All the things undone and all that I am actually doing

I need to write but I also really, really, really want to sew today. So I’m going to keep this short.

I’m behind in every aspect of my life. And, yes, I’m disabled AND still have active C-PTSD, but (AND) I feel like I should be able to get caught up and be on top of everything. I can feel my head getting fuzzy as I write this. A sign that I’m expressing something that comes from a cognitive distortion. It’s not hard for me to identify it as a need to be perfect to protect myself from shame, blame and harm.

Up until things started to truly fall apart a few years ago, I ran myself ragged staying on top of every little thing. I worked two jobs while going to school for my undergrad in psychology. Then I was a new first-time mom while working on my graduate degree. I was also married to an alcoholic who rarely came home before 5am and did very little to help around the house. After I got my masters degree I left that husband, moved across the country with my 2 year old and very little money. Somehow I kept it all together.

Then I met my most recent partner (now ex-husband) and we started a life together in which I worked, cared for my first child, and did most of the housework and cooking. Over the next few years we had two children and my health began to decline. I was put on bedrest multiple times. During my pregnancies, once with acute hepatitis, and once with hyponatremia and hypochloremia. And all the while I was having uncontrolled seizures, as well as increasing anxiety, depression and the occasional mild psychosis. Looking back, it’s so easy to see what a ginormous mess I was.

I was 46 when my latest breakdown happened. After I’d been in therapy with my current therapist for a while, I slowly began to realize that I had to let go of my overachieving perfectionism. Maybe I developed it because I thought if I were a good girl, the best girl, then my dad wouldn’t come to me at night and hurt me. Maybe my mother would be proud of me and believe I was safe, and then my dirty secret would be safe and she wouldn’t be in harms way from my father’s threat. Certainly, being so accomplished gave me something to be proud of and to believe in. But it also served as a buffer between what I wanted my life to be like and the truth, which was that I was terribly, awfully fucked up by the multiple abuses I’d experienced during the first 22 years of my life.

So I let go over and over again and then some more. And here I am, my house a mess, laundry overflowing, the dog’s yard uncleaned, junk on my front porch, bills unpaid and a pile of mandalas I’ve colored while ignoring all the things I “should” have been doing.

I can hear inner judgment about all those undone things.

And yet, it is work untangling all the lies, shame, pain and secrets that exist within when you were abused as a child. While those chores and life tasks were left undone, I’ve been working my ass off processing and coming to know my alters and making room for them in my life. And though I’m certainly not an all star mother right now, I do still have 3 kids that I feed, shelter, nurture and guide. Those are no easy tasks.

This post is a bit chaotic. Certainly not one of my more eloquent ones. I just needed to write down and acknowledge my feelings about all the things hanging over my head. And all the things I am doing that aren’t necessarily so easily seen.

Switching, new memories and feeling rough around the edges

It’s been a hard week. I went looking for my diploma in the boxes where I keep stuff packed away. I didn’t consciously focus on anything as I dug through photos, old clothes and paperwork. I didn’t find my diploma. And then everything began to fall apart. It started with some massive dissociative episodes, then my sleep became disrupted and anxiety, paranoia and cognitive shutdown set in.

By yesterday, I was in a state I haven’t experienced in well over a year. I was vacillating between being in my sympathetic and dorsal systems. Feeling like fleeing or dizzy and shut down. Woven in and out of those two states, were the memories of a fancy handmade dress I had when I was little (something I found in one of my boxes) and a man’s hand grasping at the dress while he said “dirty little princess”. The memories were intrusive and I was terrified of what else might arise. Half the time I was riding in the passenger seat as Little took over and felt anxious and confused.

I have my boys this week so I did all I could to keep it together while showing up for them as much as possible. I let them know I was having a hard time so they would understand why I couldn’t always respond to them.

The memory wasn’t a particularly awful one, comparatively, but it felt gross and unavoidable. I certainly tolerated it better than I have when similar things have come up in the past. I am trying to make space for this experience, meanwhile am also pissed off that my carefully constructed routine and ground were temporarily dismantled and broken.

