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Archive for August, 2009

I have not been to a Reiki session in over 18 months. I thought I did not need it any longer because I could pretty much accomplish the same thing for free at home doing yoga and meditation. The problem is that, thanks to having a child who is taking stimulant medication to treat his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is difficult for me to have time in the evenings to do yoga and meditate like I used to. As long as my kid is not sleeping and is running around the house like a hyper noisemaker, I am not going to be able to heal myself spiritually using those tools.

As I have written about before, 2009 has not been a kind year to me. I have been through a lot in my life since November 2008. On top of that, I recovered the memory of my first rape and have had to deal with all of the accompanying emotions. This is the reason I finally went back for a Reiki session.

I found that I could only get so far with healing this wounded inner child/part without spiritual healing. I punched pillows, cried previously unshed tears, and comforted the terror. I validated the feelings and memory. I wrote about it on my blog. None of this succeeded in meeting the needs of that wounded part of myself. This inner child feels like a repository for unending unmet needs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to reach, much less heal, this part of myself.

So, I looked up my Reiki lady’s contact information and made an appointment. I forgot how much I enjoyed Reiki sessions – not only the Reiki itself but also talking with this wonderful lady. I feel much better after having a session. I am planning on going back to monthly appointments to help me heal some of my issues spiritually.

My Reiki lady frequently “sees” things as she performs Reiki. My spirit used to be mostly frozen, and I could track my progress as I “thawed.” Both of us could tell that my spirit is fully “unfrozen” now. However, what she saw was that my spirit was “murky waters,” which I believe means that I still have a lot of “unfrozen” emotions to process. Oh, joy! She also saw light penetrating the murkiness and bringing healing. Let’s hope so.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This morning was not a good one. I decided to move toward indifference in this relationship that is bothering me. I decided to stop connecting emotionally with this person and see what happens. If the person does not even notice, then I have my answer about the health of this relationship.

However, being indifferent is not my strong suit. I wish I could just shut my feelings down, but that never does seem to work. Instead, my emotions kept fluctuating from anger to hopelessness. I became overwhelmed with the feeling of despair, and I struggled with suicidal urges. I actually caught myself thinking that maybe I should not volunteer to lead a Bible study in case I don’t want to continue living much longer. Then it hit me that I must be triggered. Ya think??

What is most disturbing is that, when I am flooded with these emotions, I have such a difficult time determining what is about today and what is about the past. Is this despair a result of what happened this week, or did what happened this week trigger feelings of despair from long ago? (I am guessing it is all about the past. It usually is for me.)

What really scares me is how quickly I can dive deep down into the despair. I started thinking about how alone I am in the world. I don’t have parents to serve as a safety net if I need them. I better be able to take care of myself (which I actually do quite well, thank you very much) because there is nobody who is going to take care of me.

I also circled around the trust issue. This relationship that is bothering me this week broke my trust, and I still don’t handle that well. When one person breaks my trust, I find myself back in that place questioning whether I can ever trust anyone or if everyone is going to betray and then leave me. (Do you see the extremes here? It’s all black & white thinking.)

I found it hysterical that I can be an inspiration to other people when I can be such a friggin’ basket case like I was this morning. I fall just as hard as any of you, and I can fall much harder and faster than many. I guess the difference is that I am relatively okay now (only a few hours later), whereas it used to take me weeks to get back to being okay.

