Have you made any progress in your DID healing?
The information below was written by a DID survivor who has been an avid, long-term reader of this blog, Discussing Dissociation. I did a tiny bit of editing, but not much.
This DID survivor follows the principles I teach here and has been actively and diligently applying my ideas for DID system work and DID healing in her therapy process for a few years. I’m sure she’s read every word written here, several times over.
She first wrote this as a personal exercise to see her own personal growth. AND now, to offer encouragement to every reader here, she is bravely sharing her own healing journey with you.
This DID survivor took the time to write an extremely thorough description of their life comparing before and AFTER applying my teachings following the article 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder. Wow!
When you’re ready, I encourage you to try the same exercise. And I hope your own system experiences this much growth, or more!
We have changed so much in the past few years. First, we had a therapist who did not understand DID. We used to always feel lost and confused. But now we have a therapist who knows about DID and follows the guidance provided on Discussing Dissociation. We have discussed almost everything on Kathy’s blog with our therapist.
We do all the homework Kathy suggests. We have worked really hard to take everything on Kathy’s blog to heart and do the things she says. We have changed so much and made so much progress since Kathy started this blog.
To show you the progress we have made, we’ve written about some of our changes, based on Kathy’s article, 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder.
When we first read this article, years ago, we didn’t think we could ever ever do all that work. But here we are, describing only tiny bits of what we’ve accomplished in each area. We could have written 10 times more than what we’ve included below. It’s a nice surprise to see how much progress we have made!
1. Stabilization of the person – both internally and externally
We are a lot, lot more stable than we used to be.
Years ago, it was nearly impossible to get up and go to work every day. We cried in the bathroom at work on breaks. Every day lasted forever. We missed a lot of work, calling in sick or leaving early because we “just couldn’t handle anymore.” We switched a lot. There was no internal organization. In college, we had no idea what was going on most of the time. We got all A’s on tests we didn’t remember studying for. We turned in projects we had no memory of working on. People at school knew our name and acted like they knew us, but we had never met them. We felt confused most of the time.
Now, years later, we are a leader at our job, we’ve won awards for our work. People come to us for help. We are put in charge of many different things because it’s easy for us to handle a challenge.
Different inside people handle different parts of our job, depending on each person’s strengths. Years ago, it was rare to have a good day. Now, it’s very rare to have a bad day. We might have a bad moment or even a bad hour, but we work through it and go on with our day.
2. Managing and eliminating self-injury and self-harm issues
We used to self injure several times a day, really badly. Even at work, or outside our therapist’s office. We had started self injuring around age eight. It was our ‘go-to’ for handling any sort of problem. We SI’d to handle worry, frustration, anger, pain, anxiety… anything.
Now we have just two insiders that do that, occasionally, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be. Things have to be pretty extreme for them to resort to self injury.
We’ve had periods of months without any cutting or burning. The only one we really have to watch is our 12 year old who is still convinced she needs to be punished all the time. We have to keep an eye on her all the time because she finds little things to do to hurt herself, like pinching herself or scratching herself with a pin. She gets frustrated and pounds her fists on the wall. However, even she has come a long way because she used to be the one who broke our arm all the time, or tried to kill herself. So even though she still tries to hurt herself, the severity has decreased greatly.
We’re learning to express our feelings instead of hurting ourselves. We prefer to talk instead. When our therapist isn’t around we write down what’s in our head and try to get some of it out that way, or draw pictures.
3. Examining and obtaining current-day external safety from abuse
Most of us have made good progress on this, and we have been able to leave several long-term violent relationships.
We still have an insider, a teenager, who still returns to where she was abused, and still sometimes lets it happen. But, it’s much less than it used to be, and she is still working with our therapist on keeping this from happening. We won’t be satisfied until it’s 100% taken care of, but this has come a long way.
Our current home is much more safe than unsafe. We live with someone who can be very grumpy, but not violent. This person isn’t going to hurt us intentionally. We might encounter some violence a couple of times a year when we visit family, but we do better at keeping ourselves safe.
Even the smaller inside kids know to stay away from the bad guys. These little ones have learned to walk away from threats of harm and hassle the teenager intentionally when she gets too close to unsafe situations.
The littler ones often do better than the teenagers. They know how to stay away from bad people because now, after following Kathy’s teachings, they have learned they can be safe, and that it is important for the to be safe. They don’t want to be hurt anymore! They are honest and upfront about who hurts us, and have no loyalty or need to stay near those mean people. They do a great job at keeping the rest of us safe. Our little one says “Go away bad man! No more hurts it!”
4. Internal system safety
Years ago, most of us hated each other.
We competed for time outside using this body, and didn’t want anyone else to be in front.
We did not get along internally either. We fought a lot, or at least bickered about everything. Inside kids would often hurt each other on purpose.
We often stayed far away from each other and hid from each other.
Now, most of us want to be seen AND be known, so we aren’t so lonely and afraid. It helps a lot to feel like we are part of a team.
Nowadays, most of us get along most of the time. There are still a few that argue or don’t get along. But as a whole, we are all now friends, we take care of each other, we look out for each other.
Instead of staying isolated and alone from each other, we have grouped ourselves into smaller teams and each team looks after each other. It has been really helpful. We also have several helpers who are willing to do anything they need to for anyone else in the system.
On the inside, we give each other small gifts, hugs, cards, and surprises. We love to surprise each other with little gifts. It’s fun to go shopping and secretly buy some little toys for the younger kids. The younger kids like surprising the older ones with books or treats.
