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Posts Tagged ‘alter parts’

I am using yesterday’s blog entry to launch a new section of my blog. Up until this point, my blog has only included Aftereffects Categories for post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder (DID) because I have personal experience with both of these labels. However, there are thousands of child abuse survivors who experienced trauma that went beyond PTSD but did not result in DID. Those child abuse survivors need resources, too.

I have launched a new Category called Aftereffects: Other, which is a working title until we can collectively come up with more descriptive name. (Any ideas welcome!) This will be a category for blog entries that include, but are not limited to, other types of child abuse aftereffects that go beyond PTSD but don’t fit under DID, such as…

  • Dissociative Amnesia
  • Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS)
  • Dissociative Fugue
  • Multiples who are not DID (for example, there is no “host personality” who loses time)
  • Splitting into one adult alter part with a buried child part

A particularly interesting aftereffect that I have heard from two different people is splitting into colors. (Both were diagnosed with DD-NOS.) Instead of splitting in alter parts (people), they split into colors. As an example, for one of these people, Red held the anger, Blue held the sadness, and Brown held the memories that were too traumatizing to view. If this person looked into the brown, she would lose time. The other one also split into colors, but there were some variations. I think that each knowing about the other’s experience would be incredibly helpful.

I am sure there are other types of aftereffects that I am not familiar with, so please educate me! If you have reacted in a particular way, there is likely at least one other person on the planet you can relate to your particular aftereffect. I want this blog to provide hope and healing for them as well.

Here is where I need your help … I know that I don’t personally know enough about these different types of reactions to child abuse. I have read many stories and spoken with many child abuse survivors, but repeating what I have heard is not the same as having experienced it.

I have never done this before, but I would like to invite guest blogs to add material to this category. You may take credit for your blog entry under your reader name, choose a pen name, or request that I credit the writing to “Anonymous.” I will not divulge any identifying information, and I will only edit your submission for grammar and punctuation if needed for clarity. You are welcome to provide your own image (please let me know who to credit with the image – you must have permission for me to use the image if it is not your own.) Otherwise, I’ll choose an image for you. If you have questions about how this would work or would like to submit a guest blog, please email it to faith_amom@hotmail.com.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled How to Move Past Betrayal by a Mother Figure, a reader posted the following comment:

I have read and read and read… about this whole “alter” thing and it still confuses me. I read the book Sybil, and I have watched videos of people with MPD changing into someone else. I was mostly wanting to know if I had it as well. My T says no I do not. I never lose time in the way they describe, but time is weird to me in that a day ago can seem like weeks ago to me. I know I am nothing like Sybil.

I do not have names for different personalities or anything like that. However, I do see different aspects of myself that can seem like whole different entities. When I am doing good, and confident, the person I feel inside cannot even hardly imagine the person I was a few days ago when I felt broken and insecure. It seems like a whole different person to me. When I am insecure, I do not feel like I can do anything. The road to an education seems so ludicrous to me I cannot even believe what I am doing. And then I shift inside and feel confident that I can get 4.0 grade average and I will conquer anything I set my mind too. That is just one example. However, I am fully cognitive of all of these major shifts going on inside of me.

Sometimes within the same few hours, I will feel happy and full of live and the future looks bright. Then in just a matter of a few hours or even minutes at times, life is not even hardly worth living. I am struggling inside.

What is all this craziness anyway? Is it the mid-life crisis? Is it hormones? My physician has assured me that my hormones are pretty stable. ~ Heavenly Places

My therapist is not a big fan of labeling patients. He did apply the label of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) only because he needed it to push through my denial. I kept arguing with them that what I had been through “wasn’t that bad,” “others had it worse,” etc. and simply refused to acknowledge that my abuse had been “that bad.” Seeing the label PTSD on the top of a white board with a list of painfully familiar symptoms was a powerful way to help me break through the denial and give myself permission to grieve the devastation of my childhood abuse.

