Archive for June, 2012

In my more vulnerable moments, I wrestle with feeling like I am always on the outside looking in. I feel like there is no place for me because I am not truly a part of anything.

The logical part of myself knows this is not the case. I have close friends, a church family, my isurvive family, my readers here, my coworkers, etc. I am certainly not alone. However, in my heart of hearts, I remain vulnerable to feeling like I don’t belong anywhere.

In my family of origin, just about all of my relatives “loved me in their own way.” I so needed to believe that my father or my mother/abuser loved me, but the only way it ever made sense was to tack on the phrase “in his/her own way.”

I stumbled upon a saying that helped me come to terms with how someone could love me without my being able to feel loved:

Just because someone doesn’t love you with all that you need doesn’t mean s/he isn’t loving you with all that they have. ~ Author unknown

This quote helped me to recognize that it was possible for my mother or father to love me with all of the love they had to give while, at the same time, the amount of that love being sorely inadequate for my needs. Sadly, I married someone who falls into this category, and it applies to my extended family as well. Yes, I have people in my family who love me, but it’s always with the qualifier of “in his/her own way.”

I have built my own family locally, and I have friends who love me deeply. However, I am still not “family” as much as they try to say that I am. At the end of the day, I am on the outside. I am not part of their families (for better or for worse), nor I am family beyond “in their own way” in my family of marriage. Meanwhile, I have cut ties with most of my family of origin (other than my sister, who does love me – period – but she doesn’t live locally).

Even my child joined my family through adoption, and he will sometimes remind me that I am not his “real” mother. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me. I’ll say things like driving him around seems like a lot of work for a “fake” child. However, he will sometimes catch me at a vulnerable time, and it will hurt. (My son is one of the few people in my life who I know truly loves me – period.)

I don’t always feel this way, but it’s a vulnerability beneath the surface, and I wonder if I will ever fully process these feelings.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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PhotobucketFor those of you who haven’t heard yet, Jerry Sandusky was found guilty on 45 of the 48 charges of child sexual abuse filed against him involving the abuse of 10 boys. For those of you unfamiliar with the case (many of my readers do not live in the United States), Jerry Sandusky was a well-known assistant college football coach who founded a charity for disadvantaged children. Several of these children (who are now adults) accused him of sexually abusing them. A jury believed their accounts, and Sandusky will be sentenced to prison soon.

I am wondering how readers are reacting to this verdict. My initial reaction is relief that juries will listen to the accounts of child abuse survivors even years after the abuse happened. Most children do not tell at the time that the abuse is taking place, which has effectively given many child abusers a “free pass.” As long as children must tell immediately after the child abuse happened to be believed, justice will never prevail because most children are too frightened to tell at the time the child abuse is happening.

I am also relieved that, according to the new accounts I am reading online, the public is supportive of Sandusky’s victims as well as the verdict. Can you imagine how much more difficult this situation would be if the press turned on the victims? My guess is that the victims are feeling a whirlwind of emotions right now. I am relieved that they are not feeling the need to justify themselves to the press.

I am grateful for the publicity that this case has generated because the general public doesn’t want to believe that anyone famous or that anyone who is active in charities for children can be a child abuser. This case is forcing the general public to acknowledge that being famous does not ensure that a person is safe around children, and it is also breaking through the denial that someone who does good things on the surface cannot also do bad things to children one-on-one.

I have spoken with numerous child abuse survivors over the years through this blog, at isurvive, and in person. Those who were abused by people who were pillars of the community often have an extra hurdle to overcome because they have been told their whole lives about what wonderful people their abusers are. I have spoken with child abuse survivors who were abused by pastors and missionaries – people who have done an enormous amount of good publicly but who made a child’s life a living hell at the same time. This duality really messes with a child abuse survivor’s head.

The Jerry Sandusky trial will (hopefully) help child abuse survivors who were abused by public “heroes” push through the hurdles of being harmed by someone who is beloved publicly. An abuser is an abuser regardless of his or her public face.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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The Summer Solstice took the wind out of me yesterday. I did not even notice my failure to post a blog entry until this morning. Yikes!

As I shared last week, I had another bout of acid reflux and have been in a lot of pain. I have now been on the prescription medication (a pump inhibitor) for a week, and that has reduced much of the acid, but I am still having some struggles with it. Additionally, my body was damaged (again) from all of the acid, and it’s been slow going in the healing department, which means I am unable to use many of my stress-relievers, such as exercise or yoga.

I awoke yesterday (day of the Summer Solstice) to the overpowering smell of dog poop. (Dog feces is one of my strongest triggers.) Sure enough, my dog had another bout of colitis, and poop was smeared all over the inside of his crate. I put him outside and spent a good half hour cleaning out the crate, which is no easy task. I then took a thorough shower to get the poop off of me.

I called the vet and asked to board him until the colitis is cleared up (which is our usually routine – he goes through this about every six months and almost died from dehydration due to colitis on my husband’s watch). I can’t handle dealing with the poop, and the vet can better monitor whether the dog is staying hydrated. Of course, thanks to the summer holiday, there is no room for him this weekend. :0(

As I was walked the dog to the car, my son noticed poop smeared on his hip and tail. I asked my son to hold the dog’s leash while I got Clorox wipes to try to get it off. I was about as successful in removing the poop with wipes as you might expect. :0( I put away the wipes, washed my hands, and decided to pay the vet to bathe the dog.

When I tried to get the leash from my son, the dog rubbed his poop-covered hip against my leg, smearing poop on my leg. (About the only thing more triggering to me than the smell of dog poop is the feel of it being smeared on my body.) By this point, I started having a panic attack. I washed off the poop and took a Xanax.

The vet was at least able to keep him overnight. Hopefully, the antibiotics will have had enough time to get his colitis somewhat under control before he comes home this evening. (Fingers crossed for a boarding cancellation – he is #2 on the wait list.)

With this start to my Summer Solstice, you can imagine how I felt the rest of the day. I was already feeling “off” from the solstice and physically weakened by the reflux. The dog drama just about put me over the edge.

I am taking the day off after posting this blog. I am having lunch with a couple of girlfriends, which will be fun. After I drop my son off at camp and my husband goes to work, I will have my house TO MYSELF for the first time (on a day that I am not working) since the beginning of April. I plan to rest and enjoy the silence.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Noticing the Progress I Have Made, a reader posted the following comment:

Today I got very very triggered and despite my conscious knowledge to the contrary, my subconscious mi d was convinced that my life was in danger, obviously it was not but I couldn’t rationalise this to myself at all. All my normal coping strategies were gone and I had to stay in this situation for nearly an hour. It’s been a long time since I have felt so stressed and afraid, I can’t even talk about it without feeling sick and anxious. I HAVE to be in fairly frequent contact with the person who triggered me (unintentionally) and I am very nervous about this as my brain has made a strong connection between them and danger. I’m really worried about how I’ll cope, and that experience of getting triggered was so much stronger than previous times it frightened me a lot! Hard to know what to do to “fix” this as usuals don’t seem to be working. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! ~ Sophie

This is an old comment but one that is relevant to many people. It sounds like Sophie was triggered by a person who wasn’t intending to trigger her but, nevertheless, caused a severe reaction in her. I have had this happen myself.

I was at the grocery store a few years ago, and a woman was pushing a young (maybe two years old) child in a shopping cart. The second I saw the child, I became triggered and feared I would vomit in the store. I had to get away from that child IMMEDIATELY to avoid a panic attack so severe that I couldn’t hide it in public.

A couple of years later, I ran into the same child at the public library and had the same reaction. (I have no idea why.) This time, I was with a friend, and I asked her if she noticed anything strange or different about the child. She looked surprised by my question and said he just looked a normal child to her. To this day, I have no idea why I reacted so strongly to this child, but I hope he moved away so I don’t run into him again!

The first step is to acknowledge that for some reason, this person triggers you. Don’t beat yourself up for this – it is what it is. Ideally, you wouldn’t have to interact with this person (just as I don’t have to interact with that child). When you have a choice, choose not to interact with someone who triggers you like this.

If contact is inevitable, don’t just assume that there is something “wrong” with you. Consider the possibility that you are getting triggered for a reason. I got triggered by an eye doctor and assumed it was just me since I was new to therapy. I saw him again a couple of years later (when I was emotionally stronger), and I went in prepared and with an open mind. I got the same triggered feeling. He was inappropriate but subtle, doing things holding his cheek against mine when he examined my eye. (I have seen numerous eye doctors, and none of them physically touched me during an eye examination.) I wasn’t overreacting – I was picking up on vibes from that doctor. I switched doctors after that visit.

If you are certain that you are not picking up on any “vibes” and that you are being triggered but are safe around this person, take steps to mitigate your reactions. Another option is to remove yourself from this person, such as by switching jobs or moving. There is not one person on the planet that you MUST interact with. You do have options.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled How I Integrate DID Persecutor Parts, a reader posted the following comment:

[W]hen he was trying to ‘put me under’ an odd thing happened: I had this urge to laugh. I didn’t laugh – it was just a feeling that I couldn’t place – but I told him about it. It seemed to disturb him, but we never followed it up, and he said it was difficult to hypnotise me… So that urge to laugh has me really troubled. I haven’t been able to find anything on line that could help me to understand what it’s about, but my fear is that I DO, or at least might, have parts inside me like my mother. God, I would absolutely hate hate hate that. I logically know that the urge to laugh could come from all kinds of reasons, but even coming up against the possibility that I could have anything like my mother inside me is absolutely terrifying and sickening. ~ birdfeeder

This is just an excerpt from the comment. You can read the full comment here.

I have some thoughts on this urge to laugh. If they are helpful, I hope you will find reassurance that your reaction is “normal” and not indicative of having parts of your mother inside of you. Trust your own intuition on whether or not my guess at an explanation fits or not.

I find it interesting that these urges to laugh happened when therapists were trying to put you into a trance. One possible explanation is that your child abuse involved trances, such as hypnosis or other forms. If you had expert abusers “putting you under” as a child (as is common with ritual abuse), then the idea of being “put under” could have triggered this reaction in you.

The laughter could have been aimed at these attempts to put you under because you figured out a way to avoid being put into a trance, so it was a “bring it on” kind of laugh. Another possibility is that being put into a trance was scary for you as a child, but you weren’t permitted to express fear, so you instead responded as a child with nervous laughter. In either case, the act of trying to put you in trance would be the trigger causing the laughter.

In your comment, you said that you do not have dissociative identity disorder (DID). However, you also say that you fear you have “parts of your mother” inside of you. Whether or not you have parts, rest assured that your mother doesn’t have the power to “be inside you.” All parts inside (if you do, in fact, have parts) are YOU, not your mother, which makes them all loveable. You don’t need to worry about your mother living inside of you.

I hope this helps! It’s my educated guess. If what I have said fits, run with it, and if it doesn’t, disregard it.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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FriendsOn my blog entry entitled Worrying about Reactions to Your Child Abuse Story, a reader posted the following comment:

What do you do when even with minimal information (eg that my father sexually abused me) your friends avoid you because all they can think about when they see you is sad things? (Even if you don’t say anything about it and are only talking about happy things.) I just feel so lonely and so confused and don’t know what to do. ~ ericatherunnergirl

I, too, went through this with many of my friends in the early years of healing from child abuse. The surprising part to me was that even some of the people who took my news very well in the moment and said all of the right things pulled away after my disclosure.

One in particular was great at first – she made a point of making eye contact and saying, “This is NOT your fault. You need to understand that.” I sooo needed to hear that message and thought, “Wow. She gets it.” Then, crickets. I still bump into her from time to time, and she is as sweet as can be, but she pulled away when I needed her the most.

I think the problem is that emotionally unhealthy people attract emotionally unhealthy friends, so the pool of friends to choose from for support is likely not to offer the best choices. I am no longer friends with any of the ladies I used to hang out with before healing or during the early stages of healing. If we bump into each other, we’ll do the casual chit-chat thing (other than the one ex-friend), but I have healed too much for any of those friendships to work anymore.

If anyone had told me this would happen, I am not sure I would have had the courage to continue healing, and I sure would not have viewed this as a good thing. I had such a deep-seated fear of abandonment that I would have been scared to do anything to push away the people I loved … and I did love my friends.

In retrospect, I recognize that losing these unhealthy friendships cleared the way for healthy friends to enter my life. I have three close friends locally as well as many others who are not as close. All three close friends are much more emotionally healthy than any of the friendships that have fallen by the wayside, and all three of those friendships have room for me to be myself in them. I can talk about anything I need to, including the abuse — all three of them are happy to listen and can handle it.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Hi, all.

I had another bout of reflux, so I am in pain again. I started my Rx medication yesterday, but it takes about a week to kick in. I spent all day yesterday in bed and will likely do the same again today. Here’s hoping I am feeling much better next week.

Have a good weekend!

~ Faith

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Winding PlantOn my blog entry entitled Shame: What it Feels Like and How to Get Rid of it, a reader posted the following comment:

Can you talk more about the connection between emotions and body? i, too am learning to name emotions. i feel them in my body so strongly, but am struggling with naming and then making that connection. can you keep talking about this part of your healing? ~ Aggiemonday

Michael posted a good response to that comment that I recommend you read. Remember that you need to find what works for you and that it may differ from what works for me. The big picture is the same, though – we are all doing what we need to do along our journey toward a destination of self-love and acceptance.

I wish I was farther along in my progress in this area so I could be more helpful. Shame is the only emotion that I definitely know I am feeling based upon what my body feels. When I get that sunburn feeling in my skin, especially along my arms, I know that I am feel shame, and I know what works for me to process it. I choose not to feed it and, instead, do a visual to pour it out of my body. Other readers responded that they deal with shame differently, so be sure to check out other strategies if mine does not work for you.

The only other emotion I am pretty good at identifying is fear. Ironically, I frequently fail to notice one of the classic bodily responses to fear – an increased heart rate. I lived so much of my life with my heart pounding that I truly do not notice it unless I think to look for it. As an example, I will spend 30 minutes unable to fall asleep before I notice that my heart is racing.

The bodily feeling I notice to identify fear is a sensation in my thighs that I cannot quite describe. My muscles tense up, and I “feel fear” in my thighs. While fear can affect other parts of my body, such as a clenched stomach, the bodily signal I first notice is always in my thighs. When I feel fear, I do deep breathing to slow my heart rate and calm myself back down.

I wish I could be more helpful, but I am still too out-of-tune with the rest of my emotions to describe their physical manifestations. This is something that I am working on. I first learned that our bodies have a physical response to whatever emotion we are experiencing in Geneen Roth’s book, Women Food and God. (“God” represents spirituality in this book – it is not religious in nature.) Perhaps her book will be helpful to you in working through this aspect of healing. I need to read through those chapters again as well.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Yesterday, I blogged about dissociative identity disorder (DID) introject, or persecutor,  alter parts. Today, I will share the process that I used to heal my persecutor alter parts. This method may or may not work for you, but it was very effective for me. In order to be willing to try it, you need to open your mind to the possibility that your persecutor parts are actually “good” because they are a part of you. I first did this as a leap of faith based upon what I had read in Chrystine Oksana’s Safe Passage to Healing.

I would begin by telling the part thank you for the role that s/he served in helping me survive the abuse: I could not have survived without that part. I would then tell the part that the body is no longer being abused and has not been for many years. I am now living in an adult body. Then, I would look at my hands and feet so the persecutor part would be able to see that my body is an adult’s body rather than a child’s.

I would tell the persecutor part that s/he has every reason to be angry, but s/he is taking out the anger on the wrong person. I am not the one who caused the abuse or who the part is really mad at. However, I invite the persecutor alter part to take out that anger directly onto whoever harmed him or her.

I would pull out a mental rolodex and flip through it, viewing the faces of different abusers. (Sadly, it’s a pretty full rolodex.) As soon as the right abuser’s face came into focus, the persecutor alter part would attack that person with a fury through visualization. I let the visualization get as graphic as I needed it to get.

The first time I did this, I was sickened by just how graphic the visualization got. My first persecutor part had to keep bringing the abuser to life again to have another opportunity to kill the abuser, and the attack in my visualization was very graphic and sadistic. I questioned whether this was healthy for me but decided to trust that I was experiencing this because my persecutor alter part needed it to heal.

The visualization would go on for five to 15 minutes – as long as the part needed. After it ended, I would tell the alter part that I loved him or her and invite the part into a safe room over my heart. It’s a room that can only be opened from the inside and is warm and cozy with treasured items from childhood. The persecutor part would enter the room and typically integrate fairly quickly. Once the persecutor part had expended its anger and knew that its services were no longer required, it was ready to melt back into the core and feel loved rather than hated.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled Feeling Off , a reader posted the following comment:

why do some parts (2 in particular very scared of). .want to and do harm other parts within. Rape. Beat. I see this. I hear it. Someone said it sounds as if they are introject parts. Could you do blog on this? How do i change this within? It is terrifying. ~ Malanie

I have not heard the term introject parts before for people with dissociative identity disorder (DID), but I understand the concept. In the book Safe Passage to Healing, Chrystine Oksana labels these parts as persecutor parts, so I have always used her terminology for this. I have written on this topic before, which you can read here. Be sure to read the excerpt provided in that blog entry from Safe Passage to Healing so you know that this isn’t only my opinion.

I, too, had persecutor parts, and they were terrifying. They seemed to interfere with my healing process, and it was all internalized. Really, how do you explain that one alter part is “beating up” another alter part? If you have experienced this, it makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to someone who does not know what it is like to have alter parts.

Safe Passage to Healing helped me with this, and I strongly recommend this book to anyone who endured ritual abuse and/or has alter parts. (The book specifically addresses DID, but I would be very interested to hear from those who are multiple without DID as to whether this resource is helpful.) While I was frightened of my persecutor parts, I chose to believe that each alter part is a part of me, which means that every part is “good,” no matter how frightening. In the beginning, this belief was based on sheer faith, relying on Chrystine Oksana to know what she was talking about because I really did not have any other resources specifically on persecutor parts to guide me through this.

If I came from a place of seeing all persecutor parts as “good,” no matter how badly they were acting, I could apply the same principles that I had been using for healing my other parts. Tomorrow, I will share the approach that worked best for me.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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