Archive for dissociative identity disorder
When I decided to tell the Chris Story ~ the story about how Prince Charming was a Murder Suspect, I intended to write one post. I intended to keep the focus about my belief system, and highlight the fact that I missed and or ignored the red flags because of learned unworthiness issues resulting from child abuse and child sexual abuse and invalidation. That was the first post.
But the commenter’s and private e-mailers wanted more. They wanted to know what kinds of red flags exactly. I could see the benefit of sharing more of the details and highlighting the actual red flags, and for sharing a bit about my rational for disregarding the danger signs. So that was the second post.
As I write this post, I have not yet published the second post “Dangerous Men, Red Flags, Victim Mentality”. When I finished writing that post and did my final read on it, I felt stupid. I thought I was really lame for missing so many of those blatant red flags. And worse than that, the way that second post reads I didn’t really miss them; I just ignored them. I considered not publishing the post. I felt insecure. I felt “dumb”. I felt like no one else would have EVER been so stupid as to stay with that guy knowing everything that I knew. This is exactly the type of thinking that kept me in the cycle of abuse and in victim mindset, covering up for the things I think are MY fault instead of exposing HIM and telling my truth.
I questioned myself, “what the heck was wrong with me back then?? How could I have let that stuff go? How could I have gotten into that relationship and then left myself, in that situation? What was so great about “that guy” that I didn’t dump him? What the heck did I think was going to happen?
And I heard the thoughts behind the thoughts ~ “I didn’t think, I didn’t care, I didn’t know; he could have changed, he had been damaged and he needed me, what if I was wrong about him? What if he killed me if I tried to dump him? What if he was the best that I could ever do? What if I dumped him and found myself alone for the rest of my life……. Sometimes he was sweet, sometimes he was tender. He was charming. He looked like a movie star… he called me “baby”.
And the even deeper thoughts~ playing detective was exciting. It was a way of proving to myself that I really DID have a brain. Being afraid of him was thrilling. Getting away with knowing that he didn’t know that I knew…. (When danger has been a part of a sexual abuse history, sometimes danger is a turn on; danger is familiar. And in this particular story I find it interesting to note that I was NOT at all sexually attracted to this guy, so the thrill of danger had more to do with validation.)
Sometimes I tell myself that I am just making excuses for myself. (which also comes from upbringing) During that time with Chris I had dissociative identity disorder. Since I have recovered from DID, I look back and see it differently now then I used to. One of the things that I did that is common for anyone who dissociates, (not just dissociative identity with multiple personality) is that I “separated incidents”. I did not put all the incidents and red flag events concerning Chris, in my mind at the same time. In a way I put them through separate filters. I believed that each one was separate and had nothing to do with the other one. I disconnected each red flag from the prior red flag. Think of it this way; each event or red flag had its own sealed envelope. In my mind, none of the red flags were related. That was how I learned to cope with child sexual abuse. I broke off from myself, and left my body. And I learned an intricate system of coping; disconnecting and separating related events, too scary to look at, too scary to stop, too powerless to stand up for myself. That is how I learned to deal with life; by separating incidents and by disconnecting. And so ~ there I was, all grown up in a dangerous relationship with a dangerous man, disconnected and ignoring all the red flags.
(And it is by reconnecting first with myself and then with the events that I discounted and ignored and eventually blamed myself for, that I became whole again.)
The desire to make excuses for myself has its roots in the same belief system that I write about all the time. As a child I believed that I could change, and if I changed then I would be loved. So I felt insecure about telling the story because I grew up being told (Not always in words) that I was wrong; that I had a faulty memory and that I was the real problem. I was trained to keep the secret; don’t bring any shame on the family and I was told (not always in words) to find a way to cope with it myself. I was also pretty young when I believed if there was a problem that I caused it, made it up or exaggerated it or misunderstood it and I learned that the best coping method of all was to disconnect myself from it.
But I have learned that I am not the problem. I am not the one that made things up or twisted the truth around, (other than in my own mind in order to cope with it); I did not exaggerate, and if anything I diminish the stories; I do not have to keep any secrets; I am NOT wrong and there is nothing wrong with my memory. So I published that post. And I am publishing this one too!
Thanks to everyone who has shared these posts on facebook or other sites and to everyone who has participated in conversations here and on the Emerging from Broken facebook page.
Please feel free to add your thoughts, feelings and stories.
Keep striving to move forward!
In the recovery process of emotional healing and overcoming abuse I created a lot of images in my mind that helped me to look at things in different ways. Sometimes I dreamed of images, and sometimes they just came to me.
