Posts Tagged ‘dissociative disorder’

Artist: Kevin Stanton

Artist: Kevin Stanton

This was a thought provoking article from a DID survivor about her experience with integration: Understanding Integration. I think that most, if not all of us with parts, even if we are not diagnosable with DID, have concerns and questions about integration. She addressed many of mine and has given me a lot to consider about the process. Perhaps my largest questions simply were, “What is integration like? Is it as lonely as it sounds like it would be?”

After reading the article, I find myself feeling like my head is “busy,” as if on several different levels I am evaluating what I have read and trying to form opinions of it. It was long and full of many provocative points, so I have a feeling that I will be processing it for awhile.

What do you all think? Not necessarily of the integration vs. non integration question, but of what she otherwise said about integration? What the process was like. What the benefits were for her. I will admit that at the moment I am very aware of the barriers in my mind and that the flow of information is not smooth or predictable. I am frequently frustrated by my limitations and the idea of my being able to have all of my recent thoughts and memories available is appealing to me.

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Giselle Blythe Thicket

Giselle Blythe

A few weeks ago, my Mama Bear and I started to work through Coping With Trauma Related Dissociation, chapter by chapter. She had me buy it about a year and 1/2 ago and had me read chapters about the window of tolerance, dealing with triggers, and other such topics when I first bought it. She pays attention to when I seem to be resistant to something that she suggests, so we didn’t spend much time on it and we definitely stayed away from the chapters that were specifically about parts. When she suggested starting at the beginning and going through the entire book, I liked the idea and was even a bit excited at the thought of starting to get a handle on what is going on inside.

However, since starting to work on the book, I have found it increasingly difficult to talk about my parts at all. It’s even gotten to the point where it’s affecting my relationship with Mama Bear. I admitted to her today that a large part of me “doesn’t want to talk to you ever again. I just want to hide.” When she asked me if I realized that I was speaking from a frightened child part and not my “fuller self”, I said yes (even I could hear that in my voice.) But I just couldn’t access anywhere in me that could comfort the child.

It’s like since I started to work on the book, things have just gotten harder. I find myself very much not wanting to accept that I have parts at all and I will think from that place sometimes, hoping that I can go back to dealing with things the way that I used to. It’s like there is an odd time warp and I can feel myself thinking and perceiving things the way that I did 4 years ago, when I had firmly shut away all of the parts and kept them “asleep.”

It has become much more difficult to talk to my Mama Bear about anything, really, but especially anything that I perceive as being parts related. I am less able to comfort frightened or hurt child parts than I used to be. It seems like there is more chaos inside. I am spending more time dissociated, even though I don’t know what I am so upset about that I am dissociating. I almost never lose time, but I’m discovering that I am losing bits and pieces, because my daughter tells me that I’ve said things that I don’t remember or I’ll have an experience of “skipping” between places along the route that I am driving. It isn’t like I’m falling apart, but it is like deliberately starting to look at the parts precipitated a bit of a crisis inside of me.

Today, I told my T how much trouble I am having talking about the parts at all and her response was, “Even though you have been talking about them for years?” But it’s like before they were just this odd thing that I experienced. I simply coexisted with them, tried to help them feel safer, and sometimes ‘listened’ to what they ‘said’. Now I’m thinking about trying to understand them. Trying to understand what I look like inside/ how many different parts there are/ who they are/ what their needs and concerns are. I’m also looking at trying to communicate with them deliberately. Frankly, I am scared out of my skull. I don’t know what’s there.

My T has been reassuring/reminding me that even though the parts may feel like “other”, they really are all parts of the whole of me. However, it’s just so frightening to have so much of me hidden from me in all of these pieces that just aren’t under my control. What is going to come out? Am I going to remember things that I really don’t want to remember? How am I going to tolerate actually feeling the emotions that these parts hold? How can I make it through looking around and seeing all of the different parts of me that were hurt that badly?

For those of you who deal with parts, what was it like when you finally started to really deal with having the parts in a deliberate manner? What helped to make the process feel safer for you?

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Katie Pasquini Masopust Riohondo

Katie Pasquini
Masopust Riohondo

Mama Bear and I have decided to change up how we are using our session time, for now. We are working through “Coping With Trauma-Related Dissociation” chapter by chapter, using one of the two sessions each week. There is a lot that is going on inside of me, much of which I simply don’t have a handle on. I don’t fully understand how things work inside of me and I am afraid of most of what I do understand.

Something from the first chapter that made a great deal of sense to me was a theory of the etiology of dissociation: Children are born unintegrated. They do not yet have either the brain development or the experience to have developed a coherent sense of self. It’s more like they are pockets of experiences, sensations, emotions, needs, etc.. If they are raised in a “good enough” environment, where they have caregivers that are able to attend to their needs and they do not experience traumatic events, over time they tie all of these separate pieces together into a more or less coherent whole by around age 5. For instance, a baby experiences frustration when she has something taken away from her and she gets angry and cries. When the parent mirrors “I understand that you’re angry Sweetie, but you can’t pull on the lamp cord, it isn’t safe,” the parent helps the child to link together the physical sensations of anger, the emotion of anger, the cognition of what just happened, and provide a context as to why she this wonderful thing was taken away from her. Then if the parent hands her a pull toy on a cord and says, “Here, you can pull on this. See, the doggy comes to you,” that parent then helps the child to successfully transition from an angry/frustrated state to one where she is exploring something else interesting. The parent is helping the child to learn to be resilient and develop coping skills.

These sorts of experiences needs to be repeated thousands of times over the course of early childhood. When that happens, the brain makes certain connections that allows the child to be able to identify with her emotions (even if she can’t actually name them) “That’s an angry feeling.” She is able to identify what her experience is, “Bobby hit me.” She knows her response, “I want to hit him, but I also know that I’m not supposed to.” Things may still be fairly loosely tied together, but by this point, the basis for a unified personality has been established. The brain has learned how to create the connections that tie together a person’s experience of behaviors, emotions, sensations, and cognitions.

On the other hand, if the child is exposed to chronic trauma during those same years, particularly if the caregivers are the source of the trauma or at the very least do not have the capability to provide a “good enough” developmental and attachment experience for the child, something very different happens. When a young child is exposed to terror, pain, and experiences that they simply can’t understand, their brain can’t put them together in the same coherent way that the child who was angry did. When they are left alone to deal with such overwhelming experiences, the brain can’t achieve the developmental task of piecing things together into a whole that belongs to the child. In fact, joining them together probably only increases the distress. So the child is left with the experience being separated into its various components. This separation of experience is dissociation. When the child is subjected to trauma after trauma and is never given a chance to process what has happened or get any help with dealing with such experiences that seem to blast the mind, the mind learns to turn to dissociation as a coping mechanism and dissociative parts begin to be formed. The more that this is done, the more firmly the parts are established and a dissociative disorder is developed.

The degree to which the dissociative disorder develops seems to depend on many things, including internal factors, such as the biochemistry of the individual, mitigating factors, such as the intervention of any bit of support or assistance along the way, and compounding factors, such as the severity, frequency, and age at which the abuse started.

Having the development of complex dissociative disorders explained to me in these terms finally made sense to me, when it hadn’t ever quite made sense before. In that way, it was reassuring- this was the response of a normal brain to an extremely abnormal situation. But at the same time, it was very challenging: my brain works this way because I was repeatedly traumatized at an early age and I didn’t get any help dealing with it. And so a bit more of the denial that a corner of me holds on to crumbled away.

I felt furious and I wrote to Mama Bear: “I am so angry and have so much grief that my members of my family hurt and failed me so badly that I’m left with a brain that chronically dissociates. That I wasn’t taught better ways to cope and I was so overwhelmed by the abuse over and over that this is the best that my brain could do for me. And here I a decades later still trying to put the pieces back together.

“I am angry because this isn’t something that I’ve pretended or somehow created. This isn’t playacting. It isn’t a case of if ‘I only try hard enough I can make it all go away.’ This is real. It isn’t accidental. There’s no, “Oops, now how’d you get a dissociative disorder?” It isn’t because there is something intrinsically wrong with me. It isn’t because I’m crazy. It is because members of my family hurt me that badly time and again.”

There’s that part of me that would rather that everything was my fault, that somehow I caused everything. But that isn’t what happened. I didn’t cause it; I’ve just been struggling to deal with it for most of my life. As weird as I feel for having these parts, the problem isn’t me. It isn’t that I have the parts or that I experience things in this odd way. It’s not that the way that I kept sane was to not allow these parts to come together. The problem is that the men who were supposed to protect me instead hurt, terrified, and shamed me so badly that I thought that I was going to die with my grandfather and it simply felt unbearable with my father.

I don’t want for it to be real. But it is real. The only good thing about it being real is that if it is, then I’m not imaging the fact that what I’m doing is helping. I can keep on getting help to deal with it all. I can keep on getting better. And maybe one day I will feel myself as more of a whole that can work together, rather than these separate, hurting parts.

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