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Archive for September, 2010

A huge part of healing for me has been learning to stop letting other people’s opinions of me drive how I feel about myself. I spent most of my life trying unsuccessfully to please those around me. In my opinion, dissociative identity disorder (DID) is the most extreme form of the “people pleaser” because you actually “split” yourself and create alter parts to please the different people in your life.

I had a huge epiphany during the Beth Moore study I attended over the summer about stopping trying to please everyone else. Most people have an agenda, whether well-meaning or otherwise, and they are going to express their approval or disapproval depending upon how my actions align with their agendas. Even friends who I know have my best interest at heart will sometimes have very strong opinions about my choices that conflict with the direction I want or need to take. At the end of the day, I am the one who must live in my own skin, so my choices need to work for me. How anyone else feels about those choices is irrelevant as long as what I am doing brings them no harm.

When I am having an off day, I can still be vulnerable to the opinions of others. The problem is that nobody’s opinion seem to match up. Some people think I am not really working unless I have a full-time job. Other people think that I am not a good enough mother because I work part-time time. Because I don’t have a full-time job, I should keep an immaculate house. Because I work part-time, I am not giving enough to my child. I travel too much. I don’t travel enough. I am too active in volunteer activities. I am not active enough.

Even the fact that I blog raises opposing opinions. I must not work hard because I have time to blog. If I have time to blog, then I should have a FaceBook page. (I appear to be one of the last holdouts in creating a FaceBook page!) I should write more because I am talented. I shouldn’t waste so much time writing because it doesn’t pay enough.

All of these opinions overlook one crucial element – ME!! I don’t blog because I am bored or need money. (I actually donate all proceeds from this blog to Isurvive, and I make very little revenue off my professional blog.) I blog because I feel called to do so. I feel passionate about taking the lemons that life threw my way (the child abuse), making lemonade (healing), and sharing that lemonade with as many child abuse survivors as possible. I write my professional blog because I want to offer insights into the mind of the abused child to those who are parenting traumatized children out of foster care. None of anyone else’s opinions on my reasons for blogging matter because they are completely off base.

I just chose blogging as one example, but pretty much every area of my life will bring about differing opinions based upon who I ask (so I no longer ask!). The bottom line is that **I** am the one who must live with whatever choices that I make. Therefore, the only opinion that matters is my own.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my About Faith Allen page, a reader posted the following comment:

How do you work through memories? I have a very difficult time working through or blogging about things I remember. It is an extremely painstaking process. And my mind will not even bring up blocked memories. In fact, I got so good at forgetting, I continue to do it at age 42, even a lot of good present stuff. When I blog a memory, there is sits. And here I hurt so much. Then what? What should come next? So I talked about it. Is that all? Should it get better from there? ~ Heavenly Places

Working through memories of child abuse is painstaking work and takes a lot of time and energy. You are not going to feel better magically overnight – it is a healing process that is kind of like healing a very deep wound. You might not see any evidence of healing taking place on the surface at first, but healing is happening at the deepest levels, and the wound is gradually healing even when you cannot tell that it is.

Remembering the trauma is only the first step. You need to find a way to accept that experience as “mine,” and you need to process all of the emotions that came with that traumatizing event – the anger, the terror, the shame, etc. Frequently, child abuse survivors experience these pieces separately, but you need to connect them back together so that, for example, your anger is directed toward the abuser for what he did to you.

I strongly recommend that you work through the Survivor to Thriver manual, which does an excellent job of walking you through the healing process of any form of child abuse (including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse). There is a natural process in healing emotionally, just as there is a natural process of healing physically. This book does a wonderful job of explaining what to expect as you move through your emotional healing.

As you process the memories that you do remember, you will free yourself up to deal with the more traumatizing memories that you might not yet remember at a conscious level. This is your mind’s way of protecting you from having to face too many painful memories at one time. You will remember more as you are ready.

Finding a good therapist is also a very important part of healing. Think of your therapist as a healing process “tutor” who can guide you through healing exercises that are specific to you. Your therapist can answer your questions as you go and help you learn how to express your emotions about what you have been through.

The specifics of the healing process are not the same for everyone, but the big picture is – You heal by learning how to love and express yourself, which includes accepting everything that you have been through as part of what has shaped you into the person you are today. Believe it or not, as you learn to love and accept yourself, the memories of the abuse lose their “punch” and simply become a part of your history. This frees you up to choose to live your life in whatever manner you want, freed from the guilt and shame of your past.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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See my blog entry posted yesterday for the first part of this.

