How other’s trauma affects my PTSD

I am terrified as I write this. Literally feeling sick to my stomach from stress. My spouse lays next to me having no idea of the meltdown going on in my head, and I don’t say a word because I don’t want to appear crazy.

The evening started out uneventful. After we got the kids to bed, my spouse asked again if we could finally watch the movie “Sully.” I had been nixing that idea for the past couple of weeks when we were deciding what to watch.

I learned during 9/11 I have an unusual experience with my PTSD. I found when I was watching the nonstop coverage of 9/11, my own PTSD became activated at such a level as if I were actually involved in the incidents. The lines became very blurry, and my PTSD symptoms were extremely high.

I can still remember driving through downtown Atlanta on my way home from work and sweating as I looked up at the high rises above me. I was absolutely certain one was going to come tumbling down on me from a terrorist attack.

Since 9/11, I became very attuned to the fact that if I had witnessed a car accident, which is not uncommon in Atlanta, I would replay the scene and the sounds and the stress of it over and over in my head as if it had happened to me.

I have learned to avoid a lot of things since I became aware of how these things were affecting me. I try not to even watch the news anymore. Thus, I knew I should avoid a movie replaying a traumatic event, but I didn’t want to look crazy to my spouse who really wanted to see this movie.

As we watched the movie, I had moments where I could barely breathe, and other moments where I felt panic and wanted to cry. I was crying on the inside. It didn’t seem to matter that I knew what was going to happen in the story. I seem to always over-relate to someone else’s experience of trauma.

Now, my brain is spinning and I am hearing what sounds like a passenger plane flying low around my home. The plane noise won’t go away. My spouse doesn’t hear anything, so I know it is me going crazy.

I know it isn’t real, but the noise won’t stop. I am filled with anxiety. I am telling myself the noise isn’t real, but the sound of the impending airplane is so loud and continuous I can’t ignore it.

I have medication that would help in this situation, but I have worked so hard to not take medication for the betterment of my health.

I am hoping somehow writing about this will calm my symptoms down.

Why doesn’t it help to know this is just my PTSD?

I am so angry at myself for having this twisted brain that reacts to other people’s trauma like this. The anger, fear, and shame now have me feeling suicidal.

You would think with the self-awareness I have about my PTSD, and how this continuous noise is not real, it would make me be ok. It doesn’t.

I am irrationally terrified over a stupid movie. My self-loathing is kicking in. My belief that I don’t want to live life with this kind of terror in my head is kicking in.

Make the noise stop.

It hasn’t.

Will I forever be this tortured soul who can’t seem to get rid of this trauma brain?

I still hold hope one day I will be free. Until then, I work to survive the imprint left on my brain.

December, my most brutal month of the year

Oh, December.

The month starts with my birthday, and even after 5 decades, I can’t bring myself to be happy about my birthday.

Growing up, my birthdays were especially painful for me because my family never allowed me to celebrate them. I can’t recall any recognition of my birthday, which just reinforces the cruel messages my family sent to me.

I don’t matter. I don’t really exist. I should do everyone a favor and kill myself.

I wish the birthday thing got easier, but I have actually spent the last two out of three years in psych hospitals for my birthday so I wouldn’t kill myself.

This year I have been really struggling to stay out. I want to be present for my kids’ Christmas month. Yet, every day I am in touch with my struggle and trying to fake my way through the holidays.

Last weekend I tried to do something special for my kids, so I took them to Christmas shows on Saturday and Sunday. Normally it is something I enjoy. Sadly, I feel guilty because I kept looking at my watch to see when the show was going to get over.

Anxiety is flowing underneath the surface.

I am struggling to stay sane, to stay out of the hospital, to not ruin my kids’ Christmas, to stay married, to not run away, to not fire my therapist, to be compassionate with myself when I do erratic things like randomly schedule an appointment with a new therapist whom I know nothing about and not sure why I made the appointment.

My PTSD is especially bad right now. The triggers are happening over little things. Noises. Stupid noises keep triggering me.

I am coming off as crazy to adults who hold a significant conversation with me. I know I am a wreck and acting in ways I really should be hiding.

