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Archive for September, 2009

So, it turns out that I am not handling this latest crap from my mother as well as I hoped. I received her letter on Saturday, and I was truly dying laughing at the absurdity of the whole thing. I slept fitfully that night. On Sunday, I felt waves of anxiety on and off, but it was nothing that I couldn’t handle.

However, Sunday night was really bad. I took some Tussionex to help me sleep better, and it did not work. I was awake every hour on the hour – really annoying. I woke up feeling like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I was very cranky and irritable, snapping at everyone around me. I wanted to scream and cry.

I called my sister and asked for advice on what to do. I just wanted to tell my mother/abuser to back the f@#$ off, but I feared how that would affect my sister, who still has her in her life. My sister graduates from college in December, and I will cross paths with my mother at that graduation, so I don’t understand why she cannot just back off and wait to make her case then. My sister said that this is an easy semester, and I should just do what I need to do.

My therapist had previously recommended writing her a letter stating that, due to my abuse as a child, it was unsafe for me or my family to be in a relationship with her and not to contact me again. That would open a whole can of worms, getting into the abuse and stuff. I just want her to (1) die; or (2) leave me the h@#$ alone.

I talked to a friend later that morning and told her that I just want to tell my mother to back the f@#$ off. She said that is exactly what I should tell her … so I did. I wrote only five words on an index card and mailed it to her:

Back the F#$% off!! – Faith

That letter went out on Monday. I have been binge eating and feeling like s@#$ ever since, but I did at least sleep well on Monday night. I am writing this on Tuesday night (you will read about her letter in the morning), and I am in so much pain. I have been so triggered all day, having had other annoying things happen in addition to this today. I am so triggered that I am having trouble focusing. I have taken Xanax, drunk wine, and have binged on a ton of food. My stomach is killing me. I don’t feel any better.

I am so friggin’ angry that my mother still has this power over me. I don’t want to have to carve out two hours of my day plus work out childcare and pay over $100 to see my therapist. I don’t want to gain all of my weight back. It makes me so d@#$ angry that my mother still has this level of power over me. I just want her to die and burn in hell and leave me the h#$% alone. Is that really too much to ask?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I received a hysterically funny letter from my mother/abuser. If you are not up to date on the letter drama with my mother/abuser, read this blog entry beginning with the links at the top.

Since I wrote that blog entry, my mother did write me another letter a couple of weeks ago to tell me of some health issues she was having. I briefly considered responding, decided to ponder whether to contact her, and promptly forgot about it. Then, I received the following letter, which had me in stitches laughing.

Before I share the letter, I probably need to share that my father died suddenly from a heart attack when he was 43 years old. Also, the letter does cover some religious topics, but the usage is so “out there” that it probably will not be triggering. However, I will slap up a trigger warning just in case.

********** possible religious triggers **********

Dearest Faith,

I’m concerned. Your sister told me that you have been concerned that as you get closer to the age Dad died, you think that you will also. Don’t let Satan lie to you, for God has a long life for you to fulfill.

I realize that you have seen death come to those that you loved. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that hurt. But don’t let this fear of death enter into your mind. And don’t push me away thinking that by doing this, you would be saving my life. My father God has promised me another husband and long life.

Last night I had my cell group at church pray that God would remove this fear of death at age 42 from your thinking. Faith, you are a Christian. You read your Bible, you teach or have taught a Bible study. Trust Jesus. After all, He made only one of you. He gave you, your personality, your looks because he loves you and, has accepted you as His child. You are unique. He has also promised you long life.

So no matter how you treat me, I will continue to write letters and at times, phone you. Maybe one day I will show up on your doorstep. I will continue to pray and do everything I can to keep you from pushing me away.

I love you, Faith. I have and always will. I love you unconditionally. That means I love, accept, and like you, just the way you are. After all God gave you to me, when you were born. You are my daughter and I will treasure you always.

I love you,

Mom

Clearly this woman is on another planet. I called my sister and asked WTF?? She has no idea where this is coming from. I left the punctuation errors in the letter on purpose, but this is a very well-written letter for her, so I suspect someone else has put this idea in her head. I am probably the person least afraid of death on the planet. I also find it humorous that she cannot even remember the age her own husband was when he died.

You should be proud of me for laughing hysterically instead of freaking out about the threats to start the letter campaign and possibly show up at my house. As a friend said, she is clearly on another planet, and MapQuest isn’t going to get her this far. At the moment, I am ready to tell her to f#$% off if she has the audacity to call my house. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but right now I am dying laughing at the absurdity of this letter.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Finding a Therapist if you have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a reader posted the following comment (I added asterisks to any reference to G*d to help anyone who is triggered by religion):

I did want to say something in regards to Christian therapist, they are not all the same. I see a Christian clinical psychologist who’s priority is to keep me safe and trusting him at all times. He has a masters in theology and knows there is no place for blaming the wounded. G*d does not operate that way. When I am in his office I am taught the reality of a loving G*d who hates what happened to me and never blames me for any part of it. Instead He looks upon me with an endless love that is more than willing to heal me. There is no blame, shame or guilt put upon me for my feelings or whatever they may be. These sessions that are combined with my doctors skill and his spiritual reliance on the power of G*d to heal the brokenhearted, broken in spirit, broken bodies has helped me in so many ways. Sadly, I now see all to clearly how lacking the church is in actually being what Chr*st has called her to be-a place where all can belong and be safe. ~ Sarah

I am sure that there are exceptions to the rule, as Sarah describes, but I stand by my advice that someone who has suffered from child abuse needs to seek out a professional psychologist for therapy and not rely solely on a Christian counselor without a degree in psychology.

The reason for this is that child abuse survivors have suffered from some very serious trauma, and we need therapists who know what they are doing to help guide us through the healing process. Licensed psychologists have been educated about the cause and aftereffects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related disorders, including dissociative identity disorder (DID). Someone with a divinity degree does not have this kind of training.

If I was diagnosed with cancer, I might meet with my pastor and pray, but I would also seek out an oncologist because I want a specialist in the area of my illness. The same holds true for healing from child abuse. I am happy to receive additional support from clergy (and did when I was healing), but I am going to rely most heavily on the person who has the training and experience in guiding child abuse survivors through the healing process.

I have heard some terrible stories of Christian counselors whose well-meaning but woefully incompetent guidance only made things worse. My sister’s Christian counselor told her to write her “sins” on a piece of paper (her abuse was considered a “sin”) and then burn it. Just as the paper burned, God was removing her “sins” from her soul. When this one activity did not cure my sister’s PTSD, the counselor then told her that she had “Satan on her shoulder.” What a crock of $#%&!

I know people with DID who had Christian counselors tell them that their alter parts were “demons.” Because these people could not “exorcise the demons,” they assumed that their alter parts were condemning them to hell. Again, what a crock of $#%&!

I am a highly educated and intelligent person, and I have even healed from child abuse, but I do not presume to have the tools that a licensed and educated psychologist does. I can offer advice from my personal experience on my blog, but I would not meet with one of you weekly and “play therapist” because I am not qualified to do so. I think it is irresponsible for people who have not been trained as a therapist to presume that they can heal someone’s PTSD just because they have a divinity degree or have taken a couple of night classes on counseling. Guiding someone through healing from child abuse is a much more serious endeavor than premarital counseling.

If you are seeking a therapist, I strongly urge you to find one with the education and experience to help you heal. If you can find one who is also in a Christian practice, that’s great, but don’t assume that the word “counselor” slapped on a door makes the person qualified to help you heal.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I am not really sure how to categorize what I am going through right now, so I am just going to share the story and stop worrying about labels … I had a Reiki appointment last week. I had been in a really great place for about two weeks (and knew it wouldn’t last, so I savored every minute!). At my Reiki appointment, I am supposed to state an “intention.” Because I was in such as great place, my intention was “whatever is for my greatest good.” Big mistake! LOL

In the course of the Reiki, the Reiki master “saw” a “vision” while she was over my second chakra. She saw a boy in the age range of 8-12 sitting alone in a chair. She tried to communicate with him, but he just glared at her. He would look down, look up with a glare, and look down again. Then, she saw light envelop the boy. He stood up and walked out of a door filled with light. My Reiki master had no idea what this meant but found it interesting.

That afternoon, my anxiety returned, but I could not explain why. I slept fitfully and felt “off” the next day. One of my friends said that I looked pale and was concerned about me. I could not get enough food in me and kept eating. (I have a long history of binge eating.) The next day, I started using my tools — stay present, listen to positive music, focus on uplifting things, etc. The urge to eat was still there but not as strong.

That night, I had a dream. I was absolutely terrified and refused to look. I kept hiding my face so I wouldn’t see it. There were flashes and sheer terror, but I was too frightened to look. I awoke in a cold sweat.

The next night, I dreamt that I was a teenager visiting my mother/abuser and sister at our old house (where we lived when I was a teenager in college and my younger sister was still living at home). My sister was much more messed up than I realized and had a heroin problem. She wanted to eat. We stopped by my Sunday School teacher’s house, where I shared some things about my faith.

Then, we wound up back at my mother’s house. My friend E was there. (In my dreams, she represents my protector alter parts.) She was debating whether to make another key, so I made the choice for her by eating my copy of the key. That way, she had to hold the key. I then went to my old bedroom. I was naked and wanted to find some clothes. The door opened, and my mother, sister, and others were there looking at me. I threw a sheet over myself. They left, and I rummaged through the drawers trying to find anything that I could wear.

When I woke up, I knew that the binge eating was about stuffing down the memory (which is why I ate the key in my dream). I decided to get the flashback over with, but I couldn’t reach it. Instead, I visualized myself walking into a very cold room. I saw my child self naked and badly beaten lying on the floor. I picked her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and tried to bring her out of the room, but there was a force that would not let her leave. So, I carried her to a room by my heart that is cozy and warm. I got the “good mother” (a nurturing alter part) to nurse her wounds, and I shut the door that can only be opened from the inside.

So, I clearly have more $#%& to deal with, but I am apparently not ready to go there yet, even if it is for my “greatest good.” I told you this was a difficult experience to describe! LOL

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A reader emailed me the following questions:

I have a question about sad [Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) alter] parts. Obviously there are tons of reasons to be sad but do you think sad parts are more thoughtful than angry or scared parts? How do they operate, why are they created, what do they need to heal?

Each alter part was created to hold the memories and/or emotions that you could not handle as a child. As a child, you felt extremely sad (that’s an understatement) and lots of despair. However, you could not function if you allowed yourself to experience those emotions, so you shoved them away from your conscious mind. Those emotions had to go somewhere, so they split off into alter parts. Each sad alter part is an emotion that you should have experienced as a child but were unable to work through while the abuse was happening.

To heal sad alter parts, you need to choose to experience that deep sadness. That can be a very difficult choice to make because, while you experience the despair, death can seem like a much better alternative. It is best to heal those parts of yourself while you are in therapy or after you have developed good coping strategies through therapy.

My alter parts that held the deepest sadness were unable to cry. One time, I experienced the memory to which the sad alter part was connected, but I could not cry. (This is ironic because I can cry at a sappy commercial.) I finally worked up to a single tear. The amount of relief this part of myself felt was enormous.

I later chose to experience that pain and used a song to do it. I wrote about it here. Once I gave that sad alter part a voice, I sobbed in ways that I didn’t know were survivable. I felt really lousy for a little while, but then I felt much better than I had in a long time. It was a relief to release all of that pain.

I don’t like to “compare” my parts because they are all me. They all served a function and helped me to survive. Labels like “good,” “bad,” or “thoughtful,” as applied to alter parts, are not helpful to me. I view them all as “me,” which means that each part is worth loving.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Conflicting Alter Parts, a reader posted the following comment:

I wondered if my experiences were a normal part of DID and if others went thru them too? Do you have any ideas for how I can offer my other parts love and acceptance? I try to hug them at night when I go to sleep…most of them are children I think and they are afraid of the dark. They were never protected. I recently started journaling and I have high hopes for that. Any ideas on that too? ~ Nansie

Anything that you do to be loving to an alter part is a step toward loving yourself. Even though each alter part feels separate, each one is a part of you. All of you together define who you are.

I send lots of internal positive energy toward alter parts. I will saying things like, “I love you. You are safe. I’m sorry,” repeatedly in my head because these are the messages I most needed to hear as a child.

I also created a safe haven over my heart. I visualized rooms that can only be opened from the inside. They are warm with a canopy bed (which I always wanted as a child) and a toy box filled with any toy the alter part wants. I invite my alter parts out of my stomach (where I tend to feel them – I binge eat to “stuff them down,” and they feel “cold” there) and into a room near my heart. When they are ready, I invite them to integrate back into the core. I frequently am not even aware when an alter part makes this choice. I just notice that I feel more present and alive.

I have heard that, if you lose time, writing in a journal is a great way to get a dialogue going. From the time I (from the host personality perspective) became aware of having alter parts, I could have a dialogue in my head, so I never needed this step.

Doing fun things is also a great way to reach out to alter parts. Buy an ice cream cone and go swinging at a park. Take a walk in a safe park. Watch a funny cartoon. Go to an amusement park. Do anything that brings you joy. As you bring fun back into your life for your alter parts, you are also bringing it into your life for yourself.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Man behind desk (c) Lynda BernhardtI am woefully behind on going through old emails and comments, but I did want to address this one. On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Conflicting Alter Parts, a reader posted the following comment:

After 27 yrs of playing off as ‘normal’ to the world, how are we now supposed to find a therapist and how are we supposed to present ourselves? Do we just call up some random psych office and say “Hi. I have DID, but I’ve never seen a therapist. You available?” or what?? ~ AndrAia

If you are healing from DID, you need a therapist. I tried to do it alone at first, but healing from severe child abuse is too grueling to do alone. You really need the guidance of a professional to help you navigate the healing waters, at least in the early stages of healing.

You can go in one of two directions when you are looking for a therapist – you can focus on the DID, or you can focus on the underlying trauma. While both ways involve healing from the trauma, you are coming at it from two different perspectives. If you are seeking to heal the DID, your initial focus will likely be upon managing the DID. If you are seeking to heal the trauma, then the DID is viewed as a symptom, but the focus is on what caused the DID.

I, personally, worked with a therapist whose therapy was the same as for anyone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I eventually told him about the alter parts, but he simply saw them as aftereffects, just like the binge eating, self-injury, etc. He said that I needed to talk about the abuse until I no longer felt the need to talk about it any longer. He challenged anything I told myself (such as that I was unlovable) that was not healthy. When I integrated alter parts and eventually the host personality, it happened between sessions. My therapist was not involved in communication between the parts or anything like that.

Neither way is “right” or “wrong,” but you need to decide which avenue is your biggest concern to get started. There are fewer therapists who specialize in working with DID patients, but they are out there. If you happen to live in Florida or Colorado, I have heard that there are practices that do nothing but work with DID patients.

Next, you want to make sure that you get a referral (if possible) for a therapist and ask for his or her credentials. Only work with a therapist with experience with survivors of severe child abuse. I, personally, believe it is important to work with someone who has a degree in psychology. I would not use a Christian counselor because our issues are far too extreme for the training that Christian counselors receive. Also, you will likely cycle through being angry with God, and you don’t need to hear that this very normal part of healing is a “sin.”

My therapist let me screen him by phone before our first meeting. I felt better when he said he had worked with someone else who had suffered from mother-daughter sexual abuse. I had a good feeling about him by phone. The first session was nerve-wracking but a good foundation for therapy.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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