Learning what is different today than when I was abused as a child

My system of parts has been in a state of perpetual trigger these past few weeks. I can verbalize I am in the present moment, where I am at, and what is happening, but my body and mind is adamant that I am in the same danger as my childhood.

I have become afraid of my spouse, therapists, and all sorts of other things in my life.

Usually when this happens I am not able to verbalize that I am safe, an adult, and in 2019. So, it’s new and scary to experience both realities at the same time.

When I am overwhelmed like this, my knee-jerk reaction is to convince myself I need to commit suicide. I know I don’t want to do this to my kids, but how to figure out how to stop the pain, the fear, the confusion.

My therapist was gracious enough to do an extra-long session with me yesterday to try to help me. We both want to get me through this time of year without a psychiatric hospitalization, which has been inching closer.

My therapist wants me to dig deep.

My mind is programmed to look for similarities to my child abuse so as to protect me from more abuse. Guess what. It is easy to find a lot of similarities in my life right now.

My therapist says I need to focus on what is different (and some other things that I can’t remember), so I am trying to talk my way through the day asking myself what is different. I do this because too many parts of me do not understand that my life as an adult is different than when I was abused as a child.

I must remind myself I have power I didn’t have as a child. I have choices I didn’t have as a child. My environment is different than when I was a child. My body is stronger and my brain is smarter than when I was a child.

I am hoping and praying that by digging deep into what is different for me today that the many system insiders who are stuck in a triggered state can come out and be free to experience life as a person who doesn’t get perpetually abused.

My insiders believe our purpose in life is to fulfill the fantasies and needs of the sick and twisted on earth.

I am trying my best to imagine a life where my system doesn’t expect to be abused at every turn throughout our days. What I have learned for myself is that the abuse is such a part of my system insiders that my perpetrators get to continue the abuse even when it has actually stopped.

I am not saying that abuse doesn’t happen to adults, especially those of us who have been abused as children. It does. And it has happened to me more times than I like to think about.

Still, the brutality I experience in my mind everyday is not really happening, so I must learn to turn it off. Separate reality from distorted reality.

My system of insiders deserves peace. We deserve to live at a restful state of not feeling like we are being attacked constantly.

So, I must scan my environment and my mind and remind myself of what is different today.

Guilty of hating my mom my entire life

I have hated my mom for as long as I can remember. For me, this memory starts around 3 years old, but when I try to think about what it must have been like as a baby, I am consumed with fear, and the “freeze response.”

I do understand that my mom was an unusually cruel mom, and probably comes from a very abusive upbringing by her own family.

I want so badly to just leave it at my mom was a horrible, sick person who abused me in more ways than imaginable, and lay the blame and everything at her feet.

I want to accept this and move on.

I can’t.

I am still stuck with the feeling that I was born as “garbage” and that somehow this makes it my fault.

My therapist wants me to accept that I did not have any control over the abuse that happened to me. I do accept that. I have no illusion that I had any control over what happened to me.

Though, I have to wonder if I made things worse for myself because I didn’t hide my hatred for my mother from her. I don’t mean I outright told her what an awful person I thought she was. No, I mean, I didn’t hide it in my eyes.

My eyes. They looked at her with bewilderment and sometimes disgust, though I knew to not let her really see the disgust part.

I never understood why this woman chose to have a baby girl who she would choose to hate, torture, and wreck in every way possible. Boy babies were not treated this way.

Then I think to my parenting, and I realize you never know what parenting is going to be like for you until you do it.

Maybe there is a tiny bit of decency in her that had she known what a girl baby would mean to her, she wouldn’t have done it. Probably giving her too much credit there.

As you can see, part of trying to understand what I have been through is involving what has my mother been through. Though honestly, she doesn’t deserve that kind of compassion from me. Only God can decide whether she deserves any compassion.

When you grow up with severe trauma mostly orchestrated by a mom you hate, life would probably seem chaotic to the outside world, but it is actually very quiet to experience. The noise of the terror is boxed away as the knowledge of the terror is all that can be held at this point.

Why does a mom start off hating her baby? The easy answer is mental illness, but that doesn’t really do it justice in trying to understand it. Besides, it is not like she has a diagnosis like schizophrenia or bipolar that would make it more understandable.

What is true about this woman? She is an extreme narcissist. She is an alcoholic. She is sadistic. She is grandiose. She comes from a bizarrely religious family –meaning not your ordinary religious beliefs. I believe she was the chosen daughter in her family to be sexually abused by her father and maybe others. Others consider her very attractive. To the world, she is powerful, although I have seen her when she is weak.

Growing up with her, strangely I can’t think of a single kind thing she has ever done for me. Not one.

