Posts Tagged ‘animal alter parts’

I have previously written about animal alter parts. I shared at the time that I have an alter part that is a wolf. When I was a little girl, I thought the scariest creature on the planet was the wolf in the story “Peter and the Wolf,” so I created an alter part to “protect” me from my abusers. Of course, having a wolf alter part never succeeded in stopping the abuse from happening, but it nevertheless made me feel “safe” enough to fall asleep at night.

Even though I have integrated many parts and consider myself to be (mostly) whole, the wolf refuses to integrate. I think this is because I am still not convinced that I am safe when I sleep. Every night, I know that I am about to fall asleep when I feel the wolf come out. It makes me feel safe and protected, and I can fall asleep.

This past week, I took my son to the Great Wolf Lodge, which is a hotel with an indoor water park. Because of its theme, I was surrounded by pictures and statues of wolves. Talk about feeling safe!

I fell in love with a photograph in their lobby that I would like to get a print of. You can only see half of the wolf’s face as it is peering out at you behind a tree through one exposed eye. The wolf looks really tough and ready to pounce if you mess with it. I tried to find the picture online so I could post it here, but I was unsuccessful. Alas!

That picture captures what my wolf alter feels like. The wolf is always watching and waiting to leap out and protect me if I need him. I know he has my back, and he gives me the courage to let down my guard and sleep at night.

I have invited the wolf to integrate more times than I can count, but he is not ready. I doubt he will ever be ready until I feel safe at night, and I might not live long enough to ever reach that place. Alas.

Photo credit: Faith Allen

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Yesterday, I talked about dialing it back and shifting my focus from the dissociative identity disorder (DID) issues to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues. (Isn’t my life fun??)

I have recently been recognizing just how f@#$ed up my sleep patterns are. My DID mostly shielded me from just how bad it was. I had (and still have) a wolf alter part that comes out at night to protect me while I sleep. Back when I still had DID, the wolf would take over while the host personality “lost time.” I saw this as sleeping very soundly when, in reality, I was dealing with all sorts of sleep issues.

Since my host personality integrated, I have stayed co-present when the wolf comes out. I always know that I am about to fall asleep when I feel the wolf come out.

I have had messed up sleep patterns forever, but for some reason, I am finally recognizing them for what they are. Here is my pattern:

  1. During the day — My version of “normal”
  2. Sun goes down – Headache
  3. Dark outside – Feel depressed
  4. Feel anxious/triggered
  5. Look for ways to make it stop – binge eat or drink alcohol
  6. Both tired and anxious as bedtime approaches
  7. Delay going to bed even though I am tired
  8. Go to bed late
  9. Wrap up tightly in blankets
  10. Wait for the wolf
  11. Experience nightmares
  12. Awaken at 3:00 a.m.

I cannot sleep unless all of the following happen:

  • Covered in heavy blankets, even during the summer
  • No breeze can touch my skin
  • Must breathe “new” air – cannot be warm (suffocation triggers)
  • White noise drowning out nighttime noises

This is clearly not normal. I could not do all of these things when I shared a room with hub, so I pretty much did not sleep very much or very well for over a decade.

Now, if I take a nap, I have no problem dropping off to sleep or sleeping very soundly. I also rarely have nightmares.

Obviously, this is not normal. These are all aftereffects from the child abuse. I would hear the door open and jerk awake. My mother would pull the covers off me, and I would feel a cool breeze hit my body. Those were always the first two signs that abuse was going to happen.

The fact that I went without the abuse for a few years and then it started again messed with my head, too. I cannot rest and feel assured that it won’t happen again. A part of myself is always on guard at night, waiting for the abuse to start again.

What blows my mind is that this has always been the case, but I am only recently recognizing just how serious this is. I also have no idea how to make it better. I frequently take sleep aids (herbal or over-the-counter sleeping pills) to help, but I don’t want to do that every night.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Over on Isurvive.org, my favorite message board for child abuse survivors, a member posted a question about whether somebody with dissociative identity disorder (DID) could have an animal alter part. The answer to this question is yes.

I had never read or heard about animal alter parts until discovering one in myself. I was lying in my bed, and I felt myself transforming into a wolf. I could feel the fur on my body, and my hands shaped themselves into paws, with my fingers being the claws. I “was” a wolf. To say this freaked me out is an understatement.

Then, I learned that this happened the night before the full moon. At this point, I determined that I truly was crazy and beyond help. Fortunately, I had knowledgeable friends over at Isurvive to talk me through this. Most ritual abuse takes place at the full moon, when there is better lighting for seeing and photographing the abuse, so it makes sense that I would need a protector part as the full moon approached.

People with DID have protector alter parts. Think about DID from a child’s perspective. The point of having alter parts is to protect the child from being harmed. While the child flees the body through dissociation, she leaves behind a protector part to fight back and provide the child with the illusion of safety.

Whatever you, as a child, felt was strong or scary was likely incorporated into an alter part. For me, the wolf in the story “Peter and the Wolf” was one of the scariest creatures I could think of, so I created a wolf alter part. That part comes out every night to curl up around me while I sleep. To this day, my wolf protects me as I sleep. I have tried to integrate this part multiple times, but I guess I still do not feel safe enough to “retire” my wolf.

I also had a snake alter part, which I integrated. Other people have alter parts that are lions, bears, dogs, or other animals. Animal alter parts can be anything that seemed scary to them as children.

I have also heard of people with DID having other types of nonhuman alter parts, such as dolls. Any inanimate object that had significance to you as a child could have been incorporated into your multiple system.

If you have a nonhuman alter part, you are completely normal. Your nonhuman alter part served a function as part of your DID multiple system. Love this part just as you would love any other part of yourself.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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