March 29, 2013
It’s the Easter weekend — a complicated and conflictual weekend for most dissociative trauma survivors. So many layers of your inside levels will be awakened, aware, involved, wondering, waiting, going, sitting, thinking, watching, feeling, remembering, refusing, believing, fighting, crying, calling, hiding, etc. Its a time of being pulled in dozens of different directions all at once.
Lots of headaches, that’s what that means.
And lots of pain. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
So yes… I am thinking of you all, and wishing peace for you. I know it’s difficult. Really difficult.
The Easter season is typically overloaded with the triggers, external pulls, family complications, and spiritual battles. The inside battle within your system may be raging at full intensity.
As best you can, remember to sit with each other, and learn what you can about the others that you see nearby. What struggles are they having? What thoughts are in their mind? What feelings do they hold? What feelings do they avoid?
Is there anything you can do to help them? What can you do to give them comfort? What can you do to make the struggle less sharp? How can you keep your system safe, both on the inside and outside?
Intense weekends such as this are usually heavily overloaded with information, from your past and maybe in your present. These are things you need to know. It’s from your life, and you can know what you and your insiders have been through. You are allowed now. It’s ok to know. It’s good to know, even when it’s difficult to know.
For many of you, just making it through alive and well is the goal. Self-injury may seem like the “best option”, but it really doesn’t help in the long-run. Look for other options to handle this time of stress. Read through the bunches of articles here that give other options to consider. The intensity of what you are feeling will gradually subside… You don’t have to cut or purge it away. It’s ok to feel what you feel. Your feelings belong to you — you are allowed now to have them.
For others of you, you may feel solid enough to use this time to make headway in reaching others in your system who are struggling more than you. It can be painful to hear and connect with the trauma memories held by many in your system, but it really is ok to remember what has happened in your life, and you don’t have to be punished for that anymore. FInd ways to heal your wounds and comfort your heartaches. Be kind to each other. Kind, gentle, soothing. Come together. Be a team.
Some of you will be far enough in your healing journey that you can find the good things to enjoy about the holiday weekend. Maybe you can enjoy a warm walk outside in the sunshine, or a handful of the kids’ favorite candy. Something near you may smell really nice – where is that? Breathe deeply, bringing in things that are good. Yes, there will be beauty in this weekend — see if you can find it.
Speaking of finding things….
Can you see the two caterpillars in the picture?
In my personal way of thinking, good beats out evil, so …. do your best to hold on tight till the darkness passes, and as soon as you can, find ways to reach those places of goodness, peace, comfort, joy, and love. It’s ok to let go of that darkness. You don’t have to stay there any more. You can move over to a life of warmth now. You are allowed to do that.
You can do it, I know you can.
I am thinking of you all, and I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Happy Easter everyone.
Copyright (C) 2008 – 2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
April 24, 2012
All too often, the healing work for dissociative trauma survivors is so very heavy, and filled full of pain, heartbreak, struggles, anguish, horrors, fears, conflict, etc. Too many days can too easily feel like the healing process is far too difficult to be worth it. When it feels like that, it is really important to remember to take a few breaks from the hard stuff, and to save room for fun. It’s like recognizing the “stop and smell the roses” idea. Only for this, it’s about stopping to have some good times, or at least decent times, along the way.
Besides, all work and no play is just no fun! And your inside kids, like all children, need time to play, and to laugh, and to enjoy life too. And kids, even if your adults don’t realize it, they need time to play, and laugh, and smile, and to relax from all the stress they feel too.
So….. are you all ready to do something fun? I know I am!
In honor of not having enough fun moments in our lives, I’ve decided to make a blog post dedicated to just fun things. Just fun stuff! No hard stuff. No icky stuff. Just FUN stuff!
And I would like your help to complete it.
Here’s what I have in mind.
I’m including some pictures in this blog that, for me, represent fun, good times, pleasant memories, and happy moments. I hope some of these pictures bring a smile to your face.
I also want to invite you to send in pictures that represent those same kinds of feelings for you.
If you can post your pictures directly in your comment, that’s great. (Being technically challenged, I am not sure if that can be done or not.) Not to worry – I have a back-up plan in mind. If the comment option does not allow for pictures to be shown in the comments, please feel free to email your pictures to me, along with any comments / explanatory notes that you would like attached to your pictures, and then I’ll post them in a separate blog article format.
Then we can all share in the fun stuff, which makes fun even more fun!
