Disability / Emotionally Dissociated / Lived Experience/Memoir


A teratoma is a tumour. As far as cancers are concerned, a teratoma is what cancer must have nightmares about. When removed and inspected under dissection, teratomas are often observed to incorporate hair, fibrous tissues, calcifications, and sometimes parts of entire organs such as fully formed teeth. Some have grown as large as a grapefruit; others have been found to contain bone tissues, fingernails, and even fully formed eyeballs. All organic matter in a teratoma is genetically identical to the person in which it grows–it is not a maldeveloped fetus, or a tumour that grows from foreign materials enveloped by the body as an aspect of an injury during surgery, for instance.

Present medical practice advances the theoretical explanation that it grows from a single anomalous cell, present from birth. As the cell divides and the tumour grows, various layers of the tumour are activated to undergo embryonic development as specialized tissues, just as different germ layers of the human embryo develop.

I was born with a teratoma, but it is in my psyche. My teratoma is an invisible tumour–a diathesis for a mental illness; most certainly activated by a horrendously dysfunctional and violent home environment, marked by sexual, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of a fear-mongering tyrant with a compulsive requirement for control over everyone within arm’s reach of him. His sadistic and psychopathic behaviour touched myself, my two siblings, and my mother, in ways that differentiate and alienate us all from each other. In that respect, he was successful.

I stand alone, fully conscious of how structures in my mind have been warped by the growth of the teratoma I carry with me into every new relationship. My mother and my two siblings, on the other hand, embrace varying degrees of denial, co-dependence on each other and on our mutual perpetrator, sociopathy, passive-aggression, and estrangement. This is a map of my teratoma–the legacy of the family I have only recently estranged myself from in an effort to recover.

I struggle every day to excise my tumour–to allow my mental structures to adopt autonomy for the first time, instead of being constrained and shaped by my familial relationships. I struggle every week to interrogate those structures, to find a path to free myself from perpetually falling back into the arms of my family in other people.  I simply don’t have the tools to reach into myself and safely remove this enormous growth I was born with, that is the same flesh as that of my own psyche. And every time I fall in love with someone who is an archetype of one of my family members, or make friends with a similar person, and–perhaps most insulting of all–foster a relationship with a chosen family with people who bring all the same dysfunctions into our tribe as I have just spent the last ten years trying to escape from; the cancer grows inside of me, and further damages my mental structures.

All this damage harms me, and as a masochist and a dissociative personality, that harms the people who are closest to me. It is the perpetuation of a cycle of abuse that has already lasted my entire lifetime–I sincerely cannot remember a time before being utterly terrified of my father, and until a year and a half ago, that earliest memory of crippling fear was from when I was 3 years old (I have since recalled a horrendous event from when I could be no older than 18 months at the time).

Everything I do–disclosing my mental health status and struggles, along with my history of trauma, my sexual orientation, my politics, my gender, my writing here, my photography, and my (presently limited) efforts to learn to play the violin–is to be honest with myself and other people about what I bring into my relationships with them. It is to alert the weak to what faults I have, and how I have learned to cope with them. It is to set boundaries so that I don’t fall back into the same relationship dynamics. It is always taking a significant social risk, and sometimes to the detriment of my character.

But I have to do it. I can’t live for the rest of my life with this teratoma inside me, because its impact on the structures of my psyche led me to attempt to commit suicide two years ago while I was in weekly psychotherapy appointments. The seriousness of my gesture didn’t even register with me until I described it to my psychotherapist a few days later (when I finally spoke out loud again after surviving it).

Living with this metaphysical teratoma just isn’t living–it’s surviving.  And given what a horrendous environment I have survived, that is quite a remarkable accomplishment. But I need to find meaning and purpose in my life–the autonomy I can never have as long as I live with this growth in my thoughts, ever gaining more gravity on my emotions.

Each person I cut out of my life, for being an abusive archetype of one of my family members–whether they are aware of it or not–is another part of that tumour. I need to see an end to this process. I need to see the scattered remains of what I’m taking out every time I reach in.

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