Showing 100 of 341 comments.
Yeah, I kind of thought this sounded like attachment theory, too.
Sadly, even the “International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation” (ISSTD) is rather uniformed when it comes to trauma work. They have a long list of guidelines for working with such survivors, and my wife and I have essentially done the opposite of most of what they suggest with better results…
oops…distress not duress, lol…
I do hope some day that this section, or one similar, is expanded to include the SO’s who also have to help a spouse/mate who is experiencing mental duress. It took me a long time to figure things out on my own so that I was a help instead of a hindrance to my wife’s healing. I’ve had other SO’s repeatedly tell me how little help there is out there for those of us in our position, especially help that doesn’t follow the biomedical model of mental issues.
Thanks for the update, Bob. I hope Peter can figure out a way thru or around this so that he can maintain his ability to speak authoritatively on these issues.
thanks for sharing. 30 years and counting for me. I guess I’ve been lucky(?) that my wife never takes me seriously when I tell her how I’m feeling nor my family the few times I’ve mentioned it publicly, so I’ve never been institutionalized and suffered that indignity on top of the daily struggle just to keep going. For me it’s all about hope…or the lack of it. And when my hope wanes that things will ever get better, the struggle to keep going increases, and vice versa. Today’s an especially hard day to find some hope to hold onto.
I really don’t understand why suicide is such a difficult concept to grasp and why the ‘experts’ seem so ignorant of the mechanics of it, sigh. Maybe I’ve been journaling about my life for so long that the subject is just obvious to me at this point when I’m struggling with it and when I’m not and exactly why and the various strategies I have to keep it at bay.
I love when you report what is going on in NYC. I wish we lived closer and could participate, but I wish you wouldn’t forget about the ‘third wheel’ of the mental health equation: the SO’s and families who want to be part of the solution and who refuse to go the traditional mental health system way for their loved ones who are in distress. I’m ‘in the trenches’ 24/7 with my wife. I never let her get on any of those drugs. And in many ways I carried her thru so many things like panic attacks, flashbacks, the ‘chaos’ of integrating all the newcomers (alters) into our family and marriage, and so much more. Not all of us go want to go the NAMI route. We are on the frontlines in a way the professionals simply never will be. We are often thrust into the decision of ‘making the call’ or not doing so. My wife was fortunate I never did that, despite the chaos, and so we muddled our way thru things until we began to figure it out, and now she/we are doing so much better, but there needs to be help and support for others who’d like to do the same, but didn’t get as lucky as we did to figure it out on their own.
I don’t support Trump! but my greatest concern is that both sides have become so tribal that neither even attempts finding a place of common ground anymore. No one talks of us all being Americans and assuming the goodwill of the other side even if we disagree. Hence, Stephen Gilbert’s Stalin and Hitler reference.The rhetoric is full, self-righteous, tribal war as the leaders on both sides fearmonger in order to keep people from calming down and realize where we are heading if things don’t change.
I get that you have clients who are truly distressed, and as I pointed out from the start, I did NOT vote for Trump because of his many personal faults, foremost for how he treats women because my wife is an abuse victim. Hence, I would never vote for a man like that.
But what I tried to do was put TAD in the context of the larger cultural war where both sides dismiss the real distress that each feels. By framing this the way that Chris did his main point got lost in the partisan rhetoric. And so, he effectively ‘preached to the choir’ rather than having any hope of reaching beyond the far Left. He even made it difficult for those of us in the center…because I personally am tired of the dismissiveness and partisan attacks from both sides.
I do understand it wasn’t your main point, but that’s how this article comes off because of what seems to be your strong tilt to the Left. When you caricature Trump the way you do(a fascistic, narcissistic, tiny-handed orange moron ), you immediately lost 1/2 of your audience. Even though I agree with your main point and consider myself a centrist at this point, I really struggled with the rest of the article as I internally told myself this was just another partisan hit job.
Your main point deserved better.
Wishing you well,
Full disclosure: I couldn’t and wouldn’t vote for either, major candidate in the previous presidential election.
I grew up on the Right, and even though I have moved toward the center, I understand the fears on the Right, which were stoked during the Obama years, which the Left dismisses out of hand. But I also have learned to appreciate the fears on the Left, which have been stoked by Trump, which the Right dismisses out of hand. This article does nothing except continue the misunderstanding and dismissiveness by BOTH sides, and that’s unfortunate.
I’m so glad you are in a better place now. I just don’t understand our culture’s fear of people who hear voices. I’m glad you were finally validated.
Wishing you well,
Well said, Jan Carol,
but I can I tweak what you say based on how it’s worked with my wife?
When the trauma occurs and the mind begins to sequester the unprocessed memories…those memories essentially get frozen in time and, thus over time, there becomes a disconnect, as you say, between the inner and outer worlds. Once I realized that the dissociation had caused her to be internally trapped in the past, then I could understand her reality….and instead of arguing with her about it, I joined her in it and provided her the safety that she didn’t have originally…and once I did that, she was able to begin to process things in light of my presence in her inner reality. In other words, I changed the equation of the past by gently joining her in it.
So I would say the disconnect isn’t so much ‘the dissociation’ but it is the result of how the dissociation works.
after I made that comment, I realized I did make a few errors. And maybe I didn’t answer Steve’s point, but mine is still valid as the topic of dissociation comes up repeatedly and what exactly it is…
You are correct that I that I didn’t differentiate between the mind/brain…I thought about that all night…and it’s not because I don’t see a difference. However, you are incorrect that I think the ‘brain runs the mind.’ Actually I would probably argue the opposite. The mind runs, or maybe more accurately, ‘uses’ the brain, however, the brain IS an organic body and like all the rest of our body it is ruled by the principle of ‘use it or lose it’ but when it comes to the brain we speak in terms of ‘neural plasticity.’ And so if I had to clarify what I said last night, I would say the MIND likes to sequester all trauma that isn’t properly processed…but over time that propensity causes the BRAIN’s neural pathways to atrophy…and that is where the dissociation takes place, as the pathways become harder and harder to access.
It is a physically painful process (as in debilitating headaches) for my wife to reinvigorate those pathways as she accesses sequestered memories and then begins to make vibrant connections between all the girls. All 8 girls work every day to invigorate those pathways between them so that they collectively have access to all the abilities that each girl controls individually and/or partially.
So thank you for pointing out my lack of clarity even if you assumed the opposite of what I meant.
I’m not exactly sure where you are going by charging shaun f with being a strict materialist…
My layman’s understand of dissociation and how it works as I’ve helped my wife is that the brain/mind reacts to trauma off all sorts by sequestering the experience of that trauma in the absence of that experience being properly processed. Over time if this experience is not brought back to the forefront and dealt with, the neural pathways begin to atrophy according the principles of neural plasticity..and so the brain/mind because of its natural inclination to sequester all trauma eventually ‘hardens’ the dissociation until those ‘walls’ become quite difficult to breach.
The last 10 years I’ve had to provide the safe place my wife needed to open those trauma events back up so they could be processed…but even after the memories were processed and re-evaluated and the pain and lies and terror calmed, the effects of the dissociation, the neural atrophy, continue. In fact, it is the dissociation that has been far more difficult for me to help my wife undo than the original trauma. And it is the dissociation, imo, that causes so many of the mental health issues that people complain about because the brain/mind gets divided up as pathways atrophy and with the various divisions the mental faculties and abilities to deal with life become truncated as well.
Not sure if that makes sense, but it doesn’t make me a materialist to understand that dissociation is a natural reaction that the brain/mind has toward all trauma which then hardens over time because of the principles of neural plasticity.