Please be sure that any pictures you send completely pass the “Just for FUN!” (a good, safe, happy kind of fun) project idea.
Please note: If anyone sends in spooky pictures, I’m not going to post them – because there is typically some not so funny someone who wants to spoil the fun – but for this exercise, no spookiness is allowed. And yes, I get to be the judge on what looks too spooky and what doesn’t.
Yes, you can send in more than one picture if you would like to.
*** Please be sure that you have the rights to send in / have posted whatever picture you send. If it specifically belongs to someone else, please don’t send it in as if it is yours. Also, please don’t include pictures of other people that may not want their picture posted on a blog. I am not interested in getting any kind of fussing going on. So please, only send in pictures that are not a violation to anyone else, please and thank you. ***
The first two pictures I am including in this “Just for Fun!” Project were sent to me via email that was circulating around all over the place. I don’t know who the photographer is, but they did a great job creating such fun pictures. Enjoy!
How can you not smile when you see these beautiful little duckies in this picture?
And what a creative, fun picture this is! Do you think it is real? Or has it been photoshopped? Either way, it’s a great picture of an elephant having all kinds of fun.
And now, on a more personal level, here’s a picture of Emma, trying to sit comfortably on a pillow.
I don’t know if she is comfy or not. What do you think?
And last but not least, here is a picture of me with a cute little piggy I saw a few weeks ago.
This little piggy was only two months old, very tiny for a pig, but super fast and brimming full of energy. Absolutely darling, he was barely taller than my ankles, and one-third the size of Emma the puggy. He would race around his little area, zipping here, zipping there, making all kinds of funny piggy noises. I giggled and giggled as I watched him run, and heard him snort in all kinds of funny ways. This little pig was simply the highlight of that morning, so I just had to include him today as a fond memory of a good time.
What kinds of fun pictures do you have that bring a smile to your face?
I’m looking forward to seeing them!
Happy smiles, everyone,
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
December 21, 2010
Well…. it’s December 21, 2010. Although the weather here in Dallas was nearly 80 degrees Fahrenheit today, this is the official first day of winter. It’s the Winter Solstice and on top of that, last night was the lunar eclipse. Did anyone see that? If you can actually enjoy the moon, it was pretty cool to see.
However, late last night while I was standing alone outside, quietly looking at the lunar eclipse, I could appreciate the beauty with my eyes, but my heart was feeling a sadness and heaviness for the other things that were happening in other parts of the world.
Winter Solstice represents a day of darkness that is full of trauma for too many dissociative trauma survivors. The night was far too scary, far too difficult, far too dark, far too long.
Many of you know what I am speaking of and I don’t have to go into the gory details for you to know the pain and anguish you have probably already been feeling all day.
If this kind of history applies to you, I am sorry that you had to experience such horrible atrocities in your lifetime. I can promise you it was not right nor good nor ok that you were required to participate in such darkness.
I wish the world was not so dark.
I wish that evil didn’t have such a hold on so many people.
I wish that kindness and gentleness could win all wars.
I wish those creeps that enjoy inflicting pain would inflict it on themselves, and leave the rest of us alone.
I wish it was just an ordinary night for you, and not a night of darkness.
I am sorry that you were hurt.
I wish they had never ever showed you any of their darkness.
I hope that you find freedom, safety and a lifetime of distance from their darkness.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
November 28, 2010
It has been Thanksgiving week here in the USA.
Thanksgiving is the time to be thankful for what we have, for the people in our lives, for the food and shelter that we have, and for the lives we have had. It is meant to be a good holiday, with time to relax, watch the Macy’s Day parade, cheer for our favorite football team, have an incredible meal, go to movies, chatter with close friends and family, enjoy freedom and all the goodness of life.
Thanksgiving is usually a good day.
But the world is a cruel place.
And for many people, there is a lot that has happened that has been anything but good, or pretty, or wonderful.
Too many people are struggling. Depression dominates. Darkness permeates too much.
Too often, the world is a vicious place.
There are sadistic abusers that hurt and devastate children in every country of the world.
There are thousands of destructive diseases, starving children, destroyed families, broken spirits, and wounded souls meandering around in our world. There are far too many wars, polluted lands, toxic waters, drug overdoses, and homeless people.
The world is not a pretty place.
There is ugliness and coldness splattered everywhere.
It is difficult to find a good faithful friend.
It is difficult to find loyal, trustworthy people who won’t betray you or leave you.
It is difficult to find people who care or express compassion or gentleness or have time to listen.
