I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Smith sharing a piece of her story with us today. Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of her own wonderful blog “A Journey” and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. ~ Darlene
“When I finally was able to make peace with the past I could write a new ending to the story and claim what was rightfully mine – me.” ~Susan Smith August 26, 2010
Like many – or most – of the readers of EFB, I grew up in a less than nurturing environment. Physical, emotional, mental, sexual abuse and neglect was the “normal” for me in my home and the rural community where I was raised. As one person put it, I’d grown up in a “battlefield”, a warzone where there was no “safe place” for a small child to even exist. I’d been taught that sex was where my value lay and that this was where my emotional and physical needs were met – by exchanging sex for physical touch. I came to believe at a very young age that this was how the world accepted me and valued me; this was what my role was.
And I’d spent a lifetime carrying this baggage with me. I’d become an irritable, angry, pessimistic person that tried to control everyone and everything around me. My relationships were unstable and fraught with conflict, confusion and replicated the abuse, neglect and violence that I came from.
Eventually, I lived in complete isolation and had gotten to a point where I was losing more and more time. I couldn’t remember things – not only things from a few minutes before, but memories of my own life and of raising my children. I’d gone from “normal” dissociation to the extreme on the dissociative scale where I realized years and decades were just gone from my memories…and that this wasn’t “normal”.
Depression had plagued me off and on for years. My anxiety was bordering on paranoia and I could easily be triggered into “psychosis” as I reacted to today’s world as though it was my past. PTSd symptoms had turned me into a prisoner in my own home. I was ashamed that I even existed and believed that I was “broken”, “ill” and somehow intrinsically defective.
I found myself stuck in that place where I was “acting in” and my pain was turned inward and expressed as depression, anxiety, dissociation and other emotional and psychological coping skills that were less than helpful. Sometimes my pain was expressed in “acting out” as I engaged in self-harming behaviors and abusive relationships that recreated the trauma I had been raised in.
My body was falling apart and no physical cause could be found for much of my physical pain and complaints. Life had become too difficult a burden to bear any longer. I had shut down mentally, emotionally and physically. I had dissociated to the extreme point and in the fall of 2007 I was told the newest diagnosis was D.I.D. and I was abruptly taken off the numerous psychotropic drugs I had been on for all the previous “diagnosis”.
At first – I listened as the latest psychiatrist told me that this was my “diagnosis” and he handed me a couple of books on the subject one that told the story of one mans journey through MPD and talked about “alters”.
And while I admittedly recognized that I felt fragmented, I had turned to another psychiatrist that encouraged me to become more attentive to time and what I was doing by using a time log and recording periodically the time and what I had done. This was an exercise in learning to stay present more than one of time management.
I read about “Internal Family Systems” and began to understand that when I was “tuning out” I was avoiding some painful thought or feelings. The therapist I’d chosen to see encouraged me to become intentionally aware of where I was, what I was thinking, feeling and doing.
And while there are many more layers to my journey and how I found “me”….I first had to lay claim on and believe that I was a single person who had had some horrendous experiences and that I had the potential to be and live a whole healthy life.
I came to understand that dissociation was a wonderful tool that protected me from the pain of the past. I also understood that this skill of slipping into a dissociative state was no longer helpful – and was in fact hindering my ability to live beyond the past as I was in a chronic state of avoidance and nurturing the anger and pain connected to it instead of going “through it” to “get out of it”.
By facing dissociation and my other avoidance strategies as learned skills that had helped me to avoid my pain – I became strong enough to face the pain and begin to let it go.
about Susan Smith;
I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. After a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help for depression, anxiety, hyper-vigilance and irritability where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.
I connected with a therapist trained in Trauma Informed therapy and heard a new message of hope – that I could learn to create the life I wanted for myself…in spite of the past I’d had.
Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.
Please be sure to visit Susan at her website http://www.susankingsleysmith.com/