I am sorry I did not post on Monday and won’t be able to do a post today either. I am having a very trying time and dealing with a lot of triggers. I will be back on Friday after some much needed self care.
All the best!
I thought it might be wise to go back to a topic I covered almost 2 years ago. The basics of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I have a lot more readers now (YAY!) and new friends whom don’t really understand DID. No criticism here at all. Before I was diagnosed with it, I knew as close to nothing as one could get.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is portrayed in the media as some sort of wacky, wild, really cool to watch phenomenon. If that isn’t their angle? They are usually discussing the controversy of the diagnoses. I hope that if I share what it means to me, it will take some of the confusion out of it and hopefully inspire some understanding.
Everyone has multiple personalities/identities. Even you.
If you stop to think about it, you are not really the same person when you are out with your friends as you would be if you were out with your children. You are different with your spouse than you would be with your parents. You can become the professional at work then transform to a carefree spirit when you go out for an evening with your best buddy. Even your pets get a different side of you.
If you think of your own life thus far, I am sure that who you were as a child is quite different from who you became as a teenager and then that teen became a young adult. Eventually you grew past the age of being a young adult and perhaps started making some more adult decisions like getting married or having children. You continue even now to mature and change with each passing year. Ask someone who’s in their 60’s and they will tell you that they are very different from who they were at 30 and few 50 somethings that I know are still acting as though they are 20.
The difference between you and all your sides/personalities are that they know each other. Each part knows what the other was up to and went through. Who you are right now knows what you have done good or bad over the course of your lifetime. Not perfect memories of every little thing but you have the big picture. At 40, you can recall being a teenager especially as your own teenagers are now giving you the same hassles you once gave to your parents. There is an easy flow of communication between these parts of you.
When you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, this ability to easily communicate is severed or severely affected. It is like growing up and the 4-year-old you doesn’t know the 5-year-old you. Each one is compartmentalized in a separate box and each box is locked. Usually this is caused when there is trauma so severe and so constant that the host could not have survived psychologically without creating a very handy coping tool. Rather than being totally overwhelmed by what is going on and absorbing all that trauma by oneself, some children unknowingly begin to dissociate. This is a very clever secret door that a traumatized mind is able to create to help survive the fear and pain.
Sadly, if dissociations happen regularly and a total “split” occurs, the child will have very few memories of this age. Good or bad. If the trauma continues for many years, these splits can happen over and over. The biggest difference between a dissociative mind and one that has not needed to develop this skill to survive is the ability to recall life in an orderly fashion.
This issue of segregated memories is used to help diagnose cases of DID. When I am asked to give a family history or a history of even my past week, it can be very confusing for me. I don’t always recall who came in to our lives or who went and and when. I have years of missing time scattered throughout my life so I can occasionally recall moving to a new home but not recall leaving it or I could suddenly be in a new home and not recall leaving the last one. People with DID need to constantly juggle what they know with what they can’t recall.
People with DID, myself included often have very large chunks of their life missing. One dissociative part of me from when I was 4 might not even know about me or any other parts. For 43 years I did not consciously know about any of my other parts but most of them knew me. They did not all know about each other though. Some did, some didn’t, some parts formed groups, some stayed isolated, some even thought that they were the only one. They seemed to not even realize that there was me.
These parts and pieces of my life have a very chaotic order to them and they almost all are still the ages that they were when they came to being. This is where it gets really hard for me. That silent 3-year-old that needs to be held and hugged is always 3 and always needs to be held and hugged long after it is “appropriate” to want this from those around her. I can and I do try to take time to fill those needs if I can but I have a LOT of Helpers and taking care of each one would be 3 full-time jobs at this point.
For me this happened 34 times. For a long time I only heard 3 but that was when I was still assuming I was psychotic or just truly bat shit crazy. In time, with a great deal of support and compassion, I allowed myself to begin to hear others and there are 34 in total that have made their presence known. I don’t know them all yet and I don’t have all of their memories.
I work daily on hearing them, finding out what their needs are and trying my best to fulfill those needs. I feel as though when parts of me feel heard and hopefully healed as much as possible, they can get a well deserved break from needing to protect me from what they deem as dangers. This will reduce the “need” for dissociations.
I am not a professional with all this nor do I have all the answers. I am learning day by day and sometimes I get it all very wrong. I’ve been able to help my Helpers at times while hurting them at others. I am working at it though. Every day.
One day I hope that my 4-year-old will know my 6-year-old. My teenagers will know the adults and the adults can allow me to take care of my daily needs without whisking me away. I will not integrate them, I just want us all to communicate more easily with each other rather than living in all these separate locked boxes. My goal is to find peace.
Please choose a teapot.
This teapot will be you until you finish today’s blog. 🙂
Since I am asking you to BE a teapot I will at least give you some really cool ones to choose from.
Okay… so today you are a teapot. Have you ever thought about the personality of a teapot? Not its looks or where it came from but what sort of person is a teapot on the inside? The first word I think of is “giving”. Very few other objects can connect people as quickly and as easily as a teapot can.
That said, the teapot is also a master at self-care. It is perfect at it. When it is full and warm, it shares and shares but when the teapot is close to empty, it won’t even think for a moment before wanting to be refilled. It does not feel guilty for needing more water or a new teabag. It does not berate itself for having those needs. It does not deem itself stupid or selfish. It just needs a refill. Period.
Since you are a teapot today (a very nice looking teapot I must say), I want to think of yourself as cozy and warm. Filled to the brim with delicious tea. You are happy and content.
Then along comes the cups. Small cups, larger cups, beautiful cups, cups with a chip in them, kinda ugly cups, decorative cups and plain.
These cups represent all the different areas in your life which you give your energy to. Everything from walking the dog or petting the cat to going to work or taking care of your family. Don’t forget that there are usually a LOT of cups. Some cups (children, spouses, caring for your home, dealing with/making money…) are larger cups and require more of your tea. Others are smaller (food shopping, going to the library, taking a walk…). These require less tea but they can not be ignored.
So back to you, my teapot friends.
You can only fill so many cups before you run dry. Even the biggest and best teapot runs out of steam eventually. It can only hold so much.
So what do you do when you begin to run out of water?
Let the last drops fall and pray for more?
Berate yourself for running out of water?
Get angry at the cups?
Call yourself lazy, stupid or selfish ?
How helpful is any of that going to be?
The teapot is empty and needs be refilled. Period.
The teapot needs to be refilled on a regular basis if it is going to be of any use at all to the cups. It is only by refilling on a regular basis that there is an endless stream of tea for everyone to enjoy.
Filling the teapot is no different from self-care.
In order for you to be of use to anyone else, you must refill yourself on a regular basis. It can not always be the very last thing on the list because you’ll have nothing at all to share. You will be empty and that is no good for anyone.
Self care is not selfish AT ALL. You are only taking enough time to refill yourself so that you will have more to share. Empty teapots can look cute but they are really of no use are they? Don’t allow staying empty to be okay with you thinking that you are just a generous person who puts others first. It is a great idea but if you don’t put you first? Who will?
Coming first and taking time for self-care is necessary for good physical and mental health. When you are a happier and more fulfilled person, those around you only stand to benefit from that.
How you refill your teapot is up to you. It is different for everyone. For me it can be doing my artwork, chatting with a good friend, playing a game on my computer… it can be anything at all that makes you feel happy and calm. Anything that truly feels like you’ve had a break. Sometimes it can be 5 minutes while you might occasionally get an hour or even a whole afternoon but no matter what you get? TAKE IT and do self-care.
A short life lesson from a former bone dry teapot…
I used to say that there was no time to take care of myself.
Then I learned that I MAKE time for everyone else so I need to MAKE time for me too.
I never understood how attachment theories worked nor how they affected me personally. I just knew how I felt inside and felt this deep longing to belong somewhere in this world but no matter what I achieved or who cared for me, I still felt that ache just as strong as the day before. It was a deeply lonely feeling as though I was separate from every single other person around me. I’ve heard others describe it as “being alone in a crowded room”.
About a year ago I had a conversation with a doctor who has taken a keen interest in attachment issues. He explained to me that a child attaching to its mother is not just a good thing, it is a biological need that MUST be met. It is not a want or a wish, it is a need.
In healthy infant development, the baby will attach to mom first for food and comfort. The father is usually the next attachment and then gradually over time after the age of about 6 months, that infant will gradually begin to expand his or her circle. If mom and dad have given the child everything they need, this attachment to others is a very natural process. Auntie Kate to visits the most regularly may be the first outside attachment perhaps Grandma and Grandpa are next. It will usually just be whomever the child sees the most often and has positive interactions with.
The trouble for neglected infants is that when the mother and/or father do not adequately bond with or care for their baby, that infant will still have that biological need. Generally neglected infants do not have good support systems either. There might not be an Auntie Kate or a set of grandparents that either live close enough or perhaps care enough to be there on a very regular basis. Even if these people do try and do care, that infant is still going without. He or she needs mom for certain and in the best circumstances, dad too.
To explain the gravity of this situation… if this was to happen in the wild? The infant would die. In some ways this is also true for human beings.
If you watch this short video, it shows how a good and connected parent affects the child and then this same parent refuses to engage at all. Watch the difference in the child.
So what happens as these babies turn in to preschoolers, become school age, turn in to teenagers, and then become adults??? That unmet need is still there and it will never leave unless that need is met somehow. Some people will say they do not care what happens to their parents and that may be absolutely true but they will still hold that biologically unmet need within themselves.
Quite often these people seek out acceptance to a much greater degree than those with healthy upbringings. “Looking for love in all the wrong places” as the song goes. We can grow up, get in to deep relationships too young and sadly even accept abusive relationships easier than most people would because that need for a bond is so overwhelming.
I recall my thoughts after my first marriage crashed and burned… I realized that I had not chosen well or been picky enough. I had my children when I was not yet old enough or fully equipped to handle them (I was married and in my 20’s but I really wasn’t equipped). I just wanted to be married and have children because I was desperate for a connection of my own. Sadly this rarely ends well so I got a divorce then swung to the other extreme where I need NO ONE for ANYTHING and totally shut myself off from anyone outside of my own children. That doesn’t end well either just in case you are thinking of trying it. 😉
So here I am at 46 years old and I know many others just like me who are even in their 60’s and yet they still wish for a unconsciously look for a mother to take care of them. We attach to others too quickly. We can force bonds which can often freak other people out. We can be seen as needy, sometimes even childish or many other varieties of “messed up”.
Please do not blame yourself if you see yourself in this situation. Your needs were not met and you are behaving as your mind feels that you need to in order to get that need met. It is not acceptable to continue this behaviour long term but do not berate yourself for needing something you couldn’t get.
I am not a professional on this in any way so I can’t give a laundry list of suggestions but perhaps even just being aware of your reactions and accepting them for what they are, an unmet need, could be helpful.
In my own life I am still in mourning for the things I never had but I am also getting healthier and being sure that my boundaries are as appropriate as possible.
A spouse is a spouse.
A therapist is a therapist.
A friend is a friend.
A sister or sister-in-law is a sister.
Those are the lines and attempting to put these people in a mothering or fatherly position holds our progress back. We will be once again seeking and not finding what we need and this can be devastating even if you are not totally aware of what you are doing.
The only true healing comes from beginning to give ourselves what we need. Starting to mother and/or father ourselves. Accept that there is that little girl or little boy in there that really needs to be shown true parental love. I will admit that I am still at the point where I feel like this just sucks and I shouldn’t have to be my own parent after everything else I’ve had to do for myself… but I know cognitively that this is where I need to go and I have started in some ways.
I just found this post and think it might be helpful to say to ourselves. Either this or something like it but we need to start to nurture that inner child.
Do you ever wonder why people with trauma experience pain years after the trauma happened? This pain often has no real cause and it is then called a “somatic illness”. Basically this means that it is pain caused by your trauma with no underlying physical cause (until you are older and years of pain catch up with you). Why does this happen to us and not to other animals that can experience trauma/life and death situations on a regular basis???
It is all because The Human Brain Overrides the Instinct to Discharge Trauma.
Special thanks to my friend who writes “The Healing Arts Therapy” for quite a bit of the research and writing included here. 🙂
Animals in the wild routinely experience life or death situations that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, dump adrenaline into the bloodstream, and provide the energy or “charge” for a fight, flight, or freeze response. When a zebra is chased by a lion, adrenaline surges and the zebra runs for its life (a flight response). When the zebra knows it has reached safety, it instinctively “discharges” the remaining adrenaline energy by trembling, shaking, twitching, and jumping around. Because the animal completely discharges the excess adrenaline energy after the chase is over, it doesn’t hold the memory or the energy of the trauma in its body.
A zebra doesn’t hold tension in its body from every chase and live in the past thinking, “A lion chased me yesterday and I barely got away.” “A lion chased me last week and I’m still stressed out about it.” “A lion chased me last month and I’m still having nightmares.” (LUCKY ZEBRA!)
Humans have this same discharge instinct available in our hindbrains (reptilian brain), but our frontal lobes overwhelm the hindbrain. Following a traumatic event, we do tremble and shake, but as soon as our frontal lobes engage and become dominant, the discharge process is interrupted, and any remaining excess adrenaline energy is locked into the body.
For example, following a severe car accident, it would be good to shake and tremble until you were done, and you wouldn’t be done until all excess adrenaline energy had been discharged from your system and you felt calm. But you will have to override this shaking and trembling instinct and activate your thinking brain to take down driver’s license and insurance information and answer questions for emergency responders and police reports. Some of the trauma energy may naturally discharge, but the adrenaline energy remaining in your body when your frontal brain becomes dominant will be stuck there.
When the discharge of trauma energy is interrupted and incomplete, the excess adrenaline is still surging around the body trying to do what it is designed to do: provide energy for a fight, flight, or freeze response. When the frontal brain overrides the hindbrain and demands that the body stop trembling and shaking, the body has to do something to contain the adrenaline energy. So it “freezes” it into body tissues with chemical bonds to hold it still. This frozen adrenaline energy remains locked in the muscles and fascia and organs and nervous system until it can be discharged, sometimes for the rest of a person’s life. This held energy can create a multitude of symptoms and compensating behaviours.
Any human behaviour that we can do to release this trapped energy can be very useful to aid in healing.
This blog today will be a short one. My mind is absolutely filled to the brim with chaotic thoughts due to a huge loss on Monday.
I live in a very rural place and the communities are connected much like communities were many decades ago. One of the things that connects us is the fish/crab/shrimp plant (one place). Our population is very small and the plant employs 700 people each season. This should have been the week that everyone went back to work but the plant burnt to the ground on Monday.
The plant is not “a” place to work. It is “the” place to work. There are not other jobs to be had. A few people keep the gas stations and little stores alive, some work at the small cottage hospital, a few are teachers from the area that found jobs at the very tiny schools but I’d say that roughly 80% of all the jobs available are directly tied to the plant.
In my family, it employed my husband, 2 of my brother-in-laws, a sister-in-law and countless friends. Losing it is devastating. We all hope they will rebuild but that will not happen overnight and all of the people who were employed there are at the end of their unemployment benefits. It is just enough to hold us all over for the winter. Barely. We manage though and when the summer comes and the work is plentiful, we all stock up again for winter and have whatever needs to be done to our homes, cars, with the kids taken care of. My husband and I must replace our roof this year as it begun to leak badly last year and this season was what would have paid for that.
Please do not read this wrong, I am not asking for money or anything else here. I am just trying to explain the magnitude of it for us. Some of you may have even seen news clips on it already.
Many of my Helpers are freaking out, especially the little ones. I went to get groceries today because they were all so afraid they would have nothing to eat. There are a lot of bad memories regarding going hungry so it is a deep seated fear. Some of the teens are just fed up and want to leave for greener pastures. As most teenagers believe, the grass is greener on the other side to them. Many of the adults are worried about money and what everyone will have to do to survive. I (Heather) just feel shocked and depressed about it and I am having a bit of a pity party… “Why can’t anything ever go right?”. Sometimes we just need to have a good old fashioned pity party right? Let it get worked out of our system.Needless to say, there are so many emotions to deal with internally plus calls and visits from family and friends (GREATLY appreciated). I just feel chaotic. I am sorry if this blog today reflects that.
We will be okay… somehow. I just don’t know how yet. I am sure that I will feel more settled on Friday when it is time for my next blog.
Until then? All the best to you!!!
It was suggested to me by a long time reader that allowing my story to be told might help reach others. I have hesitated doing this is the past because I just felt the details were not really important. That said? I do agree with this reader and have decided to share some of my story (minus the nitty-gritty) with you today. I do hope it helps you understand me better and I hope it reaches some of you so that you know that you are not alone in this fight for your survival.
I am going to leave my siblings out of this story because I do not feel it is fair to assume how they felt or what they went through personally. If there is a day that the ones still living wish to share with you? I’d happily post it.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a princess.
Scratch that. This is no fairy tale. 😉
I was born at the beginning of 1970 in a winter storm. A fitting beginning for the life that would follow. A winter storm of sorts that lasted decades.
I was born to a family that was quite wealthy and had every available support to raise a child as easily as possible. From other family members, I have been told about how my father was thrilled by my birth but my mother hated me from day one. Probably long before day one in reality. I am sure she viewed her pregnancy as a real inconvenience.
My beginning could have been a good one but right from the very start of my life here on this earth, my mother would begin making choices that would seal my fate and my father would not do anything to stop her.
Their first decision? My name.
Heather was the name of a girl whom my father and mother hated. She’d chased my father around and my mother hated her for it. This is the person whom I was named after. Someone they hated.
I have a few memories of my early childhood but none are good. From 0-4, all I recall is being afraid. Many years ago my grandmothers both told me stories of how I was left in filth and ignored while my father was at work. I was also told that I would scream and beg others to take me with them as they left our house or begged babysitters to keep me. That is just not normal behaviour for a young child. Wanting to leave with anyone rather than staying home with their mother.
Starting at age 4, I was given a gift of new underwear for my birthday. Not the best gift for a 4-year-old but they were a tiny hint as to what that birthday would mean. I would be sold to men who liked little girls and my hair was cut so short that I also looked like a boy and could satisfy men who liked boys as well. This was not a rare occurrence. It was done as often as there was demand and there was ALWAYS a demand.
It was also around this time that I learned to mistrust what people said vs. what they actually did. My mother could be the sweetest, kindest, most gregarious person to anyone on the outside but then a monster behind closed doors. It was her perfect “outside face” that allowed others to believe that she was trying her best but that I was a child with some real issues. She convinced therapists, social workers, a child psychiatrist, doctors, teachers and strangers that the problem was set squarely on my own shoulders. I was the one who hurt myself and then lied with crazy stories to cover it all up. This lasted for my entire life with her. It still goes on to this day! She is perfect while I have mental illnesses.
