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Archive for the ‘Alter Parts’ Category

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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I went to graduate school after college. I got into my dream school, and my mother offered to pay in full (including living expenses) if I went there and turned down three full scholarships to other schools. That kept me wed to her for another three years. Big mistake.

My sister, who was now 18, was my roommate. My mother told me she was doing “tough love” with my sister and would not pay her half of the living expenses unless she went to school. Meanwhile, she told my sister that she was giving me lots of money to support both of us and that I was keeping it all to myself. It took my sister and me years to unravel the lies of our mother pitting us against each other.

My mother randomly decided not to pay my car insurance as finals were coming up. One week before finals, I received an insurance cancellation notice. I called my mother to ask WTF?? She told me that she was not going to pay it because I was irresponsible. Of course, I had no way to raise a few hundred dollars when I was in the middle of finals and had no job. I felt backed into a corner, and that is when Irate (a protector alter part) came out. That was the first and only time I confronted my mother, even though I (as Faye) had no idea what I was really doing.

I told my mother, “You already f@#$ed me as a child. You are not going to f@#$ me as an adult!!!!” She hung up on me. I called her back in a complete rage, and she hung up again. I have since learned that she got out a gun, loaded it, and almost blew her head off. She wrote about the incident in a self-published “book” she wrote. In her version, I called her up and was “nasty” to her. She says she does not remember why I called or what the argument was over, only that she was suicidal after we hung up.

I married a man I met in graduate school. I suspect a big part of the timing was to get the h@#$ away from my mother. He could protect me from her. My mother slept in the same bed as me on the night before my wedding. Not surprisingly, I was awake all night.

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Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled More Alter Parts, a reader posted the following questions:

Do you think its possible to have like 3 or 4 very reliable everyday alter parts and them some that appear very rarely, more like the fragments you mentioned? … oh and another question: can one (haha) feel like someone else too, like someone one knows or is (too) close to? ~ queen_of_acknowledgement

A member of Isurvive once described dissociative identity disorder (DID) as a “create your own disorder” disorder. What she meant by this is that the way a child splits is only limited by the creativity of the child. I have met people who only split into two parts – an adult and a very needy inner child. I have met others (myself included) with hundreds of parts, most of which are personality fragments holding only one memory or emotion each. After talking with people online with DID and reading many books of people sharing their stories (such as Chrystine Oksana’s excellent book Safe Passage to Healing), I have seen pretty much everything else in between.

So, the short answer is yes – someone could definitely have four main alter parts and then personality fragments that hold most of the trauma memories and emotions. One part might take care of the responsibilities, such as paying bills. Another part might be the social part that enables the person to interact with others successfully. A third part might be the nurturer who does a great job parenting the children. Anyone with DID is limited only by his or her own creativity for building a multiple system.

To answer the second question … An alter part can mirror someone that the child (or adult) feels close to or respects. I feel like I spent most of my life mirroring other people. As a child, I never learned how to be “normal,” so I mirrored the behaviors in other people that made them successful, and that is how I built my own successes. So much of my humor is mirroring funny lines I watched on sitcoms. It feels like “me” because I created parts of myself to mirror what worked for others.

An alter part can also feel like a best friend. I have parts that I choose not to integrate fully because I simply enjoy those parts’ “company.” I know that they don’t cease to exist when they integrate, but I simply want them as separate “friends” (sort of like an adult version of having an “imaginary friend”), and I grieved mightily when I believed that I had to “lose” one of these friends to integration. I have learned how to let the part integrate during the day but then come back out when I need that part to be separate. Perhaps I will one day have to leave the whole soul in one piece, but, for now, keeping some parts separate serves my needs better at this time.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled More Alter Parts, readers posted the following comments:

May not be the same at all. I have parts that are outside of my body. They do not ‘come out” rather they “come in”. It does not lend itself to discussion with in the current understanding of dissociation. For me when the come in there was a severe physical reaction which is not their fault. It is less severe now. Any way I thought would throw the concept your way and you can do with it what you wish. ~ MFF

I also like MFFs concept of “coming in”. Thats the way i experience it too (if I “expereince” it). its more an invasive kinda thing, it feels like it either takes over or comes and gets me.ahh just writing about me makes me so uneasy!! Thanx tho, MFF!! ~ queen_of_acknowledgement

I am intrigued by the concept of alter parts “coming in” rather than “coming out,” and I would love for readers who experience this to explain it to me.

Before integrating my host personality into my core, the host felt like a sliver of a soul, and other alter parts felt much “bigger.” Sometimes both parts would occupy the same space, like another part would “step into my face” while the host personality was still present. This felt like “coming out” because parts would “step into my face,” which was “coming out” of the depths inside and into my face. Does that make sense?

After integrating the host personality into the core, “I” feel much deeper and richer like a “fuller” soul. Parts that are not integrated “hide” in my stomach and thighs, which is why I struggle so much with binge eating. When I binge eat, I “stuff down” the alter parts/emotions/memories.

