Archive for August, 2011

PlantOn my blog entry entitled Grieving Loss of Dysfunctional Friendship, a reader posted the following comment:

In your blogs, and what I have heard from other survivors you often describe healing as a fight. And I have never understood this. To me, fighting is how I got through the abuse as and when it happened, to me healing is a process of stopping fighting (even retreating) which can be really hard and scary when you have fought for so long and you think the ‘enemy’ might still be close but is none the less stopping not starting the fight. I would be really interested in your thoughts on this, and wether you feel that survivng your childhood also involved some degree of a fight or not! ~ Sophie

Sophie makes a good point, so perhaps a different word than “fighting” is more appropriate. I think the word I might be looking for “adapting.” As a child, I had to adapt to being abused. I had to be the obedient child abuse victim as well as pretend to be a “normal” child in public. I had to do all of this while never giving voice to any of my emotions. This took an enormous amount of adapting, but through dissociative identity disorder (DID), I managed to adapt quite nicely. I was fully suited for living a life as an abused child.

Then, I grew up and moved away from the abuse. Safety was a completely different environment from abuse. People might expect safety being an “easier” environment, but it wasn’t because I had to adapt all over again. I spent my entire childhood adapting to trauma, and most of my adaptations were completely out of place in the new, safe environment.

I think that is where the struggle comes in. I have not had to “fight” so much as “adapt” to an environment that is very different from the environment I grew up in. While I am (obviously) grateful no longer being abused, I was ill-equipped for survival in this new environment. I did not know about basic social graces … or how to interact without someone who wasn’t trying to hurt me … or what was expected of me in this new environment. It was like being beamed to Mars and being expected to act like a Martian without having a “Martians for Dummies” books at my disposal.

My therapist is very good about pointing out that many of my struggles come from being a survivor of child abuse. I adapted very well as a survivor, but I no longer have to live that way. So, I am having to relearn everything I ever learned about interacting with the world around me. My therapist says that I have been having to “parent myself” as I learn how to adapt to life without abuse.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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

I was diagnosed with DID but have a really hard time believing it and not thinking of myself as a huge liar and fake. I don’t ‘lose time’ like I hear that some people do. Also. I do have memories of bad things that happened when I was a kid, just not a lot, you know, only a few memories from when I was a kid. But it is not like it is all just a big nothing. I think I have fragments, but maybe not polyfragemnted cause I dont think there are that many of them. But then, who knows really…Anyway. how much time do you have to lose, and/or how much memory do you have to lose to have DID? I am trying to get out of the Dx really, I don’t want to believe that it is true. And sometimes when I look at it and the DSM I think, well myabe I don’t have it. But then I think some of the stuff I remember now, is only after I remembered it after working with the therapist who fired me for a long time. But then that brings up another problem, and that is of false memories. Ugh. What if I am just making this stuff up? ugh. I hate being DID. I sometimes wonder about fragments though because I feel fragmented but don’t have ‘names’ for a lot of parts, and it seems like everyones got names for parts, but I guess they could just be fragments without names. I dunno. Anywya, sorry to ramble on. ~Pax

Pax’s comment shows the conflict that many people with DID experience. In fact, the whole point of DID is to enable a child to live in conflict – to be “innocent” at school and a compliant abuse victim while being abused without ever acting on the emotions that result from living this way.

I had a difficult time believing that I had DID as well. I had no memory whatsoever of the sexual abuse. I had always remembered comparatively minor abuses and assumed I was as “f#$%ed up in the head” as I was due to them. The problem was that, if the only abuses I suffered were what I had always remembered, then it wasn’t enough to explain the severity of my aftereffects.

You might find it helpful to read through the Incest Survivors’ Aftereffects Checklist. While I was completely unaware of having DID, I would have related to a majority of the symptoms appearing on this checklist. I thought they were unrelated issues, not a profile of someone who had been severely abused.

I had always prided myself on having very clear memories from childhood, but the truth was that I only had a few crisp memories. When I actually explored my memory bank, it was mostly wiped away, including the memories of every single Christmas from birth through age 22.

At first, I thought I only had one alter part. (I actually became aware of the alter part before I became aware of the abuse. From what I have heard, that’s different from how many child abuse survivors heal.) Then there were more and more and more. Most of mine did not have names, nor did they need to. Most were fragments, holding one emotion or one memory or even only one part of a memory. I didn’t need to name them – I needed to love and accept them back into being “me.”

