Enjoying the Road Less Traveled

Rossa Forbes
67
2096

When our son Chris began developing psychotic symptoms at the end of high school, the course of his life for several years became all too predictable. Hospitalized in Toronto in his second year of university, he dropped out and moved back home. On the journey toward healing we navigated a bumpy but interesting ride through Switzerland, England, France, the USA, and cyberspace. I kept a journal of our progress, which became a literary endeavor as time went on.*

We started out following the mainstream. Chris enrolled in an outpatient early psychosis program.

“As you can see,” explained Doctor R, “social integration is the principle preventive therapeutic treatment, but we also believe that the judicious use of medication is equally important. We prescribe different kinds of medications, but we have found, in the ten years the program has been operating, that one particular neuroleptic drug, clozapine, seems to be producing especially good results in the patient population.”

The problem with this approach? Chris wasn’t recovering. He took the pills. He dutifully attended the early psychosis program where a fleet of professionals were on hand to help him. But he wasn’t getting substantially better, nowhere near the point where I thought he should be. Was I in denial? If denial is not going along with the idea that schizophrenia is a lifelong disease that can only be managed, not cured, then yes, I was in denial. 

To extricate my son from the “patient population” as much as possible, Chris and I headed to wilder terrain. He finished up with the day program, continued with his weekly psychotherapy sessions, gradually, over the years and under supervision, lowering his medication to well below the lowest recommended dose, where it stubbornly remains today. By reading everything I could get my hands on, I learned about his condition — from everything except the medical model narrative, which I found depressing and not well informed. Authors I had only a passing acquaintance with before now felt like long-lost friends: Carlos Castanada, Herman Hesse, R.D. Laing, and Thomas Szasz. I had never heard of Joseph Campbell, but after wading into the waters that the schizophrenic is drowning in, I came away with a more optimistic view of my son’s future. I would accompany him on the hero’s journey. There is a literary precedent for this: the hero often has a sidekick who‘s there to assist him.

Chris and I were watching Superman. Chris’s eyes were glued to the screen for the entire film. As Superman struggled to overturn a crystallized landmass that threatened to end life on earth, I whispered, “Hey, I’m enjoying this movie, too,” but the roar of the continent being lifted up drowned out my attempts at small talk.

Watching the film, I was struck by the resemblance between Chris in his deteriorated condition and Superman when he was exposed to green kryptonite—helpless, enfeebled, stripped of his powers, hovering in a twilight zone between life and death. In my mind, Chris is a kind of superhero. He has exceptional intuitive capabilities and huge reservoirs of empathy and compassion that enable him to achieve oneness with All-That-Is. He understands that the destructive forces in the universe might cause the world to end—by fire or by ice.

As we left the theater, I wondered how I could help Chris return to earth, as Superman had done after a long absence from our planet. Chris would have to learn how to channel his gifts in ways that strengthened him. He would have to learn resilience so that he could cope when people, situations, and substances weakened him.

The non-medical people to whom we turned for help moved Chris forward in small, incremental ways and were well-versed in their Joseph Campbell. Crucially, in my opinion, they did no harm. The mainstream medical community might question the evidence base for what we did, but its incomplete and conflicting evidence for its drug therapy liberates some of us to try alternatives. I also have one important thing going for me that medicine overlooks: I’m the mother. I know my son better than anybody, and I observe and continue to take notes. I had an agreement with Chris that, as much as possible, I would undergo the same therapies as he. Admittedly, I did this partly for the material (an unusually good story!), but mainly because I didn’t think it was fair to slap him with the identified patient label, meaning that there was something uniquely wrong with him that needed fixing while there was nothing wrong with me. Our common ground is that we are both in this to strengthen our overall health. (The fact that Chris doesn’t have a driver’s license almost guaranteed that I had to be at many of those appointments with him. Make mine a double!)

Doctor B found that my assemblage point had travelled up the panic-and-anxiety line on the right side of my chest. After locating it, she handed me over to her assistant, who asked me to stand with my back to him. He told me to tighten my sphincter and hold my breath, and then he delivered one quick thump to my right shoulder blade, catching me off guard. I emitted a little squeak as the air left my lungs.

So, that’s the famous shaman’s blow! I thought as I recovered from the shock. With my assemblage point in its rightful place I hoisted myself onto the examining table and stretched out on my back. Doctor B handed me a large, heavy quartz crystal wand that I struggled to keep upright over the center of my chest for twenty minutes as the gem lamp’s transducer pumped emerald vibrations to my liver.

While lying in this ludicrous pose I asked her if she’d heard about Prince Charles’s keynote address that he’d delivered to the World Health Organization a couple of days earlier, in which he’d stated his belief that national health systems should take more account of alternative treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture. Doctor B confided to me that there was growing concern among established Harley Street doctors because some members of the Royal Family were seeing homeopathic doctors and other alternative medical practitioners on a regular basis. I laughed, my mind flashing back to a tabloid image of Princess Diana smiling, and waving to the press, after having her colon irrigated at a London clinic.

The people that Chris and I continued to consult with over the years didn’t talk of mental illness as a brain disease, a chemical imbalance, or a problem with one’s genes. Depending on the therapy, they spoke in terms of restoring life force energy, changing cellular vibration, allowing the energy of our ancestors to enter our consciousness, learning to listen — and, therefore, understand — and building a self.

Here’s a small sample of where we went on our journey:

Family Constellation work was developed by Bert Hellinger (1925 -), a German psychotherapist and former Jesuit priest who spent many years living among the Zulu people in South Africa. It is based on the premise that patterns of behavior can be carried forward for generations, especially if an ancestral family member experienced loss or injustice. Constellation work is designed to help participants resolve these issues and thereby avoid perpetuating destructive patterns. It’s hugely emotional and therapeutic. Be prepared to cry — a lot. Accept what “is,” forgive, and move on.

The Alexander Technique was developed by F.M. Alexander (1869-1955), a Shakespearean actor from Australia who lost the ability to project his voice. His Technique is a process of self-inquiry that enables a person to release unconscious habits that put strain on the body. Alexander’s approach to self-examination required consciously stopping the movement pattern he was executing to decide whether he wanted to continue it, change it, or stop it altogether and do something different. The technique he developed seemed like an approach that Chris could use to address the “action/no action” dilemma he frequently encountered in relation to using both his mind and his body. He might finally learn how to choose.

The Tomatis Method: Doctor Alfred Tomatis (“tom-ah-TEECE”) (1920-2001), a French otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), distinguished “listening” from “hearing.” In his view, hearing is passive, whereas listening is an active process. Listening ability allows us to focus, which has profound implications for spatial awareness and control of bodily movements. Listening is important for “most skills involved in communication, verbal as well as non-verbal, socialization, language and learning.” The ear charges the brain and nervous system with electrical energy, and its proper functioning is essential to motor skills, balance and coordination, and, of course, hearing. The treatment primarily involves listening to high-frequency music through headphones, e.g., Mozart concertos and Gregorian chants, for two hours a day. “Using both bone and air conduction to hear and listen is crucial for the development of a self,” the directrice said. “You will hear your true voice for the first time.”

Chris’s observations about how he benefited from his Tomatis sessions: Now, with this heightened emotional sense, he found that when he listened to people, they weren’t just “a body in space” anymore, but he heard the subtext of their concerns; their emotional presence makes them “people.”

Sound waves: This particular form of sound therapy is used experimentally on both plants and humans.

“The sound you are about to hear is produced by my invention, the Bioscope system, and is the frequency of the color red,” the speaker said as he flipped a switch on one of the components. A low, rumbling sound emanated through speakers positioned in the corners of the lecture room. After several minutes, I was shifting uncomfortably in my seat. Mercifully, the sound stopped before I felt compelled to run for the nearest exit. “The energy released in the Big Bang, which approximates the sound you just heard, continues to imbue human beings, plants, and animals with a unique harmonic resonance or life force,” the speaker said. “Exposure to sound waves and electromagnetic fields affects us in various ways — some positive, some negative. We may sometimes require rebalancing to stay healthy.” 

During Chris’s second sound therapy session with the inventor, he had the first of many out-of-body experiences. I asked him to keep a journal of these experiences, which occurred regularly during the year he was having his treatments. Here is what he wrote after his second session. (He was initially bothered by flies in the room.)

I began to fall into a trance, an aware sort of sleep; instead of relaxing into my body and dreaming, I left my body and began to experience the room while my body “powered down.” First I said to myself, this is just a sound, a basic unrefined sound but just a noise really, and then my head refused to make any noise, any comment or utter any “thoughts” as I was released into the space or “aura” around me.

I could see my body lying down from four feet away in any direction, and it was the best impression or image of myself that I’ve found in a long time, better than any mirror image can give. Those flies that I found so irritating I now realized were in harmony with my feelings of irritability that I had carried in with me, and I could fly around the room as if the flies were part of me. The only pain I felt was at the head level, when I could see that a big dark block at my head masked or obstructed this free flow of energy I experienced. To stand up in that state would have been impossible.

Rapportbuilding: By the time Chris was in his mid-twenties, I’d developed several coping strategies. I continued reframing my thoughts in order to stay positive about Chris’s recovery. In addition, I would occasionally imitate some of his behaviors, a technique that I later learned is called “mirroring” and is used as a rapport-building exercise in therapy.

