Outreach

Dissociation and Survival vs. Living: A Survivor's Story

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A CSA Survivor's Relationship with Dissociation, Survival and Living:

     
    "There are many things I wish I could help people understand about childhood trauma; this just happens to be one I hear very little about. Like many survivors, I struggle to hear sentiments like, "Oh my! I'm so so glad that's over now and you got through it!", "I can't believe you got out of that alive. I couldn't even do that now! I'd give up," or "At least you know your worst days are behind you. You know you can conquer anything!". Even resources and groups for trauma survivors, as well as therapists and clinicians, can share quips like "You survived the abuse, you're going to survive the recovery!". While these things intend to uplift or highlight our strength, they all categorically deny the fundamental mechanism that allowed us to survive in the first place, and why adulthood is the real hard part: dissociation.

    Make no mistake, those of us who endured trauma as children are courageously strong. We were forced to be tougher than most; and, by nature or necessity, we became resilient, creative and sharp. But Little Me didn't even experience the bulk of the trauma back then. I wasn't connected to the physical pain or sheer terror; I wasn't incapacitated by shame, disgust or uncleanliness; I wasn't aware of the immorality, nor was I having a crisis of conscience. I also didn't even know who was hurting me for much of my childhood - parts of my mind did, but not me. Little Me wasn't facing the anger or the blistering sting of betrayal from those I loved most hurting me in such inhumane ways. I wasn't yet aware this was abnormal or something that could make me feel alien or 'different' from my peers. I was numb, I was hyperfocused on the things I could control, and I was even made to feel special or self-confident in certain areas very early on. While some of that confidence dwindled over time and I became more aware of my unhappiness and "irrational" fears, none of that compares to what you imagine a tortured child feels — let alone what I was about to feel later in life.

    That suffering is here now. Adulthood is when all of it breaks through and confronts you with a vengeance. No, the abuse is not "over", it is not "behind me", it is not "something I got through". As far as my mind and body are concerned, it is NOW. It is very alive and in full-effect. Each excruciating detail of physical pain, disgust, and revulsion; every tidal wave of anger at those who knew and did nothing; each immobilizing shockwave of new material that re-writes my entire life story from how I once knew it. THIS is when my survival is tested. I am hypervigiliant, terrified, exhausted, unsure if I'm even real. I exist in hollowing spaces of grief for Little Me and the life I should have had. ...lost in an endless state of confusion, horror, disbelief and dismay. It is all day. THIS is live trauma in my brain and body. THIS is my battleground, and I am fighting for my life NOW. As an adult, not as a child.

     Furthermore, the dissociative process not only contorts the timeline of when we experience our trauma, but dissociation as an independent symptom challenges life as an adult, too. (..even beyond the forgetfulness, memory gaps, driving troubles, safety, maintaining a job, etc.) One of the most critical elements in trauma recovery is establishing healthy relationships and improving our overall worldview. It's very hard to want to carry on when all you've known is the absolute worst of mankind. Being able to look around, connect, and believe the world is still good is vital to our sanity, safety and healing. But, dissociation challenges this. It can dull your senses, leave you numb to positive feelings, keep you at an emotional distance from love or affections shown to you. It can keep you trapped in a surreal in-between state of both the past and the present -- where you respond to what's happening today with the same emotional maturity you had as a child. Emotional flashbacks, unexpected triggers, and other sudden symptoms that crop up - particularly in intimate relationships or the more meaningful aspects of life - can complicate joy and frustrate those in your life. But most of all, no one wants to just "be alive", we want to LIVE. Fully and authentically, with all the vibrance and richness available to us. But, dissociation has a way of diluting and blurring the world - stripping it of its color and beauty. How do you hold onto a light that you can barely see, feel or trust is even there?

    Like most all means of sheer survival, dissociation has its pros and cons. Just like chemotherapy and emergency surgery, they can keep you alive, but there are risks. They're also unpleasant in the moment and, separate from the conditions that necessitate these interventions, they alone carry longterm consequences. But, without them, you wouldn't be here -- so it's a constant tug of war with perspective and gratitude. Dissociation is no different. It got me through. It saved my life. It gave Little Me a fighting chance. But it also made life after abuse so darn difficult. Because, I should feel free. The abuse has ended, I am safe. I should be dancing and singing and holding everything I love dear to my chest. But instead, now is when I fight. Now is when I stare down my trauma, my innocence, my perpetrators - all with adult intellect and understanding - and try to decide if this life is worth living and if I'm up for the task.

    It is worth it. And, I am up for the fight. I'm going to do this and will do it with grace and strength. But then, and only then, can you say I survived the impossible or that 'it's over now'. This is the battle. ..and not for just survival, but for life. To make this existence meaningful now. I am going to conquer this. ..the trauma, the feelings, the defeat, the difficult relationships, the dissociation. I will also remain appreciative of what dissociation made possible for me, despite its thorns. I want Young Me to get credit for surviving the horror. But I want Adult Me to be credited for not only surviving more anguish, but for learning to LIVE, too."