One of the readers on the facebook page for emerging from broken wrote “and I think the problem starts the moment I convince myself that I can already move on, because the truth is I’m trying to walk forward while looking back.” This is a profound statement which brought me back to a very frequent image that I adopted in my mind along the journey to recovery.
Early in my therapy process, in my mind’s eye I saw a door. It was an eighteen inch thick solid steel door, like the kind you might see on a bank vault or possibly in a prison. This door was firmly closed, and had about seven huge locks; huge deadbolts all in a row, each one of them a different design or brand. This door was impenetrable. Somehow I knew that my freedom was on the other side of that door. My wholeness, my new life and my recovery from dissociative identity and chronic depression was on the other side of that impenetrable door. Emotional healing was just one the other side. And it wasn’t long before I realized that I was the only one that could open those locks and walk through it.
I know it sounds so easy; just unlock the deadbolts and walk through, right? But it was far from easy. Along the course of the journey to wholeness I saw that same door many times, but as I grew in my emotional strength and towards healing, it changed.
As I had my breakthroughs I noticed that some of the locks were disappearing from my “vision” of the door. At first several of them were just unlocked, sometimes with a combination lock like one you would see on a school locker, just hanging open. One day I noticed that there was only one lock left on the door and that the door suddenly had a window in it. It is interesting to note that all these things made me excited and nervous at the same time. I wondered if I should look through the window. It was a scary thought. But I realized later that the window wasn’t for the purpose of looking out into the new world. It was for the purpose of looking back into the old world.
Eventually as I continued to grow and discover the lies that I had adopted as truth and realized how my survival system had been set in place, the door was actually unlocked and open a few inches. I slowly waked forward and I opened it a bit more. I cautiously crept through the opening, frightened, hesitant, and even on the other side I was afraid to look; I ran back through to the other side from which I had come and slammed the door shut, clicking the lock into place. WAY too scary for me!
My survival system was created to keep me safe. My brain and every fibre of my being believed that my coping methods kept me safe and in this process of recovery, my brain told me that it was not safe to travel to the other side of broken. I was afraid of emotional healing and letting go of those deep depressions because I still believed they were the answer. So even opening that door was a frightening concept. As I began to comprehend it this way, I began to really understand the importance of doing that re-wiring work I always talk about. I also began to understand the fear of just walking through that door and the significance of the locks.
I keep going forward and there came a day when I saw the door in my mind open and welcoming. There was no longer a lock on my side. I took a deep breath and I walked through it and I saw a beautiful garden, somewhat like a jungle, lush with flowers and foliage and bright green grass. The sky was not visible but still this place was beautiful and welcoming. I went a few yards in, but I felt nervous and kept looking back to make sure that the door was still open. I wanted to make sure that I could return to the old belief system if this new one was too scary or too overwhelming for me to stay there. I had this feeling that I HAD to know there was an escape out of the new world. This stemmed from the depth of my belief that the systems I had in place for my survival from abuse, were really what was best for me. My survival methods were all I knew prior to this.
There came the day when I went through that door and carefully closed it behind me. As I turned to face my new surroundings, gone was the lush garden and in front of me was the most beautiful meadow ~ nothing but blue skies and the brightest sunshine, wide open spaces, the freshest air I had ever breathed, and thousands of wild flowers. As I walked forward and took it all in, I noticed that I was on the top of a mountain, that the whole world was waiting for me, that I was free and that this was the other side of broken. I felt safe, excited, euphoric even. I felt as though my life was about to begin.
Forever seeking healing, truth and freedom
It never ceases to amaze me how the world works. Yesterday, my friend Wendy Logan sent me the following poem that she wrote. This poem blessed me deeply and I asked her if I could publish it with my blog post because I thought it went so well with what I am writing about today. Please feel free to comment to me or to Wendy or to both of us!
Eyes of A Prisoner ~ by Wendy Logan
When you look in my heart, what do you see?
Do you feel intense love or a life of misery?
Do you see a place where you can live?
Or a heart that’s just now learning to forgive?
Are you getting confused when you look in my eyes?
Conflicting messages that tell little white lies.
Can you feel a brick wall that sometimes comes up?
You can’t get passed them, and even I feel stuck.
I can’t get out and you can’t get in.
Trust me I know I’ve tried again and again.
You can stand and look from a distance
In that I’m safe, you’ll meet no resistance.
A prisoner in this life, emotions locked up inside.
I’m trying to be transparent but also want to hide.
The chains on my feet, pain’s the ball on my side.
My wrist handcuffed with the enemies pride.
Can you see my hands pressing through the bars?
I’m reaching for help but it seems so hard.
The screams get louder but do you hear?
I’m trying to break free, not walk in in fear.
Emaciated and deprived from a lack of affection.
Every path I could try is the wrong direction.
A never ending road takes me another path
That leads to the mouth of the enemies wrath.
He taunts and toils with me like a rag doll.
Tossing me back and forth like a ragged tennis ball.
The chain linked fence surrounds my perimeter.
Sharp bob wire represents my temper.
I can’t let you in, because it’s not safe
A prisoner to love that turned to hate.
Help me come pass the cold steel bars.
I see hope standing from a far.
As you approached I could this light.
Hope pressed in with all its might.
You carried the keys to my prison doors.
I knew that life had to mean much more.
Unlock it fast, before I change my mind.
The hands in the wall try to hold back time.
They can’t stand to lose yet another victim.
As the enemy screams his final dictum.
Been locked up so long, I’m scared to be free.
Is this another mirage or is it really happening?
Wishful thinking kept me alive when things were dark.
But the darkness has a hold, it doesn’t want to part.
One foot out the door of the prison I’ve known.
No more place of dwelling, no more my home.
Is this a dream or am I really free?
Scared to look in the mirror and see the new me.
With the past behind and the future at hand
There’s hope for tomorrow, a new right to stand.
An escapee from a prison of a life of hell
To a place of freedom, a new place to dwell.
Wendy Logan February 10, 2009
Depression was like a thick heavy blanket that sometimes felt like a cozy warm nest and I felt so safe there that I was afraid to let it go, even though the weight of the blanket was killing me; Just one more day I would say.. “just one more day in this dark cocoon and tomorrow I will start to live, but for just one more day, it feels safer to hide.” (Darlene Ouimet)
That was all about the illusion of safe. I did not overcome depression by dealing with the depression itself because depression did not stand alone in my life. Facing the depression isn’t exactly what led me out of the darkness; it was realizing where the depression came from and why it had become one of my coping methods that led me to overcoming it. Just like my dissociative identity disorder, for me depression started when I was very young. I realize today that all coping methods have a common reason for existing. There is something “back there” that isn’t resolved. We have all these coping methods because the mind is such an amazing and powerful thing. They are literally the way we deal, how we cope and how we survive.
There was a comment on my post “Mother Daughter Relationship Nightmares” that got me thinking about how all my coping methods and my recovery discoveries work together and how I came to this place in my life. The following question was posted by Mark Alan Effinger; Mark asked “Is there a direct path through this &^%$ to a better place? Or is it so individual, that no formulaic method will do?” Although Mark is referring to the serious and graphic comments about sexual abuse, I have come to realize that the answer is the same for this question as it is for all questions about emotional healing and recovery.
To recap, I sought help from a therapist when I was heading into my third serious depression in five years, the previous two serious depressions lasted two years each, so I hadn’t had much of a break off the medication this time. I was going to leave my husband and three young children, believing that they would be better off without me. I got frustrated when the therapist wanted to talk about my childhood. I didn’t want to talk about the past, I was having trouble NOW. I needed help for my life in the present, not for my life in the past. I really didn’t see any connection from the past to the present. But he was insistent and I was losing money arguing with him, so I gave in. We talked about the past. In fact we started with my first trauma memory.
I began to see how my depressions were very much related to my childhood trauma and that depression wound its way through my entire life and intertwined with other coping methods, addictions, dissociative identity disorder, and that in reality all of these coping methods were an amazing survival system that I had built, and I started building it when I was very young. But now, it had turned on me. Because I began to see the patterns, I became willing to keep digging up that rotten foundation. The whole key for me was uncovering and discovering how my belief system about myself and the world, had formed. As I replaced the lies with the truth, the coping methods fell away; because I didn’t need them anymore.
The process isn’t simple and it isn’t a quick fix. The good news is that for me it wasn’t a band-aid either and the resulting freedom from all that hell on earth has been permanent. I have the occasional down day, but they are rare. I don’t dissociate anymore, I no longer have multiple personalities, and I don’t fall into the depths of darkness; depression is no longer something I worry about.
When I began speaking in metal health seminars, and working at the director of client relations in a counseling firm, I realized others were also having the same astounding results as I was having ~ finding the way out of the darkness and into the light; finding freedom from depression, freedom from addictions, gaining a new understanding of coping methods; where they came from and why we needed them and how it was possible to uncover the mystery of how to ditch them.
In writing this blog, Emerging from Broken, I am attempting to deliver a message of hope; step by step, mixed in with story by story and tiny little snapshots of how I uncovered the layers of lies on top of other lies, all which built my belief system which falsely defined who I was, my purpose or lack of it, my value and lack of it. I write snapshots of how I found the truth about why I believed all that stuff about myself. Not knowing that I didn’t know the truth about myself prior to my recovery, I wasn’t searching for it. I was searching for freedom and recovery from broken, but not in the right places. How is one to know where to look? So I am sharing where and how I found it.
