They’ve always been there, as long as I can remember. The voices I hear as I go about my life are normal to me. Sometimes I can tune them out, and sometimes they’re too loud. Occasionally they talk directly to me, and often they have conversations, arguments, and joke with each other in the background. When the suffering ones are closer, I hear their crying and screaming. It’s unclear why they sometimes let me hear them; they’ve said before that most of it happens outside of my awareness (much like a singleton is unaware of their unconscious mind). I always thought these voices and interactions were normal, because they are my normal. There’s nothing wrong with me, I’m just not as unified as other people. Everyone naturally has different self states, like the persona you have at work or while taking care of your kids, which is different to the persona you have when you’re hanging out with friends. Mine are just more distinct and separate.
Of course this comes with challenges like amnesia, but the more we work on healing ourselves, the more we remember. We are so fragmented that we doubt we will ever be “one,” but we believe we will have more continuity and little to no time gaps. Sometimes I forget to stop and look at how far I’ve come. Three years ago, I was embarrassed that I’d previously been diagnosed with DID and was afraid to tell my therapist about it. I’d lived for decades with the shame of the abuse as well as the shame of DID. Now I write openly about it to help others understand. I accept that we are who we are. I listen to the others, and I’ve worked with other parts to help the ones trapped in trauma. This past month was really hard for us. In reflecting on our struggles, I see that there is still a lot of work to be done. However, I see some positivity in the dark times too. We tell our story. Mostly we tell it to our therapist, which may not seem like a big deal, but for us it is. We were locked away for so long, the suffering ones had no voice. Decades ago, our abusers threatened us with death if we talked in therapy. Some parts believe this danger is still a reality, so it’s taken a lot of work and courage from many parts to trust her with our story. It’s also amazing that we can write our story on a blog. We were scared to share it with the world for the same reasons. The fact that we have this blog shows how far we’ve come.
It all started when I became a mom, which led us to finally find a therapist we could trust. After being abused so many times, including by therapists, it was no small feat for her to gain our trust. She knew what many counselors don’t seem to understand. She knew she couldn’t push us, give us advice, or expect too much from us. There are so many reasons we fled therapy before. She was the only one we could find who would stay calm amidst our storms of fear and hopelessness. She stood in the eye of it all, like an anchor of safety. There have been days where most therapists would’ve panicked when dealing with us, but she didn’t. It sounds simple that she maintained a calm and patient approach, but it’s not. I’ve been a clinician, so I can see the other side of the coin. It is extremely challenging when you have a client struggling like I have in the past. You want to do something, you want to act in order to save them. It takes wisdom and confidence, something many clinicians never learn even after decades of experience, to trust the process like she does. She helps us save ourselves. She knows to avoid actions and words that will send us further into trauma responses. She compassionately witnesses our experiences, and she trusts us to find our way back to baseline. She waits with us until the monster puts down his axe and leaves. Most therapists have acted in a way that inadvertently caused us more damage. Instead, she patiently waits for more parts to trust her. She talked to multiple child parts recently who told me how she stayed with them when they saw the bad man. Now they feel safer with her. I know that we are extremely strong for surviving brutal trauma and also surviving the after effects of it, but we couldn’t have done it alone. You can’t heal from interpersonal trauma on your own, no matter how many books you read or how well trained you are. We needed to believe that someone in this world was safe. That was the stepping stone we needed to begin the fight for our lives.
The parts who endured the trauma are my heroes. Some are still far away, buried or locked in darkness. Some still think they’re dead. The many layers of parts are hiding others, and some seem to be unreachable. It feels overwhelming when we realize how many parts still suffer, but we won’t give up. We tell them that we will find them, rescue them, and carry them out of the darkness. The ones who are with me in every day life are slowly becoming more cooperative. We see each other as a team more often than not. There are still many parts who are distrustful of all of this, and some that still work against us because they think they’re somehow protecting us. But I see a difference in the ones who are joined by a common goal to feel better. I hear them try to help each other, and I feel their longing to be well. If we continue to work together, we absolutely will be able to save all of the suffering ones eventually. We will find them all and carry them into the light. We will show them that they’re not dead, they’re not still in pain, and they’re free now. They are all my heroes, even the angry, the hopeless, the lost; every last one of them helped save us.
In April, I must make a decision whether to continue this blog or let it disappear forever. I’m still not sure what I will choose to do. There are reasons to keep it going, but also reasons to end it. We have gained a lot from sharing our story with strangers, and we appreciate everyone who has taken the time to read it. As I’ve said, there’s nothing more freeing than finally being able to tell your story, especially if it had been locked away for so long. Shame and silence is at the core of most trauma, and writing alleviates these painful states. I’m relieved that we finally had the courage to write down some of the terrifying details. I’m also grateful to be able to educate people about DID, because the stigma is really awful. It’s such a misunderstood disorder. It’s a condition created by the mind to survive severe childhood trauma, yet it’s been vilified in the media and society in general. It pains me to think of those that are misdiagnosed and miss out on the chance to have a therapist understand how to truly help them live a better life. It also hurts to think that people assume those with DID are dangerous or crazy, or that it is a fictitious disorder. Despite the eye opening studies and books that have been published in the last decade, many professionals still don’t understand the condition. Most are not trained in dissociative disorders despite the prevalence being 1-3% in the general population and even higher in patient populations. These are all reasons I want to keep writing.
There are also reasons I want to let this blog fade away in April. On the one hand, it helps me to know that strangers read it. I prefer it to be a small blog and not too visible or popular because it feels safer. Although I do like the idea of educating others, I don’t want a huge audience. If I ever overcome my social anxiety, maybe I’ll find a way of reaching more people one day. However, the problem isn’t the strangers that read it, it’s the people who know me and are no longer part of my life who seem to have found it. It was always meant to be anonymous. As much as it heals me to share my story, it is not healing to share it with abusive or toxic people who have been removed from my life for my own happiness and safety. Sometimes I want to stop writing, but usually I remind myself that they mean nothing to me, and therefore their window into my world is nothing as well. Let them look, but hopefully they have realized that there is something inherently pathological in their obsessions. Let me go. Move on with your life. There’s at least six people I can think of that need to learn that. I also question whether to continue because I’m unsure how much of my story to share. What I’ve shared, although horrible, is not all of the insane nightmare we have lived through. Just as there are many parts, there are obviously many parts of our story.
We wonder if sharing details is a good idea. We were never able to read books written by trauma survivors because the details were too much for us. We don’t want to hurt other trauma survivors who may read it. We’re also not looking for sympathy or pity. Yes, we admit that our stories are horrific, but we don’t want anyone to feel bad for us. We feel brave and strong when we write. It frees us. I think people often get the wrong idea about the posts that contain the most pain. They’re not sob stories or cries for help, they are quite the opposite. They’re empowering, even in despair. We somehow lived! We lived to write it down. We are feeling pain and agony, but we are alive! And we are brave enough to share it with the world even when we were told by the perpetrators that we’d die if we said anything. Every dark and sad post is honestly opening a window to the light. It is absolutely shining the light on our deepest pain, shame, anger, humiliation, hopelessness, and despair so that we may wade through it and not drown in the silent darkness.
In fact, we find it interesting when we see how these posts affect people we know. We wonder why they react the way they do. It’s interesting to see what people do when exposed to stories of extreme pain and suffering. It’s curious when they throw hollow advice at someone who has lived through something they have not. We find it interesting when people react as though I see myself as a victim or someone who needs saving. No, I am strong because I have the courage to face the pain. Telling yourself, or another survivor, to suck it up and stop blaming your abusers for your pain is not advice. It’s blaming the victim. Yes, you must own the fact that you were a victim before you can heal. Saying I was victimized does not take away my strength, it makes me stronger. Saying I was used, exploited, and degraded does not make me weak. When I put the blame of my suffering on my abusers, that is where it must go. They avoided the shame and blame of what they did for far too long. I hand the shame back to them now. I am not to blame for my pain and suffering, they are. I am not to blame for any of the abuse or shame they put on me.
When people say to take responsibility for your pain, they’re missing the point, at least when it comes to trauma survivors. It becomes more victim blaming, something this society loves to do. It’s much easier to tell someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and then turn their backs than it is to offer true understanding and compassion. Why? Because in offering true empathy and compassion to a trauma survivor, you must face your own pain as well. You must be strong enough to face what it stirs up in yourself. This is why many therapists are ineffective in helping people heal from trauma, and it’s definitely why most people run from another person’s pain. Everybody has their own story, but most try to suppress it to make it seem like it had little impact on them. They deny that child or hurt part of themselves the ability to heal because they refuse to actually acknowledge their pain. Everyone has parts of themselves, as I said earlier. We all have aspects of ourselves that need to be listened to and healed. The only way you do that is by truly showing that part compassion. Distractions like drugs, food, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, working, etc. will never quiet the pain. Telling that part of you that they need to suck it up, be strong, and let it go will not work. You have to face the fear and pain. You have to be strong enough to feel the uncomfortable shame and powerlessness that your story probably contains. Only then will you be free one day. Anyway, that’s what I’ve learned from having to face horrific trauma. The pain has been so bad that sometimes all I can do is write to survive. But at least I’m here, at least I’m writing. Standing in the middle of your pain even when it feels like you might drown is not dwelling on it, it is necessary in order to actually let it go one day. There is no time limit on healing, and you can’t hit fast forward by blocking the worst of the pain and pretending you’re ok. The people who tend to have a judgmental attitude towards my blog are those that I believe are in the most pain. I hope that they can be a little kinder to themselves. And those who have used my trauma stories as a way to hurt me have only showed me a lot about who they are and how deeply hurt they are inside. I hope that one day they can truly love all aspects of themselves so that they can find peace and joy.
And so, as I look back on a very challenging month, I’m grateful. I’m grateful to the parts that helped save my life. I’m grateful for my therapist who never gave up and showed me that some people can be safe. I’m grateful for this blog and its small group of readers. And finally, I’m grateful that I somehow manage to find the will to keep fighting even in the darkest moments. I don’t know whether or not I will continue to write here, but whatever decision I make, it will be what’s best for me. If I continue, I will try to balance the painful posts with others that may have hope or educate people. I’ve tried to do that, but I must continue to keep that balance in mind. However, I will not quiet the voices that are in pain. I will let them write as much as they need to, so that they feel heard. The more they are listened to with compassion, the better we all do. Our life is both agonizing and amazing at the same time. Sometimes we wish the pain would just stop, and other times we are in awe that we are still here and breathing. Parts of me believe there is more that can be said about Dissociative Identity Disorder, more that we can convey to others. I know many parts still do not feel heard. Whether I write privately or on this blog in the future, I will never stop writing. We will always write to survive.