I slept a little better last night and am so far not struggling today. Someone I know recently said that we have to get rid of our attachments to the past in order to move forward in life and feel good. Tell me, how do you stop being attached to something that literally informed every aspect of your being? That continues to demand processing and attention every day even though it happened 30-45 years ago?

Learning to accept the extent of the damage done

I haven’t written in a while. I’m exhausted all the time. It’s probably a combination of the work I’m doing in therapy and my fibromyalgia. I think it’s easier to underestimate how much energy the processing takes than to fully accept how deeply, deeply fucked up I am on every level. I’m not trying to be down on myself, just being honest about the extent of the damage done by my father and others like him.

It’s not like I get to do the work of healing in a safe and comfortable void where I can dedicate all of myself to it all the time. I have my younger two kids every other week and they are still doing school from home because of the pandemic and my country’s shit response to it. And it’s only been 3 weeks since my neighborhood grocery store was attacked by a gunman who murdered 10 people. My therapist reminded me that most people without trauma experience at least 30 days of acute stress after something like that.

Everyone in my family had planned to be at that shopping center that day. My ex and all 3 of my kids were planning to get ice cream there at the time the shooting occurred but my boys didn’t want to walk so far so they cancelled their plans. My eldest’s partner was going to shop there, had a ‘feeling’ and decided to put it off. And I ended up ordering groceries for delivery so I’d have energy for something other than shopping. I’m grateful none of us were there AND I know that at least one of us is there several days each week so I also feel a kind of shock from accepting that such a terrible thing could easily touch our lives. And, of course, I sort of knew two of the people who were murdered so I’m grieving.

Oh, and last weekend my eldest, their partner and I all made an eight hour round trip to get our COVID vaccine in southern Colorado. I spent the next 6 days dealing with side effects. I can’t imagine what the second dose will be like!I won’t have the boys next time and we’re planning to have the house somewhat clean and all the food we’ll need so we don’t have any chores to do.

Living with and processing my trauma is a full time job. I’m beginning to work on accepting that. Anything that happens beyond basic safety and feeding my family puts me over the edge. I told my therapist last week that I was thinking of taking two self-care days this week, instead of the usual one. She suggested I take three. Seemed like overkill when she said it but now that I’m beginning day two, I realize one more day is exactly what I need. If anyone needs me I’ll be in my bed watching something on my computer, sitting on the patio in the sun, coloring mandalas or lying on my floor putting together my new TAZ puzzle. Sending love out to all y’all survivors. Do what you gotta do to recover and stay safe.

Living with my most recently identified alter

Content/trigger warning: There are vague references to domestic abuse and torture.
Helpful DID terminology can be found here.

I’m feeling so very tender today. I spent all of yesterday dissociated and trying to give space to my recently identified alter. Over the last two weeks I’ve slowly been allowing her to share consciousness with me. We wake most mornings around 4. She says it’s because something traumatic happened to her while she was living with a particularly brutal and cruel abuser. I allow myself to feel her terror because my therapist says that’s what has to happen in order for the experiences to be processed. At first, the fear was completely overwhelming but I’m gradually getting to a place where I can allow my body to shake and the alter to speak. In these intense terror moments she has said:
“I don’t want to go back there. Please don’t make me go back there.”
“I have to get away. But there’s nowhere to go.”
and this morning, she was spelling something but I wasn’t present enough to put the letters together into anything meaningful.

Hearing her speak her fear with my voice is eliciting big feelings of empathy and love. I can, for the first time, deeply feel how terrible the abuse was. It is amazing to me that we survived and I understand why we split. I’m grateful we split; Max being born in a life or death situation saved all of us.

