August 18, 2009
Welcome to the second half of “Depression and Dissociative Identity Disorder”. The first seven tips have been previously posted. At this point in time, I will continue with the list of tips for how to specifically address chronic depression for trauma survivors with DID:
8. As the memories surface, feelings will also surface. Expressing genuine emotion is key to working through depression. Crying tears of grief, screaming out in anger, quivering in fear may not feel comfortable, but holding these very real and intense emotions deep within will create long-term depression. Allowing these emotions to come out safely and appropriately – even if years after the original point of acquiring these emotions – will help.
9. In the appropriate time, let other parts of your dissociative system know about the information that was held by the depressed parts. Overcoming the dissociative barriers by sharing that information between the system parts is critical in your long-term healing. The more that your internal system shares with each other, the more you all can work together towards healing. The full story line does not have to be shared immediately with everyone. However, keeping pockets of dissociated information will continue to create an underlying cause for chronic depression.
10. Your feelings will need lots and lots of processing time. Talk, cry, draw, write, vocalize what you are feeling as many hours and hours over time as you feel these feelings. If you have been holding your emotions in for years of time, it will take oodles of time for these feelings to be worked through. Talking about it once or twice won’t be enough. Pushing feelings back down into non-expression will create more depression. While it will be very new territory to learn how to express your feelings, it is a necessary step.
11. Learn new rules about the expression of feelings. For example, in the past, when you were at risk of being hurt by your perpetrators, you most likely learned that it was not safe to express anger towards those that violently abused you. And yes, in that time frame, when you were likely to express direct injury from your perpetrators, it was safest for you to push those angry feelings deep within. At that time, that was a good decision. However, once you are away from your perpetrators, and the risk of ongoing abuse is no longer prominent, it is both essential and ok to express anger at your perpetrators’ atrocious, criminal behavior. Your healing will require that you remember to adjust with your changing circumstances, including creating new rules for expression
12. Learn to direct your anger at an appropriate target, even if that means starting with a “generic” unnamed target. Talk with your therapist about the variety of anger-expression techniques that allow your anger to be vocalized without creating harm to anyone else. Learning to express your feelings does not give you permission to take it out on whoever is there. The more you can express your anger directly towards the perpetrators that harmed you, the more effective it will be. Likewise, misdirecting your anger towards the wrong target (ie: someone who was not responsible for your abuse or injuries), will only create more problems for you, and will harm a lot of innocent people in the process. For example, getting angry with your children or your therapist will not resolve the anger you feel towards your parents.
13. As a continuation of tip #12, be willing to learn specifically about transference, projection, displacement of emotion, etc. Survivors who have had years of repressed emotion due to duress and abuse will truly need to practice expressing their emotions properly, and will need to learn when they are misdirecting their emotions. All survivors that were not allowed to express anger directly naturally learned to displace any display of anger in sideward ways. Realize that you will continue to get this mixed up for awhile. Be very aware that you might first take your anger out on safer targets. These mistakes are to be expected, and not a “fault” of yours, but it is still your responsibility to learn more accurate skills. Making the mistake of blaming the wrong person will only add to your depression. It will leave the deeper feelings unprocessed, unaddressed, and unhealed, thereby creating the foundation for ongoing depression and pain.
14. Replace the years of trauma and abuse with your own preferred people and activities that you enjoy. Once your life is full of happier, more meaningful things, you won’t feel as depressed. This probably will not happen quickly or easily, and you might have to learn how to live again. It might feel like you are learning to live for the very first time. You might have to learn how to love, or how to experience joy, or how to play, or how to forgive, or how to explore, etc. The more you can fill your life with activities of your own choosing, the less depressed you will feel.
15. Be sure to encourage all of your insiders to have their own individual healing process. Let each of them work through their own traumas, their own feelings, and let each of them find new and more positive interests in life. As each individual part of you experiences less depression, the whole of you will experience less depression. If you let only some parts heal, the whole of you will still be affected by the parts that were not given the chance to work through their healing. Remember, as split and divided as you might feel, you are still all connected within the same one body and the same one brain. To truly overcome depression, all of your insiders need the chance to overcome their pain.
Depression can be very debilitating.
Healing your trauma issues will be fundamental to overcoming the effects of the chronic depression.
In other words, in my opinion, you will continue to struggle with depression if you have unresolved trauma issues. If your dissociative symptoms have a significant negative impact on your ability to function, the liklihood of your having a significant level of major depression (MDD) is also present.
It is true that there may be other reasons for your depression in addition to trauma. (Please note: those topics were not addressed in this blog).
However, it is safe to assume that if you have unresolved trauma issues, you will most likely have chronic depression. And, the less unresolved trauma in your life, the less depression you’ll experience.
So….. get to work on addressing your DID / trauma issues. You’ll feel better for it!!
Kathy Broady LCSW
December 11, 2008
What is therapy? What is a therapist? And how can you tell if they’re any good?
In my experience, therapy is about speaking the unspeakable. It’s the telling of things that you haven’t had the safety or the opportunity to tell before. It’s expressing your deepest feelings without have to edit or omit or pretend for the sake of someone else. It’s exploring within yourself to find who you are, and who the other parts of you are. It’s looking at the painful truths of your life, coming to grips with even the most shame-filled realities of the ways you were hurt and the ways you hurt others—and then being able to move ahead with a greater peace, more resolve, a quiet solidity, and an acceptance of what has happened in years gone by. It’s the process of facing the past while also allowing it to fade away, becoming free from it, instead of being consumed by it or chained to it or terrified of it. It requires seeing and knowing some very harsh realities, but helps you find a way to be solidly ok with yourself anyway and to live a full and happy life despite the horror and pain.
A therapist is a listening person who can hear what you have to say and help you to process your experiences and move beyond them, a companion in your pain and a witness to your truth.
A safe trauma therapist is one who can contain your feelings and experiences, however intense, and remain themselves, present in the room with you. It is one in whom you can have the confidence of knowing they are on your side, as well as the reassurance of knowing they are their own confident person who will not be easily steamrolled, bullied, or deceived. Your listening person can’t be fooled by denial, manipulated by fear, scared off by anger, or accepting of projections. They must be strong enough to handle your pain, your emotions, your truths, without falling into their own emotional traps, and yet they need to be gentle enough to provide genuine compassion and comfort. Your listening person must be kind, but firm. Flexible, but unwavering. Provoking, but protective. Accepting, but honest.
Trauma therapy is not just about the recovery and processing of memories. It is also about learning to think and act in different and better ways. Emotional fallacies, cognitive distortions, controlling manipulations, and psychological defenses all have to be addressed. In therapy, your greatest wounds and your worst behaviors both will be exposed, examined, and engaged. Ouch—that’s really hard to do. No wonder therapy hurts.
Therapy is an enormously difficult personal challenge. It requires courage and willpower by the bucketful. Beyond that, it also takes a great personal commitment on your part to hold on to the therapeutic alliance through the difficult times. Sometimes this persistence can mean going against what feels “right”—so many of you have learned through hard experience that trust is a myth and caring is a painful lie.
And although healing therapy is desperately sought out by trauma survivors, and although it can be a life-saving, heart-warming, and incredibly powerful process—within each and every trauma survivor, there will also be long lists of reasons, recognized or unrecognized, conscious or deeply hidden, why therapy is not ok, not necessary, or not helpful for them. So it can be all too easy, when the going gets particularly tough, to turn from the onslaught of truth and from the therapy that has unleashed it. It is too easy, sometimes, to deflect the truth onto someone or something else, discard that person or thing from your life as you no doubt wish you could do with the truth and just keep running.
Your commitment to therapy will be tested again and again. I commend each and every one of you who daily move forward on blind faith, against what feels like your better instincts, to find true healing.
Externally, there may other challenges to face. There may be others in your life that don’t want you to move forward. Maybe your family likes the status quo, and they don’t want you challenging their norm. Maybe your perpetrators don’t want you to realize the truth of what happened, or maybe they don’t care if you remember, as long as you blame yourself for their crimes. Or maybe someone is invested in controlling you now. They certainly wouldn’t want you to learn healthier ways of thinking and feeling.
It is crucial that you are willing to be honest with yourself in your healing—about yourself and about others in your life—even when painful truths are revealed. As hard as it is to do, facing the truth is the only way to achieve full healing.
Kathy Broady, LCSW