Tag Archives: Self Harm

Being human…

Human
I started 2016 with high hopes. I was feeling good and felt strong. Then I spent over 2 months fighting off infections one after the next. I am normally quite healthy so to have 7 infections of various sorts in a row was very shocking. It finally ended and now I am back to my usual self. 🙂

Once I finally got better and stayed well, I decided it would be a good time to my art studio and a spare room painted. This endeavour is the only thing that really turned out since the beginning of 2016. Thank goodness for this!!!

And then April arrived.
My husband works seasonally at the only workplace available to people in our area. We live on the east coast of Newfoundland Canada and the only business here on the “north shore” is fishing. My husband worked on the wharf and the months that he spends at work are the ones that get us through the whole year. Of his 5 siblings that live here, 2 couples are retired and the other 3 all depend on the plant for their yearly income.
We were all ready to get back in to the swing of things and the crab plant was ready to run at full tilt… until it burnt down the day before everything was to really go wild for the summer. This means no work (or scrounging up a few hours wherever he can). It will devastate us financially until the plant is rebuilt in a year (best) or two (reasonable).

That alone was enough but then I found out that my hubby was sneaking smokes. I will not say a lot except to say that he has severe health issues that will only see him deteriorate with the smoking coming back in to his life. This causes me a great deal of stress because I love him and do not want to watch him to decline as he did before he quit. He almost died twice last year… it is scary.

Due to my therapist becoming a grandmother again, I did not see her for what should have been 3 weeks. It is now 4 weeks because the car broke down while trying to go see her this past Tuesday. IF next week works out, I will see her then. A full month of no therapy… seriously not at all good for my head space. 😦

The biggest issue this past week was even bigger to me because I was already so depleted and psychologically tired but that aside, I had a HUGE trigger this week that has just knocked me right over.
You may recall me speaking about my son Marcus and his death. I have not given a ton of details regarding his actual last moments except to say that they were horrific and caused by someone who should have loved him.
This week in my area (very rural – everyone knows everyone). A 5 year old girl was murdered by her father and then he set his house on fire to cover the crime. It is damn close to exactly what happened to Marcus and I have found this whole week triggering in a way that I have rarely been tested before.
The father had been charged with domestic violence 3 times yet the court dismissed the charges each time. Due to the fact that he had no record, he was given shared custody.
The mom did what she could to be heard but no one would listen.
And now her child is dead.
Trigger, trigger, trigger…

To add to those triggers, I was privately discussing the loss of Marcus when one of my Monster/mother’s friends interrupted to call me a liar. That just pi$$ed me right off and being seen as a liar is probably my biggest trigger. I know she is misinformed but it still sent me spiralling downhill at an even quicker speed.

These are the reasons why I was so quiet last week. I was just feeling so anxious, depressed, and triggered. I wanted to drink or just be done with this world and although I did neither one, the thoughts alone scare me plenty. I do not like it when these options begin to look like reasonable responses to the issues in my life.

I have also been feeling so very alone. In reality, I am not alone. I have my blog which is always a source of comfort in hard times, I have wonderful friends, I know good coping strategies now and life when I am more stable, looks really good.
Sadly none of this seems to be enough when things get really bad. I just feel terribly alone. I feel unlikable, unlovable, unworthy, and untrustworthy. I feel terribly unimportant. I do realize that my mind is playing tricks on me but it doesn’t seem to really matter in the moment.

Now the rebuilding begins. Self care, self-care and more self-care.  I have the skills to find my way out of this and I have supports to turn to but it is the actual action of doing it when my energy is so depleted.

I don’t write this to make you worry or feel badly for me. I write it because I can so often come across like I have everything together, that I am calm, capable and have my biggest storms behind me.
The truth? I have weathered many storms, I have managed to make huge changes in my life and I am proud of my accomplishments.
Some days really just “bite the big one” though and I am quickly reminded that I am human. Fallible, occasionally weak, messed up, and confused. So totally human.

Attachment

IC

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.

IC1

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”

Schools lack…

School

Schools try their very best to teach children all the skills they need to learn in order to lead full and successful lives. I really believe that for the most part, educators really do care.

That said, I think there is one area that schools and society lacks attention that is absolutely critical and would change the way that our society worked as a whole. We all went to school and now we are all “society”. One day these kids will be taking our places.Will they be as prepared as we were? Were we prepared?

Bullying is a HUGE issue that receives a ton of attention but the education about it isn’t working. I’ve sat in school auditoriums, listened to very passionate speakers on the effects of bullying and then as we leave, I hear kids calling each other names, pushing each other, basically ignoring every lesson they just learned. I would hate to even fathom a guess at the hours a principal spends dealing with bullies, bullied children and their parents. Yet it is only getting worse.
And much worse than bullying? Having no respect for your own self, beating yourself up for finding life challenging, feeling like you are less than or not worthy of better, harming yourself in ANY way because you just don’t have the skills to cope.

I am not usually one for coming up with ideas that basically throw what we  are already doing out the window but in this case? I think we need to strongly consider it.
What do I think we should teach instead?
I think we could do wonders for our youth and our society as a whole if we taught about good mental health.

  • Teach and do projects on self-esteem, help kids figure out what they really love to do and how to be proud of it.
  • Teach lessons on being resilient. You CAN teach someone how to gain skills that will make the ups and downs of life easier to manage.
  • Explain to our youth that they are worthy of love, attention, and support. If they are not getting that at home, parents can be led towards parenting classes that are not done to be punitive but rather done to make all of their lives better. It is very obvious to me that the parents needs as much consideration as the child.
  • We need to teach children about self-care and self nurture. I was 43 before I even knew what this meant. I assumed if I showered and brushed my teeth? I was all good. I had no idea that I needed to also nurture myself, treat myself well, do things that I enjoy like being creative or spending time writing.
  • Teach some behaviour therapy. How to see the world with realistic but not dirtied glasses. Help them see the good that surrounds them and actively push further away from the bad.
  • Teach these children about mental health issues. Let them know what is “normal” and what is not. Help them learn the signs of anxiety or depression so that they can be proactive far earlier. Many youth and many adults graduate from anxiety and/or depression to more serious concerns such as self harm, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders. Give them the local support numbers to call if they ever feel the need to reach out for help. Don’t make them (or anyone) have to go searching for it when they are at their lowest.

My personal belief (and that is all this is although I would LOVE to change the world with it) is that youth who are taught and helped to mature with a good self-esteem, an ability to be more resilient, know that they are worthy and important people in this world, take an active role in doing things that make themselves happy and feel fulfilled, youth who are taught about mental health and have no fear or stigma attached to it will reach out sooner, get help quicker and not fall so far before trying to catch themselves.

Mentally healthy children, youth and eventually members of our adult society will require less interventions, they will become happier workers, more positive people, they will be resilient and good at taking care of their own needs.
I think it is worth taking the time to make this a part of the curriculum and if they don’t? We parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, caregivers, friends, doctors, nurses, etc. need to start teaching it if we can.
I also firmly believe that these stronger, more self-assured youth won’t need as much help with bullies because a bully will be far less likely to upset them as easily AND we will have fewer bullies in the first place. Mentally healthy people do not feel the need to stomp on the feelings of those around them.

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