It is difficult to find someone to love that equally and freely loves you back.
All too many people feel alone, heart-broken, saddened, and hurt to the very depths of their core.
Others are embattled in wars against the injustices of the world or trapped in chronic poverty.
Having a life filled with trauma and abuse both destroys and deepens the survivors of violence. Trauma and abuse makes people find ways to cope that are beyond what anyone else can comprehend. But trauma and abuse also leave scars that last for a lifetime.
With all the darkness in the world, what is there to be thankful for?
What is there to appreciate or to enjoy?
Some days it’s just not so easy to find those good things.
Even though it feels like it, everything was not taken from you.
What is it that you hang on to?
Where can you go in your mind that takes you to your very own place of happiness and safety?
Where do you find beauty?
What brings a smile to your face and warms your soul?
What gives you a feeling of peace, and security, and solidity?
When you see an incredible sunset or a fascinating unique cloud formation, what do you think?
When you smell honeysuckle blossoms or newly opened roses, what do you feel?
When a butterfly sits on your finger or when a baby bunny hops in front of you or you hold sleeping baby puppies, what do you feel?
What do you feel when you hear a song that reaches your soul? Do you prefer instrumental music? Or do you prefer to listen to the words of your favorite singer? Do the rhythms of your favorite songs create an aliveness within your spirit that makes you want to dance?
Finding your own sparkle moments will help to remember that life can be good, and that life can be appreciated, and that there are things to be thankful for. Is life perfect? Oh, absolutely not. Certainly not for the people who have been the targets of sadistic abusers and manipulative con artists. Life is far far far from perfect when you’ve been thrown around and beat up in tumultuous storms.
But there are still a few good things out there – those places that hold beauty and joy — that can never be taken away.
Hold on to your inner self – your soul, your spirit. The world can stomp hard on those places, but protect yourself best you can. Others out in the world may not understand why or how you are doing this, but it is up to you to protect yourself from harm in any way that you can until you feel safe enough to not have to. Don’t forget — even in times of tight rigid self-protection, you can find sparkle and joy and warmth – but once you shut others out of your world, it definitely will be up to you to do that for yourself.
Create moments every day that bring that a hint of joy to mind. You don’t’ have to be jumping up and down with joy to feel joy. A little spark of joy is a good start.
Create something – anything. Creating is the opposite of dying so when you create something, you are adding to the value of your life. Creating something new is a way of creating life itself. Write a story, compose a song, choreograph a dance, cook a new dish, draw a picture, paint a painting, make some jewelry, plant a garden, sing a jingle, organize a pile of clutter, sew a shirt, embroider a design, build a bookshelf, make a guitar, clean a mess, re-style your hair, paint your nails, carve a bar of soap, bake some bread, etc.
When you can, adventure out of your protective walls and find something outside of your home that creates a sparkle moment for you. Take an adventure walk around your neighborhood – can you find anything at all that brings a smile to your face? Ever so carefully, gently interact with others out in your neighborhood, local stores or churches. Gradually, by finding places that can give you joy when you are outside of your home, you will remember that the world is not all bad.
Even when it feels like you have lost everything and everyone, you can find something to be thankful for if you stay alive in your spirit and soul. Many trauma survivors feel that their soul has died or taken from them, but I am willing to bet that it has not. It might be well hidden and covered up, but it is there. You may very well need to nurture it back to life, but you can do that with the things that create those sparkle moments.
Make it a goal to find something to be grateful for everyday.
Find the beauty out there in your world. Search for things you can appreciate.
Depression and darkness do not have to dominate anymore.
Your ability to feel thankful and to have gratitude will help to change your life back towards the positive, one sparkle moment at a time.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
October 15, 2010
Self-injury is a problem all too common for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). For that matter, self-injury (SI) is an issue for other populations of people as well. This discussion will focus more on the effects of trauma and abuse and how self-injury can be addressed effectively. However, because self-injury is actually a very complicated topic, this particular blog article will reach only a few of those layers.
In my years of working as a trauma therapist, I have noticed that many DID survivors self-injure when they are in emotional pain. They are hurting, their heart feels broken, they feel betrayed or abandoned, or they feel incredibly sad (but can’t cry). Turning to various forms of self-injury and self-harm sometimes helps to temporarily relieve their emotional pain. (Trauma survivors also self-injure when they believe they need to be punished, or when they are extremely anxious, or when they are feeling strong compulsions or hearing internal instructions, etc.)
