Tag Archives: Trauma

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.

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

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”

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!

Heather’s Helpers

I keep saying that I will share more about my Helpers and then I don’t. It has been a huge hurdle for me to be willing to share them with others after working so hard to hide them for over 40 years. I’ve decided to just share a list with ages, general personality traits, and when it is known, the reason why they appeared. I hope it does not overwhelm you. The list is long.

Helpers

Hannah
3 years old.
Speaks in babyish sentences.
Likes to draw with crayons.
Tends to hide under beds, in closets and under tables.
Hannah is TERRIFIED of mom.

Jayden
4 years old.
Jayden and Jocelyn are together a lot.
Heather was made to look boyish when she was first sold out and Jayden took the abuse that came along with that.
He’s a very quiet little boy.
Jayden loves to play with trucks and sand.

Jocelyn
4 years old.
Jocelyn is very shy and refuses eye contact.
She is completely silent and appeared to come to being when Heather was sold to one man in particular who got very rough and threatening.
Being called “Kiddo” is her biggest trigger.

Gracie
5 years old.
Perky but fairly quiet.
Gracie loves to draw and is eager to write short letters.
She enjoys the other little ones and seems happy but she is quite afraid of Rielyn.

Marley
5 years old.
Marley is silent and scared at all times. She feels sick almost all the time as well.
She was the first one that got threatened with a gun and she handled all gun incidents in childhood from then on.
She wants to be a writer and tries to express herself that way.
Marley handled the schooling until Quinn took over.

Kalen
5 years old.
Kalen hated school and let Marley do it all while he enjoyed recess and gym for her.
Kalen was quite a good runner and could occasionally avoid a beating by being too fast to catch.
He’s a quiet guy but will answer when spoken to.

Quinn
7 years old.
Quinn is quite chatty and not afraid to speak her mind.
She is responsible for almost a full year while Heather was gone.
Quinn is not willing to listen to Rielyn which is VERY rare.
Quinn is also known to let some very inappropriate “F bombs” drop.
Quinn was balsy enough to stand up to mom and this did not go well at all.
A full 2 years of mom trying to find clever ways to kill her began because of both Quinn and Heather speaking out together.

Landon
7 years old.
Great in school when Heather couldn’t concentrate or was dealing with the side effects of whatever the current toxic cocktail from mom was.
Landon dealt with the hospitalizations twice and was able to trick the doctors in to longer stays so he could eat real food and talk to the adults.

Peyton
7 years old.
Silent and very sad.
Peyton was the janitors main victim.
Peyton and Heather though that he loved them but he was only a predator.
Peyton feels stupid for being duped.

Ayanna
8 years old.
Ayanna is full of fear.
Yellow stars are a huge trigger.
Ayanna is also in pain at all times and it feels like it is still happening now. Not only in the past.
She feels that she will never be free.

Izabelle
9 years old.
She remembers trying to commit suicide several times. She was the first to try.
Izabelle was the first to be taken for a full week one Christmas after school letting out for the holidays. She had to work really hard with Heather to live through it.
Izabelle was the first Helper to realize that staying silent wasn’t going to work any longer amongst her friends so she began to lie about what she’d done that Christmas and all the gifts that she got. This devastated her. Lying felt horrible.

