Archive for May, 2009

To those of you who are participating in the Isurvive fundraiser by writing a blog entry about Isurvive.org

First of all, thank you very much for your support. We are currently in fifth place. As long as we stay one of the top five charities, we will earn a portion of the $6,000 giveaway.

If you have already posted a blog entry about Isurvive.org, please click on this link and make sure that Zemanta has included your blog entry in the tally. Isurvive.org is the 13th charity on the list.

If you do not see your blog entry in the tally, please email the link to this email address: jure@zemanta.com. This will ensure that your blog entry gets added to the list.

Thank you again to all of you who have participated. Everyone at Isurvive.org really appreciates it.

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Are Any Alter Parts “Bad”?, a reader posted the following comment:

It is the little girl that is the worst problem. I know this sounds terrible, because she is a little girl, but the sorrow and the fear are more than I can tolerate EVEN with the so-called ‘dark’ part available to help condemn the crime and not its little victim…Then when I crash, she escapes and makes my life a miserable hell, but I still cannot remember and nothing is resolved. The whole thing just keeps repeating and it’s finally driven me to drink. I’m not sure if things can ever change, but most of the time I am able to keep a hope that they might. I wish they could because I need that kid to keep from falling down and dying prematurely. She is the one who writes stories, takes the photographs… she even used to sing, but that has been many years ago now. She is the creativity that makes life worth living but I can’t have her here because sometimes she STABS me with her art. She makes horrors to torment me, yet I cannot remember. Sometimes this makes me dread her even though she’s just a kid. ~ Ethereal Highway

What Ethereal Highway is describe here is her repository of unmet needs. She experiences the unmet need as an alter part. Other child abuse survivors experience the unmet need in other ways. No matter how we experience it, unmet need is very tough to work through.

The problem is that we, as abused children, did not believe that we were allowed to need. Our need made us vulnerable, and we hated ourselves for having needs — even basic needs that we would never begrudge our children for having, such as the need for love, safety, security, or food.

To this day, I hate to feel needy. My loathing of needing anyone or anything actually stands in the way of my healing process at times because I choose to stay “sick” in some areas of my life when the alternative is needing something from somebody else. Human beings were intended to be interdependent, so it is normal for me to need another person from time to time, and yet I resist feeling need with all that I have.

I have known people without dissociative identity disorder (DID) who have nearly been driven mad by the needy part inside. The book When You’re Ready by Kathy Evert and Inie Bijkerk provides an excellent example of this. The woman was sexually abused by her mother (among others). In order to survive, she split off the needy inner child and moved on with her life as an adult woman who had walled off the need into the inner little girl.

When the woman was ready to heal, the needy inner little girl would not go away, no matter how much the woman wanted her to. The little girl needed basic needs met, such as cuddling with a teddy bear and sucking her thumb. The intensity of the unmet needs overwhelmed the woman. The book chronicles her healing process as she accepted this need as “mine” and healed it.

The drinking is a way to keep the needs of the inner little girl separate. This cycle will not end until you are ready to embrace that need as yours and begin healing it. I strongly recommend reading the book When You’re Ready to help you with this. I recommended it to another online friend (who had not been sexually abused by her mother), and she found this book to be a very helpful resource in understanding herself.

Facing and embracing the need is very hard. I am fortunate in that I split off my unmet needs into many different parts. I cannot imagine the enormity of facing a deep reservoir of unmet need all stored in one place. You can heal this part of yourself, just as the woman in the book did.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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On my blog entry entitled Rough Day with Eating Disorder Yesterday, a reader posted the following comment:

Isn’t it true that abuse survivors have more illness than those who are not abused? Right now I am into my fifth auto-immune disease diagnosis and I can tell you when I first hear the news I get mad at all those years I spent fearful, abused, anxious, panicked. It downright makes me want to scream even though I know intellectually that this tendency of my body may have been something I was born with and would happen no matter what. ~ Esther

I am sure that informal polls as child abuse survivor sites would show the answer is yes, but we don’t have to rely on informal polls to answer this question. Medical research is showing these results as well.

According to the Adults Surviving Child Abuse website,

Adults surviving child abuse are more likely to suffer from a range of physical health problems than other people. These illnesses include migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. A recent survey of over 2500 older Australians with a history of physical and/or sexual abuse found that survivors were also more likely to suffer from three or more physical illnesses at once (Draper, Pirkis et al. 2008). ~ Adults Surviving Child Abuse

It makes sense because child abuse survivors do not know how to relax. We have a stress hormone constantly coursing through our veins. That has got to take a toll on our bodies physically over time.