My father, who was completely controlled by my mother, had moments of kindness toward me and my siblings. Though, he is no saint in the choices he made in our family. I remember one Christmas when I was 4 or 5, my dad actually shocked us because when we woke Christmas morning, he had bought presents for us. Our mother was furious with him. I don’t remember what happened after receiving those presents, but I know it happened as there is a picture of me opening a present on that morning (a rare photograph of me).

We had normalcy for one moment. A brief happy moment for me.

But back to the woman I hated. When I was 3 years old, I can remember how my mom would pull me next to her in front of her large bathroom mirror, both of us naked, and she would tell me how fat and disgusting I was. In case there was any doubt, she would spend a great deal of time showing me how ugly I was, and how beautiful she was. She explained that I needed to become like her or I would be nothing. Yet, no matter how emaciated I became, I was still fat and ugly in her eyes.

Today, my expression of my hatred for her doing this is to be extremely asexual, unattractive, and to wear boy clothing as much as possible. This really makes her angry.

Maybe it as simple as this. Maybe babies are like animals, and they can sense danger. Though I can’t remember my life as a baby, my body remembers the terror I felt. My mind wants to die as I think back to being a baby so helpless and terrorized at the same time.

I couldn’t fight her, I couldn’t run from her, so my mind froze, wishing I could not exist. And there goes the chronic suicidal feelings I experience.

Stuck with a woman who hated me, and the only power I had was to hate her back.

Is healing from Dissociative Identity Disorder possible?

I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in my early twenties. I was in my Senior year of college when I suddenly started having significant psychiatric problems I hadn’t experienced before. Even though my life was actually going very well in the world, my internal experience was crumbling as I had my first Major Depressive episode, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation seemingly coming from nowhere.

I didn’t know what was happening, so I quietly went to the campus mental health center, where the psychiatrist gave me a bottle of Xanax to help me deal with whatever was happening.

It completely consumed my life rather quickly. The pills helped a little, but I was seriously suicidal for unknown reasons.

By some miracle, I had the wherewithal to find a therapist off campus. And then a psychiatrist, and quite quickly, I ended up inpatient at the local psychiatric facility for about six months.

During my time in the hospital, I was trying really hard to understand what was happening to me. I was a mystery to my treatment team, too, as I had so much going for me, why was I doing so poorly?

I started having outrageous transference with my therapist. I felt as though I couldn’t live without her. I would start to get better and approach discharge, and then my therapist would go out of town and I would find myself plotting to kill myself at the hospital. I never had feelings like this about anyone before.

I can remember sitting in a chair thinking in my head that I didn’t understand what was happening. And then I realized there were voices in my head commenting on things or expressing their despair about the therapist. I had always had these voices commenting in my head, but I realized for the first time it was like they were different people with different thoughts. I knew I was going crazy.

I started feeling like I wasn’t in control of my thoughts or behaviors sometimes. I tried to speak about it some to my primary treatment team members, but they didn’t take it too seriously as they knew I was not psychotic.

Back then, I didn’t have the words to properly express my experience of what I now know to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

When I finally discharged from the hospital, I had a crazy sexually abusive relationship with a counselor from the hospital, and then abruptly decided to get a job at another psychiatric hospital as I was suddenly interested in helping people (and ignored the fact that another part of me had already accepted a job offer from a big corporation).

While I was working at the hospital, I was still trying to figure out me, and would read every patient history, study the DSM, talk to clinicians, sit in on clinical meetings. During my research, I discovered a therapist who specialized in dissociative disorders and trauma therapy.

While still seeing my old therapist back in my college town, I decided to go see the therapist who specialized in dissociation and trauma, and asked her to help me figure out if I had DID.

In case you are wondering, my therapist who I adored and my psychiatrist did not believe in DID.

It is still common today, you have the believers and nonbelievers in the mental health community. It sucks for those of us afflicted.

But I knew I had these strange forces acting within me that I could not explain. I didn’t know anyone with DID back then, so I was really just doing research and grasping at straws to understand what was happening.

It is a blur, but my consultation with the dissociative disorder psychologist led me to a fairly quick diagnosis of DID, and I transferred to her to help me with therapy.

It was a balancing act. I would be in terrible shape during my therapy sessions talking about childhood trauma, and she would also see me as a high functioning successful person at the local hospital when she would come in to see her patients.

What I have found for myself is that if I am around someone who knows I have DID, my parts are more likely to show themselves. My parts found a safe place for them to be “out” and to express their feelings and traumas with the psychologist.

It was a lot. Coming to terms with the truth about my childhood, and learning about all these parts of me.

