In the beginning of recovery, you may experience a phenomenon I call “puking” memories and flashbacks. All of the sudden things you have forgotten but have been retained for you by alternate parts of yourself come to the surface and just keep coming, and coming, and coming until you think you are going to or already have gone insane. This is your brain making connections that were broken long ago by the stress hormones that were released into your body to keep you alert to danger.
Usually when a person is frightened they will pump out these substances and after the danger has passed they will drain away, but in horribly abused children these chemicals never drain and their developing brain suffers for it.
These hormones have given you a type of brain damage. At the age of between 30-40 depending on your DNA makeup your brain matures and these connections suddenly appear and thus the memories keep coming and coming and coming.
You are NOT “abnormal”. You are NOT a freak. You are totally normal for where you have been, and remember you are never alone.
Living in total chaos is the hardest part of recovering from severe trauma. The alters that once protected you have now become a liability as they do things without your knowledge that are socially unacceptable.
Allow me to offer an example of what I am speaking about. Perhaps like me when you were small you were forced to steal food and money to survive but now that you are grown these behaviors are no longer necessary. Unfortunately, those parts of yourself stuck in what is termed trauma-time do not understand that they are a grown person and they are still acting out and getting you in trouble, possibly bad trouble, with the law. There are steps you can take to keep the chaos down to a minimum. I will give you an example. I lived in a very small apartment and one or more of my alters decided it
was necessary to get up in the night and rummage for food. The problem was I was getting black and blue from running into things. My therapist suggested I make a peanut butter sandwich and leave it wrapped up where whoever was sleepwalking could find it. I did so and the bruising died down to a dull roar. The trick is to find ways to work WITH your alters not fight against them. They ARE NOT your enemies. They are parts of your psyche who are hurt and wanting children. I often will sit and color very childish pictures with my alters to help settle them after a bad dream. It calms them which is of course calming me since they ARE me.
We wanted to write a simple to follow book written by people who truly understand the dissociative disorders from lived experience. This workbook is to help you find your way through the maze of emotions and pain you are experiencing as you get well. Take it slow and easy. If you feel too triggered put both this book and the companion book The Tears Will Cease down and consult your Therapist.
There is no rush to get well, after all you did not get sick overnight. Two things that are important to remember are that it was not your fault but now the ball is in your court. Your life was once ruled by others but now you are in complete control of what happens to you. Even if you are in prison reading these words where you end up after you emerge from there or what you accomplish while imprisoned is all up to you. Blaming your misfortunes on people from the present or the past is a futile waste of energy that can be utilized in other parts of your life.
Please remember that neither Jessica nor I are Therapists or Psychiatrists. We are just people who have been where you are and are sharing our knowledge.
If you are in recovery from substance abuse please do not attempt to do this workbook until your Therapist or Counselor tells you it is safe for you to try. Your sobriety is paramount if you wish to get a life without chaos.
Hang in there, it will get better. That I can promise you. Good luck on your journey.
Shirley J. Davis and Jessica J. Baker
As you may have noticed the book is written in four parts with each part being composed of four sections. Like I said in the introduction to this workbook take it easy and nice and move slowly. Each section will have three questions with suggested answers for some of them. Please feel free to use your imagination and wit in answering them. We have added some answer word helps in the back as well as a list of things you can do to return to now-time from a flashback.
Do not take yourself too seriously, that’s not healthy for anyone. We have enjoyed writing this workbook for you very much and would enjoy hearing feedback from you.
If you purchased this workbook online please go back to the website and leave a comment. Even if you hated it, we’d like to know so we can change whatever was wrong with it. Thank you for trusting us with your story and your journey.
Section One: The Memories Return
2. How does it feel to know you are NOT “weird” or “abnormal”?
3. Name three positive people in your life today who are helpful. (suggestions: friend, daughter, nephew)
One cannot discuss the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder without first talking about psychological trauma. The DSM-IV-TR defines psychological trauma as:
The direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury; threat to one's physical integrity, witnessing an event that involves the above experience, learning about unexpected or violent death, serious harm, or threat of death, or injury experienced by a family member or close associate. Memories associated with trauma are implicit, pre-verbal and cannot be recalled, but can be triggered by stimuli from the in vivo (within the living person’s) environment. The person's response to aversive details of traumatic event involve intense fear, helplessness or horror. In children it is manifested as disorganized or agitative behaviors.
As you can see the DSM-IV’s definition is very broad. There are several key elements worthy of mentioning however, the person sees or fears death or serious injury and a threat to their body. Also, please note that they have listed as a response to these emotionally stimulating events intense fear,
helplessness or horror. A person who is traumatized will also experience many of the following psychological symptoms:
Shock, denial or disbelief Confusion, difficulty concentrating Anger, irritability, mood swings Anxiety and fear Guilt, shame, self-blame Withdrawing from others Feeling sad or hopeless Feeling disconnected or numb
They may well experience the following physical symptoms as well:
Insomnia or nightmares Fatigue Being startled easily Racing heartbeat Edginess and agitation Aches and pains Muscle tension
The causes of trauma in childhood are numerous and varied. A short list of possible causes is below:
Unstable or unsafe environment Separation from a parent Serious illness Intrusive medical procedures Sexual, physical or verbal abuse Domestic violence Neglect Bullying
It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to experience or express having endured trauma either as an adult or a child. We all respond differently to our circumstances. One person’s hang nail may be another person’s tragedy. It is all up to our individual abilities to handle stressors in our world.
How did I achieve this milestone in my life termed integration? What were the steps I took to become as whole in my attitudes and thoughts as possible? It took many years of hard work but I can lay out three stages of this work.
Stage One. Finding a safe place. One of the first things my Therapist helped me to do was to find a safe place in my mind where I could retreat if things got too rough out here. I decided to make my safe place a warm and sandy beach with a roaring beach fire made from drift wood. There the water and fire are so safe they can be walked on and you cannot get hurt. The beach became a wonderful place to not only retreat, but as you will see later, a place to hold audience with my alters.
Stage Two. Meeting the others. At first I was terrified of my alters as I saw them as the enemy within so to speak. I didn’t know all of their names and I had never met them. I only knew of them because of what other people had told me and because of the problems they caused in my life. Soon after starting therapy I would go to the beach and sit quietly by the fire waiting. I didn’t understand what I was waiting for, but instinctively I knew that this was a vital part of my recovery. It wasn’t long before I was meeting my alters. The first to approach me was Bianca, a precocious 18-year old girl who, it turned out later, would become my greatest ally. After Bianca came the 6-year old children and then others of various ages. Slowly, they grew to know me and I began to understand something important. These weren’t enemies out to ruin my life, they were just hurting kids (and a few adults) who needed desperately to be loved and cared for.
Stage Three. Becoming my own mother. After I realized that these parts I had been so afraid of were just hurting parts of me I began to feel real empathy and caring for them. At first I couldn’t understand that I needed to be the mother of all of me. I wanted so much for anyone, especially my Therapist, to be my mom. I found it painful to acknowledge that my real mother would never be able to step into the role of mom in my life, that it was totally my responsibility to do so. It was only after I entered a long-term facility for the mentally ill and was told to never speak of my disorder or alters again that I assumed this role. I realized that someone had to protect these fragile parts from harm and that the only one who could do so was me. I assumed control from that point. There are times, like any parent, when I wish I could lay down the mantle of mother to so many personalities (there are so many 6-year olds!) but to do so would be to give up control of my life. This is something I do not wish to do ever again.
There are many other chapters I have not given you. As can be expected some of the spacing is very different here on this website than they appear in paperback form.
The book DID in a Nutshell covers integration and life after t, two subjects that are very hard to find information about.
It is important to remember that all of this is from my point of view. I am NOT a t or a pdoc or any other kind of professional. I remind my readers of that often.
I hope you enjoyed these excerpts and that you will pass on to others that they exist.
(Shirley J. Davis)