There was a lot of sexual and physical abuse but even worse than that was the sadistic nature of the emotional abuse. I was made to believe that I was only sold to men (and some women) because I liked it and caused it to happen. If there were bruises or broken bones? I had obviously done something to deserve that. If I got ill. that was my fault too. That woman (my mother) made sure that my self-esteem was now only low but non-existent. I felt less than human and not truly worthy of any kindness. This is the part of her abuse that is the hardest to get over or heal from. I feel like I am worthy and then someone talks about me or doesn’t like me and I am plunged deeply right back in to feeling absolutely worthless. My brain knows that I am a good person, that I give a lot of myself to helping others, that I am smart, and have a lot going for me but my heart still says “You don’t deserve any of it and you are just as worthless as you always were”.
I did try to speak out and I tried to reach for help but these efforts were always met with my mothers wrath. I recall being made to eat a “poop” hot-dog in a bun. If I was going to spread “filthy lies”, I was going to eat filth as well. After a certain number of times where I reached out to ask for help and having that come back at me with a vengeance, I gave up. I still find it hard today to speak up about it because my automatic feeling that accompanies this openness is fear.
There are so many details and situations that I could discuss but I am sure you get the idea by now? It wasn’t just a hard life. It was a life filled with monsters that never hid under my bed. They just stayed out in the open and did as they wished with me as often as they wished it. I many ways this abuse started before I was born and still continues today. 46 years of situations and stories that would make your blood curdle.
If you read my list of Helpers from last week, there are a few more details of which Helpers came in to being and when/why.
I wish I could say that I grew up, moved away and never had to deal with my mother again but I moved 3,500kms to get away from her and 2 months later, she was living 1km down the street from me in her newly purchased home.
I have not spoken to her in over 11 years yet she still speaks about me in public to anyone who will lend her an ear. She tells them lies and makes me look horrible. We live in a very small community and there are many people who have never even met me whom hate me with passion. I’ve been called a liar, a bitch, a whore, a selfish daughter and worse by these people who just believe the words my mother shares. Supposed grownups and mostly “church friends” of my mothers. I really try hard not to let it bother me but she has even gotten to my own children and 2 of my husbands extended family members. The words said under hushed breaths make me want to just run away again and never look back… or just give up and leave this world altogether. It is hard not to taint the good that I have created in my life with that poison. I am only human. It is hard to be hated and even harder to be hated for something you never were.
Sadly it is not only my monster/mother that drags me down like this. My father takes part as well. He is quieter about it but when discussions of how my brother abused me surfaced, it was his voice on the other end of the phone calling me a sociopath. In my heart I know that he believes every word and knows the truth but he is unwilling to face it and it seems that hurting me instead is acceptable to him. I recently cut off all contact with him and I know it was necessary for my future mental health but I feel like a 46 years old orphan who never knew what it was like to have a mom or dad.
I’ve felt very lonely lately. I miss those whom have loved and seen die by suicide due to their PTSD. I ache for my murdered son. My heart has cement poured all over it while my living children find their way home. I really miss the nurse I felt close to while in hospital and the doctor whom I got to know before his sabbatical. Now my current therapist is retiring in a couple of months and I must say goodbye to her as well. I know these supports are not meant to be lifelong friendships and I am good with that but it doesn’t make missing them any easier. These people got me, they understood me, They believed me and truly heard me. They made me a better person. I am just tired and I am trying to find and keep my spark. I will find it again. I have faith in that.
I’ve had some comments about how I do not share negative stories on my blog but I feel that my intentions are perhaps a bit misunderstood. I do not keep things positive because I want people to think life is just all great and I am flying high. I keep it positive because I have dealt with and still deal with more negative in the run of a day that some people experience in a lifetime. By remaining positive myself, I feel like I am adding to the good in the world and that somehow negates some of the bad. It takes a lot of effort on a daily basis to live a good and positive life but I almost always feel that it is worth the effort.
This blog is very important to me. YOU are important to me. When someone says that they heard what they needed to hear or got what they needed to get because of a blog I wrote, it helps me add to the balance of positive in my life. Thank you for that.
If there is more you wish to know, just ask. If it is too personal to be on the blog, I will respond with a private email.
All the best to each of you. ❤
Hand drawn by Heather. For sale. $20
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