I don’t know when, if ever, I will reach a place of accepting that it is not a “bad” thing to feel pain and that it will pass. To this day, when I am in that dreadful place, I see no way out. I just want to disappear and stop existing altogether. But, I am still here. I guess I still have the rest of my life to figure all of this out. Oh, joy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a reader posted the following comment:

Hello All! I was recently diagnosed with DID. I keep bouncing back and forth between acceptance and denial. When I leave therapy I don’t remember much about the session but I am different. I can reflect back to that day and see that someone different walked out of his office and then I have flashes of different things I did for the rest of the day but no real detail or feeling is recalled. This happens to me on and off everyday. I believe they call this switching. My dilemma is this…a strong part of me still wants to believe my parents were/are perfect and good and my whole world. Another part of me is afraid that if I acknowledge this a dam will break open and my life will spin out of control. I fear losing control. Also…all of my parts are petrified of being discovered and their secrets getting out. There is a strong voice inside me shouting that “it is imperative that we all live like nothing bad happened”. I am so confused all of the time. Can you guys shed any light or info on this for me…you are all much further ahead than me. Thank you. ~ Nansie

What Nansie describes here is very similar to my experience with DID. You have a bunch of different parts of yourself in conflict, and you don’t know which “voice” to follow.

I went through this with choosing to trust a friend for the first time. I made the decision to tell her, “You are becoming a good friend.” Just the thought of taking this action kicked off what Nansie describes here. I kept switching with my host personality staying co-present. I would be nauseous. Then I would have a panic attack. Next, I would have diarrhea. If I thought to myself, “Maybe I should wait,” all of the symptoms would magically disappear. Then, I would tell myself, “No matter what, I am doing this,” and the carousel of responses would start up again.

Nansie explains the conflict of emotions well, which is really what DID is all about. In order to protect herself and/or someone she loved, she had to give the impression that her parents were great. However, they were hurting her, so she had parts of herself that were angry, parts that were frightened, and parts that were very sad. She could not give those parts a voice, so she split them off and stuffed them inside.

Now that Nansie is in therapy, parts of her want to heal, but other parts do not. The strong voice shouting, “it is imperative that we all live like nothing bad happened,” is a protector alter part that is trying to keep her and/or someone she loves physically safe. The alter parts in conflict are really herself in conflict, feeling so many things at once that are in conflict with one another.

Nansie – My advice is to read Chrystine Oksana’s book, Safe Passage to Healing. This is the best resource I have found to explain DID and the role of alter parts. The book is written for ritual abuse survivors, but the chapters on DID will be helpful even if you did not suffer from ritual abuse.

I would also work through the book with your therapist. I don’t know how vulnerable you are to triggers, but your therapist will have a better idea. Read through the book slowly because you are likely to switch whenever you read something that hits close to home.

I, too, did not always remember what we talked about in therapy. (I started taking a notebook to jot down points that I wanted to remember later.) My therapist assured me that this was normal. I was dissociating when we talked about very painful things. You are viewing yourself from the perspective of the host personality. You are so much deeper and richer than this one sliver whose job it was to believe that you were not being abused. Even if you, from the perspective of the host personality, do not remember the session, the parts of you who are receiving therapy do. Those parts are a part of you. Healing them is healing you. In time, you will integrate into your core, along with these other parts, and it will be much easier to believe your history. In the meantime, send them lots of love, and believe what they tell you. Love and self-acceptance is the key to healing from DID.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On Monday, I shared that I was seeing an important relationship in my life through a different lens. I went through a variety of emotions and am still working through them – shock, anger, etc. I prayed about the situation a lot and decided that I was not going to allow this other person to have so much power over me. Instead, I was going to release those emotions over to G*d and take it from there.

After I made this decision, I saw with clarity how this person has been using an area of our relationship to fuel my insecurities about my Achilles’ heel. That is totally uncool. The good news is that, once I recognized this dynamic for what it was, it healed that Achilles’ heel – How cool is that??

I have one area of my life in which I have felt defective beyond repair. Rather than helping me heal this area, this person has continued to fuel my insecurities in this area as a power play. As long as I continued to feel insecure in this area, it gave this person a “trump card” of sorts in our relationship. Now that I recognize that I am not defective, I am feeling much better about myself. I can’t say the same for this relationship, though.

