Monday, April 30, 2007


I know, it's not PC to refer to myself as "crazy." But some days are just like that. Today was one of those days. It wasn't that I was sad, or angry, or upset in some way. But the "crazy" felt especially pronounced.

It's hard to put my finger on what was wrong. I suspect it was parts going through some level of trauma, and close to the surface, but not so close they could speak (and, to be honest, I'm still shielded from most of the trauma anyhow). But I did notice that when I allowed my conscious control over my body to relax, my teeth would start chattering, and I would be shaking as though terrified. Anxiety sat in my chest, but didn't reach my mind.

I suppose I could have worked harder to stay "busy," to be "productive." But it's a struggle to do that. I did remember to move the car, and went to a coffee shop for the duration of alternate side parking, and even had good conversations with people there, and forgot for minutes at a time how I was feeling. And I did manage to get a decent dinner made, and dishes washed. So, that far, I was productive.

Oh, and I managed to get a bit of journaling done, some checking in with parts who were able or willing to speak. That's also progress. Commented on some blogs, and some posts on a bulletin board; wrote a note to Kate Bornstein about her book "Hello, Cruel World," which is about alternatives to suicide, and, with a small exception, I would highly recommend (more on that later, in a different post).

But, mostly, I felt my mind spinning around. Different parts kept surfacing and then backing away. Any time I started to do any one thing, different parts would come up to block that from happening. Much chaos and confusion and feeling a bit... not overwhelmed, since it's a feeling I'm used to.

The only word to describe it is "crazy." My particular brand of crazy. Half-seeing one child part desperately building block houses so she can imagine hiding inside of them. Hearing another one counting everything she sees, listening to every single sound, sorting through to make sure she is safe. The teen parts ranting or arguing or just nagging for things they want. Angry parts yelling at me to be more productive, sad parts wishing they could convince me to curl up in a dark closet and nap for the rest of my life.... Yeah, a really crazy day.

Strangely, though, while it was difficult, it was also not so bad. I know what's going on, I feel able to get through. And I know I'm on the road to feeling better, and that the choices I am making now are the right ones. So that was all right, at least.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lessons I need to unlearn.

First lesson: I could shield myself from the horrors of what went on, on a daily basis, by believing they were not actually that bad. I was constantly taught this simple thing: "You are not strong; if you can survive something, it isn't bad." I survived, so it wasn't bad.

Second lesson: We still hear, so often, that abuse is done by "Abusers," capital A. They are evil, or sick, or somehow different from you or me. So if there are good aspects to the people who treated me badly, if they did things for their own reasons, then it wasn't Abusive, it was just, I don't know, "hard." The things were done by people I loved, and who loved me. So it wasn't abuse.

Third lesson: If someone else survived with different, apparently more "functional" coping skills, and if other people survived things that were "worse," then I should be able to make myself be more functional, or not feel so badly about the things that happened to me. If someone else lived through something worse, I am exaggerating if I speak honestly about how my experience affected me.

Fourth lesson: If something is done with good intentions, then any negative effects I carry from that action are due to my own "over-sensitivity." The same thing goes for statements that are called "jokes," or any other form of emotional abuse. It is "over-sensitive" to object to racist, homophobic, or otherwise oppressive comments made to me, if the person making them is smiling as they speak.

I learned these lessons, among others, quite well. And I struggle constantly to acknowledge that, yes, what happened was more than just "a hard childhood." More than that, I really, really struggle to accept that I had a childhood that was "bad enough" to result in DID.

Nearly all of the things I have read about DID that make sense to me overall, also say that it's the result of "overwhelming" or "traumatic" childhood abuse. How could my childhood be "traumatic" if I lived through it? How could I forget something "traumatic"?

There is only so much trauma one mind can hold. Everything else has to go somewhere. People are lucky when they are able to process trauma as it occurs, able to speak of what happened to a listening ear. More often, and especially with children, no one is willing to hear. And so the trauma gets buried, until it can be dealt with. But the habit of burying emotions and experiences becomes ingrained, and continues long past the point where it is necessary.

I am no longer beaten for crying, but it is difficult to cry.

I am no longer beaten for asking for help, but the habit of self-sufficiency remains.

No one comes into my room at night any more, but I still sleep on guard.

These lessons were vital to my survival. If I had not learned them, I would not be here, writing. My family are not, and were not, evil, but they were not able to face their own demons. Should something extreme have happened to me, it would have been a tragedy, they would have been sorry, but it would have happened.

I have been in therapy pretty constantly since I reached adulthood. My adult parts are, on the whole, pretty healthy, normal people. They are the face I show to most of the world. But the lessons they learned, in adulthood, have a hard time passing through the barriers between parts.

I have been learning to accept that my younger parts really are whole people, separate from me. The fact that we live in the same body makes it very confusing, as much to me as to anyone else. And yet, it explains so much. It explains how the differences between parts are not just about mood states--each part feels the full range of emotion; each part has their own goals in life, which don't always correlate with my own (Mandy was saying just the other day that she wants to be a garbage man when she grows up, to ride on the back of the truck. Um, yeah. Sorry, kid. You're out of luck!)

It is difficult for me to accept that my "quirkiness" has an explanation that points to something more difficult than just being "moody." But the more I acknowledge it, the more I tell people who have known me for years what is happening, the more we all understand things that otherwise made no sense.

But it's a process, and while I started down this road more than ten years ago, I'm really only taking the first real steps now.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

This week: Lists

Just recapping this past week, so I can have a sense of, I don't know, recognizing what's been happening. Recording it for posterity.

Things I/we have accomplished:

  • Ellis figured out how to draw better.

  • Got two rooms to a better state of organization.

  • Washed dishes consistently.

  • Made several meals, actually cooking.

  • Did grocery shopping.

  • Figured out a way to have "system meetings," and have done it several times in a row.

Things I/we have been discovering/acknowledging:
  • There are more parts, and we're working on being ok with that.

  • It really is important for parts to have a name, and not just an identity. A couple of parts have chosen names who hadn't before.

  • The adults and the teens have been trying to communicate better.

  • I/we need to do a lot of work on sorting out the difference between past and present

Things that have been going on inside:
  • Several of the little kids have been getting a lot of abuse memories.

  • The teens have been facing their own abuse stuff.

  • The adults and teens have been working on accepting that even stuff that seemed normal was actually pretty hard.

  • The adults and little kids have been working on accepting stuff about a certain person.

How I/we have been feeling:
  • Tired
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Scared
  • Accomplished
  • Accepted
  • Wiped out

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The adults say we should write about something that's bothering us. This is Ellis and Jamie, mostly. Maybe Rynn will show up and add her part. Basically, the older teenagers.

This is Ellis writing. They are saying I should talk about how it felt when I was at home, when the body was actually fifteen and sixteen. I don't like to talk about that. I get really mad and I start to hate everybody.

I don't know if it's okay to feel mad about it. It wasn't really that bad, but things made me mad. I had to do a lot of stuff. I joked that my nickname was "somebody," like, "Somebody has to do this. Somebody has to do that." "Somebody" meant me, because no one else would do it. She never made anyone else do things, but I didn't fight, so I had to do all of the stuff.

Maybe it was just because I was the oldest at home. Probably. So I guess I shouldn't complain, because that's just the way things were. And I guess a fifteen year old is old enough to know when to start dinner, even if it's not the same time every day. And old enough to know how to keep five kids from doing things they're not supposed to, and to take care of them from when they get home from school, and make sure they get to bed and do their homework and get a good dinner. And I guess I was old enough to figure out what to make for dinner even if there wasn't really anything to cook.

And I guess it wasn't so bad that I got in trouble if I didn't do everything perfectly, and if things weren't taken care of when she got home around ten at night after school let out. It was even later after the car broke down and she had to take the bus.

