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StatueI have encountered a handful of child abuse survivors who split into an adult and a child alter part. They would not be classified as having dissociative identity disorder (DID) because there is no loss of time or an interchange of personalities. My guess is that they would receive a label of dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DD-NOS), but the label is irrelevant for the purpose of this blog entry. I want to provide a place where people who experienced this split have a place to be recognized.

The people I encountered in person, online, and through books who experienced the type of split I am talking about explain their experience along these lines … They might have experienced some level of abuse or trauma in their early years, but the trauma that caused the split seems to have happened in the age range of five to eight years old, with age six being the most common age for the split to have happened. Admittedly, I have only been able to observe the experiences of a small sample, so this is definitely not written in stone.

At the time of the split, the person “buries” the wounded child part and continues on with the part that grows into an adult. The person has two parts, but the child part does not come out, which is one reason this person would be unlikely to be diagnosed with DID.

Someone who split this way might remember some or all of the abuses experienced by the now-adult part. When some talk about the abuse, they might seem detached, such as explaining something horrific that they know happened to them without attaching emotion to this experience. Also, at least one person I know who split this way succeeded in dissociating away some particularly traumatizing abuse that happened after the split, storing the memories of these experience with the buried child.

As we have talked about many times on this blog, I don’t think this form of splitting or healing from this type of split is “easier” or “harder” than other reactions to abuse, just different. From what observed from one person who invited me into watching some of her healing process, “unburying” the wounded child seemed to be more daunting than what I experienced in integrating one of many alter parts because of the depth of the pain. Because my pain was fragmented into many different parts, I seemed better able to pace myself whereas the other person would feel as if she was drowning in the unmet needs of this one huge needy inner child.

I would encourage anyone who split this way to try different tools that have been useful to other child abuse survivors, such as reaching out to your buried child and inviting her out. Love her. Accept her. Heal her.

I would recommend doing this healing work alongside a qualified therapist with experience working with child abuse survivors who were severely traumatized. From what I have observed from the outside, dealing with the very deep pain of the wounded buried child can be overwhelming at times. A good professional therapist can help you along the process.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Last night, I integrated a big part of myself. This was the wounded little girl who had such a fit this week, but she is so much more than that. This is HUGE. This is Annie, the part that “went to sleep” when I was in the height of the abuse. This was the original child.

Here’s the really disorienting part – From the time I was a baby, I was called Annie. My name on my birth certificate is Faye Anne, and my mother/abuser’s name is Faye. So, my parents (and everyone else) called me Annie. After experiencing some particularly severe trauma, Annie went to sleep, and I woke up as “not Annie.”

Everyone kept calling me Annie, and I could not figure out why. Not one ounce of me related to this name, and I HATED this name. I took a standardized test and learned that my full name was actually Faye Anne, so I insisted upon being called Faye from that moment on. I have related to the name Faye with no internal connection whatsoever to the name Annie ever since … well, until therapy when I came to realize that Faye was a host alter part. Since she integrated, I have related to Faith more than anything else but have people continue to call me Faye to avoid widespread social confusion and explanations.

So, last night, Annie integrated, and it will be interesting to see what the day brings. I already feel different, the biggest difference being my first connection with the name Annie since I was a little kid. If I ask myself, “Who am I?,” there’s a connection to the name Annie again. Not a 100% connection, but that’s OK – there’s some connection now where there was none before. My belief in reincarnation has helped me not to get too disoriented based upon a name. My name changes with each incarnation.

Here’s the really cool part – I now have access to a bunch of childhood memories that I had “forgotten.” I took a mental tour of my childhood house last night and remembered things with vivid detail that I have not remembered in decades, such as where the closets where, the weird décor by the front door, etc. I remember where we put the Christmas tree and that my room was yellow before it was pink. I even remember some happy times with my father and even my mother, which was a real blessing. Apparently, when Annie went to sleep, she repressed the happy stuff along with the bad.

I am going to take it easy today because this is a huge step in healing for me. I have been through other integrations before, and it’s disorienting. I am no longer the “me” I thought I was. I am more truly “me,” but I have to adjust to who that is exactly. What gets interesting is that other people will have to adjust as well, but it will probably be a while before I talk with anyone about it. One or two friends read my blog sometimes, so they might learn about it here, which is fine. If they do, I hope they mention it to me offline so I have someone to talk with about it face to face. If I feel the need, I’ll schedule an appointment with my therapist, too.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am not quite sure if what I am going through is a break**through** or a break**down**. All I know is that it is very intense.

Thank you to those of you who posted responses to Annie. Annie needed to be heard – badly.

I apologize for posting out of order. I actually wrote yesterday’s blog first but then needed immediate feedback for Annie’s stuff. I am feeling less out of control and like this makes some sort of weird sense. I think I am integrating a “large” alter part that endured some of the worst abuse (the splinters, etc.) as well as some of my deepest unmet needs.

I felt like I was losing my mind. The adult part of myself understood why my friends were not available when I called. Two of them were at work. One was at the gym. Another was at the doctor’s office. I don’t know where the hell the other three were, but they weren’t answering their phones. They are all stay-at-home moms with their kids home for the summer, so I am sure they were tending to them. I also knew that my therapist never, ever answers his cell phone. Protocol is to leave a message and then he calls you back.

It doesn’t matter how much I knew all of this logically. When I was so badly triggered and couldn’t reach anyone, I wanted to stamp my feet like a child, and I was sooooo friggin’ angry at all of them. That part of myself did not remotely care why nobody was around to take care of her/me … only that I was, once again, having to face it all alone, even when I had done everything “right.”

All adult responsibilities were completely overwhelming. My kid wound up not taking a shower that night because I simply could not “parent,” and hub is too wrapped up in his own depression issues to parent at all. The next day, it took me hours to work up the energy to go to the grocery store. When the store was out of the cut of meat I needed for dinner, I almost cried and felt like having a full-fledged tantrum. The adult part of me thought quickly and redirected the child part of myself to another dish.

I have dealt with alter parts my entire life and have been “whole” enough to stop losing time for years, but I don’t recall ever feeling as out of control as I have with this alter part/wounded inner child part. I feel immobilized – like someone is asking an eight-year-old child to pay the bills, cook the dinner, and take care of an “older child” by herself.

Is this a breakthrough or a breakdown? I am not quite sure which yet. At least I am not crying nonstop anymore.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Enemas, Tubes, and Object Insertion as Part of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

[My abuse] started when I was an infant, and continued until I was in high school. I always feel like its my fault, and I wanted it to happen, becasue even as I got older, I DIDN’T STOP IT–I LET IT HAPPEN–I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING! For me, that only proves how much of a freak I really am! And it wasn’t just my parents that hurt me, there were others–a deacon from our church, and my brother–who abused me as a kid, and then raped me about 12 years ago. I asked my mother when I was teenager if she knew that my brother had done this–her response to me was ‘yes, but he’s my son!’ So what does that make me??? ~ Theresa

Theresa’s comment expresses the shame that so many child abuse survivors feel, even though child abuse is never the child’s fault – NEVER! According to Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery, feeling responsible for the child abuse is a coping mechanism that abused children use to survive the abuse. As long as the abuse is “my fault,” then I can do something differently to make it stop. To accept the truth – that the abused child has absolutely no control over the abuse – would result in the child acknowledging just how hopeless the situation is, which would cause the child to sink into utter despair. It is actually easier for the abused child to believe that he or she is responsible because then there is at least some hope of making it stop.

While this shame might serve a purpose while the abuse continues, it is extremely damaging to the adult survivor of child abuse who is no longer being abused. When you judge your childhood actions through adult eyes, you are being very unfair to yourself. From an adult perspective, you can see different alternatives that never would have occurred to you as a child (or to any other child). This is because you were a child, not an adult. Also, it is easy to forget how helpless a child really is because, as an adult, you are able to take care of yourself. A child depends upon the adults in his or her life for food, clothing, shelter, etc., and simply leaving home and taking care of yourself is not an option. Also, those in charge are three or four times your size, so physically fighting back simply isn’t an option.

One truth that people don’t talk about enough is that abused children (without therapy or healing) revert back to being abused children in their heads when they are triggered, even if they are 80 years old. Whenever I tell someone about my mother sexually abusing me again after my father died (when I was 17), they inevitably ask why I did not fight her off. I didn’t fight her off because, when she awoke me and started hurting me, I “became” that wounded abused toddler again. It did not occur to me to fight back at age 17 because I was not 17 years old emotionally when she hurt me again.

The same is true into your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and beyond. Until you heal, you will perpetually stay the emotional age that you were when the abuse started whenever you are triggered, particularly if the child abuse was ongoing. This is why you hear about some incest victims who continue having a “sexual relationship” with their abuser even when the child becomes an adult. It’s not a consensual relationship – the twenty-something victim is still an abused child emotionally.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I “met” another inner child through a dream, and I will be curious to see if this inner child returns in my future dreams. I have shared previously about my son, N, representing my inner child in my dreams. A reader helped me recognize that N is now okay and is actually smiling. I have continued trying to “rescue” N, but he needs no rescue. He is okay.

So, the other night I had a dream where I “grew” my family by adopting a foster child. This was another little boy who was the same age as N in my dream. He refused to tell me his name, so I gave him the name of T just so we could have a way of communicating. He was very quiet and sad.

The three of us (me, N, and T) were hanging out in the kitchen, and I was getting them ready for school. N was happy, but T was quiet. The kitchen sink was piled high with dishes. I looked up and saw that T was trapped in the kitchen sink, and he was scared. He wanted to cry and looked so sad, but he said nothing. I immediately pulled T out and hugged him tightly. I told him that I love him and that I was so sorry that he had been scared.

T then spoke for the first time and said, “My name is M,” which is my deceased father’s middle name. I told him that I loved his name and that my father shared his name. I held him close, and then I woke up.

I don’t know the story of M or why he shares my father’s name. All I know is that I love him and that I want to “parent” him so he is no longer so sad and scared.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This has been four nights in a row with the same recurring nightmare, and I am wiped out. After jolting awake multiple times the first night, I got drunk the second night, but that did not help. For nights three and four, I took the highest dosage of Xanax that my doctor prescribed me. That has not stopped the nightmares, but it has at least lessened my body’s reactions to the release of cortisol and adrenaline.

The background is different, but the plot is always the same – I cannot protect my inner child. Last night, I watched helplessly as my inner child (always represented by a younger version of my son – he is around five years old) climbed onto a platform over a coliseum. A child before him had already fallen off and plunged to the ground, and people were checking to see if he had survived the fall. My inner child tried to hit a ball with a bat from the platform and then purposely jumped to my horror. I ran to the ground and had a few terrifying moments of not knowing whether he was alive or dead, but he was okay.

In another dream, I was in school and walking to class. I passed by my inner child’s class, and he was learning how to work a fry cook station (like they use in McDonald’s) with no adult supervision. I ran to stop him, but he walked into the hot grease with a big grin on his face the whole time as I could smell the flesh of his burning feet. I pulled him out and screamed at the people watching, but everyone said that they were not responsible for him. Surprisingly, he seemed to be okay with no damage from the grease.

I can’t remember the other dreams right now (still shaking from the coliseum one), but they are all this type of theme – I cannot protect the child.

Also last night I dreamed about my son (inner child) being asked to go into a room repeatedly that had no gravity, which we both found to be fun, but I wonder if that is symbolic of not being grounded??

I know that recurring dreams are significant, and I wish I could decode this series, deal with it, and get some rest. I am making a point to get nine hours of sleep a night because I slept so poorly the first two, but I am physically exhausted because my sleep is anything but restful.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Today has been a rough day. It started with my son’s asthma flaring up. His trigger is viruses, so even simple sniffles or a runny nose can cause him to start coughing. He has third grade End of Grade Test benchmarks this week, so the last thing he needed was (1) less sleep from coughing, which exacerbates his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms; and (2) his inhaler, which makes him even more hyper. So, the poor kid is having trouble breathing AND sitting still while taking a test that lasts for several hours.

My son’s ADHD symptoms have been particularly bad this week, causing him to do all sorts of weird and impulsive things, which is triggering to me because I feel like I cannot keep my child safe (which equates to not being able to keep my own inner child safe). I cannot keep him safe from his asthma, and I cannot keep him safe from his impulsivity.

Then, I found out that he failed the reading benchmark, which is not surprising but still upsetting. I spend 45 minutes a day walking him through his homework because he cannot read through the instructions and comprehend them at the same time. (He has accommodations at school for all of these issues.) Despite all of the hard work I am pouring into this kid, it is not enough. If he cannot improve his reading, he will not be allowed to go on to fourth grade next year.

Some other minor things triggered me as well, which I won’t go into now. I took Xanax (actually double my prescribed dosage), and it still wasn’t enough. I wound up breaking down crying at my kid’s school (where I volunteer all day on Wednesdays). No matter how hard I try, it’s not enough … and that is so triggering to the little girl inside who worked so hard to keep my inner child safe, but it wasn’t enough…

So, I am just feeling really lousy right now. I just want to shut down and not think. After I put my son to bed, I plan to exercise, watch TV, have some wine, and go to bed. I hate when I get triggered like this, but at least I am aware that I am triggered. That counts for something, right?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have not been to a Reiki session in over 18 months. I thought I did not need it any longer because I could pretty much accomplish the same thing for free at home doing yoga and meditation. The problem is that, thanks to having a child who is taking stimulant medication to treat his attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it is difficult for me to have time in the evenings to do yoga and meditate like I used to. As long as my kid is not sleeping and is running around the house like a hyper noisemaker, I am not going to be able to heal myself spiritually using those tools.

As I have written about before, 2009 has not been a kind year to me. I have been through a lot in my life since November 2008. On top of that, I recovered the memory of my first rape and have had to deal with all of the accompanying emotions. This is the reason I finally went back for a Reiki session.

I found that I could only get so far with healing this wounded inner child/part without spiritual healing. I punched pillows, cried previously unshed tears, and comforted the terror. I validated the feelings and memory. I wrote about it on my blog. None of this succeeded in meeting the needs of that wounded part of myself. This inner child feels like a repository for unending unmet needs. No matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to reach, much less heal, this part of myself.

So, I looked up my Reiki lady’s contact information and made an appointment. I forgot how much I enjoyed Reiki sessions – not only the Reiki itself but also talking with this wonderful lady. I feel much better after having a session. I am planning on going back to monthly appointments to help me heal some of my issues spiritually.

My Reiki lady frequently “sees” things as she performs Reiki. My spirit used to be mostly frozen, and I could track my progress as I “thawed.” Both of us could tell that my spirit is fully “unfrozen” now. However, what she saw was that my spirit was “murky waters,” which I believe means that I still have a lot of “unfrozen” emotions to process. Oh, joy! She also saw light penetrating the murkiness and bringing healing. Let’s hope so.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry Survey for Child Abuse Survivors with More Than One Diagnosis, a reader posted the following question:

I have been officially diagnosed with D.I.D. Currently we are integrating, sometimes at an alarming rate. There is a question though…how can we integrate with the core when the core has been sleeping and protected for many years? The core is pre-verbal and while we feel her presence, her breathing, her innocence…she does not stir, she is very hidden and protected. – Holly

You can still integrate even in this situation. Full integration is going to take some time and patience, but you can do it.

I think that you have confused the core with the original child. They are not necessarily the same thing.

The best analogy I can think of is this … To assume that the original child is the core is to see fragmenting like a banana. The sleeping original child is like the banana itself, and the alter parts are the peels. Until the banana wakes up and integrates, there is no core to work with.

I see fragmentation and integration differently. My analogy is like an iced-over pond. There is only one pond, but it has frozen, and the ice has broken off into chunks. One chunk holds anger, another holds terror, and another holds the feelings of the original child. However, the one chunk of ice that holds the original child’s feelings, even if it is huge, is not the pond. All parts collectively make up the pond.

The healing process is like shining the warmth of the sun onto the pond and melting the chunks of ice back into one lake. The core is not the one big chunk of ice that holds the feelings of the original child. Instead, the core is the part of the pond that has been melted through self-love back into the pond. The core might or might not contain the feelings of the original child, but the core is still just as much a part of your spirit as that original child block of ice is.

As long as you are shining the warmth of self-love onto your parts, you are melting the ice. All will merge back into one pond, which is where they have always belonged. It does not matter if the original child block of ice melts first or last. In fact, it might be easier for you to absorb the feelings of the original child once the rest of the pond is more fluid.

I remember when my original child woke up. I never felt so “in my body” as I did in that moment. It was a powerful experience. You will experience this, too. Just keep loving yourself.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Girl with pail (c) Lynda BernhardtOn my post Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Alter Parts, a reader wrote the following comment:

Hello all, I had a psychologist try to connect me to the 5-year old me and talk to her. But I only could see her, not communicate. It felt like there was a wall between us and that there was nothing I could do or say to protect her. Anyone else have a similar experience? -CS

Yes, I have experienced this a number of times.

My first experience with my inner child came years before I recognized that I had a lot of healing work to do. I was still in college when I had a disturbing dream. I saw a dark, vast room that had nothing in it except an ugly child. The child was hideously ugly – so ugly that I could not even determine the child’s gender. Its face was burned and splotchy red, and it only had a few wisps of hair on the top of its head. I was repulsed by it, but I could also sense that it needed to be loved. So, I walked up to it and hugged it, feeling repulsed the entire time. As soon as I touched it, it started screaming these horrible, blood-curdling screams, and I jerked awake with my heart racing.

Since then, I have has much more focused ways of reaching out to different parts of myself.

The barrier that you are experiencing is your own denial. You have separated from this part of yourself because you do not want to face the pain that this part of yourself holds. To embrace her is to embrace her memories, emotions, and feelings. You separated yourself because those experiences were too painful to face. When you are ready to accept her as you, you will break down those barriers.

One thing that worked for me to was to find a picture of myself at that age. When I first looked at the picture, I hated what I saw. It took me a while to push through my initial self-loathing. I had to think of this little girl as someone standing on the street rather than as “me.” As I distanced myself in this way, I was able to recognize how tiny her hands and feet were and see the sadness in her eyes. As I looked at her this way, I was able to develop compassion for her, which really was compassion for myself. This is how I broke through my barrier.

Related Topic:

Does an Abused Adopted Child Have an “Inner Child”?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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