May 10, 2009
This blog article is a tribute to the mothers out there in the world that have spent huge chunks of their lives fighting for the safety / healing of their children. These women are incredible spirits and are an inspiration to us all.
I know mothers who have absolutely gone the distance for their children. These women don’t get thanked often, but I do want to let them know that they are appreciated, recognized and deeply valued.
These mothers do a lot of things right.
- They listen attentively to their children, even if hearing the horror stories of abuse breaks their heart. They want to know what happened, and no matter how hard it is to hear, they listen to every single word.
- These mothers have clearly done a good job building communication with their children even before this point. Children have to know that it is ok to tell – “telling the secret” is often one of the biggest barriers in children getting help from their abuse. The children have to have someone safe to tell, someone they trust, someone that they can rely on to help them. If the mother hasn’t already built that kind of relationship with her children, she has drastically lowered the chances that her children will ever tell her their deepest secrets of abuse. Mothers that are approachable will
- These inspirational mothers do what it takes to protect their children from abusers, including leaving the perpetrator in whatever way is necessary – divorce, moving to another area of the country, going into a shelter, etc.
- They take assertive strong legal action against the perpetrator such as filing a report with child protective services, filing protective orders, pressing charges against the offender.
- They withstand the pressure from other friends and family members who may, for whatever reasons, oppose taking a strong stance against the perpetrator. These mothers know that protecting their children is more important than the approval of family members who want to hide embarrassing issues in the closet.
- These mothers are dedicated to finding helpful resources for their children’s therapy and treatment for sexual abuse. This is not always an easy task, and it might require a great deal of persistence, but these mothers will persist, for as long as it takes.
- These mothers sit with their children as they cry, they comfort their children after nightmares, they let their children cling to them when “being away from mommy” feels too scary. These mothers recognize that their children have been crime victims, that they have PTSD from their abuse, and that their neediness has skyrocketed. Good mothers let it be ok that their children need this extra time and attention to rebuild their emotional security again.
- These mothers are strong for their children, even when their heart is breaking. They get their own personal support system to help with their intense emotions (believe me, being the mother of an abused child is a highly emotional situation), and they find a way, place, and time to talk about their own grief and anger so that they can be present and available for their children.
- These mothers are brave enough to honestly assess the situation, and to look closely at how their children got tangled in an abusive situation. They learn from whatever mistakes were made, and correct them. They think back to see if there were any warning signs or high-risk factors that they missed, and learn how to handle things differently now that they are aware of the abuse. They figure out what to do in the future to keep their children safe from being abused in that particular way ever again.
- These mothers spend hours and hours of time with their children, even if they are acting-out and emotionally distraught from the abuse they suffered. The mothers temper their discipline with deep understanding that their children are acting out of their hurt, fear, pain, anger, etc. These moms realize that their children’s behavioral issues are not about the children being “bad”.
- These mothers provide new and positive activities for their children to help boost their tattered self-esteem and body image. They find recreational activities, or artistic activities, etc that give their children healthy feelings of acceptance, accomplishment, mastery, positive self-worth, creativity, growth, etc.
- Protective mothers will do everything in their power to help their children overcome the long-term negative effects of childhood sexual abuse. They are determined to not leave their children to suffer in silence and isolation. These mothers actively attend their needs, provide comfort, and help their children move forward as healthy, productive members of society.
Helping children recover from sexual abuse can be a long, difficult process, but if non-offending mothers are not willing to be protective and helpful for their children, the negative affects of the abuse can multiply and worsen through the years. Untreated sexual abuse issues lead to all kinds of additional complicating factors such as addictions, promiscuity, self harm, depression, anxiety, mental health issues, repeated involvement in destructive relationships, angry behavior, destructive behavior, sexual acting out, hospitalizations, additional abuse, dissociative disorders, etc. The cost of untreated sexual abuse truly multiplies exponentially over time.
Mothers that are willing to help and protect their children as close to the injury-point as possible are helping their children in the here-and-now, and creating a permanent and positive effect on their children’s lives. These mothers are also making a positive difference that can have a positive influence on society for years to come.
For those mothers that are willing to protect their children, here are my very best wishes that today is the most wonderful Mother’s Day for you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping your children. You truly deserve a good day today!
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 15, 2009
April is Child Abuse Prevention month.
Education is one of the biggest factors in the prevention of child abuse. Those of you that have been sexually abused or physically abused know the effects of that abuse all too well. Child abuse can affect the entire life of the survivor, and the seriousness of its effects cannot be ignored.
If you are a trauma survivor, you can help to inform others about the seriousness of sexual abuse.
Are you the supportive loved one of a trauma survivor?
Are you the parent of an abused child?
Are you the spouse / partner of a trauma survivor?
Have you completed a Negative Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse Survey?
To help further understand the implications of treatment for childhood sexual abuse, AbuseConsultants.com would appreciate your participation in an educational survey, NICSA Survey. Your responses can be completely anonymous, and additional comments are welcomed.
Please go to AbuseConsultants.com and follow the links provided on the home page.
The following areas of impact are questioned on the NICSA Survey:
- Anger Issues
- Anxiety and Panic
- Bipolar Disorder
- Criminal Histories
- Damaged Relationships
- Destroyed Career
- Detachment from Self or Others
- DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder)
- Eating Disorders
- Experienced Losses in Life
- Increased Medical Complications
- Lack Parenting Skills
- Long Term Disability
- Loss of Education
- Mental Health Problems
- Mental Torment
- Numbness or lack of feeling in the body
- Ongoing Violence and Abuse
- Poor Coping Skills
- Poor Medical Assistance
- Poor Self Care
- Poor Therapeutic Relationships
- Poverty / Financial Devastation
- Self Destruction and Self Mutilation
- Self Esteem Issues
- Sexual Deviations
- Sexual Problems
- Sleep Complications
- Suicidal Ideation and Behavior
- Suicide / Death
Do you relate to any of these areas of impact?
Has your childhood sexual abuse complicated your life in any of these ways?
How severely has your abuse affected your life?
If only someone had been able to prevent the abuse from happening in your life…..
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 13, 2009
How many of you have been watching the award-winning HBO Series, “In Treatment” with Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and John Mahoney? This HBO series is currently near the beginning of its second season, centered around how Dr. Paul Weston (Byrne) conducts therapy sessions with four different clients, and then his own individual therapy process with his own therapist, Dr. Gina Toll (Wiest).
In my opinion, the “In Treatment” series is more accurate about the layered complications of the therapy process than the brief bits of therapy shown in Showtime’s “United States of Tara”. The snippets shown of Tara’s therapy were with an overwhelmed, under-trained, uneducated wimp of a therapist. I suppose it is true that all too many therapists are overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the healing process for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Hopefully a referral to a more specialized trauma therapist in season two of Tara will lead to deeper, more meaningful presentations of her therapy process.
With the “In Treatment” series, the clients present with relateable issues, and the therapists become real people – likeable, emotional, genuine, flaws and all.
“In Treatment” shows how therapy is different from person to person. While staying the same, the room “changes” and feels different and unique to each client. The therapists and their rooms are the same from session to session and client to client, and yet they become totally different places as each individual client comes in, exposing his or her own life, pain, feelings, energy, thoughts, and emotion.
It shows how the therapy process challenges therapists to be their best selves at all times, as impossible as that might be.
It shows how much people actually say about themselves when someone is listening closely to what is being said. And it shows how much people do not listen to their own selves, and how they don’t hear the words that come out of their own mouths.
It shows how families speak to each other – or not. And how helpful family members can be to each other – or not. And how loving, kind, supportive, and caring family members can be to each other – or not.
It shows how people wrestle with their emotions, their feelings, their realities, and the denial of those realities. It shows their emotional conflict, turmoil, grief, depression, anxiety, suicidal actions, passive suicidal feelings, anger, panic, fear, dismay, agony, self-harm motives, struggles with life and death.
It shows how the therapy process, while focused around the expression of words and feelings, can be enhanced by paying close attention to the communication from the physical body itself, which sometimes says more than clients can put into words.
It shows how therapists get invested in their clients, and how they build connections and bonds with their clients. The caring can be a real thing.
It shows how important it is for clients to make their own life-decisions, how much people wrestle with their own life decisions, and how quickly therapists get blamed when these decisions do not work out as hoped.
It shows how tender and fragile people can be, even when they outwardly appear to be strong, powerful, and in control.
It shows the importance of being heard, understood, listened to, and recognized as a worthwhile person, first by others, and then by yourself.
These television shows can lead to a lot of personal thinking and reassessment about your own therapy process, your relationship with your therapist, and how your life is changing and progressing. How do you relate to what you are seeing “In Treatment”?
* What is your therapy process like?
* How is your therapy impacting your life?
* Do you see your therapist as human as Dr. Weston presents in “In Treatment”?
* Do you blame your therapist when your life plans do not work out as hoped?
* Is your therapist as central to your life as presented in these series?
* Are you more attached to your therapist or to your therapy process?
* What would you do if you realized how human and flawed your therapist is?
* Do you expect your therapist to be something more than a real person?
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 10, 2009
For many dissociative trauma survivors, various holidays and times of year are more difficult than other days. Some survivors may know they typically have a difficult time at the change of seasons, or when Easter-time comes, for example, but they may not have the memories or internal information to understand why they consistently have a difficult time at that time of year.
- Are you struggling more now that Easter is here?
- Does Good Friday have any specific meaning for you?
- Does Passover have specific meaning for you?
- Do you consistently have trouble with functioning at this time of year?
- Do you remember anything that would make this hard time make sense?
When survivors with DID/MPD are sitting on unprocessed memories and their system is separated by strong dissociative walls, the host of the system may have absolutely no awareness of why certain times of year are more difficult than others. The host might know that there are consistently difficult times. They might have an acute awareness that they “hate this time of year” but they still might not have an answer for “why” certain times of year are more difficult than others. Host alters, fronts of the dissociative system, can be aware of the side effects of having a hard time, but still not have any explanation for what it’s about.
- Do you find yourself switching more than usual?
- Are you missing more time, even in small chunks? What about in big chunks?
- Are you experiencing more headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks?
- Are you seeing flashes of images, or fleeting snippets of pictures that don’t quite make sense?
- Do you feel unsettled or jittery?
- Do you feel confusion and time distortion, as if it is another time than 2009?
- Are you extra sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, and movements?
- Is there more noise, commotion, chaos, and activity coming from deep within your system?
- Do you feel not quite like yourself, as if there are others standing nearby to you, affecting you?
- Do you feel more suicidal or more vulnerable to self-injury, self-harm, and self-destruction?
If you are experiencing these type of symptoms, and yet have no answer for why these things are happening, you really can do something to help solve the mystery.
Any guesses for what to do?
Do you want to know why you are having such a difficult time?
My answer to that is to ask inside. Listen to what your insiders are telling you. There will be someone inside your system that knows why this time of year is so difficult. You might have insiders that have been particularly split off to handle situations from this time of year, so if you can find who that is, you will get some answers for what is going on.
Frequently, my interpretation of the above listed symptoms is that the dissociative walls – amnesiac walls — that previously blocked you completely from an awareness of what happened, is now starting to crumble. What was once kept from you, is now starting to seep into your awareness. For whatever reason, the dissociative wall is starting to weaken, and you are getting bits of information passed to you from others deeper within your system. Maybe they want you to know? Maybe they need your help? Maybe they are ready to begin sharing their story with you?
- Are you willing to help the others in your system that have experienced such difficult times?
- Are you going to turn your back on those ones in your system that are hurting and struggling?
- Are you going to continue to deny their existence because their life story is so completely different than yours?
- Are you determined to strengthen your dissociative walls? Or are you willing to lower those dissociative walls?
Understanding your life, your symptoms, your history, your struggles, etc all go back to having good internal communication. As you talk to your inside people, and ask them what THEY know about what is going on, you will get the answers you are looking for.
Someone inside will know why this time of year is difficult.
Someone inside will be able to explain what those flashbacks and picture flashes are about.
Someone inside will know why you are so sensitive to certain smells, sounds, movements, voices, etc.
The majority of the answers for why you are struggling are contained within yourself, within your internal system. Talking to the people in your system that are on the other side of the dissociative wall will give you a ton of answers to what is happening. Whether you are willing to listen to them or not, or believe them or not, is a totally different issue, but if you want to know why you are struggling, you can find out.
Lots of times, it will be because certain insiders are struggling, and their depression, or their fear, or their anxiety, or their panic, or their PTSD flashbacks will be overflowing onto you.
If you are not sure why you are having a hard time at this holiday season, look inside to find the part / parts of you that have direct knowledge of those hard times, and go from there.
You can do it.
If your insiders are brave enough to start telling you about their struggles, be brave enough to listen to them.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 15, 2009
It is no secret that trauma survivors get depressed, and depression is the most commonly known and experienced mental health disorder.
Typical depression symptoms include:
- Suicidal thoughts, recurring death thoughts, death wishes
- Suicidal behavior and suicide attempts
- Self destructive behavior, self injury, self harm
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, self hatred, or not deserving to live
- Loss of energy, fatigue, excessive sleeping
- Little or no interest or pleasure in anything or anybody
- Inability to think, or to concentrate, or to make decisions
- Significant but unintentional changes in weight loss or weight gain
- Significant but unintentional changes in appetite
- For children, not making normal and expected weight gains and physical growth
For trauma survivors, depression can have layered meanings beyond the typical medical symptoms.
Repeated patterned depressions can be very much related to a specific or recurring trauma, or to a significant loss. For dissociative survivors with DID/MPD, the information detailing the specific loss or trauma may be hidden away or blocked off by dissociative walls. Someone in your system might know why you are feeling depressed, and they might know what the loss is, but the host / front personalities might not have a clue.
Do you have a pattern of depression occurring at the same time of year each year?
Think back through all the years. Do you have any hints that tell you how far back this pattern goes? Do you repeatedly feel the need for hospitalization at the same time each year? Do you find yourself struggling more than usual at the same time each year? Do you find yourself having thoughts of suicide or self-injury more often at a specific time of year? Do you know how long this pattern of depression been happening?
If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, be sure to check inside and to ask your various inside parts what they have noticed as well. Some of your insiders might have a different awareness of patterns and events than you do.
For repeated patterned depressions, it is important to find the original starting point of this depression pattern. Once you do, you will get more clues as to what it is about.
My general approach to repeated depressions that follow a pattern is to “assume” that there is a trauma-based reason for it. Unless you have a better explanation, in terms of a bipolar type depression pattern, or a seasonal depression pattern, then quite possibly it is a trauma-based pattern.
Look around inside, ask around inside, to see if there is anyone that knows the depressed time of year to be a particularly bad time for them. While you are talking with your system, be sure to pay attention to the following ideas:
- Who inside feels the depression the most?
- Do you see anyone inside who is showing the depression in the way that they are sitting, standing, laying, not communicating, not being “their usual self”, etc?
- When you look at your internal system, who is showing / feeling the biggest list of depression symptoms?
- If you can’t automatically see an internal someone who is depressed, take a broader look at your internal world. When you walk around your internal landscape, can you find-feel-sense the center of it?
- Is there a place inside where the depression feels the most intense vs. the generalized depression of everyone (similar to finding the eye of a hurricane).
Other trauma-related questions you can ask your insiders include:
- Were there any significant losses that happened at this time of year?
- Who in your system has experienced these losses? (Do not assume that everyone in your system is aware of the same losses!)
- Did you or anyone inside lose a child /children, or a close friend, or a loved one at this time of year?
- Are your feelings of grief and loss repeatedly surfacing as a type of depression?
- Was anyone inside specifically traumatized or abused at this point in time each year?
- What happened? What do you know about that trauma?
For dissociative trauma survivors, a significant period of depression can be a very important clue that there is an unresolved trauma waiting to be addressed. If you have the room in your life to explore its foundations, and to address how the trauma issues are related to that recurring depression, you will be able to interrupt and resolve the depression itself.
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 15, 2009
As the show, “United States of Tara” is gradually starting to demonstrate, survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder have friends and family members that offer varying levels of support:
- Those that find dissociative trauma survivors to be really good, kind, decent, and wonderful people, and will stand by them faithfully.
- Those that genuinely love and support and accept them even though the DID survivors can be all kinds of weird and “nutty” and difficult.
- Those that get angry and upset with them because DID survivors can be all kinds of weird and “nutty” and difficult.
- Those that believe and support the trauma and abuse history of the DID survivor.
- Those that do not believe that the DID survivor was abused at all.
- Those that believe the multiplicity, are comfortable with a variety of alter parts presenting, acknowledge the switching as a very real thing and a natural part of DIDer’s life.
- Those that don’t believe the multiplicity is real, accuse the DIDers of just play-acting, and don’t recognize the other parts even when they are there.
- Those that initially say they will be a friend, only to totally reject, leave, or abandon the dissociative person when things get complicated or difficult.
So far, the Showtime Series has not adequately addressed the issues involving trauma and abuse. It also has not shown any young child parts (teenage parts are very different than child parts). Have you met a multiple that didn’t have child parts? I most certainly have not. I don’t know if the series will get into those serious elements of dissociation or not, but it is a critical element in normal life with DID. How the friends and family members treat the DIDer’s child parts is often an extremely accurate barometer of how supportive and accepting that person will be for the DIDer over all.
It is, of course, the most helpful if the friends and family members of the dissociative survivors are gentle, accepting, kind, and understanding. And sometimes, that is the case. There are some wonderfully supportive spouses, parents, and children out there. They make the healing process so much easier by contributing with their comfort, faithful assistance, gentle patience, and reassurance.
Unfortunately, all too often dissociative survivors continue to be alone and isolated, even abused and neglected within their own families.
Spouses often feel angry, ripped off, frustrated with all the added relationship complications. They might feel like they are left picking up the pieces, and overloaded with more than their fair share of the household work and parenting. It’s often hard for spouses to have patience for all the complications caused by the dissociative disorder and the survivor’s trauma history because of the heavy load it creates for them.
Extended family members are all too often filled with the perpetrators and original abusers. Most perpetrators that engaged in violence so extreme as to split a child are not ever going to become a positive support for the DIDer.
Children of dissociative people can certainly be loving and accepting of the different sides of the DIDer, but the external children cannot be the main source of emotional support or the emotional care-taker for the trauma survivor. If dissociative parents put too much emphasis on their own needs, hurts, and wants, and keep their own struggles as the bigger focus in front of the external children, those external children will be left emotionally neglected and will most likely become angry, resentful, spiteful, and hateful towards their dissociative parent.
And as much as dissociative survivors may not want to admit that they can be more difficult than average to live with, it is generally true.
What can a DID person do to facilitate their getting more support from others?
- Be genuinely appreciative – recognize even the smallest of kindness from someone and thank them. Thank them each time they give something of value to you. Nobody likes to be taken for granted, and if you have the attitude that these favors are “owed” to you, you will soon find yourself alone.
- Communicate what is going on for you. Often, others will be more willing to give if they understand why it is necessary or important. Don’t assume that they will automatically understand why you need certain things. Tell them, and explain it in a way that they can understand.
- Be determined to do as much as possible for yourself on your own. Yes, your trauma history has left big gaping wounds, but the more you meet your own needs and find ways to resolve those issues without “taking from” or “pulling on” others, the more genuine your friendships can be.
- Reciprocate kindness. When someone takes the time and effort to be supportive of you, be sure to return the favor by doing supportive things for them as well. If you are taking, taking, taking more than you are giving, the relationship will either die or explode in your face.
- Get professional support when your emotional needs become too heavy for your friends and family members. For example, friends and family members may very well pull away from you if you lean on them too heavily during intense times – ie: during extended or repeated times of suicidal feelings, episodes involving self-injury, or flashbacks. These heavy, intense issues belong in the therapeutic context and not between you and your support people.
- Build your support options so you are not putting too much pressure on one or two people to support you through the hard times. The more support options you have, the less likely any one individual support person will feel burnt out or overloaded by how much you lean on them.
- Remember that is it more important for you to learn how to emotionally support yourself and your internal system than it is to teach (force) someone else to support you.
- Take time to enjoy everyday “normal” experiences with your support people. Put your trauma issues aside, and do something that is pleasant and enjoyable to everyone.
Remember the old adage: To have a friend, be a friend.
Kathy Broady LCSW