Lots of people take care of kids and a house and go to school. I also had to do really well in school. Probably, this was mostly my own choice. I wanted to get into college, and the only way to do that was to do really well in school so I could get scholarships. It was sometimes hard to do really well when the kids were being bratty and I had too much to do at home, so I didn't even get to start my homework until around ten at night. But I did it, so I guess it wasn't too hard.

The other thing that STILL makes me mad is, I wasn't allowed to have a job. She said it was so I could focus on school, but I think it's just she knew if I had a job, I might have money of my own. And also, if I had a job, I would probably not do as much work around the house, or babysitting. What was even worse was, every time when I got a summer job, she'd ask for a "loan" of the money I made, so I gave it to her, and then I got $20 a month for myself. So I couldn't even work hard all through the summer to have money, because it went to her. I suppose it was okay, and I made it through.

I feel guilty for being angry about that. It's not like she had other choices. She didn't have someone to help with money or taking care of the kids, and she didn't have anyone her own age to be friends with. That was another thing I did, or someone in the body did. It wasn't me. I think it's parts that turned into grown-ups, because at least they could listen and act like grown-ups when that's what she needed. Maybe it was good for me, having to have grown-up parts when I was younger. It meant that I didn't feel so bad about not getting to act like a normal teenager.

The question I have is, is it okay to be upset about having to do so much more work when I was fifteen than I've ever had to do since then? Because it makes it hard to feel like I'm really doing anything now, because I've never had as much to do since I left home as I did when I lived there. I think maybe fifteen is too young to figure out how to juggle taking care of five little kids, keeping the house together, and doing well in school.

This is Jamie writing. I have a different thing to talk about. It was the other job, the one that made me want to run away. I probably have no right to complain, because it's not like I had to do that job. But I didn't want that job to be done at all.

The others refused to run away. They had some stupid idea that if we stayed until we were 18, then we'd get away "clean" and not stay all tangled up with her like my older sisters did. And they thought there wasn't a good way to make your own living when you're 14, and there wasn't anyone we could live with.

Maybe if we'd actually told someone about what was happening, they would have let us live with them. Probably not, though. And they're probably right, there wasn't a way we could have lived on our own, because it's not like we could ever save up money. Even when they got money, they kept spending it on stupid stuff like clothes and paper and notebooks and garbage like that. Not saving it so we could get away. Like, one year, we got to have $100 from our summer job, and they went and bought a backpack and clothes and school supplies. I bet we could have gotten a bus ticket and gotten somewhere with that much money. But nooooo, they wanted to have stupid stuff for school. Or maybe we could have snuck behind her back and gotten a job anyways. But nooooo, they had to be good and honest, so we were f***ing STUCK.

And that meant the other thing kept on happening. I know some parts thought it was fine. It made them happy. Whatever. "What a wonderful relationship you have with your mother." Eeww. Who wants to date their MOTHER?!?! That is SOOO f***ed up!!!!

I don't care if it meant not getting hit any more. Or even if it meant getting nicer food a couple of times a week. It still makes me SICK to even think about it. And there are parts who LIKED that attention. I guess they didn't know about what happened to the ones who are still hiding. I guess they could also ignore that it's not like she stopped hitting the OTHERS. Not like they care about anyone but themselves anyways. Like, when we finally DID leave, did they take anyone else? Not on your life. They figured they could pretend they had a NORMAL relationship with her, and it would be okay to just act like she wouldn't go and do it to the next one in line, and the next one....

I know she would come into my room at night. That's all I'm going to say about it. It's not like it's my f***ing FAULT, but I'm still embarrassed about it, and I feel like I should have done SOMETHING to make it change. I mean, all of the others ran away. THEY knew enough to get out of the house. My stupid plan meant that I had to go through that for so much longer than any of the others. What kind of idiot chooses to do THAT?!?!

This is Ellis and Jamie writing together now. We're supposed to talk about how it's different now, than then. The adults inside think maybe we won't keep getting mad at W. so much, if we think about how she isn't the same as... her.

Well, okay, she isn't our mother. Everyone is making that VERY CLEAR. She's not supposed to be responsible for taking care of us or helping us. Whatever. I guess we don't deserve to have someone take care of us. Fine.

And she doesn't get mad about us not doing our jobs around the house. And she lets us have money to spend on ourselves, pretty much whenever there is money. She'd be perfectly happy if we got a job outside the house, or figured out some way of earning money. And she'd even let us keep it.

It's not her fault that we don't want to be treated like adults. It's not her fault that we aren't adults, and she shouldn't have to deal with teenagers. It's not even her fault that there are parts who refuse to let us leave, so we feel just as stuck now as we always did, only with no way out, because it's not like we're going to turn 18 in a couple of years and get to be free.

It's not W's fault that the thing that makes us so mad we could explode is that we were treated like adults once already, and it didn't work out well. We don't WANT to be friends with her, because we know where that goes. Probably, because the adult parts are adults, it's okay if they're doing things like that... but still, it makes me (Jamie) SICK to know that happens. It's just like before, because it was always a different part who had to do that stuff. And I don't care if now, the parts are different, and say they like it, and it doesn't make them feel bad. It makes ME feel bad to know it happens, at all, ever to this body. I have to live here, too.

We don't want anyone giving us some comment about how great W. is and how lucky we are that she's willing to put up with us, or whatever. Because, you know what? Just because we know that it's not her fault, doesn't mean we aren't MAD!!! And it's okay to feel mad, right? We're not doing anything to hurt her right now, and I guess we'll work on it. Don't tell us she means well. So did our mother. If you want to comment, skip anything I (Jamie) said, but maybe help Ellis figure out whether it's okay for her to be upset, and how much work it was okay to ask someone her age to figure out how to do.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

You're driving me crazy (I love you so much)

I had a very vivid dream right before I woke up. I won't describe the whole thing, because dreams rarely translate well. But there is a part from late in the dream that is really sticking with me.

After many dream adventures, W. and I were at a dinner (or something) at the home of a family who are our friends. The teenaged daughter was having some kind of argument with her mother, about teenage-type struggles. At one point, they hugged. Her mother was looking over her head, and had the most poignant look on her face--simultaneous aggravation, frustration, and such a deep love and worry for her kid. The phrase that came into my mind, seeing it, was "You're driving me CRAZY (I love you so much)."

Analyzing things, as I often do, I can't just take this as a random dream. That it was this particular mother and daughter makes sense. The rest of the family is white, the teenager was adopted, and is black. It's not hard to see that, given certain similarities, the daughter represents me--I was also the only member of my family who was black (my family's approach to race was, shall we say, complex; they still insist that I'm not "really" black, despite the evidence of my skin).

I think her mother represents two things simultaneously--my wishes for connection with my own mother, and the need for my adult parts to approach the teen parts with that simultaneous love and frustration.

My mother was never simultaneously furious and loving. If we did something that upset her, anger was the only emotion present. I am realizing that my own discomfort with anger stems from never having seen it expressed appropriately in intimate relationships. I hold my anger in, because I am afraid that simply being angry means doing devastating harm to the people around me. I'm working on learning that it's not the anger that caused the abuse, but rather, how that anger was expressed. And I am working on methods of owning my anger, and learning how to let it out in ways that won't hurt anyone.

I am also learning that I need to love my teen parts, perhaps even more fiercely than I love my child parts. It's a struggle, but it's necessary.

It's early, this post makes no sense, and I have things to do, so that's all.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ten Years Ago/digging through journals

I was looking for a poem I had written, to post on my other blog, and found the journal where I had written it. I decided to read the journal part while I was browsing.

And, oh. Wow. Apparently, I really do have DID. And, apparently, I knew it ten years ago. How could I block that out of my mind?!! I had run across a different journal where I was writing about DID very hypothetically, and I thought that was the only place. But, no. Not only that, but somehow, even in the same journal, I could keep myself from noticing that I was dealing with DID, and use entire sections of the spiral notebook to write about other things, with no knowledge that there was stuff about me having DID in the same notebook.