Re: false memory syndrome – I am not saying that it NEVER happens, but I suspect that wave of media blitz in the 1990’s was to discredit people like you and me. Some of my abusers were powerful people in the community – powerful people have the resources to sway the community. Who is the community going to believe? The VP of a Fortune 100 company or a f@#$ed up little girl who didn’t remember the abuse until she became an adult?

I periodically have readers try to discredit me, either on my blog or through email. The one question none of them have an answer to is this: “If I made this all up, am psychotic, or someone else put all of this stuff in my head, why I am getting better? Why is therapy and talking about what happened resulting in me growing into a healthier version of myself?” If I am a liar, psychotic, or someone duped by a shrink, then my emotional state should be deteriorating, not getting better. Therapy should not be working if any of those explanations are true.

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Does this fit?” For me, my life was like a jigsaw puzzle that made no sense. I had suicidal urges, OCD, an eating disorder, insomnia, nightmares & night terrors, low self-esteem, panic attacks, etc. I thought they were all separate issues. The missing piece was the child abuse. Once I had that piece of the puzzle, the rest fell into place.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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It has been five days since a dysfunctional friendship of nine years ended. I won’t go into the details because why it ended really doesn’t matter. What matters is that a relationship I nurtured for almost a decade is over, and the real reason it ended was because it was dysfunctional.

I have no question that the relationship was long overdue for ending. I should have ended it a while ago, but I didn’t because when I love, I love deeply. I am also a loyal friend, so I have a habit of sticking with relationships long past when they should have expired. The relationship was once very meaningful and helpful to me, especially in my early therapy years. I don’t forget that and feel guilty about pulling away when the relationship no longer fits.

I have been grieving the loss, and I have had a bunch of different emotions swirling around my head. The primary emotion is anger because of the pointless way it ended. The other person tossed me away as if I never mattered, and that makes me angry – after all I invested in this person, it pisses me off that the other person so easily brushed me aside in one fit of anger. I am also angry about the other person’s alleged reasons for treating me this way. I accept that I need to let the anger run through me and out so it doesn’t turn into bitterness.

I am also sad and have done some crying over the death of this friendship. The sadness has been secondary to the anger, but I suspect as the anger abates, more sadness will follow.

The weirdest part is the absence of the friendship. I’ll watch something on TV and think, “I need to tell __ about ___ … No, wait, she isn’t in my life anymore.” She was such an integral part of my life for so long that it feels weird not having her to talk to about X, Y, and Z. I am not talking about leaning on her emotionally. I am talking about the fact that a TV show we both like will have new episodes airing next month or something funny that happened today. It’s just weird to notice the absence as I go about my day.

My therapist has warned me that I might have regrets about how long I chose to stay in the friendship, but I don’t know if I will. I made the decisions I did for the reasons I did, and those decisions led me to where I am today. I feel no need to beat myself up for things I did or did not do before today.

I also feel no guilt about the friendship ending. She blew it up, not me, and she blew it up over something so ridiculous that I think it was an excuse to get out. I don’t think this dysfunctional friendship was healthy for either of us any longer. I wish we could have parted amicably and downgraded to acquaintances, but it is what it is.

This isn’t my first dysfunctional relationship to end, and I am sure it won’t be the last. I’ll get through it just as I always do.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I told a friend (one of my best friends who I met after therapy) what I blogged about yesterday, and her response was surprise that I would ever try to be anything but me. She was truly perplexed that I would think that I needed to be anything other than myself. I was perplexed that she was perplexed.

Why have I been afraid to be me? It’s all shame-driven, which is why it has been so hard to shake. Here are criticisms I have heard about myself for my entire life:

  • Too intense
  • Talk too fast
  • Too “Type A”
  • Too passive/too headstrong (depending upon who is commenting)
  • Nerd/Geek (straight A’s, computer geek, etc.)
  • Too honest
  • Too committed (stay in things too long) and don’t try hard enough (again, depending upon who is commenting)
  • Too “perfect” (goody two shoes) and not good enough (again, depending upon who is commenting)
  • Too smart (make other people feel stupid)
  • Too nice/not nice enough (another depending upon the person)
  • Not good at “Southern Women” things – housekeeping, etc.
  • Lacking in social graces (learn through bumbling about basics like ask what to wear and what to bring when invited to someone’s house)

I come across as very confident, which many people (mostly pre-therapy people) seem to think needs to be knocked down a notch. I am actually an incredibly frightened person who has spent her life trying to be “perfect” so I won’t be abandoned. As you can see from my list, being “perfect” is hard to do when I am both too nice and not nice enough at the same time.

