Tag Archives: PTSD

Dissociative Identity Disorder

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.

I really like this graphic as a way to explain what I am trying to share here.Excellent

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.DID0

The Human Brain Overrides the Instinct to Discharge Trauma

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. 🙂

Zebra

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.

My story.

Girl

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. ❤

Kind Words CopyHand drawn by Heather. For sale. $20
Buy an 8×10 “Be Gentle”

Unexpressed emotions.

Buried

I believe this to be true 100%. It may not be true for everyone but in my experience, most people will trauma need to talk about what they went through before they are able to heal from it. I can not fairly speak for others so this blog will be my own experience. That said? I’ve heard the same thing over and over again.

In most of my therapy, there is a real unwillingness by psychiatrists or therapists to discuss what happened in any detail. Attention is given to the here and now with the goal of working on how the trauma affects you present day. I do agree with this for a certain amount of time. Safety needs to be established, trust needs to be created, supports need to be in place and perhaps a few other things before discussing the actual story takes place. This takes time. Sometimes a lot of time. Perhaps for many people the time to discuss the details just never arrives. They do not want to or just never feel ready. That is their own personal choice and I respect that.

The trouble for me began when I wanted my choice to be taken seriously. Keeping all my secrets buried inside of me led me to the edge of a huge cliff and I was hanging on by one small fingernail. My story had never been discussed, never been opened up for discussion… and never believed by anyone. I’d only ever been 0-24 when the bulk of my abuse happened. I’d tried reaching out but no one had ever heard me. Those who did hear me found ways to brush it all off or turn around and blame me for what happened. I’d given up and I’d remained silent for decades. That silence was nearly the death of me. Piece by piece. Day by day.

The first time I ever told my story as an adult was while I was in hospital. It nearly cracked my soul in half to tell even little parts of it and I felt like my mind would never find a way to get put back together. I felt so exposed and I assumed everyone could now see how dirty, disgusting and pathetic I really was.
As hard as those first days were, it was also the beginning of my healing.

My secrets began to feel the air and began to travel along beside me as a part of who I was rather than weighing me down like the rocks they had been before. My shame was heard and disputed. My guilt was seen and I was taught how to place it in the proper place. I learned that my story was just that. My story. It was not who I was.

After leaving the hospital, I had a psychiatrist whom was a very kind and helpful man. I know he cared but he didn’t really see me. He saw my mask. My Helpers came out to him but he didn’t know me well enough to realize it so he was never able to help them. We never really discussed anything in detail. We tried a couple of times to just scratch the surface but it was almost like he was afraid to upset me. I do not know if that is why he pulled back or not but I can think of no other reason.

I also had 2 therapists. One who never believed anything that I disclosed in the hospital because she was too busy writing copious amounts of notes and being totally ticked off that I had opened up while hospitalized and not while I was with her. Her only way to explain that? I was lying.
I will tell you know. She was another trauma. Just one more professional who wasn’t willing to really stop and look. If she added up my symptoms, my life, my triggers and fears? It all pointed to exactly what I’d been through.
Eventually I picked myself off the floor and never went back to her.

Another therapist was found and she worked alongside my psychiatrist. They both felt that it was better for me to stay with current day issues and deal with those rather than dig up the past. That is all well and great but guess what happened? My mask got better looking while my secrets started to find their way back in to my soul. One heavy rock at a time, they got in, settled down and grew larger. On the outside, everything was just great. On the inside? I was beginning to die again.

You see… these professionals had the best of intentions and I am sure they would be hurt if they knew they had caused me to just close back up and put my mask back on but that is what holding secrets does to you.
The things that bother me most today are deeply rooted in what happened years ago. I do not need to discuss it infinitum, but I do need for the back story to be known so the troubles of today can be worked on effectively. By being unwilling to go where I needed to go, their help was of no use. They were really great people and I liked them both but they were not helping me nor were they willing to hear me when I tried to tell them what I needed.

I finally found a trauma centre with trained trauma therapists and I am beginning to continue healing again now. We do not spend each session deep in the trenches of what happened in the past but when an issue comes up, we do look at where it began and how I processed it at the time. It is in that moment of my history that the damage occurred. I do not need to fix the spirit of the woman who I am today. I need to heal the young, confused, scared, helpless child who is still inside of me just waiting to be allowed to come out and once again walk alongside me rather than dragging me down.

I wrote a poem while in hospital about this and I will put it in its own post. I hope you’ll like it.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Value Your Survival Skills

Value

It can be really tough to look at the symptoms that are caused by whichever disorder we’ve been burdened with and feel thankful. Who would feel thankful for dissociations, unexplained body pain that never ceases yet a mind that feels nothing? Anger, depressions, anxiety, feeling absolutely crazy, and afraid to make friends or trust anyone at all. There are so many different symptoms that I just can not cover them all but you know what you deal with and it really sucks doesn’t it?

So let’s look back a bit to the time when those behaviors were not symptoms yet.
Back to a time when they are what helped us survive.
They were not symptoms then, they were SKILLS.
We needed them. Quite often they saved our lives.

Any good therapist or doctor will tell you that although these skills were useful in the past, they are not helping us now. We know that but we need to be taught how to cope without using them.

It is in that in-between time that we often feel very critical of ourselves.
Why can’t we feel things?
Why can’t we trust someone who we know is trustworthy?
Why do I struggle with addiction? (Food, alcohol, drugs, sex…)
Why do I hurt myself to feel better?
Why do we feel such anger that it is more like a venomous rage?
Why do we then feel nothing?
Why do we eat so much or so little?
Why can’t we stop zoning out?
Why are we depressed when everything seems to be going well?
Why are we so anxious that it can be hard to leave home?
Why do we say or do things to cause distance with others?
We can often feel dead inside. Why can’t we feel?
Why do we want to be alone yet feel shunned?
What the heck is wrong with us?
Why can’t we just be “normal”?

Those questions haunt so many of us and I am sure you can relate to at least a few. It feels awful to be stuck where we do not want to be. It is very easy to be unhappy with ourselves and we want to do better but it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to change.

Maybe we can do something a little different when we feel like being hard on ourselves for our now dysfunctional coping.
Perhaps we can look at these “symptoms” and see that they were not born out of weakness but rather born our of the will to survive. We are not weak or frigged up because of them. These symptoms just show how incredibly resilient we were.  We made it through all that we dealt with thanks to those skills.

We also know that we need to work towards healthier coping skills in our lives now but I find that making steps forward is a lot easier when we stop putting ourselves down for who we are at that moment.
Accept yourself for who you are and where you are. You are a survivor. Nothing less. You are strong and good and kind. The people who’ve been hurt the most almost always are.

You will change in time. You will make healthier choices and move forward in positive ways. Allow yourself to accept who you are right now and that change will happen faster.

I learned to value my skills and it changed my life. I had more compassion for myself. I was no longer sorry for how I acted or felt. I had every good reason to be exactly where I was. Any person who lived through my life would do no better.
Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
Wherever you are right now is the best you can do. As you learn? You can do more.
Maya Angelou also said “When you learn. Teach.”
One day you will be in a place where others will look at you and learn from your climb.

You survived. However you achieved that? Good for you!!!

The Trauma Tree

Childhood trauma is often overlooked, greatly misunderstood and one of the most damaging things that can happen to a child. The effects will last a lifetime.

This is the issue that I want to bring up today. I believe this view needs to change in society. Not only for children now but for those of us that were children when we were affected by trauma. I believe that understanding this interrupted brain growth process will help us all be more compassionate to others and most importantly to ourselves.

One of the most maddening things I hear is that I was was too young to really remember the traumas that I experienced as an infant and toddler, therefore I should be fine. While on one hand, this is true. I can not accurately recall the exact details of the abuse, this view is still completely and utterly wrong, in fact it is the complete opposite. This tree is a great graphic to help me explain what I mean.

trauma-tree-4

The roots represent the prenatal stage of growth.
Where the tree touches the ground is birth.
The trunk is infancy and early childhood.
The lower branches are childhood.
The upper branches are your teen years.
Adulthood is at the top branches.

