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

DID Posts: Multi-level triggers

What happens when different alters in a system get triggered and start having flashbacks at the same time?

For other people, I don’t know.  Not everyone communicates with all of their alters the way I do.

For me, usually the different triggers happen by age group, time of year, type of anniversaries, and past experiences.

My adult and non-human (aka symbolic) alters tend to get triggered by environmental factors and sensory information most often.  Grounding, DBT, and CBT along with meditation and breathing exercises help them a lot.  So do distractions like cooking, reading, and music/TV/Videos.

My teens get triggered by interpersonal communication and human interaction – harassment/bullies, family, community members, educators.  Movement, meditation, breathing, DBT, affirmations, and distractions help them feel grounded and safe.  So do sensory or cognitive grounding techniques.

My child alters get triggered by life situations that remind them of feeling powerless, unsafe, in an uncertain environment, potential deprivation, and sensory memories (often tactile in our physical body).  Cartoons, cuddling with a stuffed animal, coming out to experience the world in the present, and music are often necessary but not sufficient coping strategies.  They help sometimes, but not enough.

The challenges

All of us struggle with helping our child parts feel safe and grounded when they get triggered.  They don’t always tell the rest of the system when a trigger affects one or more in the system because they’re trying to protect the rest of us.  Or because of shame, fear, lack of trust in the present safe spaces, etc. prevent them from asking for help.

When one or more alters in our system gets triggered, others can get triggered too.  The more alters that get triggered, the more confusing and difficult calming down and utilizing coping strategies becomes.  The internal noise/sensory activity levels rise as more and more alters start to experience flashbacks and heightened anxiety or other emotions.  Distinguishing past from present also becomes difficult.  And increased physical pain distorts everything.

Trusting ourselves, our perspectives, our opinions, etc. when feeling emotional and confused is extremely difficult for all alters, but especially our child alters.  Trying to parent ourselves and comfort/soothe the child and teen alters while also trying to choose and use coping strategies is a big challenge.

Our Solution

Calling a trusted resource and talking through the situation with an objective, compassionate, empathetic third party who can also offer potential coping strategies or solutions through validation of feelings and acceptance.

Friends & family are not good options for us.  For one thing, our family tries to understand but their triggers and personal stuff get in the way.  Plus they can’t always accept or relate to our internal struggle.  It just doesn’t make sense to them because they never experienced what we experienced or have a hard time accepting our experiences as valid and real.  So friends & family are not objective enough to help in this situation.

Our therapist would be able to help, but only in session or in the case of an emergency that made an off-hours call necessary.  But this type of trigger often happens outside of sessions and is not problematic enough to be considered an emergency.  Besides, an emergency situation means a visit to the ER could happen.  We all try to avoid ER visits.

Next on the list is a phone or text crisis line.  I like and often use the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) 24-hour hotline.  It’s anonymous and reliable with a variety of volunteers who offer support in a variety of ways.  They are NOT licensed therapists and do not offer therapy or that kind of advice.  Nor do they offer easy solutions.  What they do offer is validation, compassionate, objective, active listening, and feedback with coping strategies and techniques to help get through the tense moments.

My child and teen alters trust the volunteers to be objective and will accept the reassurance they offer along with coping strategies and help creating safety plans to get through triggering moments.  As they calm down, the sensory overwhelm and confusion in our minds calm down.  Then we all can work together to figure out triggers & grounding or coping strategies to come back to the present.  From there we all can calm down.

Conclusion

With alter personalities, triggers come in many forms and are experienced on many levels.  Our struggle comes from the sensory overload that creates “noise” and confusion to block access to our tool box of coping strategies & techniques.  One trigger with multiple options in the tool box is one situation.  Multiple triggers within the same alter or group of similar alters is another situation.  One trigger for alters of different age groups or experiences creates its own unique situation.  Same for multiple triggers for alters of different age groups or experiences.

How can a system be objective and use both emotion and logic (DBT’s WISE MIND) with so many different “voices” speaking out at the same time?

It’s something we’re working on.  And maybe someday we won’t need an outside party to help find the path that calms everyone down enough to identify triggers and utilize coping strategies.

Thanks for reading.

“Complex Trauma: Understanding and Treatment” — Courage Coaching

Thanks to Athina at Courage Coaching for sharing this video about complex trauma!

Originally posted on A Broken Blue Sky: The following video is one of the best videos I have watched on Complex PTSD. If you suffer from C-PTSD, it will be very emotional to watch. But it will also be very validating of all that you went through and help you to understand your reactions to…

via “Complex Trauma: Understanding and Treatment” — Courage Coaching

DID Post: Sleeping on an Airplane with Alters

Background

Earlier this week (Sunday to Monday), I took a red eye flight across the country to visit family and friends.  When I arrived, I got off the plane and went to work first.  4 days of work and 8 days vacation make sense so I can spend time with both families.  I didn’t anticipate many problems because I usually sleep most of the plane trip.  And I pay extra for the plane upgrades – extra space, early boarding, early advantage for carry on space – and conveniences that make  flying easier.

Main Concerns

  • Panic attack
  • Body memories
  • Physical Pain
  • Digestion/bladder/bowel issues
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation

The biggest Surprise
My alter personalities were restless and active the whole time I slept
What happened:

  • I fell asleep with my sleep headphones and a sleep mask wearing my comfy airplane outfit (knee length dress, head scarf, long sleeve wool cardigan, and sleep socks).
  • My alters came out, and I started switching in my sleep.
  • They started taking over our body and moving me around in the chair.  A Lot.
  • Then they objected to the seat belt and kept sending pain signals to my left side.
  • Later, I had to use the restroom, but they wouldn’t wake up an adult to deal with this.
  • Eventually, I had to get up and move around; used that time to visit the restroom.
  • I offered to buy us a travel blanket so we could curl up and get comfortable without exposing too much skin, but they kept saying “no”.
  • Then our body temp lowered as we relaxed into rest mode.
  • Half way through the flight, I gave up trying to sleep and just listened to music or TV instead.

The Challenge of Restless Alters on a Plane:

  • Disturbing my neighbors while they slept
  • Feeling shame and over apologizing to my seat mates
  • Anxiety over how I appear to the flight attendants and other passengers
  • The discomfort and pain of sitting in one position so long without any of the meditation techniques working to relieve the pain

The Second Biggest Surprise
Riding the bus from the airport to the office.

What Happened:

  • The bus was crowded so I had to stand in an awkward position
  • At the stop after mine, an older woman came on the bus and kept staring at or through me
  • The bus driver had to get off for about 10 minutes at the third stop; we didn’t know if he would come back or not
  • While the driver was off, the woman kept looking at me as if it was my fault.  I kept looking her in the eye, shrugging, and then looking away
  • Then an Asian girl got on the bus.  And the woman started talking to the other passengers in a strong local accent
  • The accent triggered me and made me feel so nauseous I got off early
  • The next bus was almost empty, but I ended up at work later than I wanted
  • The nausea didn’t go away until I used pressure points on my wrists; then kept coming back throughout the day

Rest of the Challenges

  • I lost my liquid items and toothpaste out of anxiety and stress
  • (forgot to take them out of my bag and then put them in again after my bag went through the machine again)
  • In Chinatown, people were extremely rude because my bald scalp showed through my head scarf
  • At lunch, I had to interact with people who were not exactly nice to me before I left
  • By lunch I was feel jet-lag and started crying in the bathroom from overwhelming feelings (good and bad)

Coping Strategies

  • Focusing on the positive
  • Acknowledging the potential triggers & negative feelings; then letting them go
  • Using grounding techniques
  • Allowing myself to feel everything
  • Giving and receiving lots of hugs
  • Getting my work done
  • Keeping in touch with my relatives
  • Asking for a ride home instead of using public transportation
  • Getting a good night’s sleep

Next on the list to research

  • Strategies for stretching and relaxing on a long flight
  • Strategies for helping my alters calm down during sleep
  • Strategies for dealing with the shame that comes from too much activity that disturbs my seat neighbors

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

DID Posts: Pip: an introduction

***Disclaimer: All DID posts are written from the perspective of one or more alters and not in any way paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting/misquoting from other sources.***

ALL ALTERS

Just after Christmas 2016, my quiet alter started “talking” to me in dreams.  She shared information in fragments, sometimes blanking out because the fear and shame were overwhelming to the point of creating nightmares.  But she persisted.  And every evening, all 88 of us gathered in front of our library fireplace with our comfort objects and listened to her share the pain she’d been holding in for 30 plus years.

Her name is Pip – it’s because she used to make the perpetrators “laugh” in annoyance with her “bold” comments & actions compared to small size and delicate appearance – and she’s the fourth host in our group (Me (I go by AlterXpressions here), Angora, Shea (male most of the time), and Pip).

Now Pip has a rather interesting skill set – she is athletic, intelligent, has amazing reflexes, perceptive, and tough – because of her time with the pedophiles, the cult, and the traffickers who worked with both groups.  Pip has advanced training with hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, escape arts (from bondage, etc.), and weapons; she has mad research and logistics skills; she can tell when someone is lying; she knows when she is being followed; and she can recognize a potentially dangerous or antagonistic (dislikes her) environment by an energy change in the space.

But she has trouble talking and connecting with most people – in her mind everyone’s a potential threat – except the one’s she considers her family and other survivors like herself.  She is the one who controlled our body and lived a separate life during those times I couldn’t remember what happened in the evenings and on the weekends.  Pip handled the people who got rowdy outside our apartment by disarming and disabling them.

PIP

They enjoyed blocking me from job opportunities and volunteer work; keeping me afraid to go back to the police or other organizations that could help.  How did they know where to look or how to keep track?  My parents and sibling of course.  They knew all of me; invaded my privacy, got my passwords, put tracking and recording devices on my electronics, and often searched my room/apartment/etc.  They copied and stole my identity multiple times too.

When my therapists asked me who was following me?  Who was keeping track of me?  How did I know this?  Did I have proof?

None of us could say anything.  Pip wasn’t talking, and she wouldn’t let any of us talk either.

ALL ALTERS

Instead, she kept all of this from us and encouraged Angora, Shea, and me to create “legitimate” life for ourselves any way we could.  While the three of us worked on that and keeping the rest of our system stable, Pip and a few alters who helped her in her work reconnected with the (now retired) under cover cop who taught and protected us as much as possible while in the cult.

He ran a private investigation firm with a few other people; it specialized in rescuing people from and helping law enforcement take down human trafficking/drug rings and cults.  Turns out some of the the “other people” were boys from the male soldier sects of the cult – aka my brothers; boys I trained and worked with from 7-17.  The rest were former cops and people he served with in the military.  They were happy to welcome us back – all of us even though Pip did most of the hosting here – and let us join the firm with conditions.

PIP

The retired cop loved and treated me like his daughter and asked me to call him “uncle”.  I loved him the same way.  Same with 5 of the men in the company – they became my brothers; I became their sister.

MY REAL FAMILY

We parted ways the first time because I was going to college out of state.  Plus everyone understood that neither I nor my alters wanted to  be part of that world anymore.  What world?  The world of drugs, weapons, violence, poverty/wealth discrepancies, slavery, and trafficking.

As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t join the military or the police, not then.  First, I was having the anger management and grief problems.  Second, I would have failed the psych profiles and other evaluations since I came out only part of the time while the others handled the rest of our life.  We weren’t ready for the truth to come out.  Finally, my parents and the other perpetrators would have done everything in their power to block me from joining.  Then they would have followed through on their threats to kill me and harm my family.

So I went to college, determined to get out of that world forever.  You can understand why the rest of Uncle’s employees were skeptical of my wanting to work with and for them after 1 school year away.  Plus, many of them hadn’t met me before.  You can understand their skepticism of my skill set and abilities based on physical appearance and lack of communication/socializing with anyone.

The rest of the group and I learned to trust, respect, and accept each other over time; and then they became family too.  It helped that I never took any of that money for my other life.  That money went to programs for helping others out of domestic violence, my bill as a “client”, and a trust to help any victims we rescued who didn’t have the resources to start over.  Yes, I wanted help getting out from under the perpetrator’s thumbs.  That meant getting away from my family too at some point.

When I was in charge, I lived with my real family – had my own suite to keep clean – in their HQ.  We didn’t have a communication protocol, but there were ways for us to keep in touch.  Plus I had a schedule of how many week days (before AlterXpressions got her full-time job) and weekends I stayed with them.

ALL ALTERS

She did this type of work for 15 years, not so much because she wanted to, but because it was a guaranteed way to protect all of us from the monsters who weren’t in jail or dead.  The high-powered individuals who the police did not have enough evidence to charge or convict, but knew of and kept track of us even after the trial.  Some were members of the police force.  Others worked in different civil and government offices.  More were medical and business professionals.

And before this work, she spent a lot of time within the cult and the trafficking rings (they eventually combined businesses to increase profit) rescuing her classmates and others who had been kidnapped.  The result being many people from her past, people she didn’t back down from and honed her verbal “beat-down” skills on, dislike/hate her and sometimes take it out on the other alters.  None of us blame her for that, but she blames herself and often feels shame.

This is our way of trying to show and tell Pip and her helper alters that they have NOTHING to be or feel ashamed of.

Thanks for reading