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.

What it is like to have repressed memories resurface

A message from the Universe, I suppose. Everywhere I turn I am seeing videos and stories about repressed memories.

To some, using the words “repressed memories” brings up the idea they are not true memories.

I have to admit, I don’t even use the words “repressed memories” when I often think about or fight to remember all that has been forgotten from my childhood.

For me, I have always known I was the victim of a lot of child abuse. I just did my best to not think about it, and to try to move on with my life as if that didn’t happen.

There have been moments in my life when I was able to get away with not feeling like an abused person. It isn’t hard to pull off looking normal when people really don’t look that closely at you.

For instance, when I was in high school, my behavior was full of contradictions, but nobody really cared enough to pay attention or say anything to me.

In high school, I was the nerd who excelled in ROTC. I also skipped school and hung out with the druggies. I was a nervous wreck when it came to dating boys, and I was also spending a lot of time having sex with boys and men in dangerous situations. I was both super responsible, and super reckless.

I later learned this was my Dissociative Identity Disorder playing out without me realizing it was doing so.

Even with all those contradictions in my behavior, I didn’t try to figure it out. I was hell-bent on repressing my past and trying to pretend I was alright.

I could remember plenty of abuse if I wanted to. When I was in college and got raped, that stirred the pot for sure. After that, I fell in love with a man, which I later learned didn’t work so well with the idea of keeping my past repressed.

I had plenty of meaningless sex in high school, but now in college, having fallen in love for the first time, sex was extremely difficult, and becoming more difficult with each day that passed. My past was really coming back to haunt me as I experienced flash backs and younger parts while trying to have sex with a man I loved.

Being the martyr most CSA survivors are, I told this man to leave me enough times that he finally did. I was heart broken, which is probably what led to my first psychiatric demise and hospitalization.

Fast forward 30 years, and I can still remember countless episodes of me being sexually abused as a young child. What’s missing is that I often don’t remember right before, some of the during, and definitely not afterward. It’s like I don’t have complete memories of anything, but I know with certainty these incidents I do remember are true.

Nowadays, I am finally working to try to process these memories, and for me, I honestly have no idea when new pieces of the memories are coming.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my car after therapy thinking about a specific abuse situation I had mentioned to my therapist, and I described it in session as a random occurrence that happened to me. Not 45 seconds in my car I was consumed with flashbacks and voices of my mom telling me to get out of the car right before I walked toward the man in the parking garage. I must have been refusing which is a little surprising to me as I normally did what my mom said, but she wanted me to get out into a darkened parking garage by myself when I was around 5. I was terrified and knew no good was coming from me getting out of the car. But the flood of memories could feel her anger and her demands and her pushing me out of the car.

“Get out!”

This little piece of repressed memory has left me intensely suicidal for days. Somehow it was better to think I randomly encountered the creepy man in the parking garage than to know this was yet another man my mom had set me up for.

Another betrayal.

It is not like this is news to me that my mom was a disgusting, narcissistic, psychopath. I have known that for a long time.

But, this little piece of the memory still hurts so much. I guess it is hard to come to terms with someone’s evilness when you keep getting new pieces of evilness tossed your way.

It is not that I forgive, I don’t. It is not that I love her, I don’t. She deserves my hatred and worse, but I am limp with weakness when it comes to having any appropriate or real feelings toward her.

Incidentally, I ask my parts to tell me more, and I am often frustrated when they don’t. I feel like I can handle it, but now I realize each new fact brings new pain.

So what is it like to receive repressed memories. It is fucking awful, and there is nothing you can do to prepare for it. The best I can hope to do is to ride it out without killing myself.

Staying alive has been really hard with this stupid new piece of a memory. The worst part of a memory is not always what seems like the obvious worst part.

I do believe it is important work to work through memories to move toward recovery. I disagree with those who avoid it and say it is not necessary.

For me, I may not heal, or integrate, or even find happiness, but I will at least know who I really am before I die. And that has to be enough.

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.

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.