My narcissistic, abusive mom is coming this week for the holidays. I said she could come because I think it could be her last.

I have to reconcile in my head as she presents herself as a normal person, with the memories of her harming me so severely as her daughter that my life has been mostly ruined.

I am also coming to terms with how much she harmed me by not only doing cruel and extremely abusive things to me, but more importantly, not loving me since I was born.

It is hard to sit with knowing your family doesn’t love you. It is hard to stay grounded to this earth with that knowledge.

But, still I persist through this magical holiday time when families are supposed to go out of their way to show their love for each other. Except in my family of origin it is all a fraud. Yet, we do it anyway.

Hoping tomorrow I do a better job of being holiday happy for my kids as the most important thing for me is for them to have what I did not.

Is my overwhelm just an excuse for laziness?

I am confused at the moment. I continue to struggle with who I am. I mean, I know who I am and what I believe usually, but the other pieces of my identity don’t always back me up.

My family really needs me to work so our children and the adults can get all their needs met. We are struggling financially, and not too long ago I was bringing home a good paycheck.

These days, I feel like I can’t work. I am working at getting through the days and taking care of my kids, making major changes to my health, and keeping myself emotionally stable.

The fact that I am functioning by getting out of bed and going out into the world, and actively taking care of my kids everyday is a miracle that didn’t exist 4 months ago.

Yet, there is increasing pressure from my spouse, myself, and our mounting debt to get myself back to work in my old job so I can bring home that money again.

At the same time, I still find myself getting overwhelmed by little things from my old life that were easy then.

Today, my major accomplishments were to make myself breakfast, pick up my son from camp, take him to a park for an hour, and check Facebook a few times. Those few things literally took up my whole day and felt like all I could do.

I hear inside my head “you are so weak. Quit complaining and stop being lazy and get back to work.”

I never considered myself a lazy person, but maybe I am. Maybe the overwhelm I constantly feel is just an excuse to get out of work.

I like giving my family money so we can live a good life. I just don’t know if I can put myself back into that position of doing what I do to make good money.

I am good at this work when all parts of me are working together, and anxiety doesn’t hang close by. Sometimes I miss it, so sometimes I secretly dip my toe in the water and feel overwhelmed like I can’t do it. Then I feel completely inadequate.

Who am I? Am I this smart, talented, strong woman who is a good provider for her family, or am I this pathetic, damaged, weak woman who gets overwhelmed when a door slams too loud?

I don’t know. It seems like this is my fate to be on a polar opposite pendulum depending on the moment.

One moment I am feeling healthy and strong with the health changes I am making in my life, the next I am falling down my stairs again and re-injuring myself, and feeling depressed about the state of my health and the hopelessness of not getting help or answers from the medical community.

I was thinking earlier today maybe the medical community is just writing me off because I am 50. I feel like I am 30 in spirit, so it is confusing to be thought of as old.

My life is frustrating and good. I am smart, but cognitively impaired sometimes. I am strong, but easily hurt. I feel really healthy, then chronic pain consumes me again. I am super stable, and then utterly disabled by the chaos in my brain.

The only thing I know for sure is that I am usually a really good mom.

Other than that, who am I?

The Benefits of Neurofeedback for the Traumatized Brain

Neurofeedback

Let me begin by saying I am a huge believer in the amazing benefits of neurofeedback for everyone. In fact, if you were around me daily, you would probably hear me griping about why neurofeedback is not done in every doctor and therapist office in the country, and the madness of insurance companies not wanting to pay for this very effective tool for so many ailments.

I was first introduced to neurofeedback this past Summer when I had gone to an “integrative” treatment center for trauma. As someone who was becoming more and more frustrated by the short-comings of talk-therapy alone, I was looking for something that would address the entire mind-body-spirit of my being.

I have experienced severe childhood abuse, which resulted in a lifetime of wrestling with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Depression, and Anxiety.

Many of us would like to believe that once we escaped the childhood abuse, we are free to live a happy life. What most people don’t speak about is the lifelong affects severe childhood abuse has on a person’s brain and physical health, which contributes to the lifetime of struggling with various forms of mental illness as a result.

I have been in treatment for my severe trauma on-and-off for 28 years. I think during that period most people in the field of treating trauma would agree with me that they haven’t always known what they are doing with treating trauma.