We have one little inside girl who is four, and her specialty is giving out flowers. She goes around inside giving out flowers. She draws pictures of flowers with her crayons. She takes pictures of pretty flowers. She loves to pick flowers and bring them home to make the house prettier.
If there is anything at all wrong with someone inside, it’s a pretty sure bet they will end up with a flower.
5. Developing effective internal communication
Years ago, we rarely talked. Occasionally we would write each other nasty notes in a notebook, sometimes scrawled in red marker or even written in blood — that was how much we hated each other. Very few of us actually communicated, unless you can call screaming and hitting “communication.”
It was very loud inside all the time from all the fighting.
We often felt like we were stuck in an internal jail with each other. And we didnt want to be there.
It took a long time, and over the years we have fought a lot of battles together, but as we learned about DID system work, we realized that if we teamed up as friends, it would make life a lot easier.
Now we encourage each other and look out for each other.
We talk to each other all day long, and work on internal projects at night.
If our therapist needs us to work on some sort of internal system homework, it’s hard for us to do during the day because we are so busy. But at night, we go to bed early… partly because we are so tired and partly because it gives us about a half hour before sleep to talk and do our inside work. As soon as the outside world gets dark and quiet, it is quite easy for us to all go inside and see each other and talk.
The kids never stop talking to each other! They can find each other easily, and talk more than ever. The kids love helping each other out. We have inside kids who are great at helping the littler ones. We have a couple boys who are amazing at building things inside. They have made a lot of new safe places.
If there has been a conflict going on, (which there usually has been), we have gotten much better at finding someone inside who can help work it out.
6. Calming internal noise and chaos
We still have a lot of problems with inside noise, but it’s not as chaotic as it used to be.
Small parts used to run rampant inside, crying, hitting, having flashbacks, going uncomforted.
We grew up being abused and neglected so instead of repeating the abuse and ignoring the kids, Kathy has taught us to be kind to them.
We started taking care of our kids just like we would take care of an outside child, and that has helped calm the chaos down.
We give them food, or drinks, or blankets, or stuffed animals, things that help quiet them down.
It’s still quite noisy inside with everyone talking all the time, and often there is still someone crying who refuses to be helped. But we are working on making those things better.
We have little ones who really, really like to talk. All day. All night. But it doesn’t feel like chaos any more, and they aren’t being ignored or hurt for talking. It feels like being in a classroom full of busy little kids.
7. Working specifically with child parts
Our first therapist didn’t talk to the kids very often. And … the kids were frustrated. Angry. Lonely. Scared. They felt left out, and like they weren’t worth listening to. So they acted out a LOT. After a therapy session, they often cried, tore things up, self injured really badly, and were miserable for days on the end. Back then, because of our therapist refused to work with the inside kids regularly, every day was a bad day. We were always in trouble and that therapist got mad at us every week.
Our second therapist follows the guidance provided in this blog, and this therapist has spent thousands of hours with our child parts, teaching them skills and listening to their stories. We have also. They have tons of issues to work through, like abuse and abandonment, bad dreams, fears, and lots more. The inside kids still have bad days and nights. Some of them still have a very hard time talking or telling their stories, or even coming out to talk.
But all in all, we have seen huge breakthroughs, even with some of them that we were sure would never be helped. Now, the inside kids are much happier.
They still have some big issues and some big sadness going on. There are a few who still cry, a couple who still act out. But most of them, because they get a chance to talk and express themselves, are happy. They are happy. Most days are good days.
8. Working specifically with adult parts
We don’t have very many adults parts. Just a couple. But we have learned a lot about how to take care of the inside kids better. How to work together better at work. How to deal with stress, anxiety, flashbacks, helping the kids at night when they wake up from nightmares, and lots more.
The primary adult in our system has developed a strong and solid leadership role that the rest of the system respects and listens to. This adult makes all the final decisions, delegates tasks, and mediates problems and arguments. She makes sure that the kids are taken care of, and that all emotional-physical-work-household issues are handled well.
Even outside people respect her boundaries and listen to her as an adult.
One thing we find frustrating as the adults is that we also have our own things we need to work on… but more often than not, we have to give up our turns talking with our therapist so the kids can have a turn to talk.
There are so many inside kids.
And they have so many triggers, so many worries, so many little crises, then when we get time with our therapist- we feel that we need to give the time to them. To keep putting out all the little fires that spring up.
At the same time, we adults also have to get help for ourselves once in a while, like putting on our own oxygen mask first so we can help save the littler ones.
And many times instead of getting to work on our own adult-related stuff, we end up taking care of the little ones with their problems. Sometimes it would be nice to have a break. We’d pay a whole lot of money to get to send the inside kids off to a babysitter for an evening. It is a real challenge to get a break from them.
But… if we take time to talk, that means a littler part has to go longer waiting for their turn, and that causes complications. Any time I talk with our therapist, it helps me feel better, and I know it’s important, but I also feel guilty. And we have some inside adults who wait months and months. So that is a real frustration that is ongoing.
9. Working specifically with teenage parts
Oh man, our teenagers… we don’t even know where to start with that. Lets just say they have a long way to go, even though they have come a long way already.
They have always been very complicated, with tons of underlying issues, and don’t like to cooperate very much. With anyone.
They are very frustrating, both to us and our therapist. They make two steps forward, and then ten steps back.
