Archive for March, 2010

As I shared last week, I am at the beach for Spring Break with hub and my son. We are having a good time, so please don’t think I am spending all of my time thinking about my mother/abuser because I am not. However, I am continuing to be plagued by nightmares, causing me to wake up feeling shaky every morning.

I read three of your comments to my Monday blog entry before I lost Internet access where we are staying. We stay my father-in-law’s beach house, which does not have Internet access, so I am at the mercy of obtaining wireless Internet access from wherever I can get it, and I lost it here after the first couple of days. Alas. I plan to go to a local restaurant that offers free wi-fi so I can post this blog entry and read your other comments.

I also spoke with my sister. I emailed her a draft of the letter, and her response was to do whatever I needed to do. She just wants me to let her know before I send anything so she can avoid answering the phone when our mother/abuser calls her to complain about it. However, to this day, m/a never told her about my “Back the f#$% off!!” note, so she isn’t sure if m/a will contact her about a confrontation letter or not.

The part that makes the angriest is that my mother’s insanity takes away so many of my choices. I would like either never to see or hear from her again OR confront her about what happened. I hate this in-between crap. I am sick to death of hearing (whether in her letters or secondhand through my sister) that m/a is baffled as to what she could have done to deserve being treated like this. She is being treated much more kindly than she deserves because she deserves to rot in a prison cell, but I haven’t pressed any charges.

Mia makes a valid point that my letter would be good for a sane person but not an insane one. Because she is not sane, any letter to my mother probably will just encourage her as it would any other stalker.

I don’t know. I am frustrated and angry because I could not have been clearer about my boundaries, and she won’t respect them. I have the tools in my arsenal to “force” her to obey them (the truth), but that could cause her to have a psychotic episode which could hurt someone else. It isn’t fair, just like nothing in my childhood was fair.

The good news is that my sister already relayed the message that I will not be in town over Mother’s Day weekend, so I can check relaying that information off my to-do list. (I purposely did not ask my sister to get in the middle of this, but my mother put her there.) Mother/abuser actually had the gall to go on about all of the “excuses” I am making not to see her. I don’t recall making any excuses. Saying, “I don’t want to see you,” and “Back the f#$% off” sound pretty direct to me.

Edited to add — I really like MFF’s suggestion of a very short version:

If you can respect my boundaries, then we can write letters monthly. If you cannot, then I am not interested in maintaining a relationship with you.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I shared that I wrote a draft letter to my mother/abuser that I might or might not send. I want feedback from my sister and best friend as well as all of you before I send it.

I had the worst nightmares after writing the letter. I could feel the revolving door of my multiple system in full spin while I tried to sleep (I wrote the letter late at night), and I had to do deep breathing to stop my heart from pounding. Then, it was a full night of one nightmare followed by the next.

The one that freaked me out the most was the one that involved me looking into a mirror. What I saw in the mirror looked nothing like me. I was a complete freak – bald and pale with no eye lashes, and the pupils of my eyes were bright red. I kept trying to push the image away, but it wouldn’t leave. I was hideous. :0(

I had multiple other nightmares, but they didn’t stick. I woke up in a cold sweat, and I am still shaky this morning. My kid (who crawled into bed with me last night) must have picked up on some of my energy, because he said out of nowhere, “Mom, I want you to drink some wine.” I told him that only alcoholics drink wine at 7:00 in the morning, but he said he didn’t care. (And, no, I have never had wine for breakfast!)

I have a better plan for the morning. My son and I are going to go to the gym. They have free childcare on Saturday mornings and a great “kids’ workout room” where he gets to work out using the Wii with other children while I work out. I think I will spend an hour on the elliptical machine. I will probably need that long to shake off the anxiety I am feeling this morning.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My sister recently had a birthday. Our mother/abuser called her to wish her a happy birthday and then spent most of the conversation b@#$&ing about why I won’t talk to her. That really rubbed me the wrong way and motivated me to write the following draft letter to my mother/abuser, which I have not sent and don’t know if I will:


I got your letter about coming to [my state] in May. I will not be in town that weekend.

You keep asking why I don’t want a relationship with you. Fine – I will tell you, although you should know already. I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the severe child abuse I suffered throughout my childhood, and being around you triggers my symptoms. S&L [my most sadistic abusers and her best friends] were monsters, as were their “friends,” and I will forever bear the emotional scars of all of the hell they put me through as a child.

