Monday, November 24, 2014

How do you try to define "healthy" sexual habits?

So now that you know what some of the main "norms" are when it comes to sexual behaviors from my previous two articles ("What is "normal" when it comes to sex" and "What is "normal" when it comes to solo sex?"), how do we define what is healthy?  Whether you have a trauma or dissociative issues or not, there are still a lot of red flags you can look for to determine if you may be facing an unhealthy sexual pattern.

Continue to proceed with caution for triggery topics and possibly graphic terms.

Let's start with the basics of intention, motivation, and tools: 
  • Intention:
    • Are they seeking something that they know is pleasurable? It might be healthy. 
    • Or are they trying to trigger, manipulate, threaten, scare, harm, flood (with memories or body sensations), someone else inside? That's not healthy. 
  • Motivation:
    • Are they consenting to their own behavior? Do they feel in control of what's happening? Do they feel able and are they willing to stop if the body needs to stop? Are they able to stop themselves if the behavior is no longer safe and desirable (for example, if they get triggered, or if someone else inside the body pushes them to the point of hurting the body sexually)? It might be healthy 
    • Do they feel a compulsion to do this? Where it's not a calm, reasoned out choice, but something they feel driven to do? Something they "must" or "have to" do? Do they fear a negative consequence if they don't to the activity (for example, increased stress, pain, internal strife, triggering/flooding, or feeling overwhelmed)? Is it possible that a trigger is driving them, or that someone else inside is forcing them to feel this compulsion (maybe because that person has a very different intent)? That's not healthy. 
  • Tools: 
    • Are they using something that is safe to the body, in a way that is safe to the body? It might be healthy. 
    • Or are they using household objects which weren't intended as sex toys (or even things that are meant as sex toys but may be in materials that the body is allergic to), or sharps to cause bleeding, or unhygienic methods or objects that might cause infections, or so much force that they are causing the body's tissues to bleed? That's not healthy. 

Other issues that need to be evaluated that involve more than just you and the body:
  • Safety: 
    • Are they choosing to engage in sexual activities in a safe environment? Where the body is safe and under their control, and the consequences of doing the activity in this place are not negative? It might be healthy. 
    • Or do they run the risk of being arrested, being sexually attacked, losing control over the body (i.e., an outsider takes control without consent), having a minor walk in on the activity, being fired from work, having a car accident, or other negative consequence based on where they are performing this activity? That's not healthy.
  • Relationship Health: 
    • Are they still able to function adequately in their relationships, including sexual relationships and social relationships? It might be healthy. 
    • Are they using solo sexual activities, or activities with people who aren't their partner, at the expense of their other relationships? Do they have less interest and willingness to have sexual activity with their partner because they are spending so much energy masturbating or watching porn or other sexual activities? Has their desire for more intense activities, to reach sexual fulfillment, changed to drastically that their partner can't or won't consent to their new needs (for example, someone who becomes interested in BDSM pornography and wants to bring those behaviors into a relationship where that hasn't existed before, and the other partner is not interested or feels it is not safe for them)? Do they now have warped expectations of what is normal in appearance and behaviors and sexual wants for themselves or their partners based on pornography (not consensual experiences)... that greatly differ from what is actually normal? That's not healthy. 
  • Duration/Time Spent: 
    • Are you able to get your routine activities completed? Are you able to meet the needs of your family and school and occupation? Are you able to engage in sexual activities only as long as you actually need to? It might be healthy. 
    • Are you losing big chunks of time engaging in sexual activity to the point that you're falling behind on other important things? Or losing sleep because you're staying up to late/long pursuing sexual activities? Is your partner or your family complaining about the amount of time you spend on these activities (for example, too long on the computer, not enough time with sexual activities with your partner)? Are you finding that it takes longer and longer to feel like you've reached your goal (for example, 10-15 minutes used to be enough, but now you need 60 minutes or more)? That's not healthy. 
  • Quality of Life: 
    • Do your sexual activities benefit you and add to the quality of your life? Does it make you more happy, content, peaceful, confident, and feed your emotional needs? It might be healthy. 
    • Or does it make you feel guilty, dirty, ashamed, tired, broken, scared, anxious, or depressed? Does it make you feel abnormal and further distanced from friends and family and your partner? Are you afraid of what will happen if you partner, family, or boss finds out about your habits or risks? That's not healthy. 
  • Consent: 
    • Do they have the consent of the insiders and outsiders who are near them and aware of what they are doing? Are they able to block out or distance themselves from those who have objections (such as religious differences of opinion), or those who might get triggered? Are they willing and able to stop if some accidentally gets triggered out who is not safe or triggered by what's going on? Then it might be healthy. 
    • Or are they wanting to watch porn or masturbate or participate in other sexual activities regardless of who is near, what they think, and what damage they might be causing to other people in the system? If they are unwilling to compromise to find a way to balance everyone's needs, especially if they are already falling into these other risks categories we've identified, then it's not safe for the system. That's not safe. 
  • Pain/Blood/Overstimulation/Dropping:
    • Are they seeking to cause pain, bleeding, overstimulation (such as for causing someone else inside the system to become overwhelmed enough to have a crying fit, to cut, to trigger eating disorder behaviors, or other negative consequences), or to cause enough overstimulation and overwhelm to cause the body to drop (such as when one alter forces others to suddenly pass out or sleep for safety concerns, or because the resources have been depleted)? That's not safe. 
  • Unhealthy Concepts of "Normal": 
    • Bleeding during sex is not normal. 
    • Pain during sex is not normal. 
    • Feeling trapped, helpless, or scared during sex is not normal. 
    • Feeling like you have to have sex or you'll be hurt is not normal. 
    • Feeling like you have to have sex or you'll feel even worse (more depressed, more anxious, more suicidal, more overwhelmed) is not normal. 
    • Feeling like you can never get enough sex, that nothing makes you feel the release or satisfaction of healthy and consensual sex, is not normal. 
    • Feeling like you have to lie about (or hide) you sexual activities is not normal. 

