Archive for June, 2009

See my last post, Do People with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) Know That They Have It? for the first part of the story.

For the next two weeks, I was constantly p@$$ed off. I was so angry (hence the name “Irate”), but none of it made any sense. I opened a dialogue with that part, which is how I learned the part’s name. “We” would have conversations in my head. I would think a question, and then I would “hear” a “loud thought” inside of my head that did not originate from me. It was really bizarre. I was so certain that I had never been abused that I was pretty certain that my sanity was snapping.

I had to accept it, though – I had an alter part. There was no denying it. The question I had was what to do about it. I certainly wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.

I did some online research and learned about dissociation. I then found a book in my local library about dissociation called The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout. Before reading that book, I didn’t believe I could possibly have DID because I did not do all of the “crazy stuff” that Sybil, Eve, and Truddi did. However, as I read the book, I saw myself in every page and in every patient.

The book was clear that a person must experience severe and ongoing trauma at a young age in order to split off an alter part. I was perplexed because I “knew” that I was a virgin until my husband. I called my sister and asked if she had any memories of me being sexually abused as a child. She replied, “I have always had a bad feeling about mom.” In that instant, I recovered my first repressed memory. I could feel my body being violated, and I knew in the deepest part of myself that my mother had, in fact, sexually abused me.

I also related to the feelings of dissociation described in that book. I would frequently feel lightheaded around my mother. I chalked it up to being tired. I would then “forget” the specifics of the visit. I once drove four hours in the car with her. When I got home, I could not remember one thing we talked about, even though we talked the entire time. I had to face the reality that I had been abused and that I had an alter part (I had hundreds more but did not know it yet).

To be continued…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and “Hearing Voices”, a reader posted the following comment:

I know I have these inner voices yet I don’t know if they are attached to actual parts per say-with names and history. I was wondering, (without being intrusive) if your personal work began with just the voices and then finding out more later?? I do believe that my voices have been with me for a very long time on and off but I choose not to recognize them on some level. ~ Kim

Kim actually posted three comments to the blog entry, and the underlying message I am getting is the question of whether people with DID know that they have it. The answer in most cases (before therapy and diagnosis) is no.

The whole point of DID is to compartmentalize the spirit so that some parts hold the pain, memories, and emotions while other parts have the ability to appear completely normal to the outside word. My host personality was a very cheerful one. I was always smiling. Happy children are not viewed as possibly being abused, so creating a happy and upbeat host personality to be “me” whenever the abuse wasn’t happening was an effective way of hiding my secrets.

I had no awareness of having alter parts or losing time. In retrospect (after entering into therapy), I came to recognize that I had huge holes in my memory. However, my multiple system was brilliant in hiding this fact from my host personality.

I first suspected that I had an alter part about a year before the flashbacks started. As I would lie in my bed at night trying to sleep, I would feel someone “step into my face.” It felt like my facial features were changing, and I could feel a separateness from myself and that other part. I have a very hard time describing the feeling. The best way I can explain it is to think about blowing bubbles, and two bubbles share the space that should be filled by one. That is kind of what it felt like.

I had always been drawn to stories about DID (Truddi Chase, Sybil, Eve White, etc.), so I had an idea about what was going on. However, it made no sense because I believed that I had never suffered abuse. The truth of the matter is that my host personality had been safely hidden inside whenever the abuse happened, so that part of my spirit truly had not experienced the abuse. However, the host personality was only a tiny sliver of who I am.

I just assumed that this was more evidence of me being “crazy” and tried to block it out. Then, a year later, my mother/abuser went into my then-two-year-old son’s room during the night, and that is when all h@#$ broke loose in my life. (I do not believe that she harmed my son, thank goodness.) A part that I later learned was named Irate took over and let me (the host personality) stay “out” in a co-conscious way. I felt like I had been shoved over to the side of my head. My mind was racing with the fear that my mother had sexually abused my child. I was flooded with a ton of emotions that made absolutely no sense because they were not “my” emotions, and the thoughts were not “my” thoughts.

This blog entry is getting long, so I will continue with the story tomorrow.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I talked about my personal experiences with programming after ritual abuse. Today, I would like to focus on dismantling the programming.

The best resource I have found to help understand ritual abuse programming and how to dismantle it is Chrystine Oksana’s book, Safe Passage to Healing. If you suspect that you are battling programming, this book is a “must read” for you.