I'll put a couple of excerpts behind the cut. Oh, and another thing. Looking at them now, I can see my handwriting shifting, and I recognize which parts were writing, even though I didn't know or acknowledge those parts at the time. I'll change colors where the handwriting changes.

7 Sept ‘97

Amazing how sleepy I get, as soon as I open up my journal. I guess I really don’t want to have to be dealing with any of the issues that I need to journal about. It’s one thing to make up a fictional survivor monologue and tell it to people in a play. It’s another thing to talk more directly about real things that actually happened to you. And I have a hard time believing that I’m really out of it, that there’s something to be out of, that I deserve to not be treated like I was…

And yet, there are people who know me now in ways that people haven’t known me before, and they still seem to like me well enough. And I’ve gone through more than a year now without the reputation of being someone who doesn’t like to be touched, and no one has chosen to do anything harmful to me.

I keep waiting for it to get easier, but it doesn’t. It can get easier for me to accept the difficult things, but the parts that are hard just seem to continue being hard. I wonder if I will ever get to the point where the DID isn’t so overwhelmingly a part of who I am… I keep waiting for a part that I can control and stop. For a point where I can be in charge. I’m afraid to let go for fear that I’ll never regain control. I’m afraid that if I let myself be a little weak & forgiving, I will never work hard and get things done again.

14 September, '97.
It seems like I spend so much of my life waiting. For the bus. For stuff to pick up at work. For the energy to do anything. To get better. I guess I just get frustrated with the zen of things. With the need to relax, and just let things happen in their own time. Patience is not one of my stronger virtues.

I guess it's partly that it's dangerous for me to live in the present. So much of my life, my survival depended on my ability to ignore the present and prepare for the future. And since then, my primary experience with living in the present has been tied to a sense of despair that things will get better--or maybe it hasn't been living in the present. Maybe I was just living in the past.

It's really hard for me to know who I am. When I'm talking about myself, it's as though I'm not even there, like it's a person I'm reading about. Somewhere, under all of this, I must be a real person, with feelings & all of the things people have.

And it's funny to write this way, now that I think of it, because I am more a real person than I have been at any point in my life that I can remember.

5 September '97 (ed. note: I think I meant October--it's between other entries for October, anyway) Ouch. Here it is again. I can't wait until a time in my life when it's over.

It's so hard to resist the temptation to turn to metaphors: Hansel & Gretel, after the woods. Even when it all works out at the end--even when people end up lots better in the end... Is it really better to be materially better because the people you needed to trust threw you into the forest to manage your own survival?

I am just so tired of feeling like I don't own my body. Of feeling like the only way to be safe is to leave it, and hope that nothing really bad happens while I'm not in it. It really sucks. Especially because I don't think it's a good coping skill for the life I have now. People aren't trying to hurt me anymore, and I wish I could hold onto the body for long enough to get better.

25 Feb 98 I HATE this. It's like being a kid again. There are all of these things that need to be done for me to be safe, but I don't know what they are, or how to do them.

Maybe being a kid is the key to my mood swings. I'm relatively calm & happy all day, but when I have to come home, and worse, when I have to go to bed, things fall apart. Or checking to see who's here, feeling safer if there is someone... Shit, panic attack...

I am so desperate. It feels like I'm two or three people... like I get to be confident and smart and attractive when I'm at work, but when I'm alone or at home, I'm this ugly little slug, that people either avoid or step on and destroy.

I feel so trapped. I like the positive feelings I get when I can do well on things, but it feels like I'm just setting myself up to be hurt. As though... I don't know, as though by doing well, that's just going to make the other side of my life more hellish and awful. As though if I spend energy doing well at school, I'm just going to get pounded on when I get home, so I won't get above myself. That is so stupid--that never happened. I also feel like if I tell, nothing will be true, no one will believe me. As though I am making all of this up to get attention. So I don't feel like it's okay to talk to anyone, because if I'm just doing this to get attention, I don't deserve it.

I feel so stupid, and worthless, and lazy, and powerless. Like I can't move, like there's nothing I can do to feel safe. Like there are a million things I need to do, and I can't figure out how to prioritize.

I am so tired of taking care of myself. Of paying my bills and feeding her & washing her clothes, & making appointments & she isn't worth it, & she doesn't deserve it, and I don't like her, and I wish she had never been born. I hate her. All she does is ask for things and nag. I don't want her. If she wants something, she should take care of herself.

Oh, fun. The uncensored diaries of J. See how she shockingly refers to herself in the third person.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Learning to Draw

There's a new project in our system, and it's actually kind of fun. Some of the parts are working on making a story book together. They are good at writing, but not drawing. So, they were thinking of which part in the system could learn to do something like drawing, and they thought of me, because I usually do the things other parts can't do.

This is actually kind of nice. I figured out how to make drawings look like we want them to, and it wasn't too hard a trick, once I paid attention to what they say on websites where they're teaching you to draw. The littles are frustrated, because I read the websites last night, and I still haven't gotten able to draw well enough to make the pictures they imagine come out on paper.

They're also going crazy, because it takes them, like, two hours to get a story written the way they want, but it's taking me "forever" (like, half an hour a picture) to get the drawings.

But what's good about all of this is, the system seems to be thinking that, just because I'm good at doing things, and just because I will do the things no one else wants to do, that doesn't mean I should get stuck doing nothing but the stupid boring unpleasant stuff. So that's cool.

And it's good to see they appreciate the fact that I can figure out how to do things RIGHT. See? It's not just for staying out of trouble. Figuring out how to do things right can be FUN.

--Ellis (formerly called Somebody)

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

We all know children, and it will serve them well if people remember to keep an eye out for them, and do what we can to keep them safe. Do the children in your lives a favor, and make sure you know the signs--not every abused child acts out in ways that call attention to their problems, but symptoms do show up.

I will add my own two cents, from my own experience: abusive parents aren't evil, and I don't think they even necessarily intend to cause harm. For the most part, abusive parents still love their children, but are overwhelmed, or stressed out, or are unable to recognize that their behavior is inappropriate because it simply mirrors what they, themselves experienced. If you suspect a child you know is being abused, be supportive of the parents, rather than condemning them.

Given the specific issues that I have as a survivor of child abuse, I think the following list (from this page) is especially pertinent. It lists the symptoms of child abuse, with a strong awareness of dissociative responses.

As they note, the list is not comprehensive, and it is more a "things to watch for" list than an absolute indicator.