I guess I do experience a “coming in” of sorts when I invite an alter part out. Really what I am doing is inviting that part back into the core, which would be a “coming in” versus a “coming out,” but I am not sure if that is what you mean. I would love to hear more about “coming in.”

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled More Alter Parts, a reader posted the following questions:

Anyway, this post brought up a couple of questions we had regarding an emerging alter that we hadn’t recognized before:

– do grown-ups split off new alters? or is it more likely that they are just hiding?

– do alters start cooperating with each other (like two alters meld together independent of the core to create a new alter that combines the traits of the two separate alters)?

My answer to question #1 is “both.” My experience has been that I continue to have the ability to “split off” new alter parts. For example, a couple of years ago, I went through a period of feeling a deep void because I don’t have a real “mother” in my life. So, I split off an alter part to serve this need. When the ache got to be too great, I used this “good mother” alter part to nurture my wounded inner child. This part is still available to me at will.

I also have alter parts that I have not yet integrated, such as the two I described in my previous blog entry. Those have been around since the original trauma occurred. Each alter part is simply my internal representation of how I compartmentalized my reaction to the trauma, and they will continue to remain “separate” until I heal that part of myself. Because they are separate, I have a bit of control over the pacing of the healing.

As for question #2, it has been my experience that parts can integrate into each other before they join the core. Keep in mind that all of the parts belong together like a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t matter whether you place the puzzle piece into the big jigsaw frame or join a few pieces together that are the same color and then fit them into the bigger puzzle later – it is all still piecing the soul back together. So, any type of integration, whether as part of the core or separate from the core, is still healing.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I think I have a better idea about what is going on with me now. When I left the gym this morning, I felt a very strong need to cry, but no tears would come. This is an odd thing for me because for most of my life, I could cry at the drop of a hat. Whenever I feel this heaviness of needing to cry but can’t, I know I am dealing with a dissociated part of myself.

So, when I climbed into the shower, I invited myself to cry, and a distressed alter part came out. I could not produce any tears, but this part wailed loudly. I felt completely separate from this part and had the same internal dialogue I always do – “I am being so dramatic. Who I am being dramatic for? Nobody is here!!” Then, just as suddenly as it started, it went back inside, and I could feel the heaviness in my stomach (where I keep feeling an urge to binge eat to shove it back down).

I invited the part back out, and then another part came. This alter part was absolutely terrified, hyperventilating and completely freaking out. I forced my eyes open and told myself that I am in an adult body and am safe. That drove the part back into my stomach, too.

I couldn’t get either part to come out again, but at least now I know what I am dealing with – more unhealed trauma. Oh, joy!

I invited both parts into a special “room” by my heart that is warm and safe with a door that only opens from the inside. It might take some coaxing for me to “move” these alter parts out of my stomach and stop the urges to binge eat.

Never a dull moment when healing from dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled DID: Which Part is the “Real Me”?, a reader posted the following questions:

Do alters always have a name? And does the person with it live separate lives?? ~ Mia

The short answer is no – alter parts do not have to have names. Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a “create your own disorder” disorder, which means that the variations of how to “split” are only limited by the creativity of the children doing the “splitting.”

I have seen a wide variety of ways to split. Some people split into only two parts, typically a child part (who holds the unmet needs) and the adult part. In this case, each part is more likely to have a name. Others fragment into polyfragmented DID, where they might have hundreds of alter parts. In this case, there frequently is not a name for each part. My own system was polyfragmented, and most parts did not have names. Many parts were only personality fragments, which means that they were one-dimensional, holding only one memory or emotion.

I have seen fragmentation that is not classified as DID but, instead, as dissociative disorder – not otherwise specified (DD-NOS). I have met a handful of people who fragmented into colors. One woman’s anger was held in the red, her sadness in the blue, etc. When she looked into the brown, she would lose time, so she avoided “going there.”

As for whether each part lives separate lives – Again, it depends upon the multiple system involved. In my case, the answer was no. I had a host personality that was “out” most of the time, and I viewed that part as “me.” I had a wolf alter part that took over at night when I fell asleep (and that part still comes out, but I stay co-present). That part never did anything but “guard me” while I slept. Other parts would come out as needed when I was abused or triggered into adulthood, but they only stayed out until the danger passed. Others, such as the famous people with DID (Sybil, Truddhi Chase, etc.) did have alter parts who would “take over” and lead a separate life.

Again, so much depends upon how the child chose to fragment and how “separate” you keep each part inside of yourself. In my case, there was always a strong “core” that ran the show, even though my host personality was completely unaware of this. The more you reject a part, the more “separate” that part will feel, and this is more likely to result in the leading of different “lives.” However, it can also just result in the “rejected” part popping out at inopportune moments.

This happened me. I had a part called “Irate” who (obviously) held some of my rage. My host personality was a walking doormat, but sometimes Irate would have enough and pop off at the other person. I would be as baffled as the other person was when I suddenly had a strong backbone.

When it comes to DID, pretty much anything goes. Your multiple system was only limited by your creativity as a child.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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