I found Chris’s ghostlike presence unsettling, so I decided to try being ghostlike myself. Upon arriving home, I slid my key as silently as possible into the lock, opened the door, and stepped lightly over the threshold, taking care to oh-so-silently shut the door behind me so that nobody would know I was there. (If I could have slipped in through the keyhole like a “real” ghost, I would have.)

I glided past Chris without acknowledging his presence and quietly busied myself with whatever tasks I needed to do. I tried hard not to rattle the dishes as I put them away, and I spoke loudly enough to not appear conspicuous but quietly enough to achieve the desired effect.

My efforts seemed to make an impression on Chris. On several occasions, he tapped lightly on the door of my bedroom, where I had deliberately holed up to avoid him. When I didn’t immediately respond, he opened the door to check on me, asking “Is there anything I can do for you, Mom?” 

No, nothing at all,” I murmured as I continued my reading. “Please shut the door behind you when you leave.” The hoped-for results were not long in coming. I would hear Chris’s key turn firmly in the lock and then, “Mom, I’m home!” Bang, bang, bang went the pots and pans.

Homeopathy works at the conscious and subconscious levels to bolster the life force. It is the leading alternative treatment prescribed by doctors in Europe and is even more prevalent in India. It was once mainstream medical treatment in Canada and the US — a statue in Washington, D.C. honors its founder Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Homeopathic remedies are based on the principle that like cures like, meaning that a substance (e.g., cuttlefish ink) taken in extremely small doses will provoke a healing response, whereas the same substance taken in a much larger dose would cause harmful symptoms to manifest. The substances are diluted to tiny percentages per million parts with alcohol or water, then vigorously shaken, a process called “potentization.” In its purest form, homeopathy is the antithesis of today’s polypharmacy. Classically trained homeopaths believe that the smallest possible dose of a single remedy is the most effective. When treating a patient, a homeopath takes careful notes in order to understand the whole person (body, mind, and spirit).

Chris returned from his first visit to the homeopath with a vial of potentized phosphorus. After reading about this remedy online, I knocked on Chris’s door.

The homeopath figured you out on your first appointment,” I said when Chris opened the door. “You are like phosphorus!”

He allowed me to enter his room, so I perched myself on the end of his bed and read from my notes:

Phosphorus types are characteristically pale and often blond. They like to please people and are so emotionally sensitive to others that they often inappropriately cross boundaries in an effort to be helpful. Similarly, others cross their boundaries until they learn how to say no. They attempt to avoid conflict and confrontation in an effort to keep the peace. They dislike being alone and can be overly attached to home and family. Easily exhausted, both mentally and physically, they need to honor their own limits.”

Is that you or is that you!” I said, putting down my notes.

I don’t know,” Chris said, irritated. “Is there anything good about phosphorus?”

I picked up my notes and continued reading. “Highly likable; poetry-loving romantics; infectious smile. They love to sing. Oh, and get this: They often have strikingly red lips!” I looked up and said, “This was something I noticed about you when you were born.” 

Chris was unimpressed at first, but soon he was grinning. (Having a sunny disposition is a phosphorus trait.)  

And then there’s this: ‘They are so light and airy they appear to float.’ I’m amazed at how well this description fits you!”

Chris is now thirty-four, living at home with his parents, and started spreading his wings several years ago through his music and stage work. Over the years I’ve learned to sit back and enjoy the ride. Had we not taken the scenic route, I might have given up on Chris early on because I would have fallen victim to mainstream thought, which “awfulizes” psychosis (as MIA author Ron Unger terms it). We’re not done with the journey, but it’s coming to a close. I’ve done what I can. It’s his turn to drive the car to places he wants to go. 

I’ll be there, cheering him on from the sidelines.

*Portions of this post are from my book, The Scenic Route, used with permission of Inspired Creations, my publisher.

67 COMMENTS

  1. Rossa, I love you. Your genuine interest in your son’s well being is evident. A good parent wants their kid to spread wings and become independent–not crippled by stupifying drugs and an infantilizing “support” group that only controls and holds back.

    A lot of parents get so exasperated by the outlandish behavior of these kids that they would rather turn the kid into a helpless drooling houseplant who won’t get in trouble and embarrass them. You point out the kid could likely recover undrugged and they don’t seem to care. Ruining the adult child’s prospects of a good life doesn’t matter. The drugs work RIGHT NOW (too tired and sick to do or say annoying stuff) and a diminished zombie child doesn’t bug them for some reason.

    My own mom wanted to help me. But to this day she swears my “meds” work because they have made me too sedated to do or say stuff that annoyed her. If she’s annoyed that proves I’m getting “sick” again.

    Unbeknownst to her after 25 years of psych drugs I tapered off my cocktail successfully. Been drug free for over 6 months. Unfortunately my digestion is totally destroyed; I may have Crohns now.

    Mom doesn’t notice any difference. When I snapped out of my decade long depression though she got irritated and yelled at me for being “too cheerful.” No I was far from manic.

    I no longer live with her. That helps. Sadly at 44 I am too old to make new friends and extreme pain/weakness makes it hard to get around. The bus system is horrible here. I wasn’t allowed to get my drivers license. So I’m pretty isolated.

  2. Thank you rossa for your brilliant article inspiring.i went to a workshop with Eleanor longden and she said her mother never gave up on her even when everyone else had. the role of the mother is downplayed in all forums including this site so lovely to hear what you both did and are still doing look forward to more articles from you as most Mother’s have no idea what to do . We feel that we know but we do not trust our instincts in a world that labels us as difficult and part of the problem. Thanks again.

        • A mother usually does the best she can because its just in her nature to do literally everything for her child to prosper. Naturally, because life is immensely difficult at times, the decision she HAS to make because a child per definition cannot make decisions for itself can be wrong, but its way better of a mother if she dares to make a decision even if it could be the wrong one than for her not daring to do anything and just criticizing other people instead. I would never dare to make fun out of ‘mama grizzlies’ because everyone knows of what a mother can do if she feels the need to protect a child. Even every male grizzly would quickly withdraw in such a situation, I can assure you of that. And I am a mother grizzly who has to care for a son who lives out of my immediate watch and I have to sort myself out to be able to ensure him being able to be loved and love another woman who is his mother now. And it hurts, I can tell you, it hurts a lot. So please, do not talk about things that you have no understanding of and stick to the topics where you have experienced. I enjoyed your comment on ward staff, that was really good. And you have a great sense of humour also, just do not stretch it too much, please. Thank you.

          • Not all NAMI members are created equal. A friend who supported my efforts to come off psych drugs used to belong. After psychiatry killed her sister at 49 she got sick of it.

            I told her about Dr. Pies’s snarky article about how the “chemical imbalance was just a metaphor” ha ha ha! Why aren’t you all laughing? Laurel was furious.

    • You know I agree with you, a good mamma can make all the difference. However, I do think it’s important to keep in mind that not all mammas are good ones. Pappas, too. There are some who do incredibly destructive things and then use psychiatric labels to blame their own kids for their failings. As in all things, “Generalizations are always wrong.” It comes down to whether the mamma/pappa in question is focused on the needs of their offspring, or their own need not to feel bad about their own mistakes and misunderstandings.

      • 🙂 very true Steve, as with all personal and emotional matters, they can cloud the objectiveness and lead to some sort of cognitive fallacy that lets one respond in a rather emotional and heated way. I hope Rachel will be able to be a bit lenient for that…

          • I can feel your pain. Please keep letting it out. Don’t isolate yourself too much again though if it is somehow possible. With that I mean that forum you mentioned. Its good to have a place, a community, where you can rejuvenate but this discussion needs you and your experience and the knowledge and the wisdom, an inert knowledge of the heart, it hopefully facilitates or even generates in those who are ready to finally understand….

  3. I’m always so moved to hear your story exploration and discovery with your son, Rossa. You both have invaluable things to share with the world, particularly needed at this time. I hope that one day Chris can feel the inclination to share his perspective.

    Thank you for taking the road less travelled and for chronicling it in The Scenic Route: A Way Through Madness, to share your discoveries, thoughts, and your heart. It is so beautifully written, clear and engaging, I read it in one day, cover to cover, could not put it down. I highly recommend this book to anyone, for many reasons. For one thing, it really shows how creative we can be when it comes to healing, there are always new things to discover.

    But it is your own truth which you continually voice as you take this journey which really strikes a deep chord and rings true, even though I am the other half of a mother-son relationship. Thanks for sharing this most powerful and intimate perspective. It expanded my understanding and compassion, and reminded me that we are ALL on a journey of healing, personal growth, and awakening.

  4. Hi Rossa,

    It’s so nice to meet someone else who understands the power of walking WITH someone in distress. My wife has d.i.d. and that’s what I’ve done these last 10 years. I didn’t dictate, but I also didn’t shy away from being 100% involved in her healing process or what I often call “our healing journey” on my blog. And we found what you found: most of her healing has been completely outside what the mainstream tells everyone is best.
    Sam

  5. Hi Rossa,

    I’m a parent and I READ and LOVED your book. So happy to see your post, and I wish you would do a regular MIA column!

    ‘Lived-experience’ parents who are neither followers of NAMI nor followers of so-called ‘social justice’ have no community. I raised my child away from ‘experts’ who wanted to diagnose and drug him, and he grew and flourished (but it was very lonely for me as an outlier parent). I have ZERO interest in the natterings of MSWs, MDs, and PhDs unless they’ve really somehow earned their stripes. No paternalistic ‘expert’ doling out ‘helpful tips’ knows what we know, and lived what our families lived.