The other part of Midge’s horror seems to be the cybersex, which goes against the values of the host personality. Keep in mind that women have sexual needs that your host personality might not be fulfilling. My host personality was pretty passionless and boring in bed, but I had an alter part named Sassy who held a lot of my sexual passion. I invited her out one time for sex with my husband, and that was easily the most passionate encounter that we ever shared. My host personality could not relate to Sassy’s passion, but Sassy simply held an encapsulated part of my sexuality that I had been repressing.

Again, remember that these three alter parts who had cybersex with their boyfriends were monogamous with their chosen partners, which does sound consistent with who you are. One reason for cybersex could have been an outlet for your passion that is not otherwise being expressed. Another reason (depending upon the direction that the cybersex went) might have been a way to make sense of your sexuality since, as a child, your opportunity to explore your sexuality at your own pace was taken from you. Keep in mind that cybersex is a “safer” way to do this – it is only words on a screen (or possibly a video if you used that technology) rather than actual physical contact.

Rather than judge these parts for not complying with your host personality’s morals, invite these parts out and ask them what needs they have that are not being met. Then, work with them to meet those needs. Perhaps the time is coming to read a book like The Sexual Healing Journey to begin to explore your sexual needs that you have repressed.

Believe me – if I had discovered this about myself, my host personality would have been appalled as well. My host personality truly believed that I was a virgin until my husband, and that fact that we had intercourse three weeks before the wedding night convinced her that I was a complete slut who deserved never to enjoy sex for the rest of my life. (Never mind the fact that we had dated for 2-1/2 YEARS without having sex!)

Rejecting these parts of yourself, being angry with them, and/or hating them is counterproductive. They are a part of you, and they are just trying to get their needs met just as your host personality is. The fact that you still have a host personality tells me that you do not, as of yet, know your full story, so cut your alter parts some slack – they have been dealing their entire lives with painful memories that you (from the host personality’s perspective) have yet to face.

The sooner you reach out to these other parts in love and acceptance, the sooner you will be able to integrate your host personality back into your core. Once you do, you will have a much better understanding of who you are. I was amazed at the depth of my spirit once I integrated my host personality, and certain things about me did change, such as some of my taste in music (and, alas!, much more potty-mouth). You take the good with the bad, but you no longer fear what your body is doing when you are not present. You also experience your emotions, feelings, and memories from the perspective of the whole rather than in encapsulated segments, which helps you make better choices that meet your own needs without bringing you possible harm.

Photo credit: Amazon.com

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On my blog entry entitled DID: Is “Losing Time” a “Bad” Thing?, a reader posted the following comment:

Faith said: “Whether your host personality is “out” or not, you are always going to behave consistently with who you are.”

I must respectfully disagree with this statement. Here’s why . . . About ten years ago, back when I was just beginning to have flashbacks and slowly figuring out that I had DID, I made the startling discovery that I was dating five separate men at the same time. Four of them were online, and the fifth lived in my hometown. Of the four that were online, I later learned that I’d participated in cybersex with three of them.

I was horrified. The whole situation goes against the essence of my being; it crosses everything that I believe in, morally, ethically, and spiritually. It couldn’t be farther from who I am.

Each man was being dated by a different alter, but while I remained blissfully ignorant, they were aware of each other’s actions. They knew that I would find such behavior unacceptable and insulting to my beliefs, and they chose to indulge in it anyway. I am still ashamed of what they did and have found it hard to forgive them, but I am working on it.

Forgive me for disagreeing with you, Faith, but this is what happened to me. ~ Midge

I have included this long quote in its entirety because of its importance in following along in my response.

It is important to distinguish between what is consistent with “you” versus your host personality. For most people with DID, the host personality is an “innocent” alter part that has been shielded from all (or most) of the abuse. The whole point of having a host personality is to protect the child and enable the child to interact with the world as if she truly was that innocent (and often naïve) child.

You are not your host personality. Your host personality is just one tiny part of who you are, and your host personality is likely to take issue with lots of behaviors by alter parts, such expressing anger, sexuality, etc. … anything that is inconsistent with the morals and values of the host personality. Just because an alter’s behavior is inconsistent with what the host personality might do does not make that behavior inconsistent with what you might do.

Stay with me here…

I had a self-destructive alter part that had a strong need to slash my wrists and “watch the lifeblood flow out of me” when triggered. Committing suicide in this fashion goes completely against the grain of any part of me. Nevertheless, my cult abusers manipulated this part of myself to believe that self-destruction in this manner was the only way to save my little sister (who would be killed if I ever remembered or told about the ritual abuse), and sacrificing myself to save her is completely consistent with who I am. So, at a surface level, it might appear that this alter part taking over and trying to slash my wrists with a knife would be inconsistent with who I am, but the motivation behind why I would do this is completely consistent. If I believed that I could spare my sister’s life (or my son’s life) by killing myself, I absolutely would do it.