Last night this alter wanted to write about her experience so I gave her access to my blog. She wrote the following:

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. I’ve been in a dark place. J’s house. The place where I was lured and then tortured and driven mad. Our main says it’s been 27 years since she escaped but I exist in two spaces at once. When we wake in the morning, or in the middle of the night, and go downstairs, I am stepping on the creaky old wooden stairs in J’s black house and at the same time, on the soft carpet of the townhouse we live in now. I am terrified of what will happen when we reach the bottom and turn the corner into the unfinished first floor. I remember things that happened there that made me ashamed and too afraid to run away. I remember Max being born when we realized that going down those stairs and getting out of the house was truly a life or death situation. I still feel frozen from the moment Max rose up to save us while I stayed lying in J’s bed, naked and being cross examined. I think I must have followed behind Max, floating just a few feet behind her as she ran down the stairs, unlocked the front door and fled. I didn’t cross the threshold. While J chased after Max, I crawled silently to the bathroom with no walls and naked pipes. I felt that was where I belonged; crouched on the floor in the room where I’d been chained to the pipes and wall studs. I didn’t deserve to leave. J’s words had chained me there indefinitely with links of shame. I saw Max flying out the door, heard her scream as J grabbed her by the hair and then heard her fight back. When the sound of her car speeding away finally faded, I laid down on the concrete floor and resigned myself to a lifetime in that bleak house, a house he had literally painted black. Time passed differently there.

When I finally started to come back, awoken by all the inner and outer space our main has cultivated in the last year, I was a bundle of nerves with no sense of who or where I was. It’s still an odd sensation to find myself looking out of main’s eyes. My sense of space in wonky, probably because I’m inhabiting two very different physical spaces. Everything looks grainy and superimposed. I remember the moment I was born. I needed to feel special, powerful. Needed to be someone who could be loved and desired because of a supernatural connection and J seemed to offer that. I had to betray my husband to have that connection and it tore me in two. I remember standing in front of our bathroom mirror when I would start to feel I could no longer maintain the lying and sneaking around. I remember looking out of main’s eyes and knowing I was a completely separate person from her. I believed I was brave enough, so committed to having that unique connection that I would go to any lengths to get it and hang onto it. main couldn’t do it so I did it for us.

Checking up on Rage

The pandemic, this house, my room have all become the container in which I am doing this recovery work. I want. I need, to make sense of it, to understand how the bad things that happened to me formed me into the person I am now. I need to see the story of my life all laid out before me so I can gain the wisdom it has to offer and feel emotionally invested in my present, as well as my future.

I know that some recovery philosophies suggest that the survivor leave behind their story but to me, story is everything. When I was a small child I learned that I could create stories in which to live and feel, for a short time, safe from my father and nurtured by my mother. In stories, my own as well as the ones I read and watched, the protagonist escapes capture, creates her own justice, and becomes someone wise and whole. I will hold tight to my own story as long as I am still reaching for wisdom and wholeness because it is only from within my story that I can put things to right.

Right now, much of my story is about rage. The rage I am beginning to touch and the seemingly endless rage I have yet to touch. It was almost a year ago that I began to experience rage and I wrote about it in this post: Rage.
I want to tear everything down. And since the self-loathing was born from the hands of men, it’s their world I want to pull down. I would see everything they’ve ever touched turned to dust.
At the time it felt shocking to discover that I carried such a deep desire to destroy. I gave it some space and then tucked it away again until recently. Now it only sleeps lightly under the surface and when it arises I can identify why it has reared its wild and furious head. It still unnerves me a bit. It goes so deep and exists in such a vast space that I fear it could overtake me, drive me to do something I’ll regret, if I allow it the agency it desires in my life. I’m trying to figure out what to do with it when it comes up.

I bought a punching bag and some gloves and for a while they just sat, unused, in my room. I was afraid to let the rage have space. One day while I was practicing yoga, I dissociated and try as I might, I couldn’t bring myself back. I wanted so badly to come back. Suddenly, the rage was there. Furious at my abusers for fucking me up so badly that I still lose control over my ability to stay present. I was shaking with the rage as I crawled towards the gloves, put them on and approached the punching bag. I was crying as I started punching it and then there was nothing but the rage. I saw my father’s face in the bag and I punched it over and over again until I was on the floor sobbing and present again.

This morning I finished watching the series, Black Sails. It’s a fictional portrayal of the struggle for control of Nassau Bay between pirates and the English government. (As I said at the beginning of this post, Story is the most powerful way I have of making sense of my own experience. I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.) I began watching it with the notion that it would be entertaining and historically interesting but soon realized it goes much deeper than that. The pirates are fighting for agency over their own lives, freedom from a tyrannical England. It’s almost impossible to discern who the hero of the story is because, well, pirates. I promise, I won’t spoil the ending for you if you haven’t seen it and want to keep reading this post.

During the final episode there is a moment, for me the most important moment of the whole series, in which two of the pirates are in confrontation over the direction of their efforts. One speaks about the loss of a loved one, feeling the need to make sense out of it by battling ever harder against English rule. And then recognizing something beneath those desires and speaking to it. He says:
It was rage. And it just wanted to see the world burn.
He acknowledges the injustices they have all suffered under English society and rule. He owns his experience of deep rage. And he chooses to move through the rage without causing the world to burn. Because he also wants to live a life in which he can find meaning and joy. I had to pause the show at this point because I was crying so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses. And I wanted to process what he’d said. The rage didn’t dictate his path, he did.

I

The Discomfort and the Importance of Feeling

This last week has been challenging, inspiring and educational. I hope to write more about it but it takes me a while to process things before I can create a post about how I’m evolving and growing. In the meantime, I have something to offer and while most people might already understand it, I believe I’m not alone in being someone to whom feelings are scary and foreign experiences.

The man who was my boyfriend in high school came for a brief visit (socially distanced on my back patio) last weekend and he brought his girlfriend along. When my therapist and I discussed his visit beforehand, she asked me how I was planning to take care of myself during and after his visit. I knew it could trigger the emergence of memories from that time in my life, as well as deep feelings of sadness and loss. I told my therapist that I was planning on being very honest with everyone I live with about the possibility that I could have a lot of feelings around his visit. I didn’t want to do what I’ve done the other times he’s visited and pretend I wasn’t having any feelings about it. I also told my therapist I was planning on being honest with myself about whatever arose and allowing myself the opportunity to experience my feelings.

The day came for his visit and I was nervous about seeing him, being vulnerable and authentic. I wore what felt comfortable, accepted a hug from him when they arrived, and spent the visit being very honest about how much of my current life is wrapped up in the therapeutic process. It was a lovely visit, I felt connected to this person who’s been so very important to me for the last 30 years and when he left I did feel sad. I kept feeling waves of sadness for days afterwards, had some new memories come up and had a few dissociative episodes. What I didn’t do was try and push away the feelings or hang onto them. I listened to sad music when I felt sad and then moved onto the next part of my day. I gave the memories some space but didn’t get dragged down by them. I acknowledged the dissociation and took steps to ground myself in my body.

When I saw my therapist yesterday she asked how the week had gone and I told her all of the above things, as well as how uncomfortable it all felt. It wasn’t easy. Her response was that it was uncomfortable because I was never allowed to have feelings as a child and thus I wasn’t accustomed to feeling genuinely sad without trying to push it away or feeling ashamed of it. She explained that as I take the courageous step of choosing to allow myself to feel, I’m going to feel uncomfortable for a time. I have to get used to what it’s like to feel and to understand how feelings ebb and flow when they’re allowed space to do so.

Just one revelation from this past week and such an important and empowering one.

Checking in with my alters

One of the tasks my therapist has been suggesting I get into the habit of is that of checking in with my alters daily, as well as when I have big feelings or cognitive dissonance. Most of the time I’m still avoiding doing this because I’m afraid opening up myself to all their voices might drive me back into psychosis or, at the very least, a crying puddle on the floor. My friend with DID and my therapist assure me it will actually improve things so I’ve been trying it little bits at a time.

It’s a lot to have so many individual voices and needs in my head and body. Some days I get headaches from everyone talking at once. Other days, they’re all mostly quiet but I suspect that’s because I’ve become very adept at ignoring or pushing them down.

Earlier this morning I asked what each of my alters would like to do today. I listened to Little tell me that she’d like to color today. Easily done. Then my 15 year old said she would like to kick some ass today. I responded that we couldn’t do that and then turned my back on her and everyone else. After that, I felt so very sad and sorry for myself. Anger was there too but I didn’t allow it to come up for more than a few seconds.