 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
    Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
    Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
    DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller

 

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When #MeToo Hurts

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When #MeToo Helps.....then Hurts

    It was mid-October when the words “Me Too” took us all by storm and shook the ground; impassioned, strong voices broke through the earth to let their stories of sexual assault be heard and felt.  Survivors worldwide began disclosing their experiences, discussions about sexual assault began to spark, and together we all faced the brush fires stirring in our own communities. What started in Hollywood spread to our personal feeds and many were completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of loved ones who’d been affected by sexual misconduct in some way.  Brave, courageous stories were being told, honesty and openness were being more respected, and incredibly moving work was taking off at an unprecedented rate. While difficult, it offered the first glimmer of hope to all the survivors who’d been sitting in their silence since they were small children, ignored and mistreated for so long. This could be the turning page! “This could be the moment we’re seen. This could my chance to be believed! The battles I face every single day just to make it through could lift! …someone will finally understand us!”  Unfortunately, over time many started to see that the movement that held, and still holds, so much promise was letting them down and, at times, even actively causing them pain. Survivors who were most broken by sexual violence were being left out, others were being narrowly characterized as the problem, and then there were those being lifted into the spotlight with whom most couldn't identify. What aimed to amplify the voices of those hidden and silenced the harshest, instead began doing the silencing and hiding.

 

    It’s been three months. Three months since we’ve begun having daily, public conversations about sexual assault, consent, harassment, power dynamics, manipulation, silencing, fear, coercion, and so much more. These topics are fiercely important. Yet, somehow we’ve moved on to where the conversation delved into the smallest of details, to where we even openly analyze the very minutia of one person’s assault, but managed to jump right over entire groups of men, women and children who are most affected by sexual assault. They were left out of the broader conversation entirely. Men have been almost completely shut out. We even had two famous men come forward with their experiences, but as more came forward against Spacey, those men devolved into just part of a number count - not people with names and stories, like each individual woman against Weinstein was given. You also had to work exceptionally hard to find anything about them. On another plane, and it has already been well-observed but bears repeating, people of color have been largely overlooked in favor of powerful, white, attractive women. The most neglected, however, have been those abused as children and teens. So, if you are/were a little boy, or a child of color, forget it. Three months and no one with influence has taken the time to speak on your behalf or any of the populations most exposed to sexual/complex trauma.  Survivors themselves have been speaking, though. They’ve been sharing their stories, as well as their frustrations, their pain, their sense of invisibility, their disappointment, and their desire to just be seen and be given care. But, these strong souls are forced to talk mostly amongst themselves — with those who already get it. Any attempt at more public dialogue or even education has been so explicitly redirected or avoided. That's unacceptable.

 

    Several weeks into the movement, we saw branches like #ChurchToo take off. This brought with it renewed hope for many, particularly the groups feeling most ignored. It felt like there was still a chance we could get to them soon; just give it time, soon the spark will catch. But, then the compassion fatigue seemed to set in, sympathies were waning, and many had their embers snuffed out as they saw it barely trend, never given a hashtag icon, and articles about it remaining very few and far between (and, most were about churches defending themselves). Over time, it seemed concerns about the direction of MeToo - including its re-traumatizing and triggering effects - were either disregarded or met with hostility.  ..as if by expressing concern, one was arguing against its necessity or importance as a movement. Which, is typically untrue and worrying at best.

    In the last month, MeToo has been increasingly described as a women’s movement. “Thanks to #MeToo, it’s the year of the woman,”  “#MeToo gave a chance for women to tell their stories,” “Stars are dressing in black to support the women affected by sexual assault.”. To add insult to injury, men were universally being characterized as the perpetrators. They were emphatically told it’s their turn to LISTEN. They were told they aren’t to be doing any talking, just listening and taking notes on what they plan to do to help women. Male victims are an afterthought or a parenthetical to an article about women. They aren’t allowed to speak, just learn and don’t abuse. This is dangerous, toxic, and painful. It takes away their voices to come out as victims themselves, and re-impresses to ALL victims that, unless their abuse was at the hands of a male, they just shouldn’t come forward. Abuse perpetrated by women has been responded to in a wildly different way. Some have even said it’s “not the time for those stories because we’re trying to help women right now”. No. No, we aren’t. We’re trying to help victims of sexual assault. Humans. That includes men. That includes those who were hurt by women. It means little boys, teens, children and little girls. It means we fight for those hurt by family members, those with multiple perpetrators, whose abuse lasted for years, and those who’ve been trafficked, who are poor, who have nothing to their name, and those with no power elsewhere.

 

    THIS IS NOT A WOMEN’S MOVEMENT. IT’S NOT A POWERFUL-WOMEN EXCLUSIVE movement. IT IS NOT A MOVEMENT AGAINST MEN.

    This is a movement for survivors of sexual assault. And, to exclude any group is to abuse them again. To say their voices aren’t important, their stories insignificant, motives impure, or not as glamorous a story for a magazine cover, is inexcusable. Being selective with the voices we lift up, and when, says to everyone else, “You don’t fit our agenda, your story is too messy or hard to hear, you can wait your turn”. Only, their turn won’t ever come if no one takes a stand for them. They cannot just be expected to talk amongst themselves indefinitely and expect anything to change. They need the world to see them, understand them, to HELP them.

