without her and, I’m adding, she didn’t want that abandonment to happen again!
So that kind of pokes a hole in my using this book as an example of a pre-trauma personality for this post, because her initial trauma WAS at birth, with another trauma later. I’m keeping it though, because while my example may be flawed, I’m sure if I had time I could find another book or story with a correct example. Plus, the rest of the book makes sense in light of our abandonment issues, and is a good example of those.