TRIGGER WARNING: hard talk of triggers and recovery – be safe, my friends.
I am starting to see my recovery in a whole new light. Things are making more sense now. For so many years I was so frustrated and upset that therapy was taking so very long. I just wanted my insiders to tell me what they knew so I could deal with it and move on. I figured they would share whatever memories were necessary to share one at a time or something. It is not the way this has worked. I have often heard the analogy of peeling an onion when talking about therapy for someone with DID, yet I didn’t fully realize what it meant. I mean, I saw the analogy as referring to the parts of my DID system and how uncovering and meeting new parts/alters is like peeling the layers of an onion. What I didn’t see was how the memories also will come in layers.
First, I would get a feeling, something would trigger me and I wouldn’t know why. This goes on for quite some time, maybe even years, then the next clue which was maybe a dream near the triggering event would happen. The dream could have symbolism in it – in my case recently, snakes – add to that the knowledge of the recent trigger as well as noticing specific insiders and their reactions gives me more information. Add to it, the more severe dissociation I have felt from my body within the last week since the trigger is more validation that something is coming to the surface. Today in therapy, I barely felt the couch underneath me. I told my T that it kind of felt like I was just floating above the couch. It was bazaar.
I should give a little update to what has recently happened so folks know where we are. I had a dream years ago that has always stayed with me. I won’t write of the details here because I don’t want to trigger and also because I don’t think I would be able to write that stuff without breaking down. There was a bed/table with a black cover over it in a room – like a bedroom size room. Needless to say, very bad things happened there. Well, when I went to my group therapy meeting one week ago, one of the therapists had left her energy work table up. It looked just like the bed/table in my dream except thankfully the blanket was blue or purple – not black. I was stunned when I saw it. Many of our system stepped back in shock.
Finally a little one, age six years old, steps out in front and points towards the bed/table and says, “What is that?”.
“What?” replied one of the T’s.
“THAT!” the little girl asked again pointing at it.
She said, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to be more specific.”
The little girl could not bring herself to actually say the word bed or table or anything like that so she said, “That thing with the blanket on it.”
The T responded saying that it was her table for doing energy work with clients and she has an early appointment the next day so she left it up for Group.
I felt some other parts come forward when she said that who then noticed the crystals. These parts are very much into things mystical and were immediately drawn. I was frightened as were many of our insiders and so we shoved internally as hard as we could – pushing them deep inside away from the bed/table and crystals. We could not bear it if they were to go over closer to it to look at the crystals.
I went through the Group session with all parts who were triggered safe inside. I’m not sure if they were still frightened, but I have a feeling that they were. I just had to push them deep down for survival’s sake. I could not freak out over a trigger in Group because, well, what would the other group members think of us? “Besides,” another part says to me, “triggers are everywhere and we deal with them all the time. So this one is in Group, same thing, we deal.” But, it’s not just any trigger. It is something that looked exactly like something in my dream years ago where terrible things happened to us. It would almost be the equivalent of seeing one of my perpetrators again.
We made it home and went on with our week dissociated from the trigger, though it eventually did resurface as the image of it came and stayed in the back of my mind. A few nights later, the dreams started coming.
First night, I was on a large bus with a lot of people on it. We were driving through a war zone. There were bombs going off, machine guns being fired, terrible things happening outside that bus. I just sat there watching, sometimes crying so hard but silent so that no one would hear. Sometimes I sat in the floor so I could be alone. I believe this was me catching a glimpse of what it was like growing up in a DID system. Often the bus analogy is used to describe a person’s system who has DID, everyone rides the bus and take turns in the driver’s seat. I had another dream that same night about a boy who had been a victim of war and was found naked with his privates cut or torn off. I saw him and was horrified and had to turn away. I wonder if he is someone in my system as this is how I have met insiders before. In the dream, I think he was dead.
The next night, I dreamed about snakes – so many snakes everywhere that I went. In the past, I have dreamed that there were snakes on the ground and I would fight them or try to get away from them. I was always standing when I encountered the snakes. This time, not only was I standing when I encountered the snakes, there were times when I was lying down. Once a snake crawled over my body and I screamed internally and stayed as frozen as possible for fear that it might bite. Another part of the dream, I went to sleep on the ground and woke up with snakes underneath my body, I could feel them squirming underneath my back. I connected this part of the dream to a feeling that my body has had for years in the mid-back area – a squirming and feeling like something was coming upon me from behind. It is always accompanied with great terror. A connection between a body memory we’ve had for years but never even fully realized it was a body memory and this new snake dream. A new layer is being peeled back. If you have been in therapy for sexual abuse survival, then I imagine you know what a snake can symbolize in dreams. I have always thought that was what it represented in my dreams.
Last night, I had nightmares again. The only thing I can remember is waking up after seeing an extremely scary face in my dream. The face looked crazy in the eyes and had big teeth. It was right up in my face. I woke with a start and was terrified. I got up to go to the restroom. Now, I have many triggers when it comes to the restroom, one being that I cannot go in the dark and I definitely cannot stand at the sink with the mirror there and wash my hands in the dark. It always gives me the terrorized feeling in my back. Last night, I had the light on, but the sensation and fear were so close. This is all somehow connected. Years ago, I recalled in therapy tonight, I also saw scary faces in my sleep. It was when I was in 3rd grade (around) and had gone to church camp with a friend, it was night-time and I woke crying because I kept seeing the crazy, scary faces and they were laughing at me. The camp counselor talked and prayed with me and I slept with my Bible under my pillow to try to help with the nightmares. Interesting about that camp, I actually remember being very dissociated at the time not knowing the people who I shared the dorm with yet seeming to know them at the same time, getting confused and getting people mixed up, etc. This is one of the few memories I actually have of my childhood. Still, it’s more pieces of the puzzle.
In therapy tonight, I was asked if I got an idea of the age range of who was frightened by the bed/table. I got the idea that it was some older kids and that the little girl was the only one brave enough to come out and ask. Still, she was upset and scared, too. The little girl who asked about the bed/table was six years old, but I also got an internal image tonight of one of my four-year-old little girls. I think she is connected to all this somehow. I am beginning to think that this bed/table dream may have been more than just a dream……
DID recovery is like putting together a puzzle without having the picture to go by. Each piece means something even if I have no idea at the time. It’s so complex and therapy is hard work and exhausting. Still, I am happy to have made the realization that we are making progress in that our memory work comes in layers – one piece, one feeling, one trigger at a time. I guess my system knows it is the only way I can manage the information – in tiny pieces – and that’s okay with me.