Today, so much more research has been done to show more effective ways of treating trauma. For instance, EMDR has solid research behind it as a very effective tool to help many trauma survivors process their trauma faster, which means many people are not stuck with the aftereffects of trauma for their entire life. This is huge, but not always told or offered to trauma survivors. Though, to be fair, trauma survivors are more likely to stumble across EMDR than they are neurofeedback.

If you read a lot about trauma, or are in the field, you should be aware of the cutting-edge trauma experts like Bessel van der Kolk, Peter Levine, Dan Siegel, Pat Ogden, and Stephen Porges. There are a lot of other so-called experts out there, but most of them are what I would term “old school,” as they have not embraced the significant importance of addressing the mind-body-spirit when attempting to help people with trauma. They are sticking mainly to talk-therapy only as an approach, and this is a horrible disservice to those who have been traumatized.

I live on the East Coast, and found myself not making any progress with the swamp of trauma symptoms I was stuck in while I was doing extensive talk therapy only. I decided after doing a lot of research to head to California to get help with my trauma symptoms that were so severe I wasn’t able to function in my life. I was desperate as I had been in bed for 17 months, and generally not participating in my life,

After arriving in California, I quickly had an entirely new vocabulary for trauma treatments, and I was open to just about everything. I am tempted to go into all the different therapies here, but I want to stay focused on the neurofeedback. Neurofeedback therapy for trauma survivors was a given for every therapist and good trauma treatment center I looked at on the West Coast.

Ideally, when you begin neurofeedback, you want to get a QEEG or “brain map,” which is a snapshot of your brain and how it functions over a fairly short period of time (for me, it was 40 minutes under different scenarios). This brain map is so valuable because it can be compared to what a normal functioning brain looks like, and it can also be used to show that during the brain mapping period, your brain might look similar to someone who has anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, pain, depression, etc.

In my case, my brain map looked worse than even I expected, so it was a little overwhelming to sit with the results. I had done a brain map of my son who has some attention and sensory issues, so I had an idea what it was supposed to look like.  In layman’s terms. my brain showed a shit-storm of color in areas that should have shown up white, and my brain waves were extremely erratic and all over the place outside the normal range. For someone with complex-PTSD, this validates the daily symptoms we experience.

I learned a very important word called neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to reorganize and heal itself by forming new neural pathways. This concept is so, so important to think about when looking at healing trauma.

Once my rational brain came back online, I knew I could repair much, if not all, of what was wrong with my brain through neurofeedback.

Through only 15 sessions of neurofeedback, I came out of it with some extremely important results as a trauma survivor. I don’t know how else to put it, but my mind was stronger. I was no longer depressed. I had less anxiety and an easier time going to sleep. Most importantly to my overall healing from trauma, the 15 sessions put me in a place where I could regulate my emotions better, which means I could tolerate talking about the most difficult parts of my trauma, which is something I was not able to do prior to the neurofeedback.

The inability to tolerate difficult or overwhelming emotions is probably the single biggest reason why trauma survivors stay stuck in talk therapy and don’t make the progress they need to move on with their lives. Yet, my experience in the old-school trauma circles that dominate the trauma industry is that there is almost no mention or even knowledge about the benefits of neurofeedback for trauma survivors.

If I look today at all the mainstream trauma treatment centers in the U.S., there is no place that is currently utilizing neurofeedback despite the extensive research that supports its usage. The only places that seem to offer it are the places where your insurance will not pay, and you are expected to pay out-of-pocket $40-50k per month for treatment. That’s the only way to get intensive cutting age trauma treatment at this moment.

The good news is that you can find neurofeedback offered on its own in some outpatient settings. I live in a major city, and there are probably about 14 options listed on a Google search for people to pursue neurofeedback. Typically, if you have severe trauma, you can expect to do 30-40 sessions for the neurofeedback to stick for the rest of your life.

When I returned to my home city on the East Coast, I found an excellent neurofeedback provider, and I am really looking forward to updating you on the continued results I experience to lessen my symptoms and to help my brain function the way it is intended.

neurofeedback_1

My hope is that you take away from this that neurofeedback works for many, many problems people struggle with. Besides the symptoms of trauma, it has been shown to help people with ADHD, Autism, Insomnia, headaches, Anxiety, Depression, and overall improved brain performance, which is why you will hear of Olympic athletes who use neurofeedback to enhance their performance.

Neurofeedback is not new and whacky, There is lots of science to support it. Don’t expect your doctor or therapist to recommend it, because that is not likely to happen. But, if you are feeling stuck or want to get better quicker, it is a no-brainer to take advantage of neurofeedback to help heal your brain.

And if you think your brain is just fine as a trauma survivor, let me mention when I took the brain QEEG, I was feeling relaxed and nothing was bothering me too much. But, what showed up on the QEEG was a huge amount of anxiety that I am so used to experiencing everyday that it did not seem like a big deal and was unnoticed by me. This unnoticed anxiety I am used to living with has already caused me some serious health consequences.

musclebrain

The bottom line, if you have the means to do so, look into neurofeedback and give it a try. It is easy to do, and the results can be life-changing. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from a stronger functioning brain, even if you think you have no issues. If you have a severe trauma background, do it. It will save you years of talk therapy time and money, and will give you a better quality of life.

 

 

My Brain After Trauma

Gehirn - Schwingungen 3

Some days, I like to forget about my horrific abuse history and think I am just another ordinary person trying to get by in this world. After all, I can get distracted by the things in life the same way my presumably ordinary neighbors can.

I appreciate the moments when nobody knows my big secret about having Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and that people think I am just another neurotic person, similar to themselves. I am a master at hiding my symptoms.

Then there are the moments when the truth slaps me in the face so hard I can barely stand up again.

This week I met with a doctor to go over my results of some cognitive testing and my QEEG, or brain map. I am very interested in alternative or nontraditional therapies in treating my DID, so I am working with a new “Brain Doctor,” in addition to my traditional talk therapy.

I have always known I am sometimes cognitively impaired, and certainly sometimes operating from a “trauma brain.”

Though I had neurofeedback this past Summer for about 15 sessions, the providers I used never shared what was going on with my brain—they shared positive statements about the neurofeedback results they were seeing. Never the baseline.

In my discussion this past week with the new doctor, it was explained as sensitively as it could be, that I am extremely cognitively impaired and my brain waves look like a badass, not good, electrical storm.

I was told calmly and slowly they have seen worse, but it is pretty bad. The doctor is a genuinely good person and an optimist, and believes she can help repair much of my brain problems, even as severe as they are.

Because I had my son go through this process for a different reason, I knew what the brain pictures were supposed to look like. You want the brain to appear white on the paper.

I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of color on every one of my brain images.

I thought I was really calm during the actual test being done, but the results make it look like I am an anxious wreck. I guess my body has simply become used to the free-flowing anxiety from my PTSD, and I only recognize it when it is over the top.

I showed my brain in my best state. Can you imagine if I showed it when I am doing really poorly?

PTSDbrain

Two years ago, I was working in a highly demanding job in which I was quite successful and made a lot of money. Today, I am not working at all.

The one sentence from the doctor that stood out to me was when she gently said “I can see why you are not working, your executive functioning is extremely low.”

A dagger in my heart.

The scribble scrabble brain waves on the page were not something I can deny. I don’t need to be a doctor to know it isn’t normal looking at all.

The mental anguish I feel on a regular basis has just been verified as totally real, and it is as bad as it feels. It is not hidden or made up. Through this QEEG, I let people see the mess of a brain I have. Lots of internal conflict about doing so.

“You’re such an idiot, why did you let people see what it looks like inside.”

My trauma has without a doubt destroyed the way my brain is supposed to function. Maybe I shouldn’t say destroy because my favorite word is all the buzz these days—“neuroplasticity” (when the brain can heal itself), there is hope through neurofeedback and other brain therapies to repair much of the damage.

I always thought I wanted to see what my “DID brain” looked like. At this point, I am feeling it was a mistake, but hopefully some day I will change my mind about it.

It is an overwhelming picture of myself. And, I actually feel shame about my brain. That’s a new one.