I managed for a few years to work at the hospital and do intensive outpatient therapy three times a week. Then, the train started coming off the track, and I began a journey of hospital-hopping and instability for the next decade. Sadly, I was so dissociative during this period that I have very little memory of it, so it saddens me to know I lost an entire decade of my life to this illness.

Quite honestly, this was in the 1990s, when there were treatment centers that specialized in DID, but in retrospect, they did not know what they were doing in their attempts to help people with DID. Still, they were important because they were places that understood who we were and what was happening to us, which is not an understanding we could find anywhere else in the world.

As my life was in chaos, and I wasn’t making any progress in therapy, I had a shift in my internal world out of anger toward one of my therapists at the time. This part of me who had enrolled in graduate school to get an MSW had decided that she had enough of the mental health system and the craziness going on in our life.

After ten years of chaos and suicide attempts and more hospitalizations than I can count, with a simple, but determined decision, this part was able to put away the chaos of our lives (the endless number of parts), and we were suddenly living with only 5 parts.

This was manageable.

We had 5 parts who cooperated with one another and didn’t even need therapy or hospitals. The depression, anxiety, and suicidality was suddenly completely gone. We still were not able to sleep without medication, but found doctors to prescribe it for us. Other than that, no mental health care was required.

Our only symptom that we worked to hide every day was our amnesia. We couldn’t remember things that were current (and past important life events), like our neighbor’s first name, or how long it had been since we last spoke to our boss, but we were otherwise doing well.

I don’t want to make light of the amnesia we dealt with during this period as it created enormous anxiety in us everyday that we would be found out that we had a mental illness. But, we knew the skilled clinicians couldn’t help us with this problem, so we did what we do best, we hid our truth.

We lasted about 12-13 years in this fully-functioning (except for the amnesia) period of our life where we were successful in multiple careers, got married, adopted children, bought homes and lived what looked like a “normal” life.

Then my dad got sick with cancer. My family required me to come home to take care of him. It was an extremely messy situation that ended with his death (I am leaving out a tremendous amount of trauma that came with this experience).

While he was dying, voices started showing up again.

About 2 weeks after his death when I returned home, I started experiencing PTSD symptoms. Within weeks of that starting, I went to see a therapist to try to prevent myself from getting really sick again. The therapist had no idea I had DID as it wasn’t something I told people, as I certainly didn’t want to ruin the successful and public career I had at the time.

The therapist was a grief specialist, and was actually really good. Since she didn’t know about my trauma background, she didn’t know that her sitting down beside me on a couch in a therapy session would send me into a mute dissociative state.

It was the first time something like this had happened in over a decade. And the therapist recognized it as something significant, and would only work with me if I went to see a DID specialist and got cleared to see her. I reluctantly agreed, having a sense it was a bad idea for me.

Sure enough, I went to see the therapist in early 2015, and my system of parts exploded open with more parts than I even had before. I struggled mightily to hold onto my life and my career.

By 2017, I wasn’t able to work, and was in and out of hospitals with rageful suicidal ideation, debilitating amnesia, depression, anxiety attacks, and off the charts PTSD. My life was splintered into a zillion pieces again.

Now, it is 2019, and I have been working hard the past 3 years with a therapist who understands severe trauma. I am fortunate to have a therapist who takes clients that other therapists throw away.

I am coming to terms with the abuse I endured. I have just barely made it a full year without being in the hospital. I am still suicidal off and on rather frequently, but manage to get through these times a little better. Working on accepting my truth causes a lot of switching between parts on a daily basis, which in turn means I can’t remember easy things that I should remember.

My brain feels like a jumbled mess just about every day. It is frustrating. I accept my diagnosis and don’t hate or even dislike my parts. I accept my childhood abuse as true, but still, I am mentally incapacitated with amnesia and confusion.

I have come to wonder whether healing is actually possible. Maybe it is for some folks, but not for me? I don’t say that in a derogatory way, but maybe the truth is my mind is just too damaged?

These are the questions I am facing these days. It saddens me to think I might not be able to recover my mind the way it was intended to work.

The wreckage from my childhood may be a permanent part of my life. It doesn’t seem fair, but I for one should know life is not fair. 😔

Doing my best to manage my C-PTSD and DID while navigating a sick child

My son has been diagnosed with a serious neurological disorder called PANS, which explains the symptoms we have been seeing in him for years. Please take a little bit of your time and watch the documentary “My Kid is Not Crazy” on Vemio to learn more about PANS.

I have found that his diagnosis and the related experiences I have had since then has kept me in a constant fight-or-flight mode that I can’t pull out of for longer than an hour, and this has been going on for weeks. I’m exhausted.