 

More Evidence of Inequity

    We currently have the largest criminal case of sex abuse against children, teens and adults that the U.S. has seen in decades. The number of girls who've survived the abuse of Larry Nassar - former team doctor within USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and club gym Twistars - surpasses the number of Sandusky, Weinstein and Bill Cosby victims combined. Yet, somehow, even in the era of #MeToo, it’s gotten a fraction of the coverage as each of those cases independently. Over one-hundred and forty girls [update: currently over 200 girls and the addition of a male as of January 23, 2018] and women were hurt by one man (as well as the organizations that employed him, and specific individuals who enabled his abuse), over the span of 3 decades, with many reports against him that went ignored or were hidden -- but somehow, the story and all of its lessons has struggled to have any lasting power in the media or public discourse. Is it because many were children and teens when they were hurt? Because it wasn’t sexual harassment, or abuse against independent women, and seen as off-topic? Was it just too difficult to hear? Too unbelievable? Was it because these precious survivors weren't wealthy, didn't have a current platform or large following, or were mostly just strangers from Michigan? In truth, it is because of all those reasons and more. Some of the more ludicrous-sounding posits even have evidence behind them. There only was a sudden uptake in interest, after an entire year of coverage and legal proceedings, once McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and, most recently, Jordyn Weiber, each stepped forward in the case against Larry.  Only then was attention given to this beyond the walls of the gymnastics community. You can even witness the trend yourself. The week Simone Biles came forward is when coverage took off, but then it took celebrities offering monetary support to McKayla Maroney; 156 of the 200+ victims sharing their impact statements in court, to Larry and anyone who would listen; and Aly Raisman's testimony and forceful words being specifically picked up and featured in the New York Times, just to keep it there. To further update: it actually took sassy, fiery, gif-worthy Judge Aquilina to thrust the story into the real spotlight -- I mean, look at those numbers since the case broke. Many deemed her their new hero, but it seems they forgot who the real heroes in this case are.

    This deeply disheartening trend in media coverage and public interest sent a very, very loud and clear message to the 135+ non-famous little girls, teens and women who originally csme forward in the last 2 years: that they alone weren't important enough for the public to care. Their abuse, suffering and stories of survival weren’t something people wanted to hear about or learn from unless they were already emotionally invested in them as a fan. Several of these remarkable girls were even vocal about how much that hurt. They weren't 'marketable' or click-worthy enough by their own accord -- not even in the era of #TimesUp, or as they fought back against the most heinous criminal, and the very powerful organizations, that created the worst case of institutional child endangerment that the U.S. has seen in decades. Once clout, power and celebrity were introduced, publications couldn't be written fast enough. These are the kinds of actions that hurt everyday survivors deeply, and everyday survivors are who this world is made up of. However, even once the brilliant voices of our Olympic gold medalists were added, breathing new life into its visibility, it was clear their fame and power were still inadequate to that of a Hollywood celebrity. They provided a bump in exposure, but only a bump.  They, too, were given the message that their fierce, powerful and also heartbreaking voices, after years and years of abuse, weren’t as meaningful as those retelling one night as a Hollywood elite. And, that not only stings and cuts deep to those experiencing the neglect, but to many witnessing it. Because, if that’s true for even them, it begs the question to survivors everywhere, sitting in their nondescript homes, with names no one knows, and traumas deemed “too bad”, “too gross” or “too complex”: “What chance do I have for anyone to care about me? Who will help me? Who will fight for me to make my life safer? Who helps make sure that what I'VE been through never happens to anyone else? Who will help me get the treatment I need to stay alive? When will anyone believe us? WHEN WILL ANYONE JUST HEAR US?!”

 

    If that isn't a repeat dynamic of the questions they asked themselves as children victimized in their own homes, schools, daycares, and sports teams, I’m not sure what it is.  #MeToo, #TimesUp, and those championing them the hardest promised to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves. Who can’t come forward. Who are scared, unseen, and voiceless. But so far, we’ve only witnessed stories of abuse to children, teens and men being pushed out of the discussion in favor of celebrities and those who have power elsewhere in their lives. It hurts. This version of #MeToo hurts. And, I can promise you that was never part of Tarana Burke’s mission statement ten years ago.

 

 Looking Ahead

    One thing that we MUST also keep in mind as we continue to spotlight sexual assault and have extremely important conversations about the behavior of those who abuse — is how it invariably pushes those who are actively abusing individuals, especially children, further underground. …which typically involves worsened abuse. Fear of being caught leads to firmer punishments, deeper threats, drilling victims much harder about not telling anyone, convincing them no one will believe them, and instilling the fear of God (or death) into children who might think for even second of telling a loved one or teacher. Teens may be the most vulnerable because their abusers know they have access to the internet and may see these conversations about abuse in the media. They have a unique opportunity like never before to realize “them too” and want to seek help. Unfortunately, those who abuse only care about themselves and will not be scared into inaction; they will only abuse more violently and creatively to further insulate themselves. We need to remember that, while we cannot and should not be quieted just because these individuals exist, we need to do that much more for those presently trapped in abusive environments. If we’re going to have these global conversations — and we MUST — we must also take thoughtful, intentional care of those who are still under threat. Those who are being further endangered by our mission to deconstruct the institutions that make abuse so prevalent deserve better. And, despite beliefs to the contrary, there are absolutely things that we can do on this front. There are actions we can take. We just need to remember to explore them and that this is not just about us sharing our stories and letting people know it’s an issue, but going out of our way to protect others from future victimization as well as rescuing those still in its vice grip.

