Dissociative Identity Disorder Awareness
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We have Group tonight for the first time in a month. It will be the first time we will be there after the T knows we are having transference with her and the aunt. We feel somewhat distanced from that, though, as of right now which is probably because we missed the last group and so it’s been one month since we’ve seen them. Anyway, be thinking of us and we will write after Group to let everyone know how it goes and if we were brave enough to talk about the transference and stuff in Group.
We were watching Lie to Me the other day and the end of this episode really jumped out at me. I wanted to share my thoughts on it.
Lie To Me Season 1 Episode 5 “Unchained”
Lightman: When someone bashes you around who’s twice your size just whenever he feels like it, you learn to read emotions pretty fast. We adapt to survive. Your abuse made you a natural. He made you what you are.
Torres: Well, I’ll be sure to thank him.
This case in this episode was difficult for Torres because they were dealing with a violent criminal to see if he had changed from his violent ways. Torres had a history of violent abuse so this was especially a tough one for her. I liked what Lightman says to her in the end of the episode.
Lightman: When someone bashes you around who’s twice your size just whenever he feels like it, you learn to read emotions pretty fast. We adapt to survive. Your abuse made you a natural. He made you what you are.”
She is referred to as a natural at reading faces and expressions. I have always believed that those of us who have been through traumas as those with DID have, we learn very early on how to anticipate our abusers next move based on facial expressions among other things. We also learn to “predict” what is going on based on the energy in the room or surrounding an individual. Imagine going to a concert or to a dance club. Upon entering you can feel all that upbeat energy and you know people (most people) are having a really good time. Now imagine entering a home of someone who just lost a loved one. Still feel energy, just this time it is one of sadness and grief. Those of us who have gone through traumatic childhoods especially from a very early age are that much more in tune to the energies surrounding someone.
My best friend used to get annoyed because I could tell what was going on with her even without her saying anything about it to me. I could see it in her face and if she was hiding it well enough, I could still FEEL it in the air around her. It kind of makes me smile when on the show Lie to Me people get irritated at being read so well because I remember my friend and how much it annoyed her. I didn’t do it on purpose, it was just a naturally acquired gift on my part. It was important for our survival living in a family where you didn’t know when or where the next blow or advance was going to come. The need to be hyper-vigilant and hypersensitive to our surroundings was imperative.
I hope everyone is having a safe and happy Christmas today. I know how holidays can be quite triggering. For many years, I just tried to get through it. Then, I worked on making new holiday traditions to make Christmas our own and not all about the childhood crap. This has helped tremendously as we do stuff for our system and help make positive memories for this holiday season. Don’t forget to use grounding techniques today as needed.
We like to light scented candles like vanilla or cinnamon. We drink hot chocolate and eat healthy foods as well as splurge a bit on cherry cream pie and stuffs (but try not to spurge too much. lol). We love buying presents for our hubby and close friends. Something cool for our hubby is that he gets gifts from lots of our insiders – so more than one present for sure! We let groups of our system buy gifts so that it doesn’t get too awfully crazy with the spending. Also, hubby likes to give us gifts for the inside kids as well as other groups of our system. That’s always cool 🙂 We enjoy watching movies and playing video games, too. We get all of our grocery shopping done early so that we don’t have to go out on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. That definitely helps with the stress and triggers of the day.
Have a happy holiday today.
The whole emotion thing has been a difficult one for me/us. When I did talk with my Aunt M about my childhood and what things she observed, she told me some interesting stuff that further validated the dissociative child that I was. She said that I would cry at the little things like stuff that didn’t matter. Yet, when something big happened that would have anyone upset and in tears, I would zone out and not show any emotion. It made sense because it was not safe to show any emotion around things that REALLY mattered. I didn’t dare show any signs to anyone that there was anything wrong with my life or family. I was told many times that no one is to know what happens behind closed doors or else very bad things would happen. I believed them because. after all, bad things were already happening and I could not imagine what worse things were in store should anyone find out. I know now that those were desperate lies told by my perpetrators to keep me in silence. It also reinforced my dissociative behavior.
Having DID, everything is compartmentalized. The most frustrating thing for me as well as the best thing is the fact that the emotions are so compartmentalized. Some alters are created for that very reason – to hold specific emotion that was deemed unsafe. I have one insider whose name is RAGE. When it is written on paper, it is in red, all capital letters: RAGE. Almost none of us can handle anger and most definitely none of us can handle the whole rage emotion. It was not okay to be angry as a child. For one, when the perps were angry, very bad things happened. For another, the adults in our life did not find anger an acceptable emotion for us to have. Add to that, the feeling that we did not feel worthy of being treated well by the family and therefore did not feel justified in the least to feel angry about anything that was being done to me. I still struggle with this today. This is also why I have trouble feeling most things when dealing with the childhood and what was done to me. I don’t feel comfortable feeling sad or angry as I never felt worthy enough to expect any kind of treatment other than being treated as a rag doll – one to be used and thrown away until the next time. I know on some level that I was worthy of love and acceptance just as much as anyone else would be, but it is difficult to believe wholly due to my upbringing. It was the adults in my life that were wrong, not me, for I was only a child. I can say the words, but believing them with my whole being is a long way off.