ABC's of abuse

* Abnormal body awareness, numbing, detachment (depersonalization and/or derealization)
* Abrasions or cuts appearing on the body which have no apparent reasonable explanation
* Ambidexterity; evidence of different writing styles, widely fluctuating drawing abilities
* Asthma
* Auditory hallucinations (hearing voices, usually "inside" head)
* Behaviour that does not appear "normal" e.g. severe anxiety around other children or adults, antisocial behaviour in the form of hostile aggression or withdrawal behaviour accompanied by depression.
* Belief that his/her soul is "lost", "sold" or "possessed"
* Behaviour which indicates apathy or depression
* Behaviour which is antisocial and hostile in nature
* Bruises or welts appearing on the body, especially those which reveal the shape of some object which was used to produce them. e.g. sticks, belts, buckles, electric cords, a hair brush, etc.
* Bruises which are unexplained or located on parts of the body which usually do not get bruised through the bumps and falls of a child's everyday living.
* Burns caused by rope friction, usually found on legs, arms, neck or torso as the result of having been tied up.
* High pain tolerance; lack of awareness of injury or illness
* Burns which leave a pattern outlining the object which was used to make the burn such as an iron, electric burner, heater or fireplace tool.
* Burns with a "sock" or "glove-like" appearance on hands, or feet and " doughnut:" shaped burns on the buttocks. These types of burns are usually caused by either dipping or forcing the child to sit in scalding liquid.
* "Caretaker" tendencies with corresponding self-neglect or abuse
* Childs clothing appears to be stained, torn or bloody
* Child continually hungry
* Child expresses or implies sexual activity with a parent or other adult
* Child has been diagnosed with having VD of eyes, mouth, genitalia or anus.
* Child reports pain, itching, bruises, or bleeding in the genital area
* Child shows withdrawn behaviour, refusing to participate or dress appropriately for physical activities such as swimming
* Child speaks of home with a lot of fear and anxiety, but is fearful of intervention
* Chronic bladder infections
* Chronic night terrors
* Clothing not suitable for weather conditions
* Compulsive or obsessive thoughts; rumination
* Confusion about family roles & relationships; fluctuating knowledge of family roles and relationships, occasional confusion about who is mother or father
* Confusion and/or concern about what constitutes childhood
* Consistent lack of cleanliness/or an intense obsession with cleanliness.
* Convoluted thinking; exaggerated tendency to anticipate the motives of others, especially authority figures
* Does not seem to understand play, inability to play, excessively anxious to know "rules"
* Eating disorders; food phobias, especially "red" food, meat, or herbs (anxiety response rather than simple dislike)
* Epileptic-type seizures or episodes of fainting or unconsciousness with no medical explanation
* Evidence of frequent trance states (forgetfulness, confused denial of witnessed behavior); high vulnerability to trance state induction (for example, during "storytime" or in response to poetry, music, rhythmic sounds, etc), yet phobic of "formal" hypnosis induction techniques
* Evidence that the child's physical or medical needs are not being met.
* Exaggerated startle reflex, especially followed by evidence of dissociation and/or amnesia
* Exaggerated reliance on state-dependent learning; evidence of inconsistent skills and knowledge
* Exaggerated sense of guilt and responsibility for others
* Exaggerated tendency toward age-inappropriate abstract thought or analysis with a corresponding ignorance of basic instinctual knowledge, e.g. abnormal ideas about eating , sleeping , elimination, death, identity
* Excessive superstition about numbers (especially 3, multiples of 3, 7 & 13) and symbols (especially pentagrams, crosses, circles, runes)
* Expectation that he/she will be thought "crazy", "bad" or "evil"
* Extreme compliance with authority figures; severe alienation from peers
* Extreme fluctuation in skills, behavior, appearance
* "Flat" affect; confused and/or inappropriate emotional responses, especially to scenes of violence or abuse
* Fear of being photographed
* Fear of eye contact
* Fear of physical contact, hugging, touching
* Frequent incidence of excema or other symptomatic skin disorders and non-specific skin irritations
* Frequent somatic symptoms or illness accompanied by lack of complaint (uninitiated disclosure) or awareness
* Frequent weeping without the ability to relate to a reason, or with denial of emotion
* Highly phobic with multiple triggers
* Human bite sized bites, especially those that are adult sized.
* Hyperviligilance; insomnia (only able to sleep in morning or during daylight)
* Inability to differentiate fantasy from reality
* Injuries in various stages of healing which appear in a regular pattern or are grouped together
* Lack of congruent short-term memory; confused personal history
* Lack of supervision especially in dangerous situations or while participating in activities which extend over long periods of time.
* Loss of appetite, refusal to eat
* Minimal or no ability to defend self; marked inconsistency in aggressive or self-protective abilities
* Olfactory hallucinations, especially when followed by dissociative episodes
* Precocious knowledge of metaphysics, philosophy, mythology or ethics, especially with no conscious memory of having studied these subjects); assumption that information or knowledge can "come to you" without learning
* Rapid mood swings or "simultaneous" contradictory emotions, e.g. laughing and crying, angry yet submissive
* Ritualized behavior (things must be done in a certain order or in a proscribed way in order to be "safe")
* Self-mutilation, usually hidden
* Sexually responsive to perceived "perpetrator" figures; contradictory sexual naivete, modesty, repressed sexuality with others
* Small circular burns appearing on face, arms, hands, buttocks or soles of feet which may have been inflicted by a cigar or cigarette
* Statements that imply an assumption of parallel, contradictory realities, for example that there is an "inside" world and an "outside" world with opposing rules, or that everyone performs acts that must be kept secret
* Suicidal ideation and attempts from an early age
* Tattoos or unusual scars (scalp, behind ear, palm of hand, inside thigh, over heart, next to nipples); "box scars"
* Uncharacteristic episodes of severe, unfocused anxiety, e.g. crouching on floor, rocking, nail biting, compulsive scratching or biting of the self
* Unexplained fractures to nose, face, ribs, legs or other parts of the body
* Unwanted pregnancy occurs, and child is afraid to mention partners name
* Visual hallucinations (blood, knives, animals, eyes)
* Young Child shows knowledge or interest in adult sexual behaviour, not appropriate for his age group

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Shadow Monsters and Fairy Gifts

The difference between stories and history may sometimes be narrow, but the chasm can be inpenetrably deep.

My earliest career goal, once I had one that was my own, and not an answer to fob off on adults who asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, was to be a writer. I had other goals too, sometimes because I lacked confidence in my ability to support myself by telling stories, and sometimes because I was terrified of what I might write, were I to tell the stories I found inside.

I kept finding myself unable to face the truth that is inherent in good fiction. The stories deep within me were overwhelming. I could not tell them and feel safe. So instead, I wrote shallow stories, stories designed to do nothing more than quiet the people and worlds that swelled within me. And then, frustrated by my shallow, meaningless stories, I decided instead to focus on my other goals.

If I were not a writer, I would be a teacher. If I could not tell my own stories, perhaps I could give other people the power to discover their own. And, as is true with most people whether or not they have DID, I have more than one passion. So I turned, in my professional mind, from stories to histories.

My past would not let me go, so I chose to evade it by embracing a broader past. How better to separate myself from the pain and fear than to brace up my walls with intellect? Occasionally, I noticed the irony. I studied the history of childhood, and had no memory of my own.

History is a discipline that requires concrete evidence. The focus on proof allowed me to deny my own past, because I had no documents, I heard no oral histories; if the flashes of memory were unverifiable, I could behave as though they did not exist in fact. What is more, by reading about the problems other children have faced, I could minimize the terrors of my own experience. There is always something worse than what happened to one person. There is always something worse that might have happened.

I channeled the remainder of my past into activism. If I could not face my own childhood, at least I could honor the children inside me by doing what I could to protect other people and help them to heal. I taught mothers at a domestic violence shelter better ways to cope with their children. I taught their children ways to find safety in threatening situations. And I helped women to heal and keep themselves safe in self-defense classes.

But no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, I could not escape my past. Dissociation is a separation of parts, but that separation is (only) internal. No matter how stark the boundaries I had created, the different parts remained inside the body I use. And every so often, they would rear their heads, desperate, terrified, furious.

A little more than a year ago, I had to make a choice. I could hope that my self-protective parts would continue to pull me back from the brink of death, or I could stop denying the existence of my other parts. I had come far too close, once again, to not surviving the emergence of some of my parts. I was terrified, and I finally allowed myself to face the divisions I had shied away from acknowledging, time and time again. Whatever my doubts, and however difficult it has been, it probably was the right choice.

But I find myself once again at a point of decision. My training as a historian blocks me from telling my own story. I hedge myself about with demands for evidence, and dismiss my truths as speculation. But my parts will not allow me to write history, and have not allowed me to do so for the last year.

So if I cannot write my dissertation, perhaps instead I will write the other books that are inside me. I will embrace my fears, and write stories that are less factual but far more true.

To that end, I am starting yet another blog, where I will post the elements of what may or may not eventually become my books. A writer has to start somewhere, and that is where I will begin.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

More About Magic

by Michelle.

Here is some more stuff that I will write about magic. Lots of parts inside do different kinds of magic.