My therapist is fully aware of my having alter parts and my work in integrating them outside of his office, but he never once attached a label for this. I was so fearful that he would think I was “crazy,” but he didn’t. Instead, he said that he doesn’t want to use labels because healing from trauma happens in the same way no matter what your label is – You need to talk about what happened until you no longer feel the need to talk about it anymore. Upon this foundation, I have added that you need to find a way to love and accept each part of yourself, whether that part is a memory, emotion, feeling, alter part, or any other internal “separation.”

I, too, saw the movie Sybil and did not relate because she was so out of control, and I never have been. My switching has always been seamless, which is the whole point of DID in the first place. I apply the DID label to myself because it helps me understand my healing process, but I see limitations in the label because it has been designed by mental health professionals from the outside rather than multiples who experience it from the inside. For example, I have talked to a couple of people with a Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS) label whose experience is very similar to mine, only they split into colors instead of “personalities.” This is an important distinction to the DSM, but it really much is not of a distinction to me. Regardless of the label, I think that DID, DD-NOS, Dissociative Fugue, etc. are just ways that we try to explain to others how we dealt with the trauma in our own heads.

So, my advice is not to get too caught up in the label. If it is useful to you, use it to help you find additional resources for healing. For example, Chrystine Oksana’s Safe Passage to Healing provides some wonderful healing suggestions for people who have alter parts. Other than that, the label itself is not the part that matters. What matters is that you find a way to love and accept each part of yourself – each memory, feeling, experience, emotion, etc. There are many ways you can do this, and you don’t need a label to learn how to love and accept yourself.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and Accountability, I said:

I have always maintained that a person with DID is responsible for all behaviors and actions taken regardless of which alter part made the choice to act in a particular way. This is because each alter part is you. While each alter part might “feel” completely foreign to you (from the perspective of the host personality), each part is you. ~ Faith

A reader posted the following comment:

I’m sorry, but that’s just not true.

A) DID (or any serious mental or behavior disorder) effects different people in different ways -and to a wide variety of degrees. Blanket statements simply do not apply.

B) Furthermore, you can’t say that “all these parts are still YOU” when it’s impossible to define the nature/concept of Identity. There is no agreed upon, scientific definition for “Identity”
Ever study the field of A.I.? The biggest problem in creating an A.I., (and the reason we haven’t) is that we can’t really define “intelligence” -we need to know what the goal is in order to reach the goal. This is an example of, and the same point re “identity”.

I understand what you’re trying to say. But sometimes, there really IS nobody home; or the person that is home, has no concept of right and wrong. And I can tell you for a fact that happens. ~Touched with Fire

First, let me clarify that my comments were restricted to people diagnosed with DID or other forms of dissociative disorders. I completely agree with Touched by Fire that there are people who have no concept of right or wrong, but those are not people with DID – they are psychopaths and/or people with mental illnesses. (DID is not a mental illness.) It is possible for people to have both DID and a mental illness, but it would be the mental illness that causes the person to have no concept of right or wrong, not the DID.

I don’t know a thing about artificial intelligence, but I do know a lot about DID because I have lived with it for my entire life and have been healing from it since 2003. Yes, DID does affect different people in different ways. In fact, on Isurvive (a message board for child abuse survivors), a member provided the best definition I have ever heard of DID – it is a “create your own disorder” disorder. The variations in DID (and other dissociative disorders) are only limited by the creativity of the children “creating” it.

There are some blankets statements that do apply to all people with DID. All people with DID were severely traumatized as children on an ongoing basis (typically beginning by age six). You simply don’t get it any other way. If you did, then some Prisoners of War (POW) would develop DID, but they don’t, even when they have endured severe torture tactics on a daily basis over a period of years. My theory is that DID is a gift provided for young children who have no other way to escape the trauma. Maria Montessori observed that children through age six are in one stage of development that ends at age six, which is why she designed her school with age six being the magic age to move from one system of learning to another. I think there is something special about that stage of develop that gives children the gift of escaping the trauma through DID.

