Somatic symptoms and trauma processing

CW: I am not going into great detail about my abuse but I will be writing about specific sexual, physical and emotional abuse situations. Please be kind to yourself and come back to this later if you’re feeling at all vulnerable right now.

I never cease to be amazed at this process of integrating my trauma and alters. I’ve been having night terrors, flashbacks, new memories and a ton of somatic symptoms. About a week and a half ago I woke up around 4 am with new memories of my childhood sexual abuse. Afterwards, as I rested and processed all the feelings I was having, I had a ginormous realization:

Until I separated from my ex and moved into this house nestled against a creek I had never not felt hunted.

When I was a child I was always wondering when my father would be secretly watching me play in the backyard or come into my room in the night to rape me. I became sexually active only two years after my father stopped raping me. I was vulnerable from that abuse and so became a victim of many other rapes as an adolescent. I honestly can’t remember how many different teenage boys raped me. I had a two year relationship with a boy who never pushed me to have sex with him but he was quick to anger and I was always on edge waiting for him to snap and smack or violently grab me. I married my first husband at 19 and that was a brief respite. I left him for Joe, the man who sadistically raped and locked me up for several months. When I left him, he stalked me for a year and accosted me several times during that period. I went away to college and I was still vulnerable. I didn’t know how to set boundaries so I ended up having a lot of sex I didn’t want to have and I was again raped a few times. In my other two marriages, as kind hearted and well intentioned as those husbands were, I was often pressured into sex.

That’s forty something years of being and feeling hunted. I had a lot of feelings come up as I began to process this realization. Grief and rage being the biggest. I remember thinking that ground under my feet had shifted, that it had never felt even slightly steady until this last year. The following day I leaned down to pet our cat and when I straightened up I felt so off balance I had to sit down on the floor. After that I felt the ground moving under my feet whenever I walked and when I laid down, I felt like I was spinning. I didn’t think the dizzy, off balance feelings were related to the big revelation I’d had; I just assumed I was experiencing some random vertigo. I ended up going to the ER the following day to make sure there wasn’t something serious going on with my health. They ran ALL the tests, determined it was benign, gave me some medicine and sent me home.

It was the following day that I put it all together. The vertigo was somatic! Realizing I am for the first time in my life not being hunted in some way, that I am safe, was so huge that it left my brain thinking the ground under my feet was shifting. I had my boys all last week so I rested as much as I could while making sure they were still fed and got some of my attention. When I saw my therapist on Friday she told me I needed to do some somatic processing and use more skills when these big things happen. I’ve been doing that the last few days as I process new memories and flashbacks.

I’ve often complained that this process is achingly slow. Now I understand that it needs to be in order to be absorbed and integrated. If the years of living in a nervous system that’s been in fight, flight or freeze all came up at once, or even over a year, it would be so overwhelming that I’d go right back into that frozen or panicked state. I’m learning to understand how healing works and honor how hard it is and what I need in each moment. I feel my strength more and feel fiercely protective of the alchemy that is healing. As a result, I don’t want much human contact. I’m able to enjoy being present with my kids and I greatly value the friendships I have with my few girlfriends but for the most part I want to be alone.

And conversation was had by all

Two weeks ago I woke up to a cacophony of angry and upset voices. All my alters were talking at once. It was a Monday morning and my boys had left the Friday before to spend the week with their dad. I usually take Saturdays as a rest day but I was so busy with getting taxes done for me, my ex and my mom that I worked through the weekend. I had made promises to give my littles time doing things they like to do but had not kept them. I guess I should have expected some anger and resentment but it took me by surprise. I’m very much still learning to live with all these people inside of me and it often feels easier to pretend they are not real and go about my business as if it were just me in my body.

They had my attention and I chose to give them an opportunity to speak in a somewhat organized way so I opened a blank document and let them all type. I’m posting the conversation in an effort to be transparent with myself and own that these people have just as much a right to express themselves as I do. I’m honestly quite proud of them for talking to me instead of sending me into a panicked or dissociative state. I see it as progress.

Mina: Stop fucking around and just fucking type the question.

Me: Why are y’all ganging up on me?

13 yr old A: You said three days in a row that we could start the TAZ puzzle. There’s always an excuse. The taxes have to get done. You HAVE to do the work for mom.

Max: You’re spending a lot of time binge watching. Binge watching and coloring. You’re getting your time but the rest of us are left standing behind a curtain where you mostly don’t see us.

Little A: Yeh. You haven’t even been tucking in the stuffies like you were. That’s a pretty easy thing to do and it doesn’t take much time.