The little ones and the hiding ones do a special magic. Their magic is so when something is going to hurt the body or is too scary, they can get outside of the body and then watch something happening. If a part is there and they are scared too, then they can sometimes go with the little one or the hiding one who is doing this, and they can not be there when something is scary. This is magic because it means you are floating away and not inside the body. Mostly they do not do this, but sometimes when something scary happens, like someone falls down the stairs, they will still help everyone just watch so they do not get hurt so bad.

The Story Girl, mostly, and Amanda and me a little bit too, we watch to see if there is something magic we can use to get into a magic land or get wishes or something like that. We have never found one yet, but we are still looking. Jamie and the other teenagers help because they like to find money on the ground, and sometimes magic things look like money, so they help. We also look for special cool things like shells, and we are very good at finding them because we practice looking for magic things. Also, we look for maybe a magic path, like they found to go to Narnia.

A lot of us are good at turning invisible. Sometimes you have to do a spell, but sometimes, you just have to remember that you need to be invisible.

Rynn and someone else who does not want me to say who it is, they are very good at making shields. A shield is a thing so people can not make you feel bad. It also makes it ok so that you don't have to feel all the spiky things from people around you, when they are thinking too loud or something. I think they were the ones who made the first safe places inside. The one who does not want me to say who it is made her safe place too strong, and she got stuck and now she does not know how to get out. But Rynn, she did it a little different. She made houses for people. She did not remember about the little kids, but we found safe places. Without the safe places inside, it is just thorns and scary places with the monsters and you have to be super careful so they do not notice you. But the safe places inside are better, and you can play. And when Rynn made the safe world inside, then we kids could make good places to go to also. W. helped us to build the magic house and town. That is our favorite place, and mostly we are all living there now when we are inside. It is a place where all of us can go, and sometimes W. can visit us there even.

Rynn also makes our room safe, but she is not very good at this any more. What she does is, instead of the shields just being inside us, she puts them around a room, or around an apartment. But she does not know how to make the shields just right, so they do not work as well as they used to do. The shields she put around our old room, those kept people out of our room even after we went away. We found out, because someone in our family asked, "What did you do to your room? I don't want to go in there ever." And since our old room turned into that person's room when we left, that shows how good those shields were!

The Hip Chyck does something that is a little bit magic, and she even thinks it is magic. What she does is, she knows that believing in something enough, and working at it, can make it happen. She is saying it is not exactly magic like in books, but it is magic to me because it is about making things happen that wouldn't happen if you didn't believe really hard. What she does is she believes really hard that something good can happen, and she acts like it is going to happen and does work, and then it does happen, even if other people said it couldn't.

The Mama does a special magic. She does magic so that where we live is a nice place to be. When we lived at home, she also did lots of magic so that people would be calmer and not fight so much. She also does little spells about things like being happy and calm and safe at home. Also, she does little spells to get parking spaces sometimes.

The Mama and the Hip Chyck, and Rynn a little bit, and the Story Girl a little bit do a magic inside. They call it "grounding," but it is not the bad kind of grounding that is a punishment. It is a kind of grounding that helps things to be quieter inside, and stops too much poking stuff from getting in from the outside. It takes our energy and it connects it to the center of the world going down and to the stars going up, and then we can breathe better and feel better. Also, Hip Chyck learned in self defense class that if you do this, when someone pushes you or something, you don't fall over as easily, but it doesn't take energy to not fall over.

These are two magic spells the Mama and the Hip Chyck made together that we use when we need them.

One is if we are looking for something and can't find it. We say, "If I were the ____, where would I be? Right here on the _____ where she could find me." And then we find it. But you have to make sure you are using magic when you do it, and how the Mama says you use the magic is you find the string inside yourself that is connected to the thing you are looking for, and then you follow that string to where it is. It works the best if you were the last person to touch that thing.

Another one is so we don't worry so much about money stuff. It goes like this: "With the waxing of the moon, so may our prosperity grow. With the waning of the moon, so may our troubles fade away." Mostly, the grown ups use this one. It is a spell they can say whenever they see the moon, and then things will get better and they will not have to worry so much, and they will keep getting better. The Mama and the Hip Chyck say it is ok to be pagan AND a Christian or something else. They say that God is not just a man like in my picture Bible, but is something we can't understand. I think this is probably true, because one time when I was praying and thinking about God, when I saw God, it was a beautiful flower that smelled good and made me feel better. So God is lots of things, so that spell is ok to do. It does not make God upset.

Some of the grown-ups don't like to tell people about the magic, because they are embarrassed. Those grown-ups are Cleo and the Analyst and the Smart One. They don't think magic is real. Everybody else inside believes in it and does different kinds of magic. Some of it is to keep us safe. Some of it is to make things better and happier. The Hip Chyck says her magic is especially to make the whole world a better place and to show other people that they can make things better and they can do things even if they don't think they can.

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by Michelle.

S. says she does not think magic is real. But I think she is wrong. This is because I do magic, and it is important to do some kinds of magic. Maybe some of my magic is just silly little kid stuff. But lots of my magic is very important.

These are the reasons I do magic: 1. So that people will love me because I don’t forget about doing important things like jobs, and so they will not think I did not do my jobs. 2. So that people won’t make a mistake and get me in trouble when I was not the one who did something bad. 3. So that I will not have nightmares.

The most important is about nightmares. This is the magic I do so I will not have nightmares. 1. I make sure to step on every single crack when I am walking on the sidewalk. And especially I make sure that I do not walk across a driveway when a car is in the street. 2. I say my prayers before I go to sleep and I ask God to make sure I don’t have any nightmares. 3. I sleep very carefully, curled up, and invisible. 4. I count things like the stairs so I know how many steps away a person is if I hear the stairs, and so if I wake up after a nightmare and it is dark I will not fall down the stairs.

This kind of magic is only good for one kind of nightmares. Those are the kind where something heavy is holding you down and there is scary breathing and you can’t breathe and it makes your tummy hurt.

It is very important to always do the magic so that you will be safe from these nightmares.

There are other kinds of magic, too, but that is the most important one.

Some of the other parts also do magic that helps to keep us safe. They are in charge of other kinds of magic. My magic is just about being good, and being invisible, and not having nightmares. Sometimes I forget to do some part of the magic, and then something bad happens.

Maybe this is because you can not do magic 100% of the time, but only part of the time, and sometimes, you don’t do it at the important time, since you maybe aren’t good at magic and you don’t know when the important time is to do it. But if you remember to be very careful and always do the magic every single time, then maybe you will go for two weeks or something and not have one single nightmare. It is not so easy to make people love you, or to always be invisible all the time, but if you are careful, you can mostly do this too.

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"Somebody" was here

So. I spent several days pretty much on my back because of fibro. Then I made it to therapy. Somehow, in that process, my teenagers emerged (not, unfortunately, in therapy, but afterwards).

They are convinced that W. is not going to help with setting limits or other methods of taking care of them. Full disclosure: I'm not 100% able to trust that W. will be able to cope with this, or them, either. This doesn't help the teens to feel confident. But, unlike me, the teens' response is to feel angry, hopeless, and rejected. They powerfully resent their sense of responsibility for taking care of W. when they feel it's not reciprocated on her part. They are convinced she's "not capable of being a grown-up."

They get furious, and turn that fury almost immediately onto themselves. I think they want to hurt W. by hurting themselves, or at least, to cut themselves off from the anger and pain inherent in being teenagers who are expected to act like adults (they do seem to recognize that their sense of this is complicated by the fact that, technically, they are adults; I suspect they also resent the adult parts for not being capable of doing the things they want done, like laundry and housework).