Towards the beginning of my DID recovery journey, I learned that the different parts of the system have different thresholds for emotion, pain, etc. This made a lot of sense to me as I related it to my system. I have many parts, myself included, that do not express anger. If something happens to cause us to feel anger, those parts switch inside and someone else takes over who is able to handle that emotion. Kristy is one of those parts who can handle anger. She has red hair and green eyes and is an age slider from 17 to 19 years old. I guess in the mind of the child who created her, redheads are allowed to have tempers and feel anger. Typical, due to the stereotype of redheads, huh? Still, even Kristy has her limit on the whole anger thing. When the anger gets to be too much, Kristy switches inside and her twin K comes out. She can express much stronger anger than Kristy feels ok with. Then, even K has her limits and if it does cross into rage, then RAGE comes out.
You may notice in my blog entries about tough topics that there is an emotional distancing in my writing. This is because we naturally distance from unsafe emotions. It’s our natural defense mechanism, I suppose. The whole emotion thing connected to a trauma will also have to come in layers for us. It is yet another piece of our healing puzzle.
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.
I had a dream last night/this morning that I thought was symbolic. I was on a large bus full of people and was witnessing all kinds of horrific events going on outside the bus. It was a war-like scene outside the bus. At times, I cried very hard, yet silently so that no one would hear me. At times I was terrified. Sometimes I sat in the floor of the bus so that I could be alone. It was while I was sitting on the floor of the bus that I felt my husband’s hand gently touch mine. He hadn’t been there until then and he held my hand which comforted me. To me, after waking, I realize that it was symbolic of my life. Often times a DID system is described with a bus analogy – everyone in the system is on that bus and we take turns in the “driver’s seat” or fronting. I think the dream symbolized my journey in that bus and the very difficult times I have seen or endured. It was touching that along that journey, my husband reached out and took my hand. We are not alone anymore – not that we ever really were. But, having him by our side is extremely comforting.
Notes to those newly diagnosed with DID:
Let us start out by saying that we feel being able to dissociate to the degree of DID is a God-given gift to help us survive. If we had not been able to dissociate to the extreme degree, we would not have survived. It may not feel like such a gift right now if you are early in your journey or even sometimes those of us who have been diagnosed for years may occasionally feel like that, too. But, it is truly a gift of survival and your inside family is ever so precious.
I know it is scary at first to realize you have others within you and to know that they have knowledge of things that happened to you that you do not remember. Just know that they are there to help you. They were created by your brilliant childhood mind to protect you and keep you as safe as they could in the midst of horrible circumstances. They are not your enemies. Because they are your system, they will not show you anything about your past until they know you are ready. As a very wise therapist once told me, “trust your system”. It is very difficult in the beginning because you don’t even know who “they” are, but just remember they are not your enemy and that they came to help you and save you. They won’t give you more than you are able to cope with. Their job was to take over and experience the terrible things in order to protect you. It is also their job to save those memories and feelings until you are ready to face them and then only at the pace you can handle. You are not alone in your journey. You have an inside family that has always been there even though you may just now be realizing they are there.
Even if you are recently diagnosed and you are an adult, it does not mean that the others just now arrived. They have been with you ever since you were traumatized and they came to help you. When I was able to after I was diagnosed, I was able to look back and see where certain parts were active in my childhood (what little of it I know of) and especially high school and college.
When just starting out, it definitely helps to journal. It helped me anyway. I would write and write and write until I would be exhausted. Later, I could look at my journal entries and see where the handwriting changes start and stop. It helped me to begin identifying each part of me according to their handwriting and tone of writing. At first, I didn’t know any names so I identified parts by characteristics like “the sad one”, “bunny girl” (becuz she loved our stuffed bunny rabbits), “angry teen”, etc.
Another idea you can do as you feel comfortable is to get some colored pens/markers and a journal and sit down and do what is called “open journaling”. When I do this, I will pick a color that I want to write in and start a meeting on paper with my system. I may write a statement or often a question and give others the opportunity to share their thoughts. The colored pens are there cuz different parts may like to write in different colors. The colors along with the handwriting changes also helped me to identify the different parts even without names.
For more, please see How I experience Dissociative Identity Disorder.