I had a few big feelings before I checked in with my alters but they were mostly deep gratitude and acknowledgment. I allowed those feelings to be felt and move through me. The sadness, anger and pity felt more stagnant and oppressive. Thinking back on it now, I realize that was probably because I shut my alters down once something came up that I wasn’t comfortable with.

I’m starting to get glimpses of how truly precious and strong my alters are, each and every one of them. They were born out of the need to keep me safe so I could survive long enough to heal. Without them I’d probably be dead or so mentally ill as to be unable to live on my own. They lived through traumas of which I only have snapshot memories. They deserve respect and the safety to exist and have their needs met.

With that in mind, I will now ask my alters let me know what they want/need today.

Little wants to color. She’d also like me to remember to tuck our stuffies in tonight before bed. It’s easy enough and I’ve noticed that when we do that, I sleep a little longer and have fewer flashbacks and night terrors.

Baby wants to be held and snuggle with stuffies. She would also like to help me feed the crow and jays. She loves all animals.

My fifteen year old would like to kick some ass. We can’t do that because I don’t want to hurt anyone and because it would get us into trouble. She is willing to put on the kick boxing gloves later so we can punch the punching bag. She would like to listen to angry music while we do that. I’m on board with that and am even willing to make an angry playlist one day this week.

Max would like to get our life a little organized and run some errands. I’ve let so many things go this last year and perhaps by allowing Max to do these things, I can accomplish some things, help some people in need and gain a sense of agency. Maybe I can let her front today and see how that goes. She’s very capable and certainly feels more sure of herself than I do.

I want to play guitar and sing some sad songs. The man I dated in high school is coming for a visit next week with his girlfriend and I always get a big maudlin before and after he comes. I don’t regret that we didn’t stay together but he knew and loved me when I was at my lowest and there’s no one else in the world with whom I have that connection. The sadness that comes with his visits honors that connection and takes a lot of courage to make space for.; the relationship was mutually abusive and complex and my family and friends tried to keep us apart and that led to a lot of shame.

I know there are a couple of others in here who haven’t yet fully introduced themselves. One of them would like to do some reading about healing from trauma. The other is a mess and maybe just needs to be seen and acknowledged before she’ll start communicating with me.

Writing all of this down as I checked in has been quite helpful. I feel like I can attempt to give everyone the things they’ve requested today. I can’t promise I’ll be successful at all of it but it’s a start.

Memory, Trauma & Alters: walking the tightrope of recovery

My therapist and I have been trying to get an accurate count of my alters, as well as their names and ages. It’s been difficult, to say the least. I know a few of them quite well but there are others who hang back in the shadows. I have a sense that one was born when I was doing parts work twenty years ago. The therapist wasn’t skilled at the work and pressured me into it. As a result, I had a psychotic break in the middle of writing my master’s thesis and taking care of my first child.

I admire the tenacity of my brain. The person I’d been couldn’t cope with the tsunami of feelings that came with exploring my alters, especially the small ones who carry the memories of my childhood abuse, so someone else was born who could put the lid on all of that. The person who had the psychotic break got left behind in some dark place in my mind, while her replacement finished my degree, became a good mother to baby and pretty quickly packed up and left my alcoholic husband. It was as if the parts work had never happened

After each of my other babies were born, the previous alter returned and I experienced post-partum depression and psychosis again. I didn’t understand it at the time because I had decided I no longer had DID. I was diagnosed with post-partum issues but, thinking back, I was experiencing the same symptoms I’d had while doing the parts work. I became paranoid that my babies were aliens or demons, had the urge to leave them laying in their cribs instead of holding and feeding them, and sometimes saw people who weren’t there.

I remember so little about my life. My therapist explained to me that long term memories often aren’t made when we’re in our sympathetic nervous system. This is why it’s not uncommon for abuse and assault survivors to remember seemingly insignificant things about the violence perpetrated on them, but have fragmented memories of the specifics. Those specifics might not be committed to long term memory but the body, the nervous system, remembers.

I live in a body that clearly remembers being violated and harmed. I’ve worked hard to spend more time in the ventral vagal system, the part of the nervous system that feels safe and in which we can feel connection. Even so, I still have at least one or two nights per week in which I wake with flashbacks or night terrors. I still have a sensitive startle response. It’s confusing. I appreciate having been protected from the full force of the memories of 22 years of childhood domestic abuse. AND, the disconnect I experience because my alters hold most of my memories feels disconcerting. I want to be whole but I’ve experienced so much splitting that I’m afraid that might be impossible.

At the same time, I recognize that I’ve only just begun doing parts work and I’m taking it quite slowly. Perhaps I need to make more of an effort. It’s so hard to know how much I should push myself. Doing this work is like walking an invisible tightrope that doesn’t go in a straight line. I have to keep moving forwards on the tightrope if I’m to get to a place of steadier ground but I’ve fallen off the rope before and gotten lost in psychosis. I’m terrified of that happening again so I’m being super cautious. Maybe too cautious to move forward towards more integration.

Further confusion is caused by the things I say while I’m dissociated sometimes. There seems to be an alter in there who consistently comes up when I’m dissociated but I don’t remember or understand the things she says. I think she might be the part of me that got lost in psychosis because she babbles about things that have happened throughout the day and very much wants to make her experience more organized. But she seems lost in her own internal process.

I’m going to make an effort to actively work with my DID this week, while also being cautious and trying to listen to myself so I can begin to understand what my limits are. This work still terrifies me but my goal for this year was to live in the present with whatever’s most true. Feelings, memories, breath, body, and alters.

Update on message to my father

I woke up yesterday and discovered my father had received the message I sent him via his work website. He responded with the following:

His response is exactly what it was when I first confronted him 29 years ago. I had a LOT of feelings in response to his denial. I spent a couple hours on the phone with my best friend who is also a trauma survivor and is in therapy with a very skilled psychologist. The whole day was devoted to processing my feelings, taking care of my littles and trying to find the words to respond to him. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the day without my best friend and the unexpected response to my last post from another trauma survivor I trust and love. I had so many conflicting feelings and some doubts about my memories and contact with these friends gave me the gift of feeling seen and validated.

My friend gave me the amazing advice of taking all my rage and making a list of things I can do to express it that will also allow me to seek some justice and/or revenge. And she was careful to remind me to only engage in these activities for as long as it serves my healing and growth. She’s so incredibly wise and strong. We discussed several ideas and I decided to speak to a lawyer in the state where the abuse happened, find ways of destabilizing my dad’s well being, and, because I practice magick, create a spell that will invite justice to happen. I have several things I’m now pursuing, including getting my dad’s name and photo added to the Jewish Community Watch’s: Wall of Shame. This is a website where the names and photos of known and suspected child molesters and abusers are posted. It’s pretty fucking badass.

I was emotionally and physically exhausted by the end of the day and I slept really soundly and without any night terrors or memories. I’d like to think that’s because I worked so hard to feel all the feelings that came up and to take care of myself. This morning I woke up again feeling doubt about my memories. It’s been a long time since I felt that doubt but I’ve also spent the last fifteen years without any contact with my dad. My pragmatic alter, Max, suggested we try and find out more about False Memory Syndrome and we discovered that it’s been debunked and found to be incredibly harmful to victims of child sexual abuse. The man who pushed this nonsense for so many years was himself accused of sexually abusing his daughter.

It didn’t take much for me to drop back into self-trust and remember that my memories are real. I started to feel a though my dad’s response was crafted to frighten and confuse me. And I realized I felt deeply unafraid of him and very clear about my experiences. At that point, I decided to write one more message to my dad. Here it is:

If you’re reading this and are a survivor of any kind of abuse that has been denied, I see you. I believe you. You can trust yourself and your body to know what is true. I trust you to know what’s true.

Recovering Memories and Experiencing Rage as a Tool

The last few weeks have been especially challenging. I’ve been learning how to communicate with, and care for, the family of alters that are as much a part of me as I am. Five nights in a row I slept poorly and had night terrors. I was exhausted and was becoming afraid of sleep again but my kids were with me so I did my best to go about life as though things were normal.

