Archive for January, 2015


I have been so tired lately, even when I have gotten enough sleep. It’s as if there is nothing left over after I deal with what is going on internally and the bare basics of what to be done for my family. The house is a disaster and has been for almost two months. My daughter is bored, because ever since Winter Break, I have crashed for a nap soon after I pick her up after school. And that often is after I take a nap in the morning. I feel guilty, but I am running on empty.

I saw my psychiatrist today (who has experience working with dissociative disorders) and we spent some time talking about how I have been experiencing increased parts activity internally and trying to get a handle on the emergence of external parts activity. (By that I mean I’m experiencing parts being in control of my actions.) This is new for me and frankly rather freaky. It’s also somewhat alarming, because I’m not in control of the process and yesterday I found myself with a very underage part increasingly taking control, while I was driving. I begged for another 4 blocks to get home and did get us home safely, but it was a close call.

We talking about how I am managing, but I am feeling like I am in it to over my eyebrows and I feel like I have nothing left to do anything that isn’t absolutely necessary right then. I asked if a recent med change might be causing decreased energy levels and she was very sympathetic, but clear that my problem simply is that my brain is running at capacity trying to manage all of the parts, figure out internal communication, come up with some way to manage the parts starting to emerge into the world, after hiding away for so long, and deal with over the top intense emotions and memories.

She did hold out hope, though. As the communication improves, eventually I will either start to integrate parts and the load will decrease that way or I will find that parts can take on some tasks and the load can be shared. Honestly, I’m intimidated by the thought of the second option. It’s hard for me to imagine what that would be like, since my parts have always been ‘behind’ me (other than in sessions) up until now. I never thought that I would have to deal with them emerging into the world, but it’s starting to happen, so I really don’t know what will happen.

One benefit to my talk with the psychiatrist is that I stopped feeling so guilty about ‘getting so little done’. If I have nothing left, I have nothing left. Period. No feeling like I ‘should’ be doing more. As Dr. L said, first priority is safety. (No three year old driving the car.) Next is taking care of basic needs and for right now, that means dealing with what is going on internally for me. The house can wait. The house has to wait. I continue giving my daughter what I can, as often as I can, and even though it isn’t nearly what either of us would want and I am sure that I will hear about it 10 years from now, for now the reality is that it’s the best that I can do. My husband loses out the most, I’m afraid, but at least I can be mindful about the situation and try to do more hugs or sit next to him on the couch more often. If I stop beating myself up over not doing enough, then I can pay attention to doing the little things that are possible.

I do hope that I make it through this drained dry stage soon, though. This is the most extreme that it’s ever been for me. I need to have a bit of energy left over to get back to being able to do some more of that living again.

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Trigger warning- references to teen sexual abuse and a part’s way of dealing with such

So, I have been having a very hard time over the last several weeks. I have been dealing with difficult material in regards to my father in addition to some anniversary effects related to my grandfather. What I haven’t mentioned so far is that my dog has developed untreatable cancer. She has a 6 inch tumor in her right lung that has metastasized to multiple organs. It is a very aggressive form of cancer and she doesn’t have long to live. There is an immense amount of grief over this impending loss in our household.

Therapy has been difficult. I have been encountering resistance from some parts to going to therapy. I hear wails of, “I don’t wanna go!” when I need to get up and get dressed so I can go to my sessions. As a result, I have started to be one or two minutes late regularly, sometimes even three or four minutes late, when in the past I have always been there when the previous client leaves her office. In addition, parts have been throwing up barriers more often, making it harder for Mama Bear and me to connect.

Last weekend, I wrote something which I sent by email to Mama Bear. It got to the core of what I am most ashamed of about my experiences with my father. I won’t go into all of the details, but if I can trust my mind, my dad continued to have sex with me until I was 15. At that point I was completely aware of how horribly wrong it was, but I also felt that I had no choice in the matter. I also was at a point developmentally when I was at an age where my body was more ready to feel sexual feelings and I normally would have been dealing with sexual thoughts and urges. A part of me seems to have developed to deal with the impossible stresses of everything that I was dealing with in regards to my dad in combination with the biochemical developmental stresses. For her, my father wasn’t my father, my father was ‘Him’. She didn’t think about what was going on, she just felt the sensations, because none of the rest of me could tolerate the terrible tension between the mental agony and the physical pleasure when my dad had sex with me at that age. It wasn’t always pleasurable, but he could make it very much so.

It has taken me years and years to get to the point where I can begin to look at this part and what her role was. From ‘my’ broader, more experienced, more compassionate point of view, I can start to see how such a part would have developed and how her presence would have helped to hold the rest of me together. Even with her there, bleeding off some of the strain, things could be almost unbearable. At the same time, though, my mind wants to reject the very possibility of her existence and say that it just seems like something out of a sick fantasy.

Once I told Mama Bear about this part by email, I fell apart even more. I remember that I called her over the weekend because “there is a part that you haven’t met in person yet who needs to know that you will listen to her.” My sleep deteriorated to an even worse state than it had been before. I felt like I was wandering around in a dissociative fog with a constant underlying layer of terror.

I got to my session 5 minutes late that Tuesday, which is later than I have ever been, unless I am in another appointment that is running late or something. The reason that I was so late was because I had been dealing with a swirl of parts that desperately did not want to go to the session. I walked into the session still partially in that dissociative swirl. A corner of me noticed that something seemed to be kind of off with Mama Bear, but the rest of me was caught in that swirl and ready to talk with her about the sleep issues which where making me feel pretty desperate.

The session was kind of odd. We made some progress, but I never felt fully there the entire session and that corner of me felt that something was off with Mama Bear the entire time, even though that part was far enough back that I couldn’t have articulated the concern at that time.

That evening, though, I became more and more certain that something was terribly wrong between me and Mama Bear. I was sure that she was angry with me about something. Then I realized that I was certain that I had either completely disgusted her with what I had emailed to her or that she had decided that what I had said was so unbelievable that she was going to turn her back on me. I was sorry that I had trusted her with what I had written and certain that I had messed up our relationship. I felt terribly alone and started to think that I wouldn’t even be able to ever see her again. Writing this out now, I can see how far fetched these fears were. For one thing, after I sent her that email, when I spoke to her on the phone, she reassured my parts that she would talk to absolutely any parts that wanted to talk to her, no matter what they had to say. She knew what she was freely committing to. Even if she did not believe that things happen exactly that way, she has said before that confusion in parts isn’t a reason to reject them, it’s another reason to help them.

However, on Tuesday evening, I wasn’t thinking clearly. I was too caught up in my fear of abandonment. I was thinking clearly enough to recognize that my thinking was distorted, though. I realized that I could either check out with her whether there really was a problem or I could let myself become more and more miserable and certain that things were over with Mama Bear.

I did the right thing, I sent her an email, although it was late enough that it didn’t reach her until the next morning, right before she left for work.

“I wrote a whole long email that was mostly about other things which I’m not sure whether to send or not.

I also asked a question in a much more sophisticated way than I’m going to now. Am I on trouble? I feel in trouble. Something feels wrong with you and did in the session. Some part, I guess a protector just wants to hide myself away from you because I’m afraid that I’m being rejected.

And I’m sorry that I’m so much trouble, that I can’t just be quietly cooperative and easy to deal with.”

Her response was:

I just got this and can not respond further right now other than to say no; you are not in trouble with me. I think that is what you were asking. You may be upset with me for redirecting the discussion when you were unable to speak. You are not sleeping well and there are other ways to help you, other than to go deep into all the parts.

Her response helped. At least I had her assurance that nothing was terribly wrong, but I still had the feeling that something was off.

A bit later, she texted me:

C, this may be an opportunity to ask adult/present self whether I was being hurtful.. If not, bring some reassurance to the child.

To which I replied:

Hi. No you weren’t unkind. But something felt off the whole session. Can believe it was from….. My disorientation from dealing with so much inner turmoil from the get go.

And her final reply:

OK, we will discuss more. For now, use your adult/present self to help yourself calm. And, yes, much going on for you. Come as much…..on time as possible so that we have as much time as possible.

Aha. There had been something. She had been bothered to some extent by my being late. Mystery solved. Normally I would feel ashamed for “getting in trouble” about something like this, but this time I was able to look at it and see it as a normal, everyday problem. It was a relief to have it be something that I could relatively easily do something about. After all, I agree with her that we need every minute of each session. Ideally, the sessions would be 15-30 minutes longer.

I had indeed correctly sensed that something was off, but I was so primed by the huge shame topic that I was ready to attribute any relational issues with Mama Bear to what I had shared with her. The reality was that what I had shared had not created any problems between us from her side, but it certainly had created problems from my side. While the rupture between us had been a perception that pretty much was all in my head, it still had been painful and left me feeling less secure in my relationship with her.

I could either stay where I was and wait until the next session to try to get things on sounder footing again, or I could take a chance and share some of the thoughts that I had previously written out and see where that took me. I have the luxury of having met Mama Bear over 20 years ago and while the work that we have done over the last 3 years is far deeper than anything we ever did the previous times we worked together, I have seen time and again that she has my best interests at heart, despite whatever my parts might fear. I decided to take the risk.

For some reason, Mama Bear decided to write back more than she normally does. We used to get into trouble with my misinterpreting her email responses, so she decided that it would be best to keep any meaty responses to our sessions. This time she responded to each point that I made though and her genuine affection for me and wish more my well being came through clearly. Somehow, that response just eased all of the worries that my parts had left. What I had told her really hadn’t changed the way that she felt about me. My fear was that I was going to be left all alone with my shame, but the reality is that I am not at all alone.

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Trigger warning: There are references to rape and talk about how my sexualized traumatized parts function.

I struggle with sleep and have for many years. Really, I have struggled with it periodically for as long as I can remember. The last three years have been particularly bad, with it getting worse and worse over the last year. At this point, I am just plain exhausted.

Because of my severe sleep issues, doctors have had me on an antidepressant with the side effect of drowsiness (Trazadone) for years. Most of the time, this will allow me to get to sleep to start with, but first I have to force myself to get into bed, which sounds like it should be simple, but isn’t really. And then there is the little matter of staying asleep once I fall asleep. It simply doesn’t happen these days. And then there is the matter of the dreams…

I used to feel really badly about needing a sleep aid and I kept on taking myself off of it, thinking that I would just grit my teeth through the transition and surely my body would eventually get tired enough that it would give up and sleep on its own. I spent multiple vacations going around in a sleep deprived, cranky haze, attempting this, but I never stopped waking at the slightest sound or movement in my room, especially during that falling asleep phase. Eventually I conceded that the PTSD startle reflexes were just too strong and it wasn’t a matter of ‘learning to sleep on my own’; I was simply too easily stimulated into a startle reflex while I was falling asleep. There is a place for sleep aids, because long term sleep deprivation is harmful physically and psychologically. Everyday psychological stability is hard to maintain while sleep deprived, but heavy duty psychotherapy with parts can become all but impossible when I am too sleep deprived.

Getting into bed is where I seem to be having the greatest difficulty these days. It has taken me a very long time to come to the point where I can start to look honestly at what is contributing to this problem. In the past, I have tried to say, “X is the problem” and then just leave it at that. For instance, “I am afraid to go to bed.” Yes, there is fear, but what is the fear about? How do I address it? Is it current day fear, or is it fear based on the past?

For whatever reason, I simply was not looking at how much of my difficulty with getting into bed was parts driven, even though I should know by now that when I have an intractable, long term problem, I should take a look at whether parts are involved in some way, because they almost always are. Over the last several days, I have come to recognize that not only are parts driving this problem, but there are multiple parts involved.

There is the part who is afraid to get into bed because she is afraid that she will wake up with someone on top of her, assaulting her. I think that this has been an underlying fear all of these years that I never allowed myself to acknowledge. Some time in the last couple of weeks, the memories that this fear is based on have started to rise to the surface in bits and pieces. Last night, I had a bit of a breakthrough, though. The part who has this fear realized that my husband knows to not even touch me when I am asleep. He would never, ever do what she is afraid might happen. She realized that not only is she safe from my husband, but if she should come awake to someone assaulting her, it’s OK now for her to fight as hard as she can to protect herself. She doesn’t have to allow herself to be raped in her own bed now. I am not in the ’80s, I am in 2015 and it is safe for me to protect myself now.

Then there is the part that is just angry at me and doesn’t think that I deserve to be taken care of. It’s so incredibly angry at me for having a body. If I didn’t have a body, then I wouldn’t have been hurt. It’s all my body’s fault. There is so, so much rage and a desire to destroy. A desperate wish that my body could be made to go away. An even more desperate desire to go back in time and obliterate my body, so it couldn’t have felt anything. She feels panicked at the thought that I should be compassionate towards my body, because she just wants to reject my body because it feels so dangerous.

Something else is going on that is similar, but not quite the same: the belief that I am not worthy of being taken care of. There is a sense that I am so worthless that I am not worth the effort of overcoming all of the pressures to keep me out of bed. I am not worthy of being protected and comforted so that I can sleep. I just have to learn how to deal with it.

I also have the parts that are afraid to get into bed when my husband is in bed and still awake. He has problems with insomnia, so it can take quite a long time for him to get to sleep. These are parts that are afraid that he might make any sort of sexual advances at all. They know that he won’t attack me, but it is like they are programmed to go into action as soon as he touches me with any sexual interest. These parts aren’t always this active, but at the moment they are right there at the surface. In the rules that they exist by, there are two of them, because it was too big of a job for one; this way they can take turns. They have to do whatever they sense that the man that they are with wants and they have to act like they want it. I can’t quite tell if one of them actually holds being able to somewhat want what is happening and the other holds not wanting it or if both of them go back and forth, but I believe that the truth is that they really don’t want sex. They are too young for it. Closeness, yes, but absolutely nothing that makes them feel sexual feelings. Those times when I have had sex with my husband over the last year or two, when I have been able to recognize the presence of these parts, I have just wanted to hide my face and cry during the act. If he would sense that something was off and ask me if I was ok, I used to be able to get away with telling him that I was ok and just avoid looking at him. Eventually I realized that I couldn’t keep on doing that to myself, so one day when I wasn’t in one of those parts, I told him that if I won’t meet his eye, then there is a problem, no matter what I say. Fortunately, he wants to help me stay safe and he has no interest in having sex with traumatized parts, not even cooperative ones. The man now makes sure to look into my eyes, unless the lights are out (which is the next thing that I need to tackle.)

There may be more going on than just these four things, but it think that they are the four strongest forces at work right now: a fear of waking up to being assaulted, a self punishing aspect, a feeling not deserving help, and a fear of sexual advances. I guess that it’s more than enough. My feeling is that if I can deal with them enough to get myself to a place where I feel safe enough to go to bed without a fight, then the problems with the dreams and waking up also will ease. It will have to help. Anyways, just getting into bed is the first step.

Sleep. It’s such a basic need. I wish that is was simple to satisfy that need once you have been traumatized, especially once you have been woken up out of your sleep to be traumatized. I have to fix this problem, though, or at least make it better. I can’t go on this way.

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“The memories… The memories that came back of what happened…” My words failed me and I just looked at Mama Bear and shuddered.

We were talking about what had happened the previous evening when I had been hit by memories of being abused by my grandfather during Christmas break when I was 10. My daughter is 10 now. That was the age when I was sent to live with my mom’s mom and also spend a significant amount of time with my dad’s parents for 2 1/2 months, while my mother joined my father in Asia. If I remember correctly, I spent that Christmas break living with my dad’s parents, since my grandfather was on disability and home, but my mom’s mom had to work during the break. It seems that my daughter turning 10 had created a significant sort of anniversary effect and underneath everything else going on over her Winter break this year, I was dealing with this trauma, in addition to the traumas with my dad that I knew that I was talking about. No wonder I was barely functional at times during the previous 2 or 3 weeks.

Mama Bear looked at me compassionately, but there seemed to be a trace of ‘here we go again’ in her voice. “So what did you do to help remind yourself that you were in 2015 and safe in your home?” It was our normal routine- go through and figure out what I could have done to help myself get through the experience and not get stuck in it. It’s frustrating for both of us to have to it over and over, but it does work. I’m slowly learning how to have responses that help myself deal better with the memories, rather than my original patterns which would take me deeper into the memories.

And all of that work had paid off this time, I didn’t have the problems that she thought that I had had. I shook my head, “No, you don’t understand. I didn’t get stuck in the memories. They were miserable, but I was mostly outside of them. I did ok with that. The problem is dealing with the memories themselves. How can they be? How can anyone treat a child like that? How can they be possible? They make me feel like I must be crazy.”

She sighed a bit. “Crazy? Back to crazy again? Please spare yourself that!” I just looked at her. “C., there are some things that you are clear happened, some things that you think probably happened, and other things that you just aren’t sure about. So this memory falls in the not sure about category and that is OK, but we are sure that what happened with your grandfather was extremely traumatic. That is what is most important here, not being sure whether what you remembered “really” happened. And certainly not feeling crazy because you were highly traumatized. Don’t do that to yourself.”

She looked at me with concern, obviously hoping to forestall my starting down the path of doubting whether I could trust anything that my mind told me. It’s a path that I have been down all too many times.

She continued, “Besides, what happened had to have been wildly confusing to you. You probably didn’t understand what was going on.”

I thought back to the memory, groaned, and nodded my head emphatically. I know that I didn’t understand what was happening. I have only been able to piece together what I think happened, using my adult knowledge along with my traumatic memories as a 10 year old. I could be misinterpreting exactly what happened, but Mama Bear was right, I was positive that what happened was one of the most traumatic experiences that I ever had, whether what I thought had happened actually was what had happened or not.

In that session, eventually, I was able to go on and provide caring and comfort to the young me who had endured this traumatic experience. In doing so, I could feel that young part begin to relax and come into the safer here and now.

Over the next day or two, other bits of memories came into my mind, all bizarre, all of the type that tend to make me doubt whether I can trust my mind, all of them starting to make me feel as though I must be “crazy.” I would think back on what Mama Bear had said, though, and how I knew in my gut that I wasn’t crazy. Yes, there was a twisted mind behind these memories, but that mind wasn’t mine, it was my grandfather’s. I can choose to not worry about understanding exactly what happened in these memories and accept that the emotional content is accurate, even if the circumstances were so confusing that I could be remembering them incorrectly. What matters most in those cases is that I accept the memories of how it felt and help to pull those parts of me out of the nightmares that they have been stuck in for decades. There are some memories that I am more clear about that I will need to process directly, but for a large part, he left me with an overwhelming burden of terrorized parts that simply need to be cared for in the way that I have been learning to do lately.

I can do that. I can set aside the escape of calling myself “crazy” and take up the task of saving these parts who had no one to save them all of those years ago.

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Trigger warning! I am far more graphic about the abuse in this post than I normally am. Please read with care.

The following is an email that I wrote to Mama Bear the day after the the session in Learning to Nurture Parts. The 6 year old part that I talk about is the very, very needy one that I worked with in that session.

I wouldn’t normally post this, but I am so freaking tired of being quiet about what happened. That quiet is why children keep on being abused. No one wants to believe that the ever likable, respectable military officer is sexually using his daughter in such a way. Such things only happen to “those other people”, right? Well, no!!! Dammit!!! These things can happen in any neighborhood, any social group. And perpetrators can be just like my father. They can have an astonishingly good facade. Much of the time, my parents wished that they had my parents.

Pieces have come together over the last day, many of which I had seen before but didn’t know where they belonged. They belong to the part from yesterday who is 6 and very, very hurt.

There was a period when my dad would abuse me when he was angry. It seems like there had been no abuse for awhile (I know that we were apart for a couple of months, but this feels longer) and it also seems that when it started again, there was no memory of it and I was completely bewildered on top of everything else. At least, that is the way that this part feels.

Because he was angry, it was like he wanted to hurt me. He did. One of my distinctions between him and my grandfather is that my grandfather generally used things and my father generally used parts of his body. But what I remember now is that during this period, when he was angry, he would use things. I kept on seeing items from my toy box. The physical memory that came with it was of something being used too hard and going in too far and hurting in the way that I couldn’t let myself feel. The only thing that I can call what happened is rape. He didn’t use his penis, but that is what the experience was.

No wonder this part is in such need of extra special tender care in order to even begin to show herself.

How the hell did I survive so much trauma? I know. Dissociation. But still, I’m just experiencing parts of what I lived through and the intensity of those bits is unbelievable. I get to escape it to a safe now, but I could only part way escape in my mind then. The now me is going in and out of feeling so much anger at my father for putting a 6 year old girl through a rape type experience. Six. Using toys. I keep on seeing the arms and legs taken off my doll and I remember figuring out how to put them back on. I hope that I was just taking them off because I needed to express something and that’s why I’m seeing them now. Not that he was using them.

At least I can hold that child part in a safe place now, no matter what she tells me. And even though remembering things last night was hard, I didn’t get stuck then and there.

I’m angry. We’ve talked about how I don’t need to remember everything. Thank goodness, or I think that I might be dealing with memories for the rest of my life. My mind does seem to need to deal with the major things, though. Even that is a lot. A hell of a lot. I’ll make it through it, but this is a pretty sucky hand to have been dealt.

I continue to be in shock as to what is sinking in deeper and deeper. This all really happened. My father raped me. He raped me with things. He raped me with his penis. He raped me with his tongue. It is beyond horrible. It defines intolerable. I understand now why the dissociation was so complete and it has taken so long to get to this point.

It is so difficult to allow myself to feel what it was like to be the girl who was trapped and knew that these things would happen over and over. I believed that I had no possibility of escape, whatsoever. I am so angry that I was the one who had to deal with whatever caused my father to hurt me so much.

More than anything, I wish that I could go back in time, take my mother by the shoulders and shake her hard, yelling, “Look at what your husband is doing to your daughter! Really look!!! And deal with it, damn it! You are the adult here, don’t leave your child to deal with it alone!”

I’m past wishing that the situation could have magically disappeared and everything had been as good as my family pretended. Now I just wish that I had my mother’s help dealing with the ugly reality. I needed her help to stop him and I really needed for her to hold and love me and help me heal.

Thinking about my father is so confusing. Part of it is because as bad as he was, my grandfather was worse as an abuser, so I am always thinking, “at least he wasn’t as bad as his father.” But considering that means that I am comparing my father to a sadist, that still leaves lots of room for awful behavior. Part of it is because I still have that image of the “perfect family” in the back of my mind, even though I know that it was a mirage. Part of it is that I have young parts that want to be able to love him. Part of it is because I also saw that ever so charming man who is everyone’s friend and ever so helpful. The man who helps his next door neighbor dig fence holes on his 70th birthday. The man who gives a car to a neighbor who needs one. How can this man be the same one who raped his daughter?

But I’m starting to accept that my father really did have a very dark side. That his continuing to abuse me, even when it hurt me, wasn’t just selfish, it was cruel. I have been telling myself, “But he didn’t intend to hurt me. My grandfather intended to hurt me, so this was better.” How much better was it, really? As Mama Bear pointed out to me, “He didn’t try to protect [me] from himself.”. He is the one who hurt me; no one else made those choices for him. Logically, I can see that the conclusion that he was cruel is the obvious one, but I’m not yet at the point where I can include that in my definition of my. It’s coming, though. He is a different cruel from my grandfather. More cruel by default and because his desires matter more than the welfare of others than cruel by goal.

I keep on coming back to the most important fact here, though. He raped me as a child. What he and my grandfather put me through could have destroyed me. I can feel that when I get close to some of the memories- I remember what it felt like to have my mind so close to shattering. Thank goodness I have what Mama Bear calls a ‘talent for dissociating’ because I believe that it and a certain base provided by my mother are what allowed me to survive.

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