Well, what about BDSM (or other kinks)? What if I want to consent to that?

You need to talk to your system. The situations, environments, power-plays, and toys that might attract your interest may cause harm to the body or others inside. Many alters will look at BDSM and say "see, it's normal" when what they are trying to do is rationalize why they are used to sex being painful, scary, violent, out of their control, forced onto them, or causing the body actual harm. They don't understand that the people who participate in BDSM give their consent. The submissive partner is the one who sets the limits on what is and what is not allowed to happen to them. It is the job of the Dominant partner to respect those limits and work within them. That is the exact opposite of what happened to you in abuse.

BSDM also appears to be painful and violent to some people. What they don't realize is that something that can appear painful (such as flogging) isn't about pain, it's about sensation and blood flow. Taken too far, yes it can become painful. But very rarely is pain the goal (and when it is the goal of the submissive it is still in their control to say stop, slow down, or do something else whenever they desire). Discomfort and power-play may be part of it, but the consent never stops. If a Dominant refuses to allow or refuses to honor the safe word, which ends consent immediately, then they have crossed into the area of sexual assault.

Until you are strong enough to be able to say stop, and until you have a BDSM partner that you trust to pay attention to your verbal and non-verbal cues (especially dissociation and switching and being triggered), you should not be messing around with BDSM. Period. You'll only re-traumatize people inside and throw your recovery way back at best... and at worst you'll trigger someone else inside into self-injury, self-destructive, and maybe even suicidal habits.

Remember, the pain and chaos you may have been taught was "normal" as part of sex, isn't. You may be seeking out those same experiences in order to trigger yourself, triggers others, or numb out emotions and thoughts and compulsions (including being forced to seek it out by others inside your system) that you don't know how to cope with. Get help from others inside, and from your support system or therapist outside the system. Do not just accept more pain and choas and internal fighting/attacks as being normal. Take a step to end abuse... you're own abuse... that you learned because people violated your body, your mind, and your trust. It's not your fault, but it is your responsibility to choose wisely now.

Sex isn't supposed to be miserable. It's supposed to be fun, and enjoyable, and relaxing. It's supposed to bring people closer together and strengthen their relationship. Not trap them, or keep them afraid.

So, the more flags you've hit as being "not healthy" increase your risk that your behavior has crossed the line into a coping mechanism gone wrong, a sexual addiction, a form of self-injury, or another negative pattern that needs to be explored and addressed.

That's a lot to think about.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, November 21, 2014

What is "normal" when it comes to solo sex?

Continuing from my previous post on "What is "normal" when it comes to sex?"... what is normal when it comes to solo sexual activity?

I'll try not to be too graphic so younger ones can read this, but do know that the topic and some of the words involved may be triggery. You may need to have them read only specific parts of this article if you think it contains something they need to hear. Again, proceed with caution.

