Switching between identities

Normally, I switch a lot during therapy because we are dealing with triggering material. Outside of therapy, it is usually more controlled and subtle. Sometimes, because I have co-consciousness with my other identities, I don’t even realize I have switched at first.

There are times when it is like the box of crayons (my identities) have been thrown up in the air and my identities don’t know which way is up. During these times, different parts pop up to “front” the body in no particular logical order.

In a system of other identities like mine (Dissociative Identity Disorder), there needs to be rhyme or reason to what parts are out when. For instance, certain parts need to be out for our children, as these parts know how to function as a parent. Other parts need to be out with my spouse, as these parts are in relationship with her, and are appropriate to have a sexual relationship with her.

This past week, my system feels like the internal house is burning down, and we don’t have the order and reason we normally do for who is out at any given moment.

My spouse, who knows I have DID, but doesn’t usually notice my switches, has definitely noticed this week. Little parts and angry parts and parts who like to drink alcohol have been out a lot. None of these ways is my normal way of being with her. Even though we have multiple parts who can be out with her, they are similar enough in a range of expressions that she knows what to expect.

The chaos and anxiety is high in our inner world. We are trying each day to tame it and get back to our normal. It sometimes seems like it is happening slowly, and other times feels like it is not happening at all.

I had a neurofeedback session a couple of days ago that was supposed to help with the depression and anxiety. It did help, but still the underlying chaos in my brain is still hanging around.

My memory is horrible right now. In fact, I can’t even remember what set us down this path we are on.

My spouse is being helpful and taking over more of the parenting jobs right now.

A couple of days ago I had my kids in the car and they had been arguing with each other and then both asking for something that I would have to say “no” to, and then listen to them both respectively melt down. Instead of saying no, I found myself not being able to breathe or talk. I was paralyzed. I said nothing. I fantasized about getting out of the car and leaving them there.

After that experience with my children, I knew I needed a break. I am usually rock solid with my kids. Instead, I was becoming paralyzed with anxiety, which is not helpful to my children, even though they didn’t even notice.

My switching is more like a Rolodex this past week. Rolodex switching is no fun. It is scary to go from identity to identity with no rhyme or reason.

To function at the level my life is set up for, I need to have more controlled switching. Otherwise, I will end up in the hospital and on the streets and lose everything I have fought to achieve in my small life.

It is funny, my private insurance company has denied my outpatient treatment, and even made it so my antidepressant is unaffordable. That’s fine, because I don’t like to take medicine anyway. On one level, I really believe they would like me to kill myself so they don’t have to pay for my claims anymore. But, if I don’t kill myself, it means my life goes backwards and they have to pay for inpatient treatment again, which is more than what it would cost for the entire year of getting me the outpatient treatment I need to avoid the hospital. Makes no sense, and don’t have the mental energy to keep fighting them.

I will do my best to hang on today. To try to move back toward our normal. It is unusual for me to be in this state of chaos for this long. I am worried, but I will probably forget that I am worried shortly.

Having DID is no picnic. It is not scary the way it is portrayed in the movies. Mostly just scary to the person who has it.

Living an inauthentic life

I grew up keeping my entire life a secret. I didn’t discuss with anyone the pain and abuse I was enduring. I also kept my internal world of other inside people a secret.

I knew it was not safe to discuss what was going on with me with others. I learned that my many abusers knew how to exploit me the more they knew about me and my inner system of people.

I would like to say this didn’t happen to me as an adult, but it did. When I was 21, I had my first psychiatric hospitalization for Major Depression, Anxiety, and severe suicidal ideation.

During this very lengthy hospital stay, a therapist on the hospital staff took a special interest in me. She would spend extra time talking to me, and made sure I knew I was special to her. Being 21, I had no idea the direction this was going.

I craved this attention from the hospital therapist, who incidentally was not my primary therapist. I wasn’t used to someone knowing the ugly truth about who I was, and still care about me. It was intoxicating.

It turns out, this hospital therapist was a master predator. She was one of the best I had ever experienced. She learned my inner system of people that began unfolding in front of her. She used that knowledge to exploit me sexually for 9 months.

The hospital knew what was happening and fired her to protect themselves. Sadly, the hospital and my private psychiatrist and therapist who were all aware of it did nothing to help me with the situation. They only worried about their liability in the matter. The betrayal of my private therapist and psychiatrist was worse than the sexual abuse I experienced from the hospital therapist.

So, trusting people with information about my inner world is really difficult. Everything I hear inside my head says to keep it private. The world can’t be trusted.

I live in this self-induced private Hell because I don’t want to be hurt any more. The worst part of this for me is that I don’t get to live an authentic life because no one truly knows me.

I have been married for 20 years, and you would think that person would know me. Nope. I hide things going on with me everyday.

I have pockets of people I can share different things with. My suicidal feelings are often the biggest secrets I keep.