    ‘Lived experience’ needs to rule now for parents and families. I loved how you wound your way through the crowd of professionals and emerged to tell the tale! Your son is so lucky to have you as his mother.

    Liz Sydney

  6. Thank you so much Rossa, for this beautiful article.
    You are a very brave mother, and doubly brave for posting here, where so often the message family members of the “mentally ill” are given subtly or not-so-subtly is: keep away.
    Often it seems that the pendulum swings back and forth without knowing how to stop at a reasonable place in the middle. What I mean is that perhaps in the past, there was the argument that “mental illness” was the fault of the parent/spouse/other for inflicting trauma/causing autism/etc. and then it swung to the opposite extreme that it’s “just an illness.” Then, people who reject the drugs (rightly!) sometimes swing all the way back and blame the people in their lives for causing them so much angst that they “went mad.”
    I wish there was a forum for people like you and me who are living and interacting with close family members who have “issues” and either don’t have or don’t choose the option of walking away when it gets tough. If you know of anything, please let me know.
    My experience here on MIA has been that I should shut up about any of the challenges I face with my situation as “the other person” because it’s upsetting for some readers to entertain the idea that they create challenges. So I don’t know if I would dare to publicize my story, and in any case, I don’t think anyone is interested in reading it.
    Again, thank you, and wishing you much strength, wisdom, and mental space to keep going with a smile on your face!
    Gabi

    • Hi Gabi,
      I haven’t found any good sites either (there are a few bad ones out there that I have been run off). It’s a little frustrating, and as you’ve said MIA prefers to give voice to the victims over those of us who stay and fight in the trenches to keep our loved ones out of the system. I was happy to see they allowed Rossa to share her story despite the ‘nothing about us without us’ mantra that normally is chanted.
      I’m sorry for the frustration I hear in your reply. I do understand it. An internet friend and I have been talking recently about trying to start something for SO’s, but so far that’s as far as we’ve gotten.
      Sam

      • A lot of us psych survivors have joined the forum Inner Compass. Many of us don’t feel totally at home here due to the preponderance of MDs, PhDs, and other “experts” crying for “moderation.” Whatever that means.

        Maybe those of you supporters rejecting the psychiatric narrative could start your own forum as opposed to NAMI?

    • “…it’s upsetting for some readers to entertain the idea that they create challenges.”

      It’s true, people can easily resist being mirrored as “challenging,” and often, quite vehemently and defensively (which is challenging in and of itself!). The thing is that this can apply in all directions. I don’t know anyone who cannot pose difficult challenges for another person. I know I have at times, for others, and others have been very challenging for me to deal with. I think it’s how we grow in life, depending on how we address (or not) our challenges, especially in relationship to others.

      When a group of people sit around and discuss how challenging one particular person can be (especially with a label attached), then you are duplicating the “mental health system” because it is based on exactly this dynamic–which is how marginalization occurs, which is exactly systemic abuse, and quite cruel and disempowering at that.

      Everyone goes through passages and transitions in life and can be extremely challenging to deal with at one time or another–kids, parents, patients, doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, presidents, and on and on. Being “a challenge to others” is not a trait assigned to people in one role or another; it is across the social boards and shifts on a continuum, I believe that is natural. Otherwise, you are creating an “identified patient,” which means that this one person will be expected to carry the burden for all that is off balance in that particular community. That’s the problem in all of this, because I don’t see how that can ever be the case, and really sets a person up for failure in life, easily, because they internalize this role.

      The real challenge here is healing this internalized identity, which would mean to find one’s own power and voice in all of this. It is most definitely possible, but it takes a commitment to the healing process as it relates to transformation, because this is what is necessary, I believe, to shift internalized powerlessness-making self-identities.

      I think it’s important to understand that we’re all on a journey of healing and growth, equally. How can that NOT be the case? For me, that is the point of Rossa’s book. At least when I read it, this is one of the main things I took away from it, and I thought it illustrated this perfectly. This is her journey, alongside her son’s journey, which is a separate process of healing and personal evolution. Although one journey does spur another, which is natural and how we are inspired–another way in which nature connects us.

      The assigned roles (patient, doctor, caregiver, et al) are merely different perspectives along the collective journey, which puts each person’s story into a social context. Everyone is healing and growing, that is universal. We’re all just doing it our own way, which others may or may not understand. I don’t believe that matters, in the end, as long as we each understand ourselves.

      • I hear where you’re coming from and I agree with a lot of what you write – maybe even all of it. I don’t know you, or your history, but you sound like a deeply responsible, insightful, and caring person. Please understand that some of us are married to people who for whatever reason choose not to take responsibility for their “mental health” for want of a better word, and actively choose to adopt the role of patient. In my case, my husband’s problems existed from years before we married and in many ways, he seeks in me a kind-of perfect mother. I think things would look very different if my husband were set on being on a healing journey of his own – instead, however, he is basically struggling to keep his head above water, or at least, that’s how it seems to me.
        I don’t deny that I’ve learned a great deal about myself, my weaknesses, own issues, own tendencies to run away from responsibility and so much more along the way. But when the other person is set on “othering” himself, then it is a huge challenge not to get sucked in and finding the right balance is so hard. I think all of us in this situation struggles to know how much to take on in order not to overstress the other person, and when to stop and say, “Sorry, this time I can’t, you’re going to have to manage whatever it is yourself.” On the one hand, my husband wants to feel like the head of the family; on the other hand, much/most of the time he is a figurehead and not only that, because he is personally struggling with so much that I can’t see or access (because he will not talk about stuff), he wants recognition for the little he does as it doesn’t come easily. Sorry for the value judgment that it’s “little” but if you could peer into our lives, I suspect you would agree!
        At the end of the day, the situation is one long reminder that we can never understand another person and have to judge favorably as far as possible. And that “we didn’t come into this world in order to lick honey” as the saying goes.
        Thanks for the thought-provoking words and I will try to internalize your ideas more.

        • Hi Gabi, very thoughtful reply, thank you. I appreciate your openness in hearing my perspective and for sharing from where you are coming.

          I’m a psychiatric survivor with my own complex and thorough story of many years drugged, then rugged withdrawal which took a few years, then really great holistic healing came my way, and I even pursued a legal action against the system, for discrimination, which I won. I had been a Marriage Family Therapist intern back in the late 90s, but I defected the field when I realized it was only crashing me–and because it was so obviously based on power dynamics and “othering,” which is what my awakening was really about–whereas subsequent years of energy healing and training worked wonders for me, and is based on radical self-responsibility. I found that in particular to be empowering, as well as opening the doors to radical healing.

          I’ve also been married for 33 years. I was the one with diagnoses and on drugs, but we both had our own demons to face at the same time. It was not a one-sided situation, not in the slightest. Our story of multiple role-reversals during this very intense time for us, that we tell together, opens a lot of eyes. I’ll just say that for now. Perhaps one day we’ll write a book together, when the timing seems right for us to do so.

          On the other side of all this, I’m a mind/body/spirit energy healing practitioner, meditation teacher, musical performer, and I’ve made a feature length film regarding stigma and discrimination in the mental health system which got passed around various mental health communities.

          My story, at the core, is of family healing. That is what I base my entire journey on, starting from before diagnosis, 36 years ago. I have since healed with my family, finally, and in order to do so, the roles HAD to change. Otherwise, I would have been stuck in the same role as always, and at my age (in my 50s), that’s not really an attractive prospect, so I did tons of work in this vein for years and years–involving a lot of challenging truth-communicating, and also shifts in my own perspective and self-perception, and it has paid off handsomely.

          I’m well-individuated from all that, and it’s hard for them, but I’m still there for them when they need support. It was extremely challenging to break the family system, but I believe everyone is better off for it, because at that point, our paths became our own, and I ceased to be enmeshed in that system. I know with certainty that this is what allowed me to heal in the way I had wanted to and that I envisioned I could, when no one else thought I would. Well, I did!

          I guess that, overall, each situation is unique and brings with it unique circumstances which we all do try to address best we can with what we know at that moment. I very much admire your insights regarding your situation, and your obvious fortitude. Not easy situations at all, but indeed, we learn and grow from them. My hope for myself and others always is that suffering can fall by the wayside to be replaced with enjoying life–at least some of the time!

          “At the end of the day, the situation is one long reminder that we can never understand another person and have to judge favorably as far as possible.”

          Love this, and yes I agree, we learn to deepen our compassion–for others and also for ourselves. If we allow ourselves to become drained and tattered, we are no good to anyone. At the same time, we have the opportunity to expand our hearts, and to me, that is what personal growth and healing are all about. It’s a delicate balance, and we learn as we go.

          • Thank you. I wish you would write that book – I would love to read it and learn from it.
            I just thought that I would also mention another trap that is hard to guard oneself from – codependence. For a long time (and still today, a lot of the time) I tried to heal my husband. That involved some positive things – wanting him to find his own path, getting him off the drugs – and also many negative – not looking at my own issues (which often mirrored mine) and making him, as you write, the one who carries the burden of “all that’s wrong here.”
            I still find it a huge challenge not to “understand” him when I really don’t and can’t, when something seems so obvious yet isn’t. And it challenges the modern idea of marriage – that it involves total understanding and openness etc – which is impossible and probably leads to so many failed marriages.

