Many people who’ve experienced the trauma of infant surgery or who have post-traumatic stress (PTS) for a number of reasons have issues with visibility. It is dangerous to be seen. I recently spoke to a survivor of infant pyloric stenosis surgery who told me that one of his biggest issues was the anxiety brought on by needing to be invisible while at the same time, needing to be seen.
I know that shame is and has been a factor in keeping me in the shadows. I spent many years feeling ugly due to the jaggedy scar on my belly. But I also think it has to do with feeling worthless. If I knew my worth hands down, I’d feel confident that others would, too. I learned to keep a low profile though, for hadn’t I bothered everyone in my family with my early illness? I think it goes deeper though.
I don’t feel that I exist. I’ve felt this and heard this from other trauma survivors–survivors of sexual abuse, domestic violence, assault, war. We don’t feel real or alive. We’ve turned away from the grounding of our bodies in an attempt to survive, odd as that sounds.
For me, this state of non-existence also has something to do with my mirror–Mom–being taken away from me in the hospital. Where had my world gone? There was no one to comfort the terror of the aloneness and the anguish and pain of surgery without anesthetic or pain control. There was no one seeing me. Invisibility. There are consequences.
I became the tiniest of girls
the tip of a pin
sliver of glass
a microscopic drop
slice of bright light
no one could see me
not even in the darkest room
and in time
Wendy, March, 1953, 8 months old