One of the reasons self-injury works is because the brain cannot distinguish between a self-caused physical injury and any other type of physical injury and upon recognizing a body injury, the brain releases all the necessarily chemicals and hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, and neural structures are significant in this process. I’ll refer all the complicated medical explanations to others more qualified, but the point being is that the act of self-harm creates a reaction in the brain that allows the hurting person to feel a little more calm and numb.
In other words, when self-injuring, survivors are trying to feel better. They know they are in emotional distress, they recognize the emotional pain, and they know they are hurting. And they want to feel better, or at least to feel differently.
Self-injury can be a quick fix for these intense feelings. In that sense, self-injury is not a lot different from having a few shots of whiskey, or a shot of heroine, or a plateful of doughnuts, or a pound of chocolate. Many addictive behaviors are centered around finding a way to feel better when hurting.
Typically speaking, this has been a life-long issue. From even their youngest days, most dissociative trauma survivors were neglected or ignored when they were hurting. They were not comforted, and their pain was not acknowledged. Even as very young children, they were left alone with their pain and injuries. All too often, they were not properly tended to, they were not cared for, they were not hugged, they were not given medical aid. They were hurt – physically and emotionally – and they were left on their own to manage.
In my opinion, this lack of comfort and the years of neglect are some of the biggest crimes committed against young children. Neglect is as significant in causing harmful life-long effects as any direct trauma.
So, when working with trauma survivors who experienced significant pain and next-to-no comfort, a critical and crucial part of their healing process is to teach how to accept and create healthy and positive comfort.
Children who are injured in healthier environments are very much comforted by their mothers or fathers or other caregivers. Their hurts are recognized and acknowledged appropriately. These children are given hugs and gentle affectionate kisses. They get band-aids — sometimes they get the fancy special band-aids with Snoopy or Spiderman or pretty flowers on them! They are checked on repeatedly, they are allowed to sit close to their caregiver, they are given other little treats (such as stickers, or the chance to watch their favorite cartoon), etc. These injured children learn that positive forms of comfort can help them feel better.
Since traumatized dissociative survivors were typically not taught these ways of receiving comfort, this becomes an important treatment goal in their healing process. They need to know their wounds can be tended, that their hurts matter, that someone hears them, and that they can be treated gently during times of pain.
Tending to the hurts and the wounds often has to be modeled to dissociative trauma survivors. In many situations, this will be completely new experience for them, and the process of having their hurts be important, can be a profound experience.
As trauma survivors start to experience genuine comfort and caring from others (this may start first in the therapeutic office setting), these survivors will eventually learn to copy these same kinds of behaviors and apply them towards themselves and their other insiders.
Emotional pain is no different, and in some ways, addressing and comforting emotional hurts is even more important.
Teaching trauma survivors to sit with their emotions and to increase their ability to endure intense emotions is an essential part of the healing process. In early stages of therapy, most DID survivors can barely touch their feelings. In the later stages of the healing process, DID survivors can sit with their feelings, no matter how intense they feel them, and not turn to anything destructive or harmful.
In order to sit with those feelings, survivors need to learn what to do during those moments. They need to know and understand that they matter and that bringing more harm and pain to their selves and their bodies is not the answer. Learning how to comfort themselves – how to self-soothe, instead of self-injure – is a significant process in their healing.
Self-soothing means that the person is doing something that brings comfort in a helpful, positive way. Feeling better can become about comfort instead of numbing. Survivors can learn that they are worth being comforted, instead of being feeling unvalued and ignored.
Each time trauma survivors are comforted in their pain, instead of ignored or injured more because of their pain, they are experiencing a corrective emotional experience. Correcting the neglect by experiencing proper comfort, including self-soothing comforts, is incredibly significant in the healing process.
Comfort actually works much better than numbing, especially in the long run. Comfort allows for pain to heal. Numbing (or self-injury) means that the pain is just postponed until it comes back again.
Ways to Self-Soothe Include:
Self-soothing is unique to each person, just as any other preference is unique to each person. There are dozens and dozens of healthy options — explore a variety of different options to see what works best for you. Some ideas to try include:
- Listening to music that matches your mood – if you are feeling sad, listen to music that will help you express that sadness.
- Sing to yourself (even if this means making up your own songs, or singing sounds), or play musical instruments as a way of expressing your feelings.
- Wrap yourself up in your favorite comfy clothes or in a warm blanket and snuggle up somewhere safe, quiet, and protected.
- Hold or hug a pet, a stuffie, or a pillow.