 

   Above all, we must remember the most vulnerable. A movement FOR the broken, should not leave anyone more broken. Children and most teens are the truly voiceless. They cannot say #MeToo. They cannot put a post on social media and be enveloped in support and care. They may not even know what’s happening to them is even wrong yet. They’re terrified and afraid, just as so many who are now adults but hurt as children remain.  Yet, they’re the ones left out of the global effort to create a better world for survivors right now. We must remember them always. And, we must remember men. The men who’ve been violated but still told to hush up and just listen. The men who were hurt as adults, as little boys, who were trafficked, and men who were hurt by women. We must think about anyone who’s EVER been hurt at the hands of a female — who is struggling with that independently, let alone in the public sphere. We must think of those who are not wealthy, who are disabled, who don’t have jobs, who cannot go to court, who are not safe, who cannot even share their story. We must keep in mind every survivor who is too scared to speak against someone more powerful than them because having their motives questioned, being told they’re lying for attention, or are only seeking justice because they want money/fame is too great an assault on their character and integrity to bear. They've been assaulted enough. They don't need one more against the core of who they are.  We must keep in mind every survivor whose trauma was severe, unpretty, chronic and whose abuse left them with severe mental health issues. They are not crazy, they are not weak, they are not ‘bad’ or ‘gross’, they are not lesser than. They are just as important as anyone else with a trauma history they never asked to own.

 

    We need to get up close and personal with the fact that #MeToo is meant for everyone. Sexual assault is a human issue. And, if your movement doesn’t include those who are affected by it most, then it’s causing more harm to those already hurting than good. But it does not have to remain that way.

 

Our Commitment

    We want to re-confirm our stance to fight for women, men, children and teens today until forever — regardless of race, income level, ability, mental illness or severity of one's story. We will never stop fighting for you or trying to create a better world for us all. That includes helping those already victimized to be seen as whole and complete individuals, and to get them the treatment and care they deserve. It also includes taking every step within our power to educate the public and clinicians on trauma, particularly complex trauma, and to prevent this from continuing. We have faith that this movement CAN shift in the right direction once more. These conversations are desperately important. They are invaluable, and the strength of each and every person who dared utter the words MeToo, as well as those who bear witness, can not be understated. But, we need to see this opportunity be extended to everyone. We believe that’s respectful, responsible and entirely realistic. We also believe the hope we were initially ignited with can be rekindled.

We are honored to be a part of this fight with you, and we will hold each and every hand - big and small - through the journey.


 

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MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  -  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  -  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative identity Disorder
  -  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light

 

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A Message for Survivors on Fathers' Day

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     So, it's Fathers' Day.  And our hearts are so heavy knowing just how many of you are hurting today -- who are conflicted, unsure, angry, scared, grieving, lost, or yearning.  For many of you, it's a combination of all the above.  Fathers' Day doesn't quite seem to hold the same regality to it that Mothers' Day does - and, even societally, you're more likely to see posts of people acknowledging that they had absent or hurtful fathers.  But, just because people are slightly more aware that not everyone has a wonderful dad, it doesn't make it any less difficult. In fact, we almost feel as though Fathers' Day being knocked down a peg from the pedestal family members can be placed on, actually allows for more of us to truly feel our feelings. It's almost as if there is a greater permission to acknowledge the pain given the expectation of warmth and gushing affections is lessened. Of course, that means we're more likely to be in the pain today. So, all of us here at Beauty After Bruises want you to be able to take a time-out from your Sunday, to sit with us, and to know you're in the company of people who really really get it.

     Before we get too terribly far, we want to make sure we acknowledge that dads in general can get a bad rap. They are quickly villainized and made out to be the bad guy in all kinds of situations, often unfairly. For many of you, your dad may have even been your rock, your everything -- the only reason you're still with us today.  We are so glad that fathers like them exist and always want to lift them up in the highest regard. With that, just as we mentioned with mothers, we also know that some of you have lost this special parent - your person. So today marks a day for heart-wrenching grief - a new trauma for your already broken heart. We want to help hold that for you however possible and sympathize in your brokenness. Grief and loss are emotions that so many of you may be feeling - possibly even all of you, really - and for reasons that may not include death.  For a lot of survivors, your fathers have left, or were never there from the start. Some of you have lost your dads to addiction, mental or medical health issues, or other challenging behavior that - though he's still alive - he's no longer truly here, as himself, anymore. He's not the father you knew, nor the father you want or need right now. There's an inevitable, sometimes inescapable feeling of loss that comes with that. And, it's okay and completely normal to grieve a dad who's right there with you, but just isn't present with you. For those of you who never got to feel like you had a father - just someone to share a house with - of course you're also bound to feel as if a big part of you is missing, or as if you just don't know how you're supposed to feel. We all want to acknowledge that hurt. Many are right there with you.
     

     For every shade and color of loss and grief, whether there are tears to be had or you're all cried out: you're not alone.


"Fathers' Day....  Man.  My heart hurts most for little me - the one who had to celebrate, hand-make cards for, and love the violent, red-faced, short-tempered man who tore our family apart. It confused and hurt Little Morgan to no end."

-- Morgan, 27


     This week has seen no shortage of the anticipated emotional commercials, quirky "dad bod" advertisements, full series on popular YouTube channels centering around fatherhood, annnd of course the lengthy social media posts from friends and loved ones, reminiscing and telling tales of their amazing, hard-working, selfless fathers. Yet, here today, many of you are alone, quietly hurting. The reality for Complex PTSD and DID survivors is that it's really common for 'a dad' of someone's to have been involved in your trauma (either in big ways or small). Whether that was your own fathers; a grandfather or uncle; a teacher, coach or pastor; even a cousin or neighbor who's all grown up and now has their own kids -- knowing there's a day for them to be celebrated (specifically for caring for children) can bring with it so many unique, difficult struggles.

     It's hard to see fathers universally being revered, when a father you knew wasn't the least bit good to their own or someone else's children. For those of you who only discovered in adulthood what happened to you as a child, there can be such a visceral reaction, with emotions ten layers deep, if you ever find yourself staring at photos of them holding or hugging their own children.  ....what do you do??  Many feel fear, others just relive trauma, and so many more want to "do something", "save them" or "protect them" but are stunned frozen. Others sit with heavy, heavy guilt that they didn't say something back then, even if they didn't know at the time, retroactive guilt still sneaks in like a virus. For any of you in these positions, we want you to know we deeply empathize with all the anguish and inner-conflict wrapped up in that bundle of exasperation. You are not alone in this.  You did what you could with the information you had at the time, as well as what you believed to be safe. You are STILL doing what is right for you, safest for you, healthiest for you, and what will ensure your wellbeing. The rest can and will sort itself out in time; for now you just need to do what is best for you in this very moment.


"Every Fathers' Day I'm confronted with the reminder that he left us.  He left me and my siblings with that horrible, abusive woman. He saved himself, but didn't think twice about us."

--J.D., 36


     There are so many stories, so many walks of life and paths you could be on.  Many of you have become fathers yourselves. This may be your triumphant accomplishment, one to be so proud of yourself for! Despite all the self-doubt or questioning, through it all, you found yourself in a family, or at least raising a child of your own. This is such a hard and scary thing to do, especially if most of your examples were poor or even non-existent. For those of you worrying or wondering today if you're a good enough father to even be celebrated - or scared you won't be once you do become a dad - we want to be that vote of confidence that says, "The very fact you're concerned about this, means you're leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. We are all just trying to do the best we can with the tools we have, learn more every day, try to leave the least amount of harm behind us, and work to leave things a little better than we found them. And, if that's what you're doing, you're doing it just right!"  Yet, if you are truly concerned or know you need a little help to be able to do the best job you can, there are always resources and a helping hand available to you; never hesitate to ask.  It's one of the bravest things you can do and one that requires such personal strength - not weakness. We are one of those places you can turn, who would love to help you however possible.


"Only when I became a father did I finally see how evil mine own was. I never saw it -- never. It's hard to raise kids when you only just learned how blind you were to being treated like an dog. I'm so scared now I wouldn't recognize it if I ever did the same - but hellbent on never coming close."

-- R.W., 39


     The subject of becoming a father can actually be one filled with trauma for many other reasons in a certain group of survivors. And, we want to be sure we touch on this because we feel it's something that's missing in a lot of trauma outreach. A lot of survivors are men, and a lot of those men were made to be fathers against their will as well - just like those who became mothers unwillingly. Far too many have been trafficked, abused, manipulated, or even used for the sole purpose of bearing children. Some of you may be aware of your children, while others sit there with the tormenting question of IF you're a father, knowing all the abuse you endured and the level of probability. This is something most cannot even imagine feeling, wondering or agonizing over. In each and every one of these instances, we ache for you. Just as we do for those who have also may have children they cannot see, those whose were taken from them in messy, unfair, and even abusive divorces, and those who've even lost their beloved children. All of your pain is so real, so heavy. It is seen. It is felt. It is honored and met with such true compassion.


"Fathers' Day has so much trauma shoved into one cake I'm afraid to light the candles.  It'll either explode, or melt into a puddle with my sadness....And, I don't even know which would make the bigger mess anymore."