The truth was that I was not “defective” – I only believed that I was. As long as I believed this about myself, I acted as if I was defective, which played into this other person’s agenda. I am angry that someone that I have loved and who I believed loved me would “play” me like this. I have a long history of having people in my life (mostly family members) who pull my strings to direct me to fulfill their own agendas. I thought I had put a stop to that in all of my relationships (or ended the relationships), but that is apparently not the case.

I am still adjusting to the new lens. I am trying not to overreact while, at the same time, validate my feelings as I adjust to this truth. It’s a challenge, but at least I am feeling empowered even as I hurt.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dealing with Diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a reader posted the following comment:

I am only beginning to accept the fact that something did happen, the “others” know it did and can easily say so when they are out. I, however, have found it all too hard to believe. I can’t continue to heal until I believe them, even if I don’t remember it all. Memory is a strange thing, and I’m not sure that the memories are totally accurate. I’m wondering if they may in fact be a combination of memories somewhat jumbled up? Do I really need to get them all straight? or is just the acceptance of them what is needed for healing? ~barbi

This is a complicated issue, and this is a conversation that I had with my therapist more than once. My therapist said that there is no need for me to “relive” every trauma that I ever experienced. Instead, I needed to reconnect enough to understand and accept my overall history.

My experience has been that I needed reconnect with every big issue that I faced. For example, I needed to remember and heal the fact that I was vaginally raped by men. I don’t have to remember every single rape by every single man. However, if there was a particular man who raped me that had significance (versus the nameless and faceless men involved in the cult), I needed to recover those memories as well.

When you have DID, different memories and emotions split off into different parts, whether those parts are personalities or fragments. When I remembered and dealt with anger toward being raped, I could integrate a bunch of different angry parts that might have originally split off from many rapes. I did not have to “relive” every rape to do this.

However, there are other memories that were particularly traumatizing, such as the first vaginal rape, that I needed to heal. Healing the generic “a bunch of men raped me” did not heal the initial horror of that very first time.

I have learned to accept my truths, whatever they are. If a part tells me that X did Y to me, I choose to believe it. As I open myself up to this reality, that frees the part to integrate. As the part integrates, I feel the emotions and may or may not recover the specific memory. In my experience, the key to healing is loving and accepting each part, memory and emotion as “me” and “mine.” I generally do not have to “relive” the memories very often unless they were particularly traumatizing. I trust my inner guide (my intuition) to lead me where I need to go.

I don’t know if this fully answers your questions. Please post any questions that I did not address in the comments or email them to me.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Something happened this weekend that has me second-guessing an important relationship in my life. What actually happened was not earth-shattering, and to most people, it probably would not cause them to question whether they should continue having this relationship in their lives. Most people would find what happened to be “odd” and a bit bizarre but not some sort of “deal-breaker.” However, I am not most people, and my experiences are such that I cannot take having people f@#$ around with certain areas of my life.

The pain of what happened is too raw for me to talk about right, and it is also very personal. However, one thing I can talk about is the shock and adjustment to recognizing that the lens through which you viewed an area of your life has been skewed.

I have been through this dynamic before. I thought that a relationship was one thing (a close friendship) while the other person wanted distance. She had downgraded me to acquaintance status without telling me. So, I would act and react in certain ways, receiving very different results than I would expect through my current “lens.” However, when I changed the lens to recognize that this was not an acquaintanceship and no longer a friendship, suddenly her actions and reactions made sense.

This is similar to what I am dealing with now. I am feeling very disillusioned and uncertain about a particular relationship in my life. I knew it wasn’t stellar, but it was workable. Now, I am second-guessing everything. I have come to realize that my lens was skewed. I need to examine this relationship through a more realistic lens and decide what, if any, changes I need to make. I also need to figure out if I want to continue investing in a relationship that is so far off the mark from what I thought it was.