So, back to masturbation... yes it's normal, and yes your body is hard-wired for it. Your trauma, society, religion, values, and other outside pressures may have changed your perception of when and if, and how often masturbation is acceptable. Many MPD systems begin to fight over this topic... because of their differences in opinions, past experiences, and what they've been taught. The biggest concern when one alter begins to masturbate, and has different beliefs and reactions than the others who are aware of it, is figuring out if what they want to do and why they want to do it is healthy for them and the body.

There's several things to look at to determine if the desire and behavior is "healthy" (including meaning safe to people inside, safe to the body, and safe to the mental health of the system as a whole).

So that brings us to the first question... how much is too much? I like this graph from http://fivethirtyeight.com/ that pulls out the data from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior research on this topic:




Remember, this is what people reported they did. It doesn't really tell you what is healthy, just what the people answering the questions reported doing. What is healthy for you and your body depends on several things:
  • Age/Life Changes: The older your get, usually the less frequently you masturbate. Why? Well the hormone shock of teenage and early 20s settles out. With women there's another drop in masturbation if sex becomes more uncomfortable due to pain or dryness brought on by menopause or hysterectomy. Lives get busier and many people don't have the time or energy for sexual activity because of jobs, kids, family obligations etc. As we age we also tend to become married/committed to someone and our masturbation levels drops because of our sexual partner (they may ask us not to, they may feel hurt or rejected if you masturbate instead of having sex with them, we may not have the sexual energy to have partnered sex and solo sex at the same time period, etc.). 
  • Medical Conditions: Women especially notice their sex drive changes with their cycles on a monthly basis. But our overall hormonal levels and makeup also affect our sex drive. Women who have Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) or other hormonal imbalances, which tend to cause them to have less estrogen and more testosterone, may have a higher sex drive. Women on hormonal birth control methods may also notice a change. In addition to these, other medical factors affect sexual drive and performance such as taking psychotropic medications (anti-depressants have a nasty habit of decreasing sex drive drastically), medications for high blood pressure (cause negative performance issues for men), and chronic health conditions (like immune disorders, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and diabetes) can all drastically decrease your sex life too. 
  • Mental Health: People who suffer from depression or Bipolar may notice that their sex drive drops when they are in a depressed period. Other people may notice the opposite... their sex drive might increase during these rough times because they are seeking a "high" from the sex. Just a brief bit of feeling happy and normal and alive when the rest of their world seems out of control. This can be a dangerous pattern to get into because it can be a sign of sexual addiction. Other people notice that certain time of the year may be less sexually safe for them due to their own trauma history and triggers. 
From my clinical experience, I begin to worry about sexual addiction or other unhealthy sexual habits when a client is having sexual activities (solo or not) or using pornography more than 4 times a week for females, and more than 5 times a week for males. There is not a firm line here between healthy and unhealthy, but anything more than once a day is probably unhealthy.  Still, frequency is such a small part of the overall picture.  Some of the same issues we have to evaluate when determining if it's an unhealthy behavior is the same basics we have to look for when a trauma or dissociative issue is present.

How do you being to figure out if your sexual activity patterns are healthy or might be unhealthy?  That's my next article... "How do you try to define "healthy"sexual habits?"

What is "normal" when it comes to sex?

A lot of abuse survivors have this question, because what they learned about sex was so *not* normal. They were thrown into the world of sex too fast, too young, without power, without consent... and instead of learning about sex they learned about trauma and abuse and manipulation and pain. This question gets even more complicated when you're talking about people with insiders... because some of them might have learned very different things about sex than others. How do you define normal when some of your people inside your head think sex should hurt, or should be violent, or should never happen, or should be wonderful... all at the same time?

So, let's talk about what is the usual norm in our society as a jumping off point for figuring out if how and why you or your alters want to have sex is healthy. I'll try not to be too graphic so younger ones can read this, but do know that the topic and some of the words involved may be triggery. Proceed with caution. Sorry, this will be a lot longer than I expected... I'm going to break it up into two posts. This one focused on "sex norms" and "consent" and the next post on "masturbation" and "porn."

First of all, beliefs and values and norms change over time. What our current society considers normal was not normal for our parents, or their parents... so let's start with recent history.