So to answer Mark’s question; I think there is a formulaic method that works for everyone. The trauma events (or mistreatment) and the belief system belong to the individual, but the way out, the pathway to freedom and wholeness is not so unique.
If this method worked for me, and for others, then why can’t it work for everyone? Who can say that it won’t work? Who can say that there is too much damage? Who really knows that? I believe that this is the way and so I write to inspire others.
As always, please feel free to express yourself in any way that you would like by adding your comments;
One Snapshot at a time ~ Darlene Ouimet
It took me a long time to pick up the threads and accept the true truth about my dysfunctional mother daughter relationship with my mother. This post is another snap shot.
When I was 16 years old the Doctor recommend that I take the birth control pill as a result of some medical problem that I was having with my menstrual cycle. (After I had been sexually assaulted by my mother’s boyfriend when I was 14, I got my period every three weeks for a year and then I skipped if for a year. Trauma often messes with a girl that way.) I had a lot of complications surrounding that whole thing, so the pill was a known way to try and regulate the cycle.
I had trouble remembering to take them and so I kept them in the kitchen where I would see them. Since in my mind they were about a medical problem I honestly didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t keep them in the kitchen of our own home. But my mother had other ideas about it.
My mother accused me of sending out “sexual messages” to her boyfriends.
Lots of men stayed the night throughout my teenage years and often my mother’s current boyfriend would be at the kitchen table when I came downstairs in the morning. I always took my pill first thing in the morning. My mother accused me of “flaunting it” in front of her boyfriends. I remember being embarrassed and confused by her accusations. She didn’t sit me down and explain that maybe I should take the pill privately, that it might give the wrong idea if I had my birth control pills in the kitchen like a normal mother might do. Instead she accused me of purposely taking them in front of HER men. She said I was flaunting that I was on the pill. And although I am angry about this today, I had NO idea what the heck she was getting at back then.
I don’t know how old I was when I realized that my mother was accusing me of telling her boyfriends or hinting to them that I was safe from getting pregnant if they wanted to sleep with me too. It seems obvious enough when I write it out today, but honestly, as a 16 and 17 year old girl, I had no idea that was what she was insinuating. The thought of being attracted to one of her asshole boyfriends and the realization that she thought I really was attracted to them, makes me sick when I think about it now.
I put this whole puzzle together when I realized that she really did blame me for the time that her boyfriend came in my room when I was 14. Realizing that not only did she believe that I had attracted and even enticed one of her boyfriends to come into my bedroom, she thought I would do it again. She accused me of giving signals to her other boyfriends. Even writing this I still feel stunned that the mother daughter relationship that I had with my mother was THAT dysfunctional. And I am equally stunned at how long it took me to figure this out! I had all these memories of being devalued by my mother, but I separated them into single incidents, and never looked at them as one whole picture.
The realization of these things together triggered all kinds of jumbled emotions and feelings in me.
~I felt and sometimes still feel angry, a red hot embarrassed anger; that my own mother would think about me in this way ~ that my own mother still thinks of me that way.
~I feel sick to my stomach that she thought I would “want” one of her disgusting bed mates.
~It made me feel dirty that she really believed that I honestly went after her boyfriends.
~And the bottom line emotion – the one that I avoided feeling and avoided admitting even to myself, was a deep excruciating black and hopeless hurt. It was the pain of a confused and bewildered teenage child, who was molested and sexually assaulted in the night in her sleep, and then blamed for it by her own mother and then for the next few years, was accused of trying to steal her mother’s boyfriends again. I can’t even find the words to express this horrific and degrading truth about how she regarded me.
I could not comprehend this reality for many years even when I began to realize the truth. This was my “MOTHER” who thought this way about me and in reality I was only a child ~ HER CHILD. I couldn’t get my head around it and I understand today how I separated all the incidents and indications as a way of coping with being regarded in this extremely devaluing way and as a way of not facing it. I can see how dissociative identity disorder really worked for me here. It was a way of keeping the memories separate from each other. One single incident is easy to brush off as “well my mother wasn’t perfect, she is only human after all” but all of them together has a different conclusion. A conclusion about our mother daughter relationship that I couldn’t face before.
I kept hoping that my mother would realize that she made a mistake about me, and that she would see me for who I really was and that she would love me but that didn’t happen. I kept trying harder to please her, and I kept each story disconnected from the other stories as a way of surviving the knowledge that my own mother didn’t care about me.