They are angry, frustrated, lonely, and in a lot of pain.
Our teenagers still need a lot of work, but they are also a lot better off than they used to be.
They don’t self injure nearly as much as they used to. They are more likely to comply and help than not, and fewer of them cause problems these days.
Our teenage parts have become helpers at our job. They are willing to take over when the adults need a break, and have shown some amazing talents and helpful skills at our job.
We work in a very stressful, very busy job where we have to always be “on.” It can get tiring very quickly. We have several teenagers who are willing to step up and take over for a few minutes or a few hours and give the adults a little break. They have their own unique approaches to the work, and their talents come in very handy! We are glad when they help!
10. Learning about the other system parts
We used to think we were just a handful of people in our system, the ones we had always known about since we were kids. We knew we had some daytime people and some night time people, and some people who hid.
With our first therapist, our system people had sad names. She didn’t know who was who. She couldn’t tell us apart and she didn’t want to talk to us anyway. Names didn’t matter to her. Our people didn’t matter to her.
When we started to follow Kathy’s guidance, we learned our inside people do matter and everyone is important. We changed our names to more positive names and take time to find just the right name for each person.
For instance, Windy and Rainy (they wanted to sound like stormy, sad names) changed to regular little girl names that weren’t just about being sad. Sad Girl got a real name. Rage Boy got a real name. Stupid Boy got a real name. Some people didn’t even have names and we just referred to them as “that boy” or “the kids that cry.” Several of our people had negative or angry or yucky names.
But now, everyone we meet gets a real person name. That feels so much better.
It’s made a huge difference over the years of working with a therapist following Kathy’s teachings where inside kids really matter, each and every one of them. We actually got to meet our system.
What has been really fascinating is finding out that so many parts unknown to us come out and talk to our second therapist, and we don’t even know about it. Then months later, we find out about those new parts, and we tell our therapist — only to find out she has been talking to them already for a long time. There have been many insiders who came to trust her, so they started to work with her. And then after awhile, we found out about them also. It’s sometimes been surprising.
We have a lot more inside people than we thought.
When they are invited to participate and are treated like real people, they want to be part of the talking too!
11. Working with internal perpetrator introjects
This has not been any fun at all. It has been really hard. And also really interesting and helpful. We have had a few introjects who were just great big, mean, hurtful jerks. They constantly yelled, caused problems, put us in very unsafe places to try to get us hurt again, injured us, and so much more. They were a constant problem for many years.
But in the past couple years we have worked really hard with our therapist to help them. And it’s been a real miracle to watch.
They have yelled at us, yelled at her. But somehow still (and I am not sure how) our therapist got through to them, and they have changed. It turns out that they were just acting like they were big, mean, scary jerks because they were actually just terrified and abused young kids who didn’t know what else to do.
They have started to behave themselves, and it’s a much calmer place inside. They still have a lot of work to do with our therapist, and we still have to learn more about how to help them. And they still have to learn how to let us help.
But things have changed inside so much. We really thought they would never change. We almost gave up on them a bunch of times. But it’s really been a miracle to see how they have changed to being helpers instead of hurters.
There is one boy who used to be a very big, very mean bully. His specialty was keeping us too scared to talk about secrets we had, and he would do anything he had to in order to keep us quiet.
Nowadays he is a quiet, sweet, shy helper. He helps build things inside. He works on helping make sure the littler ones feel safe. He picked a new name to help himself make sure he wouldn’t go back to being back to how he used to be. He wants to be a protector now.
There is another boy who was much the same, but he was behind the whole system. He was a giant bully. It was him who made sure we were punished all the time. It was him who constantly yelled, hit, injured us, fought. Anything to be mean and scary and big so we would remain loyal to our abusers and follow their rules.
Now after years of work he is a quiet young man who is learning how to do the right thing. He still has a lot of things to work on. But he wants to know how to be good and doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore.
12. Creating emotional separation from external perpetrators
We are still working on being able to separate emotionally from the people who hurt us. There is a teenager who still doesn’t understand why she needs to do this, even though our therapist has talked to her a lot and so have we. She is just still very tied to the bad people.
And why is this?? I’ll be damned if I know. Although part of me is starting to wonder if it is from the huffing she did with one of our abusers, from ages 8 – 14. Maybe all those chemicals screwed up her brain. She spent too much time inhaling this stuff called “dope” and getting high on markers and NyQuil.
It wouldn’t surprise me if all the drugs she had in her system during her most active years have wrecked that child’s brain. The chemicals in the dope have been banned in the USA for several years now due to causing addictions and brain damage. Sometimes we think our teenager has brain damage making it too hard for her to think right.
It’s interesting though that several of the younger inside kids were first to separate from the perpetrators. Even though they are very young, they have been able to see that life is easier and better once they have separated themselves from the bad guys.
It has been really important that we learn to separate from the many perpetrators we were wrapped up with. They controlled nearly every part of our life for way too many years from how we acted to how we thought and even what we ate. We were so so repressed by them that we couldn’t be ourselves.
Now we are nearly free from them and life is so much easier and happier.
We make our own decisions. We have boundaries. We protect ourselves. We get to be free to do what we need to, when we need to.
The only one still having an issue with this is the one teenage girl, and we are working with her to set her free also. Life feels so much better to not be under their thumb any more.
13. Working with triggers
We are a lot, lot better at handling triggers. Years ago we got triggered by everything under the sun. We couldn’t watch tv or talk to people or be on online forums because something would trigger someone inside and cause a panic attack or set off some kind of internal trauma. Even if someone said a word that reminded us of something, we went off into flashbacks. It happened a lot throughout the day.
Now we just get triggered once in a while, and it’s just specific words or specific things we see on tv such as an abuse scene, or an animal being hurt, or certain words our therapist says. We might still start having flashbacks, or someone inside starts to have a hard time because they start to remember something.
Years ago when we got triggered and had flashbacks, the same one could easily go on for a week or more. We felt incapacitated by them. That was what made it hard to go to work or get things accomplished because we could not re-focus our mind.
Now when we have a flashback it can still be very real and still disturbing but it feels as though the intensity has gone down. It may be something that bothers us for an hour or two. Sometimes just minutes.
We talk to each other. We calm each other down. We are able to hear our therapist when she reminds us that those old things aren’t happening now.
We have a few smaller inside kids who are just at the very beginning of dealing with their memories and are having new “bad pictures” in their head that can bother them longer, but its specific to that child and doesn’t spread to the whole rest of the system.
We have a five year old who gets triggered and scared a lot, and she is working on remembering that she is safe now and that she can keep herself safe. That helps a lot.
We have more work to do but we know how to do this.
14. Correcting cognitive distortions
We have lived with probably every cognitive distortion there is over the years, but a lot of them have gotten better.
For instance, many of us thought unless we were absolutely perfect, we were worthless. We have learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. We have learned that not everyone has to like us. We used to be convinced that if we felt something, it had to be true. These days we still do that sometimes, some people more than others, but we have also learned that feelings are just feelings and not facts. We might feel stupid. but that doesn’t mean we are. We might feel fat, but we are not.
Right now we have a littler one who likes to catastrophize a lot. That is a big thing we are working on with her, because worrying and thinking about bad things has always been her role. So we are trying to help her learn to think more positive thoughts.
We have read some great books to help us learn about teaching our brain to think differently. One was Switch on Your Brain by Caroline Leaf and the other was Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.
We have figured out that when a negative thought comes into our mind, we don’t have to dwell on it. We don’t have to sit there and think, think, think about the negative thing until it makes us all depressed and freaked out.
When the negative thought comes, we can recognize it for what it is, and toss it out by changing the thought to something more positive or changing the subject in our mind. It takes a lot of practice.
Some of us are still learning how to do it, while some of us have gotten very good at it and are much more positive and happy these days.
15. Addressing gender confusion, male vs. female issues
We don’t think we have done much work on this but it’s ok.
The boys still see themselves as boys and wear boy clothes and play with boy toys and make fun of girl stuff. They don’t look in the mirror ever. They don’t look at pictures of us. They only see themselves like they look inside. They’re boys, that’s all. They don’t want to have anything to do with anyone who says different. They girls wear girl clothes and wear girl clothes and make fun of boy things. So we are even.
The boys have become system protectors.
They like protecting the girls, especially the younger girls. They feel that they are stronger and bigger so that makes it their job.
They do things like defend the girls when problems come up. They take the girls to safer places inside when there are flashbacks or triggers. They imagine themselves with swords and shields, as though they are fighting dragons (they have good imaginations) and take their protector roles very seriously.
Instead of just fighting each other all day, they have become a group that works well together. They like each others company. They love being a “boys club”. One thing they love is building inside things for everyone, like safe places and fun things to play on. They love helping the little girls out when they are hurt, scared, or sad. They have also gotten great at using their imagination.
We don’t have any problems having both boys and girls in our system.
16. Processing emotions
This has gotten a lot better.
We used to just flat out refuse to deal with any feelings at all. We didn’t really know what our feelings were, but all feelings were bad, and we couldn’t show any of them. We were taught from a young age that feelings were bad. That it was wrong to show emotion and if we did, we would be punished.
We’re learning to not keep repeating what our abusers taught us.
Now we are at least willing to sit with feelings for a little while, think about them, and be willing to try ways to deal with them. We are learning that we don’t have to be punished for having feelings.
We have learned to help ourselves calm down, say good things to each other, and find things to do that will make ourselves feel better. We have learned to distract ourselves sometimes when someone is feeling too bad to try to get to feeling better.
During the years we went to our first therapist, we were sad all the time. We would lay on the couch and cry. We didn’t want to get up. It was like we couldn’t do anything except be sad. We used to always, constantly, feel tired, overwhelmed, weak, and vulnerable. All the time. We always felt like we couldn’t handle anything.
Now we know that we are stronger.
We feel capable of handling situations that come up a lot of the time. We know that if big feelings come up, there is someone inside who can handle it. We can take care of ourselves. We are strong when we work together.
17. Body image issues
Our body image issues have gotten better but are still challenging.
The inside kids believe they look outside the same as they look on the outside. They don’t look in the mirror. They try not to look at pictures. They get mad, disappointed, and scared when what they see their outside body doesn’t match their internal picture.
It is really challenging for the smaller kids to deal with an outside body that is getting older and doesn’t look like they think it should look.
In recent years, we have done a lot of work and physical exercise to make sure our body stays in proportion for our height. We do lots to try to keep our body balanced for the kids, the boys, and the grown ups so that no one in our system feels excessively uncomfortable in the body. We have worked together to find that common ground that we can all live with.
Overall, I am more interested in taking care of my body than in worrying how it looks. I want my body to be healthy rather than be a certain number on a scale.