Sex was considered something people did when both parties consented (that means agreed and wanted it, not felt forced, manipulated, or too scared to say no). Most people had their first consensual sexual experience in their mid to late teens, usually with someone their own age. Most agreed that sex was something that really should be done in a committed relationship, and not just casually. This was due to religious beliefs (most of which say wait until marriage), social beliefs (women who have many partners are sexual deviants), medical/health concerns (pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases), and psychological concerns (for many people there is an emotional component to sex, and even casual consensual sex can hurt their self-image, self-worth, and mental wellbeing... and breakups of dating relationships are usually worse when sex has been involved). There are others, but those are the biggest that come to mind.

Changes in the 60's and 70's affected society greatly, and medical advances brought better protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Both of those increased the acceptance level of casual, non-marital/non-serious relationship sex. Both men and women benefitted from that change. People also started to be open and honest about their sexual desires, preferences, and practices. I believe this was a good change. However, the bad side of this change was with more freedom the boundaries got pushed further out, which opened the door to more access and interest into things that had previously been considered deviant. Such as the rapid growth of the pornography industry, which lost all reasons and need to hide and be quiet... which then grew exponentially when the Internet came along. Suddenly anyone with a computer (or cell phone, now) had access to any type of pornography instantly, and without cost, at any hour. It was like free crack cocaine on demand, and that's fueled (and maybe caused) the huge growth in sex/porn addictions we see now affecting both men and women, hitting them sometimes in early teens and tweens even.

Like anything that feels good and gives you a brain chemical rush (like sex, drugs, alcohol, thrill seeking, etc.) you start to want MORE. It starts taking more to give you the benefit, too. More often, more intense, more extreme, more risky, just more more more. So society told people it was ok to own and flaunt their sexuality; sex club and strip clubs and swinger clubs popped up to show people what the *next taboo* was and that it was just within reach; subversive groups understood the power of sex to control, abuse, manipulate, blackmail, and solidify alliances and used sex as a tool and a weapon; and some people began needing to go even more extreme to meet the addictive need - rape, violence, BDSM, beastiality, group sex/orgies, and sex that debased and humiliated their partner (verbally, sexually, emotionally, etc.).

The sexual landscape has changed drastically in the last few decades, which may be the same decades you were born into, raised, and learned about sex. If you have confusing beliefs about sex, it's really no wonder given all the changes that have happened since your birth into this society. And if you moved into this society at some point after your birth, talk about culture shock! Luckily some research indicates that the younger generation may actually be becoming more sexually conservative so maybe there's hope for humans still.

Ok, so back to normal. What is it? Well, it's pretty much a setting on the washing machine. But let's try to set some averages anyway.

Some statistics from a study done in the UK in 2013:

Based on 15,000 adults aged 16-44:
  • Average age of losing virginity: Males & Females 16
  • Average number of opposite-sex sexual partners in their lifetime: Males: 11.7, Females 7.7
  • Percentage who have had same-sex sexual experiences: Males 5-7%, Females 8-16%
  • Average times men and women have sex in a month: 3
  • Percentage of women who reported they had been forced to have sex at some point: 10%
Trends include people losing their virginity earlier over the past few decades, and people having more partners in their lifetime than the past generations. There appeared to have been a period of having sex more frequently in the 90s, but that has no decreased (possibly due to increased work demands, increased distractions from other hobbies like the Internet, and decreased sexual activity with partners are more people turn to porn and Internet-based sex?).

The Centers for Disease Control's survey in the USA has slightly different numbers, but it's a few years older, from 2002-2010:
  • Average age of losing virginity: Males & Females [ages 15-44 (2010)] 17.1
  • Average number of opposite-sex sexual partners in their lifetime: Males [ages 25-44 (2008)] 6.1, Females [ages 25-44 (2008)] 3.6
  • Percentage who have had same-sex sexual experiences: Males [ages 15-44 (2010)] 5.1%, Females [ages 18-44 (2010)] 14.2%
  • Percentage of women 18-44 who reported they had been forced to have intercourse by a male: 20.3%
  • Percentage of men 18-44 who reported they had been forced to have intercourse by a female or a male: 6.4%
Neither of these large studies looked at masturbation though, and that's where things get really tricky for most people with Dissociative Disorders or trauma histories. There isn't a lot of current research on the topic, but it's an area where not just the past few decades but the past few centuries have completed changed the perception of what is normal. For a very long exploration of the history, check out this 2002 article from Planned Parenthood on "Masturbation: From Stigma to Sexual Health". Just a warning, it might put you to sleep. If the history bores you, skip to the last few pages where it talks specifically about masturbation (touching your own genitals for pleasure) as being a normal part of child development (even when the child is too young to understand that this can be a sexual act). To children, most of them find it by accident, and it just feels good and releases stress. They don't think anything past that. As we get older, and understand more about sex, sexual desires, sexual relationships, and the people we want to have sex with (or fantasies about), then we add to that simple act of touching genitals by adding in our mind and our hearts... and that's what makes it truly become a sexual act rather than a tactile or touch response.