Please share your thoughts and feelings or whatever else you would like to say;
Connecting all the threads;
The Emerging from Broken book “The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing” is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing
P.S. Writing this post made me angry but it also set me free a little bit more. I connected a few new “dots” and realized a few more things about my dissociative identity disorder and my mental recovery. I hope that you can take this story and apply it to a situation in your own life, because so many of us don’t have issues like this with our mothers although we have situations like this that lead to an unhealthy survival mode.
WARNING: The comments on this post regarding sexual abuse are extremely graphic ~ some may find them triggering. ~ Darlene
Have you ever had a comfy pair of bed sheets that were so soft and perfect that you didn’t want to throw them out and you kept patching and sewing them when they fell apart? What about a pair of perfect shoes or a pair of jeans that were the best fit ever and it was a very sad day when they were threadbare and had to go to the trash. Letting go is hard. Letting go of anything is hard.
My slippers are wearing out. They are my favorite; soft suede upper with sheepskin type soft comfy fluffy lining inside. Well that is how they used to be anyway. Now, they are wearing out and actually they are not as comfortable as they once were; in fact the support is going in them, and sometimes I slide to one side and go over a bit on my ankle, but still I can’t wait to put them on when I get out of bed or when come home. They are comforting and familiar; they are my slippers. They fit my feet; they are warm and cozy, like wearing pillows, soothing me after a long day. Well at least they used to do all that. They are not really doing ALL that anymore. But I still want to wear them, I don’t want to replace them, I don’t want to let them go, I keep remembering how great they were one time.
Looking back, before I decided to deal with my depression, low self esteem, dissociative identity problems, bi polar, post traumatic stress disorder ~ well you get the picture, I was like that with my life. I didn’t realize it but I was comfortable with my coping methods and I thought they worked. When I was a child I escaped into a fantasy world. When I was a teenager, I added to that fantasy world escaping into books, food, and then alcohol. I escaped into drugs to cope with the results of escaping into food. I had serious depressions which were a direct result of not having any help dealing with things. It got complicated. I liked not dealing with things; when I was a child I had no choice, I didn’t have any help to deal with anything; I had no support. Not dealing with things became the way that I lived. Coping methods became the way that I survived. Not facing the truth, not standing up for myself; all of that felt safer than trying to deal with things that I had never been given the tools to deal with.
So my coping methods; depressions, binge eating or starving, over exercising, flirting, dangerous relationships dissociating and disconnecting were all familiar and comfortable but just like the slippers, my coping methods were not working anymore. Oh I tried to make them work. I believed that they would work again, because I could not stop remembering that they worked in the past ~ when I was a child.
Just like when I was a child, I kept getting my reality mixed up with my fantasy ~ kept thinking that my coping methods were the answer, and that they would work again the way they used to work. I thought that if I could just be who my mother wanted me to be, she would finally love me. I thought that if I could just impress my father enough, he would finally notice me. I carried this struggle with me into other relationships and recreated not being good enough to be loved or noticed. And I used coping methods, many different ones over the years and I thought they worked and when they didn’t work anymore, and when they became the problem, I changed the coping method, but the belief system was still in place; the comfortable familiar belief system. I ended up needing coping methods to deal with my coping methods, all of which kept me safe from looking at the root causes, because deep down I believed that I could not face that kind of pain.
Round and round I went, spinning in an ever increasing cycle of fantasy, depression and low self esteem, disconnecting from the truth, even when I got a glimpse of it, because I facing the truth would mean that I had to take some sort of action, maybe take a good look at my life and the people in it, maybe make some changes.. and it just seemed easier to grab those old slippers.
But as most of you know, I didn’t stay there.
A whole new way to thrive;
Therapist John Wilson from ~ Online Events ~ presents ~ Emerging From Broken – Interview with Darlene Ouimet on Sunday Nov.03 at 12:00 Noon Pacific, 3:00 pm EST and 1:00 pm Mountain time. London: 8:00 pm, Sydney: 5:00 am. Please visit the following link in order to reserve your ticket. Click on the first box ~ there is no charge for the live event. Hope to “see” you there. http://emergingfrombroken.eventbrite.com/
Susan Smith from “A Journey” wrote an inspiring guest blog post for me the other day about turning points and emotional healing, and it reminded me of the ways that I learned how to finally get quiet and face the turmoil in my mind so that I could face the turmoil in my life.
Like Susan’s therapist my therapist also taught me to be more aware of what was going on in my mind and in the end this is how I learned to stop dissociating and disconnecting from myself. Instead of examining alter personalities, my therapist concentrated on the behaviors I was presenting with. Recovery from dissociative identity disorder was about learning to stay with myself. I learned to ask myself a series of questions and I learned how to incorporate positive and gentle self talk.
In therapy sessions I would switch subject rapidly and jump all over the place and my therapist picked up on this avoidance technique and pointed it out to me. Much to my horror he wanted to video tape me so that I could see what I do. For some reason the thought of being videotaped while I was spinning out loud and dissociating really scared me and I decided to listen to his directions about how to stop doing it. He taught me to ask myself if the direction I was thinking in was going to help me get where I wanted to go in recovery, OR if it was going to hold me back in recovery. That became a starting place for me.
In asking myself those questions I also became aware of my body reactions. Did I feel tense or anxious and then I turned to my thoughts and considered the following; were there hundreds of thoughts at one time? Was there fear? Was there self judgment? When there was that much noise in there I could never pick out just one thought which is how I came to refer to it as the spin.
After becoming aware of some of this head chatter, I learned to recognize when I was about to dissociate. Often it was so profound that I could “see myself” leaving my body. In my mind’s eye I literally pulled myself back; I reached out my hand and grabbed myself by the back of my shirt and asked myself to “stay with me”… sounds so odd now, but it worked and pretty soon I was staying with myself more and more and becoming more conscious of time, thoughts, and feelings ~ especially fear.
The first step in dealing with fear was in acknowledging that I had them. There were many. I had to admit to myself that yes I had fears. I didn’t identify them all at once, and sometimes just identifying them was cause for dissociating but eventually I was able to acknowledge them; I was afraid that I was going to be molested in the night. I was afraid that I was not lovable, I was afraid that I would be hit. I was afraid that I would never feel good about myself, but I believed it was my own fault. Deep down I was mostly afraid that “they” were right about me, that I was the problem and if I didn’t figure myself out and shape up I would die a lonely and bitter unloved woman. My children would hate me and I had this sense of running out of time… all the time.
One of the problems that I realized I had with this whole train of thought is that I thought the fears were silly; that they were not logical anymore and in regarding them that way, I discounted them. Discounting my fears was the same as discounting myself, and once again, dissociative behavior was the result.
As I became more conscious, I was able to slow myself down, to slow the thoughts down enough that I could actually pay attention to them. This increased my awareness of what the self talk actually was. Instead of telling the “voices” in my head to be quiet, I learned to listen to them for clues. As I became aware of the fears that were some of the root causes that drove me to dissociate as an adult I was able to identify how much control those fears had over my life and as I listened to the head chatter, I realized the depth of the fear.
I learned that those fears were rooted in my childhood. My dissociative behavior was beneficial to my survival because as a child I had no choice. Going back there to those times and realizing where those fears were born and why they existed in the first place, enabled me to understand first, the purpose they served then and purpose of the resulting dissociative behavior. Then I looked at the purpose those fears serve now and began to look at whether or not dissociative identity disorder served me at all anymore. I certainly could comprehend why I needed to dissociate back then, and why the fears served me ~ both were a survival method. The fear was the warning system; dissociating was the coping method. I realized that I was afraid to let go of the fears. They were very closely related to self control and I believed without total control of my life I would be in danger and I would ultimately die.
It was in taking all of this apart from the outside and exploring into the depth of the inside that I found the keys to healing.
How does this post resonate with you? Can you see that dissociative behavior, which once was the only answer, eventually became the problem?
I have talked a lot about taking a look at the truth in order to realize how I arrived with repeated depression, broken, exhausted and ready to throw my life away in my early forties. I had to look at what happened to me through new lenses. I had to realize that I was innocent of blame for the mess in my childhood that resulted in my adult life still being a mess. There is a gap between childhood and adulthood that I discovered is a very common place where many of us get stuck. We reach a certain age in our early twenties and we are told that we are adults and we are responsible for our lives. Stop blaming others, get over it and get on with it. But no one helped me sort it out when I was a kid. I had been treated like I was less important than the adults in my life. SO how was I supposed to suddenly know my value, get over “it” and get on with it? As a child I had this sense of having been abandoned ~ my feelings didn’t matter, I was not taken care of and I did not grow up “properly” as a result. No one helped me with this mess, a mess that I was innocent of creating, BUT nevertheless, it was still my mess. It was finally clear that no one was going to rescue me. It was clear that my family was not going to suddenly wake up and love me. No one was going to suddenly realize my value. It was up to me.