Let’s circle back to Midge’s alter parts. The fact that each alter part dated a different man makes me suspect that different needs were being met by each man. Midge’s host personality’s objection does not seem to be toward dating at all but in the fact that five different men were dated at the same time. Keep in mind that these are five separate parts whose needs were not being met, and these five separate parts were only dating one man each. Dating one man who meets your needs does not sound like it goes against your character, which makes each part consistent with who you are.

I strongly suggest telling each part that you are sorry for not meeting their needs and for being so angry with them for trying to find ways to meet those needs. I would also invite them to share their needs with you so you can help them meet those needs yourself rather than having to go outside to other men to do so.

I will address the cybersex issue tomorrow because this blog entry has gotten way too long.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My blog entries last week on losing time generated a lot of discussion, so I thought I would revisit the topic from another angle. You can read last week’s blog entries here and here.

In the comments, we talked a little bit about whether losing time was a “bad” thing, and I would like to elaborate further here. From the perspective of the host personality (the part that most people with dissociative identity disorder–DID view as “me”), losing time is terrifying. You have memory holes that feel like you “blacked out,” and you have absolutely no idea what your body was doing while you were “out.”

I experienced this terror myself when I viewed myself from the perspective of the host personality. I was terrified that I could be harming my then-three-year-old child while I lost time and would have no idea that I was doing it. I told my therapist that if I recovered any memories of harming my child, I would commit suicide immediately to protect him from me. My therapist assured me that I would never do this to my child, even when I lost time, because to do so would run contrary to who I am. He helped me to see that I would be behave consistently with who I am because, regardless of which part is “out,” I am always “me.”

The way to push past the terror is to recognize that all of your parts are you. Whether your host personality is “out” or not, you are always going to behave consistently with who you are. That is not to say that you won’t do anything that might upset the host personality because each alter part is experiencing one view of yourself in a “pure” version – pure anger, pure terror, etc. Each of these parts needs healing, and in order for healing to happen, they need to come out. The sooner you embrace each part as “you,” the sooner you can stop losing time and keep your host personality present when these other parts come out. Once you no longer have a need for the host personality, the part will integrate back into your core, you will stop losing time, and you will technically stop having a diagnosis of DID since you no longer meet that criterion in the diagnosis.

I have heard people lament losing time during therapy sessions, and I always tell them that they got their money’s worth out of the session whether they remember it or not. By enabling another part to come out, that part of yourself is receiving the therapy it needs. Those parts are typically much more wounded than the host personality is, so you can experience immense healing even after “losing” an entire therapy session from the perspective of the host.

My therapist’s advice was to stop fighting these others parts of myself. Instead, invite them out and start a “dialogue” with them. The more communication you have going among your parts, the closer you are to ceasing losing time forever!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have shared before that I work as an online college instructor. In my class, we talk about the importance of teamwork and collaboration. As I was reading through my students’ discussions, I go to thinking about the benefits of teamwork and collaboration in healing from child abuse. So much of what my students were talking about applies to healing together as well.

I found an enormous amount of support through Isurvive, a message board for survivors of child abuse, when I was in the early stages of healing from child abuse. I logged on several times a day during my early years of healing. Even now, after seven years of healing from child abuse, I gain so much knowledge and guidance from reading the comments that my readers post. Sometimes my readers see something that is so obvious to them about me but that I miss because I am too “close” to the situation.

Finding a support network is so important to healing from child abuse. Of course, your support network should include a qualified therapist with experience in counseling people who have suffered from child abuse. A therapist is not enough, though. I found that I experienced so much healing and support through my relationships with offline friends as well as friends that I met online. You can do this through visiting Isurvive, by reading and posting comments on blogs such a mine, and in other ways that bring you into contact with fellow survivors of child abuse.

When I was in the early stages of healing, I needed to interact with people who were farther along their healing journey because I needed the hope that healing was even possible. I also needed “peers” who were in similar places so I could talk with someone who really understood in this moment what I was going through. Finally, I needed to interact with people who were newer to the child abuse healing process so that I could “pay forward” the support I had received as well as recognize how far I had come. I really needed the interactions with all three groups to make the healing process survivable for me.

Finally, I needed people who embraced me as one of them. For most of my life, I felt like a misfit who had no place. Through an online child abuse survivor community, I found a place where I belonged. I was not “crazy” – I was actually surrounded by people who “got” me! I cannot express strongly enough how crucial the camaraderie of fellow child abuse survivors was along my own healing journey.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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