Mina: You think you’re going to get out of all this trauma bullshit but you’re never going to be like people who weren’t raped when they were kids.

Me: Ruby?

Ruby: I feel like it’s my fault you’re doing this. I came up/out with so many feelings and new memories and you were there but when 13 yr old A finally decided it was safe and she came out, you shut everything down tight.

Me: I probably did. I hadn’t thought about it really.

Me: Ruby, it’s most certainly not your fault. You’ve been through so much, more than the rest of us, really. You remembered the abuse (kind of?) and then went through hell with a psychopath. My oldest kiddo just came in and said “they’re holding you accountable. That’s good.” I think it’s the right thing for y’all to do. I just felt jumped.

Lisa: I bet you did. But you deserved it. I don’t like not being listened to.

Max: It’s true. You haven’t been listening. And you fell back into your habit of blocking out the things you don’t want to see and feel. You’re good at it.

Me: I have to be. That’s a coping skill too.

Everybody wanting to speak.

Ruby: You’re using CBD, even yoga, to chill out your feelings instead of processing them. We have the power to force you to feel things and make you very uncomfortable.

Max: But we didn’t do that this morning, did we? We were simply trying to talk to you and you weren’t accepting responsibility so some of us escalated things a bit. Not that I condone the way you were being spoken to. Threatening to overwhelm you was inappropriate.

Me: What am I suppose to do? I really do have to do all this stuff and I know it’s overwhelming right now but it will get better.

Little A: Choosing to do stuff for mom before us is not ok. You’re even doing it to yourself. You wanted to sew yesterday and you didn’t even get to the machine.

Me: The stuff with mom is complicated. Yes, I feel like I should help her AND I need the money. I’m supporting 5 people half the time and 3 the other half. I’m trying to set boundaries around it but right now, she needs a lot of help. I really do think things will get better in a few months.

Max: You could choose to give up some of your time to us. When the boys aren’t here, you spend from 4:30am till 8am just watching your stories. Would you be willing to give up some of that?

Me: I can try. Yes, I’ll try. It’s going to be a big shift for me. I’ve been doing that for 3 years. And maybe we should set aside a few minutes a day for airing out stuff. I avoid listening because I’m trying to feel like things are less chaotic than they are.

Mina: That’s good. We’re going to hold you to it. And you will make time for that puzzle today. 13yr old A hasn’t been given the space the rest of us get. And she’s been waiting a long time. 34 years.

Mina: You said you were going to be open to the truth. You fucking tattooed it on your arm. You’re a fucking hypocrite if you don’t actually follow through. The truth is, we are a mess of feelings and fucked up thinking. You’re not doing the work if you aren’t acknowledging that.

Me: OK. I promise to give 13 yr old A time with the puzzle today. It’s going to be a rainy day. Sounds like a cozy thing to do. I’m also going to talk to Sarah about all of this later. Y’all can be there for the conversation and jump in.

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.

Beginning to work with DID

My therapist often tells me there’s no road map for recovery; every person with trauma does it in their own time and in their own way. I try to let that be a comfort. Sometimes I hate that there’s no clear path. I want check boxes I can tick off. Instead, it feels like I’m wandering around in a big, dark forest where I occasionally stumble onto a new path or a road block.

Working with my dissociative identity disorder feels more like I’ve fallen into a pit with several other people of various ages who are also stumbling through the recovery forest. Some of these people are willing to talk to me and help to plan our escape from the pit. Others, especially most of the younger ones, don’t say anything. They sit alone or in pairs looking shell shocked and neglected. The teenager is pissed off and sassy but seems pretty satisfied that I’m in the pit with her. A couple of the adult people wander around and mumble but they’re in no state to help us find a way out. And then, of course, there’s the shadow creature who lurks, says nasty, mean things to everyone and is just generally a jerk.

My therapist is out of the ‘office’ the next couple of weeks so we spent our last session talking about how I’m going to stay regulated and safe over the next three weeks. I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about how others with DID work with their systems and manage symptoms. I was diagnosed with DID when I was in my mid teens and have actively suppressed my system since I was in my twenties. Research on, and treatment of, DID has grown a lot in the last twenty years. Mostly I’m reading blogs and subreddit posts about how others with DID work with their systems.

I still don’t know much about my system and that makes it harder for me to communicate with my alters and figure out what they need. I’ve decided to try to track my mood and dissociative episodes throughout the day so I can have a better idea of what’s happening and who’s coming to the surface. I’ve noticed that I’m having small chunks of lost time and I want to know why that’s happening.

Here’s what the google form looks like, in case it might be helpful for someone else. I based it on a document I found on this system‘s blog. I believe the document they share is from a DID treatment center in Maryland.

If you’re reading this and you have DID, please feel free to comment with any tools you use to work with your system. Or just reach out to say ‘hi’. We are pretty isolated right now and trying to find places where we can connect with other systems.

Beginning Parts Work

learning to live with DID
Written December 12, 2020

For the last several weeks, my therapist and I have been talking about me beginning to work with my dissociative identity disorder and the parts/alters that are as much a part of me and my body as I am. She’s been very gentle and cautious during these discussions. We began talking about it because in the midst of all the awesome work I’m doing, I’m not giving myself space to be angry. I’ve been trying to avoid working with my dissociative identity disorder most of my adult life. I spent most of the 16 years with my ex-husband believing that while I was dissociating, I wasn’t living with active alters anymore.

Yesterday I officially met Max for the first time. She is one of my alters and we are co-conscious almost all the time. I talk to myself a lot throughout each day and usually those conversations are with Max. I was going about my usual morning routine and talking to myself out loud when I suddenly realized this was an opportunity to actively learn about this alter I spend so much time with and who is a rock in my daily life. I asked her if she had a name and she didn’t hesitate long before answering.
“I’m Max. I was born when you were 20 and I’m still twenty. I’m a tall, lanky blonde woman with short cropped hair and I’m gay.”

Max has, for twenty-eight years, been the part of me who keeps things together. She’s pragmatic, makes sure I take my meds, tracks what I’ve done each day, and she adamantly props me up when I get down on myself. I felt excited that she so quickly told me about herself and I felt a lot of judgment about so clearly having another complete personality who shares a body with me.

My therapist and I talked about that judgment in our session yesterday. She pointed out that I absolutely accept my friend with DID. Zero judgment and lots of empathy. I look at my friend, who was violently assaulted by several men before the age of 12 and it makes perfect sense that she has alters. How could a child survive that kind of experience and keep it a secret without splitting into pieces? If that’s true, and I believe it is for many survivors, then I must have experienced some extremely fucked up shit because I have a whole host of alters living inside me. Judgment towards my system gives me a crack to crawl through to a place where that didn’t happen to me. I can’t explain how that makes sense but it works.

This morning I’ve had a lot of intrusive memories flooding back. I feel like a mess. Foggy, bumping into walls when I walk through the rooms of my house, overwhelmed, sad. I don’t want any of this to be true.

A letter to my alters

To all of you with whom I share this body,

First, I’m sorry I’ve spent so long denying you space in our life. I feel torn between not wanting the abuse and your existence to be true and recognizing that, collectively, we have saved ourselves from some form of annihilation. I can feel my head ache when I think thoughts like this. I feel fuzzy and exhausted as I write this. That’s how I know you’re all here, not even under the surface, but pressing at consciousness all at once.

I want you to know that the reason I don’t want you to be real is because the reality of all of us sharing a body goes hand in hand with the reality of the terrible things that happened to us. I remember enough to know that terrifying, heinous things happened to us. And I know that many of you experienced things I don’t remember, events that live on in the cells and nervous system of this body we share.

I recognize that I cannot go on denying your existence. You deserve to be acknowledged and given the space to live and express what ever’s going on for you in the moment. The truth is, it’s going to take time for me to become skillful at living in harmony with all of you. We do have help. We have my therapist, our dear friend and Max. I don’t know if all of you know Max but she’s a total badass and she will do what she can to help all of us learn to live together. There are times I will have to set boundaries and times when we’ll have to pause something that’s coming up until there’s space to address it. I want to propose that I get as much energy as possible to be with my boys on the weeks they’re here. I will come up with a system for us to communicate while they’re here. The weeks they aren’t here, we can dedicate ourselves to giving time and space to each of you. I imagine it’s going to take time for us to create a functioning system. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to accept your existence and listen to your needs and wants.

I know in my heart that we can do this. I’m scared because we had that therapist so many years ago who encouraged us to do this work when we weren’t in a good place to be doing it. I vaguely remember that being traumatizing to most of you. It sent me into a psychotic state. I have to remember that I’ve come a long way since then and I have a therapist who can skillfully guide me through this process. And we’re not alone. We have our dear friend and her system. I have a feeling that some of you are already friends with some of her alters. Perhaps those bonds will help us as we do this work.

I love all of you, even those of you I don’t yet know. This is our journey and I can see how the fact of our existence can facilitate everyone’s recovery.