February 20, 2010
This picture is an example of an internal landscape for a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder. Internal worlds are very real, and they sometimes feel more real than the external world for certain parts. Internal worlds are more than having an imagination. They are interactive, busy, alive places.
Some survivors with DID have trouble looking inside. Many people say they can hear things, but it looks black inside. Even if you cannot see inside, there will be others in your system who can see your internal worlds. Try communicating with them, and as you build positive rapport with these other parts of your system, they may be willing to let you see what they see.
Becoming more familiar with your internal worlds is an important part of internal communication and getting to know the other parts inside. Internal worlds are like internal homes. They provide a type of internal community for your system insiders.
Think about how much harder it would be to get to know various people in a work office setting if you couldn’t see the different areas, the different cubicles, the different desk locations. If there were a dozen people in that area but the lights were off, or in curtains were drawn, it would be much more difficult to connect with the people that were there. Seeing each other helps. Seeing where each other is also helps.
Getting to know the internal locations of your insiders is equally important. When you see where someone lives, you learn a lot about them.
Please note: It is extremely important to keep the details of your internal world private to only the most trusted people in your life. This kind of information is personal, and if you give away too much info about your internal worlds to someone who has less than noble intentions, you could be putting your system at risk.
With cautions in mind, here is a picture that represents a portion of an internal landscape.
When I look at this picture, if I was speaking to the dissociative person, I would ask:
- Can you tell me about this place? And this place? And this place? I would ask the person to describe the different structures to help me understand the importance of each location. Since the inside worlds can be whatever you want it to be, it can be important to hear why you have those specific things.
- What is this yellow triangle thing? Where did you get the idea to build this kind of place in your internal world? What does it represent? What are those circle things and why are they connected together?
- Who lives here? And who lives here? And who lives here? Each separate location / building / structure can be the ‘home’ of someone in the system.
- Do the neighbors all get to speak and interact with each other? Why or why not? Can the people in these areas always hear what is going on in these other areas? Why or why not?
- I see the little worlds. Each of these circles looks like it could be its own little world of people. What groups of your insiders are connected to these areas? Can you tell me more about these?
- Do these colors have any specific meaning to you?
- Part of your internal world looks bright and cheery. Part of it looks dark and heavy. How does that match with your experience of what your internal worlds are like?
- Who in your system is allowed to go through these doors? What are the rules for who can go through them vs. who cannot? What does it look like on the other side of these doors?
- What is the purpose of having a lake in your internal world? How does it help you to feel better? What have lakes meant to you in your outside life?
- I see the clear blue sky in a distance. Why is the blue sky so far away? What is over there at the horizon point? What is making the rainbow so much heavier and prominent than the sky? What does that mean to you?
- The trees on the island appear to be separated from the other structures. Do the insiders that live on the island have to stay separate from the others? Are the people able to cross to the other section? Do these people know those people?
- What are the brown leaf-type shapes on the left edge? What do they represent?
- If this is a picture of your internal world, where are the people? What are they doing? Do you see other insiders when you look at these places?
- How has your internal world changed over time? What has remained constant? What has changed? Do you know what was going on in your life when the changes occurred? Are there any changes that you would like to make to your internal worlds at this point in time of your life?
- When your internal worlds look like this, how do you feel?
- How much time do you spend looking inside at these worlds? How easy is it for you to see this? Does anything ever block your view of these areas?
- How real do these internal worlds feel to you?
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 19, 2010
In a previous blog post, I made a request for artwork about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD). Sometimes it is easier to describe experiences through images than through words.
I send a special thank you to the different dissociative trauma survivors who have been willing to contribute to this project. I will add various pictures and related comments as I receive them.
For “Self Portrait”, notice the number of different parts. Clearly, this person is polyfragmented (they have lots of insiders!) and each part is completely unique and different from the others in the system. If I were speaking to this person about their picture, I would ask the following questions:
- I see over a dozen different colors. What do each of these colors represent to you? Which colors are you most comfortable with? Which colors are the most anxiety-provoking for you? Please explain why.
- What does the one white piece near the center mean to you? Why is it placed there?
- What does the grouping of red pieces in the center mean to you? Why are they placed there?
- Why are the three red parts able to sit closely together when most of the other colors do not sit next to each other? How does this relate to your inner system?
- What does the outer pinkish border represent? Does this color represent your external host? What keeps this part of you from mingling more with the others inside?
- I see black outlines separating most of the different pieces from each other. What kind of barriers do these represent in your system? Which barriers represent complete separation / time loss from the other parts?
- Can the parts next to each other communicate together? Who can talk to who?
- Can the parts on opposite sides of this portrait communicate together? Do they know each other exists when they are so far apart?
- When you look at this picture, who do you know? How many of the other insiders are you familiar with?
- Do the various parts of the same coloring, even if scattered throughout your system portrait, have the ability to communicate with each other?
- Some parts are larger in size than others. What does that represent to you? Does the size of the part represent age? Power? Presence?
- What do you feel when you look at this picture? What do you hear from inside when you are looking at this picture?
- What can you say about the bigger black spots? Do they represent a “black group”? Does the black represent a not-knowing who or what is there?
- Are these parts fluid? Do they move from place to place? Do they stay exactly where they are? Please explain more about that.
- Is that brown heart an on-purpose heart shape? What does that particular piece mean to you? Are there reasons for any of the other specific shapes of the different pieces?
- What kind of system cooperation / internal communication did you experience while you were making this picture?
- What are you hearing from inside as I ask you all these questions? (lol, one can safely assume that the inside will have plenty to say by this point!)
So much system work can be accomplished through just this one picture.
Kathy Broady LCSW
November 21, 2009
There have been some interesting discussions and comments from various trauma survivors about how much their therapists have meant to them. These readers have shared some very tender moments with their therapists and have talked openly about the depths of their heart-warming connections and healing moments.
Clearly, these survivors have found their therapists to be important and significant people in their lives. The work and the effort of developing these therapeutic relationships have clearly been worth it to them.
Why is their therapist important?
On the flip-side, other commenters in this blog have written about horror stories they have had with former trauma therapists. It seems there is an endless supply of the “bad t” stories that get passed around and shared over and over. I can’t tell you how many of those stories I’ve heard. I’m sure each of you have already been told about at least a dozen bad therapists. In these stories, the clients are angry with their therapist, they accuse the therapist of causing all kinds of harm, and they speak of these therapeutic relationships as traumatic or disturbing or exploitive.
Who are these bad therapists?!
Is there any trauma therapist that has not been considered to be a “bad t” by someone or another? Honestly, most therapists get targeted sooner or later by someone. It happens frequently. (Please remember the blogs about love/hate relationships and protecting your therapeutic relationship.)
So if there are allegedly so many bad therapists, or perceived bad therapists, why do trauma survivors repeatedly risk having a therapist in the first place?
Why does a therapist matter to you?
Why bother with the hassle of developing and maintaining a therapeutic relationship?
Why does a therapist warrant your business, your time, your respect, or any caring connection from you?
What does a therapist do anyway?
There are a variety of reasons why dissociative trauma survivors might find therapists to be important. I’ve listed 50 benefits of having a therapist. This is not an exhaustive list. If you have an idea to add, please comment.
50 Benefits of Having a Therapist
1. To have someone encourage you to love and accept yourself to the point that you can truly live, without focusing on death and needing to die
2. To have someone in your life that will make it ok to not have to dissociate away from your real life
3. To have someone to bounce ideas on, to problem solve, to explore new behaviors
4. To have someone to talk to about deeply private and personal things
5. To have someone who can genuinely hear your pain, and sit with you when you are hurting
6. To have someone who can give you their undivided attention, their best listening ear, even if for a specified period of time
7. To have someone who gives you courage and hope to keep going, even in the darkest moments
8. To have someone who provides a gentle, safe environment for the healing of your deepest wounds and painful memories
9. To have someone who repeatedly offers positive emotional support and encouragement
10. To have someone who sincerely believes in you and your abilities, talents, and accomplishments
11. To have someone who truly sees you as a good person, a worthwhile person, a valuable person
12. To have someone who will address the variety of issues that underlies the mental health difficulties in your life.
13. To have someone who will build a relationship with you, willingly connecting with you, no matter how badly you feel about yourself
14. To have someone who will challenge your thinking and cognitive distortions
15. To have someone who will connect the dots of your dissociated life experiences
16. To have someone who will encourage you to be comfortable becoming your very own self
17. To have someone who will encourage you to build a life based on your strengths instead of the life your abusers may have designed for you
18. To have someone who will encourage you to try new things and to stretch your horizons
19. To have someone who will expect you to honestly work on your issues instead of blaming others
20. To have someone who will foster your leadership skills, job skill development, educational opportunities, etc.
21. To have someone who will genuinely accept you, warts and all
22. To have someone who will have the courage and ability to tell you “no”
23. To have someone who will hear your heart and the depths of your soul
24. To have someone who will help to remove the jagged edges from your life
25. To have someone who will help you build a tolerance and acceptance of others
26. To have someone who will help you create personal safety, both inside and out
27. To have someone who will help you find and connect with your very best self
28. To have someone who will help you to build the ability to tolerate and sit with intense emotions in yourself and in others
29. To have someone who will help you to contain the extremes of your behavior and feelings
30. To have someone who will help you to emotionally grow, develop, mature
31. To have someone who will help you to move past the blocks, walls, and black holes
32. To have someone who will help you transform self destruction into self acceptance
33. To have someone who will hold you accountable and responsible for troublesome areas
34. To have someone who will hold your secrets with you
35. To have someone who will listen to you, and understand your point of view
36. To have someone who will look for the positive in each and every one of your insiders
37. To have someone who will make it safe enough for you to express your true feelings
38. To have someone who will offer encouragement and support, even when its tough
39. To have someone who will offer guidance as needed
40. To have someone who will offer opportunities to explore trust, acceptance, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience
41. To have someone who will push you to move forward, instead of sitting complacently
42. To have someone who will recognize family dynamics and their impact on you
43. To have someone who will remember what your insiders say, especially when it is too difficult for you to retain it
44. To have someone who will set appropriate limits and boundaries
45. To have someone who will sit with you while you face your deepest fear, shame, guilt, horror
46. To have someone who will sort out conflict and disagreement
47. To have someone who will stay with you, even when you expose your worst self
48. To have someone who will talk to your inner parts, even the ones you are afraid to speak to or unable to speak to
49. To have someone who will teach and model new behaviors, and healthy emotions
50. To have someone who will team up with you in your healing journey
True therapy is so much more than a sequence of techniques to address trauma, or emotional containment, or cognitive distortions, or dissociative separation, or destructive behaviors.
Therapy happens with real people, between real people. Therapy is a healing process. It touches many levels of life. The emotional depth of true healing is founded in the solidity of the therapeutic relationship.
Unfortunately, your trauma and abuse happened at the hands of violent, hateful, destructive people.
Fortunately, your healing will happen within a caring, accepting, compassionate relationship.
Kathy Broady LCSW
October 10, 2009
Are you a leader?
Do you know what it takes to be a leader?
Multiples – trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder – experience life as plural. Dissociative systems may be internal sets of people, but they are still groups of people nonetheless.
All groups of people need a leader they can look up to – someone they can trust, someone they can depend on, someone with their best interests in mind even when times get tough. These leaders help to make decisions that affect everyone else. They hopefully will decide things on that are the best for the majority of the people within their group. And these leaders need to care enough about what their people want and need in order to make good decisions.
Dissociative systems need leaders too.
Who is the leader of your system?
And what does it take to be a good leader?
A leader is someone who knows enough about a wide variety of the important issues that they can make truly informed decisions on behalf of the others. These leaders know that they have the responsibility to know. They can’t pretend or ignore reality. They have to actually be aware of what happens now (and what happened then) so the decisions they make will be relevant and wise.
If you are the leader of your dissociative system, it is important that you understand all the different opinions-thoughts-feelings of your various internal system parts.
We expect the political leaders to listen to the people. All the people.