Touch response is maybe where we need to start when dealing with sex for trauma survivors. Yes, your body is wired from birth to have specific reactions to specific types and locations of tactile or touch stimulation. We don't have to learn that a hug or a warm blanket feels safe, we just instinctively know it (until we're taught or traumatized to learn differently). Babies don't have to be taught how to suckle, they already have the innate ability to root and suckle... what we have to train is actually the mother how to breastfeed. No one had to teach us that intense cold, intense heat, and sharp objects are things we should avoid and pull away from. Our bodies and our brains are already built to avoid danger and pain in order to stay healthy and alive. Likewise, we came born with genitals that already knew that some types of touch would feel pleasurable and cause our brain and body to react without out thinking about it or choosing to react. You are no less a victim of traumatic sexual events just because your body reacted to what was happening. Sexual abuse does not need to be painful, bloody, or violent to still be abuse. Even if part of your brain felt pleasure doesn't mean you had the power/permission, the maturity/experience/age, the verbal skills, or the understanding of the consequences, to be able to give consent to what was happening to you.

Sexual consent means knowing what's expected to likely occur during the sexual activity (what's desired, what behaviors and activities are wanted/allowed and not wanted/limited/a boundary).

Are all the involved participants sober enough, calm enough, rational enough, currently mentally healthy enough to understand what's happening, give consent, and have the ability to stop or change things once the sexual activity begins? Is there a need for a "safe word" or other signal for when someone needs the activity to stop, especially if the person has a barrier to being able to say "no" or "stop." Sexual consent should also involve a continual checking during the activity, especially with trauma survivors and dissociatives, to make sure they are still grounded, present, and consenting. That means looking for verbal and non-verbal cues that tell you someone is still enjoying what is going on, and still participating in the sexual activity. If your partner told you they wanted to have sex, but suddenly stopped making verbal signs to indicate enjoyment, or stopped participating (such as suddenly just lies flat), they may have dissociated or even switched to another state that is no longer able or willing to give consent (or worse, unable to stop the activity completely).

Just because you had consent before the activity began doesn't mean you have consent the whole way through. Pay attention. It also means don't drastically change plans... if your partner was ok having "vanilla" sex and you suddenly want to pull out sex toys or venture into BDSM, you may not have consent for that and you need to ask again. With dissociative, you're liable to cause a switch in who's out in the body when you drastically change the sexual activity involved. Get consent again. Make sure they know they won't be hurt or punished if they don't want to give consent. The longer you're with the same sex partner, the more you'll be able to read these subtle clues that indicate when consent may have evaporated or changed due to dissociation or switching. But the first few times, be very obvious about attaining consent and be very permissive in allowing non-consent or limits.

But what about sex that doesn't involve another outside person? Well, that's the next post... "What is "normal" when it comes to solo sex?" followed by "How do you try to define “healthy" sexual habits?".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Coming back to the blog

Ok, send me your questions and I'll get back on track.

A lot has changed inside since we last blogged here.

So one of our first assignments is going to be reading back through this blog to see how our thoughts have changed about these topics, and updating our answers as needed.

We have also entered the world of MKUltra/programming/intentionally created systems, which we are starting to use the acronym #MCSRA with on Twitter to combine the MC/MindControl and Sadistic/Satanic/Ritualistic Abuse forms since they have *so* much in common.  So if you have questions on that stuff, I'll try to field them the best I can.

Stay safe everyone. It's a bumpy ride, but it's something we can do together.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sorry for being gone so long

Life threw us a few major curveballs, and changes inside and outside our system. Sorry we haven't been keeping up! We will try to post again soon. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Extra Sensory Perception?

Q:  I, myself have multiple personalities and I was curious if you experience some type of extra sensory perception or paranormal events with yourself.  I would like to know if there could be a link between these two, as I experience unique abilities as randomly as "the others" come out.  - Anessa

A:  It depends on how you want to define extra sensory perception.

Many survivors of abuse have learned to be hypervigilant, and have learned how to read other people very well.  They usually had to learn now to read the behaviors, body language, minute facial expressions, tone of voice, and other signals from their abusers in order to try to stay a step ahead of their perp.  They may have also developed very strong sensory skills as part of how Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder  affects the brain, making them have very good hearing, smell, taste, visions, of tactile perception.

Many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder may have parts who specialize in these perceptive skills.  These parts may also have these skills be very important to their overall function and identity. For example, I have a part who has exceptional hearing, and that appears to be her main function and a large part of her identity. She listens for signals of danger, and can hear things most people miss, and then sets off an alarm for the rest of us so we can hop into action.  I have another part who is skilled at reading the minuscule changes in people's body language and facial expressions to help figure out their intentions and truthfulness, and to notice when words don't march with the non-verbal cues (like the people on the tv show Lie to Me). Unfortunately she requires so much resources to do her skill that we rarely let her out anymore. Which is a shame because I really wish I had her skills!

As far as the fringes of extra sensory perception, I have met quite a few people with Dissociative Identity Disorder who believe they have parts with this skills.  Some people will argue that it really all books down to just really good sensory processing, memory skills, and luck. But many believe they have parts who can discern when ghosts or evil spirits are around, or can tell ahead of time that something bad is going to happen in a place different than where they are.

I have had some experiences with knowing things, like that someone is about to be in a car wreck or about to die, when they weren't even in the same state as I was.  My grandmother also had that ability, but she would often not be able to tell who was going to have the disaster so she would call way too many people to warn them. That ability scares me and I try to avoid it.

I'm not sure how the brain develops differently with children who develop Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I don't know how the brain develops differently in people who has psychic abilities, who are empaths, or who have other types of extra sensory perception. But I do think people with DID might have a better chance of maintaining a skill, because of the dissociation process, that otherwise they might have disowned or "grown out of" if they had not become DID.  I think many children are innately more perceptive and skilled in sensory processing and awareness (like reading emotions and truthfulness in adults).  But they are trained to give up this skills because "it's not nice" to call out an adult for lying, or to keep bugging Mommy to find out why she's in a bad mood when she's trying to tell you everything is fine.

I also think people with DID may understand and accept that there is a lot more in this world than just what we can see and put into words.  Our minds are so full of things that feel so real, that we can't put into words, that others can't see... but we hold them to be true.  I think that's why a lot of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder can be highly creative, can be strong believers in a spiritual world, and can be willing and able to experience the intangible and unexpected (like paranormal or spiritual gifts).

Friday, September 02, 2011

Do people hide DID/MPD?

Q: Do people with multiple personality try to hide it? - Anon

A: For a large percentage of the time, for a very large majority of the people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder, the answer is YES! There are several reasons.

1. Early on, they may not realize they have anything unique or different about themselves. They may assume all people have the same experiences. So they may not tell anyone.

2. In childhood, adults expect (naturally so) that kids will create imaginary playmates, wild stories, and my act out different role playing or identities. This is all a normal part of development. So the early signs of Dissociative Identity Disorder may be mistaken as normal play.

3. Many survivors of abuse and trauma learn to cope with their trauma by learning to ignore it. They avoid memories, avoid triggers that might bring up those memories, and distance themselves from the emotions too. If they are aware that the Dissociative Identity Disorder exists, they may ignore it because they know it's a symptom of the trauma. To avoid the DID is another way of "acting normal" after something very abnormal happened.

4. Some survivors were threatened that if they told people of the abuse that very bad things would happen to them or to loved ones. Hiding the alters becomes important then because if people see them they will ask questions, and those questions may lead to very dangerous truth.

5. Shame is a powerful motivator. People who carry the shame of their abuse may also feel shame towards their Dissociative Identity Disorder, too. They may be afraid of the judgements people might make if they knew. They may be afraid of losing friends, family, spouses, jobs, even the custody of their children.

6. They may not think their DID is important or a vital part of who they are. Many Multiples go through a period in recovery where they want people to know about the Dissociative Identity Disorder. But they also go through a later period of recovery where they want to be known for their other aspects, talents, interests, quirks, etc. DID becomes just one small part of the whole picture of who they see themselves to be.

7. They may not know they have Dissociative Identity Disorder. Some of the alters know, but they may be protecting themselves and others inside by keeping the knowledge a secret. They may also not know how to reach the other alters yet to communicate.





Monday, August 29, 2011

What's it like to switch?

Q: What's it like to switch? - David

A: I have never seen a tv show, movie, or book that has resonated with how it feels for me to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder as much as Quantum Leap. I had to be like Sam Beckett trying to figure out the missing pieces, while preventing people from realizing I was someone else, and trying to figure out what tasks had to be done before I leapt out of there.

An alter is inside, minding their own business, maybe even sleeping. Then, usually without warning, unless they were intentionally trying to take over control of the body, they find themselves out. Being out means you are in control of the body, and you may or may not have access to the other people inside the body. But as a survivor of abuse you know that your life depends upon maintaining the secret of the abuse. That also means hiding the secret that your body holds more than one...

So you find yourself out, surrounded by people and places you may have never seen before. Maybe doing activities you've never done before. Minutes, hours, days, or even weeks may have passed since the last time you were out. All you really know is your own personal past, and your own personal skills. Sure, the previous alter may have known how to drive, but do you? Do you even know where you are driving to? Do you pull over and wait, or are you going to be stuck out for so long that waiting is pointless?

Usually alters can hear at least one other alter who is still inside, and sometimes they can communicate to each other. This may be an alter who can offer help and guidance, like Al does in Quantum Leap. Or maybe they can can go ask others that theynhave access to that your don't, like Ziggy the Computer in Quantum Leap or the staff back in the lab that Sam can't talk to.

Since we honestly believed hiding our existence was the only way to survive, we did not develop very obvious external differences, like you often see in movies or tv shows. My access to clothes, jewelry, makeup, etc was the same regardless of who was out. We viewed the body as a car: no matter who gets in to drive, the car is still the same; how they choose to drive may be very different though. I have graceful alters, and I have klutzes. I have alters who feel fat and slow, and alters who feel skinny and fast in the same body.

The biggest change some people notice is my mood and language shifts, and that my beliefs or point of view may change depending on who is out. For example, I don't curse often. A frequently out part of me, however, curses like a sailor, and with much comfort! But my skills also change. My boys know how to build things and are mechanically inclined than me. Some of my people are very socially comfortable whereas I am quiet and introverted. Some have religious or spiritual knowledge while others do not. One knows Spanish, one knows American Sign Language, one doesn't know how to speak.

There are times when you want to leave being in control up to someone else. When I have a lot of physical pain, I want someone better equipped to deal with it to be out. Sometimes you don't want to give up control, but are forced to. Either one of administrators of my system shuts the whole body down, or they can force a replacement out. This is good for dealing with alters who are self-destructive and putting the body at risk, or who are having a panic attack or otherwise not functioning well. And sometimes someone else just wants the control because they want the control. They have people to talk to, things to do, or just cabin fever from being inside too long. This can be the worst shift.

When I am out, and someone else demands to be out, and I don't want to let them do that, I have to fight. I have to fight to keep focus on where i am and what I am doing. I have to fight to shut their voice or images out of my head that they are distracting me with. They may turn up the volume to drown out my own thoughts. It may give me a headache because were both fighting for the same mental resources. Some of them used to be able to cause physical pain (muscle spasms, migraines, IBS, stabbing pains, dizziness, nausea, feeling cold or hot). Luckily since the body know does that all on it's own, no one uses that tool anymore because now they've been on the receiving end.

I had a grad school profess assume I was ADD/ADHD because in class I would fight to stay out for the lecture. My ways of doing that usually involved a LOT of foot tapping or leg bouncing because the constant physical sensation and exertion helped me keep others away. I was also a prolific doodler and almost frequent gum chewer for the same reasons.

Then there are times when you've had enough and you want to go back inside. Sometimes no one else wants to deal with what you're dealing with either, and you get abandoned and locked out. Sometimes alters would resort to self-injury or cutting to force someone else to come out to protect the body. Other times the system can't seem to make a switch happen (stress, inner turmoil, no one wants to be out, they can't afford to let the person who is out to come back inside yet), in which case we usually escaped to sleep. So, once again, like Sam Beckett, sometimes it's time to leap, and sometimes it isn't.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

When did you first know you were Multiple?

Q. When did you first know you were Multiple? - Marcy

A: I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in the summer of 1996. I was already aware that I was Multiple before the official diagnosis got applied, but there was still something oddly heavy, scary, and final about having a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist confirm it (when I hadn't told them my suspicion).

It's hard to answer the question of "When did you first know you were Multiple?" Who, exactly, are you asking? Because some of us inside knew almost two decades before others inside found out! But there is also the complication that when you are a young kid, you think you are normal because you don't have a lot of reference points yet to compare with. And that's especially true when talking about trying to figure out if your brain works the same as everyone else.