Caroline, 42


    No doubt, we couldn't possibly cover all the ways Fathers' Day highlight so many aches, pain and scars left by the years of childhood trauma for many survivors. There are just far too many brave and hurting souls, each with a story of their own. Like, those who've lost "a dad" in their own husband, the one who was a father to their children... Anyone who is left trying to comfort broken-hearted children today because their fathers left or hurt them deeply... All whose fathers just do not accept them for who they are, how they live, or what they know to be true about their trauma.... Every adult child who was severely let down by their dad as a kid, but are now fighting to remind themselves they do have one, and he isn't a terrible guy, but it still just doesn't feel right....  And, everyone else left so confused and torn by the role that stepdads, biological dads, adoptive dads, and countless other family dynamics play -- roles that just manage to complicate things even further. No matter what - no matter why your heart is aching or why it's just conflicted and lost today - please know that we're thinking of you and so excruciatingly aware of just how many of you are out there. We even encourage YOU to give voice to all the things we couldn't get to here. Please share with us below, in our casual little circle of healing hearts, what's on your chest today and let your experience be heard. Every story is important. And, we're all listening.

    Please know, even on these "smaller" holidays, we care very much about what you are going through and all the ways it may be affecting you. Just like we mentioned in our post on Mothers' Day - oftentimes it's the smallest holidays that can do the most damage and leave survivors feeling the most alone. So, if you are a supporter, friend or loved one - we really encourage you to at least send your loved one a thoughtful text or call them up to let them know you're thinking of 'em. Family relationships are nearly always a challenge for complex trauma survivors in one form or another - so, it can never hurt to let them know they're on your mind, even if you know very little about their history.

     And, for all of our survivors: We believe these types of holidays really need to just become days to focus on YOU. Days put in place to take extra care of yourself. To do things that you love; celebrate all the ways in which you are an honorable and loyal person; get together with friends or other great people that you call your family and are proud to know. You can even enjoy some cynical or light-hearted comedy! Liiiike, tell us your favorite "dad joke" - it's okay if it's got some dark humor to it, that's how so many of us heal! Just, above all else, please just take extra care of, and celebrate, YOU.

    We will be.

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  
  -  Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays
 
-  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  -  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  -  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
 -  A Message of Care This Mothers' Day

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You Did Not Shatter: A Message for Survivors with DID

     After an absolutely fantastic experience at this year's annual Party in the Park - and even receiving some media coverage - we spent some time reflecting on the many conversations had there and wanted to extend some extra love and thought to those with Dissociative Identity Disorder today.  And, in doing so, hopefully we'll guide the general public to a richer understanding of the condition as well!

     After talking with the media - who were absolutely wonderful, receptive, and eager to learn - it was still evident through subtle head nods and knowing laughter following our jokes that their only prior introduction to DID had not been a positive one. They were so happy to see and understand it for what it really is, to adopt an entirely new view on whom it affects, why, and what that looks like. We witness versions of this exchange everywhere we go, almost any time we educate the public.  But, another thing we find, time and time again, is how many survivors have been given inaccurate information about themselves. Many have been privy to explanations and/or analogies used to simplify or summarize the disorder to the unfamiliar, some of which have led to the internalization of some pretty harsh ideas about themselves.  Sometimes these misconceptions are even held by the most loving and helpful therapists, not just the ignorant or uneducated ones.  Because of this, we not only want to offer clarity on the subject, but more importantly, fight to help restore your belief in yourself -- to help you realize the strength of your mind, NOT the 'brokenness'.
     This will also apply to many with Complex PTSD or even BPD, but will resonate strongest for those with DID.  So, with the ill-effects of films like Split still in the rearview, and with far too many in the psychiatric community continuing to hold on to misinformation on DID - we truly hope to silence those messages in your ears and lift you up in a way that maybe no one ever has before.


     For far too long, it has been believed, and often even cited in psychiatric works, that DID forms because the mind was just so traumatized, so overwhelmed by insurmountable upset and trauma, that it splits into all kinds of pieces and alters. Visual concepts like the mind being shattered, like a broken vase, or a scattered puzzle needing put back together, were not only all too common, they became the framework for how many clinicians would describe DID to their patients. A puzzle-piece awareness ribbon was even created as the representative for DID before it became the well-known symbol for autism awareness. This idea has, on one hand, given many survivors language to describe their experience to others. But, on the other, it have also left many survivors to interpret that as if they themselves are broken.  ...as if it was just all too much and they cracked and broke down - possibly even due to weakness or not being "strong enough".  ...as if they're fundamentally destroyed, irreparable or never able to be "put back together" the same again. This is just plainly untrue - both in terms of who these survivors are as people AND what actually happened to their minds in the first place.

     A dissociative mind is NOT a whole that breaks. It's one that just never came together into one, fully-communicating mind like it does for everyone else. EVERYONE starts out as scattered pieces when they are infants. Through childhood development, attachments get made, relationships become consistent, needs are met, and slowly, those pieces begin to integrate into larger pieces. Over time, those pieces develop self-awareness, and continue to merge and formulate ONE stable, solid sense of self.  "This is me, this is who I am, these are the things I like and don't like. I know who I am separate from my siblings, friends, and parents! Cool!". This usually completes by about age 9, and from then on life experiences continue to shape, mold and build that sense of self into perpetuity; shifting as one gathers more life experience. Our identity reflects that as we change throughout our teens, twenties and so forth. Even so, it is still just one, singular self-concept.
     We, of course, all have different aspects and versions of ourselves, but for those with a healthy childhood development, those aspects all communicate automatically and know about one another. Work You knows about and may influence the mood of At-Home You, and With-Friends You may let loose a bit, but is still aware that if you get a little too adventurous you may make things harder for In-A-Relationship You. Many aspects; one sense of self.  ...all communicating with and influencing the others.