If trauma occurs at any stage, the rest of the tree’s growth (which represents your forming brain) beyond that point is negatively affected. The older you are, the more life experiences and knowledge you have to cope and the brain is not actively forming as quickly. (ie. Abusing a toddler affects the entire tree from the trunk up. You end up with a tree build on a very insecure base. If the abuse happens as an adult, you have a good base and strong branches so you have some ability to cope better than a child would.)
Side note: I said cope “better”, not easier. ❤

Childhood trauma is often complex and can be catastrophic, leaving a lifetime of struggles in almost all facets of life. This is significantly true of trauma exposure during the prenatal and infancy stages (roots and trunk) when the brain is at its most critical and active phases of development. The younger a person is when exposed to trauma, the higher their risk of developing trauma related disorders including learning disorders, developmental disorders, cognitive deficits, attention issues, attachment disorders, and so much more.

Prenatal trauma is hard to understand so I have found some examples of how trauma can happen even while in the womb.

  • a toxic or unwelcoming womb
  • divorce or a bereaved parent
  • a considered or attempted abortion
  • being unwanted
  • adoption (deep abandonment)
  • a lack of resources
  • twin loss
  • drugs, alcohol and nicotine taken during pregnancy
  • violence and other ongoing stresses.

A developing brain needs a healthy chemistry to develop properly. A brain that is developing while flooded with trauma induced chemicals (such as cortisol and adrenaline) fails to form healthy, strong connections.
Trauma at this stage will affect the formation of  the tree (your brain) at the roots. Every single part of that tree with be affected.

Birth trauma examples:

  • life/death situations
  • being born unusually quickly
  • a very long labor
  • adoption
  • the cord around the neck or getting stuck
  • being unwanted
  • c-sections

I want to point out that these are examples of birth trauma but it is more about how these events were handled. Having a c-section that was planned will not be a trauma but a mother far in to her labour when an emergency arises and she is whisked off to have an emergency c-section can be if she does not have enough support through this process.
This trauma is like taking the new roots and putting them in unhealthy soil.

There are numerous ways a young child can be affected by trauma. Several examples include:

  • sexual or physical abuse
  • natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, flood)
  • car or plane crashes
  • war
  • witnessing a death, murder or suicide
  • kidnapping
  • rape
  • shootings
  • incest
  • fires
  • severe neglect
  • violence in the home

This trauma is usually where some memory comes in to play. It is better understood by society how these events can be traumatic but often people will assume that the child is too young to remember. This is absolutely incorrect. The child may not recall details (who, what, when, where, why) but they will forever feel the trauma within their bodies and their minds even if they can not accurately place exactly what happened to them. Details are not needed to have proof of abuse.

I think abuse of teens and adults is more easily understood so I will skip on to the effects of trauma keeping in mind that the earlier the trauma began, the shakier the tree. Abuse of an adult may produce any of these symptoms but the treatment is based on a firmer base which can make it easier to treat or deal with. Having support around you is also incredibly important. An adult woman who is is violated can have no support or lots of support. This usually affects the outcome and persistent symptoms greatly.

Symptoms of trauma can include:

  • Anxiety, terror
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Constantly being alert
  • Re-enactment of situation with various objects
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Amnesia
  • Poor self-image
  • Bedwetting (not only a childhood thing)
  • Guilty feelings
  • Showing signs of obsessive or compulsive behaviors
  • Panic attacks
  • Recurrent nightmares, flashbacks
  • Shyness
  • Avoidance of situations similar to the traumatic event
  • Pain with or without an obvious cause
  • Inability to give or receive proper love and affection
  • Trust issues that vary from wariness to an absolute disbelief in anyone or anything

Sadly the list can be much longer but I felt those were the major touching points.

In the end, I hope this blog helps you be a bit more compassionate with yourself and/or with others who have been traumatized. Quite often trauma can stunt/slow/stop a persons emotional maturity at the point where the trauma took place. You might be 35-45-55-65+but trauma can leave you emotionally much younger. One therapist told me that I am about 400 years old intellectually but about 4 emotionally. I am still just learning the ropes. I agree and I do not see this as a putdown. With my background, it is great that I’ve reached 4.

With good therapy, a supportive environment, medications or supplements as needed and a boatload of self compassion, we can continue to find ways to build a more supportive tree. I like to picture building a beautiful stone wall around mine. Stone by stone, it gets taller and stronger. Yours can too.

My tree had DID so the rock wall takes a little longer to encompass my tree but it’s a process/project worth working for.Rockwork around trees

Dirty word of the day: Integration

I know this will be a controversial post for some people. Many medical professionals do not agree with my views… which is fine because I do not agree with  theirs. 😉 Joking aside, many doctors, therapists, and even some people within the dissociative identity disorder (DID) community feel that integration is the holy grail of healing persons from DID.
To me? Integration is a dirty word.

If you have not read this blog before, I call my “alters”, my Helpers. Hence the name of the blog. 😉

Even now while writing this, I can feel my inner world starting to freak out. Anxiety, worry, a wish to run away, feeling overwhelmed, getting angry… that is what my Helpers deal with every time this word is said. I feel it too. Big time. I feel totally in control today and I am always out front when writing but I can still feel the weight of inner feelings especially when they are shaken up.

I can not speak for everyone else out there but I can speak for myself and I will express how I personally feel about the issue of integration. If you disagree, I’d love for you to write a blog on it and forward it on to me. I’d love to read other opinions. 🙂

Having DID is not easy. Every situation that happens garners my own emotions but then the Helpers step in with theirs as well. Have you ever been at a big get-together and try to get everyone to stop and listen to you? Can you imagine trying to come to agreements about certain important issues? There will be as many opinions as their are people. DID is a lot like that every day.
That said? Some of the same people who may drive you batty would also rush to your aid if you suddenly collapsed or started having real troubles coping. DID is a lot like that too.

I believe that my Helpers started coming in to existence between the ages of 2 and 4. I know for sure there were several there when I was 4 and 5 but I have a feeling they were there earlier. For me? I’ve never had a life without my Helpers in it. For the purpose of this blog, I will set aside all the confusion and thinking I saw dead people and just discuss my view since being properly diagnosed.

As much as life with DID can get hectic, I am never bored and never lonely. I have company at all times and honestly? I am not sure I’d enjoy life so much without it. I was once on medication that made them almost silent (and made me a zombie) and that was a very sad and lonely time for me. I am also ALWAYS full of ideas for new things and ways to use things that I myself may have never thought of.

I also have a huge issue with integrating these people whom I have come to view as such a big part of my life. Who do I get rid of first? Little “Hannah Banana”? My ever faithful sidekick Rielyn? Old man Oscar? Tilly who helped me birth a baby when I was too young to mentally handle it on my own? I am sorry but full integration is never going to happen because each of these Helpers are important to me as individuals.

I am also very aware that each of them is a part of me. A very compartmentalized part of me but still essentially “me”. While it would be all neat and tidy to roll the Helpers and I in to one person, I honestly feel I would end up completely overwhelmed. At least right now there is separation between all these opinions and emotions.

So what do I want? What do I feel is healthy?
Teamwork.
Rather than working on getting each Helper to integrate, I spend that time trying to work out the kinks in our relationships and certain actions. I will use Jenna as an example. She was always having issues with self harm and quite often these “events” were incredibly scary. I still have many scars. Trying to integrate her causes panic, more dissociation and more self harm. Working out a deal between us was FAR more productive. Jenna admitted in writing and through art that she often used self harm not only as a release but also in trying to fix old scars. A deal was made that if there was no self harm for 6 months, we would get a tattoo to cover one set of scars. 6 months later was another tattoo to cover more. Jenna LOVES her tattoo’s and I love them too. She found a new strength during a year of no self harming that she still possesses today. Integration made her run away and refuse help but making a deal with her stopped the harmful behavior and allowed me to take care of her.

One by one, we work out deals. We make rules that certain age groups MUST follow. No one under 18 drives. No one under 18 signs important documents. Only I (Heather) goes to therapy. If anyone has a concern, they can write it down and I will take care of it or help them with it. There are a few other rules that are for safety, friendship, being creative and so forth. These rules are enough for me to feel good about my team of Helpers.

There will always be mess ups, uncomfortable situations, missing time, forgotten occasions and other issues that persons with DID have but would full integration solve all of these issues? And what about all the PTSD triggers they help me through? How often I would have fled out of a movie theater, ran my car off the road at a fright, been unable to function at social events before I was able to stay more present? My life would have been far worse. I am sure of it. My Helpers came in to being for excellent reasons and I do not wish to thank them by making them null and void.  Also, I am aware of 34 Helpers… integration could or would take FOREVER. I’d rather live my life with my team. They help me and I help them. For me personally? That is enough.

Helpers

Rules