Yesterday, the main one out is the one who calls/called herself "Somebody." Where did she get that name? It was a joke she made in high school, when someone at school asked about family nicknames. She said, "My nickname in my family is 'Somebody.' As in, 'Somebody needs to do the dishes,' or 'Somebody needs to clean up this mess.'" She resents it, and yet, she does the work. From what I've been able to figure out, it's not even that she minds the work, per se, just that she resents the feeling of having to take care of other people, getting nothing in return. But it's a name that reflects very little person-hood, and a whole load of resentment.

So she and Jamie were pushing one of W.'s bigger buttons. As far as they or I (or, for that matter, W.) can work out, they weren't doing it intentionally to be manipulative. They were operating on their honestly held belief that W. was eventually going to stop taking care of them, and so they wanted it over with as quickly as possible. So Jamie and Somebody argued that having the rules just upsets them, and causes conflict, so we should stop having rules.

This time around, they tried really hard to be moderately civil and not do things to make W. worry about them/us/me. But much as they wanted to get their disappointment over with, they really couldn't cope with the fact that they had been right. Since they felt pretty certain that they couldn't cope with living with W. without having the safety of limits being set, they figured their best option was to figure out how they, the parts, could just "go away." At the same time, they really didn't want to have to disappear, so they just felt more and more trapped, and more and more furious.

Fortunately, W. "came to," as she put it. We have a rule that only adult parts are allowed to negotiate whether there will be rules, and what those rules will be. The teens took advantage of W.'s preference for avoiding conflict, and of the fact that she really does want to keep each part and the whole system from feeling upset. They doubted her ability to keep up with limits, and so pushed at her weakest point (her lack of confidence in setting limits with them/us/me if someone pushes against them). W. realized last night that if she wanted the teens to feel safe, allowing them to get rid of limits was not the way to go. This calmed the teens down considerably, and they realized that they really did prefer to be wrong about W.'s ability to set limits. Once again, they were relieved to see that she would set limits, and not expect them to operate as adults.

Some good things did come out of this. For one thing, the teens (particularly "Somebody") don't experience the fatigue of fibromyalgia. They have the pain, but ignore it. And "Somebody" is very good at getting things done, so the laundry got washed yesterday, and they/we/I got to walk over to our favorite coffee shop to hang out. The thing to figure out is either how the teens can share that energy with the rest of us, or how they can be out and active without constantly testing limits and feeling miserable (although, come to think of it, that's a lot of what being a teenager is about, isn't it?).

Another good thing about "Somebody" being out, and actually talking more or less civilly to W. last night, was that she was able to see that perhaps having a real name would be a good idea. One important thing W. made sure to explain was that no part (especially "Somebody") is required to do all the work, nor does she love us only so far as we take care of her. And so "Somebody" has agreed to consider having an actual name. Right now, she's leaning towards "Ellis" (because it sounds like "else," which amuses her in combination with "Somebody," and because it also refers to Cinderella, without the baggage that name carries).

So. Some progress.


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Guilt or fear

I've been having a flare-up of fibromyalgia. It happens every year. For that matter, to a lesser degree, it happens every month. So combining spring and that time of month has knocked me out.

I feel guilty about it. W. was encouraging me to accept it, and to let go of the guilt, and to allow myself time to focus on meeting my body's needs.

Thinking about it, though, here's the thing. I think that the guilt helps me to stave off the fear of what this means. I mean, if I'm lazy, that means everything is under my control. If the problem is not trying hard enough, not committing myself to doing what I need to do, what I should do, what I want to do... then, conceivably, I can decide to do differently.

But if the problem is a physical disability, it's not under my control. If I'm not faking the fibromyalgia, if I'm not making up the DID, then I can't just decide to be better.

And it's even harder to accept that with the DID, I actually am doing everything I am "supposed" to be doing to get better. With the fibro, yes, I could be taking meds (none of them actually worked when I tried them, but I could keep trying different ones). I could be getting massage (which did reduce the pain and fatigue, but only when I had a massage therapist who was experienced with both fibro and survivor issues, and which didn't actually do away with the fatigue and pain to the extent that I could manage a full-time job year-round). And that's about it.

I am not good at accepting what I can't control. I am good at controlling myself, at forcing myself to do things that, on cooler reflection, I can't really handle. This is hard.

And there's the sheer boredom of being too exhausted to sit up for more than half an hour, or to hold up a book for more than an hour at a time. There's only so much a person can do, flat on her back (and despite having hundreds of TV channels to choose from, there's very little to watch).

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

W and I went to see Meet the Robinsons yesterday. Here's what we (inside) have to say:

this is Teller. i will tell about the movie for the kids. lots of us watched it because it was a safe movie for kids to watch. one cool thing about it is that there were glasses and they were not paper they were plastic so they are cool and we can keep them.

there was a cartoon at the start. it was chip and dale about peanuts. it was funny. michelle didn't like it caues they were being bad but it was funny and the rest of us liked it.

then there was the movie. it was a littel bit sad at the start because the poor littel boy, he was left at an orphanage. but the orphanage lady was nice to the kids. then he grew up to be a big kid and he did science things like a peanut butter and jelly hat. but that made a mistake, and then the people, they dident want to adopt him, they wanted a different kid. and the boy was sad. but then he made a thing for a science fair that was going to help him see his memory of his mommy who left him, so he could go find her.

then the exciting parts happened, cause a boy from the future came, and told him a guy in a bowler hat was gonna steal his project. and that guy came. he was not scary because he was a funny bad guy. he was very funny. but he broke the science project and ruined the fair. and the boy was sad. but the boy from the future took him there. and then the rest happened.

the movie was happy and one funny part was when the two boys got into the future, and they had an argument, and one boy said, "you have to do what i say because i'm older" and the other boy said, "you have to do what I say, because i'm from the past, and that makes ME older!" there were lots of jokes in the movie that made us laugh about it.

This is Cleo, writing for the adults:

We liked the movie quite a bit. It was a little bit on the strange side, since some of the stuff that happened was really very random and a little bit hard to follow. I don't know if it would have really been worth paying extra to see it 3-D, but we had passes, and ended up not having to pay extra, so that was fine.

The movie had a really excellent message, basically that you can't let things that happened in your past ruin your future, that you have to take responsibility for how you choose to live your life, and that if you weren't born into or raised in the family you want, you should choose a family of your own, and take control of your life. The movie showed how people who hold on to anger at someone else, and don't take responsibility for the roles they play in their own lives, sabotage their own lives along with everyone else's.

The main villain wasn't especially scary at all, but there was a portion at the end that did get quite frightening. It was over quickly, but it was still a part you might want to have an adult around for (just to reassure children, inside or out, that everything would work out fine, and that the problems would be solved before too long).

This is a movie I might even consider buying, because I'd like to watch it again when I have a little more time (when will they come out with 3-D movies for the home? That would be really cool!).

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007


It is very hard for me to accept that, just because I want to do something, choose to do something, it doesn't mean that I can do something.

I would say that I have come to this level of acceptance with fibromyalgia. I would say that, but on reflection, it's not really true. I've managed to ingrain some habits--rest more often, be aware of what I eat, don't try to do some of the things that are far more difficult with fibro--but, on the whole, my main feeling is that I'm just being lazy, if I could just find the willpower, then the pain and fatigue wouldn't keep me from doing the things I know I should do. I suppose it's for the best that I'm not the only adult part, since I would probably manage to push well past the point of collapse.

Perhaps because it's "all in my head" or perhaps just because I've been trying to cope with it for less time, this whole struggle with DID is seeming even more difficult. There isn't something about it that can easily be seen by other people. From the outside, I am just one person. So why, then, do I find it so difficult to get these different parts to just do what I would prefer to be doing?

For a lot of reasons (self-respect, financial security) I really would like to be working. Even though I am dimly aware of the fact that my body won't do it, even if it weren't for the difficulty of coping with where I am in my mental health process, it still feels like I'm being self-indulgent, lazy, selfish. W. has enough on her plate without having to support me financially.

And yet, realistically, I know it's something I can't do. If I can't manage to do routine household tasks, there really isn't any way I could currently pull of working outside the house. But I still feel very guilty about it.

Maybe it's because I used to be able to push myself to do things that, on rational reflection, I shouldn't have been able to do. And if I could pull something off at, say, fourteen, then why can't I do something that's objectively easier at thirty-two?

More than that, there's the struggle of figuring out how to cope with the different parts inside of me. I mean, it's my brain (although, here, I get a chorus of voices insisting that, no, it's their brain too, and I'm not allowed to act like I'm the only one, and so on). But I did always think I was the only one, and felt really guilty or surprised or confused when one of the other parts would show up.

Perhaps because the adults in the system have a pretty good degree of co-consciousness, our experience is more, "This is odd. Why am I doing this when what I thought I wanted to do was that? Why do I enjoy doing this thing, as though it is something I always enjoy, when just yesterday, I couldn't stand to do it at all?"

We, in the system, have always been careful about stating strong opinions. And we've been even more cautious about doing things that indicate there are different people inside. A lot of that, probably, is me. If my job is to pretend everything is normal, then we have to present a united front to the rest of the world.

This makes some things easier. My closet doesn't look "different," because we simply came up with clothing compromises so that the majority of parts would be happy willing to wear the same clothes. I have practiced acting as though it's perfectly normal to have a bunch of different toys, or to have a range of books to read (although several parts have been short-changed in that category, because they like books the others are embarrassed to carry).

But this united front has made it more challenging to cope with the problems (I reluctantly admit) we have. Just because the Analyst can explain why something is happening, just because the adults in the system decide that the goal is to feel better, be responsible, take care of the things we need to take care of.... Just because I know something intellectually doesn't mean it's got a path to carry over to any of the other parts.

And I guess it's not reasonable of me to expect to do all of this "right" the first time I try. That said, it has been my experience in the past. I could decide I would keep working even though I was tired. I could decide I would get into a good college even though I had no idea what I was doing. I would decide I could get sufficient rest from three or four hours of sleep, and convince my body to go along with me.

And because I used to be able to do that, the guilt from not being able to do it now is kind of crushing. It's hard to convince myself that my failure to do the things I feel like I "should" do is not because I am lazy, or selfish, or not trying hard enough. It is because, in fact, I can't do these things right now. I can't stand that. And I can't understand that that's true. And then, I think: If I can't get that, then what must people think of me, when they're not inside and can see how hard I'm trying? Because it doesn't look like I'm trying from the outside, or else I would be succeeding.

I guess trying is not the same as succeeding. But I've had a long experience of, if I just try to do something with my full will behind it, then I will succeed, to one degree or another. And so this repeated failure feels not so much like failure, as failure to try. Because if I tried, I would succeed. I guess that's not really true. But it's still, deep down inside, what feels true.

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Monday, April 02, 2007


Last week, Jamie kept saying something (thinking it loudly, that is) over and over. "I'm 14. What's your excuse?"

At the time, when I overheard it, I figured she was having a mental conversation with W. But this weekend, I realized something. She was probably also talking to us older parts.

And she is right. We are adults, and as such, need to be working with W. to help take care of the younger ones. We are adults, and while our position is somewhat complicated, in that we're inside the same head as Jamie and the other kids, we still have to figure out how we can take on some of the task of setting and maintaining limits.

One hard part has been this: not all of the adults are really ready to completely accept that the DID exists. And so we often feel kind of powerless and overwhelmed when one of the younger parts is fully present. And we (I) have trouble accepting that things are much better when I/we behave as though we really are different people who just happen to share a body.

I mean, how on EARTH could that be something that will lead me to be mentally healthy? It really just seems like it's going to make things worse, acting as though I am separate from Jamie in ways that make it possible for me to do more than shout, over and over, "Don't do what you're doing. Do something ELSE."

And yet... yesterday, the adults in the system decided to behave as though we are separate from each other, and need to work together as a team. We found that it was possible to support W. in coping with Jamie without Jamie participating in that conversation. I think W. felt less alone in coping, and we all felt much better with the results.

When I accept that I have different parts, with their own needs and opinions, things get calmer. It's that simple. Things are better when I act as though there are different parts. But that doesn't make it any easier to accept. I still feel more comfortable with the methods I've used for the rest of my life: choosing how I ought to be, and forcing myself to act that way regardless of other impulses I might have. But that doesn't seem to have worked as a long-term plan.

And I'm thinking perhaps the risks of accepting that we really are separate parts are outweighed by the gains we'll get from doing that. Perhaps I really am better off accepting who I am than trying to force myself to become who I think I should be.


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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Who have you met?

Yeah, two long posts, within minutes of each other. Sometimes that happens. Heck, it even happens when the same part is operating.

Lately, as I've come out to more people about having DID, they've been asking, "So, who are you?" or "Who have I met?" As the post I just wrote shows, this is a complicated question to answer. Much of the time, we're not quite certain ourselves.

So, if you know me, who are you likely to have met?

Well, first, the younger kids rarely come out by themselves around other people. It's hard to pretend you're an adult when you behave and talk like a little kid. They do show up in flashes, but they are not the ones fully in control. But Mandy (who is five or six) and Michelle (who is eight) and Amanda (who is eleven) have spent time around many of my friends, kind of in the background. Mandy is more likely, because Michelle and Amanda are a lot more shy.

The Teller (who is seven) doesn't tend to come out around people other than W. or my therapist, because she was created pretty much to tell someone about what had gone on to cause the DID in the first place. So a combination of long-time habit and general reticence keeps her hidden. More of the younger parts simply don't come out at all unless they're alone or with W. They're the ones who hold more of the direct experience that got me to the point of having DID, and given a choice, they hide pretty much all the time.

You may have seen the Story Girl, but she doesn't really talk much. She reads books and makes up stories of her own. Either her age varies, or there's more than one of her. Sometimes, rarely, she might talk about a book she's read, but she's really shy. Strangely, she's not the only one who reads. However, she is the one who, given a choice, would spend all of her time reading, to the exclusion of anything else. So if you've been around me at a time when I pretty much ignore you to read a book, that's probably her.

Of the teenagers, most of you have had the delight (hrm.) of seeing Jamie's effects on W. Mostly, you haven't met her personally, because as much as possible, we other parts try to keep her from ruining our relationships with other people. If you've been around me pretty recently, since the kids made the decision to "lock up" the grown-ups, you've possibly met Rynn. She's 17, and had previously been known as "the oldest runaway." It's been interesting getting to know her, and watching her make the decision to come out and participate in life. You've probably also met "Somebody," who is fifteen or sixteen, but takes over when there isn't an adult in the system who is capable of coping with something we have to do. She's also not an especially pleasant person, since her primary experience of the world is coping with things that are beyond her abilitities and doing things she'd rather not have to do. She's good at it, that's why she exists, but she's not nice about it.

You're most likely to have spent time interacting with the adults.

If you knew me in college, or in an academic setting, you've spent time with "the smart one." Basically, what she does is show up for discussions about intellectual things. As her name says, she's smart. That's what she does. She's actually pretty outgoing, so long as the topics of conversation are either intellectual or related to being in a classroom. If the discussion moves to something else, she's likely to stop being the one in front, because she doesn't have the information to deal with other parts of life.

You've probably also met the Hip Chyck. She's the outgoing, activist one. People who knew me in my early 20s spent a lot more time with her. She's very political, and spends most of her energy thinking of ways to change the world through social activism. Unlike the smart one, she is more impressed with knowledge for the sake of change than knowledge for its own sake. Plus, she likes to have fun while doing it.

You're perhaps even more likely to have met Cleo. She chose her name as a nod to what the system had been calling her before she was willing to accept that a system existed. That was, "Cleopatra, queen of denial." She chose the name because, in a certain sense, denial isn't always a bad thing, or at least, her role was not always bad. She is the adult who can behave as though everything is all right and under control. She has been learning that it can help to improve my/our situation situation to admit everything is not okay. However, there are times when it's handy to be able to act normally. Life is easier to get through when, sometimes, you function as though everything is fine, even though it isn't. It's sometimes okay to not be holding the knowledge of the abuse, simply because it's far easier to do something else when all of that isn't right there. So another of Cleo's tasks lately has been to figure out how to balance her initial role (denial at all costs) with her new role (holding things together, accepting what's going on, but also living regular life). It's kind of like she abdicated as queen of denial, and is now, I don't know, prime minister of denial. (Okay, I'm vague on the specific political terms, but you know what I mean.)

You're a little less likely to have met the Analyst (that's me), but if you read this blog, many of the posts are mine. My job? I analyze things, obviously. Specifically, I figure out why I or other people do things the way they do, and decide on a course of action that will give the best possible outcome. I try to figure out what does and doesn't work for me, and how to make myself get to the point of being mentally healthy. I tend to intellectualize things, so that I can understand them without feeling the emotional pain that goes along with the knowledge. I'm the one who started therapy, and who generally tended to go to therapy until last fall. This caused a certain amount of confusion, since I'm not exactly good at conveying emotions, and many therapists don't quite grasp that someone who can calmly say, "This thing is going on, and I'm upset about it," really means that they are upset, even if their body language says otherwise. In a lot of ways, I think I'm the grown up version of the Teller. And, like the Teller, mostly what I do is talk (endlessly) about the things I'm observing and trying to understand. It helps all of us that the internal censor has been increasingly less effective, so that we can actually talk about things a little more.

Another of the main adult parts is the Mama. She's pretty much like her name (although not as effective as one might expect in parenting my own internal parts). She does a lot of the nurturing, crafty kinds of things. She's the one who actually gets a lot of pleasure out of doing grocery shopping, housework, and crafty things. She is really good and patient with kids. She's the most pagan of us, and the one who enjoys keeping up with spiritual rituals. She's really grounded and calm. She tends to be a little introverted, but she does come out with people she/we know.

I guess how I will conclude this post is to say this. You may be wondering, "Which one is the real or original J.?" And, so far as I (or any of us) can tell, it's best to think of "J" as a collective term. We are all the real and original J. We'll all answer to that name, and it is still sometimes rather frightening to know for certain 1, who we are in the moment, 2, that other people know who we are, and 3, that someone might call us by a name other than the pre-approved collective name. It's a process. Stay tuned for further updates.

And don't worry. We're not going to get (much) stranger than the person you already know.

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Perhaps you would think that, having recognized that I have DID, and that I have different parts, I could then go on to solve the problem, and everything would be okay. All right, if you are me, you might think that way.

One thing I've been grappling with recently is this reality: my various parts really are separate. More than that, my younger parts really are younger. Jamie, for instance. Despite living in my body, we are talking about a fourteen year old. She has all of the reasoning skills and logic that are apparently normal for fourteen year olds. And when she is strongly present, my own adult logic and analysis of what will happen as a consequence of behavior just isn't going to carry over.

In theory, I was aware of this. I have known for some time that the reason I have such a hard time, despite knowing perfectly well what is causing me problems and how to cope with it, is that this information has not carried over to my various parts.

Pretty much, if only my adult parts were around, we'd be doing all right. Aside from all of us being rather type A and perfectionist, we're pretty mentally healthy. We are capable of trust, we understand how our actions impact our life (lives?). We are able to cope with our feelings, and to move on from mistakes (well, okay, that's an area that even some of the adult parts could use some help with).

But. The younger parts are not there. They are developmentally their own ages. And a normal fourteen year old just isn't going to use the same logic that an adult will. More than that, she cannot be held to the same standards as an adult, or expected to be able to have the same reasoning capacity as an adult. The same, obviously, holds true for the younger parts as well.

Part of why this is difficult for me to grasp is that, due to having these parts separated from me while I was growing up, when I was their age, I was far more adult. I constantly analyzed what was going on, and calmly and rationally made my decisions based on what would have the outcome I wanted. I was good at predicting the appropriate action for each situation. This had a whole lot of benefits. I fought less with my family, I rarely got in trouble, I did quite well in school, and I got to go to well and truly escape the frustrations and pitfalls of being a teenager, particularly of being a teenager in my specific family.

Last week has really brought home a huge part of what it means to have DID. Each part is pretty much like a separate person (not exactly, but, well, I can't put it into words). And each of us really does respond to the world in different ways.

More than that, I've been realizing that it's real. Yeah, this comes up a lot for me, but I guess that's just how I am. And this part of realizing it's real comes with realizing how important it is to get to know each of my parts, and for us to understand both ourselves and each other. It seems simple, but it's harder than you might think.

For one thing, for 32 years, we trained ourselves not to admit to anyone (including ourselves) that we were separate from each other. We never allowed even the merest thought of having different names to enter in, because if we had different names, it would be harder to deny that something had happened. If we were to recognize that there were different parts, we might start poking around inside the brain, and asking questions that were going to cause problems.

For the system to do its job, most of us had to be largely unaware of the full extent of what had happened. And if we knew about each other, we might start to talk. And things slip out when people talk to each other, particularly when they're trying to find out why other people are sharing their brain.

And if we were allowed to behave differently from each other, we might do something that would call attention to the massive secrets we were all carrying. Outsideople might notice that there were different people inside, and start wondering why. So even in matters of clothing and style, pretty much, we decided on one that no one inside had any huge objections to, and stuck with that. Whether or not every part especially likes the clothes, since we spend so much time unaware of our body even when we are in it, clothes we just don't think about were an easier solution. Plus, it saved a great deal of time when getting dressed, because otherwise, different parts would be arguing about what to wear or how to present ourselves to others.

We are only just beginning to accept how just because something happens with our body, it doesn't mean that a particular part was the one who was in charge. And, a lesson that's harder to understand is, it's actually a little important for us to recognize who we are.

I'm not sure why this is difficult. It's harder for the parts whose names are descriptions, rather than names. Like for me. I often don't realize who I am. It would be far easier if we had separate bodies, but we don't. And it would probably be easier if we hadn't spent so long trying to convince the world and ourselves that we are the same person. We're not good liars, so the only way to convincingly tell that particular lie was to believe it ourselves.

So one of our jobs at this point is to start recognizing ourselves and each other. Rationally, I know we'll be much steadier, calmer, happier once this happens. The people who are close to us will be able to recognize who we are, and we'll get to do more of the things we (as individual parts) enjoy. More than that, it will help the less assertive parts to sometimes get some of their needs met, if we're paying attention to who is getting things and who is not.

And it will help to keep parts from behaving unilaterally. Rather than getting to behave like they are the only one, and can make decisions for everyone without consultation, we'll have to accept that we're only part of the system, and can't decide some things without consensus. On the flip side, if we acknowledge to ourselves that we're separate, we can have the opportunity to make choices of our own, and express our own, individual preferences. When asked to make a choice or share our opinions, we won't be too paralyzed with conflicting information to give an answer, and we won't have to stick with the standard system answers, either.

And it will make relationships with outside people less confusing. Mainly, I'm thinking about my/our relationship with W. Within my system, we're not always good at passing on information, so W might have a conversation with a part, who doesn't realize it's important enough to pass on to the others. More often, I think, because we don't identify ourselves individually, if the parts are of a similar age, it can be hard for us to notice when we've switched, and if we don't notice, then there's a tendency for information to get lost. And, sometimes, a part will come in forcefully and disruptively, which will also hinder communication about things the last part present had discussed.

So it's a goal. We're working on it, and I, myself, am working on accepting that just understanding things intellectually doesn't mean I'm magically able to make something true. There is work that has to go on in the space between knowing the answer and making it work for me. Or something like that.

--the Analyst

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