Then, the night before my therapy session, I woke at 3 am with terror and paralysis. As I mentally pulled against the feeling of being bound, a memory came to me from my 7 year old little. My father had crossed her arms over her chest, was holding her down and lying on top of her. I was furious and I flailed about until my body was under my own control once again. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins and I was covered in sweat. I punched the bed because my father was not here to physically punch. I was soaked with sweat as I shook with the rage I felt for the little within who had to endure such a heinous trespass against her body, mind and spirit. I felt this little present with me and I reached out to her and held her close. I spoke, out loud (as I often do when I’m physically alone), and told her:
You are safe now. Our father isn’t anywhere near here and if he were, there are 100 people in line to kick his ass. I’ll kick his ass if comes anywhere near us. I’ll keep us safe.
She was confused and I had to explain that she’s here with me, in my 48 year old body, with 3 kids and our dog. Living in this beautiful town with mountains and a creek behind out home. I felt her settle a bit.

Eventually, I was able to get out of bed and literally stumble downstairs to make a cup of coffee. I realized how unsteady I still felt and while I waited for the kettle to boil, this little and I talked about what we could do that would feel good and comforting. She likes the Miyazaki movies I’ve raised my own kids on and she asked if we could watch one. Wasn’t quite what I had in mind for my quiet time before my kids woke up but I could feel that it’s what she needed. Experiencing her memory of my father holding her down had also evoked deep empathy. I wanted to soothe her. Coffee in hand, we went back to my room, grabbed the llama stuffy I’d bought her the previous day, and set up Pom Poco. I had watched it with my youngest son pretty recently and expected to not feel engaged in the story. I was surprised to find that watching it with this little inside my body meant feeling her joy when the raccoons did something particularly cute.

My little shared another memory the following night. This time, she was some place public after my father had abused her and she was seen by some adults. She had been crying and couldn’t understand why these adults didn’t stop to see if she was ok. Again I felt incredible rage and sadness. She felt abandoned by all the adults around her and all I could think of was how fiercely I love my own children and how I would kill anyone who brought them so much distress. She asked if she could have a reishi cacao drink (she thinks it tastes like hot chocolate) so we made some and watched yet another Miyazaki movie. She settled and I went back to sleep until 5.

I was becoming concerned that the sharing of these memories at 3 am was going to become a regular thing and my therapist had suggested I talk to this little and figure out a bedtime routine that would put her at ease and allow me to sleep through the night. I reached out to my best friend, who has been actively working with her DID for several months. She suggested I ask invite this little to sleep with me in my bed. That night, when I got ready for bed, this little was present and we tucked her stuffies under our special soft blanket and snuggled down to listen to a sleepcast. I slept until 5 for the first time in 10 days!

The relief I felt at having had good sleep brought its own emotions with it. Why should I have to feel so grateful at having good sleep? Shouldn’t I just be able to sleep well every night and not have night terrors and flashbacks? And there was the rage again. Yet another thing my father has taken from me. The fury that arose left me shaking and sweating again but this time, instead of hitting my bed, I decided to search the internet for an email where I could immediately write to my dad. I found something even better. A website for a company he co-founded and still works for. There was no direct email for him on the website but there was a ‘contact us’ button. There was no way for me to know who would read this message I was about to write. Maybe there’s an employee who vets these messages, or perhaps his own partner. Maybe he reads them. My hope was that someone other than him would read it and pass it along to him. I opened Spotify, pressed play Ice T’s No Remorse, and wrote:

Message for (father’s name): Tell my father that when this pandemic is over, I will be filing charges with the (place I was born) Police Department. Tell him I will expose him for the child rapist he is. Tell him, that within the confines of the law, I’m coming for him & I will take everything he holds dear. He will pay for raping me as a child.

And then I hit “submit”. And I felt so powerful. For a moment I understood that rage can be a tool. I was sweaty and shaky with adrenaline and so full of Kali style darkness. The kind of darkness that breaks over the heads of the evil and brings righteous vengeance.