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Archive for October, 2008

Over on Isurvive.org, my favorite message board for child abuse survivors, a member posted a question about whether somebody with dissociative identity disorder (DID) could have an animal alter part. The answer to this question is yes.

I had never read or heard about animal alter parts until discovering one in myself. I was lying in my bed, and I felt myself transforming into a wolf. I could feel the fur on my body, and my hands shaped themselves into paws, with my fingers being the claws. I “was” a wolf. To say this freaked me out is an understatement.

Then, I learned that this happened the night before the full moon. At this point, I determined that I truly was crazy and beyond help. Fortunately, I had knowledgeable friends over at Isurvive to talk me through this. Most ritual abuse takes place at the full moon, when there is better lighting for seeing and photographing the abuse, so it makes sense that I would need a protector part as the full moon approached.

People with DID have protector alter parts. Think about DID from a child’s perspective. The point of having alter parts is to protect the child from being harmed. While the child flees the body through dissociation, she leaves behind a protector part to fight back and provide the child with the illusion of safety.

Whatever you, as a child, felt was strong or scary was likely incorporated into an alter part. For me, the wolf in the story “Peter and the Wolf” was one of the scariest creatures I could think of, so I created a wolf alter part. That part comes out every night to curl up around me while I sleep. To this day, my wolf protects me as I sleep. I have tried to integrate this part multiple times, but I guess I still do not feel safe enough to “retire” my wolf.

I also had a snake alter part, which I integrated. Other people have alter parts that are lions, bears, dogs, or other animals. Animal alter parts can be anything that seemed scary to them as children.

I have also heard of people with DID having other types of nonhuman alter parts, such as dolls. Any inanimate object that had significance to you as a child could have been incorporated into your multiple system.

If you have a nonhuman alter part, you are completely normal. Your nonhuman alter part served a function as part of your DID multiple system. Love this part just as you would love any other part of yourself.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry How to Forgive an Abuser after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following question:

Yeah, I know there must be rage. It bubbles up a little now and again. I am scared of its depths. I want to find it, connect with it, but something is blocking me…perhaps fear? How did you get in touch with it? How did you find it? I find others’ experiences helpful.

Anger (or rage) was the emotion that I most deeply repressed. I felt so disconnected from my anger that I honestly did not believe that I even had any. My therapist assured me that I did and that I would process it when I was ready.

Although I felt no anger, I felt an enormous amount of anxiety, manifesting in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms. I also struggled with depression on and off. I later learned that both anxiety and depression are a manifestation of repressed anger. Because the anger has nowhere to go, it turns on you.

I finally reached a place where I knew that I needed to heal my anger, but I did not have the first clue about how to get in touch with it. I decided to lock myself in a room when I had the house alone and invite the anger out. I thought I would punch pillows and see what happened. I was scared about how I would handle the anger if it came out because feeling anger was such a foreign concept to me.

I punched a pillow hard once, then twice, and then three times. Nothing happened, and I felt like an idiot. However, on the fourth punch, rage exploded out of me. It felt like releasing the force of a hurricane from inside of myself. For fifteen minutes, I screamed and cursed at my abusers. I beat, clawed, and mangled the pillows. I was scared, and yet it felt soooo good — like this was something that should have been released years ago.

After about fifteen minutes, I was spent. I was also relieved. Even though my anger/rage was powerful, it was not uncontrollable. It just needed somewhere to go, and it felt wonderful to pour that energy out of myself. Immediately afterward, I noticed a dramatic decrease in my OCD symptoms.

Since that time, I have used a couple of other tools. My ritual abusers used popsicle sticks to “program” me, so I fought back using popsicle sticks. I bought a box of them at a craft store. One by one, I broke the popsicle sticks and yelled taunts at my abusers. I saved the broken sticks and, when needing to process more anger toward my ritual abusers, I would throw the popsicle sticks at the wall. Hearing them hit the wall and watching the broken pieces fall to the floor was healing for me.

One other helpful tool has been visualization. I will visualize the child me about to be harmed. Then, the adult me swoops in and kicks some serious butt. I allow those visualizations to get as graphic as I need them to get. This has become my preferred method for processing anger.

Other tools that work for other people include…

  • Beating the ground with a baseball bat
  • Popping red balloons with the abusers’ names written on them
  • Taking a kickboxing class
  • Writing an angry letter that you don’t plan to send

Doing something physical is often the best way to get started with processing anger.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Riding Out Suicidal Urges, a reader named Matt shared his struggles with being married to a woman with dissociative identity disorder (DID) who has a suicidal alter part. His comment is a long one, so I am not going to reprint it here. However, I do want to address the questions that he posted in his comment.

Let’s begin with this statement:

[My wife] was abused by a teacher in high school, but was probably abused way before then as well.

Yes, if your wife has DID, then she definitely experienced other abuses. In order to develop DID, a child must experience severe and ongoing abuse before reaching the age of around six years old. If the only memory that she has of her abuse history is this incident with the teacher, then her alter parts likely hold the memories of all of the early childhood trauma.

It is possible that this suicidal alter part is causing so many issues because your wife is ready to start facing her history. Many people with DID suffered from organized pedophilia, otherwise known as ritual abuse or “cult” abuse. These are a group of people who know how to manipulate an alter part to self-destruct if the person ever tells about what happened.

Your wife created the suicidal alter part to protect her from severe abuse. Her abusers manipulated (“programmed”) the alter part into believing that suicide was a better option than breaking the silence. In my case, the threat was killing my younger sister. So, I would rather kill myself than see my sister killed because I told.

Your wife can dismantle the programming and integrate the suicidal alter part, but she must be the one to choose to do it. You can lock up everything in the house, but you cannot watch her 24/7. She could submerge her face in the toilet and try to drown herself while you think that she is using the bathroom. Rather than live like this, I strongly suggest getting your wife therapy with a qualified therapist who has experience in counseling people with DID or at least several child abuse.

I also suggest that you purchase the book Safe Passage to Healing and read it. Also, encourage your wife to read it. The book explains all about DID, alter parts, and ritual abuse. For your wife to have such a severely suicidal alter part, I strongly suspect programming. This book explains how to dismantle the programming.

You mention that you are a faith-filled person and that your faith has been stretched to the limit. I will address this part of your comment in my next blog entry.

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On my blog entry Forgiveness and Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

What are the steps or rather the things you can do to stop thinking about what s happened to you, to stop nursing your hurt. You Im allowing time to help me with this as it does dissapate. However, the hurt will always remain. There will be times when it resurfaces. I know I do need to let go, but if I have a list in front of me if the things I can do, I can really visually, verbally, and kinesthetically do this..

Here is my own “how to” list for how to forgive an abuser.

1. Decide that you are ready to put healing yourself above holding onto your pain.

While it might seem obvious that someone would choose healing over pain, it really is not that simple. When you choose to forgive, a part of yourself will scream, “But s/he deserves my hatred. S/He does not deserve to be forgiven.”

It is true that your abuser does not deserve forgiveness. However, you deserve to live a life free from the pain of the abuse. You also deserve to live a life that is no longer “tied” to your abuser. Until you decide to place healing yourself over holding onto your anger, you will not be ready to begin the process of forgiveness.

2. Stop thinking about your abuser.

I did not realize how frequently I thought about my mother/abuser until I chose to work on forgiving her. I thought about her all the time, and I would get angry. I was “wed” to my abuser because she filled my thoughts.

You choose what you think about in your own head, so you have the power to stop thinking about your abuser. It will be a challenge at first, but with practice, you will learn how to stop.

I did this by choosing to think about other things. Whenever my mother/abuser would pop into my head, I would consciously choose not to dwell on the thought. Instead, I would put on my favorite CD, call a friend, or think about something that made me happy. As I channeled my mental energy toward things that made me feel good about myself, I stopped thinking about my abusers as frequently.

3. Process your anger.

Until you process your anger, you will be unable to stop thinking about your abuser. Do something physical to release your anger once and for all. Here are some things that have for worked for other abuser survivors:

  • Beat the ground with a baseball bat.
  • Punch pillows.
  • Take a kickboxing class.
  • Throw things at the wall that won’t damage it.
  • Visualize beating up your abuser.
  • Write your abuser’s name on red balloons and pop them.

You can come up with your own way to process your anger. Doing something physical works best for most people. Make sure you “see” your abuser’s face as you process your anger.

4. Honor your other emotions.

As you experience grief, terror, or other emotions, honor them. Comfort yourself as you would a hurting child. I found a picture of myself as a little girl and would use it to see the wounded little girl inside. I did lots of visualizations of the adult me comforting the child me.

5. Focus on healing yourself.

As you work through the first four steps, you will find yourself freeing up a lot of energy. Use that energy to heal yourself. Do things that are good for you, like exercising or hanging out with friends. Make a conscious choice to spend your time, thoughts, and energy on things that make you feel good about yourself.

As you turn your focus away from the past and turn it onto who you are today, you will find yourself spending less time nursing the bitterness toward your abuser. As you do this, you will feel less “wed” to your abuser as you take charge of your own life.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry Flashbacks as Dreams after Child Abuse, Simon posted the following comment:

I cant even cry. Ive rarely cried before in my life. I look at people who cry and im envious. Might sound mad coming from a man, but i am. I want to feel, i want emotion. Thats it aint it, to actually feel anything, even pain, is a step-up from this cr*p.

I spent most of my life feeling numb. I repressed most of my emotions, although I would frequently cry about things that did not matter, such as a touching commercial.

I remember the first time I allowed myself to feel the depths of my pain. There is not a word in the English language to describe it. It ran deeper than “sobbing” or “wailing.”

A part of myself kept thinking, “Stop being so dramatic,” but I faced the fact that there was nobody around, so who was I trying to impress? Nobody, of course.

I felt pain so deep that I did not think it was possible to survive it. It felt like my soul was being ripped into shreds. It cannot find words to describe the depth of my pain.