I am finished defining myself by anyone else’s list. Here is my own list that I will live by. People can take me or leave me, but these rules are replacing those that others have placed upon me:

  • I will be myself regardless of the setting – in personal relationships, professional relationships, and everything in between
  • I will be honest – not cruel and tactless, but honest in a diplomatic way
  • I give myself permission to make mistakes and view them as learning opportunities – If I cannot make a mistake in a relationship, then I don’t need that relationship
  • I will listen to my intuition and follow its lead – no more talking myself into staying in places that I have outgrown
  • I will be true to myself no matter the cost – no relationship in my life is worth abandoning myself for
  • I will set aside time each day for myself – to exercise, watch a comedy, read a book, do yoga, take a walk — something that is just for me
  • I will not take responsibility for anyone else’s side of a relationship – I am responsible for my own actions and reactions, not anyone else’s
  • I will keep telling myself that I will be OK no matter what life throws my way until I believe it – there is nothing and no one that I cannot survive losing
  • I will give myself the freedom to express whatever I am feeling, no matter how badly it feels, and learn how to feel my emotions without being washed away by them
  • I will not allow anyone else’s opinion of me to define me
  • I will keep telling myself that I love myself as I am until I believe it

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Pond (c) Faith AllenSummer officially ends this week for me as my son returns to school, and I could not be more relieved. No, I am not talking about needing a break from my kid – I am talking about reaching the milestone that ends this particular season of my life.

This summer has been my most difficult one of my adult life. It started and ended with a sinus infection. I had two emotional breakdowns that my therapist calls “spiritual awakenings” – regardless of the label, they hurt like hell. My husband has been battling clinical depression. A dysfunctional friendship of almost a decade (predated therapy) went rocky…and then more rocky…and then ended. I am back to weekly therapy sessions after ending therapy ~ six years ago. I feel battered and bruised from this season of my life, but I am still standing.

When I entered into therapy, nobody told me about the cost. Yes, I knew it cost $X an hour, and I even knew that I was going to have to find an amazing amount of courage to face down my demons and make huge changes in my life. However, nobody told me that healing was like “dying” to my old self and starting anew with very little resembling my “old” life still being in it. The process reminds me of this Bible verse, which I won’t include so I don’t trigger anyone with religious triggers. Because I do have a strong faith, it does help to put what I am going through into a faith context.

A part of me wants to move across the country and start over since it seems that the healing process ultimately results in the ending of relationships that started before therapy. However, once I did an accounting, I realized that I was just about there, anyhow. I only have five people regularly in my life who were there before therapy – my husband, son, and father-in-law locally; and my sister and one friend from high school who live in another state. That’s it. After almost four decades of life, loving, investing, and caring, only five people I invested in remain. That’s really not worth moving across the country for!

It’s been very difficult and a long time coming, but I am finished playing my “role” in dysfunctional relationships. I am going to be “me,” and that is going to have to be enough. If it’s not, then the relationship is over. The people I have met after therapy don’t seem to have any issue with this. I can be myself 100%, even when I am having a bad day. And you know what? If the time comes that they cannot handle it, they don’t have to stay, either.

I am tired of apologizing for being me. I am tired of having to play games and say and do exactly the “right” thing so that other person can stay in dysfunctional comfort. This is who I am. Love me, hate me, or be indifferent to me, but I am not changing for you.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Sorry, folks

Hi, all.

Believe it or not, I am STILL not over the sinus infection. I am on Round 2 of antibiotics, and I seem to be improving (finally) but far from 100%. My kid starts school later this week and is home until then, so I don’t have time to blog right now. I’ll try to start back later this week or Monday at the latest.

~ Faith

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Hi, all.

I am still recovering from the sinus infection. I typically don’t turn the corner until I have been on antibiotics for 72 hours, which I will reach at lunchtime today. I’ll plan on starting back to blogging on Monday. ~ Faith

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Have a Sinus Infection

I have a sinus infection and am in too much pain to blog today. (It hurts to breathe.) I am on antibiotics, so I hope to feel up to blogging later in the week. ~ Faith

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PhotobucketOver weekend, a friend and I went to the beach for a relaxing weekend without husbands or children. It’s been almost a year since I have gotten away without my child, but that was a different kind of weekend that had its own share of stresses. This was an incredibly relaxing weekend with the two of us doing whatever we felt like doing whenever we felt like doing it. I am not sure I have ever had a weekend quite like it.

As I shared yesterday, I had a professional massage for the first time. We ate at restaurants I have wanted to try but that hub has always nixed. We watched movies (something I love to do but rarely get the opportunity to do at home since nobody else in my family likes to watch movies). We laughed. It was a fun, carefree weekend – a concept that was completely foreign to me. I felt so relaxed.

As we started driving home, I felt a heaviness settle over my shoulders. I could feel the weight of returning home, and it made me feel so sad. (It doesn’t help that I also have a sinus infection, so I was/am in physical pain while working through these emotions.) I just wanted to cry.

When I got home after a 4-1/2 hour drive, I wanted to cry but had no time. I had dinner with hub’s family following by 2-1/2 hours of online (webcam) training for my job. I was exhausted after that and went to bed. The next day, I hit the ground running for work and appointments.

Thankfully, I had a therapy appointment yesterday. The first thing I did was cry. My T asked me what I was returning to in my life that was about me. I said nothing, to which he replied, “Exactly.” We talked about how I spend my time doing everything for everyone else and that there isn’t time or room for me.

My T asked why I went to family dinner the night before when I was so tired. I said it never occurred to me not to. He said that I need to examine all of those automatic responses that I have. I am on autopilot in so many areas of my life, and the autopilot is programmed for me to take care of everyone else. There needs to be time and space for me. Right now there isn’t, which is why I felt so depressed about returning home.

My homework is to challenge every automatic response and think about ways that I can make room for me in my own life. I have to expect that all of these changes will come with resistance, and I will have to let go of being perceived as the “good” person (good wife, good mother, etc.) It has always been so important for me to be the “good” ___ , and the people in my life have exploited this to direct me to meet their needs at the expense of my own.

This is such a tall order, and I don’t feel up to it with my head hurting every time I breathe. I need to get this sinus infection cleared up first and then focus on this challenge. I actually did do one thing yesterday – I didn’t feel up to cooking dinner and bought takeout instead. That’s nearly unheard of for me.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Green PlantI went to the beach this weekend with a friend. Both of us desperately needed a weekend “off” from being responsible for our families. It was amazing to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, even when what we wanted was to do nothing at all.

My friend wanted to go get a massage. I have never had a professional massage before. I was not comfortable undressing in front of a stranger and having a stranger put his or her hands all over my body.

When I was in the early stages of healing, online friends who were farther along in healing encouraged me to do some spiritual healing work. I opted for Reiki since no touch is involved. Even being alone in a dark room for a Reiki session was scary the first time, but Reiki wound up being a wonderful healing experience. I had Reiki sessions on and off for years.

My experience with Reiki helped me ease into having a massage. I decided to go with a hot stone massage. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I thought that having an inanimate object between the other person and me would be easier for me to handle. The room was very much like what is used in Reiki with the New Age music and aromatherapy. I also hit it off with the masseuse, which really helped.

I have talked with numerous women who have had massages. They all told me how relaxing and “wonderful” massage was, but not one person told me about the spiritual elements of massage. (This was my only massage, so I guess it’s possible that I happened upon a place that incorporates spiritual elements and that it is not the norm. I’d love to hear from readers if this is typical or not.)

One of the first things the masseuse did was place hot stones at two of my chakras, and they stayed there throughout the massage while I was lying on my back. We got to talking about spiritual healing, Reiki, etc. (I was also thrilled that I did not have to lie there quietly for 90 minutes. I was much more relaxed having a dialogue with the masseuse.)

The hot stones felt really great. Having the massage helped me to recognize that my body is not my enemy. I wrestle with hating my body because it was the gateway to harm – my abusers traumatized my body and caused emotional pain. Being in my body felt wonderful during the massage and helped me make the connection that being in my body can be a good thing.

It was much easier for me to stay present after the massage for the rest of the evening. I enjoyed the view of the waterway over dinner so much more than I would have if I had not stayed present.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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