Archive for August, 2008

Fire (c) Rosanne Mooney
A fellow ritual abuse survivor contacted me with questions about “unbelievable” ritual abuse that she suffered. She was having a hard time believing that the ritual abuse happened because, from a logical standpoint, it did not seem possible.

Chrystine Oksana’s book, Safe Passage to Healing, calls this phenomenon “The Real Unreal” and “The Unreal Real.” What she means is that ritual abusers are masters at setting up the child to believe some things that did not happen while not being able to believe other things that actually did happen. To put it more colloquially, they are experts at the “mind f@#$.”

Here is an example of one of the mind f@#$’s that I endured. I am putting up a trigger warning because the incident is very disturbing. Please only read the section in triggers if you are in a good place.

+++++++++ ritual abuse triggers +++++++++

When I was around nine, the cult told me that I was going to be initiated into a higher level within the cult by killing a child. I did not want to do it, but the cult, as always, was not asking my opinion. They put me in a robe and laid a child at my feet. Her eyes were closed, as if she was sleeping.

The cult leader, who was wearing his black hooded robe as usual, stood behind me and placed a large knife in my hands. He then put his own hands around my hands so I was unable to drop the knife. He pulled my hands straight up in the air and held them there for a very long time, so long that my hands went numb.

As the cult leader held my hands up, he was making this long speech about inducting me into this new level. While I stood there, terrified and going numb, somebody shined a flashlight into my eyes the entire time so I could not see. (This was at night, so I could not see a thing.)

The cult leader finally forced my hands down hard with the knife, and I felt the knife sink into something. Lots of blood poured all over my body, much like in the climactic scene of the movie Carrie when someone poured pig’s blood all over Carrie at the prom.

++++++++ end triggers +++++++++

This was one of the few memories I recovered with another person in the room. My Reiki master “saw” the flashback along with me while I was receiving Reiki. I did not tell her about having a flashback. She just started asking me about seeing a lot of blood.

My first reaction to recovering this flashback was extremely intense, as you can imagine. I did not think I could survive having “murdered” someone. However, with lots of emotional support from the right people, I was able to see through the charade and realize that the entire episode was just one big mind f@#$.

The girl was not sleeping – she was unconscious. Unconscious people are not going to struggle, which means that there would not have been blood flying around as in a struggle. Second, even if I had hit an artery, there is no way that amount of blood would pour out of a child like that. The amount of blood involved was way over the top. Third, having a flashlight in my eyes at night would have blinded me to anything going on around me. I was relying on what I felt and what others told me was happening. And, finally, there was plenty of time to make the switch. The long speech was just to provide time to move the girl and replace her with something else – maybe a slab of meat.

She story sounds unreal, and yet the terror I felt in the aftermath was very real. If I had told anyone about the incident, the cult could have produced the child that I claimed to have “killed” and proven that I was a “liar.” Because I felt complicit in the “murder,” I was much less likely to blow the whistle on the cult. It was a win-win situation for the cult. Whether I told or did not tell, they had the power.

Ritual abusers do mind f@#$’s like this. It helps them break down the will of the child and ensures that the child never tells. Nothing is too “unreal” for ritual abusers.

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In my last blog entry, I mentioned that the reader who asked about challenges after integration also wanted me to address issues with sex. As I stated in that blog entry, I believe that healing from child abuse and healing from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) are two different process. I believe that this woman’s issues with sex are not from the DID but from the child abuse, which is why integrating from DID has not fixed the problem.

I get this because I am in the same boat. You might have noticed that I have not discussed consensual sexual relationships much on my blog. That is because this is an area of my life that continues to be a challenge. If I were a single woman, I would go on sabbatical from sex so I could work through my feelings toward it. However, as a married woman, that is really not an option if I want to stay married.

Several child abuse survivors have recommended that I read the book The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz. They tell me that this is the best resource for healing your consensual sex life after sexual abuse. I have purchased the book and have even flipped through it, but I am not yet ready to work through the book and do the exercises.

This is not to say that I have not made progress. A couple of years ago, I would get drunk before and self-injure afterward. I no longer rely on either crutch. I have also set more boundaries and no longer have sex when I don’t want it as frequently as I used to. I used to drive myself crazy trying to make something “good” out of something that made me feel “bad.” About a year ago, I moved toward indifference. That stopped the momentum of sex being “bad” and moved it into a “neutral” experience. Of course, hub would prefer that it be a “good” experience, but I still have a lot of healing work to do in that area.

I am sorry that I cannot be more helpful in this regard. My best advice is to read through The Sexual Healing Journey because several people have told me that it helped them to heal their feelings toward sex in powerful ways.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A reader asked me to talk about the challenges after integration from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As she pointed out in her email, many people who are healing from DID see integration as the end goal, but really integration is only the beginning. Interacting with the world as an integrated person is very different from interacting with the world from the perspective of a “multiple.”

I was in the same place as this reader a couple of years ago. I went looking for resources for people who had successfully integrated from DID, and I could not find many on the market. I think I found three books in all, and I bought two of them. I started reading the one that sounded like the best resource, and it only wound up depressing me. While the woman who wrote the book had succeeded in integrating from DID, she had many limitations on her life. I did not want any limitations. So, I chose to stop reading that book, and I never picked up the other one.

Healing from DID is not the same thing as healing from child abuse, although there is definitely quite a bit of overlap. Healing from child abuse is healing from the underlying trauma: it is turning your emotional wounds into scars. Healing from DID is about changing your internal reaction to the trauma: it involves changing the way you interact with the world.

The woman in the book I read continued to have flashbacks after integration, so it sounds like she healed from the DID faster than the underlying trauma. My experience was different: I dealt with very few flashbacks after integration from DID. I really believe that they are two different processes that are being healed at the same time through self-love.

As for specific challenges – Every single relationship in my life changed after I integrated from DID. I had to learn how to manage frustrating situations instead of just dissociating – that is still a challenge for me. I had to learn to feel pain in the moment instead of just encapsulating the pain and tossing it aside.

Interacting with the world as a “singleton” instead of a “multiple” is very different, and I am still learning how to do it. It comes second nature to me to split off an alter part, but I can also bring that part right back in again when I want to.

This article from the Sidran Institute is the best resource I have found regarding challenges you face after you integrate from DID. I am still in the process of learning to give up dissociation as a coping tool. Even though I am not fragmenting into alter parts, I do continue to dissociate on occasion, which is true of many child abuse survivors, even those without a history of DID.

Dissociation runs on a continuum, so I do not have the expectation of going from polyfragmented DID to completely “normal” overnight. Any progress toward staying whole and present is a step in the right direction.

The reader also asked me to address issues with sex. I will get into that in my next blog entry.

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How to Stay Integrated After Healing Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A reader asked me how to reach alter parts that are not interested in integrating as part of healing from dissociative identity disorder (DID). This is a very common occurrence when somebody is healing from DID. The alter parts split off from the core for a reason, and they are not always ready to integrate back into the core just because you (from the perspective of the host personality or from the core) want them to.

Also, when an alter part integrates, you must deal with the aftermath. You must face the memories and emotions that the alter part holds. Sometimes a part of yourself knows that you are not yet ready to heal from that particular trauma, so that alter part refuses to integrate.

In the early stages of integration, I had lots of alter parts who were not ready to integrate. I created “rooms” over my heart and invited the alter parts to live there instead. I was “meeting” them as they “thawed” from the “ice” in my spirit that I was “melting” through self-love. I did not want them to go back to being cold.

So, I created a warm and cozy place over my heart. I offered each alter part her own room. The door had a doorknob on the inside only, so the alter part was in complete control over when the door was opened. Inside was a canopy bed (something I wanted as a child but never got) that the alter part could change to any color she wanted. The room also had a toy box that held any toy the alter part wanted. One of the standard toys was a castle that was popular when I was a child. I always wanted one, and all of my friends had it, but my parents never bought it for me.

Most of the time, the alter part would agree to relocate to the room over my heart. Before the alter part entered the room, I would tell the alter part that I loved her and that I appreciated all that she did to help me survive the abuse. Then, the alter part would lock herself inside the room. Later, as I was ready to heal that part of myself, that part would integrate spontaneously.

Also, when I would invite alter parts to integrate into the core, I would tell them that the core would absorb all of the bad feelings. For some alter parts, this was enough to choose to integrate. I would have to deal with the painful emotions, but it was against the backdrop of all of my experiences, which made it much easier to do. This was something that I did much more frequently in the later stages of healing.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have a habit of ignoring my body’s signals, and I suspect this ties into the child abuse I experienced. I say this because I know many other child abuse survivors who do the same thing, but I really do not know why.

What do I mean by ignoring my body’s signals? I might really need to use the bathroom, but I refuse to stop what I am doing until I really cannot wait any longer. There is no reason that I cannot just stop what I am doing for a minute and go use the bathroom, but I don’t. I cannot tell you why.

I know child abuse survivors who ignore body signals about it being time to eat. The people I am talking about are not anorexic, although there is a strong link between child abuse and eating disorders, such as anorexia, and those people do the same thing, too.

One friend, who is a child abuse survivor and not anorexic, routinely fails to listen to her body’s signals about when it is time to eat. She will be sitting with a group of people and become embarrassed when her stomach starts making loud noises, but she fails to connect the dots that she needs to eat something.

I do the opposite extreme in failing to listen to my body’s signals to stop eating, which ties into my eating disorder of binge and emotional overeating. In fact, to learn how to eat a normal-sized portion of food, I had to spend weeks learning how to tell the difference between my body sending me hunger signals and my emotions telling me I needed to eat to soothe them.

Another strange thing is that I routinely find bruises on my body that I do not remember getting. Sometimes they are large, and it is frankly embarrassing to have no answer to how I got them when others inquire. I used to fear that this was an indicator of losing time as part of dissociative identity disorder (DID), but I have come to realize that this is simply part of my ignoring my body’s signals. I stay dissociated from my body enough not to notice when it is injured.

Learning how to stay present in my own body is the key to listening to my body’s signals. I find that I am much less likely to overeat when I make an effort to live in my body instead of dissociate from it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my last post, Challenges in the Later Stages of Healing from Child Abuse: “Flash Nows”, I shared that I have been struggling with dealing with some of the realities in my life today. Since I have made the connection between why I have been feeling so lousy lately and what is causing the problem, I am feeling more present than I have in weeks.

The child abuse healing process really is about awakening to your own life. It is about seeing your life for what it is, not what you wanted it to be or pretended that it was. My reality has not changed: It is my perception of my reality that has changed. I did this first with my history of child abuse, and now I am applying the same principles to my life today.

Before I started having flashbacks, I was asleep to the realities of my past. All that I had been through was affecting every single aspect of my life, but I was oblivious to the influence of my past. At its core, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is really just an extreme case of rejecting your own reality. Integrating from DID is awakening to the truths of your past and accepting them as yours. It is about seeing your past for what it was and recognizing that nothing that anyone did to you was able to change the value of who you are.

Now I am in a similar place, only I am awakening to the realities of my present. I have spent my life acting and reacting to what I wanted to believe about the life that I had built for myself. Because my perceptions of my life were so off base from my reality, the reactions I experienced from others did not mesh with what I thought they should be. This caused me to doubt my own intuition continuously. As I am awakening to the reality of my life today, I am understanding why I have experienced the reactions from others that I have.

The reality of my life is that I have chosen to nurture friendships with built-in distance. I have chosen to invest in people who would not see me for who I am, and then I have become frustrated because these people do not “see me.” Of course they don’t see me – I chose them because I did not want to be seen.

I am coming to recognize that many people that I have viewed as “friends” are really “pals.” While I still love them and there is a place for pals in my life, pals are very different from friends. I have been digging in dry wells and wondering why I cannot ever reach any water. I have been investing as a friend into relationships that simply are not friendship material. Awakening to this realization is painful and yet it is also freeing. This frees me to stop setting myself up for continual disappointment.

At the same time, I am awakening to people with real friendship potential who I have pushed away because I believed I did not have room for more friends. I was pushing away the diamonds to protect the cubic zirconium.

Now that I recognize this about myself, I am overwhelmed by the state of my life right now. At the same time, I am excited about the possibilities. My life is finally starting to make more sense.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my last blog entry The “End Result” of Healing from Child Abuse, I mentioned that I am dealing with new challenges today as part of my healing from child abuse. The healing process is never “over.” We continue to heal at deeper levels as we grow into who we were always meant to be, rediscovering the beauty of our true natures as we go along.

I spent years dealing with flashbacks. Today, I am dealing with “flash nows.” I can best explain what I mean by using an analogy.

Before you begin the child abuse healing process, it is as if you are going through your life in a dark room with only a small candle to illuminate the room. You are surrounded by your truths, but you do not see them.

When you are ready to begin the child abuse healing process, someone turns on a light with a dimmer switch. Initially, the light is on its lowest setting. The light illuminates a bunch of painful experiences that have always been a part of what made you who you are today, but you never “saw” them. These are your first flashbacks.

As you continue to heal, the dimmer switch grows the tiniest bit brighter to illuminate painful truths from your past. You are shocked to see things that you did not see before, and you find yourself having to “clean up” baggage that you never even knew was there.

At some point, you finally clean up all of the areas of your life that pertain to the past. While there will always be some residue, you can check that corner of the room off your list. You are “done” with flashbacks. That is where I am now.

What I did not know is that the past is not the only baggage with which I must deal. The dimmer switch has gone a little bit brighter. Before me is an entire corner of the room filled with baggage, but this time, the baggage is about the life that I have built for myself today. I feel like I have been thrown into another “breakthrough crisis,” only this one is filled with “flash nows” rather than flashbacks.

I now see how I have filled my life with relationships that continue unhealthy dynamics for me. I have chosen relationships that make me feel unimportant and valued for what I can do for the other person rather than for who I am. I have questioned for years why I continue to struggle with feeling worthless when I have silenced the voices of my abusers in my head. I now see that I have set up my life to continue sending me this message.

This truth is so painful to face. It means even more changes in my life, and I am still recovering from all of the changes I made previously. It means making difficult choices about which relationships to hold onto as best I can without sacrificing myself, and also deciding which relationships I need to release. I cannot tell you how painful the idea of doing this is to me. My sister has been telling me for years that I need to “weed my garden” – that not every relationship is forever. I cannot invest my energy into too many relationships, and yet it is so hard for me to let go.

So, that is the crux of my struggles at the moment. I see myself facing another marathon or another mountain to climb, and I question whether I have the strength to do it. But, like with facing the flashbacks, I have no other choice. I feel propelled toward healing and growth. I am just trying to catch my breath before I start climbing.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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