I had a therapy session that week. When I told my therapist about this, he smiled and told me how wonderful this was. I looked at him like he had two heads.

My therapist pointed out that I had spent my entire life being numb. For the first time in my life, I was feeling. He said it like this was a good thing, which baffled me.

I got angry about my choice being either numbness or excruciating pain. My therapist assured me that, now that I was choosing to feel, I would be feeling lots of wonderful things after I processed the painful emotions.

My therapist was correct. After I poured out the very deep pain, my deepest wounds began to heal. Since then, I have experienced many wonderful emotions – emotions that I did not even know were possible.

It is a huge risk to let go of the numbness and choose to feel, but it is worth the effort. As grueling as the pain is, there are so many wonderful emotions to feel after you process the pain.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry Flashbacks as Dreams after Child Abuse, Simon posted the following comment:

A thing ive been thinking about alot and makes me sad is this :-
If we lived a thousand years life couldnt make up for what its took away from us. How do you live with that? Knowing that your playing catch-up in life but you know you never will? Yeah, one day i might be happy, i might even have my own children and that would be amazing. But we have missed out on so much, feel so bitter. I dont think that will ever go away for me.

Yes, there is a lot to grieve after child abuse. However, as you heal, you find a lot to be grateful for, too.

For example, when I find myself feeling present, I appreciate the beauty of the world around me in a way that most people never do. I will look at the sky and think about how amazing it is that we have such beauty to behold whenever we look up. I see the beauty of the world in the leaves of the trees, especially at this time of year as the leaves begin to change colors. Many people who were never abused go through their entire lives never appreciating the beauty that is all around them if they would only take the time to look.

I also find that most things that the average person struggles with in life are easy for me. I will never face a challenge as daunting as having several people who are four times my size harm me. Compared to what I endured as a child, the basic stressors of life seem easy.

Another thing that has brought me peace is embracing a belief in reincarnation, which I wrote about in Understanding Child Abuse through Reincarnation and Reincarnation and Karma after Child Abuse. Before I believed in reincarnation, all I saw was the areas in which I was cheated in life. Now that I have embraced the truth of reincarnation, I no longer feel cheated.

I used to grieve that I would never know a healthy mother-daughter relationship. I have since recovered a past-life memory of having a mother who loved me dearly. I had a brief “flash” of her holding me in her arms and of me feeling very safe. This helped me recognize that an absence of a loving mother-daughter relationship in this lifetime is not forever.

This lifetime is only one of many, and the purpose of each life is to learn lessons to become more loving, compassionate, patient, etc. The fact that all of us experienced such terrible abuse but came out of it as compassionate people proves that we are learning our life lessons. I truly believe that this lifetime was a “final exam” of sorts for me.

Also, I do not believe that the purpose of life is to be “happy.” Instead, it is to grow and to help others grow. This gives my life and experiences purpose and meaning rather than the abuse just being random bad luck.

For me, finding meaning and purpose in my life experiences has helped remove the bitterness for the abuse that I have suffered.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry Date Rape: It Was NOT Your Fault, Grace posted the following comment:

I was wondering if others had their virginity “in tact” in adulthood. I read in my early healing research that a minor medical procedure can repair the hymen. Also, I have such a clear memory of a miscarriage as a preteen so I know I wasn’t a virgin.

The type of abuse I most separated myself from was the memories of the vaginal rapes. I told myself repeatedly throughout my teens and early twenties that I was a virgin. I was the “poster child” for “waiting until marriage.” I looked for the whitest wedding gown I could find, and I only had white flowers in my bouquet. I was certain that I was a virgin.

The first time that I was “fingered,” I had very light bleeding. I would call it “staining” – nothing really heavy but definitely some blood. When I first had intercourse with hub (the first intercourse I remembered), I only saw traces of the tiniest bit of blood. I held onto those incidents as further “evidence” that I was never vaginally raped. Throughout my first 18 months of healing, I told myself repeated, “At least I was never raped.”

However, I kept having dreams/flashbacks of being raped, but I pushed them aside. I “knew” that could not be true because of the bleeding.

Then, I came across this passage in Chrystine Oksana’s book, Safe Passage to Healing:

Some survivors are baffled by memories of repeated rapes, yet they also remember bleeding during their first conscious experience of intercourse. This would seem to imply that their hymen had not been broken. Like other genital tissue, hymens can heal and regenerate very quickly. While they may not return to their original intact shape, the regenerated hymen and scar tissue may bleed after a period of sexual inactivity.

Reading this passage forced me to face my truth.

Also, when women talk about bleeding after their first sexual experience, they generally do not get into the details of how much actual blood is involved. For all I knew, a tiny bit of staining was normal. I was truly shocked to learn that it was possible to bleed after having been raped, doubly so after being raped repeatedly over a period of years as a young child.

So, the answer to the question is yes – a hymen can regenerate after a rape and even after repeated rapes. The fact that you recover flashbacks of vaginal rapes is not inconsistent with bleeding after your first conscious sexual experience.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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