Here are some of Chrystine Oksana’s words on programming from the book:

To dismantle programming, pay attention to cues. These may be auditory such as words, phrases, names, tunes, whistles, patterns of knocks, and rings, or other sounds; visual cues may include symbols, pictures, writing, finger or hand signals; sensual cues may include special handshakes, running a hand over your face or your forehead, touch or pressure applied to the body, often in certain patterns, contact with certain fabrics. Try to associate taste and smells. Odors/perfumes can be cues as well. If there are explicit programmed messages or instructions, it is usually important to remember the exact words. ~ pp. 193-194

This was the most encouraging part of the book on programming:

The body/mind strives for health/wholeness, and spirituality. Ritual abuse programming runs counter to all of these. It acts as an unwelcome foreign body within the body/mind system. A healthy body-mind system will fight to expel this “foreign body”…As a result, survivors have an excellent prognosis for recovery. ~ p. 66

While the many mind control techniques may seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that they all represent conversion under coercion. Traumatic learning begins to lose its hold once you uncover and confront your abuse. Once the coercion is brought into conscious awareness, you can choose not to act on it. You can refuse to play their game. ~ pp. 69-70

What I took away from reading the chapter on programming is that my best defense is healing myself. In my case, I had alter parts that had been programmed. For example, I had one alter part that was triggered by Sophie’s Choice kinds of positions. If my husband told me that I must choose between two unacceptable alternatives, this alter part would emerge and start banging her/my head. Healing this part of myself enabled me to make the choice whether to act on the impulse/programming.

I have found that healing the programming has been easier to do than healing the internalized messages that I gave myself, such as that I was fundamentally unlovable, etc. I refuse to allow someone else to control me, so I have the strength to fight back and choose not to act. This took some time and hard work, but I did it. The messages I told myself have been much more difficult to dismantle.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Traveling the Child Abuse Healing Journey Together, a reader posted the following comment:

I’ve wondered if you experience repeated messages in your spirit – mine have told me to die over and over. Some time ago I read about being brain-washed by ritual abusers primarily to prevent telling. I recognize some of this in my past experiences but it befuddles me that messages may still exist. Lately I have spoken to my brain quite forthrightly trying to “change” the messages and it has worked to a slight degree. I wake up without fail around three AM each morning. Lately I’ve been telling myself that is not necessary and direct my brain to sleep through the night. I’m curious if you suffer from such messages. And if these messages become more dominant during these ritual abuse “holidays.” ~ Esther

Yes, I have struggling with dismantling quite a bit of “programming” or “brain-washing” – whatever you want to call it. And, yes, the programming tends to kick in at certain times, particularly when I feel unsafe, such as around occult holidays.

For example, I was suicidal as a teenager. I used to think about how I wanted to die, and I settled upon swallowing a jar of pills – just go to sleep and never wake up. My father (the “good” parent) died suddenly when I was a senior in high school, and my mother started sexually abusing me again. I became suicidal again. However, this time, I knew exactly how to do it (and almost did!).

I locked myself in my mother’s bathroom (ah, the symbolism) with a razor. I wanted to “slash my wrists” and “watch the lifeblood flow out of me.” How many seventeen-year-old girls have any idea what “lifeblood” is? There was no choice or decision. This was “programmed” into me – to self-destruct to “protect” the cult.

I was also “programmed” to self-injure through head-banging. I endured numerous difficult life experiences – child abuse, losing my father, infertility procedures, the adoption process – and yet I never self-injured other than one isolated incident when I clawed up my arm … but that’s another story. I even went through a year of therapy – dealing with heavy issues surrounding mother-daughter sexual abuse, etc. – with no self-injury.

As soon as I started to recover memories of the ritual abuse, I started banging my head. I forced myself to use a pillow, but I was “programmed” to bang my head into a wall – not just any wall but a particular brick wall. I can still see it in my head – it was sloppily put together with the mortar in blobs of dried cement. When that part of myself is triggered, I “need” to bang my head into that wall.

This blog entry is getting long, so I will wait until tomorrow to talk about what Chrystine Oksana has to say about programming in her book, Safe Passage to Healing.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared in my last blog entry, I have not been doing very well lately. I listed a bunch of day-to-day stuff that is going wrong in my life in that blog entry, so there is no need to repeat it here.

I had a very rough time later that night. If I could have willed myself to die in my sleep, it would have happened. I really, really wanted “out” in any way that I could accomplish it. I finally gave up trying to fall asleep (even with a sleep aid) after an hour and pulled out my book, Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana. I was hoping that I could find the answer to why I am feeling SO INSANE lately. I found three things that helped.

First, page 132 shows a list of Occult Holidays. I learned that, in addition to the summer solstice on June 21, June 23rd is also an occult holiday (Midsummer’s Eve or St. John’s Eve), which the book says is the “most important time for the practice of magic fire festival.” I have no idea what that “holiday” is or what it means, but it is clearly triggering to me. I am **hoping** that the passage of both of these horrible “holidays” will lift this funk. According to that calendar, I should be in the clear until July 1st. (Oh, goodie – A week off.)

Second, I scanned through most of the book looking for passages that I underlined when I first read it several years ago. As I have healed and grown stronger, I have lost touch with just how f@#$ed up and vulnerable I used to be. I see myself today as being a big mess. However, in comparison to how I was when I first read that book, I am living the easy life.

Third, I reread the chapter entitled Getting Through the Toughest Moments. While I did not really learn anything new, I felt validated that I was not alone.

Then, I came online the next day and saw all of the supportive message that all of you left me yesterday. The one that touched me the most was this comment:

I swear to God the stars are aligned wrong. If it can go wrong these last few weeks, it has. I won’t give you my list – but it’s also similar to yours Faith. And I have just gone to bed and slept. In fact, I’ve been up for an average of 4 hours a day these last 5 days. Not my best record. But somehow safer feeling than letting it all come to a head while I’m fully awake and aware. You’re so strong and motivated to face it all hon. I realize you don’t think you’re handling things all too well….but I’d give my right arm to be able to stay aware and handle things as they come up the way you do. Hang in there! ~ Mandy

The truth is that I did not believe I was handling any of it well at all, but reading through the book about where I was, in combination with Mandy’s observation as someone in the trenches watching my struggle, really hit home that I am doing better than I feared I was. I also received some great support over at Isurvive and received a very supportive email from one of my friends over there (who also reads my blog – Hi, C!). All of that worked together to give me the hope of making it through this alive and with my sanity somewhat intact.

An offline friend said that I offered support to so many … Who do I look up to? I replied, “My readers.” I would not have made it through the healing process without my friends at Isurvive, and I continue to need the camaraderie of all of you here. Alone, I only have so much strength. Together, we can move mountains.

Thank you all.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have really been struggling lately, and I am not sure why. I suspect that some of it ties into the summer solstice that just passed on Sunday. I am certain that part of it is also fueled by the end of the school year. Still, I am having a very difficult time shaking this funk.

It doesn’t help that a lot is going wrong in my day-to-day life. Our one-year-old water heater stopped working last week. It is (obviously) still under warranty, but the company had to order a part to fix it. So, my family and I have had no hot water since Thursday. AARRGGHH!! That means that my family has to keep bumming showers off people. Even though I have people in my life who are happy to help out, it is still a major inconvenience to drag shampoo, a razor, towels, etc. to other people’s houses. Also, I have to watch my child closely (he has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD) when he bathes at people’s houses because he gets water all over their floors, etc. Of course, here in the sunny South, it has been 90 degrees each day, and I can’t even take a shower in my own house unless I want to freeze to death.

One of my dogs cut her leg badly a couple of weeks ago. She just got the stitches out yesterday. We have been walking her on a leash (versus letting her run around in the fenced-in backyard), and she doesn’t want to do her business on the leash and then has accidents inside. We still have one more week to go. The only way to get her to go outside is to go on a long walk, which gets me all sweaty in the 90-degree heat, but I can’t get a shower without freezing … and so it goes.

The dog head-butted me and gave a black eye. That has really been hurting. My kid has been coming off inhaled steroids for the summer (to treat his asthma), and going off the steroids makes him mean. So, most of our interactions since school let out have been tumultuous. I have not been able to flush my sinuses daily like I usually do (sooo not putting ice cold water in my sinuses), and now I am developing a sinus infection. I haven’t slept well in weeks.

It just seems like one thing after another, and then I have this horrible PTSD-related funk, and I just want to jump off a bridge. At first, it was lots of anxiety, but now it has settled into a depression. I just want to curl up in my bed, go to sleep, and never wake up.

No, this is not a suicide note or anything. No need to panic. I am just trying to pour out all that is aching inside. I am so tired of crying.

Related Topic:

PTSD and Cycles of Emotions

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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After reading the comments on my blog entry entitled Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Hoarding, I realized just how common it is for child abuse survivors to hoard pens. In light of this, I would like to hear from my readers if there is also a common obsession with teeth.

I have been obsessed with my teeth throughout my life. I would freak out whenever I had a loose tooth because I feared that there were no adult teeth underneath to replace it. I have had recurring nightmares throughout my life about my teeth falling out or growing too large for me to shut my mouth.

I brush my teeth a minimum of five times a day: When I wake up, after each meal, and before I go to bed. I will also brush after any snack or if I will be interacting with another person.

I actually own my own dental tools. I cannot stand to have tartar build up and have to wait six months to see the dentist for a cleaning. I have one particular area that builds up tartar quickly (inside of my bottom front teeth), so I scrape that regularly with my own tools. As a result of my obsession with my teeth, in combination with grinding my teeth, my gums have receded, so I have to brush with toothpaste for sensitive teeth.