My own complex PTSD from my severe childhood abuse has been activated in more ways than I even comprehend at the moment. I just know I am functioning in a state of chaos and fight/flight.

My Dissociative Identity Disorder is not helping as I have accidentally injured myself these past couple of weeks because I am so distracted by the conversations happening in my head.

I have done my best to hold my DID in check, but as I am nearing exhaustion, it is getting more difficult. Arguments between parts. Large chunks of time missing. New parts surfacing who are under significant distress. Parts worried for us, worried for my son.

And then there is this need for me to save my son. Not uncommon for any parent facing this situation, but feeling really out of control due to my trauma background. I really cannot stop myself from constantly researching, talking to professionals, going to appointments, and talking to other parents who are in similar crisis.

The ironic thing is that parents of children with PANS/PANDAS typically develop PTSD as a result of going through this nightmare with our kids. This I recognize in my fellow PANS/PANDAS parents, and do my best to help.

I know I need to find the balance between taking care of myself and taking care of my son, but I feel so triggered by the entire situation I really feel unable to stop.

As a child no one made any attempt to help me, but by God I will do everything possible to help my son. This logic is driving my being.

The similarities between my trauma and this situation are endless, but my mind is not clear enough to really dive into that now.

Though I know I am doing so much good for my son by searching for answers, I also recognize as a parent this is the first time I have felt my diagnoses significantly impact my ability to maintain stability and feel solid as a parent. Though my kids don’t notice, I do, and it worries me as I can’t stop myself from fight/flight mode and all that entails.

Drifting

Drifting toward health.

Drifting toward death.

It doesn’t seem like this should be so confusing, but it is.

Some days ago, a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, stood in my childhood bedroom watching in freeze mind as my mother threw out her toys into the big green dumpster my mother had wheeled into the room.

This child did not understand, as any reasonable person wouldn’t, why her mother insisted on stripping every bit of humanity out of her.

She caused no trouble in the house. She did everything her mother or brothers told her to do. She had sex with whoever wanted it. She tried not to breathe as she was afraid it would upset them. Her existence was so minimal.

Still, with trying to do everything right, her mother hated her with such sadistic pleasure.

Her mother had made sure to strip her of everything.

Decency. Humanity. Love. Free thought. All gone.

She was forced to live in a room that only had a bed and a piece of office furniture. There could be no signs of a human child living there. Only nothingness, so she would always know she was nothing and nobody.

The little girl is stuck in this place, long past trying to understand her life.

Confusion, obedience, and an ounce of pain belonged to her.

I watched her for days. She was stuck there. I was stuck watching her. I had no explanation to give her. Yes, it was all vaguely familiar to me, but I wanted to keep it “not me” because that looks like such a painful, awful existence. Who would want that?

Feelings of suicide had been circling us as a system. I was not in as much control as I usually am, partly because watching this little girl made me want to die.

So I let the others inside me deprive the body of oxygen until I reached an altered state of consciousness. Here, I could go to the little girl in the bedroom.

Like I would do with my own wounded outside children, I reached down and picked her up and held her. She had never been held before, but she did not resist me and gave in to trusting me and let me carry her away.

I held her tightly against me, with her legs wrapped around me, and I could feel her pain and confusion. It is stuck in my heart.

I wanted to promise her that she would never be hurt again, but I knew I couldn’t do that in this very imperfect world.

She had endured more pain and suffering than a nation of people.

She would experience it no more.

I delivered her to the angels in heaven as I knew of no other place that promises the end of suffering. I told her she would be safe there, and the angels would love her and take care of her.

After I delivered her, I gasped for breath to get some oxygen in my earthly body. I was barely there. I was barely making it out alive.

I struggle to care about the damage done to my brain, or my almost lost life. It seems unimportant in the scheme of things.

I look to my childhood bedroom everyday since then, and it is empty. She is gone. She is free from the cruelty dealt to her.

I am relieved to have set her free. And uncertain as to what this means for me.

Namaste

How severe neglect and abuse affect relationships

My parents did not love me. They did not hold me or care for me in even the most basic ways as a baby/toddler/child/adult.

As an adult, I know how this has affected me. I struggle to connect lovingly with other people in relationships. I don’t like to be touched. I struggle to feel anything other than numb.

There are people in my life who say they love me and care for me deeply; yet, I feel empty and nothingness and awkward to their loving gestures.

Interestingly, for me, I can feel love when it comes to my children. I genuinely love them, and I feel their love for me. I am not sure why it is so different when it comes to them.

When people other than my children say they love me, I cringe as if a dagger just went through me. I know I am supposed to give a loving reply back, but I can’t, and retreat into a state of internal awkwardness.

In case you are wondering, I am married. I don’t know why my spouse puts up with my difficulties around love, touch, sex, and oftentimes being aloof.

Sometimes, the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) comes in handy as there are other self states within me who do not struggle with the attachment damage from my childhood.

I don’t always control which part of me is out, and thus I fluctuate in the level of connectedness I have with others. This can be confusing to people because they don’t know about the DID (or don’t understand in my spouse’s case).

There are times when I am home with the family and I find myself very disconnected from them. My spouse will ask me what is wrong, and there isn’t anything wrong, but a self state that has more severe problems with attachment is usually present.

Other self states may go overboard with love and intimacy with other people. These self states tend to like to drink and be social, which of course is not the best combination.

My adult self-states are mostly similar enough that even the people who know I have DID have trouble distinguishing between them. But there are subtle differences if one is paying attention. However, very few people know about the DID.

My therapist seems to think my attachment problems can be healed through therapy and working through the pain of my childhood. I disagree. Though I have much more insight into my attachment problems, it doesn’t seem to do anything to help change that this is the way I am.

She would say I am feeling hopeless again, as if depression or something is causing me to come to this conclusion. I don’t feel particularly depressed. My mind is actually fairly clear, and I see my thoughts and feelings about my attachment problems as a form of acceptance of my reality.

I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, but I do think it is better to accept reality and try to live life as it is rather than chasing a mental health that will never come for those of us who have been severely neglected as children.

That is not to say we can’t have a different version of mental health based on acceptance, instead of forever chasing a higher level of mental health and living our lives in the therapy room instead of the real world.

Too many of my friends and myself have spent almost our entire lives in the therapy rooms chasing an elusive mental health that will never come.

Please don’t get me wrong. I do believe in therapy, and it is necessary for many of us to survive in the world. But, I believe many of us with severe trauma backgrounds are using up our entire lives waiting for the wellness to begin. It’s just something to consider.

Yes, get therapy help, but don’t get caught in the idea that you will get “cured” and then miss out on living your life because you spent it searching for answers that don’t seem to transform into wellness.

*Disclaimer, my therapist and others do not agree with my point of view.

Wrestling with the truth that my parents repeatedly reinforced into me that I am not lovable has turned off a switch in me that should be on to experience the human condition of love and care.

This leaves me like one of those futuristic robots who can show the slightest bit of emotion, but fall short of the real human experience.

Stealing a life

I stole her life. She was young and badly hurt and didn’t care about what happened to her body, so I took it because I needed one.

I was a soul in need of a body. She was a body with a soul that had died.

Body theft. Besides sounding futuristic, it sounds like a shitty thing to do to someone.

But she didn’t want to live. She wasn’t using it. It would have gone unused and possibly destroyed if I had left her with it.

She didn’t care at all.

Still, I guess I shouldn’t have taken it. I have had it for so long I forget it was originally hers.

She’s coming back for it. I don’t think she knows I have it, but she will figure it out when she gets a little closer.

She’s been lost for a very, very long time. It is not that any part of me intentionally kept her lost. She just had no reason to find the body. When she was last in control of the body, she was a ghost. Or the walking dead. No one was home.

Most people think of me as a decent person. I would take a bullet for most people on earth.

But my therapist has learned a new side to me. She has learned I am not such a good person after all.

I abandoned a little girl who had no life in front of her because of the mental damage done to her from years of unthinkable child abuse.

My therapist thinks I should have saved her. She thinks people don’t get ruined beyond repair. I know this little girl, and there is no repairing the damage done to her mind, body, and soul.

She wanders the planet lost and broken. She does not seek to understand. She is way beyond that. At some point, it just doesn’t matter.

She reached a point of no return, which happens to those who suffer ungodly acts like she did.

She does not understand the complexity of the system of people living in her body. Not sure she will care as I think she doesn’t care about anything.

Yet, my therapist thinks I should embrace her and care for her. It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? Except for the fact that it will kill me and every part living in this body.

We survived horror, and have only lived this long because that little girl stayed lost in our internal la-la land.

If she makes her way to us, and she is getting closer, I have no doubt we will all die.

She had the unfortunate burden of taking the brunt of the everyday trauma we experienced. She died so we could live. Yet, somehow, her pulse still beats, though her mind runs close to flatline.

I have seen her and felt her from time-to-time over the years. I have always known she was still lost and damaged and hidden within.

I felt her close by today. I could see her. If she truly comes to me, and it is entirely up to her, her pain will overwhelm and kill me.

So, for a change, I am not the strong one. I am afraid. I am afraid she will become me, and I have already seen what it has done to her. I am no stronger than her.

Complex trauma, the gift that keeps on giving.