            As an aside, the first time my husband came off the drugs (lithium and risperdal) it was very grudgingly on his part because he had been brainwashed by his family to believe that they were saving his life. And he did have a terrible time withdrawing, with insomnia leading to psychosis leading to being dragged to a psych to be forcibly injected (yes, that was his family too).
            The next time I got him off the drugs I was smarter. This time he was on Geodon which conveniently comes in capsules. So I emptied them out, doing a slow titration that way. He never guessed a thing for 18 months. I told him after that – and guess what? He “went mad” soon after. Funny that he doesn’t suspect me again – but again, without his knowledge, he’s been off drugs for over a year and still doesn’t guess it. This time, maybe I won’t tell him for another 5 years or so.

      • Hi Alex,
        for you to make this simplistic equivalency argument makes me wonder if, whatever your issues are, they are pretty mild. And if so, I’m very happy for you. However, though “we’re all on a journey of healing and growth”, some people need much, much, much more help than others.

        When my wife and I started on her healing journey, it took our 17-year old son and me giving her 24-7 coverage to keep her out of the mental health system and off the meds. It was that way for the first 3-4 years until we got her and all the ‘alters’ stabilized and connected enough for things to calm down. Even now, 10 years later I work a 55+ hour job AND do the majority of the work inside and outside the house when I come home (even though she’s technically a full-time ‘housewife’) because the ‘littles’ dominate the outside, non-public time and never had anyone take care of them when they were growing up. And so I submit to their needs as I undo the trauma/neglect she suffered from her parents who didn’t actually commit the sexual abuse but were so wrapped up in their own issues that they didn’t realize what had happened to their daughter under their noses.

        So I respectfully disagree with your argument of simple equivalency and hope you are simply ignorant about how hard it can be for some families and SO’s. I love my wife. I love all her alters. I don’t think I’m a martyr, but sometimes I wonder if your attitude, that I’ve seen in others on this site, is the reason why some of the MIA bloggers are bemoaning the lack of progress in this movement. Many on this site act like those of us who give our all to support our loved ones should be silenced to chants of ‘nothing about us without us’ and treat us suspiciously like we should all be lumped into the NAMI group. It’s no wonder the movement doesn’t go further when that is the prevailing attitude.
        Sam

        • Samruck, thanks for the response, although I do not identify with being ignorant about these issues. I simply offered my perspective from my experience. I don’t see it as “an attitude,” the way you put it. My only interest and focus is that people be allowed to heal by whatever process suits them best, and that is for them to discover and decide, along with, perhaps, whatever support they trust and with whom they feel safe, for feedback. Period.

  7. I’m following this exchange between Alex, Samruck2 and Gabi and find it fascinating. My son is currently in a very difficult transition period, and I take a lot of heart in what Alex writes. I’m impressed with Gabi’s ability to express what is going on with her and her husband (and I “get it” too). Samruck2, I’ve been familiar with Alex’s comments on this site for several years. Alex is the last person, IMO, who would seek to silence people like us.

  8. Gabi, your anecdote about your husband going mad only after you told him he was no longer on the drugs reminds me of R.D. Laing’s famous quote something to the effect of the schizophrenic is playing at being mad to avoid being held responsible for a single coherent thought or idea. Or this one: “They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

    • Reminds me of an episode of Family Guy where the taking dog recommends his “chill pills” to mellow out the fighting family members. Everyone gets mellow and sings “Kum Bayah.” Then the dog announces the “pills” were tic tacs.

      Pandemonium ensues.

  9. Rossa, I’m sure you know the utter respect I have for you–at least I hope you have felt this over the years–and I sincerely hope that my perspective here does not undermine this. I’ve worked with families and especially with mothers, and each time my heart opens wider and wider, and my understanding of “the heart of the family” deepens. I can easily feel the anguish, confusion, and the family distress which revolves around dealing with all of this, and I can certainly relate to it, from my own past and from having heard my family’s truth as I spoke mine.

    And I say “all of this” because, honestly, I don’t know how else to put it. What, exactly, is it that we are “dealing with,” here? I believe the jury is still out on this one. Families are families, each one with its own set of unique history, dynamics, contracts, and truth, and that is a highly complex and personal issue.

    My beef, of course, is directly with the “professional” aspect of all this (psychiatry, psychotherapy, social services–aka “the system”) because a few people are making tons of money on what I consider to be a smokescreen, at best, and leaving clients in the dust. Certainly my personal experience with these institutions was abysmal, and turned out, in the end, to be seriously dangerous–and for me, almost fatal. Although after all these years of doing so, I’m done with battling the system. I’ve won a few and lost a few, and I grew into myself from speaking my truth about my experience–kind of a soul-retrieval, if you will.

    My main interest now is to offer whatever information I can from my perspective that will help to bring clarity to the situation, so that we can break this cycle of suffering, one way or another. Again, we’re all doing our best, and, indeed, everyone involved suffers. I’d like to help alleviate that aspect of it, whenever and wherever possible, while still taking care of myself in the process. I think from there, a lot will move forward and new and better dynamics will manifest.

    “They are playing a game. They are playing at not playing a game. If I show them I see they are, I shall break the rules and they will punish me. I must play their game, of not seeing I see the game.”

    This is so interesting because it could be a quote from the one diagnosed (“IP”). I believe the idea of being “punished” (negative consequences) for not going by the established “rules of the game” is exactly what we’re talking about all over this website and when it comes to activism in general. This is the double-binding oppression in which we’ve all existed, and from which people are generally looking to free themselves (at least I think that’s the case, but I’m not going to speak for others). I do believe hardily that truth and authenticity are what lead to clarity, healing, and freedom, whereas deceit is an overt distraction from these.

    Truth-speaking is also a courageous path exactly for this reason, because society will attempt to punish those who follow their own path and veer away from the norm of the community. Leaps of faith are inherent to transformation. It’s not easy, but from my experience, enriching and rewarding, and a game-changer. I think we need that just about now.

    • Maybe I am pushing your argument further than you see it yourself, but I would like to understand better what you are suggesting.
      You write of the interconnnectedness of families, and how it’s not “them and us.” In a way, all of society – all of humanity – is interconnected. So, you have husband and wife relationships with let’s say the husband is “bipolar” and the wife is “codependent” or you can define it (or not) any way you like. You could also find “reasons” why he “uses being bipolar” to escape from trauma (etc.) and even “reasons” why she contributes/causes her husband’s “disease.”
      Let’s take another example of a husband and wife where he is a murderer and she is the victim. You could also find reasons why he is “a victim” (and was intolerably provoked etc.) and why she is “a shrew” who “provoked him beyond human endurance.”
      What is getting lost here is any concept of right and wrong.
      If there is a husband who gets married committed to providing for his family, but then lies in bed all day saying he’s depressed leaving his wife to cope alone, then is this right/wrong/neutral?
      If there is a wife who gets married and commits to looking after the kids but disappears every once in a while because of “stress” then is this right/wrong/neutral?
      Is there really no line between “it just got too much for me and I couldn’t cope any more so I had to leave everyone else holding the can” and “I was in bed all day yesterday and the world didn’t fall apart so I guess my spouse can cope with this and I’m not cut out for it.” Or whatever else.
      Those of us who find ourselves dealing with people on a 24/7 basis, whom you might meet in other circumstances and categorize as slackers, deserve more than being told we are in a relationship and everyone’s basically equal. Many other people in my and samruck’s position would have divorced years ago and nobody would have blamed them if they chose to reveal the reasons why. Instead, we shut up and keep going, and there are no forums or websites for us apart from nami and obviously we are not going there.
      I can understand my husband from today till infinity but that doesn’t make my life much easier in most ways. If he was in a wheelchair, nobody would attempt to tell me that I don’t have it harder in many ways. No, he is not “diseased” but he does not see himself as on a road to healing or whatever you want to call it. He is not like you – highly articulate and finding a path to greater understanding and whatever else. Yes, I am far from perfect myself. But when I have a hard day, I still come through for my kids because it’s me or no one else. I can’t rely on my husband to pick up where I leave off. I can’t rely on him to listen when I have a hard day – he seems to be actually incapable, mostly, of putting himself to the side and being with someone else in their struggles. It’s usually, “Yeah, I felt like that once…” or “Oh.”
      Because the guy in a wheelchair might look for ways to help his spouse with the things he can do, whereas the person who is conditioned to see himself as hopeless and helpless, just gives up as the default option.
      The reason – the only reason – I can deal with this without seeking an escape of some kind, is my faith that God put me in this situation for a reason. (I am Jewish, by the way.) I have no idea how someone without faith could find a way to continue unless they have some kind of martyr wish. I don’t want to be a martyr. Nobody in my life has an inkling of what I deal with. That’s actually fine, because when I did have someone I used to tell some things to, it made things worse.
      It’s wonderful that you are helping people to get past trauma. I hope very much that what I’m feeling between the lines, that you are in a way partially blaming the significant other for the situation, is just me being oversensitive. Please do understand where this oversensitivity is coming from – it’s like the pendulum swinging back to the old days when mothers were blamed for their kids’ “autism.” Today we have wives of alcoholics being told they are enablers/codependent which may even be true, but they went into the situation trying to help, not trying to harm.
      I’m sorry if this isn’t coherent. I could have structured it better but I think you’ll get the gist anyway.