I haven’t found it to be useful to share these feelings, and let’s face it, people don’t really want to know anyway. They say or think they do, but it only stresses people because they get scared about being powerless in the situation.

People would rather wake up one day to the news of my suicide thinking they had no idea. I am fine giving that to them.

Still, I hate living such an inauthentic life. No one knows the demons I wrestle with in my head. They don’t know the many people I share my body with that I must juggle. They don’t know the pain, anxiety, and desire to commit suicide I struggle with every day.

Instead, I do what I am used to. I ignore me and give everyone the me that they want to see. I can do happy or at least normal on many days. It is just another character role to play.

It leaves me in isolation where I am most comfortable. Some days I wish this wasn’t me, but the auto-pilot in me is strong.

Is my inauthentic life my own fault, or is it the wisest decision?

Maybe, one day I will live authentically, and my true struggle will be the story people know about me. That would be nice. Being a prisoner in my own mind is its own terror I subject myself to.

The obliteration of DID walls

I usually have a somewhat manageable life, though still difficult for sure. I typically manage with a lot of amnesia and a balancing of the competing ideas and feelings from the other souls who reside in my body.

There are souls in my body who feel hopeless, hurt, and angry, and usually deal with those feelings by wanting to commit suicide.

Usually I can help our system of souls through these tough times, but lately it has become increasingly more difficult.

Having had the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder for 30 years, I have reached a place where the system works pretty well together on most days.

We all seem to have co-consciousness as far as I can tell, and we don’t hate each other as far as I know. I explain it this way because new souls seem to appear often in therapy. In fact, I do not even try to keep track of them, and I don’t mean any disrespect to those souls, but my mind literally cannot remember it all.

As a system, there are some rules that we agree to live by. One of the most important ones is to not kill ourselves because of the damage it would do to our children (or my children, since not everyone claims them).

We also have the rule of not committing adultery since some of us are married. Some souls don’t like this, but they have agreed to it anyway in the spirit of cooperation and living a life with less chaos.

Another rule would be that younger souls, or noticeably different acting/sounding older souls, are not to interact with the outside children in our family as I believe this would cause great harm to my children.

These rules are usually followed fairly well by most everyone in the system. Sometimes a soul might be so upset that they choose to ignore the rule about no suicide or self-harm, but we have systems in place to stop those parts from acting on these feelings, or at least minimizing the expression of them. This is something we routinely have to deal with, and something we stay hyper vigilant about.

In our 20s, we had one soul in our system who decided to quietly kill ourselves. This soul was almost successful, so it is something we are always watching out for, and thankfully, haven’t had a serious attempt since then, though we have had less serious attempts.

My system has been slapped in the face with a lot of new revelations lately, namely, it is becoming crystal clear who our family was, and the awful things they have done to us.

In the past, we have always had these memories, but what is new is the ability to start putting it together in a narrative of our lives, which means a whole lot of grief is staring us down.

Our new narrative is honest, but incredibly painful to face this truth and stay planted on earth.

This new narrative has left souls scrambling to make sense of it all. To hold the truth in our hearts and not die is quite the challenge.

Our system has become quite destabilized. We find ourselves switching from one soul to the next without any control or order to it. Our memory and executive function has dropped to whatever the lowest score would be on that scale. We can barely complete a thought in conversation without switching to another soul and then back.

We have not honored the rule of not switching souls in front of my children. I have put every last piece of energy into trying to stay present for them, but have found myself “waking up” to another soul interacting with my children. This has never happened before.

I find it difficult to complete thoughts I am trying to express, and found myself borrowing the thoughts of other souls to try to complete an idea I was speaking about. This has not worked out very well as most of us are very different from one another, and many inside have some very destructive ways of thinking.

My internal world feels like it is being obliterated, which leaves a dissociative person like myself extremely confused and barely able to function. The neat and orderly walls of our system have been something manageable for the system. But suddenly those walls don’t seem to be there so much.

My therapist pointed out the possibility that the souls within my body may be “transitioning” to a place of more wholeness (or integration), which understandably has left me completely confused and overwhelmed to suddenly be experiencing their thoughts and feelings in no particular orderly process.

I’ll be honest, this last week I have had many moments where I haven’t been coherent in what I was trying to express. I have changed the way I have sounded 5 times in a ten minute period.

In this moment of rest, I would like to be happy about this possibility of integration (yes, we are in the camp who wants it), but we are also in a state of extreme suicidal ideation, planning, and acting out. I am trying my best to stay vigilant, but I also know I don’t have the skills or the strong desire for this vigilance because of the passive influence from the other souls.

I should be in a hospital given the level of chaos and difficulty in me stopping the serious suicidal feelings and plans. I just don’t have the energy or inclination to go to a hospital.

If I go into a hospital for safety, I travel out of state to one of the few places that understands DID. I can’t just go up the road to psych hospitals in my city because they will not believe in my DID, so will more than likely shoot me up with antipsychotics to “fix” me. Not willing to do that.

When I am more of a clear thinking person, I would not risk what I am risking. I keep hoping I will wake up to a better day because I know this won’t last forever. But, I also need to keep in mind the people with DID who successfully kill themselves.

This is an evolving situation. I am hoping things become more manageable again, but not at the expense of possible progress.

I will try to update you again as to where I land next. Stay tuned.

A letter to my children about my dissociative disorder

I am so sorry you have a mom with mental illness. It is not fair to you, but please know I am doing the best I can to give you the good life I never had.

I try my best not to struggle in front of you, but I know sometimes I can’t hide it very well. I know you probably wonder a lot about me, and I am sorry you are not in a place to say anything to me about it, and I am sorry I haven’t had the courage to talk to you more.

I love you both with all my heart, and I never want to hurt you.

I know when I hide out in my room, or don’t want to go outside with the neighbors with you, I am missing out on some of your childhood. I am sad about this, but I am doing the best I can.

I want you to be able to count on me, and I think you can. I would like to think I have been there most of the times when you needed me.

I feel incredible guilt about the times I have disappeared from the family and have been gone weeks or months without you really understanding where I was.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I was gone those times because I wanted to stay in your life as you grow up. You see, sometimes mommy gets to feeling so bad I don’t want to stay alive, but I know I must because you are the most important thing to me and I don’t want to hurt you by leaving you like that.

When I leave you those times, I go to special places where they help people like your Mom feel good enough to come home.

I know you know your Mom is sad and depressed at times, but there is also so much grownup stuff going on with me that makes it hard to live my life sometimes.

Sometimes my brain is haunted and hurt by things that happened to me in my childhood. This is a really difficult topic for me to tell you about because I really don’t want you to know how horrible the world can be, and I don’t know how to tell you how horrible some of the people you love have been to me.

I hate I am hiding things from you because I want you to be able to trust me. I also don’t want you to be worried about me or you.

It devastates me to be so afraid to tell you who I really am.

When I was a young child, so many people hurt me in lots of different ways and my brain could not handle everything happening to me.

You don’t know this about me because I work hard to hide it from you, but I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which is why I see my therapist so much and am not working right now.

DID is not like what you may have seen on the internet or tv. It means I have lots of different parts of me, and these parts of me were created because of the trauma I experienced as a child. These parts can seem like different people living in my body, and some are even younger than you, but all of them are still part of me and not something you need to fear.

On tv, DID seems to be portrayed as people with parts who are dangerous or really dramatic. My parts are not like that. They are an assortment of people who have have formed out of trauma, so most of them are hurt parts of me, and others are parts of me who developed to function when the hurt parts of me couldn’t.

You never have to fear me and my parts. Since I came from an extremely abusive childhood, it is so important to every part of me for you to get the childhood you deserve to help you flourish in life.

One day you may ask tough questions about my childhood to try to understand how my mind is separated into parts. I will do my best to answer your questions, but know it is so hard for me to explain the truth to you because I hate to take away your joy and innocence by introducing you to what may seem like evil in this world.

No matter what, know that I struggle to get well and stay alive because of how much I love you. After a lifetime of pain, you are the greatest joy I could have wished for.

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.

Today, I got this

Today, I refuse to be a prisoner to my past. I have been fortunate in that I have managed to accomplish a lot in spite of growing up in a home where I was not loved and abused on a daily basis.

I am fortunate to have accomplished what I have. Maybe just lucky. Either way, I am grateful to have gained and experienced as much as I have.

My greatest blessing has been being able to parent two beautiful children. For all the shit the universe has sent my way, I finally won the universe lottery with my children.

With all my many blessings, my life is often still a shit-storm. I am affected every day in some way or another by the horrors of my childhood. But still, I persist.

I have wanted to give up. My love for my children kept me here during those dark times.

Today, I am glad I am still here.

After a really difficult two years, today I finally feel “good” and am living with some clarity that has alluded me for some time.

I feel like someone of value. Someone who matters. Someone who can contribute to this world.

Yes, I can.

I have had this feeling before, so it scares me a little as I know it can be ripped from my being again.

I can become “dirt” again.

But today, yes today, I will not let my perpetrators and demons rule my life. I accept them as part of who I am. I accept them as part of what has made me into the beautiful person I am.

Yes, I have experienced a lot of evilness in life. I was raised and hurt by a lot of evil people in this world.

But, I am not evil.

Experiencing evil does not mean evil owns you.

We each own ourselves. We may need to take our time clearing this evilness from our memory banks, but most importantly, know that we are not evil no matter what was done to us.

We have the opportunity to own and choose our futures.

Today, I know I own mine. I got this.

Screw those who treated me like garbage. I am a beautiful human being who is capable of so much.

No one can take my soul from me. It’s all mine, and I choose to live and love and contribute to this world.

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.

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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

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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?

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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.