Tilly ( means “strong in war”)
11 years old.
Tilly and Heather were the one who were pregnant.
Tilly did most of the closet time while Heather handled the starvation.
They took turns with the labour because it lasted so long and they were so afraid.
Tilly was the one to give birth but Heather was co-conscious to see their baby being murdered. They stayed co-conscious after that for many months to help each other get through it and get back to work despite major physical damage.

~~~ More than a full year is missing from the time Heather and Tilly buried their baby until well over a year later. Roughly March 1981 until September of 1982. It is an assumption that there was no single Helper that took this time as no one lays claim to it but we believe that all Helpers created so far helped make it through that time without missing a beat. The Helpers all seem to feel that this was the year that Rielyn came into being and took over the reins. A strong leader was needed. ~~~

Bailey
14 years old.
Very suicidal and tried to find effective ways but never had enough time alone.
Bailey was the first Helper to speak out to a counselor at school and not only tell little tidbits. She told the whole story over the course of an afternoon. Heather had tried and failed many times over the past 8-10 years but Bailey felt that she would be heard.
The counselor told Bailey she would help in any way she could… right before calling Judy/mom and telling her that Heather needed help for all the lies she was telling. Bailey never spoke up again and still holds her silence now. 31 years later.

Jenna
14 years old.
Jenna is the main self harming Helper though she’s been excellent (harm free) for almost 2 years now thanks to the tattoo pact she made with Heather.
Jenna is just mad. Furious with the world. She sees life as a series of letdowns.
Jenna has not harmed in 2 years but she still really wants to and tries to change the deal she made with Heather almost constantly.

Gage
16 years old.
Gage is the first real protector and he’s a scrappy fighter. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty.
Gage handled a few of the rougher clients in very decidedly harsh ways.
Gage still holds the will and the want to cause harm to those that hurt Heather or his fellow Helpers.
Monster mom has come very close to being on the end of his last nerve and it wouldn’t be a pretty site if she ever stepped over that last nerve without Gage being stopped by Rielyn, Heather, friend Mary, Lenny and many of the other Helpers.

Kiah
16 years old.
She is the one that made many of the plans to run away to Europe..
She was the one that goes to downtown Toronto to get the Visa to go to France.
Heather dealt with the schooling side of it all and convinced the teachers that her parents were totally on board but too busy with the jobs to come in to the school.
Kiah forged all the paperwork.
Kiah was the first one to get other Helpers to work with her to achieve a common goal. Raising close to $1,000 to buy the airline ticket through each Helper finding clever ways to make or find money that would not be missed. It took many months but they did it. Grandma Peggy helped silently by being the holder of the money.

Maisy
18 years old.
Maisy was responsible for almost all the sex work while in Europe so Heather could continue her schooling by correspondence.
She stayed responsible for the sex in a large part until Heather was in her 40’s.
She likes younger men and to party. Staying in a committed relationship is very hard on her.

Max
22 years old.
Max is a soldier.
Max is definitely a protector and would do anything at all to protect the system but he‘s also very sensitive and being liked is important to him. Just don’t piss him off.
He has very high morals and expects a lot from himself. Perhaps a little too much.

Zinnia
24 years old.
Helped get away from their first husband Richard.
Found “creative” ways to make money to support Heather’s young children.
Zinnia is still able to be very creative with money and can make a dollar stretch in 10 different ways. Heather is the same way so they work well together and they have a lot of comfort in life that they would never have if they had not been so careful.

Tate
25 years old.
Tate is a lover, not a fighter.
He’s quiet and loves philosophical discussions.
Tate feels that he may be gay but does not want his reasons written here. We respect that.

Lincoln
25 years old.
Lincoln is Tate’s twin.
Lincoln is a music lover and plays many instruments beautifully.
He enjoys the same sort of philosophical discussions and Tate but his views are a bit more left wing in his views.

Alayna
27 years old.
Helped Heather navigate a new relationship and took responsibility for any sex that Maisy did not want to do.
Alayna is quite curt and tends to appear rude. She’s tactless.
Alayna was the first one to sing in public as an adult. She has a beautiful voice.

Sawyer
28 years old.
Another very scrappy Helper. He’s caused a lot of damage in the past and would also love a chance to have a go at Heathers mother.  Rielyn is very careful to keep him under wraps as much as possible.
Sawyer has planned ways that he would torture Judy much like she tortured Heather and the other little ones. This is very scary and makes Heather fear losing control at any time.
Heather has asked Rielyn if anger management might help but nothing has been worked out because Rielyn quite likes having a couple of smoking guns just in case they are ever REALLY needed.

Eve
In her 30’s.
Eve is the Mamma of the group. She helped raise the children and helped reduce the level of traumatic reactions while parenting for Heather.
Eve protected the kids at all times from any Helper out to cause problems while they were around. She is the ultimate mother hen.
She is having more trouble than anyone right now with the kids all being gone and not having contact. It’s been horrible for her and it is the first time in her life she has not wanted to continue living.

Owen
39 years old.
Owen is fiercely protective of the whole system but he is much more mature and calm in his reactions. He prefers to try to work things out rather than go off like a stick of dynamite.
