Wednesday 18 April 2007
When I learnt at the time of my consultation that I was going to have a general anaesthetic, I wasn’t afraid of the risks that it implied. I didn’t think of it for a second.
In fact it intrigued me, this general anaesthetic. I asked myself how it worked, if you dreamt, if you remembered anything or if it went by like a click of your fingers: you didn’t remember falling asleep and, ping, someone waking you in another room. Having an anaesthetic, to me, is something mysterious, remarkable and interesting. I was eager to have the experience.
Thanks to my reading on the internet and Fafa’s comments, I finally have an idea of what it is to have an anaesthetic. Roughly, it’s going to be like when you turn off a switch. At one moment I will be in my room and the next minute after I will open my eyes in the recovery room. I am not going to notice anything about the operation, as a matter of fact.
Well, this theory makes me think and worries me a bit. The thought of having no recollection of the operation makes me less keen to experience the effects of a general anaesthetic.
I’ve always known that I had been circumcised. As far back as I can remember , I have always known that I had been mutilated. I have even always known that it was my clitoris which was cut, even at the time when I didn’t know what it was for.
Nevertheless, I don’t remember the circumcision itself. I don’t remember the place, the people who were there, the pain, or what happened afterwards. All that remains with me is the conviction of having been mutilated.
When, during therapy, I tried to recall that moment, I failed. The most that came to mind were some fragmentary images which I couldn’t work out if they were real or invented by my mind or even taken from a film which I had seen a very long time ago. I never succeeded in remembering.
For a time, even after I had started my therapy, I had a tendency to think that, since I didn’t remember, it didn’t have that much impact on me. If it had had such huge consequences for me, that would have marked my consciousness, it would have haunted me, it was obvious.
At the same time, not only did I have great trouble in linking my problems to this event, but what’s more, it didn’t seem to me to be “legitimate” to do so, because I couldn’t remember my circumcision. I spent months and years looking elsewhere for the causes of my difficulties.
When I finally understood that the origin of a number my anxieties was my circumcision, my inability to remember that time drove me to despair. I was convinced that to recover, to move on finally, it was essential that I remembered. Except it didn’t happen. And I wanted to so much. I read on the internet the accounts of women remembering that horrible moment when at the time they were only three or four years old, and I didn’t understand. I said to myself that I had a problem, something in my head wasn’t working as it should. Why me, why couldn’t I remember my circumcision?
My therapist explained to me that in these very traumatic situations, when you can’t bear what is happening, you often protect yourself by fainting. Like a fuse which breaks when there is a surge of power. And that this was doubtless what had happened when I was mutilated. I had no doubt protected myself like that: by losing consciousness.
I don’t know why, but when I think about this likely fainting, I have the impression that really I was dead when I was being mutilated then my heart started beating again and my consciousness returned because I didn’t want to die. Whatever was done to me, I wanted to survive. That’s how I explain to myself what happened. And it makes me want to cry each time I think about it …
My therapist said it wasn’t necessary for me to remember, that it wouldn’t hinder psychological rebuilding. I couldn’t see how that was possible. So she reminded me of the extreme panic which came over me when sometimes a figure of authority asked me something unexpected, that I couldn’t control, or I didn’t know how to do (that especially happened at work) or even if I had to do something that seemed to me to be risky or of great consequence. In these cases I examine my feelings, I realise that I am literally afraid of dying. My therapist explained to me that this panic is the recollection of what happened that day, the emotion I felt. Like an echo of the past. She explained that in these moments, I had access to my circumcision, to my emotions of the time, and I will be able to free myself of them by working on these moments of crisis.
That doesn’t stop me from wanting to know precisely what happened. I don’t know why, but I have the feeling that taking that time for myself will give me a little dignity. If I knew the detail of what happened, I would no longer feel I had been a damaged object. It wouldn’t only be my body and my unconscious which would carry the mark of this event. In bringing it to my consciousness, I would have the feeling of having been an entirely separate individual that day.
So, knowing that I won’t be remembering any more of my operation than of my circumcision bothers me. Just like my mutilation, my consciousness won’t be paying attention to my reconstruction. But this time I will be careful to memorise in detail everything that happens before and after the operation itself.
That way, I hope, I will keep in my mind the importance of what happens on 16 May next and I will be able to keep myself going to continue on my path.
[original in French]