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Posts Tagged ‘multiple systems’

If my therapist is reading my blog right now, he is probably dying laughing at my attempt to write about how to pace your healing from polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). If I had a nickel for every time he told me to “slow down” during my first six months of healing, I would be a rich woman today.

The intensity of my first six months of therapy was like a runaway freight train. I decided that, if I was going to heal, then I was going to give it all I had and get it over with. As you might have noticed, I have a very strong will and “power” inside of myself (for lack of a better word), so it was an intense ride.

Fortunately, people with polyfragmented DID kind of have a built-in system for pacing their healing. Each traumatic memory and painful emotion is separately tucked away from conscious awareness. So, the person with polyfragmented DID has the power to decide how quickly to unlock each memory. This is not a luxury that most people have when healing from trauma.

Many of my most traumatic memories were stored in multiple pieces. For example, with my memory of the first time my mother hurt me with a new form of abuse, I stored those memories in multiple ways. One part held the memory of the event itself. Another part held the smell, another the rage, and still another, the shame. There were other parts, too.

Because I encapsulated different aspects of the same event, I was able to pace how quickly I worked through each piece. Rather than having to face all of the emotions at one time, I could first recover the memory of what happened and deal with the sickening feeling of knowing what happened. Then, I could focus on the rage. Later, I could focus on the shame.

In fact, with my most traumatizing memories, I might only recover the first half of what happened and wait a couple of months to return to the next part of what happened on the same night. So, by the time I faced part two, I knew that I could handle it because I had already healed part one.

Follow your own inner guide about how quickly to work through each piece of the puzzle of your childhood. You are not in a race, and you do not have to heal everything overnight. Take your time, and work at a pace that you can live with.

Suggested Reading:

Safe Passage to Healing

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Healing from polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is possible. I know it is possible because I have done it. I had several layers of alter parts, which included mostly personality fragments but also some full alter parts/alter egos. I am now mostly integrated. According to my therapist, I will always have some residue and recover new memories from time to time. However, inside of myself, I now function as a “me” instead of as an “us.”

I am not going to lie and say that healing from polyfragmented DID is easy because it is not. It takes hard work and courage to face all of the traumas that caused the fragmentation in the first place.

The way to heal from polyfragmented DID is simple; however, simple is (unfortunately) not the same thing as easy. To heal from polyfragmented DID, you must do the following:

  1. Choose to remember your truths.
  2. Accept each memory as “mine” and as true.
  3. “Own” each accompanying emotion and feeling as “mine.”
  4. Love each part as “me.”

That really is all that there is to it. Of course, saying it and doing it are two entirely different things.

Polyfragmented DID develops because the child rejects his experiences and his reactions to those experiences as “not me.” The self-rejection is hard to overcome. The antidote is self-love. As you choose to love and accept each part, you are choosing to love and accept yourself. Even though each part feels foreign, it is all you.

For me, accepting my truths came easier than owning the emotions. Each new piece to the puzzle of my life explained why I was the way I was. Sometimes it was almost like being a detective into my own life and uncovering clues as I went along.

My struggle was with all of the emotions that came with those memories. I often feared that the despair would pull me under and I would never break through the surface again. I also feared that each new memory would be the one that put me over the edge.

Although it was excruciatingly hard to work through the traumas and process the emotions, I did it a little at a time. It is kind of like the old story that asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I frequently found myself just trying to get through this moment. Each moment added to the next, and before long, months and then years had passed.

The bottom line is that you must commit to healing and never, ever give up. No matter how hard it gets, you must continue to choose to heal.

Suggested Reading:

Safe Passage to Healing

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Many people mistakenly believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is obvious. This is likely due to the media’s portrayal of DID in movies such as Sybil. The whole point of DID is for the abused child to be whatever she needs to be in any situation. The child needs to be seamless when she switches between alter parts in order to save herself or someone she loves. (Most child abusers of children with DID have threatened the lives of someone the child loves.)

Considering that people believe that DID is obvious, they really have a hard time wrapping their minds around the multiple system for someone with polyfragmented DID. After all, how can a person switch 50 times a day without anyone noticing? It is actually very easy for a person with polyfragmented DID to do this. I only recall one time in my entire childhood that anyone ever “caught” me, and I had no idea what my friend was talking about when she called me on it.

Anyone with DID is very compartmentalized. After all, that is the point of developing DID in the first place – to compartmentalize the trauma so you can appear not to be a victim of abuse or trauma. DID is also very organized with each alter part and personality fragment having a role to fill.

Each multiple system for DID and polyfragmented DID has a “gatekeeper” that determines who comes out when. Unlike the representations in the movies, alter parts are not vying for position to run the show and be “out” all the time. Instead, the environment triggers who is needed when to fill a particular role.

Most people with DID, whether polyfragmented or not, have a host personality. This is the alter part that stays out whenever the abuse is not taking place. It is typically the host personality who seeks therapy because she experiences loss of time. Lost time is simply when the host personality is pulled inside and protected while an alter part experiences the abuse. This enables the host personality to interact with the world as if no abuse has ever taken place because, from the perspective of the host personality, no abuse has occurred.

The important thing to remember is that all of the parts, whether there are two or 5,000, are parts of one spirit. So, all of the parts are interconnected. They are not fighting for power. Instead, they are working together in the best way possible to protect the body from further harm and to make sure that the essence of the person is not destroyed by the abusers.

The best way to understand this is to think of a block of ice. You can shave the ice, break it into pieces, or divvy it up in a number of ways, but it is all still water. When you melt the ice, whether as one block or as 50,000 little pieces of ice, it will still return to one fluid bucket of water, and you will not know which part was originally which. All parts are intertwined.

This is what integration is all about. No matter how many parts a person has, they will merge back together as the person warms the parts through self-love.

Suggested Reading:

Safe Passage to Healing

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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This week, I am writing a series on polyfragmented Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I am hoping that this series will educate people about polyfragmented DID as well offer hope to those with this diagnosis that healing is possible.

Polyfragmented DID can manifest in many different ways. What all polyfragmented DID multiple systems have in common is that they have many alter parts that work together to give the appearance of the person functioning as a singleton.

Roles of Alter Parts

Each alter part has a role. Some hold the fragmented pieces of the inner child, which feels like having many inner children. (An inner child is really a repository for unmet needs.) Others hold memories of various abuses, emotions, and/or feelings. Some are protector parts that come out to protect the inner children whenever the person feels threatened or gets triggered.

Clusters

Some Polyfragmented DID multiple systems “cluster” their alter parts. For example, you might have an inner child who is protected by several protector parts. So, before the person can access and heal the unmet needs in an inner child part, he must first heal the pain of the protector parts that are “guarding” the inner child.

Layers

Some polyfragmented DID multiple systems have “layers” of alter parts, and the alter parts in each layer might be unaware that another layer exists. This is how my multiple system worked. One layer held all of the memories, feelings, and emotions associated with the mother-daughter sexual abuse. Those parts had names like Irate and Melancholy. None of those alter parts were aware of the other layers of alter parts. So, when I integrated those parts, I believed that I was integrated until the next layer of alter parts revealed itself.

I had several layers of alter parts. In addition to the one already discussed, I had a layer for the abuse by family “friends.” Another layer held the memories of the sadistic abuse by the couple who prepared my sister and me for the ritual abuse. Another layer held the ritual abuse memories. Still another layer held the memories of being raped by men.

Healing in layers was a blessing because I only needed to deal with one set of traumas at a time. If I had remembered everything at one time, I would have been overwhelmed and possibly committed suicide. Thankfully, the layers enabled me to focus upon and heal a little at a time, which made my healing process much more manageable.

Suggested Reading:

Safe Passage to Healing

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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