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

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

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

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

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

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

My therapist wants me to dig deep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guilty of hating my mom my entire life

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

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

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

I want to accept this and move on.

I can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review of Sheppard Pratt’s Trauma Disorder Unit

In some ways, Sheppard Pratt resembles a college campus instead of the typical scary hospital.

Clearly, this is only one person’s experience with Sheppard Pratt’s TDU. Everyone is likely to have a different experience, but I think information is important, so I hope you find this helpful while also realizing it is only my point of view.

Admission Process

Perhaps the worst thing about Sheppard Pratt is its current admission process. I can start by saying the current person running their admission process is not exactly friendly or compassionate, and I’ll leave it that they can do much better.

The SP TDU admission process is designed to disempower clients as they have the unrealistic expectation that your private therapist is going to do all the work to get you admitted. In fact, they don’t want to speak with you at all and only want to speak to your therapist (in my case, this means dragging the admission referral process out as my therapist is short on time and administrative tasks are not her strong point). Even after the initial referral process was done, the admission coordinator requested my therapist get discharge summaries from past hospitalizations before they would approve me on their waiting list. More wait time as my therapist is too busy to chase paperwork from previous hospitalizations, and I wasn’t in the best of shape to assist her. Eventually we persisted.

Unfortunately, Sheppard Pratt will not hospitalize you if you do not have a referring therapist and psychiatrist. I am not sure where this leaves people who don’t have one for whatever reason.

My request for hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt was not to do work or get a diagnosis, I was in a severe suicidal crisis. Initially, we were told it would likely be a 1-2 week wait. After many phone calls from my therapist and me, we were told it would be another 1-2 weeks. Although the Admission Coordinator verbalized her understanding of how dire my situation was, she really didn’t seem to care.

At more than one point we asked if we could be admitted into their general psych unit and we were told “no” and that they would not tolerate us “gaming the system.” We were not clear as to this response as it says on their website that in emergencies, it is possible to be admitted to the general psych unit, but transfer to the trauma unit was not promised. We were ok with not being transferred as our safety was very poor and we simply wanted to go to a safe inpatient unit. Again, we were denied that option.

In the end, it took me 6 weeks to gain an emergency admission into Sheppard Pratt’s program. There was no priority given to those in crisis versus those coming in for diagnosis or to do some work. I was also told I had 24 hours to enter the hospital if I wanted the admission spot. This came with no pre-warning that an opening was coming up, but for fear of losing our place on the list we took the spot which took a lot of shuffling since I was coming from out of state. Surprisingly, when I arrived at the Trauma Unit, there were a few open rooms that remained open. Perhaps they don’t have enough staff to handle more?

The Program

I would say their program is highly individualized. They have groups and individual sessions. I was only allowed to attend the boring educational groups because the staff felt I was too unstable to hold it together for the deeper groups. I won’t get my feelings hurt about this since there were many of us not allowed to go to those groups.

The therapists they have there are often therapists who are training to be top trauma therapists. I’ll be honest, my therapist was shitty. Every session felt strained and awkward. I didn’t benefit from her at all. The upside to that was I didn’t have any transference with her, which is usually something difficult for me to manage.

My psychiatrist was someone I saw 5 days a week, and he was exceptional. We got off to a rocky start as he was triggering as hell, but fortunately, this doctor’s ego was intact enough that he was willing to change his behavior that was so triggering to me. A nice thing about the psychiatrist was that he actually did therapy with me instead of the typical medication management. I grew to have a strong appreciation for this man’s competency with DID.

The real heroes of this unit are the mental health workers from every shift. Sheppard Pratt really did something right when they decided to hire and train top notch people who could sit down and talk to you just about whenever you needed it. These sessions were key to the success of my treatment there. I’d go so far to say that these people had a higher skill level than the therapist I worked with.

While in the program, you can expect to learn a lot of skills to manage your DID. People take it quite seriously, so it was helpful.

The Unit

The nicest thing about the unit is that it feels completely safe, and has very little chaos going on.

The food was below average, but you can survive on it. Unfortunately, the TDU is not allowed to go to a cafeteria to pick out the food, so food can be disappointing, which caused more than a few freak outs amongst the patients. Keep in mind that the unit does allow you to keep a snack drawer where you can have things brought or sent to you. Most importantly, this space can hold sodas, well, at least when I was there.

Each person has there own bedroom, which is quite the luxury for a psychiatric hospital, but a real necessity for trauma patients.

The bathrooms are on the hall, and though you mostly have privacy, it is not uncommon for someone doing checks to knock on the door while you are in there to make sure you are ok.

There is a lot of unsafe behavior that has happened on this unit in the past, so they have very strict rules about what you can bring and not bring. This makes it hard to stay there for long. For me, not having access to a hair dryer was emotionally hard for me to deal with on a day-to-day basis as my hair is wild without it. Nothing I could do about it except avoid mirrors and dissociate my appearance.

It has been a year since I went into the program there, and I have actually stayed out for an entire year now, which has not been something I have been able to accomplish after leaving other treatment programs.

There is no doubt about it, I got help while I was there. It was hard being there for so long, but it turns out it was worth it in the end.

My opinion is this: I have experienced what is out there for people with DID over the past few years, and Sheppard Pratt is hands down the best available.

The main issue they need to resolve is helping people with DID who are in a suicidal crisis get into their general psych unit until a bed becomes open on the trauma unit. I know the hospital has such a good reputation that even the general psych unit doesn’t have empty beds. Still, Sheppard Pratt is in the position where they are mostly alone in helping people with DID around the world, which is a staggering responsibility. I hope they will look to figure out a way to create more bandwidth for their program to help more people.

I have to wonder how many people end their lives because they are unable to access help there. I know I almost didn’t make it.

If you have DID and can wait to get in, the program gets my highest recommendation. A strategy I suggest to everyone is to get on their waiting list if you are even thinking about going into the program. You can always say no-thank you when your number comes up.

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!