We’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with ourselves and how we look. Getting peace of mind in this area has been huge and important.
18. Reducing time loss, memory loss, amnesia
Ever since we learned to communicate better we don’t lose as much time or have as much of a hard time remembering things.
We have learned a lot about improving internal communication because Kathy teaches a lot about that. It has been really helpful for us.
We used to always lose time. Like waking up in an airport out of state from where we live. Or finding ourselves two hours from home. Or waking up sitting outside in the middle of the night crying and we didn’t know why because we went to bed two hours ago. Things like that happened a lot.
But following Kathy’s guidance, we learned how to pay attention to each other and talk and listen. We mostly know what everyone is doing because we can see almost everyone almost all the time.
So mostly when we lose time it’s because something really stressful is going on or one of the adults is really tired.
And there are certain inside people who can make sure they have privacy when they talk to our therapist because they can block everyone out and we don’t hear what they say or see what they do.
19. Time confusion, time distortion
Being confused about time is still really hard. Time hasn’t ever made any sense to any of us. We don’t understand how time passes.
Because inside our head, its still 1973 or 1980 or 1998. All at once.
We can see and hear and smell and feel our memories from the past. They’re just as real to us as what is going on in the outside world.
It makes people mad that we don’t get it, that those times are gone. But we think they are not gone. They’re right here in our head. They weren’t a long time ago. They are right now inside of us.
Kathy’s blog has given us some good ideas to try.
We try to teach the inside kids that it is now, not then. We try to point out things that are different. The world is so different now than it was in the 70s when they were kids. We point out that the bad guys are no longer around. That our therapist is here now and we didn’t know her back then. That we drive now. That tv has more than three channels. That we live in a different house, a different state, have new pets.
We are challenging old rules too, but that’s a lot harder. We can SEE the world looks different but it’s harder to remember that the rules are different now.
Some of our boys went bowling recently. We showed them that even though there were scary things everywhere (loud noises, lots of people, lots of bright lights), that in THIS world they can be safe enough to bowl and not everybody in the world want to hurt them. The boys got to have fun. They were allowed to play.
The boys had a brand new experience being out in the world where no one bothered them. This was an important thing to learn.
We will keep working on letting our kids have new experiences so they can feel safe NOW.
Kathy talks about lots of corrective emotional experiences, so we are trying to do those. We are trying to show the kids that if they can be brave and try new things, they can have a lot of fun and discover exciting stuff, and maybe even feel happy.
20. Trauma processing – memory work
Our therapist has us do some memory work, but not a lot.
Some kids talk about their memories if they really feel the need to. However we are still doing our system work and working on making sure that we can be safe and work together well before we get too far into working on memories.
For too many years, talking about memories would make the bully parts be scary, mean, and violent to others in the system. They’d hit the kids on the inside, and even hurt the body. It was not safe for us to do memory work for a very long time.
On her blog, Kathy teaches to do system work first before doing heavy memory work. She says it’s important to be able to protect the kids who talk about their memories, and to have enough system work done to help each other instead of just keeping on hurting each other. We can see why these things are very important.
It is still really hard for us to talk about memories. We are really scared to say things or use our voice. We don’t want to talk about it most of the time.
One thing we have found helpful is drawing pictures, doing art work, or making collages (either from magazines or on this great app called Pic Collage). That way we can share some of it, but use pictures instead of having to talk.
Kathy teaches to do memory work with your inside world. We are new to that but we have been able to start looking at what our people look like inside so we can see what happened to them.
Without getting all the details of the bad memories, using inside system work, we can see enough to know how we got hurt. That helps us understand what happened and we can figure out how to help each other feel better.
Our first therapist didn’t help us figure out our memories. The way Kathy teaches to do memory work is better.
21. Body memories and kinesthetic issues
Our body memories used to be so bad. We would lay on the couch all day in pain and not even be able to sleep in bed. We would cry, and even miss work. Because we just thought and thought and thought about bad things.
Now we just have body memories for specific reasons like because someone inside is thinking about something that happened. Like this week we’re having body memories because someone little has been having bad dreams about what happened to him. So we are all feeling it.
But we can say to each other that its ok and it’s not happening now. And we are trying to take care of the little guy who is having a hard time, like taking him pillows and blankets and his favorite lion stuffed animal, and saying nice things to him.
22. Understanding re-enactments and trauma bonds
There is one teenage insider who is still very loyally attached to one of the people who hurt us. She still on purpose goes around that person and spends time with them. She doesn’t understand why people thinks that person is so bad and hurtful. She still proclaims that she loves them and wants to be around that person.
The rest of us, however, have pretty much broken those bonds and are able to see the situation more realistically. That teenager’s actions can be extremely frustrating to us and our therapist as we are still struggling to understand why she acts out these old patterns.
One of our big goals is to get her to work more with our therapist, figure out why this teenager is acting this way, and help her to stop.
23. Healing sexual abuse issues
We are working on memories as we can. They are too private to share here.
A lot of our problem comes from blaming ourselves for what happened. It’s hard to believe our therapist when she says it’s not our fault. We are, however, learning about how families should treat each other, and what kinds of behaviors are ok.
24. Healing physical abuse issues
Sometimes we are still in a situation where we might get hit, hurt, pinched, or grabbed. It isn’t as bad as it used to be but its still not ok.
We have learned from Kathy’s blog that this is a kind of physical abuse, and it is wrong for anyone to hit or pinch or grab our body in a mean or angry or scary way. We have been learning how to keep ourselves safer, and how to take care of ourselves.
Recently we decided to stick up for a child we know when one of the bad guys was being mean to that child. The mean guy walked across the room and hit us on the head.
It happened to the teenage girl who is attached to him, so she just figured she deserved it and didn’t have a problem with it. But it made the rest of us mad. It was embarrassing and shameful to admit. We don’t want her putting herself in situations where that is even a remote possibility.
Even though we are happy she decided to stick up for someone who needed help, no one should ever get hit for that, and she didn’t deserve that. But she doesn’t see that yet. She needs to see that it’s never ok for someone to hurt you, embarrass you, or humiliate you- as a child or as an adult.
25. Healing emotional abuse issues
There are still several situations where people can hurt our feelings immensely. Especially with our family. We still feel very hurt over things they say and do.
However, we have learned to separate ourselves a little bit. We are starting to see that the problem is with them, not us.
But this remains a difficult problem to deal with.
26. Healing ritualized abuse issues
We are still working on our system stuff first. We would like to keep our privacy about this.
27. Healing exploitation, pornography, prostitution, sex slavery issues
We are still working on our system stuff first and we want to keep our privacy about this topic.
28. Managing family, marital, parenting issues
Some of us would love to be parents. And we are ready for it. But honestly, the inside kids are not ready for it. They still require too much of my time, energy, and effort. I don’t think I would be a good enough mom right now if I had a child because I still have to be the mom for all these inside kids. They take up all my time and energy, and I don’t feel it would be fair an outside kid.
We are still working on our family issues. We want to keep our privacy about this topic.
29. Addressing addictions
We used to be addicted to self injury, to exercise, and to starving ourselves. Our entire day and our entire identities were completely wrapped in this. We couldn’t see ourselves doing anything else but self injury, exercise, and starvation, etc.
Over the years we have gotten over most of those problems because we have learned other ways of coping.
Our leader does not do those addictive behaviors because she can get a healthy distance from painful feelings without having to do something destructive. She has ways to balance big feelings, and doesn’t chose to hurt herself. She doesn’t make decisions based on trauma, so she has a more balanced approach to life. She can see perspectives that the others can’t see.
Our system leader doesn’t have a need for addictions because her feelings don’t have to come out sideways.
As the leader, she is encouraging, enforcing, and teaching the others in the system to be more balanced in their feelings and behaviors as well.
30. Managing eating disorders
Anorexia and bulemia are still struggles that we don’t really work on consistently nowadays because it affects only a couple of us instead of all of us.
Lots of our system people have made huge progress in this area. The inside people who still struggle with eating disorders feel unworthy of taking up our therapists time to talk to her about it, and they don’t talk to anyone inside about it either. They would rather fade away and be forgotten about.
With our first therapist, our eating disorder was a massive problem, and there was a lot of back and forth about going to hospital, or going to eating support group, but we were too switchy to go to these groups. We couldn’t get good help and everything was our fault so we always felt bad. We were hospitalized three times due to severe anorexia, and almost died a couple of times. We were very unhealthy, very weak, and had very distorted thinking.
For us, eating disorder stuff is a lot about self punishment just like self harm.
We would starve ourselves as a form of punishment if we thought we did something bad, or if somebody was mad at us, or something went wrong.
When our anorexia was the worst, our self injury was also the worst.
The worse we felt about ourselves, the more ways we found to punish ourselves- whether it was starving, purging, cutting, burning, or whatever else- all of it was a form of self punishment.
We would cut really deep and really bad. We would find some ways to hurt ourselves even if not cutting. Scratching, bruising, hitting with hammers. There were many summers where we had our arm in a cast. We hit brick walls till our hands were bruised and swelled up. The internal perpetrators purposely burned the littler girls hands with irons and pushed girls hands down on the stove.
We often had third degree burns but then wouldn’t take care of them. Inside, we felt that we were not allowed to do anything to help ourselves feel better.
We don’t do that anymore.
Eating disorders and self injury were both ways of dealing with feelings. We felt that we weren’t allowed to feel, especially anger. So any time strong feelings came up, we used the eating disorder or the self injury as a way to numb out or punish ourselves to make the feelings go away for a while.
From Kathy’s blog we have learned many ways to cope and handle our feelings. We try to focus on better ways to cope so that we don’t have to use old, ineffective, destructive patterns anymore.
We’ve learned how to work on our trauma and how to safely express our feelings, including anger. We’re learning new ways to think, and hear that the trauma was not our fault. We’ve been challenged to be angry at the perpetrators instead of being angry at ourselves. We’re also doing system work and we help each other from the inside.
We have changed for the better because we are using system work to help with these problems.
Those with anorexia are willing to allow others to eat for them. And those with bulimia are not allowed out front after meals. Our system people can watch the teenagers and can get help if things get bad. And the inside kids who have been starved have been given opportunities to eat.
These kinds of system compromises have worked really well for us.
However if we could still send those particular teenagers off to an e.d. treatment program on their own, we definitely would, because they need it.
Things have gotten better though. These days we are much healthier and much stronger. We exercise normally, no longer count calories, and eat all kinds of foods.
31. Household management issues – improving daily functioning
We haven’t ever had a problem with this.
We have always had inside kids who love to help in any way they can- that includes helping around the house. So chores and household things have always gotten done, because there is always someone willing to do their part to help out.