As far as we can tell, I became a We at age two or three. "How do you know your memory is from that age? That's an awfully long time ago!" yes, it is an awfully long time ago for most of us. But some of my parts are frozen in time, and that's not far away from their perspective. The way I'm able to age most of my memories though is because my family moved every year or two, so I can figure out the years based on what house I'm remembering. I've also verified details and memories of houses and ages with my mom, and the records she has of our moves.

Anyway, we continued to make alters to help deal with new challenges (moving, school, church, friends, continued abuse, different abusers, etc.) until the abuse stopped at age 14. I, Selah, didn't meet the others until college. I was created to go to school, and protected from knowing about the others so I wouldn't also have to know about the abuse. When they began to make themselves known to me, I felt like my world was being ripped apart, like I was being shredded apart. I began to question everything, and I trusted nothing, especially not them.

I knew we were different from our peers early in life, before school even started. Mostly because I understood my father's threats that the abuse was a secret that had to be protected at all costs. I withdrew from my peers because it was the easiest way to protect the secret. We knew being Multiple was something we had to hide by the time we were 6 or 7. Which is why Selah got created, because we needed a unified appearance and memory for learning for school.

Things began to unravel in college. That's when it became painfully obvious to me, Selah, that there were others sharing my life and my body. And they started to really show me the holes in my memory and daily life. I remember my mom came to visit me in college and a lady came up to me and asked how I was doing and what I was up to, normal chit chat for someone who knows you. But I didn't know her. She asked who I was with and I had to figure out how to introduce my mother to a stranger who seemed to know me. I was mortified. My mom caught on and helped introduce herself, then later asked me what happened. I told her the truth: I had no idea who that lady was. I speculated that she had me mistaken for someone else.

Later that night I got shown of memory that I had been in a writing class with that woman earlier that year. But I didn't remember the class either! It was a month long semester in January where my college offered unusual classes, and the more I tried to think about it the more I realized I didn't remember January! I asked my best friend about the class casually, and she had taken the class with me. Oh vey.

Another stark slap in the face was when I found myself in second year college Spanish one day and realized I didn't understand a single word! The alter who had learned Spanish had decided that she was no longer going to be in class. I was confused, ashamed, and mostly pissed. How was I suppose to pass a class in a foreign language that I never learned?!

Good times ;-)

So, we began to unravel and start tearing down the internal amnesia in 1993, with Selah really finding out starting in 1994. Recovery really started for us because we were finally away from the father for the first time. It was finally safe to feel and remember again. But it also became necessary to get Selah to know because we knew we had to confront the father before he had the chance to abuse grandkids that were hitting the "right ages" for them to be at risk of sexual abuse. We did confront him in 1995, which really opened the floodgates for even more alters and memories to come out of the closet for all insiders to face. That's when recovery became a real life or death deal, one we weren't always sure we'd survive. But we knew that to avoid recovery was an absolute one-way ticket to suicide.

Friday, August 26, 2011

DID without abuse history?

Q: Is it possible to have DID if I haven't been abused? - Anon

A: Yes, for two reasons. First of all, since a critical part of Dissociative Identity Disorder is amnesia, it is possible that not all alters know about the abuse. Secondly, a lot of things can be traumatic enough to cause DID without necessarily being something you would call abuse, if you're only using that term to mean physical or sexual abuse. Severe and recurrent trauma can be caused by abuse (physical, sexual, verbal/emotional), extreme neglect (isolation, imprisonment, withholding or inaccessible food/water, etc.), or significant acts of violence that carry a significant risk to health or life (natural disasters, wars, refugee camps, etc.). But while research shows a very strong link, with the expectation of a causual relationship, between early childhood abuse or trauma and DID, the clinical diagnostic criteria for Dissociative Identity Disorder does not require a trauma history.

A few people with Dissociative Identity Disorder do claim that they have no memories of abuse, and feel that they have adequate knowledge of their internal system for them to be able to rule out that the abuse memories are simply blocked by amnesia. Some believe that they simply created their system because they were very bright, creative, or imaginative enough to create the DID.

Clinically this is unexpected. I would encourage someone who has symptoms of severe dissociation, with no reasonable memories of trauma to explain their symptoms, and who has thoroughly explored this issue in counseling, to seek a full evaluation to also rule out medical or neurobiological conditions that may be underlying their condition (ie, tumors, seizures, brain injury, etc). I would also want to rule out other mental illnesses that can have dissociation symptoms such as Bipolar, Borderline, Schizophrenia, and Schizoaffective disorders.