I did not realize that I was a victim. I didn’t like that word and didn’t really understand it. I thought it meant that I was a whiner. I thought a victim was someone who complained all the time about the world and it’s people and about what a tough hand of cards they had been dealt. I wasn’t a whiner. I grew up in a world where depression has a stigma. Deep down no matter how much I heard that depression was common, that many struggled, yada yada yada, there was a stigma surrounding it and I believed it was a weakness. I didn’t want to admit that I was on anti depressants; I would have been seen as weak, lacking in faith, and like everything else in my life, I must be doing something wrong. I tried positive thinking, affirmation, bible study, self help books and seminars. They all worked for a while, but nothing had a lasting effect. I was exhausted. The depressions that I had dealt with since I was ten years old were getting worse and more frequent. I was losing the fight. I felt like I was being held under water, struggling to breathe, fighting to have a voice and a place in this world. And I was losing.
It was time to step back and take a look at my life. I put all the puzzle pieces on the table. The mess was overwhelming. I didn’t think I could face it, I didn’t think that I could sort it out. There was so much confusion, so many mixed messages, so much that I had accepted the blame for and I was so tired. I had to go back to beginning and realize where my emotional growth was stunted. I had to face one thing at a time and break that one thing down. There was abuse that resulted in destructive coping methods. I had been focusing on the destructive coping methods, even questioning WHY I had depression as though that too was my fault and beating myself up for the way that I dealt with everything. I saw myself as a failure because I looked at my life through the expectations of the very people who held me under that water. I had to make my beginning and at first it was only a decision to try. I started with one thing and was willing to look at one abusive situation in my childhood. My therapist chose my first memory of an abusive trauma to take a look at first. I laid it out on the table piece by piece and looked at it the way it happened, bit by bit. I revealed every thought I had that I remembered including the baggage of self blame. I had not even been conscious that I had self blame. I dumped all the thoughts about how I could have prevented it, how I must have done something to cause it onto the table as I focused on this one event. I talked about the adults’ expressions, the eye movement, the secrecy, all of which helped me understand that I was innocent. I recognized the beginning of my dissociative identity disorder. I felt the horror of what had happened to me and for the first time I realized that it happened “TO ME”. I faced the pain of child abuse, and came to understand that I had been wronged.
One event at a time, one small snapshot of truth, one little breakthrough, one new way of looking at it, one little realization and then another.
This was the beginning of Emerging from Broken ~ I invite you to contribute to this post in any way that you wish.
When we find ourselves facing our mental health struggles, we usually realize that avoiding feelings is one of the biggest reasons that we develop coping methods. Sometimes avoiding feelings is the only way to survive the trauma. I realized when I was in my healing process that my dissociated identity disorder was one of the ways that I coped with everything. I had fragmented or broken into alter personalities so that I didn’t really have to feel because “they” (the alters) did it for me.
The way that I understand how this fragmenting takes place is that when a child experiences a traumatic event that is way too much to cope with, a new personality is born to take the memories and feelings and is in a way, separate from the core personality. In my case these other personalities began to deal with certain situations for me. For instance I did a lot of traveling in my twenties, and there was one alter that took over for all of my airport adventures. I didn’t realize that I had this other personality, but I did realize that I was completely different when I traveled. I had all this amazing confidence and wondered where the heck it came from. To this day since I have become whole, I feel very weird and uncomfortable in airports.
Different personalities took care of different situations. That was how dissociated identity disorder worked for me. When I got scared or even just uncomfortable, I disconnected from myself and the situation, and an alter personality took over for me. The purpose of “the alters” was to take care of me, my fears and my feelings. I was no longer able to deal with life, so they got me through. They took on the feelings and the memories as though they were separate from the real me.
There is an upside to it; these alter personalities got me through, they were how I survived. “They” dealt with everything for me, and as I got older, I even recognized a few of them and appreciated what I thought were just radically different sides of me. They got me places that I was afraid to go, they helped me do things that I was afraid to do.
There was also a downside to it; my life was a mess, I was not happy and the bottom line was that really, even with the alters, I still couldn’t cope. In becoming aware of some of my personalities, I was afraid of a few of them and the things that I-they would do often scared me. I was confused a lot of the time and had a lot of noise and chatter going on in my head. I never felt like me and I had these imposter issues. Sometimes I did things that “I” would never do, which was really confusing.
When I look back on my life with multiple personalities, it all looks very hazy as though I was on drugs or something. It was crazy and exhausting and when I got married and started having babies, I was so afraid of my strange behaviour that I completely shut down and eventually I never wanting to do anything or go anywhere and the depressions that I had on and off for most of my life got worse.
When I went into therapy, finally willing to face my dissociative behaviour I was terrified to learn how to live without dissociating but I was also sick of being sick and confused all the time. I had lost hope of ever living without depression and I hadn’t considered depression or dissociation as being types of coping methods. In a way I felt defeated, and in that defeat I think I surrendered the armour that I had built around myself, the ways that I coped and the walls that I had built around me, to protect my real self from the world. I gave up and I think it went a long way towards healing.
