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

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.

Facing the truth of our childhood

Where do you belong in the world when you were raised as nothing or no one that mattered by your family of origin?

I find that lots of people try to tell me that this history doesn’t matter—that I am still someone–no matter how horribly I was treated. I find these well intentioned people have one thing in common: they were all raised by at least one parent who thought they mattered and cared about their wellbeing.

I keep coming back to the metaphor of a house to explain my thoughts. In order for a house to be strong, sturdy, and even to stay standing, it must have a solid foundation. When it doesn’t, people can keep throwing money at the house to try to repair the faulty foundation or build around it, but they never end up with the strong home they long for unless they tear it completely down and rebuild it.

My start in life was bad. Both of my parents were alcoholics, and my mother was hitting her peak of alcoholism when she was pregnant with me and during my early years.

My parent’s alcoholism didn’t just affect them. It affected my entire family system.

For reasons I may never clearly understand, my parents were involved with some sick and on the fringe behavior and people.

I have two older brothers, but my parents wanted a girl, so they tried one last time. I had always thought they wanted a girl for the normal reasons one might want a girl after having two boys.

I was wrong. My mom hated me for as long as I can remember, and possibly from the moment I was born. I was never good enough for her, and she criticized me daily about who I was.

What has become clearer to me recently is that both of my parents treated me in ways that no child should be treated.

From a very early age, my value in my family was to meet the sexual, sadistic, and financial needs of the family.

My entire family sexually abused me on a regular basis. I tried to deny it as long as I could, but my dissociative barriers started really breaking down, and my childhood amnesia is starting to get filled in.

With the memories of my incestuous abuse from a very early age, I can no longer deny that my family not only didn’t love me, but they also didn’t even care for me enough to treat me like a human being.

I was intentionally hurt for their pleasure or financial gain. “Parts” formed in response to keep me alive through this horrific childhood. My spirit died, but my body stayed alive. This distinction is important because I am not sure one can recapture a dead spirit, at least I haven’t so far.

I live today with many, many parts who are like people sharing my body with me. Some people may think it is cool, but I do not. I envision many souls trapped in one body leaving all the souls to live an incomplete existence under the best of circumstances.

The many parts living within me are all smack in the middle of facing the truth of our childhood in many different ways. The truth has taken our breath away. Some sit paralyzed with this new information, others feel extremely despondent and broken with this realization. It isn’t easy for any of us in our system.

Forget the processing and grieving of what we have been through. How does one even pick up the pieces to carry on with knowledge that no one loved us, or cared one bit about our innocence as a child. We did not matter to anyone for a very long time.

It is hard to face the truth that we were merely a “thing” for people to do whatever they wanted with. Either they did not see us as a human being, or they had no humanity within them.

Facing the truth, and not believing the fantasy version of my life I created, is an extraordinarily painful state of being.

I alternate between these states: incredible sadness, suicidal feelings, anger, self-harm feelings, and feelings of being lost and numb.

I don’t know what the next step is for me. My therapist worries the memories and feelings are too overwhelming for me. The way I look at it is I have two choices: I can face the truth and hope I don’t die in the process, or I can stay dissociated and keep myself living in La-La Land.

Neither of them sound appealing, honestly. Since I have been living a dissociated life for my entire life, I suppose it makes sense to travel the newer road.

As I choose this new road, I worry about the questions I can’t answer right now. “If I am not who I thought I was, what does that mean for my identity today?” “If I accept the truth that I was treated like garbage by my family of origin, can I still exist knowing that my creators valued my life at zero?” “Is there something inherently wrong with me that my family decided to treat me as garbage who didn’t matter to anyone?”

I can’t find sufficient words to describe my feelings about this journey. I have never quite understood how this journey works, but somehow I have always had the feeling that someone else, someone wiser and more powerful, has control over the path this journey takes.

There is comfort in knowing I am not in control of the journey, perhaps because I would hope a higher power would show me more mercy than I give myself.

Barely noticing I have been missing in action

I have been MIA from the blog and other areas of my life lately. As typical for me, I have to really think where have I been.

I think maybe I have not been present as much as other parts of me who have other interests and have been using most of our time. Sometimes I barely realize when this is happening.

I have had moments where I have thought I need to write a blog entry, but then I vanish before I am able to do that task. Since I am not as present lately, it leaves me kind of scattered to write a new post (like this one probably is).

I have also been solo parenting for the past two weeks and it has been unusually difficult. School was out because of winter weather, my kids have both been sick at different times,, and I have been dealing with some difficult and new material in therapy.

I made it to the finish line as my spouse is now back, thank God. I only almost had two nervous breakdowns as we were into the second week.

Parenting is not usually this difficult for me, so I was frustrated to feel this way while the spouse was gone. Oh well, the kids are alive, fed, and made it to school when they weren’t sick.

The spouse was only mildly irritated with me for the chaos in the house because of the way I do things when I am in charge.

I had a therapy session a couple of days ago that was unusual in that I kept Rolodex switching throughout the appointment. By the end, I was frustrated because the time evaporated quickly, and it felt like a very chaotic and unproductive session. I kept “waking up” during the session and said to myself inside “why am I talking about this topic?” It wasn’t until later that I realized that was happening because I kept switching between parts.

I suppose this was the rebound of doing the very difficult session prior to that.

Sometimes we need a break, and just can’t be all things to everyone. Hopefully, the distraction of other parts doing their things will enable us to eventually get grounded again and feel more present and less scattered.

Thank you to those who checked in on me. I am doing ok, and working on getting back to my normal.

I hope to have something more interesting to write about next time!

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.

The beginning of grief

Today has been a shit day.

My fucking therapist came back from a much needed week off, and is on her game and ready to tackle the subjects I avoid.

Fuck. I want to get better, so I am trying really hard to talk about what she thinks I need to talk about.

Fuck. She wants me to talk about and feel grief over the fact that I didn’t have a Mom, and instead had a monster to watch over me.

Fuck. I feel dead inside. I told her my mom feels dead to me even though we know she is still alive. I feel nothing for her. I learned from the very beginning she was to be feared, and I wasn’t to be loved.

Fuck. I know I need to do this but I can’t find it in me. I am searching and asking among my parts. I am scared exploring this grief could obliterate me if I find it. But, I look, knowing it could incapacitate me and render me back into the psych ward.

Fuck. I found a little substance about this grief/mom thing in my session today. My inside world revved up and felt like total chaos. Parts started talking some about her and us. Thoughts of cutting my wrists or throat kept weaving around in my head.

Fuck. My system crashed into a younger part who doesn’t talk or walk, and seems to only want to go to sleep. The part is in flashback and having body memories and reacting to sounds in a PTSD way. The part seems confused about where we are. I am so off course I can’t pull us out of this part.

Fuck. My spouse needs to go to the Lady Gaga concert she has been excited about. I can’t seem to pull out of it, but my outside children will need me to watch them tonight. Finally, someone gets us out of bed with the help of my spouse. The flashbacks are still happening. The part is still pulling us in. Finally, we break away.

Fuck. I need to go pick up my son. Can I drive? Can I speak? Can I snap out of it and act normal for him. Get grounded for fuck sakes. I mean, at least get back on planet earth. Ok, here, but just barely.

Fuck. The kids are home and in bed. I feel incredibly sad and like crying, but not letting myself explore to find out why. An insider says I know the fucking why. Yeah, it’s a minuscule piece of the grief seeping in.

Fuck. I hate that bitch of a monster Mom I had.

The Benefits of Neurofeedback for the Traumatized Brain

Neurofeedback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

neurofeedback_1

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

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

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

musclebrain

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