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This blog entry continues the topic I started yesterday.

I take no issue with my sister’s therapist having a different opinion of what might be going on with me than what I believe is happening. My sister’s therapist has never met me, and everything she knows about me is filtered through my sister (who posts on this blog as Lydia). Lydia’s therapist’s focus is on Lydia, not me, and on helping Lydia navigate the waters of trying to maintain a relationship with both me and momster when I am 100% cutting momster out of my life. Trying to understand the mental health status of both of us is fair game in Lydia’s therapy as far as I am concerned.

My therapist’s opinion of what is going on with me carries more weight than Lydia’s therapist’s opinion based upon secondhand information, and I am sure the same is true for Lydia if my therapist made any sort of comments about her own state of mental health. The therapist that has gotten to know the patient is in a much better position to observe and diagnose the state of mental health of the patient than someone receiving secondhand information.

The biggest difference between the momster/me situation and the Lydia/me situation is that I have a mental health professional who has evaluated me over a period of years, and momster does not. This means that if my sister needed a professional opinion on my state of mental health, I have someone who could provide it whereas there is no mental health professional involved with momster. We only have her word that she is “normal,” but her behavior screams otherwise.

My sister (Lydia) had some interesting comments after reading my accounting of what my friend said was in momster’s letter. Her reaction was the context definitely sheds a different light on the same facts. Lydia has heard the stories about the cows and the play directly from momster and received them in a very different light. She could see how my friend could have the reaction she did but also has a different perspective on what was intended in the letter.

I told Lydia, and Lydia 100% supported this, that the intention of momster is irrelevant for my decision-making on continued contact. The comments might be as innocent as Lydia believes, or they might be as calculated as my friend believes. Either way, my focus needs to be on MY reaction to the letter, not on what was going on in momster’s head when she wrote the letter. For better or for worse, contact from momster is toxic to me, and I don’t want it in my life. Lydia supports my decision, and we haven’t even talked about momster once other than this conversation after she called me about the logistical issue she was having in trying to post.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Man at DeskThanks to the momster drama, back to school activities, traveling, getting a promotion at my job, and getting sick last week, I am embarrassingly behind on reading through the comments. When I logged into my email account (where I receive email copies of all comments as well as emails from readers), I had over 500 messages – Yikes! It is going to take me a while to catch up.

My sister, who occasionally visits and posts as “Lydia,” called me about a logistical issue she was having with one of her comments, which is how I found out about discussions concerning what her therapist said about my momster situation. You can read the discussions here.

Different readers have posted different comments regarding my sister’s therapist’s views about me as well as my therapist’s views about my mother possibly having schizophrenia, so I would like to address those in my next two blog entries.

In neither case did a therapist “diagnose” someone that s/he had not talked with. In both cases, the patient (me re: momster and Lydia re: me) sought to talk with the therapist about concerns with someone in her life who might have mental health issues. The therapist’s observations were based solely on the patient’s representation of the other person’s behavior, which is always going to be filtered through the patient’s accounts of the third party’s behavior. The goal of those discussions is to help the patient work through her feelings about interactions with the other person.

Let’s focus on my situation in this blog entry…I have always known that momster’s interactions with the world was “off,” and I have numerous reasons to believe that she is likely mentally ill. I could go on for days with examples, but one of the most concerning symptoms is her hearing “G*d” audibly talking to her and telling her to do odd things. As a child, I thought that she was more religious than I was and a prophet since G*d talked to people in the Bible, but as I grew older, I recognized that the messages she was receiving were definitely odd. Her interactions with other people are simply not rational and never have been.

Momster has never sought out a diagnosis from the mental health community because she does not believe there is anything wrong with her. She truly believes that the reason that nobody else is hearing G*d audibly talking to them is because they are not prophets like she is. Emotionally healthy people tend to stay away from her because her behavior is so erratic.

I talked with my therapist about her symptoms to help me make sense of them and unravel my own reactions to having been raised by a mentally-ill woman. He never diagnosed her with anything, but he said her symptoms are consistent with schizophrenia. I did my own research and agree with him. No, she has never been diagnosed with a mental illness, but that does not mean that she is not mentally ill. I needed to have a frame of reference from my end to help me heal from my interactions with her regardless of whether she ever chooses to seek professional help, and I did not need to limit my own ability to heal from our relationship based upon whether or not she chose to seek help.

More tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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SunsetTaking a week off was just what I needed. I went to the beach with a friend and our two children. She had to leave after two days, which gave me lots of time for reflection as I sat on the beach while the children played in the waves.

I had some epiphanies during this trip, some of which involved myself and some that involved others. I slowly progressed back to a place of mindfulness – of feeling present in my own body at this point of time in my life. I had been in such a state of dissociation for most of the year that I had “forgotten” what it felt like to live in my body in the present moment.

I am at peace with my decision to cut off all contact with momster. My sister has been great about talking about other topics. We both have a lot going on in our day-to-day lives that don’t involve momster, and we focus on those topics when we chat. I am also at peace with another decision I made involving my ex-friend. I had the opportunity to open that door back up, but I decided to keep it shut. I need to move forward with my life, not backward, and I need to stay in relationships with people who are supportive of growth.

Throughout the year of mind f#$%’s from momster, my eyes were opened to some realities in my life that were bothersome. While I have remained aware of those realities, I am in a place of seeing them against the backdrop of the full picture rather than in a vacuum, which was how I was seeing them when I was wigging out last month. I recognize that some of these unpleasant realities are things I can live with at this time in my life. That doesn’t mean I have to live with them forever, but I also don’t have to react to every area in my life that isn’t exactly where I want it to be right now.

I also have a vision of who I am becoming and who I want to be. The theme of 2012 for me (outside of the mind f#$%’s from momster) has been the year of letting go. I am ready to let go of the anchor that keeps me bound to my childhood traumas. Of course, my childhood experiences are always going to influence my life, but they don’t need to be my focal point. I am ready to move forward into the next phase of my life, which does not revolve around the abuse I suffered as a child.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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The weekend away was exactly what I needed. I had been triggered on top of triggered for so long that I had just about forgotten what it felt like NOT to be triggered. I know that I used to live my life like that, but I don’t anymore, and being triggered is not my “natural state.” Sadly, when it keeps happening like that, it’s easy to fall back into that unhealthy place because being constantly triggered can seem “normal” again.

This trip away has driven home just how important it is for me to meet my own needs and take good care of myself. Getting some physical distance from my day-to-day life helped as did removing some of my responsibilities. However, I don’t think either is what grounded me. I did a lot more exercising (walking) and spending time at the beach, which has always been a grounding force. Instead of trying to get X, Y, and Z done, I read a book and chit-chatted with my sister for hours.

Not being triggered is my natural state just as being triggered used to be what felt “normal,” so I didn’t fully appreciate when I had moved from one back to the other. I noticed it in the little things, such as no longer needing to do different obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) actions to relieve my anxiety. (I no longer had a lot of anxiety to process.) I was also able to sleep each night without needing to take a Xanax.

When I return home, I need to figure out a way to get back to this level of balance. I like to work, but I also need to take time to self-nurture. The good news is that I do know what it is like to live a more balanced lifestyle as well as what tools I need to use to get there. I just need to do what works for me, and that is going to be easier with hub back at work and child in summer camp now that school has ended.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Through my job, I am taking a workshop on positive psychology. I knew that the workshop would be helpful in the classroom, but I was pleasantly surprised to recognize the ways I already use some positive psychology in my life as well as on this blog.

As an example, the workshop recommends building strategies that encourage others to feel hopeful. One way to do this is by sharing coping strategies to help the other person deal with a challenging area in his or her life.

As you know, this blog is filled with numerous “tools for your emotional toolbox” — not only tools that I have shared but also many wonderful tools that readers have provided. I will write about how much yoga has helped me, and then a reader might say, “Yoga doesn’t work for me, but I find Tai Chi to be helpful.” Collectively, we have managed to provide many tools for the emotional toolbox.

Not every coping strategy is going to work for every person, but enough tools have been provided on this blog (be sure to read the comments!) that anyone who visits the blog will hopefully find some tool that is helpful.