Of course, you can make blanket statements about the symptoms of DID – memory loss that is unaccounted for by addiction or another medical condition and the presence of two or more distinct identities (alter parts) that take control of the person’s behavior. In fact, the main difference between DID and other dissociative disorders is the presence or absence of alter parts. I have talked with people who have a diagnosis of Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS) whose experiences are very similar to my experience with DID, but they split into colors or in other ways instead of alter parts, which pushed them out of a DID classification.

One other blanket observation is just my own – I have yet to meet someone with DID who is not, to some extent, a “people pleaser.” My own theory is that DID is, in part, caused by the intense need to be different things to different people that are inconsistent with each other. For example, I needed to be a whore at night, a well-behaved daughter in the mornings, and a perfect student at school while “stuffing down” (not expressing) my reactions to the trauma. I had to be different things to different people, and I did this by “splitting myself” to make this happen.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience and from what I have learned about other people’s experiences. The books I have read and the hundreds of people I have spoken with online who have healed (or are healing) from DID show dramatic improvement in their symptoms as they embrace each part as “me.” See the article Understanding Integration for more information on this topic (written by a clinician who has fully integrated from DID).

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A reader sent me an email asking me to talk about dissociative identity disorder (DID) and accountability. More specifically, the reader wants to know how to take responsibility for our behavior and actions and not dissociate when you have DID.

I have always maintained that a person with DID is responsible for all behaviors and actions taken regardless of which alter part made the choice to act in a particular way. This is because each alter part is you. While each alter part might “feel” completely foreign to you (from the perspective of the host personality), each part is you.

For many people with DID, the host personality is the “goody two shoes” of the multiple system. This was certainly true for me. My host personality used words like “fudge” as expletives and wouldn’t dream of using a string a “bad words” to express herself. However, as I integrated my host personality into my core, “bad words” became a natural part of my vocabulary because words like “fudge” did not come close to describing what I was feeling as I worked through the healing process. If an alter part used “bad words,” I was responsible for that language, even though my host personality would not feel responsible because an alter part said them. Regardless of which alter part is speaking, I am ultimately the one expressing myself.

The part of the question regarding dissociation is really about the host personality dissociating. When one part dissociates, another part takes its place. Even in a very dissociated state, your body is managing to walk, talk, and interact with the world around you. That just means that another part of yourself is in the driver’s seat, but that part of yourself is still you.

My therapist reassured me multiple times that I am never going to behave in a way that is contrary to who I am. (We had this conversation when I feared that an alter part could harm my child.) While some of you might vehemently disagree with this, read this blog entry and consider the points I made.

The bottom line is that you are always you. You might only be accessing one part of yourself, such as an angry part, a sad part, or a host part, but all of these parts are still you, which makes you responsible for any actions or behaviors you choose. I know what it feels like to have an alter part “take over” and do things that seem contrary to who I am (such as the alter part who would bang my head), so I understand why some of you might disagree with me. However, if you dig deeper, you will see that even those parts of yourself that seem inconsistent really are not.

In the example of my self-injuring alter part, I was expressing my reaction to being in a “between a rock and a hard place” situation. Harming myself in reaction to this stress was consistent with who I am, which is why I did it. Harming my child (or any child) is not consistent with who I am, so I have never taken out my emotional baggage on a child. If you can embrace the reality that every part of yourself is part of you and that you will never act in a manner inconsistent with who you are, you will be able to let go of so much fear.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled We are the Ones Who Heal Ourselves, a reader posted the following comment:

I met a girl [alter part] last night. She told me she lives in a peach colored room that the others built for her to keep her safe because they love her. There is no door in the room and the windows are very small so no outsiders can crawl through and hurt her. I don’t know who she is exactly, or how old, but she is very young. She said the others hid her because we would all die if she died. I have a vague recollection of the building of this room. I know it has white carpet and lots of soft and fluffy white bedding and that no one can get in. Except I think I remember going there before. I’m confused. I’m too afraid to tell anyone or post this on my own blog, so I will leave it here because I think you might understand. ~ Anon

I understand much better than Anon could possibly realize. I, too, have my own version of a safe room, and I think visualizing such as safe place can be amazingly healing for child abuse survivors whether they have alter parts or not.