This morning I was looking at a job announcement that came to my email, and what followed were the voices in my brain telling me I can’t possibly work given the extremely low level of executive functioning I am at (confirmed by these test results). Sigh.

I always knew the abusers from my past ruined my brain, but I secretly didn’t want it to be true. Parts of me appear to be so severely abused. I didn’t want to believe they could be as badly abused as they felt and claimed. I realize now how much I was clinging to the hope that not all of my story was true.

It is hard to hide from the serious consequences of the severe abuse I endured throughout my life. It is sad when the ability to deny the consequences is gone.

 

Managing my ambivalence about Halloween

Halloween is tricky for me, and frankly, I hate it every time it comes around.

I am a mom to two kids who love Halloween, so I try so very hard to let them experience the fun of Halloween.

My spouse also goes over the top decorating the house with Halloween decorations. I pretend it isn’t there, and my spouse will never understand it.

My kids love Halloween. They love the dressing up, decorating the house, the endless parties, the pumpkin decorating, and of course the trick or treating and conquest of candy that comes with it.

I pretend the best I can for them that I like Halloween. I hate it. Though, in fairness, before I became pre-diabetic, I enjoyed eating their candy.

Halloween is a scary time for me. As someone who was raised to not trust the world, Halloween makes it all the more confusing. I can’t spot the truly dangerous people very easily because Halloween gives people permission to dress up and act scary.

Reality is hard enough for me, and then we have this stupid excuse of a holiday that drags out for a month of celebrating an alternative reality.

When I was a child, Halloween was also a scary and violent time for me. My flashbacks of Halloween are more like a real horror movie. That’s what is running through my head when I walk my children around for trick or treating.

I would prefer to pretend like Halloween doesn’t exist, and let the other adults judge me as “no fun.”

Sadly, for me, Halloween is just something to survive and get through the month.

I try to be happy my children are excited and having so much fun, but in the back of my mind, I am obsessively counting the minutes until it is over.

Pounding my PTSD head

Agonizing torture. This is what I experienced today in the name of medical care.

I had a special MRI today, one that would show more advanced pictures of my spine.

I have had MRIs before, and the closed ones are always difficult for me to make it all the way through. But, I manage, somehow.

Today’s MRI was different. They asked me if I had medication before I entered the room, in which I responded “no” because nobody had mentioned it to me.

I approached the room and for some reason it was set up in a hard-core scientific way that made it so no one could mistakenly enter. There were lights all around the door frame, and it was sealed in a let’s keep the zombies out kind of way.

My anxiety level went up.

I entered the room and took one look at the MRI machine and my anxiety went up more seeing it was a closed MRI that was actually closed longer that the last one I had been in with a struggle.

I could feel myself starting to come unglued inside, but fighting with myself that I needed to get this done.

I started dissociating, and laid down on the table, placing my neck in the head device. I was starting to feel a panic attack coming on, which is not something I typically experience.

The true horror of the situation came into being after I resolved to myself that I must do it and can do it. That’s when the technicians places a mask-head cage device over my head so I couldn’t move my head if I wanted to.

I could feel myself crying and panicking all in one. I am thinking to myself this is the worst thing that has happened to me since my horrific childhood abuse. I am thinking I should tell them I have PTSD.

But, I close my eyes and tell them to go ahead. All the while knowing how emotionally damaging this is to me.

The loud noises are crushing my mind and spirit until I am the living dead in this machine/torture chamber. I am so dissociated I can no longer move, think, talk, or do anything for myself. Severe collapse resulting from severe retraumatization.

My living dead status enabled me to make it to the end. I could not move at first as I wasn’t self aware enough to know what was happening. I couldn’t talk to the technicians afterward. They didn’t seem too concerned about my changed mental status.

I finally made it back to my car. Totally wrecked by the experience. Split into many pieces at once. Some believe they drilled into our head during the procedure. Fragmented all over the place.

New trauma. I let it happen for what I thought was the greater good. I think I should have stopped it when I saw that head cage.

My spirit can’t take this type of experience. But what was I to do?

9 hours later and my body and brain are still shaking and crying.

And this is modern medicine.

The Debilitating Amnesia that goes with my Dissociative Identity Disorder

Confusion

I live with debilitating amnesia every day. I can’t remember what I did hours ago, and definitely lose my place in time, like not knowing what day (or year) it is, and whether I did something yesterday or it was really 3 days prior. It is a maddening aspect of my Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) that I try to compensate for so I can function in the world and people won’t suggest I get locked away.

Since I have DID, most people believe that one with DID can’t remember because they have switched into another part and “lost time” as we like to call it in the DID world. This is not true for me. I have loads and loads of trouble remembering things that happen when I know I was present for them (not switched into another part).

Some people have theories about how my DID influences my amnesia, but at the end of the day they are just theories, and I have no idea whether they are true or not. I have had DID therapists suggest at times I have “cognitive problems” because they couldn’t make out why I have this severe amnesia and still seem to be present. The way I experience amnesia is definitely not the way it is written about in text books about DID.

Some times I feel completely lost in the world because my amnesia is so bad. It does fluctuate on how severe it is. Sometimes I can’t even remember the names of people I have known for years on one day, and then the next I have no trouble remembering names. I use Google all the time to give me clues to things I need to remember. I am betting Google didn’t realize this use of its product.

I don’t believe it is a cognitive problem because there are days when my entire brain is sharp as a tack and I can remember everything. This confuses the therapists even more.

My best friend with DID shares a similar plight. Sometimes it is funny to watch her experience the same struggle with her memory, but other times it is scary to realize how much we have to hide and develop strategies to “pass” in this world as functioning. Sometimes we both just laugh and laugh because neither of us can remember what we talked about yesterday that was so important to the both of us.

I have learned that these missing current day memories are in my brain, I just need  prompts for me to be able to retrieve them. Often times if someone starts giving me some clues, I can piece it together and voila, I can actually pull out the complete memory. If I don’t have clues, I might never be able to access it, or even know what I am looking for.

In some ways, people would consider me high functioning DID at this moment because the cracks in my mind are mostly hidden. People think I am doing ok because I am getting out bed, making all my appointments, not feeling depressed or overwhelmingly anxious, taking care of my kids, and in general, participating in life.

What lies beneath that high functioning is a stressed out system trying to maintain that appearance and not get “caught” by someone for how little I can remember. With the amnesia comes simple things like remembering to eat or go to the bathroom. The messages that should come from my body to my brain somehow get hijacked, which is why I often only end up eating one time a day.

I think because I struggle so much with my memory, I have been a strong advocate beginning this year to healing the mind/body/spirit as an overall approach to DID healing. I simply don’t believe talk therapy is enough for all the faulty wiring going on in my brain, and this is not talking bad about talk therapy or myself, but more of the truth of all the baggage that goes along with exposure to severe trauma as a child.

I did about 15 sessions of neurofeedback recently, and I believe this has helped my brain function better considerably. I am less anxious, less depressed, and feel mentally sharper. But still, I struggle with my memory every day to varying degrees.

I will continue doing therapies that are designed to help my “trauma brain,” so that I can function better. Even though this will not be the cure to my DID, it definitely makes it easier for me to function from day-to-day, and thus makes the recovery work for my DID more stable.

For some reason people don’t talk enough about the amnesia that goes along with DID. For me and many others, it is really one of the most disabling aspects of having DID. It would make for a boring Hollywood movie, I suppose. But outside of Hollywood, we should raise awareness about this crippling amnesia so that we can get clinicians and researchers working on getting a better understanding of it, and hopefully with that understanding, more therapies to address the problem.

My amnesia is one of the reasons I would like to integrate my parts. I feel like if all the parts of me were together as one, this missing or lost information wouldn’t happen. It’s just my theory, and why I am working so hard to heal my parts.

 

 

 

 

The storm in my head

I have been overwhelmed with various life events I have experienced this past week. I did my best to “handle it.”

My emotions finally came crashing down on me today.

My head is all mixed up now, but I need to get it stabilized as I am solely responsible for my kids this week, and I have a lot of other stuff on my plate.

Hurricane Irma sent my most dangerous perpetrator right to my doorstep. It was a situation where I could not turn my back on my mom and leave her out to die, even though she would have done that to me without a thought.

If I had turned her away, then I would be a monster like her, I think. But, my compassion and decency always has a price for me.

My internal world is all jumbled up in my head, as it swirls around for who knows how long before it crashes and stabilizes.

I went to therapy today, which didn’t end up helping in the stability department. With the tropical storm we had here, the fire alarm went off in my therapist’s building for 45 minutes to an hour.

I switched into a couple of different younger parts of myself who went right into trauma time with the alarm. They were terrified of the sound, and even more terrified of the idea of leaving. This was a “we need to hide moment,” which for us means we literally want and need to hide in a small space to feel safe.

When the alarm finally stopped, it was still going on in our head just as loud (thank you PTSD). The parts who were out could not be convinced it was safe.

Our therapist decided since we were not willing to go outside the building to avoid the noise, maybe it was a good opportunity to talk about what it was triggering.

I thought about that as I watched from inside my head. The others who had come out were thinking about what she was saying. I started to feel us moving to a scene in which an alarm like the one going off meant something. It became clear it meant something bad.

I could see images of scientists and a laboratory. I could hear people talking in the lab. I could feel the little ones inside filling with terror. I thought about mind control programming. I thought about the bad fire I was in as a young child.

The little ones who were out were holding different emotions. One was holding terror, the other sadness. One was frozen, the other about to cry.

The therapist asked for me to come back as she was concerned it was at the end of our session. I could not. The little ones out front had too strong of a hold for me to get back.

The session was like exposure therapy, which was a lot like torture, but it was not something my therapist could control since the parts who were out were not willing to follow her suggestions of leaving.

She finally managed to coax them out of the building, and we got in the car. I could see a text on my phone from my daughter saying her grandma was leaving, which brought me partially back.

I drove home slowly as to avoid an accident or police stop—I don’t usually drive when I am dissociated like this, but I had to get home to see what was happening.

My mom decided in the hour that I was gone to quickly pack up her car and to get out of there just as quickly as she came. It wasn’t safe for her to drive home, but she never listens to me. They had left items in the house that we could easily retrieve for them, but they needed to go quickly and said don’t worry about it.

It made no sense. They could die on the road with the tropical storm winds and rain that they decided to drive through. I shrugged my shoulders once again that this may be the decision that kills her.

As usual for my family, there is no making sense of anyone’s behavior.

I am relieved to have my house back, but I am edgy as hell with the storm in my head. I have been waiting all afternoon for this moment when my kids go to bed so my head can rest.

One of my insiders sent a text to my therapist saying he hated her. Not sure what that was about, but could feel his anger toward her. Maybe he is mixing up her with my mom? Not sure.

Don’t know the point of this post other than to say the storm in my head demonstrates how my parts are attuned to the weather chaos in the world right now.

I’ll be looking for peace again….

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which most people don’t seem to understand and are terrified of it. I guess I understand the not understanding part, as it is often hard for those of us who have it to understand ourselves sometimes.

I want to tell you about my experience to see if I can help bring any clarity to the understanding and fear of this disorder.

I grew up in an alcoholic and extremely abusive home. Sexual abuse, violence, religious abuse, and neglect were part of my everyday childhood. I am not going into detail here about the child abuse I endured because that is a whole other very big topic. I just need you to accept I endured a horrific childhood that wouldn’t be imaginable to most people, so I can stay focused on trying to explain the DID.

Growing up, I didn’t have a manual to read to tell me how to deal with the amount of trauma I experienced, but I was lucky enough to have a resilient brain to help me survive it.

As a child, I was often in overwhelming abusive situations that my brain just couldn’t process at that developmental point in my life. So, my brain ended up splitting off into what I call different “parts” or personalities to handle all the trauma and other things in life that I was expected to handle.

For instance, I had parts that would handle being sexually abused through the night, and other parts whose job it was to go to school the next day and pretend like everything was normal. I have parts that hold specific traumatic memories, and other parts who hold the feelings that go with those memories. I have parts who function just fine in the world, but will tell you they can do so because they did not experience the trauma themselves. For them, it is like it did not happen to them.

I have parts who have their own friends, and socialize very differently. The outside world that might notice this chock it up to mood swings, which I find very funny.

My parts are evolved enough to know they all share the same body, but my parts also each see themselves as a separate person living in this body. Most of them see themselves as much younger than the biological age of the body, which often creates a lot of confusion for all of us as the body is aging.

My parts are very different, some even have different names, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, vegetarians, meat eaters, happy, depressed, cognitively impaired, brilliant, social, agoraphobic, and on and on.

Most people don’t know how to look at me and understand that depending on which part is out, the essence of who I am shifts to that different person.

One moment I can be experiencing the world through the lens of a successful and bright 40 year old woman, and something may trigger me to shift to an 8 year old boy who is afraid of everything and has trouble navigating the world and trusting anyone.

A lot of people don’t believe it is possible for someone to truly be this way, but the truth is the brain is an amazing thing, and there are thousands and thousands of us on Facebook alone who all seem to have a similar way of living in the world like this as adults, yet we have never met each other in person to come up with some collaborative scheme to fake this for reasons that would only benefit those accused of child abuse.

My life is very challenging on a daily basis. Amnesia and psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and PTSD are my biggest struggles. These symptoms are fairly common for those of us navigating DID.

I have had this diagnosis for 28 years and it has been confirmed by multiple experts (this fact seems to be important to people, so I put it in). In the 28 years of knowing about this diagnosis of DID, I have worked really hard to have some semblance of a life and to get better.

I have given up on getting better at times, and have just tried to learn how to navigate my life without letting others find out I have DID. This is definitely a disorder of secrecy, as my experience has shown that when people find out you have it, they immediately pivot away from you as if you suddenly became dangerous and scary, no matter how long you have known them and in all sorts of capacities.

Hollywood has not helped with people thinking this is a scary, dangerous disorder because it has really only made movies about DID (formerly MPD) that portray killers and other dramatically scary people.

The truth is that:

1. People with DID are typically some of the kindest people you will meet. They are kind because they have been hurt so much that they would never want to hurt anyone. They are often overly sensitive to not wanting to hurt people in any capacity.

2. I realize people do not want to believe DID exists because then they would have to believe that horrendous abuse is happening to children all over the globe. Because NO ONE gets DID unless they have experienced horrendous trauma as a child, usually before age 8. And the truth is, this is happening way more than anyone wants to fathom.

The biggest truth that people should understand is that we are already living among you as your neighbors, school teachers, therapists, police officers, friends, and so on, and you have no idea we are here because our experience is that we must keep this particular victim status a secret to protect ourselves from further abuse as adults.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean when I refer to further abuse as an adult. The very system in place to supposedly help those of us suffering from mental illness typically refuses to help those of us with DID, and oftentimes doesn’t believe us.

The mental health system is sorely lacking in people who are qualified to help someone who has DID, and both therapists and treatment centers typically won’t work with us because of their own lack of education and fear of DID.

Therapists and treatment centers like Sierra Tucson and The Meadows that specialize is treating “trauma survivors” won’t treat trauma survivors who have DID (they both refused to treat me based on my DID diagnosis).

In my opinion, you have NO RIGHT to call yourself a trauma specialist if you decide the most traumatized amongst us don’t deserve your treatment because you are afraid of your liability, or some other equally ridiculous fear. We are people who deserve help, and it is the responsibility of the helpers to get the education they need to help ALL traumatized people, not just the ones who fit neatly on their trauma spectrum.

When we feel suicidal or in need of emergency help, we can’t just go to any hospital, because most of them refuse to acknowledge or treat those of us with this disorder. Instead they stick a variety of other diagnoses on us and medicate us into wellness (there is no medication for DID), so most of us with DID try very hard not to use the mental health system unless it is one of the rare people or places that understands and treats DID.

The most depressing fact is that DID is actually a serious mental health problem that can be “cured” if the person with DID wants that, and has access to appropriate resources, which they almost never do.

This makes me sad, and I hope it does you, too. Everyday when I am not focused on my own recovery, I think about how I can change a system to get people who have been so severely abused in this world the help they deserve.

No one deserves what happened to them to get DID. As fellow humans, we should all be trying to figure out ways to help our brothers and sisters who were served these horrific starts to their lives. I hope you agree.