      • Hi Gabi,
        I’ve been told this website is first and foremost about giving the mental-health-system victims a voice, even if it means silencing the voice of loving and involved SO’s. As much as I feel that’s incredibly short sighted of them and even spent some futile time trying to reason that we non-NAMI spouses and families should be a key part of the change they are seeking, it fell on deaf ears. And so I have tried to move on, not wanting to force myself where I’m not really wanted…but it is lonely out there on the internet and real life where you and I simply don’t fit in. And so I come back here from time to time. I often formulate responses to articles I enjoy, but then delete them knowing my perspective is tolerated at best. Or when I do respond, I quickly regret it as my words get twisted, ignored or attacked.

        Personally, I’ve come to the point where I truly do see my wife’s d.i.d. as the ‘enemy’ and when she can’t do something that I need her (desperately) to do, like be part of a two-way relationship, I tell myself it’s the d.i.d. not her, and though that doesn’t take away the pain and heartache, it does keep them directed in the direction I choose so I don’t come to hate her and lash out at her like I used to do.

        I wish I had great words of wisdom for you, but after 8 years of blogging how I have helped my wife and how I have struggled to cope in the midst of it, I am still held in suspicion by nearly all quarters (therapists, trauma victims, even fellow SO’s who just want to victim blame and get a divorce), I know that I’m going to be alone in this and so I take whatever fleeting camaraderie I can find on a day to day basis.

        I do wish you well. I do understand your pain. I wish that mattered, but I know what you and I really need is some true, sympathetic help in so many ways that those on this website simply won’t acknowledge, as if in doing so would somehow invalidate their own struggles, instead of seeing that we are ALL in this together as we try to undo the trauma and neglect that our loved ones suffered from a dysfunctional childhood.

        Sam

        • Sam, I always read your posts, but it is such a great and gracefull thing that you do, that it simply makes it difficult to say something meaningfull. You are figuring it all out by yourself, you lead the way. So much grace is intimidating and I know, you don’t want to be gracefull and you don’t even see it that wayI know a little bit both sides because my boyfriend struggles with deep issues too and was violent at times, just I wasn’t as strong as Gabi and you, I fell deep and suddenly foundmyself on the other side. What a twist indeed. Keep telling your story, the time is still not quite right for your accumulated knowledge, but you are a true pioneer!

          • Sam, I do not feel you carrying a martyr energy. I just always think when I read your comments, “what is it that he so desperatly seeks?” You describe with so much detail and love everything you do right. You even know so much more than any professional person I have read so far. So sometimes I thought, “maybe he is a bit unsure and needs validation?”. “Or is he still seeking for some missing point?” By now I sort of get that you likely want to reach some end point where the illness finally vanishes I guess.

            And I so much can relate to that because I finally reached a place in my partnership where it feels like we have come to the other side of a long and dark tunnel full of creepy ugly and extremely difficult things. And that only started at the beginning of this year and I am so happy, silently happy, on one side and scared as hell on the other because I am afraid of the hard times return or me falling back into mania or psychosis and again some psychiatric or well-meaning psychologist destroys the alternative view on mental illness, that I have finally conveyed to my family and the healthy maturing and healing my boyfriend and his family is on.

            The question is, where are you heading? As being in the leading role – and I absolutely agree, it doesn’t need to be 50-50, please ignore psychologist’s rules, they are doing a very difficult job because they try to verbalize subconscious knowledge which is multidimensional and holistic and speech is linear and therefore it’s complicated to figure out meaningful concepts without too much reduction – you are the one figuring out the route to take. You have a lot of responsability because you must assess what is possible and healthy for your wife without underestimating her abilities but still, see, its like a dance, and a good friend of mine, a gay dancing instructor, told me, that although he is not a conservative thinker he has to firmly state that in a dance it just looks silly, if the woman is leading all the time. And I agree. And thats why I gave Gabi a totally different answer than I did to you. She is facing an even more complex task (or maybe I just say that because I can more easily identify with her roles) of leading without offending the male pride of her husband. It may sound old-school, but while it is tremendously important to cherish the modern way of freedom regardless of gender, it is still also important to cherish the basic male and female qualities as they are and do not attempt to change them. I hope I get my point across. So your task is way different, you are a sensitive man but still a man and in your traditional role of leadership. You do a beautifull job by leading in a modern male way with a lit of thoughtfulness and tenderness bu also honor your male strength. Your wife probably needs to experience her female side of beeing attractive even if she has so many troubles.

            Its funny that you tell about her little ones, because maybe she stays so much in that alters because its “safe”. You are acting like a father which is beautifull (and again, I do play the same roles at times with my boyfriend when we access his troublesome childhood, I re-play the mother figure and then we also have the bothered teenager son who desperatly needs a challenging authority, a father energy, and I act as it as good as possible… And still we have to cope with the fact, that we both also want to live our adult partnership and here I want to be in my female energy and he needs to be an adult male… you get the idea, the complexity of it).
            Well, with my boyfriend we slowly catch up with the maturing of these wounded younger parts of him until it is no longer needed. Now with your wife I would reckon that you need to get from daughter-father to adult woman and men which is especially difficult if exactly that part is her most wounded one. How would you dance her into womanhood as a father? Giving her the strength to let her go to make her experience partnership? And then you must learn to abandon that fatherly protecting role, if possible and not too much of a difficulty for your wounded wife, and invent yourself as the male partner who is protecting also but in a passionate way without overstepping her boundaries and be too intrusive…

            I wish you well on your dancing skills but I am a bit worried for Gabi because hers is a very dangerous dance because from experience I know how difficult it is being around a male who is not in full healthy contact with his aggressiveness and natural position of power.

          • Hi Phoenix,
            thanks for the link to the waltz. I loved it and the wonderful picture of two people in harmony. There is so much truth to that analogy. There is so much truth in your comment that I must both embrace the traditional role of the male as I have literally carried her thru parts of the healing process, and also the modern ideals because I have to be so in tune with her that she never feels forced and never feels as if she loses her agency. When I cross that line, she quickly shuts down, and then I have to step back and restart the dance…

            I also love it because so much of her healing came as I filled her with love, joy, laughter and happy memories, something that she didn’t have much of during her childhood. In that respect the d.i.d. gave me unfiltered access to the ‘parts’ of her that were hurt the worst and so I could directly fill those girls with love and happiness. And in doing so, those experiences helped to crowd out the emptiness and neglect she suffered beyond the abuse.

            The healing is also in the intimacy of the dance: feeling someone in intimate contact and yet knowing you are safe and not being violated in any respect: intimate, passionate, and yet appropriate no matter which girl I was with. Most trauma victims withdraw from intimacy because their boundaries were violated, and so I have had to help my wife feel safe as she opened up those boundaries to a man who never violates them, but has taught her the joy of being connected to another.

            I do understand the peril women in my position can be in. I never feared for my life or physical well being, despite watching the terrible caricatures that Hollywood produces of people with d.i.d. Just saw another one last night on Father Brown Murder mysteries, sigh, which really upset one of the girls. I got some bruises, but they were never intentional, just part of living closely with someone who used to experience panic attacks and flashbacks as I walked her through those.

            I am so sorry that people undercut you when you were in my position. It seems to go with the territory: people who are cynical about ‘what we get out of a dysfunctional relationship’ instead of trying to understand the power of love, faith and hope for happier days.

            As far as the imbalance, just like a good parent seeks the full maturity of one’s child, that is what I’m doing with each of the girls. When the other 7 girls joined my life and family, they all presented as littles, 8 years old and under (after I got past the defender’s bravado and vitriol). But now two of the girls have healed and matured to the point where they present as 20-something Millennials and each are pre-engaged with me, and one of them wants to get fully engaged, but is waiting on the last girl to get connected better. The other 5 girls are in the strange mixture that alters live in as they heal: still presenting as ‘littles’ and yet more and more living in the adult world and enjoying adult things.

            And so that is what I work for with everything that is within me as I dance with my wife and gently move her toward full healing and emotional maturity as I have no desire for this imbalance to remain permanently.

            Outside my relationship with her, I just wish I could find camaraderie and sure a little validation, but I also hurt for those who are still struggling and haven’t found what we found in attachment theory. Each time I read a story here or elsewhere where it ends badly, a part of me wishes I could share what we discovered. The obsessive independence of our culture is the root of so many of our problems. We are strongest when our relationships are strong. And when someone is in distress, the strength of the relationships surrounding that person can act as a ‘safe haven’ until the emotional storms have passed. Moreover, those relationships actually foster healing…but sadly my voice is lost in the maelstrom of our culture’s dysfunction…and instead I see so many people looking to ‘snake oil’ cures instead of love, connectedness and the safety of being securely attached to others.

            And on this site they silence the very group that has the most power to change the dynamics of the entire mental health issue because when the SO’s and families don’t know what to do…they call the ‘experts’ never realizing their own power to do what no expert can do. I’m not anti-therapist, or anti-psychiatry/psychology, however. I think it has a place and could teach those of us in the trenches how to best help those in distress…but it is we, the SO’s and families, who truly hold the power to help those in distress, if we only understood it…
            Sam

          • Sam, I sort of know how hard this all must be for you, but the way you tell about your daily life made me smile as well. What an interesting life you have with your wife’s alters, I mean, it must be fascinating to be part of this healing journey of hers. I get, that you must be extremely disappointed that no professionell takes your accounts serious because I sort of get from your words that you gathered huge insights.

            Many things you tell about I do know also but to a lesser degree and severity. I told you that I do some sort of role-playing with my boyfriend where I re-parent his inner child and whatever or better said whomever we find. Now I think this is something very human to be able to break yourself apart in pieces, sorry, I don’t know how better to describe it. Therapists use this technique too to a certain degree.

            So I know very little about d. I. d. and I agree about Hollywood movies, but well, its Hollywood, you know. How is it with the girls, does your wife understand what is going on, does she understand that these are likely parts of herself or does she feel like thy are somehow foreign? I mean, I found it interesting that you explained that first she thought she would hear external voices but then with some work with you she grasped it as inner states of her own, right? What is her own opinion on that what is happening with her? Does she consciously know about the trauma in childhood? How fast can she change states?

            Best wishes to you and your wife dancing through life!

          • Yes, there are parts of this journey that are truly wonderful. I feel like I’ve been part of seeing huge areas of my wife come back from the ‘death’ her trauma caused her long before I ever knew her. And as I helped each girl heal and mature, each one is pretty awesome and adds so much to our marriage already and I can’t wait until each fully matures and wants to marry me like the 1st of the 2 Millennials.

            As far as how they perceive themselves…well…it’s kind of complicated, again, sorry…Each of the girls sees herself as a completely individual person, period. Some of the girls still wish for their own bodies and hope when she gets to heaven she will get her own body. But my own philosophy is that these girls, including my wife’s host the only adult of the group, are all larger and smaller parts of the woman I married, and as I help them heal and interconnect to each other they are becoming more and more dependent upon each other’s strengths and becoming an ‘integrated group’ as the dissociation dissolves between them…but I still interact with them independently or as a group depending on the needs of the moment as expressed by each girl(s).

            As for the trauma, well some of them know more than others. I feel that ISSTD gets it backwards. They force knowledge of the trauma on the host in a misguided attempt to bring that trauma into the personal narrative. But my wife’s counselor and I have taken the opposite approach, where we help the girl who already holds the knowledge of that trauma deal with it and heal it. And then it kind of filters through to the others in time. It’s much less re-traumatizing that way.

            I just did an article on my blog about teaching my wife how to control the switching process between the girls so that all 8 girls can switch at will now, instantaneously.

            Thanks for the well wishes. I wish you the same in your relationship and hope all continues to go well.
            Sam

          • Its so very fascinating, Sam, also for my technical mind, I just ask myself how that is possible what you explain about the various girls, haha, the 2 millenials, how sweet, it’s like that keeps you young, it’s just feels so very creative and also sort of charming and humorous on your wife’s part. I wish I had more time but tomorrow I am back to work. If I find some spare time maybe I can read into your blog.

            That you do not force anything on her sounds like the right thing to do. I find it especially interesting that one girl essentially wants to leave and have her own body. From my technical viewpoint I try to get what the brain tries to tell you. See, as I understand it your wife, or the host, possibly somehow retreated and so there was space in the brain to develop or.. hm… to give way for the emergence of semi-autonomous personas… They do hold parts… or have access to some of your wife’s memories or functions, but in essence they are little more than ghosts in the machine… Holding up the functionality of the brain until the true master has gathered back her strength… Like you would talk to sub-routines that sort of have to work on their own in absence of the chief program and somehow developed the ability to ‘speak’.. Hm, I don’t know, if that made any sense at all… But thank you for telling your very fascinating observations!

            Thanks for the wishes for my relationship. We just expierenced a wonderful day at a spa at a beautifull lake with the still snowcovered mountains around. I love nature, it was so very grounding.

          • Phoenix, I think I will print out your comments and keep them to read and reread. You mention so many valuable points, some of which I had come to myself after many years, some of which are new to me.
            Yes, it took me very many years to detect the aggression and anger beneath my husband’s veneer, hidden first under drugs and now that he is off them, under his effort to suppress his feelings. Dangerous? Perhaps a little bit, but he is someone with a very strong moral code so on the whole, I think it is also healthy for him to feel his strength even if it initially comes out as anger.
            And yes, so important to try to ease him into a position of authority in the relationship (no apologies to feminists) because a woman also has a lot of power and is of course equal to a man but we use our power in very different ways.
            As you write, there are times when I end up being the “tough parent” but the best results seem to happen when I allow myself to be “just a vulnerable wife” which means entering into all of my own issues about showing vulnerability. The place where I have the greatest struggles – that’s the place where I know there is the most to heal.
            There’s so much to write but so little time. Thank you so much for your offer to light a candle (and for the humour!) Please don’t, though, because I am not christian, but I very much treasure your generous wishes nonetheless.
            I don’t believe that “love can conquer all” but I do believe, like I wrote above, that there is some kind of interdependent journey we need to be on. I could run away, but all I would really be running away from is facing my own issues as he brings them out.
            Which is the hardest part – realizing that the “fixing” happens in me and maybe then there’s a spillover, and maybe not – the results in another person aren’t in my hands. Yes, as you write, not everyone wants to be on that journey – some go through the whole of life without moving past the fear. For men it is harder to face up to, because their external “honour” is so important for their self-image, much more than for women.
            So, I salute you, and Sam and Rossa too, and all the others on the journey.
            (And I hope that one day you will dare to bring a child into the world and nurture it, because it sounds like you would be a wonderful mother.)

          • Gabi, it’s also a pleasure for me to have this exchange with you. I so much like how you dare to speak out your mind straight and I learn a lot through your viewpoints.

            So I won’t light a candle then 🙂 And you are right, I very much would like to finally have children with my boyfriend and I hope it will be possible within the next 3-4 years. I think, we are well on our way to dare it now that we have solved so many issues together. It will be quite a modern way of parenting because I am the one who earns more and wants to keep on working full-time while he is doing many tasks at home that have long been considered to be the woman’s duties. Still he is “the man” in that he provides stability and … well, I don’t know how to describe, but maybe it’s interesting for you, that the focus on balancing and healing the male and female characteristics did help a lot with our relationship and the development of our respective qualities. There were many issues with the mother-son-bond that my boyfriend faced. I also do not like that ‘blaming the mother’ or ‘blaming anyone in specific’ part, but on the other hand, as you pointed out so clearly above, it is very much needed to clearly address right and wrong. That is something that is very much missed in modern spiritual approaches to life I think. People somehow take it the wrong way because of the blaming thing. We are all prone to do something wrong even while being well-meaning. It’s not about blame, it’s about learning how to deal with each other where everybody has different needs and we need to communicate to find solutions and keep adapting our behaviour. I found your example with the murderer and his victim so very interesting. And it was a very important part of my journey with my boyfriend that he took full responsability of him being the offender and me being the victim in that particular case that allowed for healing. As well as for the psychosis and mania part that I understood how difficult it was for him and my family to cope with my behaviour. On another blog I told in a comment that it was only possible for me to reach healing by accepting my emotions of shame and express me feeling sorry for my exaggerated behaviour without blaming it on any ‘illness’. It’s a bit like when being drunk you let it all out and finally express all the anger or disappointment of what has bothered you for a long time already. It’s not about blame, it’s about sorting things out, putting them into context and right measurement. Many conflicts with my mother were addressed while I was psychotic in a way exaggerated way, but it forced us to come clean. I am thinking, maybe mental illness is some way to address the fakeness that creeps into human relationships after a while, where too much conflict is hidden underneath a polished and shiney politeness and political correctness. Conflicts need to be addressed and discussed and sorted out. If we do not clean out the sewer system from time to time we will get a dangerous blockage and all the dirty stuff will re-emerge concentrated at someone’s outlet. And that unfortunate being not only gets the discharge of his or her own garbage but all the stuff that was flushed down the toilet by everybody else connected to that sewerage.

            Thus, Gabi, I also found it quite brave that you called your husband’s parents “schizo something enabling” (I forgot the term you used) because it’s so much against the modern thinking of “nobody is to blame at all”. It made me chuckling. You are clearly a fighter, a feminine fighter.

            My boyfriend had to cut his mother-son-bond and find his way into a healthy sense of being male. The other task was to re-evaluate his father’s position, understand his weaknesses but also start to see his good sides (that were partly undercut by his mother constantly warning him to become like his father). See, solving the conflict in such family systems is difficult work and it’s never the blame that is sought but it’s solving. My boyfriend and his mother are currently in a very beautiful process to establish a very healthy adult son and mother relationship. Sadly, this was also enforced by my father-in-law having died just some weeks ago. But the grief opened up all our hearts and there was so much healing between my mother-in-law and her husband posthumously. There was love between them, it just got so much covered up with the conflict they faced. And that conflict stemmed from much social circumstances like being over-worked, having too much stress, no time for serious talking, society’s expected roles and so on. Interestingly, death can be a catalyst to open up to the true emotions underneath. But it would be better if we as humans find a way to reach this deep honesty while alive.

            There are many things that I learned from Mb18 (I think that was the name) on a different thread, where it was discussed how middle- and upper-class families are seen as being somehow more ‘perfect’ and where no abuse can happen. Home-birthing and being more family-orientated was addressed and I get where this comes from, in our modern society we sort of lost the so important basic knowing of bonding and how to get along as an inter-connected community.

            I know exactly what you mean with “we as woman use our powers in very different ways”. I agree, because I find it kind of funny how my male coworkers always stress how they like my way of technical approach. It’s slightley different to how they reach their conclusions but it complements in that we stimulate each other with our respective ways.