Dissociative system leaders also need to listen to the people – all their internal people.
Being a good leader does not mean that you get to block out the rest of your system and have a dictatorship. That might work if you value selfishness, but not if you are going to be an effective group leader.
Being a good leader means being willing to not use your dissociative skills to distance yourself from everyone else. While you might have the ability to block out your insiders from time to time, this can’t be your primary state of existence if you are going to actually be the system leader.
System leaders aren’t necessarily the host alter. That host / front part of you may be who people from the outside (“in real life”) world believe to be your leader, but daytime hosts that deal only (or mostly) with the outside world will probably not be the internal system leader. If your daytime host cannot interact frequently and easily with various layers of your internal system, then my guess is that they are not actually the system leader. They might be the leader of their “department”, but without having the ability to communicate with various groups of your internal people, this host part will not be the overall “store manager”.
There will be someone else in your group that has more overall say-so. They may be willing to let the “day people” deal with the outside world while they very specifically manage the leadership of the internal worlds.
Remember, to be a leader, one has to be able to communicate with the people they lead.
Dissociative system leaders truly listen to their insiders. They don’t hide behind amnesiac walls. They aren’t afraid to know what happened in the past. They are willing to know the truth – to know the reality – to know how it feels to be there, in that spot….
Do you know the life-stories of your various insiders?
Can you relate with compassion, gentleness, and caring for the people you represent?
Can you identify with their struggles? With their pain? With their fears?
Are you willing to help them? To problem-solve with them? To address their concerns?
Can you withstand the pressure of making decisions that could affect everyone else?
To lead effectively, you must know who your people are.
Kathy Broady, LCSW
September 9, 2009
To those of you that have been having a very difficult day today – please know that you can fight that.
You don’t have to do anything dangerous.
You don’t have to hurt yourself.
You don’t have to do anything harmful to yourself.
You don’t have to go to places where you get hurt.
You don’t have to go to places where your insiders get hurt.
You don’t have to go to places where someone else wants you to hurt.
You don’t have to give yourself to something that is dark and harmful.
You don’t have to go where you get stripped naked.
Find someone safe. There really are safe people out there.
Stay by them. Stay with them. Stay near them.
Learn about protecting yourself, and your insiders.
You can be safe from all that hurt, you really can.
I wanted you to know that there are kind helping people that understand why you are having such a difficult time today.
You are not alone in your struggle today.
I’m not going to explain much out here on this public blog – I know that far too many of you will already know what I mean.
But yes, you can get help and support and understanding…
From gentle people who will not strip you naked.
You can be who you want to be.
You can be who you decide that you are.
You don’t have to be who they say that you are.
You can be who you say you are.
Kathy Broady LCSW
September 6, 2009
I am still amazed by the excellent group discussion and active participation that was generated by my last blog post. Considering that one of the main purposes of this blog is to “discuss dissociation”, I think that’s good! Thank you, everyone, for your active interest. I do appreciate that.
I have been contemplating a number of different follow up topics after such an intense discussion. There is a wide variety of important offshoot directions that I could take.
However, after reading some of the comments submitted, I’ve decided to first post some tips and guidelines to remember while using this blog as a healing resource.
The longer I have Discussing Dissociation, the more I can see how reading this blog — or any blog – can have a significant impact as a healing resource. What do you do with the information that you read? Why do you read it? What keeps you interested and coming back? I’ve been thinking about all that, and it’s becoming clearer to me how this blog is having an impact on the healing process for many of you.
Thank you. I am genuinely honored that so many of you are using this blog as a resource.
There are some things that I would like for you to remember while you are reading this blog.
1. I am simply sharing my thoughts based on my experiences as a trauma therapist who specialized in dissociative identity disorder, but there is nothing “simple” about DID. I find it very hard to dissect the complex, layered, multi-faceted elements of DID into one single article, 700-1500 words at a time. There is just sooooo much more to say about each and every topic, and please know that for every point in one direction, I completely understand there are 20 other points facing other directions. But one blog article can only be so long before it becomes too cumbersome to read or write. But … keep reading over time. The more I post, the more the various angles will be addressed.
2. The way each individual trauma therapist conducts his or her therapy sessions is as unique as the way an artist paints a picture. Your therapist may very well do things very differently than I do. That is not unusual, and the challenge is to incorporate the information and methods that works best for you and your healing. It is not about right or wrong – it is about what works for you.
3. I hope that the issues discussed in this blog encourage you to think. I do not presume to have all the answers, but I can give you a starting place to process and explore your trauma issues. Learning to think for yourself is a very crucial part of your healing. Please take the information I provide and work with it as it fits for you. Ask yourself questions. Journal about it. Check inside. Write a comment. Write more about it on your own blog. Just remember – your abusers would have controlled your thinking for a very long time. Breaking out of their dictated thought processes is very important, so yes — thinking on your own is a very good thing.
4. Please know that it is ok to take the topics you have read in my blog to your therapist for more individual discussion on a personal level. I write about the things I have learned in my 25 years of working with trauma and dissociative disorders. I know patterns relating to the DID/MPD diagnosis, typical information about survivors with DID/MPD, techniques to use in sessions, questions to ask, etc. But your therapist knows you and your internal system. If you find information that seems to fit you, please discuss this further with your therapist.
5. If you feel particularly triggered or upset by anything written in this blog, including the comments written by other readers, please discuss this with your therapist as well. Emotional triggers can be uncomfortable and upsetting, but they can also be enormously valuable milestones in your healing process. If you work with triggers to understand what they are bringing up for you, you can most definitely use this information to push further into your healing.
6. Please understand that your therapist and I may have very different approaches to working with DID. That is ok – to each his own. As I said, each therapist is his or her own person, and we all work in the ways that best fit us as individuals. However, if you see a significant contradiction in what I say compared to what your therapist does, it is ok and important to talk to your therapist about this. This blog is not intended to undermine your therapy or your therapist’s opinion. I emphasize again — I hope that you can and will openly discuss any significant questions or concerns with your therapist, as needed.
7. If you are a regular reader of this blog, I strongly encourage you to let your therapist know that you read here, especially if you are finding that you are having any personal or internal reactions (either positive or negative) while reading here. It’s often important for a therapist to know where their clients are getting information. It’s been historically proven that some members the dissociative population can be easily persuaded and affected by opinions of others. If you feel or believe that this blog is affecting you on that level, please be sure to discuss this with your therapist.
9. Remember that you will be reading and interpreting articles and comments from your own personal perspectives, life experiences, and trauma issues. It’s nearly impossible to not do this. The key isn’t to fight or deny that, but to be aware of its impact. We all assign meaning and interpretation of what we read from our history and assumptions. It typically takes a lot of hard work and detailed conversation to genuinely understand each other, especially if someone is saying something different than what you already believe or expect. Genuine communication is hard work. But that’s ok. It’s important work.
10. This can be seen here already, and if you look, you’ll see examples to what I’m talking about. Of course, you can all see what I’ve written and you can hear my preferences. Go beyond that for variety. There are well over 1000 comments made here in this blog. Have you noticed that some of the frequent commenters here have a visible theme / repeated perspective to their comments? Remember — I did not say this is a bad thing. It’s an engrained perspective that naturally affects interpretation. What is your long-term perspective on therapy / therapists / healing / DID / abuse, etc.? How do these things affect how your think? Just keep these ideas in mind as you are interpreting what you read.
More Questions for Thought:
When you read something on this blog (or any blog) that is particularly powerful for you, what do you do with that information?
Do you journal about it? Talk with your insiders about it? Do you talk to your therapist about it?
How does reading this blog help you? What does it give you?
How does this blog impact your life? Your healing? Your therapy?
How does reading the blogs of other survivors help you?
What do you do with differences of opinion? Is it ok for people to disagree? Is it upsetting for you to see conflicting perspectives?
What if I present an idea that is opposite to how your therapist works. What do you do then?
How do you incorporate what you are learning here into your daily life with your insiders?
What do your insiders think of the various topics covered in this blog? Are you all talking together about the information you read here?
Good communication is very hard work, but positive internal communication is the key to healing from dissociative identity disorder. The more you can talk and communicate effectively with your entire system, the more healing and progress you will make. Let what you are learning from communicating in this blog group apply towards helping you communicate effectively with your internal group.
Kathy Broady LCSW
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
August 17, 2009
So you’re depressed, and you’re DID. That feels like a double whammy already, so what do you do now?
Depression and DID go hand in hand for many trauma survivors. They are not the same diagnosis, but can be closely knitted together.
When you are DID, you might have some parts that are depressed, while simultaneously having other parts that are not depressed. Dissociative walls and amnesiac barriers can separate the feelings / emotions / information that the depressed parts have, so that is different from what is known or felt by the non-depressed parts.
Survivors with DID can feel nearly crippled by the intensity of their depression. It follows them around like a warm blanket and a lifelong friend. Sometimes it’s hard for survivors to imagine life not depressed. The idea of being genuinely happy is a foreign concept that seems out of reach.
All too many survivors struggle with self-injury, suicidal feelings, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behavior on a regular basis. The desire to die, or go away, or cease to exist, or quit, or sleep forever are common feelings for those that are depressed.
What to Do
Many depressive symptoms can be alleviated, or at least helped, with proper medication. If your depression feels too huge for you to manage on your own, or if your life is at risk by the severity of your depression, please make a doctor appointment at your very earliest convenience to discuss this option. At times, inpatient treatment may be warranted.
Various versions of talk therapy can be immensely helpful as well. Talking about your problems and expressing your feelings are important steps in healing, especially since depression is synonymous with emotions being pushed down and numbed into near non-existence. Addressing the traps in your life by problem-solving the double binds (where something looks like a lose-lose situation) and the things that feel impossible will help. Feeling stuck and helpless will only exacerbate your depression.
One of the key feelings to explore during depression therapy is anger. It’s commonly said that depression is anger turned inwards. Learning how to safely express your anger is essential to moving through the overwhelm of depression.
How This Applies to Those with DID / MPD
Many DID survivors have been depressed more years of their life than not. The overwhelming pain of severe trauma and the years of crushing family abuse create fertile breeding grounds for chronic depression.
There are a variety of specific tasks in treating depression for survivors with DID:
1. Find the parts in your system that hold the most intense depression feelings. You may or may not already know these parts. Some of the parts who hold the deepest depression may be tucked away deeply within your system.
2. Check about current day plans for self-injury and/or suicidal ideation. Be sure to know if you are at risk. It is important to have a solid awareness of how volatile these parts will be in acting out their feelings of depression and self-hatred. Create safety plans as necessary.
3. Ask questions about the preferred method of self-injury being used by these parts. There are hundreds of different ways to cause self-injury. The preferred methods used by various internal parts will very likely hold pertinent information about the life stories of these parts.
4. Pay attention to the patterns of increased depression through time. Are there certain times of year or certain days that are trigger points? What significance do these periods of time have? Are these dates or times anniversaries of particular traumas or difficult events? Explore these timeframes until you thoroughly understand what happened.
5. Learn more about the time when these depressed parts were originally split off and created. Ask about the starting point of these parts. Chances are, they were created during a very difficult time. The creation point will provide a great amount of information about who these parts are and why they are like they are.
6. Addressing the underlying trauma issues will be crucial in healing the depression. These parts will need to talk about what happened to them, what they saw, what they experienced, what they felt, what they believed, etc. Holding this kind of intense information deep within most certainly adds to and creates more depression. Find the courage to talk about your trauma. While it is enormously painful to address the cruelty you experienced during those traumatic times, letting this material surface and processing it effectively will help to alleviate your depression in the long run.
7. As these parts begin talking about what has been kept frozen and tucked inside, that will create movement, life, and energy. As painful as it is to address the trauma issues, it will also allow for new experiences to begin. With that comes the opportunity for something positive and healing to replace what has been stuck for years of time as traumatic and devastating.
*** Due to the length of this article, the second half of this list will be continued in my next blog post. Please come back soon to see the rest!
Do you have any comments or questions so far?
Kathy Broady LCSW