     But when it comes to childhood trauma, all of that can get interrupted. Through extreme dissociation, many pieces stay separate. Walls and barriers get built to keep those smaller ego states from coming together because the mind has deemed that it's safer that way. Communication between and knowledge of what's beyond those walls can be minimal. What happens to During-Trauma You can't be known to At-School You because you wouldn't be able to function effectively if you had unspeakable trauma on your mind while trying to solve multiplication tables in math class. Over time, those compartmentalized collections of memory, emotion, knowledge, etc., will develop self-awareness and eventually their own sense of self, too -- just as they would for any developing child. The main difference is that these pieces of self may look considerably different from one another (and the whole) because they are only able to pull from a select number of life experiences within their little compartment to build an identity around.  Ergo: alters.  So, you didn't BREAK.  You most certainly were not too weak or fragile. The mind knew it could withstand the pressure of a violent storm by supporting your castle with an abundance of walls and columns instead. That's adaptive. That's strong. That's creativity and reinforcement; genius.  It's also beautiful.

     You did not crumble into rubble; you are not shattered glass. You didn't collapse or give out, nor were you destroyed by what happened.  You do not have to fuss with glue or tape to put yourself back together. Your mind repositioned its load-bearing beams and decided to stand strong a different way. It may not be like everyone else's, but I can promise that it's able to endure far more.  It has endured far more.  And you're still here.  Nothing can bring down that castle. You are rock solid. You were built to survive - and that creative, unique design kept you alive, kept you strong, and brought so much extra beauty.  You cannot even begin to imagine the richness that will bring to your living as you heal.

     We are amazed by how you found a way through. And we want you to know, as well as anyone who's ever misunderstood your condition, that:

You are not broken or weak. You are stronger than most could ever hope to be. You were made to last.

MORE RESOURCE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    DID Myths and Misconceptions: Dispelling Common Myths about DID
    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  ✧  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
  ✧  Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Coping with Toxic/Abusive Families During the Holidays

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  Article Index  

 

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A Message of Care this Mothers' Day

 

 

   This will be a shorter and more informal article as compared to our other more informational and instructional posts - but that doesn’t make it any less significant.  This weekend is Mothers’ Day.  And we know that this can be a very difficult day for survivors of complex, often childhood, trauma.  The larger holidays often gain more recognition as being difficult for people of all walks of life, but these smaller ones tend to go unnoticed and leave too many silently struggling in their homes.  We want to take the time to acknowledge this.  To let you know that we see you.  ..that you’re thought of.  ..that we’re sitting with each heavy reason behind your hurting heart.  And?  That you are absolutely not alone.

   Mother’s Day is typically thought of with all kinds of warm, flowery, loving imagery - complete with elaborate social media posts, beaming family photos, and tributes to the all the selfless mothers out there.  But, for many people, it’s not really all that warm.  And for others, it’s downright excruciating.  In the world of childhood trauma, survivors' mothers may have been the primary source of their suffering.  Erroneously, familial abuse is often assumed to be the fault of the men in a family.  But women - yes mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and cousins - can all be equally as awful and abusive.  Other moms may not have perpetrated the violence, but allowed the abuse to go on, fostered an environment that made it possible in the first place; were neglectful, lost in addiction or revolving parters; turned a blind eye to their child’s obvious suffering, possibly even denying them necessary treatment; or were just so hot and cold with their affections that the child was left absolutely confused and conflicted about what kind of mom they even have.   Now in adulthood, many of you are trying to navigate a world without her, or set appropriate boundaries, and have been relentlessly guilted and shamed by family/strangers for not loving or being close to your mom.  Most just cannot fathom that she might actually be an awful or unsafe person unworthy of that connection.  But you know.  Your feelings are not only valid, but should be honored and respected.  You don’t have to minimize them, talk yourself out of them, or try to ‘get over them’ and ‘just try to be nice to her already’.  As crazy as it sounds coming from a charity rooted in and birthed from empathy and kindness, we want you to know that you are never obligated to be nice to anyone who hurt you.  Not even if they’re your mother.  It’s okay, and even admirable, to keep that boundary.  No doubt that trying to maintain even a small amount of distance comes with so much grief attached - having to say goodbye to and mourn what you never had.  We are so saddened by this for each of you and are sending our utmost compassion.  Whatever kind of relationship you keep with your mother today, we want you to know that the hurt parts of your heart that were damaged by her - in big ways or small - they're on OUR hearts and minds this week.


Mothers' Day just brings such an awful feeling. I never know which version of my mother I’m going to get on that day.

