Shame: Fear of small talk & talking about my interests/ideas

Introduction

Lots of posts tonight.  I’ve been saving them up since most of my time is spent with grandma and other family or hanging with old friends

So in continuing the themes from the first and second posts of today, this post is about facing my conversational fears.

Fear of Sharing Ideas outside of work

I and my alters often feel shame about sharing our interests with outside people.  We also are not comfortable making small talk, although the adult host personalities are getting better with that in the home state.  We also have limited control over the automatic switching between alters who feel compelled to take over and speak without identifying themselves.

We also tend to be so focused on not offending or insulting someone else, that whoever is talking can end up offending & insulting the individual regardless.  Or the repeated apologies, I statements, questions to check in on the situation, and projected insecure behavior from all this stems from these fears:

  • rejection
  • humiliation
  • public speaking
  • socializing
  • making verbal mistakes – i.e. stuttering, switching and not knowing what comes out of my mouth, dissociating, being talked over and unable to express myself
  • anger/frustration/disappointment because I keep repeating myself trying to say something but can’t verbalize without being interrupted and losing my train of thought

The Shame connection

I have consistently been told that I am:

  • not smart
  • lacking social skills
  • not loud enough
  • too loud
  • full of stupid ideas & opinions
  • not worthy of being listened to
  • going to embarrass and humiliate myself when talking or sharing ideas out loud
  • talking funny/confusing/weird
  • a boring conversationalist
  • not supposed to talk because my opinions, interests, ideas, etc. are not interesting
  • not supposed to ask questions because the response will always be negative and/or demeaning or (worse) silent treatment
  • not allowed to talk because I always embarrass the people with me by opening my mouth
  • so scared about talking that I start switching alters and am unable to follow a conversation or control what’s coming out of my mouth
    • usually conflicting opinions and words, sometimes gibberish, sometimes stuttering or stumbling over my words

These lessons have been embedded in me since I started talking and then (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforced by life experiences as I grew up.  On the negative side, it means verbalizing anything is painful to an almost physical degree.  On the positive side, these experiences forced me to become a better listener (when I’m not switching) and a better writer.

But those coping strategies, while effective, did not and do not address the trigger being discussed here.  And my issue with switching personalities and sounding self-centered because of all of the talk about myself.

And when I brought this up to my friend, she told me that I could:

  • talk about ideas
  • ask how the other person is doing
  • find something other than myself to talk about if I really wanted to or tried

Did you read the last bullet?  IF I REALLY WANTED TO AND TRIED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

What that friend doesn’t realize is:

  • I am aware of doing this to people for different reasons
    • Sometimes I do it on purpose as a coping strategy to drive people away when nothing else works – annoying/rude/off-putting/abrasive/self-centered
    • Sometimes I do it to test if an individual is listening to me or not
    • Most often I do it because the other person or persons have a habit of making assumptions and interrupting me without letting me finish so this becomes a conversation pattern that is difficult to disrupt
  • I am not always able to control or stop it from happening, especially in stressful or triggering situations
    • Awareness is key, and I am not often aware any switching occurred until too late
  • I am not always able to tell the individual I am talking to that my alters are the ones talking to them.
    • i.e. “Oh, hey, it might sound like I’m talking about myself a lot and acting self-centered, but I’m really not. My alter personalities like you and feel comfortable talking to you as individual alters so are using “I” for themselves.  Complicated, yes, but true.  Not all of the “I” statements  are about the “me” you know best.  They are from the other “me” personalities.”
  • Less often these days, I do this in conversations sometimes when I switch without awareness because talking is triggering

FROM Rude/Offensive Language TO the Socially Appropriate Language Process

And yes, this is a process – one I can’t do alone – that requires asking a counselor from the BARC Hotline, my therapist, or a trusted friend for assistance.

Although I am starting to realize that asking friends (even close, trusted, good friends) for help with this is NOT such a good idea.  But lessons learned and all that.

In order for me to verbalize my thoughts, I have to go through the DBT process for expressing my feelings to be able to verbalize what to say to anyone in a conversational tone.  So here are the steps:

  • Identify my feelings
  • Identify the cause of those feelings with words
  • Identify the goals or purposes of the future conversation
  • Use “I” statements in this phase to clarify my feelings and opinions and boundaries
  • Call the BARCC Hotline and ask the counselor for help:
    processing and reality testing the situation
    my experience of the situation
    and my potential verbal response to handling the situation
  • Work with the counselor to refine the goal and possible ways to approach the conversation without it sounding rehearsed or like a therapy session
  • Repeat as needed with another counselor or my therapist while in session

YES, it’s a long and clunky process, but this coping strategy has helped me improve many conversations and work through the backlash of having such conversations without rehearsal too.

BUT, I can’t use this process EVERY TIME with EVERY conversation I talk to in ANY situation.

Why is this fear & shame so important to clarify and work through right now?

  1. It’s the single biggest stumbling block to becoming more social & living a full life in the present moment
    1. Find a way for alter personalities to feel safe enough to reach out to each other in our system so that we can help and support each other – understand and find ways to cope together without blame/shame/guilt/frustration/anger/fear getting in the way
    2. Making & keeping friends
    3. Socializing without anxiety
    4. Feeling confident in myself and being able to portray that in my conversations
    5. Find a balance so that my alters stop automatically switching and talking during potentially stressful or triggering conversations
    6. Find a way for all parts of me to be able to converse and verbalize when they feel like it instead of interrupting or causing issues
    7. Dating and potentially being part of an intimate relationship
  2. It’s a major trigger I have to face in order to accomplish my professional goals in the future
    1. go back to graduate school
    2. get my degree in alternative medicine
    3. work as an alternative medicine practitioner
    4. make this website & blog a self-sustaining business so that I can continue to improve the website design and expand the Resources page
    5. make my existing job less stressful
    6. networking & future job hunting

How am I going to cope with this?

I don’t know.  We don’t know.  It would be different if we lived separate lives.  But we are “integrating” into one unified self.

By “integrating”, I mean we are becoming a balanced and unified personality without any alters disappearing.

Yes that defies the conventional meaning of Integration for Dissociative Identity Disorder.  But, none of us want any alters to poof out of existence.  We’ve lived together for 34 years and want to continue doing so – only now as a merged, single personality to the outside world.

This topic is something for all of us to discuss with our current therapist.

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

Life Changing Moments: Emotional/Physical Disconnect Part 2

Late with this post…life got in the way

CONSEQUENCES

Negative

Some people think I am lying when I tell the truth about my past.  They think I don’t have feelings or am snobbish because of my lack of physical expressions.  My words and actions get misinterpreted often – flirting or friendly? happy or sad or angry or frustrated? – because people don’t have any visual cues to help them understand.

Some people think I am easy to take advantage of because I smile even when I’m upset or angry or confused.  They blame me for being weird and different; use it as an excuse for being manipulative or mean.  If my facial expression and body language are accepting and open to whatever they’re saying, they can turn around my words to make it seem like the disagreement is my fault.  I’d believe that in the past, before I learned about facial expressions and body language as part of communication.

My social anxiety for is often mistaken for a lack of confidence and treat me accordingly.  I am never sure how I come across to other people because I know about my lack of facial and body language cues.  That makes me feel anxious and afraid to connect with people.  And it causes me to ask questions about facial expressions and body language for clarification.  Questions that make other people uncomfortable and feel like they have permission to lash out at me or treat me with condescension since I don’t understand such basic human skills.

Past experiences taught me that there isn’t a difference between lies and truth.  Either way, I am a bad person and everything bad that happens to me is deserved.  Everything bad that happens to my family or friends is my fault.  Lies won’t help.  Truth doesn’t work either.  Only the people in control, the ones with power, are good and acceptable.

Connecting with others is difficult because of my honesty, respect, and open communication policy.  I can still be polite about it, but I refuse to accept, respect, or tell lies unless absolutely necessary.  And I have a difficult time not stepping in to defend people when I see others being mean just because.  Spending my time around negativity and meanness is not fun, so why bother?

Positive

I learned how to spot lies from a young age.  Even if I don’t say anything right away, I know when people lie to me.  And when people lie to me, I have two options: 1) call them out on the lie; and 2) let them think I am really that stupid and gullible to believe the lie.  Option 1 gets used with people I care about because I want to build a relationship with them based on respect, open communication, honesty, and acceptance.

Option 2 gets used on people I don’t trust or care much about.  Often these are people I let into my life because of triggers or self-harm type punishments because these people treat me the way my parents and perpetrators did.  Every once in a while, I will catch them in a lie and point it out to them just as a reminder that I know what they are up to.  This is usually my first step in breaking off a friendship.

I learned how to tell and value the truth to compensate for lack of physical expressions.  In school, I heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy” a lot.  In real life, I learned “lying is the best policy” from both parents and the perpetrators.  Lots of kids lied and got caught in school.  Some got punished; others didn’t.  I didn’t often get caught or get punished for lying because the teachers couldn’t read me.  But I watched how the known liars got treated vs. how the truth tellers got treated.  Liars were not trusted or respected.  Truth tellers were.

I learned that lying is neutral.  The person telling the lie and the consequences of the lie make it good or bad.  I lied to survive my childhood and adolescence.  As often as I lied, I also told the truth to the people who mattered.  And I refused to cheat on homework or exams even if  that meant I failed and had to repeat something.  Earning the trust of my teachers felt good even if that had disastrous social consequences with my peers – i.e. suck up, teacher’s pet, nerd, etc.

I learned that sometimes shame comes from hiding secrets and telling lies.  Being honest to myself and others about my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors helps me let go of some shame.  I can put past experiences and events into perspective.  Perspective has a way of revealing the holes in a liar’s story, including the lies I used to tell myself.

Finally, I learned not to feel ashamed of myself for not reacting to feelings like most people do.  And learning the lesson is not the same as consistently applying it.  That part I still struggle with.  But I am lucky enough to have a support network to help out.  And when my friends or support network reaches out to me, I do the same for them.  Support.  Respect.  Acceptance.  It all goes both ways.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: Agoraphobia

Introduction

During certain times of the year, the pain gets worse and the memories overwhelm my logical thinking abilities.  I start to feel vulnerable outside of my apartment.  Too vulnerable and my brain automatically starts sending out “not safe” signals to the rest of my parts.  So I stop leaving my apartment building.  And then I stop leaving my apartment except when absolutely necessary.

Description

And even the “absolutely necessary” going out causes a problem sometimes.  But then I go outside and feel confused.  Being out of my apartment feels good at first.  I enjoy the scents and sounds from trees, restaurants, people, and dogs.  But the further I get from my building, the more vulnerable I feel.  What if the pain escalates?  What if I can’t get home?  What if I embarrass myself by having a panic attack in front of these strangers?

The questions, the fears crowd my mind and stiffen my body.  My hips start to ache.  My spine curves.  And I focus one step at a time to the counselor’s office.  Potential treat: a hot chocolate (regular or peppermint) from Starbucks before the appointment.  Potential treat: brunch/lunch on the way home.

Since I love food and hardly ever eat breakfast before my morning appointments, the reward sometimes helps me get from A to B.  Hot chocolate that I don’t have to make also helps.  Other days, visiting some stores to window shop works better.

But sometimes not even a reward for going out or meeting needs like laundry or grocery shopping can get me out of the apartment.

Challenge

Eventually, the agoraphobia passes.

While I experience the agoraphobia, I also feel frustration and shame.  Frustration because I want to be outside.  Shame because my fear and vulnerability prevent me from doing what I want.  Triggers occur.  Panic takes over.  And the only safe place feels like home.

Nothing I’ve tried helps.  Nothing makes the agoraphobia go away.

The trigger causing agoraphobia hasn’t revealed itself.  The trigger to make it go away hasn’t revealed itself either.

Conclusion

I wait out the periods of agoraphobia and hope that this one ends sooner instead of later.  But I still hate it.  I still struggle.

I still persist.

Remembering and pain will not stop me anymore now than it has before.

Thanks for reading.