I have talked to a couple of offline friends about what happened. Both believe I need to talk with my therapist about it all. I am considering this but have not called him yet. I guess I am just still reeling and trying to make sense out of this new reality while, at the same time, let the dust settle a little to make sure I am not just overreacting. That is possible, too, although I don’t think so at this moment. Please send lots of positive thoughts and/or prayers my way.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Have you ever thought about what you will be remembered for after you pass away? I am fascinated by tombstones. (Yes, this is another one of my strange quirks.) These days, tombstones tend to be kind of boring with just the dates of birth and death. However, if you go to old cemeteries and read the tombstones, you will often find tombstones that tell you about the person’s life.

Sometimes people are remembered for their brave military service. Others are remembered for being loving husbands/wives or fathers/mothers. I recently found one that contained what I would like engraved on my tombstone. I have posted a picture of it. However, in case you cannot read it, here is what it says:

She went about doing good and set at liberty them that are bruised.

What an amazing way to be remembered!

I found this tombstone at Monticello in the same small cemetery where Thomas Jefferson is buried. This is the inscription on the tombstone for Agnes Dillon Randolph. I don’t know a thing about her other than that she was born in 1875, died in 1930, and has some sort of connection to Thomas Jefferson. However, that inscription tells me that she was my kind of lady!

One reason I am fascinated by old tombstones is that you are forced to condense an entire lifetime into a few words. Oh, to be remembered for setting at liberty those that are bruised!

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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A reader sent me an email asking why so many people do not believe in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I replied to her email, but I thought this would also make a good blog topic.

I think that many people resist the existence of DID for the same reasons they resisted accepting that the earth is round or that the earth revolves around the sun. People form their beliefs based on their own experiences and the experiences of others, and they tend to resist ideas that don’t fit neatly into the little box they have created to explain the world around them.

The same thing happened with the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In her book Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman explains the history of PTSD. She says that PTSD is the same “woman’s disease” that you read about in the 1800’s, only it was called “hysteria.” Everyone believed that hysteria was something only experienced by women until a bunch of soldier’s came home from WWI exhibiting the same symptoms found with this “woman’s disease.” Today, few people question that the trauma of watching your buddy’s head get blown off in battle can result in flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms.

Society has finally accepted that PTSD is a real disorder, but people tend to apply it only to people who have endured documented trauma, such as the battlefield or perhaps a serious accident in which a loved one died. Many still resist applying PTSD to survivors of child abuse. Also, there is no question that the Iraq war happened, but we only have the “he said, she said” to go on when it comes to child abuse. So, a PTSD diagnosis for child abuse has not fully been embraced by society at large.

If society cannot wrap their brains around PTSD resulting from child abuse, then DID is going to be even harder for them to accept. This moves us into the realm of repressed memories from abuse that happened when the survivor was very young (typically under age 6). As you might remember from the 1990’s, the media did its darndest to allege that repressed memories were unreliable. This is a convenient myth for child abusers to perpetuate because then they are free to harm young children all they want without any fear of repercussions. After all, who is going to believe the grown woman (or man) who just starting having flashbacks 30 years later?

As Martha Stout pointed out in her book The Myth of Sanity, DID is not something to be “believed” or discounted. It simply is. My experience is my experience, and this experience has been shared by many other child abuse survivors. I believe that, in the next couple of decades, society will learn to accept the reality of DID, just as they learned to accept that the earth is round and not flat.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Hub and I had an argument over the weekend, and it got ugly. It needed to get ugly because he was being completely unreasonable. He also pushed after I told him to back off, so he got what he deserved. It’s about d@#$ time that he learn to respect my boundaries.

Let me back up … I used to be the world’s biggest doormat. I never stood up for myself; I just did what other people told me to do. My motto was “peace at all costs,” and I believed that conflict would lead to abandonment. So, I had no boundaries in place, and people constantly took advantage of me.

Hub had it really good back then because I was a “Stepford” wife. We did what he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. I asked for nothing. Until we had trouble conceiving a baby about five years into our marriage, everything was about him. He didn’t even see it coming when I started fighting back because I wanted a baby so badly and he did not want to go through infertility treatments.