I was not aware that my seemingly unending string of illnesses was related to the child abuse until I read this excerpt from the book Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana:

Everything [in my adult life] was perfect – well, almost perfect. I was constantly sick, a condition I kept secret…I woke up every morning feeling dead. The hardest thing I had to do was get my lifeless body out of bed…The slightest cold weather would put me in bed…

I kept trying to find a reason for my illness. I had been such a healthy kid, always on the go, athletic. I almost never got sick. But after the age of eighteen, things began to change. I started getting colds, flus, muscle stiffness, depressions, and just an overall bad feeling…By thirty-five I was barely making it day to day. In search of a cure, I went from doctor to doctor, from test to test, only to be told, “Everything is normal. Continue to rest.” That’s what I’d heard for the past seventeen years as my condition worsened. ~ Safe Passage to Healing, pp. xvii & xviii

Chrystine Oksana goes on to share the same thing that is covered in the Adults Surviving Child Abuse article: The stress from the child abuse causes our brains to overproduce certain stress hormones. Over time, this takes a toll on our physical bodies, causing all sorts of physical ailments.

Since I have been through therapy and worked through many of my issues from the child abuse, my immune system has gotten stronger. Instead of staying sick throughout the winter months, I generally suffer from one or two colds. Instead of each cold lasting for three weeks, I can now kick a cold in under a week. So, there is hope. It is angering, though, to know that the aftereffects of the child abuse echo on for decades.

Other blog entries on illness:

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Attention all fellow bloggers – I need your help to try to earn a cash award for Isurvive. I wrote all about Isurvive on my last blog entry.

Isurvive could split $6,000 with four other worthy charities if we can get enough bloggers to write a brief blog entry about the charity. Isurvive operates on a shoestring budget, so (assuming that the cash award is split five ways), $1,200 will go a long way toward covering the 1-800 number and server charges for providing 24/7 support for child abuse survivors.

According to the latest tally, which you can view here, we only need around 17 bloggers to promote Isurvive on their blogs in order to move into second place. (As of when I am posting this, my blog entry from today was not yet tallied. I have another one coming tomorrow from my professional adoption blog as well.)

It will only take a few minutes to pop up a quick blog entry about this wonderful resource, and it could make a HUGE difference to a worthy charity. The deadline is June 6, 2009, so we don’t have much time.

If you would like to help out, please be sure to copy the following text into the bottom of your blog entry:

This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “<a href=”http://www.zemanta.com/bloggingforacause/”>Blogging For a Cause</a>” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

This is how Zemanta tracks the blog entries. Thanks for your help!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A fellow member of Isurvive, my favorite message board for survivors of child abuse, told me about Zemanta, which donates money to not-for-profit organizations that make a difference. The fellow member wrote about Isurvive on her blog, My Monster Has a Name. I am now going to do the same thing.

In November 2003, I started having flashbacks of being sexually abused by my mother. I thought I was losing my mind, and yet I knew that this was my truth. My life finally made sense – the eating disorder, panic attacks, nightmares, compulsive truth-telling, perfectionism, obsessive compulsive disorder, suicidal urges, etc. suddenly formed a profile of a child abuse survivor rather than being a bunch of separate, unrelated issues.

Isurvive quite literally saved my life. If I had not found Isurvive in my quest to understand what was going on with me, I might have taken my own life. I did not believe that I had the strength to face my sordid past. When I found Isurvive, I found a place filled with people just like me. For the first time in my life, I fit in somewhere! People who had experienced the same things that I was now experiencing were telling me that I was going to be okay. They walked me through the healing process. They believed me when I shared my “unbelievable” stories. They had faith in me to survive the healing process when I, myself, doubted from moment to moment whether the process was survivable.

Since then, I recovered so many memories of horrendous abuse that I now understand why I had so few memories of my childhood before the flashbacks. Through the urging of my newfound friends at Isurvive, I found a therapist. Isurvive offered a wonderful supplementation to therapy – a place where people understood and could tell me from a place of experience that I could survive the healing process.

Six years later, I serve on the Board of Directors for Isurvive. I have registered this blog as an Amazon affiliate, and every dime earned in commissions is mailed directly to Isurvive so that Isurvive can continue helping child abuse survivors in the same way that it once helped me.

Over the last six years, I have met, supported, and by supported by hundreds, if not thousands, of child abuse survivors at Isurvive. My life is so much richer for having been touched by these very giving people – all people who were once wounded beyond imagination and now have the courage to reach out and help heal others.

Note to readers — If Isurvive has touched your life, please consider writing about Isurvive on your own blog. If Isurvive gets enough blog entries, the charity could receive a cash award to help further its efforts.

This blog post is part of Zemanta’s “Blogging For a Cause” campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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If you are new to my blog, you can catch up on this saga by reading these blog entries:

I received another letter from my mother/abuser last week. I arrived right as I was heading out of town, so I threw it on the counter and did not think about it again until I returned home from our Memorial Day Weekend getaway (which really SUCKED because both my son and I were very sick … so sick that I never even laid eyes on the beach … but I digress …)

I asked a friend to open and read the letter and let me know if there was anything in it that I should know. My friend said it was safe to read. My mother wrote it right after visiting my sister and having the conversation about overstepping her boundaries with me. Here is the letter:

Dear Faith,

How is everything going? I drove down to see [sister’s kids] get their awards. It was fun being part of their lives.

Faith, if I offended you by writing letters and phoning you, I am so sorry, if I overstepped my bounds. So now I will let you make the next move, that is, if you want to. If will not pressure you anymore. I do have an email address that you can write to, that is, if you want to.

Have a wonderful day, and I hope you will be able to come to [sister’s] graduation. I’ll be there but we don’t have to talk to each other. Let’s just be there for [sister]. She has tried so hard and she needs our support.

Lots of love,


So, what do you think of this letter? I am relieved that she is backing down on her own. That means that I don’t need to send the letter that I had planned about not wanting her in my life due to the child abuse. That being said, I still see manipulations about how nice it is being a part of my nephews’ lives and how I need to be there for my sister. I have a hard time gauging my own reaction to anything that she writes, though.

I can’t remember if I already shared this, but my sister dropped out of school after ninth grade and got her GED. After her divorce, she enrolled in college in her mid-thirties as a single mother. She has worked her tail off and will be graduating in December with honors with a double-major in biology and philosophy. I have been along for the entire ride, from encouraging her when she doubted herself to reviewing each paper for grammatical errors. Of course I am going to her graduation! I am also taking her on an all-expense paid trip to Disney World to celebrate afterward. So, that comment rubbed me the wrong way.

Any thoughts on her letter? I am not sure what to do about it, so for now, I will do nothing.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Healing from Child Abuse: Ongoing Process of Endless Growth, a reader posted the following comment:

Hey… could you talk more about this idea of “pushing through the barrier” and “getting it over with”… I’m really feeling stuck in therapy lately. We’ve hit some rough territory and every session we’re doing the same “I’m too freaked out to go forward” thing. ~ Else

Every survivor of child abuse battles conflicting agendas. One agenda is a healthy one – we want to heal from the pain of the past so we can embrace a brighter future. The other agenda is one of survival and self-protection. We resist healing because of our fear. Put another way, we need to learn how to feed the right wolf.

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I reached a place in a friendship where I was beginning to trust my friend, and I decided to tell her that she was becoming a good friend. Just the thought of saying those words threw me into a panic. I had panic attacks, diarrhea, hyperventilated, and trembled all morning long. Whenever I thought about not saying those words, all of those symptoms went away. I chose to say the words, anyhow. After a period of extreme stress, I broke through all sorts of invisible barriers inside of myself.

Because of my courage to push through the anxiety, I freed myself up to open my heart to friendships and let someone else in. Since then, I have opened my heart up to even healthier friendships. My life is much better and richer because I had the courage to push through the anxiety years ago.

I had very good reasons for the anxiety and fear. I had loved my mother, and she betrayed me. The same story held true with many other people in my life. I had a long list of people who had betrayed me, so I had good reasons to cover my heart in ice. Nevertheless, I longed for emotional intimacy with another person. In order to achieve this, I had to risk letting another person in. It took an enormous amount of courage to do this.

The same holds true with any barriers that you are facing. You have two “wolves” at war inside of yourself. Each time you choose to give in to the fear, you are feeding the wrong wolf. If you want to heal, you must feed the right wolf. You must choose to take risks and face your fears head-on.

The most important thing to remember is that self-love and self-acceptance is your natural state. It feels unnatural because of the abuse, so you have disconnected from your natural state of being. Whenever you choose self-love, self-acceptance, and health, that path is going to win. Your unhealthy side knows this, so it will fight back even harder. However, if you choose to feed the right wolf despite the backlash, you will come out of the other side of the battle as a healthier you.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Connecting Emotions with Painful Memories after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I almost never cry. The thought of “buckets” of tears coming sounds like paradise and scares me to death. I feel deeply, and that seems to be where it stays. Am down the healing road a fair piece, but expression of pain at this level eludes me. My greatest expression is laughter, I seem to freely laugh, which is a gift. But tears would be…healing, I think. Perhaps it’s not time? Do some of us never break through that barrier? ~ Ruby

I see healing from child abuse as an ongoing process that has no end. You can always be a healthier you. There is never going to be a moment in which I say, “I am all finished growing. Work accomplished.” As long as I am breathing, I am always growing, always changing, and (hopefully) always moving toward a healthier me.

I, personally, believe in reincarnation. I believe that we experience many lives in the physical state and that we are always moving toward a healthier version of ourselves. At some point, we will no longer need to return to a physical state because we will have achieved enough growth, but I don’t think that is going to happen during one lifetime.

So, in answer to the question of whether some people never break through a particular barrier, my answer would be no. However, you might not achieve breaking the through a particular barrier in this lifetime. I am trying very hard to grow all I can in this lifetime so I can be finished with coming back. This has been a particularly difficult lifetime, so I have no desire to do it all again.

Anyone who has heard my story or has been along for the ride has been amazed by my rate of healing. Part of this is due to my general openness to pushing through the barrier and “getting it over with.” In some areas of healing, I am not as good about this. However, I remind myself that, if I don’t master this in this lifetime, I am just going to have to deal with it the next time around. So, I try to open myself up to feeling the pain in the short run so I can feel much, much better in the long run.

On the one hand, I think we need to respect ourselves and be gentle with our healing. On the other hand, sometimes we need to take a great big leap of faith and dive right in. It takes a certain amount of insight to figure out when we should allow ourselves to move along at a leisurely pace and when we need to challenge ourselves to muster up the courage to dive in.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Those of you who read my blog regularly are aware that my mother-abuser has been contacting me over the last few months and trying to force a reconciliation between us. That is not going to happen. You can catch up by reading these blog entries:

I ultimately wound up paying a visit to my therapist (I ended therapy a few years ago) for advice. He suggested that I write her a short note telling her that, due to the abuse I suffered as a child, it is not safe for me or my family to be in a relationship with her. Do not contact me again. My sister asked me to wait to send this note until after she finished with her finals (she is a senior in college).

My mother happened to call right before I left for the therapy session and has not called or written since. I thought it was odd that she was calling and/or writing at least weekly for months and then abruptly stopped. I have not sent the note since there has not been a need to do it.

I finally got my answers … My mother visited with my sister recently, and my mother raised the subject. (I had asked my sister not to put herself in the middle, so she had not raised the topic herself.) She told my sister that she had been trying to contact me on the advice of her Christian counselor (I knew it!!) who told her that she needed to “mend fences.” However, because I had not responded or contacted her in any way (including Mother’s Day), she feared that she had “blown it” with me. (Ya think??)

My sister pointed out that I had set boundaries with her and told her what I was willing to give (monthly contact by letter only). By my mother overstepping those boundaries, it was like “spitting all over” me. To the extent my mother is capable, she seemed to get it, so I **hope** she will continue leaving me alone.

Things got worse on my sister’s end, though. My mother kept going on and on about not understanding what she ever did that was so bad. (My sister just gritted her teeth.) My mother then became much more clingy with the one daughter who is still in her life, which is about to drive my sister up the wall. For the first time, my sister said that she is beginning to see the wisdom of my ways. She says that her limited contact was barely tolerable. This clinginess is about to put her over the edge.

I am not sure what my sister is going to do, but that is not my issue. My sister needs to choose her own path, just as I have chosen mine.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Internal Conflict while Healing from Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I wonder is it possible for the parts(s) of you that are non-resisting or adult parts to directly communicate with the resistant ones….? Could the adult ones comfort the 2 year old and help her feel cared for enough and safe enough to tell? Could they explain to her that they will be there for her, and that she won’t be dealing with the memory alone? That they will take care of her and that she will only be “telling” the memory, not having to physically face the abusers again… only with her mind, and this time will be different because the others are there to help her let go of it and comfort her through it. I don’t know if these things are possible, but I couldn’t stop my mind from asking it. ~ Mia

This comment is specifically aimed at people who have dissociative identity disorder (DID) or other dissociative disorders that involve alter parts.

I have had a lot of success in encouraging my older alter parts to comfort the younger parts. Ultimately, all of my alter parts are me, so learning how to get the older parts to comfort the younger parts is really about me learning how to comfort myself. Most of my younger parts hold either terror or unmet needs. I use my older parts to help with both.


I had a difficult time healing the terror. I was not quite sure what to do with it. First, I would tell those parts that they are now living in a grown up body. I would look at my adult-sized hands and feet. I would talk about sleeping in my own bed and in my own house. I would remind my alter parts (myself) that my abusers are all either old or dead, so they no longer have the power to hurt me.

Then, I created a “good mommy” alter part to protect my frightened parts so they (I) could feel safe. I would visualize her comforting the child parts of me. She would rock them in a rocking chair and hold them close. She would look them (me) in the eye and talk about how much she loves me and how precious I am. Then, she would tuck them (me) into bed and be my sentry with a shotgun in her hands. I did not have to worry about being hurt because “mommy” was ready to kill anyone who came near me during the night.

Unmet Needs

Unmet needs have been much trickier for me to heal. Sometimes I simply need to stop working so hard and do something fun. Other times, I need to interact with friends so that my need for a relationship is at least partially met, even though it is not with a mother. I have had less success with older parts healing younger parts when it comes to unmet needs.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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