March 8, 2010
This set of picture-postcards demonstrates a passage through time for a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD).
These pictures show different phases of the dissociative healing process, and illustrate how healing occurs. Notice that they move from a more shattered, painful, chaotic place to a calmer, structured, organized place. Where there is originally nothing but a fragmented sense of self, there later becomes a clear sense of personal identity.
The first picture-postcard has a mixture of colored pieces of all different shapes and sizes. Some pieces are more jagged, some are rounded. The mosaic nature of this design would automatically lead to many of the same questions as asked about the DID “Self Portrait” picture. For example, I would ask what the different colors represented, what the different shapes represented, if there was communication (or not) between the different pieces, if the black stitching between the colored blocks had a specific meaning, etc.
For this top picture, there are two specific shapes that I would ask more questions about. There is a definite triangle that points upward and spreads out down towards the bottom of the picture. Triangles can have a variety of meanings, and I would like to hear what this DID artist had in mind. The triangle also has layers to it. Does this have anything to do with the internal system layering?
For example, in the triangle shape that I see, the top two layers are yellow, followed by a green / blue layer, followed by a black layer, followed by a red layer. The placement of these colors could be purely metaphorical or accidental, but I could see this layering as representing important system functions and emotions.
A purely hypothetical system description could include the following ideas. The yellow layers are the happy front parts – the façade layers, the denial parts, the “I’m fine, nothing is wrong here” type of system parts. The blues and the greens could be parts of the system that know a lot of information, do a lot of the everyday work / functioning jobs of the system, etc. These parts know plenty of the historical trauma information but have to keep helping everyone manage life. They can feel some emotions, but work hard to not get overwhelmed or overloaded with emotions. The black layer could be a layer of depression, sadness, grief, anger, or amnesia, dissociated information, deeper internal controls, etc. The red layer could be more intense amounts of pain, anger, fury, trauma information, details about the abuse, etc.
The second shape that could have particular relevance is the large black shape with the blue tip. These pieces have an obvious phallic appearance to them. I would ask the artist if they intended this to be the case (chances are, they hadn’t even noticed that!), and then I would ask them questions pertaining to sexual abuse issues. If this symbol does specifically represent sexual abuse, it is clear how the abuse has been such a huge part of their lives. Just like this black piece is, in some ways, the foundational piece of the whole picture, it might feel like the sexual abuse has been the defining issue in this person’s life.
I see a lot of pain in this picture. The artist does not give the sense of happiness, of calmness peace of mind. The jagged pointy edges remind me of cutting, and I would be asking a lot of questions about self-injury.
There has been clear movement from the first picture to the second. Notice how the like colors are starting to get grouped closer together, creating a more cohesive look. There is much more green in this picture, and while the real meaning of that depends on how the artist interprets the colors, to me, it represents a lot of growth. I see a lot of progress being made in this picture. The trauma survivor has clearly been working on their healing issues, and they have been doing a lot of dissociative system work. Things are starting to come together for them.
In phase two, to me, the person is still feeling broken and dissociated, but she is not nearly as overwhelmed with the pain as before. The blue can seen as representing the teamwork efforts being accomplished by the internal system. There are still some missing chunks of time (as seen in the gaps of the blue), but the dissociative person is truly building good internal communication and has built solid connections between the internal parts. This dissociative person is starting to find herself, and she is building a sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity. As a system, they are definitely doing good work!
There are still several big jagged sharp points, possibly indicating a lot of pain, upset, questions, intense feelings, etc. The phallic shaped pieces in this picture are more obvious, which could be interpreted to mean that the DID artist is clearly addressing their sexual abuse issues. This survivor is aware of the sexual abuse issues, and the healing their sexual abuse trauma is the center of their healing work. While the trauma is still prominent, it is not overwhelming them as much as it used to. They aren’t finished with their healing, but they are making excellent progress. There is less black, and more brown, which feels to me like this person is becoming aware of more and more of the information related to their trauma. They “aren’t in the dark” as much as they used to be and life is feeling much more hopeful.
Even with all the progress, I would still ask this survivor about their suicidal feelings. The sharp points are very painful, and while the survivor may not be using self-injury behaviors as much, they may still have intense moments of suicidal ideation. It appears they are building good coping skills, and not in as high risk of following through with these suicidal thoughts, but the feelings are still there from time to time.
This third picture represents the final stages of healing from dissociative identity disorder and sexual abuse. It is hopeful, and shows how everything is coming together for this person. Notice the strength of the center of the picture. All of the colors connect with the other colors and the ability to share information is accomplished easily. Time loss, time distortion, memory gaps are not likely to be a problematic issue anymore.
The C appears to represents the host of the system, or the main “front” person, the leader of the system, or who the person wants to be as a whole. Notice how the front is a whole self, and is clearly and firmly planted in front of any of the others. This C person is now confident as the leader of her system, and presents well out in the external world.
The internal system behind the C is cooperative, quiet, calm, organized, peaceful, etc. The ability to work together, and provide information to the front C self, seems abundantly clear.
I would ask this survivor if the colors still represent the same things as they did in the earlier pictures. The meanings may or may not have changed at this point.
What I see is that the survivor is more aware of all the things she feels. C doesn’t dissociate like she used to anymore. For example, if the red still represents her pain or anger, C is aware of having those feelings, and she can acknowledge their existence, sitting with them, without letting them overtake her, or without having to dissociate them away. C has built the ability to connect with her intense feelings, and this is an incredible accomplishment. C might have times of dark depression or sadness, for example, but again, these moments do not overtake her ability to live her life as she wants it to be.
Notice that there is no obvious phallic shaped symbol in this picture-postcard. The trauma issues are resolved in a much more quiet way, and while C knows about her past, the idea of being a sexual abuse survivor doesn’t have to be the center of her life anymore. She has been able to resolve many of her trauma issues, and lay these to rest, moving on with her life.
The front of the C is facing the yellow and greens, indicating growth, progress, healing, movement, happiness, and enjoying life. C is moving forward into better times! The darkness and pain are more behind her (the black, red and brown are towards the back of the C). While life is probably never going to be perfect for this person, she is hopeful, and she is doing well.
The Moral of the Story
Will C create a fourth picture-postcard?
We’ll have to ask her!
The point of these wonderful hand-made picture postcards is obvious. The healing process for dissociative identity disorders works. It helps. Trauma survivors lives can become better. Healing does happen. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, but you really can feel better, and have an improved quality of life.
Take the point from C – if she can do it, you can too!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
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
March 22, 2009
We’ve had some very interesting discussions on the “What do you think about Suicide?” blog article. Thank you to everyone who writes and comments on this blog – your participation is valued and appreciated.
One of the topics that surfaced on that thread is the idea that trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) may have child parts within their system that can be suicidal, and that the ability to control the suicidal behavior of these child parts seems overwhelmingly difficult, even for the adults of the dissociative system.
I’d like to write an official response to that.
Typically, one thinks of child parts as a permanently young child – an inside part that holds the trauma memories, feelings, rememberings, and experiences that happened when the body was of a young chronological age. These child parts act like children, think like children, reason like children. Their thinking is often very concrete and their grammar / spelling / speech is child-like as well.
So, how does a child part, who is likened after an actual child, have the ability to be suicidal when typically, children do not even understand what death is?
How can these child parts have the ability to act outside of the control of the adults in the system?
There is at least one possible answer for that.
For dissociative trauma survivors, their childhood was filled with abusive perpetrators. Some — not all — DID survivors have experienced an organized type of abuse by organized groups of perpetrators. These organized groups could have presented themselves as sex slavery groups, or cult groups, or governmental / mind control experimental groups. Any which way, the abuse was more than home-based, chaotic dysfunctional family-crisis abuse. With organized abuse, there would have been a goal, a purpose, and a long-term plan for ongoing and continued abuse and total control of the victim by the offenders.
Organized perpetrators very often purposefully split off child parts and attach suicidal programming to these children. Even while the children are at a very young age, these organized perpetrators demand complete control of the mind and behavior of the child. These perpetrators know they are committing horrendous crimes to their victims, and are invested in keeping the children silenced about these crimes. They instill these controls early in life, and then have every intention of keeping this level of control over the victim for as many years into adulthood as possible. Organized perpetrators actually want life-long control. They begin their domination during the victim’s childhood with the intention of being able to keep that child under their control for their entire life.
Using suicidal programming as a way to control and manipulate behavior is one of the most effective ways for abusers to protect their secrets. Perpetrators have a variety of horrific techniques that they use to accomplish this goal.
The result is that a child part can be cued or triggered into suicidal thinking, can have a suicidal plan, and could potentially follow the instructions planted in their brain with the same level of intensity as any other mind-controlled person. The child part does not have to understand what they are doing, nor do they have to understand what death is, nor do they have to understand the effects of their behavior. They just have to know what to do, step by step. These child parts have simply been taught clearly defined, specifically detailed behaviors to follow upon command, and they have been taught to follow those controls without thinking.
Perpetrators attach suicidal programming to young children not only at the earliest point of intervention, but also because it goes to their advantage that these child parts genuinely do not understand what death is. The children know what obedience is and the mind control trainers take advantage of that. Children cannot reason past the orders to understand that they are being told to do something that is harmful to them. They cannot grasp the concept of death enough to fear it the way an adult would, but they know what happens in they don’t obey, so the programming is attached to this level of thinking without any risk of interference by “fear of death”.
In effective trauma therapy, these controls can be removed safely, and the person — both the child parts and the adult parts — can reclaim their own power and control of their behavior. However, as long as the programmed responses are hidden secretly within the child part, the person is at risk for suicidal behavior.
If you are experiencing these kind of suicidal controls, please work with an experienced trauma therapist while addressing these issues. It is imperative that you handle suicidal programming with great caution, and do not assume that just any therapist can do this level of work.
Find a genuine trauma specialist to help you remove suicidal programming from your child parts.
Your safety matters. And yes, you can reclaim the control of your own life.
If you are considering individual therapy work to address these issues, please contact me through AbuseConsultants.com. Be very careful about exposing too much of this kind of personal information on a public blog site.
Your safety is important.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 19, 2009
Suicide is a difficult topic.
All too many trauma survivors feel drawn to it.
Mental health professionals fight against it.
Insurance companies dismiss it.
Religions disagree about it.
The world out there doesn’t know how to interpret it. The world does not know how to talk about it. It’s controversial and complex. There are no simple answers.
Who’s to blame for it? The individual? The parents? The treating physicians? The perpetrators that caused the initial pain? The spouse or other family members?
And do we have to have someone to blame?
When you think about suicide, do you think that it is…
- A last resort?
- An avoidance?
- Someone’s right to choose?
- An option?
- Never an option?
- A compulsion?
- Something outside of your control?
- Your destiny?
If you have ever truly cared for someone who has committed suicide, your life will be forever changed.
I am convinced that one of the absolutely most painful and devastating traumatic heartbreaks is to have a loved one commit suicide. The surviving friends and family members are left with questions that will forever remain unanswered. Children whose parents commit suicide are forever scarred, and parents whose children commit suicide are forever in gut-wrenching pain.
If you are suicidal, please get help immediately.
Your life matters more than you realize.
There is hope for you.
There is help for you.
Kathy Broady LCSW