- Jenn, Survivor


   Another painful reality for many trauma survivors is that some of YOU are mothers. ...and not always as the result of a healthy situation, but instead tragedy and torment.  Perhaps you were made a mother against your will, or still are one but have had to hide that fact from everyone you know and love.  Then there are so many of you who've had the devastating misfortune of losing a child, and that is traumatic all on its own, even in the most loving and safe of circumstances.  And then there are the moms of healthy kids, in wonderfully knit families, who are still left wrestling the seemingly impossible task of raising children when you yourself were NEVER given a good example or taught how.  Laden throughout so many of these experiences is just an abundance of sadness, heaviness, trauma, loss, shame, and fear.  Yet, too often, what rings the loudest is the silence you feel you must keep - and the aloneness with which you sit in that suffering - especially in times like this.  If there’s anything we can offer you, we'd like to see you not feel so alone anymore.  To know that someone’s taken your hand, acknowledged your aching, and is letting you know you're anything but on your own in this.  We are here.  And so many survivors just like you are meeting you here in their feelings, too.  And together, we each carry a piece and make the load so much lighter to bear.


I’m a mom, but my own family doesn’t even know. Mothers' Day is “my day” but I have to spend it hiding; hurting.

- Rachael, 29


   These are hardly the only reasons survivors may be aching this holiday.  Many of you have lost your mothers.  That kind of sadness cannot be described in words.  If she wasn’t a safe person to you, this grief becomes wildly complicated.  But for tons of you, your mom was your bright spot in all the hurting.  She was your everything.  ...the only one who saw you and heard you, did everything to keep you safe, and always fought for you.  To lose something so special and so rare as that in your world, is absolutely soul-shattering.  Your pain reverberates through just about anyone who’s lost “their safe person” - or has even paused to imagine what life without them might be like.  We’re extending extra warmth and love your way.  Just as we are to all those with their own deeply layered and extremely personal stories to struggle against.  We can count so many, many more and want each of you to feel this extension of validation and warmth.  You are important, and so is every last drop of your sadness, anger or grief.


Mothers' Day has always flooded me with a sense of being left out or not human.  My mother was an awful woman, but she's gone now.  I also cannot have children of my own - because of trauma.  It's just a loaded day.

- LC, survivor


  Whatever is on your heart, we know there will be no shortage of difficult posts, commercials, and media content to just drive that knife a little deeper.  The open gushing of amazing relationships; the gut-wrenching in-memoriam posts; newborn-babies-to-grandmas montages on TV, condescending guilt-tripping posts to “Love your mom now!” “There is NOTHING that can’t be forgiven!” and "Family is everything!", throwback photos of heartwarming pregnancies and newborn babies, all surrounded by tons of graphics your ad-blocker doesn't seem to mind missing juuuuust to make sure it doesn't leave your mind for even a moment.  We know it can be a LOT.  …especially when so much of the general public still manages to have it nowhere on their radar that this time can be really brutal.  So, even if we can’t make everyone else understand or be more thoughtful, we want to at least be that place for you. And,

     To supporters, friends, and general citizens out there:  Perhaps this little post helped to remind even you that these “smaller, insignificant-to-many” holidays can actually be the some of hardest.  Definitely don’t contain your own expressions of love to the moms in your life; it just never hurts to be conscientious and thoughtful of all those in your life who may be hurting this day.  So sending a little extra support and friendship their way could make the all the difference, truly.  Just knowing that someone thought about them and wanted to take care of them, even in gesture, can be a very “mom thing to do" that they'd been needing and missing.  It can’t fill the void entirely, but it can help a little - and a little’s enough.


Mothers’ Day to me means... trying SO hard.  Little me just longs to make her happy.  Adult me tries to pretend we’re something we aren't.  I still give her gifts with the hope she'll love me - or even just believe me.

-- EM, 38


     Finally….  If you are hurting, if you are dreading this day, fearing this day, hating this day, or just trying to just avoid it at all costs:  We want to encourage you to do something different.  Your family of origin is not what makes a family, so if you can spend it with the family you’ve created for yourself, absolutely wonderful.  We can't encourage that enough.  But, we also see great value in making this a “you” holiday.  “My Day”, not "Mothers’ Day".  Take care of yourself.  Do all sorts of things that you love, and practice more self-care than you have in a long time.  Honor yourself.  Take time to consider all the ways in which you are special, respectable, selfless, caring and important.  Treat, love and appreciate yourself.  Sure, it may be a different holiday entirely, and not intended for 'you', but we can pretty much guarantee that you didn’t get NEARLY enough of these kinds of days, nor very many positive, safe holidays growing up.  They proooobably went awry or at least left your feelings hurt somewhere along the line.  You have more than enough special holidays to make up for, so why not make this day one of them?  Take it.  Make it one for YOU.  You deserve it.  And, hey, it sure beats a weekend of pain and dread.  Every time you see an ad or post, you can pause to check in with yourself, remembering "Aw, that's right, this is My Day!" and do something nice for you.  This is YOUR day.  It’s a day for honoring YOU.  It's a day to appreciate all you are, all you've overcome, and all the love in your heart.

    We truly hope that you all make it through this weekend safely and with wellness. Please know that we are thinking of you this day and on each of the many other holidays like it.  You are important to us.  We hope that you consider your needs and feelings equally as important as we do. And, to everyone else, we hope you share the same thoughtfulness and support to a survivor this week.  It may be just the bright, uplifting light they needed to carry them through.