Is anyone else obsessed with their teeth like this? My sister is. She got an infection in the roots of one of her teeth and had to have the tooth pulled. (She could not afford a root canal.) She couldn’t bring herself to do it until the entire side of her face got infected. The dentist pointed out that failing to remove the tooth (or pay for a root canal) could kill her. Only then did she have the tooth pulled, and she was completely wigged out by its removal (well beyond a typical reaction to having a tooth pulled).

Is it just us? Did something in our abuse cause us to obsess over our teeth? Or is this a common phenomenon among child abuse survivors? I would love to hear from anyone else who is as obsessed with his or her teeth as I am.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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I finally figured out why I have been feeling so INSANE this week. Tomorrow is the summer solstice! That snuck up on me. If you were ritually abused and feel like you were losing your mind this week, you are not alone. This “insanity” should pass after tomorrow. Whew!

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On Wednesday, I kicked off a series on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I have struggled with OCD symptoms for most of my life. Each day, I am focusing on another symptom of OCD.

Yesterday, I talked about repetitive thoughts. Today, I will focus upon repetitive actions, which are also known as rituals.

Repetitive actions are anything you feel a compulsion to do repeatedly to avoid feeling anxious. They can be simple or complex. The level to which repetitive actions interfere with your day-to-day living is what determines how severe your OCD symptoms are.

For example, I must check my alarm clock exactly three times before I go to bed. If I only check it once or twice, then I cannot fall asleep. I will obsess about whether the time is correct, even though I rarely change the time on my alarm clock. So, to get it over with, I check it exactly three times in quick succession and then go to bed without any concerns about the setting on the alarm.

Because this process only takes a couple of seconds, my symptom serves more as a quirk than a serious OCD issue. However, other people are not so lucky. There are people who must check the locks on the door exactly 17 times. If anything interferes with the process, they must start all over again. They wind up being late frequently because they must complete the ritual of checking the locks in a particular way. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

I know a woman who must clean her bathroom every day in a particular order and a particular way. If anything gets out of order or she gets interrupted, she experiences an enormous amount of anxiety and must start over. While some people might find it admirable that she keeps such a clean bathroom, the ritual is taxing on her emotionally and physically.

Unlike my alarm clock checks, which I do every day that I need to use the alarm clock, I have other rituals that come and go. One is blowing on my hands. I used to do this a lot as a child (I have no idea why), and it used to drive my parents crazy (that part amuses me!). If I am feeling triggered, I will sometimes catch myself blowing on my hands. I have no idea why I do it, only that it relieves some of the anxiety.

Even though I know that checking the alarm clock three times is unnecessary, doing it meets a need inside of myself. This is true for anyone with OCD. The ritual serves some purpose – it serves as a valve that releases some of the anxiety for a little while.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I kicked off a series on obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). I have struggled with OCD symptoms for most of my life. Each day, I am focusing on another symptom of OCD.

The OCD symptom that I found most troubling was repetitive thoughts. I am happy to report that I was able to (eventually) end the need to engage in repetitive thoughts. Repetitive thoughts are exhausting, and they interfere with your ability to stay focused on what is going on around you.

I started experiencing repetitive thoughts after my father died suddenly while I was a senior in high school. My mother started sexually abusing me again, so I (obviously) was experiencing an enormous amount of anxiety.

One day, it hit me that I could drop dead just like my father did, and I would burn in h@#$ if I had committed a sin that I had not yet asked for forgiveness for. (See my posts on spiritual abuse to understand my warped thinking about religion at the time.) So, I came up with a “mantra” (for lack of a better word) that I would repeat in my head throughout the day: “Please forgive me for all of my sins. In J****’s name I pray. Amen.”

I would say this phrase hundreds of times a day. If I was not engaging my brain in something else (like a conversation), I was reciting this phrase in my head. I would sometimes even interject it during a conversation!

I found a cadence in the phrase that had eight beats to it. I needed to “feel” those eight beats repeatedly throughout the day. The cadence would relieve my anxiety but not for long, so I would do it again … and again … and again.

When I started this, I had never heard of OCD. I knew that I had quirks, some of which were amusing, but this form of OCD was exhausting. I even wound up adding a finger gesture that matched the cadence. I will still sometimes catch myself doing the finger gesture when I am feeling anxious.

For me, the best way to stop this symptom was to engage in meditation. My mind was always racing, thanks to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Meditation taught me how to allow my mind to be still. Once I learned how to silence my mind, I no longer had a reason to “fill” it with the cadence.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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