            I can also understand what you mean that with same sex partnerships it’s a totally different dynamic, again, a very interesting one because of the immenent equality. I am fascinated by the way their relationships play out, it’s like different forms of dancing, you know, who would ever be able to say which kind of dance, Salsa or Waltz, is ‘better’? It’s so much about personal preferences.

            Saluting you too, Gabi, what an inspiring conversation indeed.

          • phoenix, obviously you don’t have to answer this, but if you have any pointers – on how to help someone be able to admit responsibility for his/her role in certain dynamics? You wrote how important it was that your boyfriend took responsibility for his behaviour, and you’ve also written in other places of how hard that is for a male to do. What do you think helped your boyfriend to be able to look at himself critically without feeling that his “self” was being destroyed by admitting failings? (As you might guess, my husband has a huge issue here.)

        • And Sam, I dare to be honest, and I am speaking from my own experience, and I am sure Gabi might somehow relate too… I also was always looked at with disbelief and people asked me, what my reason for staying with a violent partner could possiply be. And when I tried to express it, that it simply was some… uhm… love, faith, standing by my values, just… yeah, you two would know… Well, I was also described as beeing co-dependent and with me falling into mental illness that made it especially clear for psychologists and therapists that I must have a certain pattern to have chosen such an abusive partner and worse the psychiatrists didn’t take my description of domestic violence seriously because to them it naturally must have been my behaviour causing my boyfriend to be pushed to his limits and get violent, poor fellow. By assessing it that way, they made my grace and my faith look like delusions and they took away his only way to redeem himself and finally step into his male energy and take responsability. Thus I dare to ask how you plan to deal with the actual imbalance of your respective relationships? You both give so much, as did I, but how can your partner ever reach an equal footing again? That was always the biggest puzzle for me. Well, in my case I fell so low that my partner and my roles got turned around. Is that in any way possible in your cases? And please understand, I know your troubles, I know how it feels to be the strong, the leading partner…

          • Hi Phoenix,
            thanks for both of your kind and thoughtful replies. No, I don’t see myself as a martyr in any sense of the word: I’m desperately trying to reach a win/win for me and my wife. She’s the only woman I have EVER been with. She’s my first love. The only one I’ve ever told, “I love you.” I saved those words and myself for her, and I so desperately want us to both have the happy ending I still dream of.

            Yes, even our son, who was so instrumental in helping me when the ‘alters’ first started joining us, told his mother he thinks we are co-dependent. I just laugh at another psycho-babble term that is so descriptive of our hyper-independent, western culture. Of course, I like to be with my wife: I’ve made a point of making a life WITH her, and it’s what’s kept us together despite all the hardships and heartaches of her d.i.d.

            As for the ‘imbalance’ in our relationship…well I don’t have a good or easy answer. It’s very complicated…I essentially live in two worlds, simultaneously. For the last 10 years my wife’s ‘littles’ (that’s d.i.d. speak for alters who present themselves as small children, say 1-7 years old) have dominated our home life. I simultaneously treat them as my equals, ‘parts’ of my fractured wife, but also how they want me to treat them, as the daddy figure they never had who loves, cares for and protects them. I had an aunt by marriage who cared for my uncle with MS who eventually died from it in his 40’s after he wasted away for more than a decade, and she was always true and faithful to him and is still deeply loved and respected by our family for the way she treated him. And her example greatly impacted me…and as I have done this, I’ve seen my wife, all the girls, grow, heal and connect in a way that the ISSTD experts never see with their patients. But it’s just slow going: no magic pills in any sense of the meaning…

            But back to the how I try to deal with that ‘imbalance’. I guess I reject our culture’s definition of imbalance. I reject the self-centered idea that it’s all about me or that a relationship has to be at least 50/50. Of course, it’s ideal when both partners can give 100% and love and care for each other, and you and I both know how much it hurts when the partner can’t give back, but I believe those ‘old-fashioned’ wedding vows were for a reason. We can’t see the future, and if I drop my wife and run for a ‘better’ woman…karma might decide to be a ‘-itch’ and hit me with some debilitating something and maybe my next spouse will think I’m worth dropping because I can’t keep up my ‘fair share’ of the relationship. And so it’s back to love and giving, the golden rule, not about imbalances and keeping a ledger sheet.

            It’s a struggle every day. But I just keep trying to be goal oriented (win/win) for myself and the woman I love and take it day by day and not let the pain and heartache overwhelm me. I wholly subscribe to attachment theory and it’s repudiation of the foundation that so much of our current psychology is built upon, and even though I have moved away from my evangelical Christian roots, I still subscribe to its teachings on unconditional love, ‘the stronger helping the weaker’, the husband ‘giving himself up for his wife’ and so many of the things that are the ‘best of Christianity’ in my opinion, like “Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends…”
            Sam

          • Sam, I just visited your blog and I am truly astonished by the amount of love it vibrates off. I will read into it because its very fascinating. I am also truly impressed by your description of the girls personalities and in that by your wife’s creativity. To me after this short view on it it seems like she is flirting and testing you albeit in a subconscious way. Somehow to me it feels like its her soul. But of course the goal would be to get to know the earthly person, thats where I feel all the pain coming through. How tragic for such a beautiful woman to have been damaged that severly. On the other hand, how amazing that you found her, being such a engaging and deliberate man with so much stamina to hold on. Life truly writes the most fascinating story, I hope that at some point a gifted writer will encounter your story and craft it into a good and thoughtfull movie that reaches many people. I also see your wife as a teacher because in a way she offers you the possibility to do your great deeds. Did you know that in former times beggars were seen as a necessary important part of society for the wealthy ones to be able to show humility and grace? The technician in me still feels the need to emphasize that you should not buy into the illusion of there being seperate personalities or that you somehow need to forge the parts into one. The personalities are ghosts in the machine, they just appear to be intelligent, to have needs and so on, its like artificial intelligence appears to be conscious but it is not because it is only mimicking it. This still appears to be a defending mechanism invented by your wife’s psyche or some sort of default behaviour and she herself is hiding behind. She is there, in every one of the girls, she is even maturing as you can see when a new personality comes to the front. And I also feel like she does know, this is some sort of mascarade on a deep level. The human brain is fascinating in the way that it is able to cheat on itself as you can see from all the elaborated kind of human bias, we are so much capable of betray others and ourselves as well. That I think is the root of ‘dissociate behaviour’. We cut links and form patterns that cover up the deeper stuff. Therefore, again, its not really something that you can actively do, its your wife’s ultimate decision if she can come forward finally. This will be a painfull process I think, like stretching long unused limbs. But what would made her trying it out, hm? If all your love is not enough, what could it possibly be that makes her slowly crawl out of that deep hole? Do you have any idea?

      • I am really impressed by yourself, Gabi. I so much hope for your faith to… how to say… maybe like in “that your faith comes true”, that you get the rewarding finale that you so much deserve.. The bittersweet happy-end when finally it turns out to have been the right thing to have dared to follow your heart. Although I know you are not doing it for the reward but for the cause. I truly hope your husband will somehow “get” it, but I see the problem in that male beings have great troubles to overcome a weakness by insight into their weakness because they so much struggle with shame. It’s so much harder for them to confess that they have been crazy and having been burdensome. Its against their most basic energy, the desire to be the one who protects, you know. And its so very difficult for the woman to make them understand that we don’t care but love them because we know their core being that is this beautifull caring energy that we so much want to lean on, we just need it for some little time to get back some strength to carry on and fight along until he is finally back on his feet… Gabi, I will pray for you and your situation, I left catholic church but I still go to church sometimes. In the back there is always a small table where you can take a small whitecandle and lit it (for 2€, because the Pope is a poor man, you know :)). I will do that for you, and only if it gives you some soothing.

        • Phoenix…I’ll take that candle, lol…

          When girl #7 came out she was mute and I had no idea what to do. I’d been wooing her out for more than a year, and then when she finally came out, she couldn’t talk. I didn’t know what to do for a couple of months and we happened to be in D.C. and our son always loves to go to the big Catholic Churches there since they are architecturally so beautiful. And I think we were in St. Matthew’s…no in the National Basilica to Mary, anyway, I’m Protestant from birth, but saw those candles, and threw a Hail Mary and lit a candle, and that night I discovered that little girl knew sign language…and from there I connected with her until she co-opted another girl’s voice and now she is fully healed…but now girl #8 has me completely lost how to move her forward…we’ve been stuck for nearly 3 years…and I just don’t know what to do to move her forward…and we’ve been celibate 2 years just trying to get her to feel safe which adds MAJOR stress to everything else, sigh…just not sure what to do or how to help her…she’s been a conundrum and unlike ANY of the previous girls..sigh…

          Maybe the candles are just ‘superstition’ and yet I’ve come to realize the power of believing in a ‘higher power’ even if I’m not sure the higher power is actually there. Without my wife’s devout Christian beliefs, I wouldn’t be able to ‘pray’ certain fundamental changes into the structure of how the ‘alters’ interact with each other in what is called their ‘inner world.’ and so I’ve come to appreciate the ‘power of belief’ even if it’s not necessarily something I completely believe in…if the person believes it is real, that belief can give them the power to heal and move past their self-imposed limitations…

          Oh, as for how the ‘alters’ work…there is debate in the d.i.d. world about ‘who the original is’ but I believe they were all part of the original and so none of them by herself is the original but each is also far more than a mere placeholder or ‘ghost’ as you put it: each is fundamentally essential if my wife is ever to be ‘whole’ and complete again someday.

