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Archive for April, 2012

I am working through a series on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID), which begins here. I am using Rachel Downing’s article, Understanding Integration , as a starting point and then building upon what she says with my own experiences.

The next part of Downing’s article talks about the phases of integration, which is too involved for me to summarize here. I agree with her that integration is not a single event but, instead, a gradual process of moving from being separate parts to being whole.

The metaphor I like is of melting ice. Before the abuse started, my spirit was like a pond where each part flowed into the next. The abuse caused the pond to ice over, and repeated abuse caused the ice to split off into separate chunks, which is what I experienced as alter parts. I was still one pond even though I felt like a bunch of separate chunks of ice. Integration happened by melting the ice back into water through the warmth of self-love. Nothing was lost – it was just experienced in a different way.

Downing talks about integrating and then losing that integration for a while (what she calls “disintegration”). I experienced this as well, but I think it was less stressful for me (perhaps because I had her article as a guide). When I am not dissociative, I experience the world around me differently, as if I have been beamed into my life and am really “here.” I will have moments of feelings extremely present like that, which I see as a guide for where I am heading. However, I don’t stay in that place for long periods of time.

Most of my progress is gradual. As an example, I will find myself getting overstimulated by sights, sounds, or smells as I move into a deeper level of integration because, thanks to living most of my life in a dissociated state, I haven’t had to deal with overstimulation. I would simply switch from one part to the next and avoid having see, hear, or smell whatever I didn’t want to process. Being integrated means experiencing the good and the bad – being present to enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass but also present to get the waft of a garbage can.

I love this perspective offered by Downing:

I could respect my choice as a child to dissociate and survive in the face of overwhelming and ongoing trauma. But I could, as an adult, choose how I wanted to cope now as I remembered the trauma and faced life as a free adult. I COULD CHOOSE AGAIN. ~ Understanding Integration

This has been my experience as well. As I continued to embraced the different parts as “me” and “mine,” I could process the traumas against the backdrop of all of my life experiences versus the limited views that these individual parts had based upon their own limited experiences. I could honor and heal the pain of individual parts while still choosing how to move forward from an adult perspective. The more I healed, the easier this process became.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am working through a series on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID), which begins here. I am using Rachel Downing’s article, Understanding Integration , as a starting point and then building upon what she says with my own experiences.

Below is a summary of Downing’s reasons for integration:

  1. Relationship to Myself – Integration is a statement of self-love, providing access to a full range of feelings.
  2. Relationship to Others – Integration resulted in Downing being able to be consistently available to her loved ones.
  3. Relationship to Life – Integration enables a person to be fully present in life with a full range of coping skills to deal with life.
  4. Relationship to Death – Integration enabled Downing to reach of a place of accepting her life history and eventual death.
  5. Children with DID naturally move toward integration – Downing addresses this point later in the article, but I think it fits here. According to Downing, children with DID naturally move toward integration once they are placed in a safe environment, and no debating about whether to stay dissociative or integrate takes place as part of children’s therapy. ~ Understanding Integration

While Downing and I both chose integration, our reasons were somewhat different. One of my reasons for choosing integration was as an “up yours” to my abusers. I was angry that my abusers caused me to split inside to survive their abuse, and I wanted what they had taken from me back – a unified sense of self. I was unwilling to rest until I was a “me” again, in part, to prove that I was stronger than my abusers and that my ability to heal myself had more power than their ability to break me.

I also very much liked the concept I shared in my last blog entry about integration being the ultimate statement of self-love. By claiming each and every part as “me” and “mine,” including those parts’ feelings, emotions, memories, and experiences, I was reclaiming myself. I was making both an internal and external statement (or proclamation!) that I loved and accepted every single part of myself – that there were no “throwaway” parts or parts that were not “good enough” to be me. I loved each part of myself for the same reason I love my child – because he (and they) are mine.

Just like with my child, I wasn’t always happy with the feelings or behaviors of particular parts, and I certainly wasn’t thrilled with many of the memories I had to claim as “mine” to integrate. However, my choice to love and accept each part as “me” wasn’t something to be “earned,” just as my child cannot “earn” my love. My love for my child, and for all of myself, is simply because they are mine … period.

Finally, I wanted to know what it was like to be a “normal” person, although many people assure me that I will never really be “normal.” I might not be “normal,” but I have experienced life as a multiple and as a “singleton,” and I much prefer having full access to myself.

Releasing the splits and integrating had an added benefit that I don’t hear people talk about much. To me, integrating a part feels like getting to put my arms down after having to hold them up over my head for a very long time. Staying split takes an enormous amount of energy that has been freed up to be used in other ways.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am working through a series on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID), which begins here. I am using Rachel Downing’s article, Understanding Integration , as a starting point and then building upon what she says with my own experiences.

Downing defines integration as follows:

At the most basic level, integration simply means acceptance/ownership of all thoughts, feelings, fears, beliefs, experiences and memories (often labeled as personalities) as me/mine. It means giving up the split(s) that says something is “not me.” Integration is more than about personalities. It is about full acceptance of all dissociated aspects of oneself. ~ Understanding Integration

When I first read this definition of integration, it reinforced my desire to integrate from DID. I loved the thought of finding a way to accept all of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as “mine” even though they did not feel that way at the time. I saw the choice of accepting all of these aspects of myself as “me” or “mine” to be a very deep statement of self-love – that even those parts of myself that I abhorred (such as parts that I viewed as “bad” or harmful) were worthy of love and acceptance.

I fully agree with Downing’s observation here:

Integration occurs when I accept a dissociated personality, part, or aspect of myself and bring it into normal awareness. It is not about getting rid of or killing off a part of myself. When I maintain the split and say it is “not me,” I am implicitly rejecting that part of myself. Essentially, integration is fully embracing each and every part/aspect of myself …With DID, when I deny/reject a part of myself that wants to cut/hurt me, I can’t control that part of myself. When I incorporate that part of myself I gain control and choices. ~ Understanding Integration

When I “met” the first alter part I became aware of — “Irate,” I didn’t want her to “go away.” However, because I wanted to integrate and be whole, I feared this was part of the process. I was surprised to discover that integrating Irate meant that I had 24/7 access to her in a different way. Instead of interacting with the world without the ability to express anger and needing Irate to come out “defend” me, Irate became an ever-present part of me. Since she integrated, I have the ability to feel anger and choose whether or not to act upon it or how to express it. This was something I had been unable to experience before Irate integrated.

By integrating Irate, I did not “kill her off.” Instead, I freed her to experience life from more than just the perspective of someone who is angry. I did not have to choose between never feeling angry or feeling “pure” anger. Once Irate integrated, I could experience the emotion of anger against the backdrop of all of my other emotions, which has been a much richer way to experience the world and enables me to balance out my anger with my other emotions.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I recently came across an article on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID) that was immensely helpful for me after I recognized that I had alter parts. For me, integration was always the goal, but at the time I was looking for resources on how to integrate from DID (in 2004-2005), I found very few helpful resources. I was thrilled to find this article — Understanding Integration by Rachel Downing, L.C.S.W.-C.– and used it as my personal guide in moving toward integration.

Before I continue, I want to add the disclaimer that I am not saying that integration needs to be the goal for everyone with DID or other forms of multiplicity — I am saying that it was always right for me. I am not writing this series to persuade anyone that he or she needs to integrate, nor I am meaning to imply that not integrating, whether by choice or not, is some sort of “failure.” Instead, my goal is to provide another resource for those who do want to integrate or for those who want a better understanding of what integration from DID entails.

When I was looking for resources on integration in 2004 and 2005, I became extremely frustrated by the lack of resources available to me. Most of what I found were books written by people with DID who had integrated and whose stories contained so many “limitations.” What I mean by this is that most of the stories I found talked about how integration was helpful but… The “buts” focused on all of the issues that still remained and had to be accepted and grieved. While I am sure this was an honest accounting of these people’s experiences, I wasn’t willing to settle for “integration but’s.”

From the time I recognized that I had alter parts, my goal was to become one or “whole” again. I was angry that my abusers took so much away from me, even my ability to be a “me” instead of a “we.” I was determined to reclaim my sense of self in having ONE identity, and I was not willing to settle for “healing BUT.”

That was when I found this article through the Sidran Institute. I sobbed in relief at finding some sort of resource to offer me hope that my goal really was attainable. It also provided me with practical steps I could take to help move me toward my goal, such as always referring to myself as “me” rather than “us,” even when what “I” was feeling seemed foreign and belonging to “her” instead of “me.”

I haven’t researched what newer resources are available for integrating from DID, but my hope is to add this series to the list. That way, when others are looking for positive resources on integration from DID, one more will be available to them.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Checking in

Hi, all.

My kid is on Spring Break this week, and my family is at the beach. I had hoped to find a few spare minutes to blog from here, but that hasn’t worked out so far. My schedule should get back to normal next week. :0)

~ Faith

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As I shared yesterday, my sister has always been a wonderful role model about love and acceptance. She was always willing to meet me wherever I was, whether that was in self-denial or self-exploration. Sadly, it has only been since going through the healing process that I have reciprocated the acceptance piece.

My father (the “good” parent) raised me to believe that success = money, and my mother and conservation community raised me to believe that success = being a virgin, marrying well, and being a stay-at-home mom. I split myself inside so I could believe I was still a virgin, went to law school so I could have money (even though I hated law school), married a lawyer, and quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom when my child came along. I wanted to follow the rules so I would be safe.

My sister did not “follow the rules.” She dropped out of high school after ninth grade because our mother had started abusing her again during the night. (I had left for college.) She could not stay awake all night armed with a knife and also be successful in school during the day.

I couldn’t “see” the abuse because that would have shattered my walls of self-denial. All I saw was my intelligent sister throwing away her education. With the strong encouragement of my grandparents (father’s parents), I tried to get my sister into college to no avail. Her path was very different from mine. I eventually accepted that she was going to live her life in the way she chose and that I was powerless to change any of it.

Fast-forward to her mid-thirties – My sister made her own decision (I had given up years before) to go to college. She graduated with honors with a double degree and will graduate this year with a double master’s degree. Her college experience was much richer than mine because mine was about escaping my mother whereas hers has been an adult enriching herself.

I couldn’t see my sister for who she was until I faced down my own demons. Possibly because my sister knew this about me (whether consciously or subconsciously), she loved and accepted me through it. As I removed my walls of self-denial, I was able to see not only myself more clearly but also my sister. Her journey makes sense to me today whereas it baffled me before.

I think it is my sister’s attitude of acceptance toward me that was the glue that held us together. I think she knew it was worth putting up with ignorant comments from me as she waited for me to find my way back to myself. I am so grateful that she did because I wouldn’t trade what we have today for anything!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Many child abuse survivors have remarked that my positive relationship with my sister is not the norm. Of course, I only know my own experience, so our relationship seems plenty “normal” to me. :0)

I think one reason our relationship works is because it is based on love and acceptance. We have both always loved each other, and it has always been a pure love. While we were forced to do things to each other by our abusers, we never once did anything to each other outside of duress. We both knew we were safe with each other. Also, both of us had our sister’s life used as the primary means of controlling us. We each understood the duress the other was dealing with.

As for the acceptance part, my sister has always been better at this than I have. She was a wonderful role model and patient teacher. From my sister’s end, she was always 100% accepting of where I was on my own healing journey and never tried to change me.

As I shared previously, with her “warehouse” internal filing system, she always had access to all memories if she chose to look, which means that she had ready access to a slew of memories of my child abuse. However, she went along with my self-delusions of being innocent, even though I was so determined to “forget” that I created almost a caricature of innocence. She never mocked that but, instead, embraced the lie.

As long as I needed to believe that I was innocent, my sister played along. I don’t know to what degree this was conscious and how much was subconscious, but she always treated me as if my self-delusion was truth. If she had not, I doubt we would have been as close because I couldn’t handle the truth for most of my life.

Then, when I switched gears and was ready to face my truth, my sister adapted immediately and confirmed my deepest fears. She went from co-conspirator in my self-delusions to my strongest healing supporter in milliseconds.

My acceptance of my sister’s experience was different. I’ll get into that tomorrow.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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