Some love doing laundry. Someone likes to cook. Some like to fold freshly washed clothes. Others think its fun to water the grass and flowers. So we have always had a good way of working together to get the household things taken care of.
32. Relationship issues and teaching social skills
The grown ups are really good at teaching social skills because of their job. And so we read lots of books and watch lots of videos on social skills. They are really good for the littler kids. We have learned a lot. And our therapist has helped us learn a lot about how to act in public and not look weird. So that’s gotten a lot better. We don’t want to be too weird.
Relationships are really difficult for the kids. They want friends… but they want friends their “own age.”
But it would be really weird for a person in their 40’s to have friends who were 5, 8, and 10.
I am not sure how we will ever have real friends for the kids, and I am not sure how to work around this. I think it might be a lifelong struggle.
I used to really be desperate for a “best friend” and thought about it all the time. Because we moved so many times growing up, I was always moving away from friends and losing them. I wish I had some lifelong friends. Even college friends.
But I have had to learn to be content with just being friendly with my colleagues at work, at that has to be enough for now until I figure out something better.
33. Understanding the effects of trauma on the brain
We already knew about this because one of our adults did lots of research about brains.
We learned that trauma changes your brain but your brain is flexible. You can make your brain change. You can teach your brain to be more positive. You can grow new cells. Every day your brain can become newer and better, you don’t have to stay stuck in your old ways.
You don’t ever be too old to change. Your brain can heal from trauma and bad things that happened to you. You don’t have to stay stuck in negativity and depression and hopelessness. You can learn to be happy and feel good again.
34. Improving self-independence and self-reliance
We always had to take care of ourselves. We didn’t dare rely on outside people for anything. We had to be very independent. We had to feed ourselves if we wanted something to eat. There was no one to talk to or go to for help or comfort.
The challenge has been learning to allow other people to help us in any way. We have a very hard time asking for help. It makes us ashamed and embarrassed. We don’t like it if we need anyone’s help. We are used to doing everything alone. Then we don’t have to bother anyone.
35. Improving self esteem issues
Self esteem is a pretty fragile thing for some of these inside kids. We were never allowed to have any growing up. Adults were afraid we would “get a big head.” They made sure to put us down all the time and make sure we knew we were worthless.
Over the years, especially lately, some of the pre-teens have gained some self esteem by finding out they are good at helping people- with projects, or writing, or working with kids. It makes them feel much better about themselves knowing that they are needed or that someone wants their help. So that has been a big deal.
Some of the littler ones have gained some self esteem because our therapist repeatedly tells them that they are good and not bad- that the abuse was not their fault- that they are not bad because bad things happened to them.
It is finally sinking in, thank goodness.
36. Leaving disability and regaining employment
We didn’t ever have this problem.
Having a job keeps us busy and focused on positive things. It gives us a sense of accomplishment. It’s a way to make money and pay our own bills so that we are not dependent on anyone else. It helps us have a social life because we are working with other people, working on a team, and getting to laugh and have fun.
We developed personalities who have the job of going to work and doing their best no matter what is going on inside.
There is a group of kids that is often upset but they don’t come out at work. They know they are not allowed to be there. We feel 100 things every day, but we don’t cry on the outside. We have learned not to.
And when we are at work we stay focused on the job at hand. The adults are mostly only thinking about getting things done at work. We stay so busy that’s all we have time for. At work, we are happy because we love our job.
We feel capable of handling anything that comes up, including feelings. I know the kids don’t feel this so much, but I feel like we are strong and capable, and strong enough to handle any issues, feelings, conflicts, etc that might come up during the work day.
37. Depression and medication management
We have had to try out several medicines to find one that works well. We have to make sure the person who is depressed takes the medicine for it to work. That means we have to remind either the five year old or the 17 year old to take their medicine everyday. If someone else has to take it, it doesn’t work as well. But the medicine helps.
We have made progress in our depression because we are better at changing our negative thoughts into positive thoughts more quickly.
Also, we aren’t as intensely wrapped up in body memories or flashbacks as we used to be- it was really bad with our first therapist. Really really bad. And our depression was huge.
After years of learning new skills from Kathy’s blog, we have developed better ways to handle the intensity of our trauma. We’ve even been able to do intense memory work AND still go to work consistently without needing time off due to depression.
38. Bipolar disorder and medication management
We have discussed this possibility with our therapist, but we have decided it doesn’t apply enough to consider medication.
39. Anxiety / Panic and medication management
We take medication for anxiety still at times. Our anxiety used to be really, really difficult to deal with, because it was an everyday all day kind of thing.
Nowadays we have just a little bit of anxiety and it’s over specific things- like the littler kids not wanting to go to the doctor or to work, or there’s some specific stressor at work, or something hard just happened.
We have learned to handle anxiety a lot better by how we talk to ourselves and by doing the system work that we learned to do from Kathy’s blog.
With our good system relationships, we can calm ourselves and each other down, like saying that it will be ok, we are safe, nothing bad is going to happen.
Because we have really good system control, we can send out a person to deal with a situation who knows how to handle it.
40. Post-traumatic stress issues (PTSD)
We don’t be doing very good on that we think but it’s getting better than it used to be. We still have a lot of bad dreams and flashbacks and bad pictures in our mind that are very difficult to talk about.
We are still working on our trauma memories, so we are still experiencing some PTSD from the bad stuff that happened to us. We are slowly learning to not blame ourselves for the terrible things we experienced.