          When the abuse subsided, most of the other girls went dormant and with them they took huge swaths of my wife’s personality traits and even some of her mental abilities (like one little girl was the ONLY one of the 8 who could figure out how to set their alarm clock, and another little girl was the only one who could meticulously sort and categorize 15,000 digital cutfiles the others had amassed for their crafting…) and so maybe if you think of a mannequin that gets broken and each piece has a real function and was part of the original and yet it develops its own identity separate from the whole, not realizing it’s part of the whole because it can’t remember back that far, but the part that is left to front to the rest of the world (called the host) tries to carry on pretending to be ‘whole’ and yet can still feel the pain and loss of the others pieces..but has no idea how to reassemble everything…

          Again I deal with my philosophy and observations about ‘how this works’ on my blog if you are interested…others have different ideas, but so far these principles have kept us moving in a reasonably good direction without too many setbacks…it’s just a long and slow process..

          Again I wish you and Gabi and Rossa well!
          Sam

          • Hi, a candle for you it will be then. I just have time for a short comment (I am really lucky that typing and looking on a computer screen is always translated into work in case of an IT worker), but to me it seems like you somehow have it the wrong way. It’s not that she felt apart through the trauma, that simply cannot happen in my technical viewpoint, because if that happens, you die. We are not machines that somehow developed a seperate entity, emerging out of the brain organ because of increasing complexity, thats just rubbish.

            A human being is a human being, always, no brain needed. Consciousness is there in some form, it doesn’t need higher brain functions even as you can see with ‘lower’ animals. Consciousness as in ‘awareness’. The higher brain functions are just that, higher functions, more sophisticated ways of this awareness. Thus you are dealing with one single human being. The idea of ‘shattering’ most likely emerged from the original idea of human beings having a ‘soul’, which is wrong from a biological-physical viewpoint. I am not debating spirituality here, I am on Earth, and here each of us is ONE being. So religion and spirituality is dealing with a higher dimensional thing where we very well could have more than one life or whatever, but with psychology and psychiatric conditions, this doesn’t help much in most cases. As a technicion you first and foremost check the most basic level and then go upwards. The famous first level support question: ‘Is your computer turned on?’ and ‘Please shut it down and try restarting it!’.

            Ok, so its only your wife that you are dealing with and she is still conscious and always was. But she was so deeply wounded that she came up with this immensely creative way to cope which is that she somehow figured out to withdraw. Parts of the brain or the mind or the psyche (that are just different levels like hardware, operating system, programs) can operate autonomously and I told you to me it seems like they somehow have the ability to create ghosts in the machine. These ghosts do keep you quite busy as it seems and I am sure your wife is somewhere behind the curtains and chuckling and watching and hoping and what have you. I also get the feeling her creativity in hiding herself (or maybe it was mere chance because she was running and running and trying to find a place of hiding and suddenly ended up behind the stage)… ok, so she sort of is hiding behind the stage and on the stage certain processes of her psyche are playing out, autonomously, but still its her. Hm, thats difficult to explain, but I think you will sort of get it. You do not know her main personality, its not one of her alters, that is all mascerade. You have never seen ‘her’ on stage because she has long gone…. Or did you know her before her d.i.d emerged? I don’t know…

            Anyways, she is always there, you now haven’t had intimacy for some time, well, it’s just like in any marriage, maybe she got mad at you for some trivial reason or just got issues with her attractiveness or hormones or whatever… Now to you it communicates in an extremely creative way through personas and that all, but basically you are still in a very normal relationship.

            So I think the most important message I can give you, is, that there is nothing that you have to repair, no puzzle, that is just like it appears from the front seat row. You need to find a way behind stage and find your frightened and hurt wife. She is whole, you know, but still wounded. Try to feel her while you are playing along her beautifull mascerade game, maybe you can catch her at times. She will of course be scared and startled and naturally pull out all stops to avoid being discovered and you have to be extremely carefully that she doesn’t go into even further hiding. Maybe it helps if you sometimes focus with much intention and say in your mind: “[your wife’s name], I can see you, I will not hurt you, I know you are there, but I will not forcibly try to drag you out of your hiding, still, I can see you”…

            See, I wanted to only write two or three lines, now its again a bit more. But its so fascinating from a technical view…. Best wishes and much luck!

      • Hi Gabi, sorry for delayed response, just saw this. I’m not on the internet much nor tend to post too much these days, but I appreciate your asking for clarity of my intention here so I wanted to give you the best response I can in the moment. What you ask is fair and to respond truly in full would be more detailed now that I can handle; in fact it would be a class, workshop or thesis because our frameworks seem to be radically different. Which is fine, I think that’s natural diversity, but it can impede clarity in communication due to language and interpretation, based on our points of views, beliefs, personal cultures, etc.

        I have attempted to have this conversation online numerous times—regarding “blame” vs. the cause-and-effect nature of energy, and it rarely goes well because these are really different perspectives, and emotions come up galore, which is reasonable, but there needs to be some mindful navigation of this to make it productive, imo.

        “Blame” is fraught with judgment and cause-and-effect is neutral, simply how things work. People can argue about what cause is creating what effect, but that actually has to potential to lead to productive and necessary clarity, whereas “who is to blame?” will never lead to anything but hard feelings, defensiveness, and further conflict.

        I look at these things differently now. I used to ask the kinds of questions you are asking, but that led me, personally, nowhere, whereas now I ask different questions to guide me and move me forward into new clarity.

        You say, “I have no idea how someone without faith could find a way to continue…” I agree, I don’t know either. All I was interested in after grad school was to heal and then get back to work in the world. Turning to “mental health industry” for support only got me sicker and disabled, when I was attempting to go in the other direction.

        The energy and spiritual work (as in, getting to know who I am as a “spirit being,” above and beyond being a “human being,”) is what opened my eyes to new consciousness, so I began to ask new kinds of questions—like, “what are these contracts all about?” referring to my relationship with my own partner. Although I can ask it about any relationship–family members, business partners, friends, enemies, strangers I meet on the street (if that makes a particular impact on me), etc., especially when they are problematic and filled with double-binding situations.

        I believe we operate as per spiritual contracts, that is a core part of my belief system.

        “Double-bind” is a big term for me, I find it to be the essence of “oppression,” which is the main energy I like to address in healing because without getting past that, we’re kind of screwed, I think, and will never be able to fully own our power, which to my mind is inherently detrimental to our well-being.

        That is where I believe we are all equal. We all suffer when we feel oppressed or when we’ve internalized oppression from having lived in an oppressive community or situation. Right now, I believe we’re all feeling it, on one level or another. Seems to be the essence of life in our global society at present, which is what I believe we’re attempting to shift, into more of a feeling of personal freedom. That is healthful on every level, I believe.

        Another thing I believe is universal is that we’re all better off when we can heal this oppression, inside and out. I don’t pit husband against wife or partner against partner or parent against child. In my work and practice—as well as with myself in my own life—I ask, “What is the energy here which is problematic and which is causing stress for everyone concerned?” I feel that is a neutral statement and everyone has a piece of the responsibility. That takes some examination and introspection, as everyone has growth opportunities here, and that is how a system will change through evolution.

        As always, there is so much more to say about this, but I do hope this is a clear response to what you are asking. I wouldn’t say you are being “oversensitive,” I totally understand what you are asking, and why you might interpret what I’m saying as “blaming the partner.” In my relationship, there were things I learned I could do better and there were things my partner learned he could do better. For me, overall, my partner HAD to grow quite a bit before I could really begin to heal. Otherwise, we’d simply be repeating the same dynamic which was not healthy for either one of us, and that is a provable fact, were you to hear the story in detail.

        In the end, he credits my healing for his spiritual and emotional growth, because we were connected that way. But I’m the one that sought this pathway of healing and trusted it. If anyone would have left this relationship due to abusive and double-binding ways, it would have been me. But I’m the one that stuck around and instead chose to have a breakdown (not consciously, but I can see this easily looking back) instead of abandoning the relationship.

        It was treacherous for us both for years and we didn’t know if we could make it through, but at my insistence and persistence, he began to see the cause-and-effect of his energy and, after a lot of resistance, he finally took the same healing path I did, so that he could make core shifts, and that’s when I was able to get back to my innate creativity and grow in all sorts of ways. As a result, we both found our own rhythms and learned to work in unison.

        We are devoted to each other, having both come through our tunnels of darkness, and into the light. But this, only after spending years and years in conflict, confusion, and chaos supreme, and filled with fear that life had disillusioned us both. We trudged forth, examining our contracts and taking full responsibility for each of our paths, energy, and experience of life, and that’s how we came out on the other side unified.

        I’ve said a lot, and I hope at least some of it helps in some way. Very tough situation, I do get this. I followed the light, as it were, and it worked. I got this from Kabbalah, co-creating with the light. I’m Jewish, too, and Kabbalah spoke to me as part of my work. Plus, it overlapped with Chakra work, Law of Attraction, and Buddhist principles of healing. I studied and trained in all of these communities to get as broad perspective as I could on energy, and how it related to the human experience. My conclusion at the end of it all was: we are spiritual beings having a human experience. I live by that and so does my partner. For us, it works because it is our truth, through and through.

        Very, very best wishes to you, Gabi, as you move forward from where you are now.