Here is what my “safe room” is like. It has no windows at all so nobody can crawl in. The room only has one door that has a doorknob on the inside only, so if an alter part wants to go to the room, he or she can close the door from the inside, and nobody (not even I) can open the door from the outside.

Inside the room is a canopy bed that changes colors at will. When I was in elementary school (during the worst of the abuse), my best friend had a beautiful pale yellow canopy bed. I really wanted one myself, but my parents said that it would just collect dust. When an alter part enters the room, the canopy bed is that shade of yellow but can change colors at will.

Beside the bed is a toy chest filled with any toy the alter part wants. Next to the toy chest is the one toy that I always wanted as a little girl but that my parents never bought me, no matter how many times I pleaded for it. If you were a kid during the mid- to late-1970’s, you will likely remember the Fisher Price toy castle that was all the rage during that time. It folded open and had the members of the royal family inside. There was a drawbridge and a plank at the top that a toy person could fall through and wind up in the dungeon. Just about every kid I knew had one, and I would always gravitate to that toy on play dates even when my friends were sick of the toy.

Most importantly, the room is cozy warm and located right inside of my heart. My alter parts were “frozen” during the abuse, and as they “thaw out,” they tend to linger in my stomach (causing me to binge eat) or my thighs (which is where I hold my fear). If an alter part is not ready to integrate, I invite him or her into this safe room, and my heart is big enough to hold one safe room for each alter part. The alter part chooses when to open the door up and integrate.

Photo credit: Fast-autos.net

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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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When I was in high school, my teacher showed the class the movie The Three Faces of Eve, which is about one of the first documented cases of dissociative identity disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder. In this movie, the narrator talked about how three women were sharing one body. At the end of the movie, two of the people “disappeared,” and the woman was left with only one of the women inside. That woman held all of the childhood memories.

I vehemently disagree with this explanation of DID. A person with DID does not have a bunch of “people” living inside of her sharing a body. Every person is born with only one spirit. In reaction to severe and ongoing trauma, young children (typically under age 6) have the gift of being able to “split” or “splinter off” parts of their spirit to separate traumatic memories, emotions, and feelings from conscious awareness. The more a person with DID rejects a part of herself, the more separate that part will feel. The part might feel so separate that it feels like another person, but it is not. All of the parts are still interconnected, however minimally, because they are all parts of one spirit.

In my experience, the parts that felt like completely different people (or animals) felt more separate from the perspective of the host personality. For most of my life, my host personality would be tucked safely inside (causing me to lose time) while my wolf alter part came out at night to protect me. If I was abused, the wolf or another part would take the abuse so that my host personality could remain safe.

As I began to heal, my host personality began stay co-present, which means that I (from the perspective of the host) would observe another part when it came out. It felt like I (the host) was being pushed to the side. I would feel what the other part was feeling (such as sadness or rage), but the emotions did not feel like “mine.”

When I finally integrated the host back into the core, I stopped losing time, which meant that I had healed from the DSM IV definition of DID . However, I still had many separate parts. Each held a memory, emotion, or feeling that I was not yet ready to face. Integrating the parts meant having to accept each part as “me.” I had to accept that **I** was the one who was abused, not another little girl that I watched from the ceiling. It was **my** body that was harmed, not someone else’s.

I have come to realize that every single part is just a part of myself that needs healing. As I accept each part as “me” and choose to love that part of myself, I no longer need to keep that part separate. I need to worry about “controlling” another part because they are all me and always have been.

Related Topic:

Understanding Integration

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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