Another point the workshop made is to focus on your positive traits rather than only your negative ones. It pointed out that this can be an issue even in therapy. This was true for me. I entered into therapy with a very long list of all of the things that were “wrong” with me that I wanted to fix. My therapist continuously pointed out my strengths so I could see that I had those as well. (It took me a long time to “hear” him, though.)

The workshop points out that simply focusing on positive things is not going to magically fix all of your problems, but using your strengths daily and taking an inventory of the blessings in your life can go a long way toward giving you a reason to keep fighting your way toward emotional health.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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One of the blessings of having some people in my life who “knew me when” is hearing an outside perspective about how much I have grown since I chose to heal. A friend came to visit over the weekend who knew me when I was going through therapy. By the time I met her, I was seeing my therapist every other week and had worked through many memories. However, I was still struggling with the ritual abuse memories and had not even begun many of my transformations.

Before therapy, I was very rigid and controlling. I was obsessed with having a very specific schedule for my son. He needed to eat at exactly X time, and the world would end if he got to bed one minute late. I have changed so much that I sometimes “forget” about how rigid I used to be, which is where some of the longer friendships really help.

On Saturday night, I watched a movie on DVD with my “old” friend along with a couple of “newer” friends. What’s funny is that one of my “newer” friends has known me for five years versus this older friend’s seven years, but that just shows you much growth I apparently experienced just between those two years.

I made a crack about how I know I am dealing with someone uptight when I am the one advising the other person to chill out and go with the flow. My “older” friend jumped in and said, “You know. You really are so much more ‘go with the flow’ than you used to be.” She said she really noticed the change when I visited a couple of years. She expected me to have a detailed schedule for the whole day, and she was pleasantly surprised by my “whatever” attitude – “The kids can eat whenever… They can go to bed whenever…” She said she was amazed at how much more relaxed I had become since we first met.

I frequently only see how far I have to go, so it is refreshing to hear an outside perspective on how far I have come. No, I am not a completely carefree, spontaneous person, but I am also to the rigid, scheduled person that I used to be, either. It’s exciting to notice the progress!

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Microscopic ViewOn my blog entry entitled Returning to Isurvive’s Ritualized Abuse Forum, a reader posted the following comment:

Staying present is wrong wrong wrong for a multiple anything like me. It is the opposite. Some professionals now get that it is not about dissociation for some people. I had to discover that on my own. ~ Michael

This is the first time I have heard that staying present is “wrong” for any child abuse survivor. It is entirely possible that Michael has tried to tell me this on numerous occasions, but sometimes I need to hear a particular comment in several different ways before I can process the idea. (Sorry, Michael!)

Michael had previously told me that yoga was very bad for him. I believed and respected him but did not understand why. Considering that the point of yoga is presence, it makes complete sense in light of staying present being “wrong” for him.

Most of the literature that I have read as well as my own personal therapy has put a great deal of focus on learning how to stay present. If this advice is wrong for an entire subset of survivors, I can understand Michael’s (and others’) frustration with the mental health profession.

Michael also told me that being a multiple is not the same thing as having dissociative identity disorder (DID), which I did not understand but did accept and respect. I wonder if perhaps that is the distinction for when staying present is helpful or harmful??

The reason I say this is people generally tend to divide child abuse survivors into “singletons” (people who are not divided into parts) and multiples or DID (used interchangeably). Both Michael and I would fall under the umbrella of people who divided into parts, but staying present is incredibly healing for me and damaging for him.

Here’s one important difference between me, as someone healing from DID, and what I believe Michael’s experience to be (and, Michael, please chime in if I misrepresent you in any way). I always had a “core” inside of myself – one part that oversaw my multiple system. For most of my life, I saw myself as Faye (a host personality), but the core was running the show. I integrated Faye into my core, which technically moved me out of a DID diagnosis because I stopped losing time. Because there was always one central part “in charge,” perhaps staying present moves me toward integrating back into one single part.

I believe that Michael has never had a central part or core – that his development was such as there never was a “me” at any point – his soul/spirit was never a whole that split. Instead, I believe he actually grew from day one as a multiple. (Michael – Am I right about this?) If that is the case, then “staying present” is trying to force a unity that has never existed, which could explain why staying present is wrong for him.

Does this sound like a reasonable theory? Or am I off the mark?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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