DID Posts: My Beef with how TV portrays people with DID

This is one time when I wish I had already upgraded my WordPress membership to a Premium account.  Then I’d be able to link to YouTube videos too.  But, the alters really want to get this post out now, so here goes…

TV as a distraction & affirmation of Good winning over Evil most of the time

I admit it.  I love watching certain procedurals and investigative TV shows.  They remind me that the justice system really does work more often than not, and that some police and/or law enforcement are trustworthy.

What I am not comfortable with is how many of these shows portray people with DID as serial killers, murderers, victims of their mental illness, or violent criminals while not portraying how they could also be victims of crime, witnesses, or minor suspects who end up helping solve the case instead.

So why discuss this now?

Because we’ve been binge watching/listening to Criminal Minds Seasons 1-12 and watching episodes of Hawaii 5-0 as background noise to distract from a noisy neighbor.  In Hawaii 5-0 only one alter in the system was a murderer.  But the way the psychologist described how the different alters appear to people seemed off.  Not all of hosts are submissive or appear submissive.  Not all of the protectors are violent or take on the worst characteristics of their abusers.  And I’m not sure that in every case of DID, the host is not responsible for what the other alters say or do.

And generalizing like that could cause more damage to how people with DID are treated in the outside world than anyone realizes.  As for Criminal Minds, the diagnosis is used as information in the profiles with respect and sensitivity, but most of the characters with DID end up being murderous or some other type of dangerous criminal/victim.

What We All Wish for

That these procedural shows and others treat DID and other so-called trauma-based mental illnesses with the respect, acceptance, and sensitivity NICS has done with PTSD and PTS for civilians, active duty military, and veterans on its show.  Not that NCIS is perfect because it’s not.  But many of the recent episodes dealing with trauma and trauma-related issues have been treated with care instead of being disregarded or looked down on or considered unreliable witnesses, etc.

On the Other Hand….

We are all grateful that shows like these are addressing issues of trauma, anxiety disorders, and other issues that usually get brushed off in mainstream television.  In spite of some errors or (in my opinion) erroneous generalizations, these shows also portray main characters with abusive or traumatic incidents in their pasts as admirable, compassionate, strong, ethical, successful individuals at work, in intimate relationships, and with family.

Final Thoughts

While I am upset about how people with DID get characterized in many of these shows, I am grateful that people are interested enough in learning about the disorder to use it as part of their episode plots.

Darkness and Silence really wish we could upgrade sooner instead of later because then they can FINALLY write their post about SSA Derek Morgan on Criminal Minds.  For any male survivors of sexual assault/abuse, you might want to look up his story line and watch Season 8, Episode 18 in particular.

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge: Self Soothing is Positive instead of Negative

Background

I struggle with self soothing.  My alters, especially my child and adolescent ones, struggle with self soothing.  We all had questions about what that term meant.  Some of us still have questions like:

  • What is self soothing?
  • How is it different from self care?
  • Why is self-soothing a positive coping strategy?
  • How does it work?
  • Can you provide examples?

My adult self tried to apply answers from a variety of sources, but the suggestions triggered anger, fear, shame, and grief.  Then panic attacks.  So I avoided thinking about self soothing until recently.

Present Day

Physical pain requires other types of coping strategies.  Strategies that trigger me and cause fear or anger to manifest into panic attacks or worse – self-harm.  Unfortunately for me, those same strategies are tried and true for body memories.  These strategies include:

  • Trauma sensitive yoga
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • Self-soothing
  • Movement or exercise therapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

sensorimotor psychotherapy does work and can be useful, but requires a lot of trust between the client & counselor.  It also requires the client to be at a certain level of recovery with support in place for any increased symptoms.  Deirdre Fay is one of the foremost practitioners.  Her work is great; I tried one of her online workshops, but wasn’t ready for it yet.  Maybe you will be.  I recommend doing your own research and talking with a professional before trying any of her programs.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Trauma sensitive yoga is something I recently started once a month.  Our first session was great.  I learned a lot and am hopeful this will help with my physical symptoms in  a variety of ways.  But more on  this later, after I’ve had another session and more time to try the practice at home too.

Exercise & Movement Therapy

Bessel Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as his number one form of movement therapy.  But drama, dance, martial arts, tai chi, or any form of gentle, meditative movement can produce similar results.  What matters most with this type of therapy is A) doing something the victim/survivor/partner/loved one enjoys; and B) choosing an instructor or group that feels safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive.  A strong support system to help out when symptoms increase or triggers start to overwhelm is important too.

Self-Soothing Coping Technique

Self Soothing has been a struggle to define and understand up until the past month or so.  My current counselor/therapist helped me understand that my child and adolescent alters define self-soothing as hurting others or being destructive/aggressive to feel better.  That is what they learned from their providers and caretakers.  And a volunteer on the hotline defined self soothing as: a conscious act of choosing self care and comfort instead of destruction, aggression, blaming, or self-harm.

What do you think of the

The Challenge

Re-learning that Self Soothing is positive and means comforting myself instead of hurting myself or others.

Helping my child and adolescent alters understand and accept this so that they can use the self soothing too.

Discovering all of the ways self soothing can help with muscle pain, body memories, and physical discomfort in order to build a tool box of useful strategies for present and future use.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the strategies that can help us most are the scariest and most challenging to learn.  I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid of my body.  I am afraid of my appearance.  I am afraid of the sound of my voice.  I am afraid of showing my face on this blog or any social media.

That fear gets in the way of doing most positive actions or tasks to help me feel better.  Instead of moving, everything freezes.  I freeze.  They freeze.  We all freeze into paralysis.  Can’t move our body.

But if you’ve learned anything about our system, you might remember how stubborn and persistent we are.  And so all parts of us are talking with our current counselor/therapist to work on this.  In another week or two, maybe we will share the results of our new practice.

What scares you?  How helpful or harmful would it be?

May all of you who read this find ways to choose self care and support instead of self-harm or harm to others when triggered.

Thanks for reading

 

Quotes & Affirmations: Empathy & Acceptance

Last post I shared a quote from Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh featuring the heroine. This post’s quote is from the hero, Jason.

Why?

I’m sharing this for many reasons, but mostly because it’s important for my male guests to feel included and acknowledged too. He says this to Mahiya after misjudging her actions early in their relationship.

“I apologize.  I do not know anything of the battles you’ve already fought or the choices you’ve had to make to survive”

Because Jason, like Mahiya, is an adult angel who has lived a long time (approx. 700 years according to the book).  He’s also a survivor of trauma.  In this world, angels do not become adults until about 200 years.  Under 100 years  angels are still considered children/pre-adolescent and look that way too.

Can you imagine a young child with wings too big for his or her body just learning to fly?  Can you imagine growing up on a remote island with only your parents?

Then one day both of your parents are dead.  You survived because your mother hid you, told you to stay quiet until she came for you.  But she didn’t come back.  And as a child, you had to survive alone until your body was physically able to fly all the way back to the angel stronghold where children are raised.

Does that make Jason bitter?  Does that close hi off from feelings?  Does it allow him to also feel empathy?  Does it along with natural talents make Jason a natural at his chosen profession – spymaster?

Here is the final quote from Jason.  Maybe it will answer the questions above.  Maybe not.  If you want to know more than the spoilers here, please read the book.

You’re not hard enough for such a task” – almost gentle words – “and I honor the strength it must’ve taken to fight the bitterness, to refuse to allow your heart to petrify to pitiless stone.”

Because Jason is afraid that exact thing has happened to him after so many centuries alone.

Like Jason and Mahiya, I sometimes fear that my anger and shame will take over and turn me into the perpetrators and predators who raised me.  I fear that my inability to connect with people face to face is a sign of permanent damage that marks me as something less than human.  Unworthy of healthy relationships, a job I love, and a life full of joy.

Then I remember that I survived.  That I have healthy, happy relationships with people who love, value, and accept me as I am.  That these people are my family and friends; people I love, value, and accept as they are.  That there is hope because recovery takes a long time.

And for every person that gives in to the bitterness, there is another who chooses love.  The feelings come so intensely, they feel like they’ll never go away.  But the feelings do go away eventually.  Acknowledgment and acceptance each time the feelings appear helps them feel less intense and go away faster.

So, I will be like Jason too.  He survived 700 years before meeting the one woman who helped him find joy again.  I can survive this cycle of intense feelings too.

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

Anniversaries: Grateful Thanksgiving

Child to mid-twenties

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated 3x every year over the course of 2-3 days: once at my parents’ home with certain family members; once with my father’s side of the family; once with my mother’s side of the family.  There were tables full of food; children, teens, and adults everywhere; noise levels similar to stadium concerts (at least from my perspective) with so many people and televisions on loud; and secrets.  So many secrets and people sneaking off for minutes or hours at a time.

By the time I was in college, Thanksgiving was celebrated 2x every year with less and less family/friends and lots of tension.  Most of us were grown and had other places to be.  The next generation of children were second or third cousins removed on my mother’s side, and I was disconnected to them.  On my father’s side, people cooked while others watched tv or read books (me) and ignored or were ignored by everyone else.  Then my younger cousins and brother scattered to be with their friends while my parents kept me isolated and ignored.

You may be wondering why or how they managed that.  Part of it was me – I isolated myself and chose not to make friends or trust people at that time.  Part of it was them limiting access to my car – they always blocked me in and parked their cars in front of the driveway so I’d have to move their cars to get out.  And I did not want to drive their cars.  Asking them to move the cars was like banging my head against a brick wall.

Mid-twenties to early thirties

Then I walked away from my family.

Holidays became something different.

For the first time in my life, I could celebrate any way I wanted.  I could sleep through the day.  I could be alone.  I could cook or not cook.  I could decorate or not decorate.

Bottom line: I had choices.
And for a long time, I chose not to celebrate.  Instead, I let my alters out to play on those days.  Together, we worked through the scary memories, anxiety, anger, shame, and negative experiences associated with those anniversaries.  We stayed inside; read books; watched movies; slept; and took care of ourselves.

Thanksgiving 2017

My favorite foods of Thanksgiving:
Gravy
Stuffing
Butternut Squash or Yams

After everything that happened over the last few weeks, buying pre-made food to reheat made more sense than cooking from scratch.  Cooking from scratch triggered memories, but re-heating didn’t.

Text messages kept me in touch with close friends and family while keeping me safe from the toxic people.

Instead of sleeping through the day, I put together part of my sofa.  By part, I mean the sofa is in use, but the sectional and sleeper parts still need to be put together.  By the time I finished the main sofa and realized the rest had to wait, my muscles were saying “we’re done.  No more please.”   But the rest of me felt happy and accomplished.

So happy, in fact, that we slept on the sofa that night.  It’s surprisingly comfortable.  In spite of the muscle discomfort and stress from the upstairs neighbor’s musicals, putting together the sofa brought out feelings of accomplishment, joy, and contentment – aka endorphins.   Not even phone calls with my family and flashbacks could get me down.

Gratitude

Maybe it’s petty of me, but I also felt grateful that having a secondary place to sleep pissed off my upstairs neighbor.  She couldn’t disturb my sleep because I wasn’t using my bed.  Therefore, her musical of dropping stuff on the floor above my head didn’t work.  It was the first night in a while that I managed to sleep undisturbed and wake up on my own time.

But then I was also grateful her musical dropping of stuff on the floor woke me up the next day.  It was early enough that I had time to call Ikea, get my replacement parts for the sofa sectional, then go out to visit friends and see a movie.  It was Black Friday, and I was afraid that going to a mall would make things worse.  Instead, it was cathartic.  I felt calm, relaxed, and grounded inside myself.  The movie was good too, but I’m still not a Thor fan.  And I really need to put together a magic bag for crowded movie  theaters.

The musicals still occur just after I settle for bed and randomly throughout the day, but the sleep headphones and a favorite playlist make it all tolerable.

Mostly, I am grateful to have enjoyed Thanksgiving awake and grounded in the present instead of dissociated, hyper-vigilant, and upset.

Conclusion

I am still a solitary person who prefers alone time instead of crowds.  After so many years of being alone and/or lonely in a crowd of people, celebrating alone without any obligations feels good.  Maybe someday the other people in my life will understand that being physically alone does not equal being unconnected to my loved ones.

Relationships, connections, and interactions come in many forms.   And my heart, my mind, my spirit is always open to them even if my physical self shuns sharing space with others.  I keep all of these people and places in my heart and my mind during the holidays, so they are always with me.

Thanksgiving and similar holidays used to anger me, all parts of me.  I could honestly say that I hated the holidays and mean it.  But that hate gradually changed as different parts of me opened up to the rest of us.  We shared our pain, our grief, our fear, and our shame.  Then we learned how to cope with those feelings and associated memories with lots of help and support from outside people.

So thank you guests, family of choice, mental health providers past & present, family of blood, and other providers past & present who’ve helped me get to a place where holidays are fun instead of stressful.

Thanks for reading.

Anger: Learning to acknowledge and feel anger inside

 

My Terrible Temper

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible temper?  Well, I do.  And that temper gets let out when I do feel angry – not frustrated, or upset, or irritated – so I work hard not to go there.

The only times I truly feel anger (even rage) are when I get triggered into flashbacks or fight/flight/freeze/faint responses.  And then, it’s often one or more alters who feels this anger and shares the memories with us.  We all work together cope with the anger safely now.  No one wants to lash out or take this anger out on undeserving people in the outside world.

Only the outside world?

Sometimes it feels that way.  The anger inside me/us is deep, old, and strong.  Much of it is directed at people who are not part of our lives anymore.  But before they departed our lives, these predators convinced the majority of us that we need to be angry with ourselves and not them.  Even now, many of the alters in our system still believe this and turn the anger inwards.

Feeling the Energy Change Around Me

When you or someone around you is angry, do you feel the energy or environment change around you?  Does your stomach start to hurt or your head suddenly ache?  Do you feel scared of the anger?  Does it change your mood?  Can you feel the anger intensify as an argument escalates?  Can you feel the anger die down as people calm down and try to talk it out using different tones?

I do.

That is what I experience every time I feel angry or someone around me feels angry.  Why?  Not sure, but here is my reasoning.  **Here again I feel the need to remind guests that this is only my opinion (the AlterXpressions System) and not that of anyone else.**

Anger is an emotion.  Emotion is charged energy.  Energy spreads out once it’s released into the atmosphere.  And because anger scares me, I tend to reject or deny or avoid it.  I would look for an escape when the anger is around, but not directed at me. I would try to avoid confrontations so that I don’t experience the trembling, sick, shaky, confusing, negative feelings afterwards.  That never worked though.

Instead, the avoidance, rejection, and denial seemed to attract more and more angry feelings, negative energy, confrontations, explosions of anger from myself etc. into my world.  Got to the point where I was afraid to be around anyone in case the anger spilled out of me or someone else around me.

What changed?

  • Learning (as an adult) that feelings are real and that expressing one’s feelings is a natural, healthy part of being human.
  • Understanding what emotions are and how our mind uses the information they provide to help us stay safe & make connections with others.
  • Finding caring individuals who understand the language/experience of trauma and are willing to help victims/survivors teach themselves coping techniques for overwhelming feelings (aka Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
  • Learning other coping techniques to help understand how feelings/emotions affect thoughts & behavior (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) so that patterns can change for the better.
  • Understanding that energy can be changed
    • Feelings eventually go away
    • there are many other techniques to help accept the feelings instead of denying them.
    • aka meditation, grounding, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and the list goes on.

Once I stopped rejecting the anger and started accepting it, the anger felt less intense each time.  My temper stopped getting the better of me.  And I stopped attracting so much anger and negativity into my life.

Another Use for Grounding

Every anniversary and holiday I struggle with overwhelming feelings and anger.  They make the time off feel stressful because my usual coping strategies and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.

**While I understand many of you may feel skeptical about reading books like this, please do  try to keep an open mind.  Many of the ideas and information on this website and blog come from alternative healing and alternative thought resources.**

And then I went to my favorite new age book store last Sunday and found a book called “The Reluctant Empath”.   The authors are two practicing shamans who tell the story of a young man who struggles with being extra sensitive to his environment.  The authors discuss coping strategies & grounding techniques for dealing with the energy and feelings the boy used growing up.

Two things stood out from the first 4-5 chapters:

  1. These people were not telling me I need to shield myself from the negative or the positive feelings & energy as the only effective way to cope
  2. These people were telling me that there is an alternative that works better BUT
    1. It’s counter-intutitive
    2. It takes a lot of practice
    3. It means facing fears

What is the alternative?

Grounding out the feelings – yes a grounding coping strategy

Now, I’m not going to be the best at explaining this concept right now.  To be honest, I’m still learning how to use it.  But here is my take on their grounding technique:

Our minds & bodies are conduits for energy.  Energy helps our heart beat, blood flow, brain work, etc. as it flows through us.  Why not use that flow to move external energy in, through, and out of ourselves instead of letting it get stuck in our bodies?

Their technique resonated with me because I use something similar to cope with negative feelings and tolerate overwhelming feelings.  My version of this is the visualization technique discussed here

Conclusion

I used to think my problem was with expressing angry feelings.  Now I understand that the issue is with acknowledging and accepting these angry feelings.  By facing my fears around anger and acknowledging anger instead of rejecting it, I am changing the way I think and feel about the emotion and myself.  I can accept myself and the anger inside me now.

By acknowledging the anger as part of me, I am learning how to face and cope with some of the scariest parts of my past so that my recovery can continue moving towards true self-acceptance and a thriving life.

Thanks for reading