It turns out that coping methods are a lot of work! In the end it is far easier to just be one whole person. By facing the past and feeling those feelings I was able to heal. The reason that I used so many coping methods was really about the scared child inside me. I was still viewing the world as a powerless child because due to the circumstances of my upbringing, I was not able to grow up properly. By talking a look at the belief systems that I had adopted, I was able to go back and re-parent myself so that I could grow up and begin to view the world as an adult. When some of the wreckage of the past was exposed and seen for what it really was and the building of a new foundation was underway, eventually I didn’t need all those coping methods and my real life began.
Keep striving to go forward ~ You are worth it!
If you would like to contribute to this post, as always I invite you to leave your comments.
Last week I wrote a post about learning to love myself for Dr. Kathleen Young’s Blog, “Treating Trauma in Chicago”, and it dawned on me that I should mention it on my blog too!
In the post I attempt to articulate the process of how I learned to love myself after 40 years of mental health problems, low self esteem, dissociated identity disorder and multiple depressions. It wasn’t easy to fit that into a one document but I gave it my best effort and I hope that you will read it.
I would also like to say; Welcome back Carla!
Carla has been on vacation in Florida with her family this past 9 days and she is coming back tonight! I have missed her and look forward to her return!
Patricia Singleton, author of the blog “Spiritual Journey of a Lightworker” is a regular reader and commenter of ours here on Emerging from Broken. Patricia is an incest survivor and recently did a wonderful radio interview with radio talk show host Cyrus Webb ~ Conversations Live~ where she tells her powerful story. You can listen to the replay here;
My last post “The Twisted Accountability Tactic & How it Works” caused a few comments using the phrase “old enough to know better” or “I should have known better”. This is an interesting expression; one that I beat myself up with for a very long time. I didn’t understand my choices or why I made them. I did things that were destructive to myself, my self esteem; often they were dangerous and even life threatening. It wasn’t until my therapist explained to me several times what happens to a child who is taught that their value is not as high as the value of the adult that is devaluing them. This is what had happened to me.
My beliefs about myself and my self-worth and the lack of value that I felt about myself actually left me with limited choices as an adult. I didn’t really understand what it meant that I had a choice. I beat myself up for things that happened and choices that I made because I knew that some of those things were wrong, and yet… why the heck was I doing them? What was I thinking? These were questions that I asked myself regularly from the age of 15 or 16 and well into my adulthood.
How the heck did it happen to me? How did I get myself into the situation? I know this is very complicated to understand, but that is why I write what I write. ~ I believe that one of the keys to freedom and wholeness is in realizing why we “didn’t know better” when we “should have known better”. Why we seemed to do things even as an adult that made us feel so bad about ourselves and why we chose to do them even when we knew deep down that we would likely come to regret it.
I could not stop blaming myself until I understood the whole progression from childhood and how my belief system formed and how I came to place such little value on myself.
In therapy I started to reveal my history and talk about the things that had happened to me; things that that I had taken the blame for and believed that I had brought on myself. Since a big part of my coping method was dissociating, I spoke about my past as though it wasn’t me anyway, however somewhere deep down I knew that these things were about me and I started to have to connect to myself. This was very painful but it enabled me to almost look at myself through new eyes. Not the disconnected eyes of the alter personalities, but as though I was hearing my story for the first time, realizing that if it were not MY story, I would have been really horrified by it. So why wasn’t I horrified by it when it was my story?
My therapist really helped me to see that when a child is devalued and squished down to a level of non importance due to lack of attention, the wrong kind of attention or abuse, then that child will automatically place that little value on himself or herself. I was defined with little value as a child, therefore where was I going to learn my value as I grew up if not in the wrong places, wrong situations, which once again lead to wrong beliefs? (So the value that I placed on myself was actually not the true value!) This is learned behavior, as well as a coping method. How could a child blame the adults? We don’t have the frame of reference for that when we are young. So it is then very easy to grow up believing that we get what we deserve, and remember, we have been groomed to grow up believing that we deserve to be treated less valuable and even to believe that we are bad.
Because I came to understand that there is a direct connection to our childhoods and how we act in adulthood I was able to re wire my childhood beliefs. I realized why I had not been old enough to know better when I was an adult because my emotional growth had been seriously stunted. I had been defined by the actions of others.
I had to dig deep into that whole system, set the lies straight for myself, and then redefine myself this time with the truth. I had to own my value; my original value. It is a process, but it is amazing!
What say you? I would love your comments and feedback about this concept.
In Truth and Recovery!
The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing. Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing –