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.