- Sit close to someone safe. Lean against their shoulder, or find some way to have physical contact that is in no way sexualized or dangerous.
- Sip on your favorite tea, or any other gentle beverage, and treat yourself to a few simple snacks that are not heavy, but are tasty and nutritious.
- Rock in a rocking chair, or sit in a swing, and let the movement relax and calm you.
- Walk slowly or sit quietly in areas of nature that are beautiful and inspirational.
- Make your room, or your home feel particularly cozy – have nice smelling candles, or soft lighting, or bring out your favorite treasures to look at, sit by a calming fireplace (not for injury purposes! But yes, sitting by a warm fireplace can be very beautiful and calming). If you need to clean up an area first, that is ok, because it is important to be in an area that you can feel calm and quieted.
- Take a warm shower or a warm bath, using very nice smelling soaps and body washes. Dry off with your favorite most soft towels. The more you can make this a “spa-like” experience, the better.
- Bring in fresh flowers, or fresh greenery, or pretty leaves. Looking at something beautiful from nature, even while you are indoors, can be calming and soothing.
- Allow yourself to cry, uninterrupted, when the feelings come. Crying really is allowed, it really is ok, and it is a natural expression for pain. Use soft tissues, and don’t punish yourself for having real human emotions. Give yourself permission to feel, permission to heal, and permission to respond naturally to your pain. The more you can express your emotions in natural ways, the healthier you are.
Trauma survivors — you really can help yourself to feel better without bringing more pain and injury to yourself. The key is to surround yourself with lots of nice, positive moments that help you feel better through the course of the day. Practice self-soothing every single day, especially on painful days. It will get easier, even when if it doesn’t feel easy or natural to you at first. You can learn this, and when you do, it will make a huge difference in your life.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 12, 2010
This article is written for the child parts of the DID survivors that read this blog.
Hey Kids, did you see the news yesterday? Hmmmm…. probably not, because most kids don’t watch the news. And because of that, I wanted to make sure to let you know about something I saw in the news that might interest you.
Look! Look! They found something that looks like a real unicorn!!
If you look here, you will find the video that talks more about it, and shows more pictures of it walking around in its natural forest home. This little unicorn guy was found in Italy, and I think he is being protected and tended to very carefully. That’s good, because there aren’t very many unicorns in the world!
What do you think it is?
Is it a real unicorn?
Is it a deericorn?
Maybe it’s a unideer.
Whatever it is, it is very cool!!!
Do you ever think about unicorns?
Do you have coloring books with unicorns in them?
What would you do if you saw a real unicorn?
And if you don’t like unicorns, what is your favorite animal?
Now I realize this little deer only looks like a unicorn, but so many kid parts talk about like unicorns that I just had to share it for everyone to see.
And for the older parts of the dissociative systems, it really is ok to let your child parts experience some of the positive wonders of the world. It is ok to let your child parts play, and to let them enjoy experiences. Simple pleasures like chocolate shakes, or yo-yo’s, or puzzle games, or teddy bears, or soccer balls can go a long ways in connecting with your child parts.
If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), your childhood was most likely interrupted by too much pain, grief, loss, trauma, betrayal, neglect, and hurt. As a child, your play times would have been few and far between, and you would have often felt too sad or hurt to play. Dissociative skills, dissociative walls, and dissociative amnesia could have separated some of the effects of the trauma from your awareness, but in all the years I have been working with multiples, I have never yet had any dissociative survivor tell me that she or he had lots of fun and play times as a child.
This is a very sad statement because having carefree playtime is a normal childhood need. It is actually important to proper growth and development. To miss out on playtime as a child means to have unmet needs.
To help meet some of those unmet needs, it is ok, and even therapeutically important to let your child parts have fun. Let them play. Let them enjoy some carefree activities. Let them learn how to have good times.
Even if you are an adult, it is not too late to let your kids have fun. Play is a normal part of growing up, and if this was stolen from you, letting your child parts play in the current day will help with your overall healing and sense of well being.
Giving your child parts the chance to play in the here and now is a corrective emotional experience for them. Corrective emotional experiences are experiences in the current day that help to correct the wrongs and fill the voids that were left after a childhood full of trauma and neglect. Corrective emotional experiences allow for healing, growth, and positive movement.
So go find a unicorn!
Go to a baseball game!
Watch a few cartoons!
Draw in your coloring books!
Play, have fun, and enjoy life for awhile!
Your whole system will feel better for it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation