Late again. Unexpected business with taxes and such yesterday. Will try to be more on time this week.
Last post discussed how survival mode affects my PTSD. This post discusses how it affects the DID and alters in the system. Survival mode feels different to children, adolsecents, and adults. Each group reacts and responds to the stress differently. Now imagine all that in the same body happening at the same time.
A word of warning…my therpaist tells me that my experience of DID is different from many because I “grew up” with my alters so to speak. They were my playmates and imaginary friends; then appeared in my day dreams; finally began to take over and manage some parts of life without my realizing it until we reunited four years ago. This can make our co-consciousness and ability to cooperate/integrate much easier and more frustrating for others to read about or understand.
The rest of the blog is Q&A from here.
Questions & Answers
Q: do all of the alters have PTSD?
Q: is everyone good at coping and handling triggers?
A: no. Everyone is at different levels of recovery and has different skill sets to pull from. Some strategies work better for adults while otherd work better for children, adolescents, toddlers, babies.
Q: how does everyone react to survival mode?
A: not sleeping; increased hyper-vigilance and feeling suspicious of everything; increased sensitivity to anxiety; confusion; coordination and concentration problems; use less cognitive and more instinctive defense mechanisms; feeling over-protective and worrying about hurting others with reactions to triggers; sleep in shifts or not at all; feel scared all the time; decreased appetite; increased switching and headaches/face pain; finally inability to relax and lower the adrenaline levels back to our normal.
Q: what triggers this kind of survival mode? How is it different from before?
A: CAUSES: floods of memories; increased body memories; mind and body making connections between memory fragments to recall past experiences as nighhtmares and flashbacks; encpuntering people from the past who trigger overwhelming feelings; all of the above without any down time to process and move through the remembered experiences in a safe way.
DIFFERENCES: before, some alters were still hiding and unable to join with the rest of the system. They were caught in the past; trapped and unable to reach out for help. When the experiences they held came as nighhtmares, these alters switched and caused dissociation to protect us; the result being traumatic memory loss or amnesia for extended periods of time. Could be minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, sometimes longer.
Now, all of us are free and valued members of the system. When these memories come back, they stay. No one switches. No one dissociates. No one forgets again. Everyone relives or re-experiences the memories as they cascade through mind and body. This is especially hard for the child and adolescent alters who are also growing/maturing through missed developmental stages as part of their recovery. These “growing pains” and sexual feelings/thoughts/sensations triggger anxiety, fear, wonder, and past memories at the same time.
It is an endless cycle feeding into itself.
Q: how do you cope?
A:By learning to be a good caretaker/guardian for ourselves and each other. That includes self care, boundaries, safe spaces, and coping strategies for every age group, developmental stage, and gender in the system. Sometimes it means being a parent. Sometimes it means being parented. Sometimes I take care of the alters. Sometimes they take care of me. And ALWAYS we do our best not to use the negative, but guaranteed to work, harmful coping strategies of the past.
Q: any last words?
A: yes. It really sucks when all of the reliable routines and strategies stop working or are less effective. Worse is trying to use something that goes against what the mind and body are doing to protect us by trying to use the coping skills anyways.
Just remember you are not alone.
some experiences are kid only experiences; some are adolsecent only; some are adult only. My alters and I constantly wort that we are going to hurt or trigger others in the system by letting our memories out, so we try to protect by repressing them. This causes untold levels of pain amd distress and triggers.
Now we try to use boundaries and safe spaces instead. It’s a work in prgogress that is less than 10% effective right now. But we keep on trying to make it work. Also, it helps to figure out some good parenting skills and comforting techniques; they help calm child and adolescent parts to lower adrenaline like nothing else we have tried so far.
This will pass like it always does. No matter how difficult it feels right now, we all will survive.