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Archive for June, 2010

Hi, everyone.

I just got home from California (across the country) at 6:00 a.m. I took my son to Disneyland for the week, and we had lots of delays in getting home. My laptop died on the first leg of the trip, and I just bought a new one today. This is why I have not responded to any comments, etc. in a week. I just went through and approved all comments that were in the “pending” queue (any new comments from new readers). I see that I have picked up some new readers over the last week. Welcome! I apologize for taking so long to get your comments approved.

I am off to bed to try to recover from this terrible jet lag. I am too old to pull “all-nighters” like I did last night. :0)

– Faith

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On my blog entry entitled Faith Allen’s Story – Expulsion Ceremony, a reader posted the following question:

Something I am wondering… most people I have known with DID have an alter part that is the “observer” or “knower”- a part that has been there all along and has kept an awarness of what has happened (about the abuse and about the inner structure of the system)- without experiencing the emotions of it. Did you have such an alter part? And if so, was this part useful to you in helping you know about what had happened, even before you started experiencing your past as memories? ~ Elaine

My multiple system can be described as polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder (DID), so my system was complex. I estimate that I had about 1,000 parts with most of them being personality fragments (one-dimensional parts holding one memory or emotion) and only a handful being true alter personalities (three-dimensional parts that feel much deeper than fragments). There had to be a part that was in charge of which part came out. I call that part a “gatekeeper.”

By the time I became aware of the depth of my multiple system, I suspect that the gatekeeper had already integrated back into the core. Or it is possible that the gatekeeper was the beginning of my core and integrated different parts back into itself. Regardless, I (from the perspective of the host personality) was never aware of the gatekeeper as a separate personality.

My initial interactions (from the host personality perspective) were with Irate, who was an angry protector alter part that was triggered by my mother/abuser. Irate was well aware of my mother’s abuse, but I don’t know if Irate knew about the other abuses.

The best way I can describe my multiple system is with the term “layers.” I had one layer of alter parts that I created to deal with my mother’s sexual abuse. I created a second layer of alter parts to deal with being abused by other adults (mostly women). A third layer dealt with S & L (my most sadistic abusers). Then other layers dealt with the ritual abuse. Alter parts in one layer did not know about alter parts in other layers.

Despite all of this inner fragmentation, I was seamless on the outside. Only one person ever called me on “switching” throughout my entire childhood, and my host personality did not know what she was talking about. So, I had to have a part of myself that served as a gatekeeper.

The most important part to remember is that all of these parts are me, so **I** always knew all of my story. My host personality did not know the entire story, and quite frankly, to this day, I (from the perspective of the core) do not know the entire story. However, parts of myself hold the key, and they are all me. Does that make any sense?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Man behind desk (c) Lynda Bernhardt

On my blog entry entitled Faith Allen’s Story – Refusing Therapy, a reader posted the following question:

Do you find that somethings can just not be done alone? ~ MFF

MFF was referring to whether therapy is necessary in order to heal from some elements of child abuse. The short answer is yes – I do believe that some parts of healing from child abuse require the assistance of a qualified therapist.

As I shared in that blog entry, I was determined not to enter into therapy. However, I found myself finally recognizing that I was in over my head. I simply could not heal from the child abuse alone. I needed an expert to guide me.

A good therapist is going to encourage you to do lots of work between the sessions. My therapist never tried to make me dependent upon him. He gave me the tools I needed to heal. As I learned how to use those tools, I did not need to see him as frequently: I could use the tools he taught me to manage the flashbacks and pain on my own.

Healing from child abuse is simple – You need to love and accept yourself, including your experiences, as you are. That’s it. Of course, this “simple” goal was the most difficult thing that I have ever done (and continue doing). A therapist acts as a guide driving you to this place. He or she helps you dismantle the lies that you have believed throughout your life – lies such as that you are fundamentally unlovable, damaged beyond repair, deserve to suffer, etc. These are all lies, but we child abuse survivors believe them deeply and need an outside person – preferably a professional – to debunk the lies.

I also needed a professional to reassure me that I was not crazy because I truly had my doubts. I flip-flopped daily about whether I believed my flashbacks. My history is so “crazy” that I had a very hard time believing that it truly happened. It was easier to believe that I was “f@#$ed in the head” than to believe that all of these horrible things really happened to me. My therapist grounded me and believed in me when I was not able to believe in myself.

Another reason that a therapist is crucial is because a therapist knows the road map of healing. While we child abuse survivors intuitively know the path to healing, it does not feel “right” to us, so we tend to fight the flow of healing. We need a professional saying that it is a good thing that we are feeling terrible because we are never going to believe that for ourselves.

Also, because my therapist knew the road map, he often knew what was around the bend before I did. I would enter into his office feeling too ashamed to share the latest struggle, but he would intuitively “know” what I was facing because he knew what to expect while I did not.

Therapy is crucial for healing from child abuse. Whether you were abused “only one time” or your childhood was a complete nightmare, you need a therapist to help you heal.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I forgot that I have already blogged about my healing journey. So, rather than rewrite it all again (even though there is some overlap with what I have already shared), I will provide you with the links to follow that story here.
This will end my series on my story. Thank you for taking the time to read it and for caring enough to ask me to write it. I am glad that I invested the time to share my story, but I am also relieved that I have finished. I am ready to get back to the usual format of my blog. Thanks for taking this journey with me!