Even though I had no boundaries, about once a year I would blow up and stand my ground. I thought I had the world’s longest fuse. What was really happening was that an alter part would finally have enough and would come out swinging. I would suddenly have this amazing strength that would protect me. I would hear the words coming out of my mouth and be just as shocked as the person who got the tongue lashing.

Now that I have integrated my anger parts, I have access to this strength, and I use it whenever I need it. That is what hub learned the hard way during this argument. He stepped over the line verbally. I told him to back off, but he kept pushing, so I unleashed. I could feel the fury from the very depths of my soul that I had been holding at bay. However, once he refused to respect my boundaries, he got what he got, which was a verbal tongue-lashing complete with expletives that he didn’t see coming.

When he would corner me like this in the past, it would trigger my head-banging alter part. Hub is an attorney, and a litigator at that, so he has professional training for backing people into a corner verbally. Feeling backed into a corner would trigger the part of myself that was forced to make a “Sophie’s Choice”. I would run out of the room screaming and then bang my head. That did not happen during this argument. Instead, I got really p@$$ed off that he did not back off when I asked him to, so I removed my filters and let my anger have its say. It was ugly. I spoke (yelled) what was deep in my heart with no filter to cushion the blow. That was when the tide turned in the argument.

Hub and I talked things out and made up, but I hope he will eventually learn that he can no longer treat me like the Stepford wife he once had. It is a shame that I have to get to a place where the anger must come out unfiltered, but clearly that is the only way to get some people to back off when they cross my boundaries. I am grateful that I finally have a way to protect my boundaries.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Physical Manifestation of Dealing with a Very Difficult Memory, a reader posted the following comment:

My only thought is that you haven’t mentioned is that perhaps you are beginning to remember something new about this particular memory/experience or perhaps you are processing your feelings on a deeper level and it is triggering the ptsd…? You’ve probably already thought of that, but just in case. It often helps me if I can turn to intellectualization when the “feeling” parts get to be too much. ~ Mia

I think Mia is right about this.

As I have shared before, I recently recovered the memory of the first time that I was vaginally raped. I was only six years old, and I was “sold” to the highest bidder. Nobody told me what was coming. A stranger came into the room and hurt me in places that I did not know existed. My original child “went to sleep,” and I woke up the next morning as a host personality with no identity. People kept calling me “Annie,” but I knew that I was not her. I learned that my first name was Faye, so my host personality embraced that name, and I made everyone in my life start calling me Faye.

This is the memory that has been wreaking havoc on my life since April. I have been sick multiple times (even with severe sinusitis and bronchitis). I have been anxious to the point of terror and depressed to the point of suicidal urges. In a nutshell, 2009 has really sucked for me.

I believe this is all part of the process of integrating this part of myself. This was the trauma that moved me down the dissociation continuum from dissociative disorder – not otherwise specified (DD-NOS) to dissociative identity disorder (DID), so it is not surprising that this would be a powerful memory that is going to take me a lot of time to process.

I have done all of the intellectual things I know how to do, but the unmet needs continue to scream inside. So, now I plan to turn to more spiritual methods. I have a message in to my Reiki lady, who I have not seen in a couple of years. I hope she is still doing Reiki. I also need to set aside time for yoga and meditation. That part is harder because my child with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is not sleeping again (up until ~ 11:00 p.m.), and my yoga/meditation healing combo works best if I do it right before I go to bed at night. I know I can do yoga/meditation during the day while my son is at camp, but it is simply not as effective during the day.

I have accepted the fact that healing this part of myself is going to take time. This was the most wounded part of myself, so I am not going to be able to heal it overnight. I need to stay patient with myself and continue to love myself through this. I also need to remember that this gaping open wound is not always going to be gaping open. It is healing, little-by-little, from the bottom, so I am making more progress than I probably realize.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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