Rolodex switching and amnesia

I am still recovering from my inpatient stay at Sheppard Pratt’s trauma program. I suppose your average person doesn’t understand why one would need to recover from being in an inpatient program.

My brain feels as though it is loosely held in place, and on any given day it can spin and spin so that I don’t know which way is up. My recent 4 week hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt was like that.

I believe being in an inpatient environment is always a very triggering situation for me. As one of the therapist put it, it makes sense for me to be triggered as whenever someone paid attention to me as a child like is done at SP, it always meant abuse was to follow.

Needless to say, that trigger and the fact that truthfully I am not in control of my life behind the locked doors of SP, my defenses are at their highest.

I learned from this last hospitalization that my childhood go-to defense was to keep me and my entire system so confused that we couldn’t put two sentences together. This last hospitalization played that defense out.

I had trouble remembering things before I went in, but once in, I couldn’t remember hardly anything. My treatment team believes I was switching so much that the “Rolodex switching ” kept my memory from working. That’s one theory, and possible, but other theories are equally possible.

I am home now and I had desperately hoped my memory would improve as the degree of amnesia I was experiencing was terrifying. It is a little like temporary episodes of dementia that come and go.

My memory is a little better but still troubling. I went to a restaurant last night and was in line with my family to order at the counter. As I walked away I had to ask my spouse what I had ordered. I had been so present and in control until I wasn’t.

Today I was thinking of my son’s birthday. I couldn’t remember the day and year for sure. I asked him when his birthday was because he is still at the age where “when is your birthday” is still fun to answer. I feel guilty that I couldn’t remember.

Things seem settled down, so why am I struggling so much?

I know I am confused and nervous and certain about this new direction in my therapy.

I learned at Sheppard Pratt that I must focus exclusively on internal communication and cooperation as my most pressing goal.

Only problem. There doesn’t seem to be a clear formula and I am honestly both certain it is the way to go but dumbfounded as to how one goes in that direction. Talk about needed manuals.

I have therapy tomorrow. In the past I was never short in the talking department, but feel confused how this new therapy approach works with my therapist.

In the past, we dealt with whatever that came up, but now I realize I must be more intentional about my work.

Perhaps I will begin by remembering to bring my new system map to the appointment. Last time I forgot.

I am afraid of this new but possibly old fractured mind that works in a state of confusion. I am sure I can’t do justice to explaining how someone can operate on the tightrope between ok and blank mind syndrome (not real).

If you can’t imagine it, count yourself lucky. It is truly terrifying.

My journey has changed

Some of you may have noticed that I have been missing in action for the past month or so.

I was really not doing well and needed intensive inpatient help with managing the symptoms of my DID and PTSD, particularly the level of suicidality I was experiencing.

I decided to go inpatient and it lasted longer than I expected. If I wouldn’t have really pushed to get out, I still easily met the criteria of someone who needed to be inpatient. But alas, I always feel terribly restless and triggered when I am inpatient, so a month was as much as I could do.

I am now happily home with my family and working to transition back into my real life. Still figuring this out and hope to share it with you as I uncover the new path of my journey.

I experienced incredible levels of amnesia and confusion while inpatient, but I was still able to gain some important insights into a new direction for my life.

I plan to share these new plans with you as I unpack myself back into the real world and my real life.

For now, I can say I realize I do have a life to live while doing this work, and I don’t have to “fix” my life before I can start living it.

I am also happy to say I am not currently feeling suicidal, which is remarkable because that is my typical normal. I know better than to get overly excited about this as I know it can change on a dime, but I do feel a sliver of hope that it is currently absent.

Speaking of hope, I did manage to gain some hope despite the incredible amnesia, confusion, transference, and uncomfortableness I experienced staying in this inpatient unit. Nothing like being locked up and power taken from you as a survivor that is seemingly required for inpatient treatment.

I am feeling well today and I am looking forward to sharing my new journey with you, and my experience during my inpatient stay.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support I received from you all.

With love and hope to you all,

Kathy