My childhood was filled with a lack of boundaries, and the fact that you have repeatedly refused to respect my boundaries tells me that you have not changed. I have told you repeated that we could communicate by letter monthly but that I don’t want visits or phone calls. Despite me being very clear about these boundaries, you have repeatedly tried to push past them. This triggers my PTSD symptoms, making me even less interested in maintaining a relationship with you.

I have been through thousands of dollars worth of therapy, and I have worked very hard to overcome all of the pain from my childhood. I just want to live my life as best I can, despite the nightmares, panic attacks, and triggers that are a part of my everyday life. Although I have worked hard to manage my symptoms, PTSD will always be a part of my life, and you are responsible for much of this. I do not hate you and wish you no ill, but I also do not need to have you in my life always pushing me to move my boundaries to accommodate what you want.

I don’t want to hurt you, which is why I haven’t gotten into this before, but this has gone on long enough. If you can respect my boundaries, then we can write letters monthly. If you cannot, then I am not interested in maintaining a relationship with you. I am not saying this to hurt you. I am saying this because my own sanity depends upon me being able to have people in my life who respect the boundaries I set. You have not been very respectful of the boundaries that I have set, so it is what it is.


(While I was posting this, Motley Crue’s song came on — “Girl, don’t go away mad. Girl, just go away.” Too funny!!)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Going on Vacation

Hi, everyone.

My family is going on vacation tomorrow for a week at the beach. Hooray!

I do have Internet access at the beach, but I don’t know how much time I will have to blog. So, if you don’t hear from me next week, don’t panic. I will be back — hopefully refreshed and ready to dive into more topics. :0)

– Faith

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Does anyone else feel like you are constantly relearning the same lessons? Here is an example of what I mean…

When I was the early stages of healing, I got into doing yoga. The first few times I did it, I couldn’t get over how “sore” I was afterward. I came to realize that my muscles had not relaxed in decades, so the “soreness” I was feeling was actually what it feels like when my shoulder muscles are not all bunched up in tension. Yoga became a part of my daily routine for a long time, and it really helped me get through the flashback phase of healing.

Unfortunately, life happened, and I fell out of doing yoga. I have recently “rediscovered” doing yoga again, and I find myself in the same place although not quite as drastic. Sure enough, my shoulder muscles felt “sore” again as they learned how to relax. I am gradually moving past the same limitations I have already pushed past. Things are going smoother and faster this time, but a part of me is annoyed at having to “relearn” the same lesson. Can anyone else relate?

I go through this frequently along my healing journey. I will embrace a new behavior that is positive in my life. Then, something will trigger me, and I will “forget” about this wonderful new tool. Then, a year or so later, I will “rediscover” the same thing that I already learned before. If I could just hold onto what I learned the first time around, maybe things wouldn’t have to be so hard in between.

So, why I can’t I just learn a new tool and embrace it for life? Why do I ebb and flow as I learn, “forget,” and then relearn the same lesson? Any ideas?

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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I was talking with someone the other day who was describing another person as seeming very sad and insecure. The person then said, “I hope she isn’t damaged goods.” I asked what was meant by the phrase “damaged goods.” The person said, “You know – abused as a child.”

Let me be very clear – I am not damaged goods! I am an amazingly strong and resilient person, and most people couldn’t dream of surviving half of what I did. I might have a bunch of issues to work through, but those issues do not make me “damaged goods.” That term implies that I am broken beyond repair, and yet I wouldn’t even be here if I wasn’t amazingly strong. Just because another person cannot understand the demons I have faced down does not give that person the right to label me or any other child abuse survivor as “damaged goods.”

An online friend once wrote a poem asking, “Am I broken? Or am I bad?” If he was broken, he could be “fixed,” but he if was “bad,” then he wasn’t even worth fixing. I assured him that we broke ourselves to survive the abuse, but that doesn’t make us “bad,” and it doesn’t make us forever broken. We have the power to heal ourselves.

Calling someone who has been abused “damaged goods” takes away their power if they internalize this message. Nobody else has the power to permanently damage me. Only I can do this to myself if I choose to believe that I have limitations. The truth is that I have no limitations. I have the ability to be as emotionally healthy as I choose to be. Yes, it is very hard work, but how dare anyone try to limit my potential! Don’t let anyone else limit yours, either. You are not damaged goods – you are a valuable diamond in the process of rediscovering your worth.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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In my blog entry yesterday, I made the following potentially controversial statement:

Healing from any form of trauma involves learning how to love and accept each memory and emotion as “mine.” As you do this, you integrate as a natural part of the healing process. ~ Faith

I am sure that I will receive comments about this and that even more readers will disagree without ever telling me, so let’s go ahead and talk about this now.

There are two basic schools of thought in the dissociative identity disorder (DID) community – those who believe that integration is a natural part of the healing process and those who don’t. Those who disagree believe that a person can be “healed” from DID while living as a “functional multiple.” This means that the person facilitates cooperation amongst the alter parts while still remaining fragmented. While I do agree that being a “functional multiple” is farther along the healing process than a “dysfunctional multiple,” I disagree that healing is completed at this point.

When I finally embraced the reality of my DID, I wanted to understand integration. The best resource I found was this article by Rachel Downing on the Sidran Institute’s website. I followed this article as a roadmap, and my experience supports everything that Rachel Downing says in this article. If you are on the fence about or disagree that integration is a natural part of healing from integration, I strongly recommend reading this article. I found it to be empowering, and it gave me the courage to integrate.

As I said in my quote above, healing from any form of trauma involves learning how to love and accept each memory and emotion as “mine.” This is true for healing from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as all dissociative disorders. Healing means putting back together what was fragmented by the trauma. Until you embrace every experience and emotion as “mine,” you are still choosing to stay dissociated, which means you are still choosing to “reject” a part of your experience as “me” and “mine.”

Even though I have integrated my host personality into my core, I still do this with my wolf alter part. I have invited this part to integrate many times, but I still do not really believe that I am safe when I sleep at night. So, I continue to keep this part of myself separate. Yes, I love my wolf alter part, but I am choosing to keep this part separate rather than embrace this part fully as “me” and “mine.” Why? I truly do not know the answer. I do know that I still have not processed all of the trauma (as is evidenced by the flashbacks that still arise every few months), and I suspect the answer ties into more unprocessed trauma. Oh, joy.

I am not meaning to be critical of anyone who has chosen to live as a “functional multiple” because we must all heal in our own way and on our own timetable. My point is simply that integration is a natural part of healing from DID and that, if you truly love and accept all of your experiences and emotions as “mine,” then you will integrate as a natural result. Once you embrace all of your parts as “me” and “mine,” there is no longer a need to stay fragmented.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): What is Integration?, a reader posted the following comment:

I am scared to integrate, will I have all the memories and feelings? I am scared of the feelings as the other parts of me have been writing what happened to them, but for the first time they have been writing about there feelings. I see the parts and feel there feelings and it makes me cry, I never feel I am like a robot and I definately don’t cry. I still say it happened to them and not to me. ~ Maureen

One of the biggest hurdles of healing from DID or any other type of dissociative disorder is accepting the reality that these terrible things happened “to me.” I went around and around in my head over this issue. I had separated my host personality (the part I saw as “me”) so completely from the memories of the abuse that I had a very difficult time accepting the reality that it wasn’t “her” who was hurt – it was “me.” It was my body that was harmed, and “her” memories are “my” memories.

The reason for splitting into DID (or other dissociative disorders) in the first place is to “escape” from the abuse. As a young child, I did not have the power to flee from the abuse, but I could (and did) flee in my own head. Until I chose to heal, the abuse seemed so foreign to me. I was stoic and rarely felt anything deeply other than an underlying current of sadness and lots of anxiety. I rarely experienced anger or joy.

You are “them,” and “they” are you. The abuse happened to one person in one body, not to 10 or 50 people “sharing a body.” Having an “army” in your head helped you feel less alone when the abuse was happening, but the reality is that you were one little girl being tortured by your abusers. You did the only thing you could to survive it – you split your consciousness so you could pretend like the abuse never happened to you…but it did.

When you integrate from DID, you accept all of the memories, experiences, flashbacks, and emotions as “mine.” They are already all yours, but you have chosen (for good reason) to keep each part feeling separate inside of yourself. Healing from any form of trauma involves learning how to love and accept each memory and emotion as “mine.” As you do this, you integrate as a natural part of the healing process.

Your natural state is as a whole person who loves and accepts herself as she is. This acceptance includes all of the emotions and pain you have experienced.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled DID: Do Alter Parts Always Have Names?, a reader posted the following comment:

Interesting post, as usual, Faith. I only am not sure about one thing you said. I think this is an open question: Do multiples chose the way in which they split? My guess is that they (we) did not and that it’s a natural psychological response (at least to the young child who does split). ~ Paul

I have to (respectfully) disagree with you, Paul, and I am completely okay with agreeing to disagree. :0) I will explain my opinion on this issue, and you are welcome to draw your own conclusions. I take no offense if I don’t “persuade” you. :0)

I have spoken with numerous multiples online (both with DID as well as DD-NOS diagnoses), and no two are alike. I have also read about many multiples’ experiences (most notably from Chrystine Oksana’s excellent book Safe Passage to Healing), and each multiple’s system is different. Of course, there are many similarities, such as many systems having one or more protector alter parts, but each multiple system is as unique as the child who created it.

Here is a quote from Safe Passage to Healing that captures some of what I am trying to say:

However, once survivors understand the ingenuity of their own system, most develop admiration and respect for it … There’s a saying that “necessity is the mother of invention.” Pushed beyond normal limits, people have discovered extraordinary abilities. These abilities are in evidence by survivors who used their powers of the mind to survive…Regardless of an identity’s name, description, or personality, its main and common purpose is always to protect the child…

Professionals who work with multiples often remark on their high levels of creativity and awareness. In Noetic Sciences Investigations, Tom Hurley echoes and often repeated observation: “Multiples…tend to be highly intelligent, perceptive and sensitive.” ~ Safe Passage to Healing, pp. 107-108

For example, I created a wolf protector alter part because I saw Peter and the Wolf as a child and thought that the wolf was the scariest creature on earth. I know a Caucasian woman who created a big, burly African-American protector alter part because she knew a nice, big African-American man in real life who would make a great bodyguard. I don’t think it is coincidence that I have a wolf protector alter part and hers is a burly African-American man. We both created the toughest protector we could think of to protect us.

Our abusers set the stage for splitting, but only we had the power to do the splitting. You split in your way and I in mine because of our own creative brains.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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On my blog entry entitled DID: Which Part is the “Real Me”?, a reader posted the following questions:

Do alters always have a name? And does the person with it live separate lives?? ~ Mia

The short answer is no – alter parts do not have to have names. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a “create your own disorder” disorder, which means that the variations of how to “split” are only limited by the creativity of the children doing the “splitting.”

I have seen a wide variety of ways to split. Some people split into only two parts, typically a child part (who holds the unmet needs) and the adult part. In this case, each part is more likely to have a name. Others fragment into polyfragmented DID, where they might have hundreds of alter parts. In this case, there frequently is not a name for each part. My own system was polyfragmented, and most parts did not have names. Many parts were only personality fragments, which means that they were one-dimensional, holding only one memory or emotion.

I have seen fragmentation that is not classified as DID but, instead, as dissociative disorder – not otherwise specified (DD-NOS). I have met a handful of people who fragmented into colors. One woman’s anger was held in the red, her sadness in the blue, etc. When she looked into the brown, she would lose time, so she avoided “going there.”

As for whether each part lives separate lives – Again, it depends upon the multiple system involved. In my case, the answer was no. I had a host personality that was “out” most of the time, and I viewed that part as “me.” I had a wolf alter part that took over at night when I fell asleep (and that part still comes out, but I stay co-present). That part never did anything but “guard me” while I slept. Other parts would come out as needed when I was abused or triggered into adulthood, but they only stayed out until the danger passed. Others, such as the famous people with DID (Sybil, Truddhi Chase, etc.) did have alter parts who would “take over” and lead a separate life.

Again, so much depends upon how the child chose to fragment and how “separate” you keep each part inside of yourself. In my case, there was always a strong “core” that ran the show, even though my host personality was completely unaware of this. The more you reject a part, the more “separate” that part will feel, and this is more likely to result in the leading of different “lives.” However, it can also just result in the “rejected” part popping out at inopportune moments.

This happened me. I had a part called “Irate” who (obviously) held some of my rage. My host personality was a walking doormat, but sometimes Irate would have enough and pop off at the other person. I would be as baffled as the other person was when I suddenly had a strong backbone.

When it comes to DID, pretty much anything goes. Your multiple system was only limited by your creativity as a child.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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