Owen often takes over Lenny’s house chores when Lenny goes away to work or Lenny isn’t home for some reason.
Owen seems to have trauma of his own but he never discusses it. Heathers only guess is to wonder if he tried to rescue her from the rape out in the oil camps but ended up taking some of the abuse himself. That is only a guess though. Someone professional should ask him.

Rielyn ( means “dominant leader”)
Of course a name meaning “dominant leader” would be Rielyn’s name of choice. It suits her perfectly.
Rielyn is the only one that ages along with Heather.
Rielyn is responsible for just about everything.
She decides who comes out and when.
She decides how long they stay out and what Heather will be allowed to know of that missing time.
Rielyn also decides who Heather is friends with, who she accepts as a therapist, how much she allows others to know about Heather and the Helpers… she even decides what Heather will wear, eat and where she may go. There is a constant nattering between Rielyn and Heather. Now that Heather is stronger, she’s wanting to make more decisions but Rielyn is not accustomed to allowing anyone else to “drive”. It has been a long and tedious struggle over the past couple of years but Rielyn and Heather are getting in to a better rhythm now. Heather handles a LOT more now but Rielyn always has her finger on the eject button.
It is VERY rare for anyone to notice if Rielyn is out. She acts almost exactly like Heather in order to purposefully pull off a switch without anyone being aware of it. Even Heather often isn’t aware it has happened.
There is no really clear memory if Rielyn not being in Heathers life although she became a constant companion after Julie died when they were 19. Heather began to think that the voice she heard was her sister Julie and treated her as such. This gave Rielyn a lot of power that she may not have otherwise had.
Heather and Rielyn chat all day and often long in to the night. Getting Rielyn to shut up is why Heather needs such a high dose of Quetiapine. It is the only thing that helps quiet Rielyn’s constant chatter, orders, and strongly worded opinions.

Sienna
48 years old.
Very quiet and calm. Sienna is the one that keeps Heather look calm when Heather really wants to bolt or freak out.
Sienna is the epitome of calmness in a storm and grace under pressure.  She’s had a lot to cover for over the years.

Hudson
49 years old.
Hudson is an artist. He draws with pencils for the most part and seems to draw trees, eyes in death or pictures of Marcus quite often.
His favourite poem is “The Mighty Oak”
Hudson quite often deals with people who stand behind Heather in public places. He always has her back.

Valyn
56 years old..
Valyn just wants everyone to get along. She doesn’t want arguments, racism, hatred, misunderstandings, heated discussions… that stuff just freaks her out and makes her feel very unsafe.
Valyn can not understand why we just can’t all get along.
Valyn is very dedicated to Buddhism and knows a lot about it. She is Heather’s moral compass much of the time although Heather needs very little prompting to do the right thing.

Tucker
60 years old.
Tucker comes off as a gruff, tough old bugger but he’s really a sweetheart.
The gruff exterior does a good job of scaring many older men away and this is very helpful to the whole system.
Tucker loves a good strong drink now and then and can not understand why having one is so hard on Heather. It is a bit of an issue at times especially when a drink would be socially acceptable.

Margot
75 years old.
Margo is the Mamie (Grandmother) of the group.
Very little was known about Margot until recently but she fashions herself to be much like Heathers Grandmother Margaret (Peggy). Hence the choice of name “Margot”. She is very French and speaks only in French to Heather or others. Her choices of names “Margot” and “Mamie” both reflect her French background.
Margot loved living in France and enjoyed her time in sunflower fields. She’d buy bread and cheese then go to a field to sleep at night. The sunflower fields felt very safe.
Margot would like to be much more of a Mamie to the little ones.

Oscar
80 years old.
Oscar chose his name based on Oscar the Grouch.
Oscar is a grumpy old fuddy-duddy and he has been VERY rude to Heather in the past but now that she listens to him only when he is being polite, there has been a real shift. He hates to be ignored.
Recently Oscar has shown an interest in the little ones and has been caught giving them candies or making faces at them.
Heather asked Oscar if he’d like to be a Papie to the little ones and he was gruff about it at first but now Margot is encouraging him to help her and I feel he very well might step in to that role which would be fantastic for all concerned.

Adeline
88 years old but full of spunk.
Formerly known as “Aggie”, a mean-spirited, vile, abusive, older Helper, Adeline wanted to choose a more beautiful name to go along with the changes she is trying to make to become a nicer and more helpful Helper. Adeline and Margot are close friends and if Margot wishes to become more of a grandmother to the young ones, Adeline needs to calm her jets. The little ones were always afraid of her and still are.
Adeline tries to explain that her rough exterior was her way to keep people away from Heather as she feels Heather is far too nice to remain safe on her own. She offers an olive branch to be forgiven for the trouble she caused.

Tara
Tara is ageless with the wisdom to match.
In Buddhism, Tara is the female symbol/priestess of compassion.
Tara is trying to teach all of the helpers how to find more compassion within themselves and she spends a lot of time trying to offer this to Heather as well.

Alden ( means “wise old protector”)
Alden is much like Tara. Ageless and wise.
He seems to hold a special place in his heart for each Helper and is a constant companion to them in times of great strife.
Alden is the only one other than Rielyn that knows everything that happened throughout the years.
He seems to pray on a regular basis but doesn’t seem attached to any Church based religions. Perhaps it is a spirituality that he hold dear.

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