  1. Overview of My Healing Process from Child Abuse
  2. Kicking Off the Healing Process
  3. Recognizing Dissociation
  4. Becoming Aware of Abuse
  5. Choosing to Enter Therapy
  6. First Six Months of Therapy
  7. Healing in Layers
  8. Memory Clusters
  9. Piecing Memories Back Together
  10. My Healing Process from Child Abuse: Setting Boundaries
  11. My Healing Process from Child Abuse: Changes in My Relationships

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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*******trigger warning — religion*******

As I shared before, one concern I had about beginning therapy was the cost. The therapist I found was not covered by my insurance, but I really wanted to work with him. How was I going to explain to hub that I wanted to spend hundreds of dollars a month on a shrink?

I also did not know how I could possibly tell my husband that my mother had sexually abused me. Hub already did not like her, but I feared that he would not believe me. Heck, I barely believed myself. I went back and forth every other day questioning whether I was just making this stuff up.

I had only one therapy session before hub, my son, and I were going back to my hometown to visit with my mother as well as other family and friends. My therapist (T) said that I needed to cut all personal contact with my mother (visits and phone calls) for the first few months of therapy. I balked, saying that there was no way I could do this. He assured me that, if I chose to continue having personal contact with my mother, it would greatly impede his ability to help me through therapy.

So, I worked up the courage to lie and tell my mother in front of my sister (who knew ahead of time) that I was entering therapy for “childhood issues” and that the therapist wanted me not to have phone calls or visits with any family members just for a few months. My mother was surprisingly supportive as long as she believed that my sister would be cut off, too.

Hub and I then visited with my grandparents, who gave me a $1,000 check for Christmas. They had never done this before, and there was no way I could have seen this coming. I kept tearing up because I knew this was God’s hand. Not only had I been provided with the funds for several weeks of therapy, but this gave me a segue for telling hub about the abuse. I began by saying, “I know what I want to use this money for…” I took a deep breath and told him the truth.

Hub was completely freaked out but also believed me. He talked with his parents, who told him that he needed to be 100% supportive of me going into therapy if I believed that I needed it. So, all roadblocks were cleared for me – finding the therapist, the money to pay for it, and the courage to tell hub what was going on. This was one of those rare moments when I knew as it unfolded that God was moving in my life.

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I had decided to find a therapist, but I had absolutely no idea how to go about finding one. I certainly was not just going to pick a name out of the yellow pages. I confided in a woman at church that I was experiencing flashbacks of sexual abuse, and she asked our pastor (confidentially) for a referral. This therapist (T) worked at a mainstream religious-based counseling center, so I had my doubts about his competence.

I decided to call T and do a phone interview. If he did not believe me over the phone about the existence of mother-daughter sexual abuse, then I would not waste my time meeting him face-to-face. He surprised me by saying that he had previously counseled a patient who had experienced this. He also told me that, while he might have an office at this religious-based counseling center, he was a licensed psychologist with 20+ years of experience in the “secular” world. He was a psychologist first and foremost.

That first session was the most difficult one to attend. Would he believe me? How would I even start? Would he believe that I had no memory whatsoever of the abuse only four weeks before? How would I pay for him without hub noticing? How could I tell hub? I thought about canceling the appointment, but I forced myself to go.

We started by discussing his credentials and then talked about my goals in therapy. I just wanted not to feel crazy any longer. He explained about how therapy works – that I needed to talk about what was upsetting me until I no longer needed to talk about it any longer.

I had a hard time talking about myself. My entire life had always revolved around doing things for other people. I truly did not know how to sit and talk about myself to someone for an hour. I also did not know how to receive someone actually paying attention and “hearing” me.

However, once I started talking, words tumbled out so rapidly that I don’t know how T even kept up. I never saw him take notes, and I am unaware of him recording the sessions. However, he always remembered every detail. He listened, and that was a completely new experience for me.

If you are resisting therapy, don’t. You need to do your homework to find a qualified therapist, and look for one with real qualifications, such as a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. If you are seeking therapy for healing from child abuse, your needs run much deeper than what a well-meaning religious counselor or pastor is capable of offering. You don’t need to hear that an alter part is a “demon” or that you need to “pray away” your symptoms. While faith can be an important part of healing (and it certainly was for me), you need to work with someone with training and education on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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To say that I was an emotional wreck is an understatement. I felt like a pressure cooker whose lid had just blown off, and memories and emotions were bursting all over my life. It didn’t help that I was determined to understand and remember what my mother had done.

I would lie in my bed at night during that “half-asleep” phase and ask Irate to tell me what happened. When Irate was not forthcoming, I would visualize seeing a row of locked doors and would force one to have a key. I would unlock the door, open it, and experience a flashback. I had a new one every night for a couple of weeks. While a part of myself felt relieved to start seeing the pieces, I was completely unprepared for the release of the emotions that I had stored away with each memory.

Each memory was another one of my mother harming me. It felt like I was a little girl again and that the abuse was happening to me right now. I would feel the fear, anger, and shame that I felt (or should have been allowed to feel) then. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye during the day. I was absolutely overwhelmed by emotion.

Despite this, I flat refused to search for a therapist. I was waiting to adopt a second child, and I feared that seeing a therapist would make me ineligible to adopt again. (It doesn’t.) I also feared that a therapist would diagnose me as “crazy” and put me in an asylum, where I would be separated from my child. My final fear was that nobody would believe me that a mother would sexually abuse her child. So, in my mind, therapy was not an option, and I would simply heal myself.

I found a great online resource called the Survivor to Thriver manual. I also found a message board called Isurvive that offered free online support in a message board format for anyone who had survived any type of abuse.
Both of these resources told me to get a therapist, but I was determined to do it alone.

Then, about a month into the flashbacks, I found myself lying on the floor in a full-fledged panic attack, shaking uncontrollably, and thinking through the best way to die to end this pain. I finally realized that anything, even therapy and not being able to adopt again, was better than the place that I was in now. I was not going to leave my child without a mother. So, I decided to find a therapist.

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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