Kathy says the PTSD will get better. We want that to be true for us too. We are still committed to working with the people who hold the memories and we will do what it takes for them to feel better. We are helping our system people to feel safer and more connected to now.
41. Reducing phobias
We used to be afraid of lots and lots of things but it’s not so bad anymore.
Some things we had to learn to do afraid, like go places over and over again and learn to not be afraid of them anymore and see that they were ok.
A lot of times we just have to watch how we talk to ourselves. Instead of saying “I’m so scared” over and over again, and freaking ourselves out more, we are learning to find safe things and tell ourselves how we are safe and how we can take care of ourselves.
Kathy teaches us that there are ways to be safe, times to be safe, and ways to make changes in our lives to be even safer. We are trying to learn those things so we don’t have to be afraid so much.
42. Social anxiety and social isolation
We still have that. We like being alone more than we like people. Being alone feels safer and quieter. Plus we have a few inside people with autism and they get really anxious when there are a lot of people. That causes problems for all of us. It’s easier to just be around a few people at once and avoid crowds. It usually isn’t a problem to be away from people. It’s more our preference than a problem.
43. Safely eliminating suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviors
We don’t talk much about this. It just makes people angry.
Whenever one part has tried to do something suicidal, someone else in our system has stepped in and stopped it, so ultimately we are still alive.
Apparently, the will to live must be stronger than the will to die.
We know we have a gift of helping children who are hurting. It’s one of the most important things we do in our life- it’s why we are here. I know we change kids lives by the stuff we do for them. We are helping their lives for the better and we impact their future by helping them now.
44. Homicidal ideation and anger management
Most of us haven’t ever been allowed to get angry. The only ones have been a couple of inside bullies who made life miserable for everyone, especially since they focus their mad at the rest of us.
But over the years they have learned to talk to us and our therapist. We don’t hear anything they say, but they’re doing better. We’re learning to hear their pain too. They are learning to treat our system members better, and are encouraged to direct their anger more appropriately — at the people who hurt them.
And if any of the littler kids get angry, instead of hurting themselves, they have learned a few new things to do. They color with red and black crayons. They draw pictures. They pound on a pillow. They stomp their feet. They take deep breaths. They do much better at talking about what makes them mad.
It’s a big job re-directing our anger away from ourselves, but we are working on that. It would be good to feel safe from ourselves.
45. Exploring spiritual confusion
We got some littler kids that have been taught really bad things from some of the bad people. Like how God is mean, or that He is going to punish them, or that He is always waiting to catch them being bad. Some bad people used to do everything in the Bible backwards. Or upside down. So some of the inside kids are still learning good things about God.
We do lots of things to help the kids who were hurt and confused. We read them Bible stories. We got them a kids Bible. They talk to our therapist about God. Most of them are starting to understand.
We invite everyone in our system to ask lots and lots of questions and we just keep trying to answer and help them understand the right answers instead of the yucky twisty bad things they were taught.
46. Philosophical issues
We have always had a really strong faith. We haven’t had any real philosophical issues to work on we think.
47. Detachment and separation issues
It’s hard for us to separate from people we love. We don’t get to be around very many loving people. When they have to leave it’s really upsetting for us.
We do a lot to help our kids who feel the pain of abandonment. They have toys, clothes, and stuffies that represent the people they love, and we let them hold these things when they miss that person. This is a painful tender area that we will keep working on.
48. Treating sleep disorders
We still don’t sleep very good. We have a hard time getting to sleep because of bad memories, and especially because some of our five year olds are terrified of going to bed. Some of our kids refuse to sleep and want to stay awake all night long. But the grown ups love to go to bed! We still wake up a lot at night from nightmares.
But one good thing is that we have learned to help ourselves fall back to sleep a lot faster. We used to wake up and panic and have more flashbacks and feel alone. It’s so hard to sleep when you’re scared.
But now when we wake up, we do our system work to help whoever is feeling scared. We talk to each other and help the one with bad dreams calm down. We talk nice and gentle and tell them it’s ok and that they’re not alone. It helps us fall asleep faster.
49. Treating medical complications and physical harm resulting from the abuse
We do have some medical issues because of what we went through. We want to keep most of these details private.
I can share that I have problems with stress, my back, and staying healthy because of so many years of stress on my body and years of starvation. I’m getting help for my back with different procedures and surgery. I work out at the gym to help my body get stronger, and I do yoga and meditation to deal with stress.
50. Reaching integration, blended states, or effective system teamwork
We be learning to work in teams. We don’t want to integrate. We like working together and things have gotten much better.
Doing the things that Kathy says to here in her blog have been so helpful. We have gone from fighting to being friends. We have gone from feeling completely alone to being able to be here for each other.
We are comfortable having D.I.D. and rather enjoy it. We like having each other around. If anyone of us was not here, we wouldn’t feel right.
Sometimes having DID can cause problems but we can’t imagine being any other way.
We like being this way.
Do you need some extra help and guidance getting started on working with your system so you too can make some clear progress with your system folks?
Would you like to get some positive results for all your effort?
Would you like to be started on a proven path?
The focus for the Saddest Little Bear is on meeting new parts, and getting to know parts of your system. The Story Pack has videos, discussion questions, and system activities.
If you need to understand more about how to start working with your system — so you too can experience as much progress as the DID System featured in this article — the Saddest Little Bear Dissoci-ACTION Story Pack should be very helpful information for you.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation