For First Time Visitors

If you are a first time visitor to this blog, I invite you to start from the beginning, especially if you are unfamiliar with the potential emotional impact of long-term child abuse.

Trigger caution to unhealed survivors!

Understanding the Incomprehensible

Children of incest or long-term sexual abuse grow up to be wounded adults with complicated emotional issues. Unfortunately, some symptoms are misinterpreted or often dismissed as "crazy", only serving to maintain a tormented victim status. We, as a society, have the power to change this dynamic. Each of us can make a difference.

Dec 31, 2008

The power of art therapy

I've been sharing my own collages since my integration on the Art Journey blog. I've also started a group for Adult Survivors of Abuse to display their trauma/healing art. Am always amazed at the power of seeing the much it much I feel observing another's feelings shared in that manner. If you've been on Polyvore, some people are very sophisticated at creating art. Survivor art is about expression with as few or many pictures/words needed. It doesn't take much to express a feeling in art when it might be severely uncomfortable to express in words.

I wanted to share this recent entry for my group. It's simplicity screams the emotions. The artist is the author of the blog, Augusta Speaks.

Untitled by AugustaII

Art therapy is a great resource whether with cut out pictures from magazines, your own personal photos, hand drawn, anything with which you can be creative. Beware, Polyvore can be addictive.

FYI, I've found a great support group for Child Abuse Survivors. Feel free to check it out. Lovely people.

Dec 29, 2008

Insights about integration

So little is documented about this final phase of healing. Am sharing in hopes it might help others now or in the future. I've been stuck in collage land at I think all that knowledge that is supposed to become known following fusion (final phase of integration where the memories feel like *mine*), is coming out through images. My once system was very expressive with images the first few years. Now I'm being shown the different systems I had.

There isn't a balance of brain time yet. The reality is that the person who was me integrated into the healed adult healed as one can get, I guess. Still have some issues. I know Jane came out to blog. I think the collages are coming from who was Raven because she knows most of the abuse and the system. Or maybe it's my inner wisdom taking over. Since I discovered the collage site, I zone out for 6 to 8 hours at a time. Anything that needs to be done for the house or me gets blocked out. I need time share.

Yesterday I used the following example to explain what happened. It used to be like living in a dormitory. I knew some of the people across the hall, sometimes talked to them, sometimes overheard them. Now we all live together in one room trying to get along and figure out how to agree on a schedule of whose priorities are most important so I can do my blogs and do healing energy work and still do a collage. Eventually the separateness will "gel" (I hope). Actually feels more multiple during the settling in period after least to me. After three times, guess I can say I'm experienced on the topic. *snork*

Have been sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night but am staying up later rather than going to bed earlier. Has been more like 4 to 5 a.m. rather than 2 to 3 a.m. Have to figure that one out. Then there's just how to live as only a little bit multiple. Brain processes are greatly slowed right now. Realize I'm being more open with family. Possibly the one who has felt free to speak of being DID and multiple online now has a literal voice. Not sure if that's a good thing. I do know healing is good and am grateful for the healing milestone. It's just not an instant good thing.

Am relieved to be beyond Christmas and have only slight anxiety about New Years. I do wish for a very different 2009. One that has health, fitness, more focus and a new practice with a lovely office to return to psychotherapy. Oh yes, and more moments of joy than sadness. A reasonable goal.

Dec 23, 2008

Healing of the Christmas trauma

If you saw my collages Christmas Ballet and Happy Holidays at the Art Journey blog, you could see something terrible must have happened. The ballet collage was about a conscious memory I had of performing at age 3 in front of an audience. Pink tutu, ballet shoes. I sang "The Hokey Pokey". I have no memory of learning the song and dance (ballet and some somersaults) beforehand and I have no memory of anything after the performance. My collage connected that performance to maybe Christmas eve, but at least some kind of Christmas recital. For what? I didn't go to nursery school as we know it. The important message I got was that the date my sister "was killed" was Christmas Day.

Then came the Happy Holidays collage which clearly showed a huge disturbance and some kind of horrific trauma. I felt better after doing that particular collage but was happy to have my therapy appointment today. I was able to print out the collages for her. After telling her about my awful week, we decided to check inside to see if anything else needed to be resolved regarding the alters who recall that Christmas. It would have been the last Christmas Jane remembered so, in addition to littles being terrified, Jane is not so sure either.

As I went inside listening to my therapist, she asked if anyone needed help to heal who helped do the collage. I instantly sensed my entire Happy Holidays collage was a place inside me where everyone was still stuck in the trauma. I could feel the frozen fear. It was me. I was there. That "magical" moment when I am getting the memory and feel connected to it. It's the way therapists have stated someone healed from DID will feel. T asked what needed to happen get them out of that horrid place which was a bathroom but had the feel of something more industrial. I saw what happened inside before I had my own idea. We made a doorway into a beautiful spa where each was greeted by a caretaker or protector to help them clean off the yuck, give them warm fluffy robes and slippers, let them lounge comfortably, and have hot chocolate.

I could see them file out one by one. At least 10 were represented in the image, bigs and littles. I stayed where I was and my arms went up in the air like the photo on the Know Dissociation blog and like the arms coming through the shower curtain on the collage. T asked me who was stuck with their arms up. I said it was me. Was lying on her sofa with arms frozen up in the air. T does great body work and is always going to conferences on new techniques. She said she was moving close to me and asked permission to hold my hands while she tried something. After holding both hands she began to explain how what happened was not my fault or anybody's fault. As she spoke she very slowly began lowering my arms. Before my arms were half way down, I was sobbing. It was me at 3. And am pretty sure that was the last time I felt connected to my body.

After the session, she asked which little was speaking to her. I said I didn't know. Maybe it was me at that age...not an alter. Just me at the time I froze and whatever part of me could go into hiding did so. Everyone just wanted out the yuck and to feel clean and safe and warm. When I came home, I felt compelled to do my spa collage. Throughout my healing I had many messages there were three Graces, because of the core splits. The spa collage indicates the three Graces through Philosophy's products--Amazing Grace, Pure Grace, and Baby Grace. Other Philosophy words and products are incorporated.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Most of whatever happened 53 years ago moved out of the stuckness and into a wonderful internal place. Maybe this was my time to become one and have the experience of being one during the memory process. It was a little different, but I was well aware they were MY arms. I love spa time. It was very easy to imagine the wonderful pampering I receive during my spa days and searched the internet for the photos of cleansing and calm for all who were rescued. As quickly as these collages are coming out of me, I obviously have a lot to say without words.

Hope you enjoy this peaceful collage. Wishing all a safe time through this next week.

Dec 22, 2008

The "P" word

Those of us who were raised in that underworld of organized pedophilia are considered to be "programmed". We were probably trained to use that word because it evokes incredulity and disbelief. We aren't robots. We aren't computers. They have wanted us to think we were; but if you are reading this blog, you are healing. That would be a decision driven by your own free will. Those under the "mind control" of others have no free will. I propose we not use the word programming to refer to ourselves. I have gone to great lengths not to use it in this blog but wanted to make a point of referring to it today...for a safety reason.

Some believe if they are programmed they must go to a "deprogrammer". It is not necessary to be "deprogrammed" by another person to heal. A good therapist, or at least a willing therapist, can safely guide you to undo whatever you find internally on your own. You become the person who undoes your stuff. If you rely on someone else to "undo" what is there, how can you be sure it is in your best interest? The best therapist/survivor relationship is one where both agree on the methods of treatment.

That being said, I have some thoughts and opinions that do not necessarily reflect that of any or all of my colleagues in psychotherapy with regard to DID. Some therapists use hypnosis beyond that which is typically used in the treatment of DID. Sometimes a drug can be used so the host is not aware of conversations the therapist is having with an alter or alters. I have known survivors who were terrified of being in touch with some parts. In such cases, it may be a good idea to have work done under that type of hypnosis.

What I know of programming I learned from undoing my own with my therapist and hearing the stories of other survivors. A more or less common language is used by recovering survivors--the words used on them by the abusers. It is rare, within my realm of knowledge, that a survivor actually knows how they were programmed.

There are people "out there" in the world who claim to be former programmers who have healed and now are working with survivors to help them undo programming. The first question is, how do you know the former programmer is not still a programmer in another alter state. Programmers are very entrenched in that world and basically have no basis for empathy or emotional attachment. In other words, no scruples with regard to helping the bad guys maintain your dissociation rather than relieve it.

I confess I learned the hard way. When I first began to remember the government stuff, I was terrified of having been "programmed". It brings up all kinds of scary connotations, especially since we're talking about my brain! I was terrified to find a therapist because of FMSF reports blanketing the internet. Since I belonged to a survivor support group, I asked if anyone was aware of someone trustworthy. A woman I very much trusted referred me to a former programmer whom she had spent time with getting a jump start on healing. I wanted a jump start.

I spent a long weekend with the deprogrammer. I did learn a lot from her. She got me headed in the right direction. After that weekend, I maintained regular email contact with her to let her know of my progress. Several months after my visit with her, my system revealed that she had done something to me while I was with a dissociative state. That meant she knew how to test to see if I still responded to certain cues and obviously I did. I think (I hope) all she did was make sure I gave her progress reports. At one point I processed a memory that was huge. I was into the government messages. The email she sent back to me included some phraseology that put me into a tailspin. The spinning was awful and it took me several days before realizing it led back to her email. I then pulled out the collages I had done while I was visiting with her. It was then I knew for certain she had "accessed" me and given me instructions. I stopped contact with her immediately and made sure my survivor friend was aware that, if she had been safe, she was no longer safe.

Unfortunately, there are people out there who can reinforce the old programming when you seek help to undo it. A therapist with little knowledge of how things are done is the safest route. Having someone who can stay with you through the really tough memories and not be phased by it is a wonderful therapist.

As a therapist, I sometimes had been asked by my client to say "x" or do "x" because it would help them undo something. After processing the reason for the request and why they needed me to do it rather than help them through doing it themselves, I did have occasion to help in that manner. Information coming from your system to you is very different than someone else telling you what needs to be done to your system.

You are the client and you have the control to tell a therapist you do not want to engage in a certain kind of therapy. You might change your mind later (as I did with EMDR), but you needn't do anything that feels disturbing to you. That includes any therapist suggesting they use certain tones, touches, or phrases to help activate certain alters or to calm down certain programming. What works for one client does not necessarily work for another. Only you can be the judge of what is right for you.

In the world of healing from such extreme abuse, I know it is difficult to be your own advocate. You need your therapist to be a partner in your healing. If you feel that you must please your therapist by submitting to whatever is suggested, it's not a healthy relationship. Even if the therapist is not hurting you, it is up to you to be okay to ask questions before anything new is tried.

There is nothing that was done to our minds that our minds can't undo by themselves. We are remarkable human beings. We are survivors.

Dec 21, 2008

An artistic discovery

Today I was visiting one my favorite blogs, Clarity in the Mist, and found some amazing collages she created at Polyvore. I created an account but haven't had time to play with it yet. It's a way to make collages from images on the web. You can create or import text. And assemble the collages with the mouse and a few web tools instead of piles of magazines and tape and scissors. This is one of the works from Vague's sets (author of Clarity in the Mist).

hush by Vague

I'm for any creative outlet. I couldn't believe the many intricate, beautiful, and haunting collages. Made me want to jump in for hours and "play". Will have to do that another day. Wanted to let my readers know about this wonderful tool.

Thanks to Vague for introducing me to Polyvore.

Dec 18, 2008

Insiders disclose precise location

I'm at the point of jumping around to various topics for this blog. Actually, that's more in line with how "stuff" comes up in therapy. The art blog reflects the few images that identified a location for me (including the one shown to the left). It requires some explanation so am using this space for that purpose. A dual-blog post (?). Show and tell.

In my world of art therapy, the more images I had of a place or an alter or an external person, the more prominent it was in my subconscious life. Prominent could mean frequency or intensity of memory. With my military pedophile f*ther, I had memories of several military locations as well as mansions, museums, and other unusual places in my conscious "ordinary" world. My alters seem to know a very upscale wealthy world where consciously I feel extremely uncomfortable. Once I walked into the lobby of The Beverly Hills Hotel just to say I was there. It was so ornate I instantly felt like a pauper and glaringly out of place. Awful feeling. I digress.

Over and over I tore out pictures of building with double chimneys (two single chimneys but spaced a bit of a distance from each other). Then Walter Reed Army Hospital came up in images and internal messages only. No conscious memory. I had so many pictures I started a folder. Buildings with double chimneys, lots of horses, images of big drain pipes, and rollerblading (huh?). The internet became part of my world of answers. I found the photos of Walter Reed and an Annex that was in disarray featured by a group wanting funds to preserve the older part of the property. Strange pictures on that website. One of the annex buildings had two chimneys but I knew it wasn't "my" building. I didn't even know for sure the two chimney building went with Walter Reed. They just went into that file. In looking at the current hospital, nothing "rang a bell" but I did print out a picture of Fire Company #55 that was on the Walter Reed property. You'll see that in the art blog. A quick review: double chimney building, no specific known location but "someone" put it with Walter Reed, and a fire truck in front of the hospital with #55.

Synchronously, I met a woman (K) through my online survivor group who lived in DC. She invited me to join her for a tour of the Annex being given by the restoration society. K had conscious memories of abuse at the Annex and the records to prove it. Anytime a survivor visits a place of abuse, we walk a fine line. We risk totally freaking out but don't want to arouse suspicion by military guards or security in the area. My friend had few dissociated memories and was in control. I thought it would be nice to meet her and my then husband was agreeable to make the drive and wander about with us. The day of the visit I left my folder of images at home. I didn't even think to take a camera.

I met K at her home and met her lovely family. She drove us to the Annex. It was a lovely day to wander. We had much to speak about. She was the first survivor of similar abuse I'd met in person. She knew one building intimately...knowing how she had been brought there, what had been done to her, where it was done, and who had done it. While husband and I pretended to be oblivious, she snuck up the stairs evading the Marine guards and took photos of the door where she had been traumatized on the other side. We were so grateful she wasn't caught and we hadn't been thrown out. I'm the "invisible", "don't make waves" type. Or was. lol. Not true now with these blogs.

Nothing at the Annex set my radar off although I began to feel dizzy and slightly triggered. After we sufficiently wandered the Annex grounds, she offered to drive over to the hospital area. Why not? It was the weekend and she had to drive past three entrances as she went around the block to find the one entrance open that day--the entrance approaching the hospital from the rear.

One building blocked the view until she got past it. A large fence had a very visible sign warning of NO ROLLERBLADING. That was it. I went nuts. My eyes refocused from the sign close up to the double chimneys in the background. I switched to a babbling little pointing to the building. It wasn't a hospital building. Husband identified it as an incinerator building which caused little's screaming. As the car drove around the fenced off area of the hospital toward the incinerator building, I noticed very large metal piping (what I called drainage pipe in my images) around the top and sometimes down the side of the huge structure. I don't recall if it was explained as wastewater, but it was some type of waste being led away from the building. My clues were playing out before my eyes.

I also knew from the images that the building had a window that looked to be glass blocks. I actually like that kind of architectural feature. The closer we got to the incinerator building the more I became the blithering terrified little. I wasn't sure if I was freaking K out, but since she had children of her own, she had reassuring and calming words. The building indeed had a "window" of glass squares--light could get through but no one could see in or out. At the side of the building, a door was open with a small stairway. I won't disclose what I asked but obviously some horrid trauma took place with watching something being incinerated. K offered to take pictures of the building and send them to me. I was so focused on the building, dealing with flashbacks, and noticing what my body was doing and how I sounded, I saw nothing else.

After taking photos, K drove beyond the side of the building. My head stayed fixated on the chimneys and the detail. My images showed the detail of the "circles" that went around the chimneys from top to bottom. When I finally turned my head to face forward (with the hospital behind me), immediately to the left was Fire Station #55.

That experience proved to me that I would likely one day be able to validate the unknown locations of certain buildings or other landmarks through my clues. And there would always be a final validating clue. In other words, if that had been the third location I identified from my collages, I would have said, "I'll know for sure this is the place if there is a fire company #55." And that's the way the story of my life has unfolded since.

Note: It is documented that Walter Reed Army Hospital was the recipient of MK-Ultra funds for psychiatric experiments. It was also the site for many of the Department of Energy's Human Radiation Experiments.

Dec 15, 2008

Internal hospital room

Earlier in this blog I addressed the benefit to having dedicated rooms in your safe place to process various emotions or work through internal conflicts, as well as individual rooms for each alter settling in after making the choice to heal or be safe. Yesterday I wrote about a technique for helping to diffuse or identify harm intentions instilled in some alters. While some may not be in a place to use "The Halfway House" technique, there is a way to help some alters through use of a hospital room.

Sometimes an alter feels most safe in a hospital or feels a need to be in a hospital to prevent certain behaviors. If you have adult caretakers and/or protectors who are available for 24-hour protection and care, an alter can check into the internal hospital to be assured of not having access to unsafe objects or body movements. Other safe alters can visit and the alter can stay as long s/he has a need. Of course you can adapt for more than one alter. Your only limitation is your imagination to provide what your insiders need.

Often those with DID refuse to go to the hospital for many reasons and "threaten" to switch to a very competent alter if 911 is called or whenever they must be interviewed by the hospital psychiatrist. I know this does happen as does just about every other therapist who works with survivors with DID. With an internal hospital room, I could be assured that the unsafe alter would stay in the hospital room until the next session.

You might know other reasons a hospital room would be beneficial. It could be decorated to be the most comforting to the alter. Littles can have bright colors and lots of toys. Adults might prefer a sterile hospital white environment while others might want it to look the least like a hospital room and protectors not to look like doctors or nurses. You get to make your own rules.

Today I had a check up with my family doctor and the nurse had a Chip n' Dale cartoon scrubs top on. Made me giggle. I'd want that in the real world all the time for medical staff!

Dec 14, 2008

Diffusing harm alters

This is a technique my system already developed for me. I haven't seen it written as a technique anywhere. Will share trying to translate from both survivor/therapist perspective. I firmly believe this safe way of acting out harm programming saved my life...likely more than once. To engage in this technique, you must have acquired several coping skills and be comfortable with them. One is the ability to watch from the screening room a/k/a projection room.

Secondly, you must have protectors or caretaker alters who are strong and say they have the ability to do this. You can ask after you get all the details. If you don't have strong protectors, you can place protectors inside of you for this purpose. I tended to internalize television or movie characters who were strong and safe (to me). Some actors look kinda scary. I chose protectors who could handle me as a little...hugs were safe and telling me something was not okay was heeded (sorta). Loving discipline. But also able to handle adult who came out swinging or wanting to engage in harmful activities to self or others. You can use superheroes too.

Hopefully you have a main protector who will work with you on doing this because modifications might be needed for this to work in your system. My first cue to using what I called "The Halfway House" was feeling an urgency to SI or run away or go away or acquire something harmful. The purpose of the halfway house is to watch an alter act out his or her "programming" (trained job) in a safe manner.

I started out with the setting being my safe place. But I watched as a movie and "placed" the alter in the setting. Sometimes I didn't know which alter was causing the compulsions but she would show up when I did this technique. For me, I almost always had adult or little females, but occasionally had a young male alter.

These were the rules for the halfway house:
Only one alter in the halfway house at a time.
All necessary internal resources are available.
No matter what the alter does, s/he will be saved/rescued/live.
Once saved, the alter remains in protective care somewhere in the system where s/he can heal because she will have seen what was supposed to have happened to her/the body.

This may be triggering to some because of unhealed messages of SI. And if you are able to make this resource available, SI alters are welcome to come forward and ask to use it. Other times you may have to use it to be safe because you *know* something bad is supposed to happen.

This is a movie. You watch it as an adult which means littles are in a safe place unless there are littles who go with the alter to be in the halfway house. (By the way, you can call this place whatever you like.) I used to have an army of protectors initially...about eight because I could outsmart (at least temporarily) whatever safety measures were in place. I haven't used the halfway house in a very long time, thank goodness, although I used it briefly when Ellie was feeling so sad, wondering why she felt she needed to die and if she had a "plan".

In my internal world, I lived in a lovely mansion :-) My room had it's own bathroom which was always a source of concern for protectors. Because you know the kind of trouble we can get into in there! A protector was always assigned to keep guard over the bedroom and *me*. I was/am a different kind of child/adult as the inner adult. Thank goodness I've stopped acting out all that sh*t.

Whatever your set up is, have a separate contained room as part of the main safe place to begin with the halfway house. All protectors assigned to the halfway house will have their strategy which you don't need to know. You just need to watch to make sure you have time to follow through...when you are ready to go to bed at night, go inside and watch. Or take time for a nap but do this exercise instead. What you learn about the alter's ultimate objective may be upsetting to you so self care coping skills are also essential.

Ready? Let the protectors give you the "go ahead". You go into the movie screening room and sit back and watch as one of you takes up residence in the halfway house. Will give you an example. The movie starts and I can hear water running. A protector checks on the occupant and sees she is taking a shower which looks innocent enough. She confesses to wanting to cut so protector makes sure no razors are in shower area or in bathroom/bedroom at all. Alter becomes frustrated, angry, enraged and begins to scream and pound fists on glass shower wall. Protectors coaching her through anger but want her out of the glass enclosure to continue (safe anger). Sudden loud crashing of glass as alter throws herself through the glass landing on the floor cut and bleeding.

Immediate 911 call and protectors tending to her. She is fine at (internal) hospital. You and your system now know what was supposed to have happened--cut self any way possible with major damage. Now alter's messages can be healed. The lies about her having to die can be addressed.

Sometimes I've watched the alter sneak out of the house and take off in a car to go somewhere isolated. Magic works for the halfway house. For instance, if alter goes to jump off building, you can have Superman get to her. Or instantly there is fire department below who can catch her. Whatever you see happening, she will rescued and live. That's the rule.

A few internal techniques. Protectors knew how to anticipate escapist behaviors. GPS on car to track whereabouts. Cell phone with GPS if she finds GPS on car. There's always a one upmanship in strategy.

Feel free to ask questions. Have never attempted to put this into writing before. It should work for all as long as you have the strength and coping skills noted in the beginning. If not, and you are in therapy, maybe your therapist can help you through a similar scenario during a session. Wishing all of you a safe December.

Dec 9, 2008

What if an alter wants to die?

For several years I attended S.M.A.R.T. conferences to learn more about the abuse I had endured and meet fellow survivors I had met online in a support group. I also attended numerous sessions each day. I'm not recalling the name of the presenter, and my comments in no way are meant to be critical of her, but I did have a strong reaction to her topic. I'm leading into this topic slowly because it is potentially very triggering. The ultimate conclusion should be a decision made by both you and your therapist in a thoughtful caring way and in a way that is right for you and your system. It's not a decision anyone can make for you.

The survivor presentation was focused on how she allowed an alter to die, only after much thought, internal discussion, and discussion with her therapist. The system honored the alter's wishes, allowed her to die, and gave her a funeral. The survivor felt relieved and the overwhelming sadness that had swept the system by the alter was a release for all. The special internal ceremony honored the alter's deep desire to die. I didn't stay for the entire presentation. I felt so opposed to allowing any part of me to die. It was my first or second year of healing and I was too raw to listen. That was never going to happen to me. Period.

A few years later, following my second integration, Ellie came forward overwhelmed with grief and sadness. I did not understand at the time she had become disconnected from Jane internally and that was the source of her distress. I just knew the integration caused her to feel isolated and severely depressed. I was not certain I would survive her strong desire to die. During one of my therapy sessions during that time, I asked if maybe I should allow Ellie to die if that's what she needed to do. Otherwise, I was afraid her wishes would cross over into my consciousness making me actively suicidal. We discussed the various options and Ellie was able to express her wishes. She did not want to live in the body. It was decided that part of her would integrate into my male inner wisdom (who was simultaneously inside the body and out in the greater universal consciousness (my best term). The rest of her was allowed to disperse into the astral plane. Ellie lived on in a different way inside me and beyond.

I don't know if part of her returned or a part of her never left that I felt the sadness since October that went with her and the two littles in the "feeling of death." Those three did integrate and I explained how Ellie had integrated into me while Jane was a separate entity sharing conscious space with me. It was the reunion of Ellie and Janie/Jane that drove this final integration.

What if I had allowed Ellie to die as she wished? Would integration have been able to be complete ever for me? Was it part of the abusers' plan that Ellie wanting to die would keep me from ever fully healing? Today in one of my quiet moments when I could have an internal conversation with Jane, she shared that it was planned that Ellie would be separated from her because that emotional bond of Ellie needing to be joined with Jane drove the integration last week. I had hoped to share space with Jane equally to have a satisfactory life working with her. My therapist did point out that for several years I've been not sure of wanting to know "everything" if I fully integrated. Well the integration happened, much to my surprise, and in a gulp of "OMG, it's happening." In feeling that rush of love between Ellie and Jane, I knew it was right regardless of my personal feelings.

I have not had any flooding of memories. I have had slow messages and clarification. I knew from the time I was diagnosed that I was meant to integrate to heal. And my inner wisdom did lead my healing. It was planned from beginning to end. There were no accidents. Why doesn't that happen for everyone? I wish I could clone my inner wisdom and send him to all who are struggling. When all else was bleak, I had/have such unrelenting faith for this higher self who somehow came to be with me.

The good news is that all have an inner wisdom who can help and guide. Sometimes that protector communicates to the therapist rather than the body to aid the healing. Many are afraid of who is inside them. Step 1: Embrace your parts. If I can offer any advice on how to best begin, that is it.

Such a tricky path we have to take toward healing. The abusers set us up to fail at healing at every turn. Listen to your heart. Make the decisions you KNOW are right for you. If you aren't sure on matters such as this, time is on your side. Wait until you do know the answer. I am ever so glad Ellie was able to express her wish wasn't to die as much as not to be connected to the body. She is connected now with her beloved Jane and she is so happy.

Photo: If Ellie had been allowed to die, she would have died in the highly traumatized state shown in the art blog. Instead she lived to heal to be a beautiful and loving part of me.

Dec 7, 2008

Bracing for the holiday

For survivors of organized pedophilia, Thanksgiving is the foreboding of Christmas. While it may be joyful to give presents and share with friends at a certain point in healing, Christmas is a very difficult day for survivors on many levels. If you are a friend or support person of a survivor, it's good to understand. You needn't change your own traditions, but a few modifications could help ease anxiety. Survivors are invited to add comments to more fully expand this message.

What might appear to be a peaceful holiday scene in the photo might be viewed from a survivor's perspective as: scary fire, boxes that hold scary things, Santa (who is someone who sexually abused them as a child), or even feelings of shame instilled for wanting presents. Christmas is never about religion (except for a very warped version) or joy. It's singled out as one of the more abusive times for a pedophile gathering to instill deep trauma into victims while the pedophiles engage in their perversions.

I recall feeling sickened after my first memory of father abuse when my sister told me that my father (who was born and raised Jewish) was going to be Santa at the area shopping mall. Any Santa with little kids is terrifying to me even though I logically know not all who play Santa are pedophiles. Recently a very distasteful ad appeared on television for erectile dysfunction. The spokesperson was a man dressed as Santa with a long line of adult woman waiting to sit in his lap. You can't imagine the revulsion survivors have to such images.

How to help
Wrapped packages/boxes were used to disguise disgusting and terrifying items. Use gift bags for survivor gifts. The openness feels safer.

If you are comfortable asking the survivor if anything in the environment is causing distress and you are willing to remove any object during the visit, by all means do so. Just offering may be sufficient to put the survivor more at ease.

If there is a gathering where Santa is to appear in costume, make sure the survivor knows that in advance. Perhaps s/he would be willing to move to another room to feel more comfortable.

Changing the tradition
As with any holiday, survivors can create their own traditions or changes as they progress through healing. Those in the early stages of healing may elect to avoid holiday gatherings. My SO and I now exchange gifts on Christmas Eve and enjoy his family gathering of watching them open gifts on Christmas Day. We eased into it because I was always trying to get him to allow me to open presents the night before. Now he understands that it feels safe for me and I appreciate that it is okay with him now too.

Christmas is known as a depressing time of year for many. The economy this year alone could create an even greater impact. However, survivors wrestle constantly with wishing they could enjoy some of the holiday while staving off the depression that surrounds the many Christmases that were made horrendous days of abuse in the past.

Other typically benign objects may be triggers. Do you know what to do if your friend or SO has a panic attack or a frightened little takes over? If not, ask. Lacking an answer from the survivor, reassurance of current safety and offer of helping move her to a comforting room with a quilt and possibly a stuffed animal may help to calm the little as well as ease the panic attack. The survivor may be frightened to be left alone once separated. Coping skills are breathing slowly, calming words, calming music. Does the person need to call her therapist? What does she need if isolation from the trigger and reassurance of safety don't work? Asking is good.

I recall a party I attended in my early years of healing where I walked into the kitchen where several men had gathered and bottles of liquor were strewn about. I got so dizzy I nearly passed out. I made it back to my SO in a little's state asking to go home. A memory surfaced later about the trigger of men and alcohol for me.

Surprises and gags
Surprises and gags are not only not funny, the panic of even a good surprise could trigger a memory. You don't want to give a survivor a surprise party. In looking for an appropriate photo for this post, I came across one showing Santa from the back as he was flashing the people in front of him. That's not funny to us. It's sick. So, if you know a survivor will be visiting your home, you might want to avoid the anatomically correct Santa cookies or gingerbread men.

Yes, we have a lot of emotional baggage and holiday trauma. It takes a long time to diffuse. You can also be a part of the healing journey by being a good friend and understanding ally.

Dec 4, 2008

Time out from the guilt

Most people without a history of trauma have a fairly large pile of guilt they haul around with them. Children of abuse that lasts for years and possibly decades have guilt instilled in them. I'm not going to tackle that topic now. I'd like to offer a way to start easing out of guilt-bound decisions in every day life. By learning to free yourself of the little guilts (that still feel rather enormous), it can help prepare for the day when you will be ready in therapy to work on that very deep-seated guilt that was drilled into you.

It's a simple concept that I know is not simple to implement. After reading it, consider pondering what it would mean, and try it out on someone who knows you well and knows you are trying to make changes. It's a change in mindset and behavior to conquer the "small" task of saying "No" to a request.

I don't recall where/when I first heard the phrase, but I often used it with my own clients. "Don't SHOULD on yourself." A "should" is, "I feel like I have to but don't really want to." A "should" can be broken down into two definitive statements: "Yes, I want to do 'x'." or "No, I don't want to do 'x'."

The first easy change is realizing when you use the word "should" and notice it is something you want to do. Change the language to match the feeling. "I want to do 'x'." Why is this difficult? Of course survivors want to please everyone and don't dare do anything for themselves because that would be selfish, yes? Your job is to keep everyone happy so nothing gets out of hand and scary. Well, no it's not, but that's the message you got growing up. You had to obey the abusers, please them, behave in ways you believed would keep them happy. But that really didn't work because they would hurt you anyway. Pleasing someone is not within your control. You can only control you--your thoughts, your behaviors, your actions, choices.

An example:
You are out to lunch with friends on a Saturday. All are having a good time and lunch lasts past the time you allotted. You really want to get home by a certain time or get to another place by a certain time. You might say "I really should get going now." The response is all your friends cajoling you into staying. They would miss you. They wouldn't have as much fun without you. You feel torn. You WANT to leave but feel guilty about hurting your friends' feelings.

The reality is that as soon as you leave, your friends will go on having a good time. Think in reverse. How do you feel if you are in a group and someone says, "Excuse me, but I have to leave now. I've had a great time." And off they go. Are you angry? Do you judge them? Do you think less of them for having left? Usually the answer is "no" to all questions. Slight change in your language, "I've had a great time, but I'm off to catch the 2 o'clock show of James Bond. Talk to you soon!" or..."I WANT to catch a movie I've been looking forward to seeing."

Start practicing in situations where you have the least risk because it will feel awful initially even when you are justified. What your friends feel or think or say is out of your control under any circumstances. Make choices that provide you with balance in your life. Let the guilt go. Stop shoulding on yourself. Make a "want" or "don't want" decision. It's toughest in the beginning to know your heart WANTS but you feel that tug of guilt.

Try it. Practice saying "I'd rather not, but thank you for asking" if "No" seems like a cruel world. It helps at work too. Getting rid of the shoulds in your life frees up your time to focus on more important issues, like life enriching choices. It doesn't all have to be about pleasing and healing.

Dec 3, 2008

Poof - Depression has lifted

Yesterday's integration/fusion magical moment was quite noticeable today and I even understand the dynamics of why. This goes with my initial personal (or inner wisdom?) theory that I had to integrate so alters holding only one awful emotion would be able to experience a spectrum of emotions. They would not be stuck forever only knowing one emotion that went with the trauma.

The final two adults who comprised me were Jane and Grace. The alter who was most attached to Jane and loved her in a motherly fashion had integrated into me. Hence the sadness that came from the "feeling of death" that went with Ellie. Even though Ellie integrated several weeks ago, I was still feeling very sad. At the surprising moment I felt me (Grace) join with Jane's consciousness or being, Ellie was reunited and that was the deep and wonderful loving feeling that surged through me.

I don't understand all of the splitting and connections, but I do understand young Janie and Ellie's connection which has endured throughout my healing. I woke up today feeling good. My mood has been "chipper" all day. I smiled more. I did some fun things. Was able to do my walk with BB for more than 20 minutes. Made a date to watch a good friend drum next week. I've been so withdrawn and unsocial. I even made the phone call to my friend whose been trying to reach me for several weeks. No return calls when I'm too sad.

Yesterday was a good thing. That was a long haul. I know it was an integration. And it feels like there is no one else around. But who knows with DID. I wish I could say there will never be another agonizing healing event to wade through. I do hope, though, that life gives me a bit of a break so I can build up my muscles and strength again without having such intense emotional issues. All of 2009 would be a good break... Maybe a celebration of having my life back in 2010 with a return trip to Italy.

Dec 2, 2008

Something happened today

I had a rather remarkable therapy session today. I shared the details in Grace Uncensored because I thought it was more of a personal reflection than a help to survivors. That healing event I'd had but never felt that "magical" moment of integration did happen today.

Am I fully integrated now? Have I been integrated but experienced fusion? What textbook term do I use? I just know that externally I am now one instead of a select few. All had been integrated into a few. And now those few are one, to include the birth child who is now the strong adult blogging advocate. Soon I will post the alter pictures of Jane. I did not know she was the core child until recently. But it explains why she was so prominent in my now dismantled system.

My wish is a balance of my joy and happiness with her intensity and seriousness along with a plan to schedule the day so we fulfill the rest of my life in a satisfying manner. We will have blogging and advocacy time, healing energy work time to rebuild body strength and stamina, and time to have fun with the Pleos and turtles and fun videos and renewing of the fun in my relationship with my SO. It's been a long 18 months without much connection there either. Time for renewal and connection.

I am happy to report that complete healing or integration need not be attained to have a fully functioning life back. Any healing beyond that point is icing on the cake.

Nov 29, 2008

Do littles grow up?

Much confusion surrounds alters and healing. One question often heard is whether littles (young alters) grow up. Several circumstances may happen for a little in the realm of healing.

A little might always remain a little, which is fine. The objective for any little is for him/her to heal. You want to know a transformation has happened from traumatized little to content, playful, or happy little. The reality is some may remain scared especially around certain triggers, but they know they are safe now. By using magazine images, I could clearly see when a little healed. Others can see clearly in their minds when an alter has any change in appearance or mannerism. My first preteen client used to draw how her alters looked after they were healed to acknowledge them.

It is possible for the same alter to appear as several ages. It's unlikely you will find all at once. Finding another alter with the same name is a good clue. And they will know inside they are connected. I have Lucy as the little girl in my first art blog, as a young woman, and as a woman in her 30s. I don't know why Lucy seems to have ceased to exist at what seemed to be age 5-7 until late teens or early 20s. Possibly perps called her back out when the body was older. Although different ages of alters don't necessary correlate to the age of the body.

Soon I will do several images of an "older" female protector who I realize now was only an infant/toddler, an introject (?) of my little sister who had no hair until she was about 3 years old. My alter was always shown as bald. Many of my youngest memories included the "bald" female protector.

I suppose it is possible for all alters representing the same person to decide to blend or merge or whatever word you want to use. As far as I know, that did not happen with me. The different ages had their own stories. Little Lucy reintegrated with Audrey when they healed (the two were originally one).

I did have a little who grew up. There was an exponentially faster rate of growing up internally than in the real world. The little 5-year-old integrated in a very emotional letting go for both of us. She turned up about a year later as an adult protector providing me with much information. I was thrilled to see her back. Don't ask how I knew it was her. Messages happen.

Whatever happens when a survivor heals is right for that survivor. No rules apply. The transformation of healing can take on many variations. Usually amazing things happen for a survivor during the healing of an alter who was active as a victim of much abuse.

Littles missed out on being loved and cherished and protected unconditionally. They missed out on safe play and safe touch and having anything of their own. Healed littles, I believe, become the basis for what singletons know as their inner child. Even in ego state therapy with those who have never experienced trauma, the child ego state is complex and incudes several child parts. I believe I have one integral...main...inner child and most of the others healed into her. I seem to have about three littles who make up the entirety of my inner child.

Perhaps readers know of the movie Fight Club. The first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club. We have a DID "club" here. The first rule of DID club is that there are no rules to each survivor's healing process. You can't compare what happens for you to any other survivor. As long as you are moving toward healing, you're doing well.

Nov 28, 2008

New blog features art healing journey

Today another spoke was added to my wheel of blogs: The Art Journey of Grace. In going through one of my many boxes of images and collections of images and completed collages, I decided I'd like to share some of my images and collages with readers to explain how my system communicated much information to me.

Unless I'm specifically asked, I plan to stay away from anything that is too graphical. Of course any survivor art is conveying trauma, although there is also a poignancy to the healing of dissociated selves, the internal nurturing and cooperation, and the resolution of those final missing pieces to a memory.

I've also added my turtle blog to my list of related blogs, now called Blogs by Grace. Hopefully it will be a fun place to visit for a change in mood after the intensity of healing from DID. And also a happy place for the littles to visit with links to fun turtle and Pleo videos.

My first blog entry to Art Journey is the first image of a little, Lucy. Coincidentally, my most recent post in the turtle blog features my tortoise Lucy. There is no connection of which I'm aware. In fact, my SO named her to go with our Pleos Linus and Schroeder. Guess it was time for me to crossover to my first blogging love, Nemo the Unturtle.

Nov 27, 2008

How can we know the truth?

Much of this blog has been focused on how confusing memories are to piece together, the tricks used by perps regarding the surroundings, a double language and double binds used on us as children. So how is it that we can know for sure who was an abuser?

Links are provided in the sidebar to some of the best in the field regarding trauma memory and how it is stored differently. I've used examples before but, as a reminder, those who recall the assassination of John F. Kennedy know where they were at the moment they heard, the feelings of the moment. Some remember smells, others great detail of the location...a kind of surreal experience to recall. If you've ever been in an automobile accident, you might recall the event in slow motion, what song was playing on the radio. If it had been raining during the accident, it's possible rainy days still cause some distress to your driving experience. The most recent moment in our history that was traumatic for the nation was on 9/11. The trauma of knowing, seeing, hearing...for many, feeling loss of a loved one. All sensory experience is frozen in that moment or moments of trauma.

In spite of the trauma memory being locked in from several perspectives by different aged alters with intentional confusion and attempts at making us believe that what happened never happened, we remember. And, over the course of time, the abusers remain constant (in or out of costume) for some period of life. Some alters and/or protectors remember very clearly. It has been proven time and again through drawings and descriptions through journals of survivors that incidents were recalled with remarkable accuracy, locations were internally recorded with uncanny details, and faces and voices were remembered. What comes out as a survivor's story is for the survivor to heal. The objective is healing, not suing abuser(s). What we come to know with great clarity as names, locations, faces, and sometimes dates are conveyed to us by those inside who remembered with clear "mind" and stored the information for later release.

In my personal experience, names rarely surfaced, but faces did. In doing collages, I'd find myself cutting out pictures of people. Over time, I consciously noticed that many images looked like the same person and I'd make collages for that one person. At the time I wouldn't know if it was an outside person or an inside person...very strange concept to grasp, I would imagine, for anyone who has not had inside people. Most of my collages were done in the first two years of my healing. Also in those first two years, abusers in my world at the time I was a child became known to me through researching, in documentaries, in magazines. I knew because the images cut from magazines so starkly resembled the perp collage and something about the perp's history matched my own history. This process is, of course, not admissable in court, but is sufficient validation to heal. It doesn't matter what others believe. We know without a doubt when we receive internal and external validation simultaneously and have our drawings and/or collages and journals to back it up. It's usually accompanied by a hugely triggered response to matching the name with the person or vice-versa.

I guess it boils down to that the alters can use whatever skills they have "backwards" to help in the healing process. Amnesia is a strange state of mind. Those who suffer from or who have even healed from DID still don't know what it's like to have a mind that functions for someone who grew up in a loving family without trauma. We know it gets better at a certain point in healing. We can tell when there has a been a shift in the way our brains process information after healing takes place. That happened for me after any merger, blending, integration of parts. I have used a gearshift as a metaphor for how it feels when parts integrate. I used to drive stick shift. Have no other metaphor that seems to fit. While there is a sharing of consciousness after an integration that wasn't there before, there is not a smooth transition from one alter to the other. There is still a feeling of separateness but in a different way. Over time it becomes more of a smoother process and feeling of togetherness.

I've heard from other survivors and have read in authoritative psychology books by those who have never been dissociative that true integration means *I* will have ownership of the memories. My life before my current medical difficulties was good. I hear I was a good therapist. Yet I still feel as if I've been told my story by others inside and *know* enough to understand my fragmentation and healing process. It does not feel as if it happened to me. Maybe my *complete* healing is still down the road. Or maybe sometimes what the books say should happen, doesn't happen for all.

Regardless of our individual truths, we all simply want to feel in control of our lives again. To feel that we have our lives back internally and externally. Others can stand back and judge the content of memories or watch the person blossom and grow and heal from processing their trauma. The truth that we do know about the abusers and the locations, in spite of being sometimes 30 to 40 years after the fact, can be used, if others would hear, to find the places that continue their lacivious activities to this day...where no one has ever bothered to look...or locations that have been so protected by community leaders involved in the charade that the secrecy is assured.

We, the survivors, want to be heard. We want to help future generations from experiencing our pain of having been born into an incestuous family or similar circumstances. Collaborating the truths of survivors recalling the same locations can be the blueprint for planning a new strategy to stop the madness. Why is that so unreasonable...or unbelievable?

My wish and goal is for this change to come to our nation...for people of good hearts and minds to stand back and find what is ask questions of those who have been denying our truth for help the children stuck in that world and honor and help those who have survived.

Self care day

Most trauma survivors, especially of sophisticated abuse, dread holidays. Time to self-care. If going to another's home, put a security object in bag for the littles. Bring a grounding object like a small stone or charm you can hold in hand. Take breathers in a room by yourself or go outside for a break.

Don't worry about what others might think. If you start to feel dizzy, woozy, triggered, move away from wherever you are. "Excuse me, I'll be back soon." "Yes, I'm fine, I just need to be alone for a bit." Unless you have a support person with you, in which case you can ask that person to accompany you if you like.

Breathe. Remember calming, grounding, and containment skills. You will be okay.

Find a different meaning for the day that is special for you, if you can. My SO's niece has a new baby and her son is adorable. I like just being around them and other SO family members regardless of date.

Nov 25, 2008

The mind-boggling realization

The Blooming Lotus addressed this topic yesterday. It reminded me of how earth-shattering my realization was...and how it resulted in a breakdown before I was able to accept the truth and what it meant to my life. I was about a year into my healing before this moment of clarity so those who are not at least that far along in healing, be forewarned.

The level of abuse beginning in infancy ensures shattering of the mind. Not all who have DID have the birth child (a/k/a "the core") go into hiding. If the abuse becomes so constant and overwhelming, however, the core goes into hiding and lets the alters take over the life. Part of adult healing is for the core to resurface and participate in the current life in whatever form is right for the individual. That means the person who is healing from the abuse is an alter. One alter of however many were created by the abuse intentionally and unintentionally. My personal belief is that several of my protectors created their own system for healing one day. If not, it means abusers created alters that had their own wills and did what they wanted inside instead of following out of fear and intimidation.

A child whose perpetrators have sophisticated knowledge of deliberately inducing dissociation (and there is documentation that this was being done), will have far more dissociated selves than a child who splits from extreme abuse by one or two maniacal parents. Numbers are irrelevant and no one should be judged on how many were created. What matters is that healing can happen regardless of numbers. The point is that one of that sizeable number is the conscious child. *I* have the conscious memory of my life. All formerly dissociated parts know the rest of the story or part of the rest of the story. And alters throughout the life of the victim/survivor take over for moments, or minutes, or hours, or days to block the conscious child from knowing what is dangerous to know.

Yesterday's post about facial and name recognition goes with this. During abuse, the alters are constantly threatened with revealing identities. I do know at least one survivor who recalls not being allowed to look at the faces of abusers. She could remember anyone's shoes though. I have many pictures of men's shoes in my collages. I could logically state they might be there for that reason but I don't have my own answer. Another survivor commented on yesterday's post that she sees through people or sees a blur or blob. That is likely an alter whose job it is to make sure she doesn't remember people. If a survivor has current safety, the alter causing that to happen can be acknowledged and offered healing or a new job of possibly helping the conscious self to remember.

In terms of being the conscious self of a dissociated entity, the realization is that the survivor's world has been controlled all along--what is seen, heard, remembered, known. My mind was trained to control me, for fear something awful would happen to them or me if they did not do their assigned jobs.

Being dissociative is weird, to say the least. Until I was 44, I had no clue as to any dissociation on my part. Everything was linked together in a way that I had absolutely no "leakage" of what went on in any dissociative state. I had several instances during my healing where conscious me had the experience of having been dissociative. In other words, I realized I had missed time, or had done something out of my awareness. My most recent experience was the highway hypnosis that had me "waking up" driving in an unknown area calling for the helicopter lift out of there. (That would be my SO.)

The strangest dissociative experience I had was a few years ago during a phone call with my SO. I usually monopolize the conversation and had been talking for several minutes. When I stopped, he said something totally irrelevant to what I had just asked. After some great confusion I realized I was seemingly talking (consciously hearing my own conversation), but another alter was having a different conversation with him. Obviously, a brain works very differently.

I don't recall the statistic, but humans usually use only a small percentage of their brain. Obviously sophisticated perps know how to tap into all that unused space. The mind is capable of amazing things. Too bad it is being used to hurt people. Why isn't that same knowledge available to help people with greater functioning?

Because of my healing, I no longer feel the disconnection of being an alter with no true choices or willpower. I feel empowered and connected although I still struggle with ongoing healing at a much slowed down pace...usually. Even when no longer DID, there is some dissociation.

One of my first collages shows a child lying in the grass...hidden alone. The words beneath the baby: A Strategic Alteration of Reality. Ain't that the truth.

Nov 24, 2008

Remember to forget

Survivors with DID have a tough time remembering...current life. Dissociated life can't be known until a memory surfaces. I don't have a scientific explanation. I do have a personal explanation. As memory surfaces and breaks through a wall of amnesia, chunks of amnesia are released into the brain. Those chunks sort of float around gobbling up current memory or erasing what you just had on your mind.

In addition to the amnesia phenomenon of DID, since early childhood, we have been literally brainwashed with messages about not telling; about forgetting what we saw or heard; and not remembering people's names or faces. I am certain the name and facial recognition is probably obliterated in a more focused manner, and I don't think I want to know how that was done. I hope I never have to be an eye witness.

I used to have what one would call photographic memory for my conscious life. That completely dissolved since memories began. I can barely hold a thought until I write it down on a note. As mentioned in yesterday's post and confirmed by a comment, those who grew up with DID tend to not see their environment. We can write notes to ourselves and even have a special place to put notes, but it doesn't take long before what is there becomes "invisible". Each survivor needs to develop their own system of remembering important dates, times, appointments. Even with an elaborate system, it is still possible to completely forget an important appointment. It is stunning to realize we have forgotten those times when we made an extra effort to remember.

How was this used growing up? Any sibling's absence was not known by the other siblings or the mother. "Remember to forget your sister." "This never happened." "You were just dreaming." "You're lying." "You must have seen that on a movie." Of course the perps didn't want to be remembered. I have zero facial recognition and vague name recognition. Even with close friends and new family, there is a slow brain process of connecting the person to the name. For annual events, I still need to be prompted about names of people even though I might remember the face since it has been several years.

I use the term "dropping off the radar" when I forget about people close to me. When my best friend, who lives in another state, goes on vacation or away for a few days, I must keep one of her emails in my inbox to remind me she exists. With all of my friends, after a few days of no contact, I forget. Eventually I remember, especially if they write to check on me. They know this happens. It's very frustrating.

In a separate life trauma, I have had anesthesia nine times since May 2007. Since my memory seems to have gotten even worse for short term thoughts ("I need to go do 'x'"), I tend to think that much anesthesia in my head might be wreaking some havoc. Although I also know some survivors with the same problem. An example I often experience in the kitchen: "I need to get a new bottle of vitamins from the pantry." I'll turn around and the next thing I know I'm staring into the refrigerator wondering what I'm looking for. Or the object will be in another room and I'll get to the room but stand in the center clueless without a trail back in my mind to the purpose. Usually I'll remember if I go back to my original spot and realize what it is I needed. It's not always handy to jot down a note to carry to the next room.

Someone needs to invent a wristband "Post-It" note dispenser and a way to always have a pen on hand. I try to keep pens near everywhere I tend to linger, however they often get lost or my note pad has run out. Obviously this is not the greatest challenge those with DID face, but it does impact much of our lives. In my role as psychotherapist, I was in a space with my client where I had very focused attention for the client. Memory seems to work differently with that intensity of focus. I did need to take notes or write notes immediately afterwards for record keeping.

I am hopeful that my brain may, some day, have enough new connections to operate like a defragmented brain. Would be nice to run "defrag", huh? Part of this forgetfulness is still viewed as a protective device. It was protective in childhood. It's rather disruptive as adults with life responsibilities. I wish I could say, "This too shall pass."

Nov 23, 2008

Going into the sadness

Sometimes I'm unsure where to post. If I think it will be helpful particularly to healing survivors, I post here. If it's a vent or opinion, it goes to Grace Uncensored. It's not always clearcut, especially where my own healing journey is involved. I decided my experience today might benefit those in the healing process.

I've been very stuck in a deep depression which didn't lift even when I experienced reintegration of three parts who surfaced to give me trauma details of a memory. Because I'm trained in EMDR, I sometimes have done self-EMDR. Mostly, I forget that I can do that. When I had my office, the EMDR buzzers were always there. Now that I am temporarily disabled, the buzzers are home with me. I've been napping each day which also goes with depression. Having been so miserable yesterday and not feeling relieved today, I remembered to grab the EMDR at naptime.

I was a little reluctant because I really didn't want to have to deal with further trauma details on my own. And I hadn't noticed the "pocket of sadness" behind my left lower rib cage that became palpable during my therapy session about two weeks ago. Yet when I began the alternating buzzers and focused on my sadness, I felt a smaller pocket that remained. My thinking process was that all that was sad did not reintegrate. My sense was that one of the two littles had stayed behind believing it was her job to always feel the pain. I was able to provide the reassuring messages that it was very okay for her to not feel the pain any longer and there were other littles waiting for her to join them.

The physical sensation followed the path of the others and moved up around the area of my heart. I remained relaxed and fell asleep. Since my nap, I don't feel as depressed so have provided much needed relief. I have vowed to do that each day until I see my therapist again to better manage the depression.

While most are not able to do EMDR on their own, my point is that usually there is a reason if we are feeling THAT badly. And when we feel THAT badly, it's difficult to think clearly. I thought the parts had healed. After today, I can say that I healed more but am not certain all has healed. It's always good to ask, "What else could this be?" You don't need EMDR to get answers. You can get answers with talk therapy. Realizing that you are experiencing something beyond what is "normal" is always a good target for therapy.

It is uncanny how whatever a survivor begins to talk about in therapy, whether it seems related or not, is exactly what needs to be discussed. I had clients who have had cold hands, or a ringing in the ear, or an itchy nose when asked what was most on their mind. And that symptom was usually an alter needing to be heard or represented an issue that needed attention.

We survivors easily forget...everything. Maybe a fun bulletin board of reminder messages to stare at when we are at wits end? I know...then we forget about the bulletin board until we see it again... It's worth a try though.

Nov 22, 2008

Post memory backlash a/k/a healing

Lately I've been rambling about the big memory I've been processing for quite some time. I ranted about it yesterday on Grace Uncensored. Now that I'm back in a familiar emotional place, which is not at all comfortable, I thought it might be worth sharing.

While each survivor will find their own rhythm or sequence of the mind providing answers, it will become familiar. Processing horror can actually become "same old routine". We process so much we become desensitized to our own sh*t. Sort of like watching yuck on CSI or Ducky on NCIS. I prefer to change the channel and usually do. But when it's the main presentation in the mind, there's no changing the channel.

Because the details are being relayed by a previously dissociated self, it feels second hand. "This is what happened to you. I saw it." It is not experienced as first person even though we may have some crossover of body memory and/or emotions. For me, first there is the shock or surprise of knowing (the silent gasp) followed by any emotions or words that need to be immediately released. Once knowing the emotional/physical pain or piece of knowledge is out, there is the acknowledgment and healing of the parts involved in revealing the previously unknown.

I have often experienced a specific sensation or knowing in my mind or body that the healing happened. Sometimes a bit more processes over the next hours or days before I know the healing of the alter(s) has completed. Then comes confirmation of the healing process--the brain making new connections. Some call this an integration headache if parts tend to merge or integrate post healing. Whatever you call it, the brain DOES make new neural connections. It has been proven in research conducted in the Netherlands by Ellert Neijenhuis, et al. using PET scans on clients with DID pre-healing and following them through to post-healing. Before I knew of the studies, I described the headache as feeling as if my brain were making new connections. Hmmm.

Within a day or two of processing my recent chunk of trauma, new information continued to flow related to the newly disclosed information. I would describe it as information that was unable to be relayed until the healing and the new connections. It feels different. It's more like thoughts landing suddenly in my brain.

My recent memory began several months ago but became quite intense around Halloween. The next round happened surrounding my birth date earlier this week. I felt the healing acknowledgment during my nap following the therapy session. The next day was headache day. I'm still getting tidbits here and there and being led to information that doesn't make sense to me yet. But the main content of the trauma was processed. This was my first big memory processed since beginning the blog. It may have been my first this year. Since my last major healing event, processing has slowed down greatly, thank goodness.

The big unknown is whether this memory still has unprocessed aspects that I will need to know one day. This particular memory has come up several times over the past 10 years because of the intensity and the different messages. I've shared before that I have had several major integrations. This last healing felt like three previously integrated parts coming back to give me the new pieces.

The backlash, as I call it, is that the emotional distress that I had been feeling in the background as depression is now surging through my body as "mine" and it feels awful. I wonder how I survived knowing most of me has always been THAT depressed and THAT terrified. I can barely stand it when three are sad and/or scared. And that's where I am today. Caught in that place of wanting to die just because it would be easier and knowing I could have a better rest of my life if I ride out the discomfort.

When all settles down, one day I will realize that "today is a good day" and the worst will be over...for now. We survived our horrors because our innate will to survive triumphed over the trauma.I personally believe we all survived for a reason. What if we don't allow ourselves to live to know that reason? Maybe the reason is giving DID a strong voice so we can change the world on this issue. And that means we need every survivor joining together to be heard.

Our time is coming. Changes are being made slowly in our country. Massachusetts has already figured this out. Maybe they will be the nation's role model. The Obama Administration promises resources toward protecting the children. Grassroots efforts will finally have as much weight as the formerly big lobbyists. There will be a way we can finally be heard.

Nov 20, 2008

Undoing a known trigger

One of my most intrusive PTSD symptoms is dropping something or almost dropping something. The trigger is feeling the loss of control in my hand as opposed to any value of the object. Yesterday I started working on undoing the very loud startle scream that ensues. I wasn't sure it would work in a controlled setting. But it worked enough.

My recent memory processing has involved three previously integrated alters who were connected to each other. One of the three had the dropping trigger. The therapist spoke through to the little. I was completely co-conscious but felt the little's control in my hand. We worked with small objects of different textures. I was supposed to just let the first object fall out of my hand but my fingers weren't about to let go. T held something in her hand while talking and suddenly let it fall. She heard the scream. lol. At least it was okay there.

I managed to let several things fall to the ground but felt my chest tighten up each time it hit. Every time the object fell, t would say "That's okay". The little spoke a few times and I just let her be out. I was exhausted at the end of the session.

When I returned home, it wasn't five minutes before I knocked something over. BB (my SO) quickly came over to pick it up. "It's okay," said the little. I swear she was practicing knocking things over. Within about ten minutes, she had told BB, "That's okay" in the same sweet little girl voice. For now, I would much rather have a little girl voice for a few seconds than the startle scream. Something good happened. And that was only within a few hours of working on the trigger.

Next trigger to work on (when the opportunity arises) will be the startle scream that comes when I'm a passenger in a car and the driver suddenly goes to hit the brakes. I don't even have to have my eyes open; I can be looking out the side window. Somehow I sense when the foot leaves the gas pedal to hit the brake. Heaven only knows where the PTSD came from. The feeling is "I'm going to die!" Often it is just BB slowing down to avoid something up ahead. The internal screen showed me a car sitting still with a screen in front of it (similar to how they made "moving car" scenes in old movies. Am guessing from that bit of information that either in a terror state and/or slightly drugged state, I thought we were moving and when the driver hit the brake, it looked like a truck or car was going to crash right into me. Guess it doesn't matter what happened. I can undo it. That will be a little tricky. Will need to go with BB to empty parking lot. Not sure who inside goes with that though.

Nov 16, 2008

More on EMDR

I'd like to respond to two comments made on my previous post regarding EMDR. Working with EMDR and DID requires additional steps than the typical protocol which can quickly resolve current or past distress. The example given in the comment was a child with a great fear of shots and surrounding triggers such as the smell of alcohol. EMDR can be used to reduce and/or eliminate anxiety for phobias, among other issues, quite effectively.

If the therapist does not have the proper training which first teaches grounding skills to the survivor and is certain sufficient grounding skills exist to attempt EMDR, and other symptoms are controllable, only then should EMDR be tried. What was described in the comment sounds like an untrained therapist. Being certified in EMDR is not sufficient. It would be good to ask if the therapist is specifically trained to use EMDR with dissociation...and possibly how many other clients with DID has the therapist worked with using EMDR and the outcome. Understanding that some therapists may overstate their skill, the best thing to do is to stop the EMDR if it feels uncomfortable. You know best what is right for you. I know it is very difficult for survivors to be assertive. But you must assertive about what is being done to you and your body. If you are uncomfortable, you have the right to say so. You also have the right to say you will try it and see what it is like for you.

My suggestion is, as long as you have faith in the person leading you through it, allow for a complete session which gets to a resolution or a calming place to stop for later work. You don't want to stop when you are feeling distressed because EMDR is like a wave you ride. It begins with intense emotions and/or images in a controlled environment and takes you to a place of calm. If it feels too overwhelming to continue, say "Stop". The therapist should ask you to do a grounding exercise to take you back to a good place before continuing.

I was asked to describe what EMDR was like for me. Let's see if I can give a description. Each survivor is going to process information differently, so please hear this as my personal experience only. I was initially afraid of EMDR "doing something to my brain". But after my experience with drumming, that was no longer an issue. I understood it was a good thing. Engaging both sides of the brain is a good thing under normal circumstances.

I will first describe a conscious trauma I had that was resolved during my EMDR training--because we practiced on each other. Not knowing whether anything I chose might lead to the DID trauma, I was rather cautious but made the trainer aware of my concerns just in case. I had taken my own EMDR buzzers (tactile stimulation) with me since I don't like the eye movements. The incident I chose was something that had happened when I was 12 years old. Recalling the incident brought up huge feelings of embarrassment and betrayal and shame. I had been in the girls room where several other girls had gathered. I did not know my skirt was tucked up inside my undies. No one told me. I entered the school library and had walked halfway through when the librarian came up and helped me get everything in order. We all have those kinds of things in our past. Even singletons ;-O

Part of the protocol is to identify the most distressing moment of the event and to focus on that moment. Initially the emotions welled up as tears and streamed down my face. Following the direction of the therapist, I refocused as suggested until, in bringing up that most distressing moment, I no longer felt any distress. And it has remained that way since that one "practice session" during training. That's how simple EMDR can be.

With DID, there needs to be a very specific behavior or trigger that the survivor wishes to understand or change. The entire system can't be the target or it will wreak havoc as described in the one reader's comment. I had all my grounding skills and trusted my therapist to handle whatever response I might have. Later in my healing, when processing yuck memories became "same old, same old", I was able to say that I had a memory brewing that was interfering with my life and wanted EMDR to get the answers and get it over with. A neat thing about EMDR is you can be as comfortable as you want. My typical therapy session is lounging on the sofa with several pillows behind me and a quilt on me. I can hold the buzzers in my hands under or on top of the quilt.

Sometimes I only had a physical sensation like an aching in my gut or a twitch that I knew went with an alter. Whatever was "active" in the therapy session is what I knew was to be the starting place. So I would focus on the aching in my gut and my therapist would start the buzzers which give a short buzz in one hand and then the other, alternately at a regular speed and intensity of my choosing. While the protocol is for the therapist to ask questions of what is happening, someone with dissociation can have messages or images come out of nowhere. I usually just started describing what I was seeing, hearing, feeling, sometimes smelling. Fear almost always was/is the first emotion to rise and my therapist always knows what to say to alleviate fear of current safety and reassure the alter(s) having the memory that it was okay now to yell or scream or talk or move the body to allow my body to do whatever was needed.

My suggestion to my clients and what I did for me was internally to watch on the screen in the projector room (see earlier post). Sometimes there were very quick flashes of some trauma while other times it was if I were watching a scene from a movie. Often I was coached to fastforward through the yuck. The resolution, for me, was when I would get to the needed detail of yuck that the alter was holding so s/he could heal. Or to the message (lie) that the alter was still holding onto as the belief so my therapist could guide me through undoing it. EMDR wears me out. It wore my clients out whether they were dissociative or not. Engaging both sides of the mind apparently is exhausting. I had no ill effects except that I felt like an airhead for several hours after the session and learned not to go shopping when the brain was on EMDR. There was no balance of logic to counter emotional spending. lol.

Emotions come up and can be intense but also process quickly. The effectiveness really lies with the training and experience of the therapist. I had a great role model before I went to my own training. I hope this answered the issues addressed in the comments. Great questions!

Nov 15, 2008

EMDR for healing?

Apparently many survivors are aware of EMDR these days. The initials don't really reflect what it's about but you can read more if you like on the process. The main thing to know is it can be an effective adjunct to talk therapy. The premise is that the technique allows you to engage both sides of your brain to process distress. Typically, people use only one half of their brain at a time to process information (logic vs. emotional). Several techniques can be used with EMDR to facilitate the thinking process which can help get through distressing memories more quickly.

Holding simple buzzing oval shaped objects in your hands is one way and my preferred way. You designate the comfortable speed and intensity. The latter part of my healing was greatly helped by EMDR. As a therapist, the first training I got was in EMDR. I learned quickly that children like the buzzers to be at the highest setting...which just makes a stronger feeling in the hand. It is not electroshock! Think of holding a tiny ball that vibrates very gently up to something that feels like your whole hand is vibrating. It's only vibration.

Another choice is a headset where both ears are engaged in hearing sound. New devices allow for you to be listening to a favorite CD during the process as opposed to tones. The original method is for your eyes to follow the therapist's hand as it moves back and forth in front of the eyes. A light bar is used by some therapists so your eyes just follow the bar instead of a hand.

The preference as to technique will differ by what the therapist offers and what feels most comfortable to you. I personally only offered the hand buzzers because I believe that most with DID would find lights triggering; and my doing the hand movements felt like I was too much in my clients' space. We have those trust issues, you know...

I had several clients who preferred I tap alternately on the backs of their hands rather than use the buzzers. I had children who stuck each buzzer in the side of their shoes :-) EMDR has been approved to treat PTSD in veterans. It is excellent for processing distressing events in a person's past and/or PTSD.

For someone with DID, EMDR can be a little tricky. I have had a client's specific alter engage in EMDR or I ask the host client to have a particular alter join with them to process a specific distressing trigger. EMDR has the potential of causing memories to surface. As long as the client is informed and makes his/her own choices for proceeding, it is safe, when the therapist is well trained to deal with any unexpected trauma that might surface during the process. That never happened for me or for any client where we targeted a specific memory or trigger. In other words, what was targeted was the focus of the work.

However, I did have a client greatly distressed by a recurring dream. She appeared very well adjusted otherwise. After advising her that, even though she stated she had no childhood trauma, if, in fact, there had been trauma unknown to her, it might surface. She was confident and trusted me to guide her through it but vehemently denied that was in her past. Less than 10 minutes into our first session of EMDR, a child self remembered being molested by an uncle. Actually, during my client's entire memory processing, only the one child aspect came forward. She was dissociated for her abuse but not DID. It also doesn't matter. Treatment is the same.

Because of my abuse memories, I feared EMDR. It looked too much like something scary. When I was finally ready to try, I chose the buzzers. The first time I used it, it helped a memory to surface quickly and be processed quickly. I didn't want to process anything brewing without EMDR from that point on. I'm now at a place where I will request EMDR for some sensations or emerging details of memories. Other times I prefer to be talked into a state of relaxation and check inside.

It is not really known why engaging both sides of the brain (called entrainment) helps to process, but it does. Before knowing of EMDR, I sought out ways to induce a state of calm. I was led to drumming. Any drumming would work but I chose African drums, specifically the djembe. That led me to a world of drumming circles and amazing energy as well as drumming at home. I purchased a book relative to healing through drumming. It explained the phenomena of people in drumming circles eventually going into a calmed trance-like state because of the entrainment of the brain surrounding the vibrations and other sounds. It is very much like self-EMDR in that using both hands alternately establishes the mind to be at peace. Aside from helping to process specific thoughts through a specific protocol with a trained therapist in EMDR, entrainment of the mind is beneficial for calming of the senses.

Entrainment can also be accomplished with some calming music. I have a CD for Relaxation and one for Sleep that has music designed to engage both sides of the brain and enhance the brain waves that promote calm. More than anything else, survivors need every possible technique at their disposal to allow the mind to be calm.