Hi shaun f,
my wife has d.i.d. Let’s just say there is much, much, much more that can be done to completely heal the PTSD symptoms and undo the long-term effects of the dissociation that always result to a lesser or greater degree depending on a number of factors. But it’s not quick or easy, and it uses attachment concepts that a paid therapist simply can’t emulate no matter how much isstd.org tries to bring the language into their articles. But you can facilitate what is needed so that other SO’s wouldn’t have to figure it out on their own. It’s been years since my wife/the other girls (alters) have experienced the worst of the PTSD symptoms like flashbacks, panic attacks, agoraphobia, etc, because I learned how to apply the concepts of safe haven, affect regulation, primary attachment figure and proximity maintenance into my relationship and so when those phenomenon were occurring, I would envelope them during the mental/emotional storms which allowed them to process the intrusive memories behind all the stuff going on externally. Now the mental hurricanes are little thunderstorms if/when they do happen, and it takes much less effort to pull her through them…but that’s just basic attachment concepts that we all need someone to lean on at times. At this point, she’s learned enough from what I did for her, that she returns the favor when I’m struggling.
As for the long-term effects of dissociation, that’s an entirely different beast that’s really hard to grasp unless you have intimate access to every alter and can see how each mental-distress issue is often, partially or wholly connected to one of them because they ONLY control part of the brain’s ‘geography’ for lack of a better term. Anyway, we used the concepts of neural plasticity to help re-connect the various ‘alters’ once the majority of the trauma was resolved, but the process of them learning to connect so that one ‘alter’s’ issue (say eating disorder issues) can be balanced by another’s strength in that area…is a frustrating and long-drawn out process…but my wife/my girls are slowly getting there.
(edit: I guess I’ll add, since most people don’t rise to the level of my wife’s d.i.d., that the partial dissociation that all of us experience to greater or lesser degree depending on the individual trauma we have experienced, still affects the mental-health issues in a similar manner that you are likely to see in your practice…)
I wish you well. Sorry this is the abbreviated answer, but don’t let your detractors get you down here. Not everyone believes mental health issues are caused by the mental health industry. My wife was never in the system at all.
Yes, attachment theory has made ALL the difference in our experience. For those who watched United States of Tara, that series was produced with guidance from one of the top d.i.d. specialists in the world…and as I watched it I thought how sad it was if THIS is what the top specialist in the world considered ‘normal’ experience for a family touched by d.i.d.
Ours has been completely different. I did a review of the differences in the show and our experience a few years back, but our experience is even MORE different at this point as ALL the girls (8 ‘alters’ it total) are securely attached to me and 2 asked to become pre-engaged to me, and one of those is ready to become fully engaged with me. But beyond that our family, my wife, our son and I have become closer as we journeyed thru this together, not torn apart like the family in the series…
Most people don’t have good enough insurance to afford good therapy, and even those who afford it, can’t find good options like Soteria. But in the end it’s the families, friends and SO’s who are in the trenches 24/7, NOT the professionals. And we can make ALL the difference if we know how to support our loved ones, but also connect the entire family and not make it ONLY about the survivor. It still takes me and my wife a LOT of work to make sure our 27-year old son still feels connected and attached to us and not like his mother’s issues are the only ones that count.
Sadly MIA seems unable to comprehend that if they really want to change the equation in the mental health arena, then we, the family, SO’s and friends are where to start, NOT the ones in mental distress because… they are in distress. When someone is drowning, it’s the ones around them that have to learn how to rescue them while we refute and reject the bizarre independence of this culture that would suggest ’empowering’ someone who is currently overwhelmed and drowning. But instead family and friends have been brainwshed into thinking you call the ‘professionals’ or God forbid the police, when someone is in distress and it goes down hill from there. There is a place for the professionals, I believe, but it is as a collaborator with the family as I believe Soteria believes. I wish my wife’s counselor understood that, but since she didn’t, I had to learn it on my own.
I think until MIA figures out how to appropriately deal with the family members who are actually in the trenches with their loved ones, dealing with the fallout 24/7 of mental distress, keeping them off the drugs and not allowing forced hospitalizations, providing the attachments and safe haven and everything else that goes with helping someone heal from severe childhood trauma…this website will continue to cater to only 2 of the 3 legs in this equation. If you look back over this entire discussion it’s all about either the ‘professionals’ or the ‘survivors’. The only mention of family was derisively about NAMI. You may not remember the private email conversation we had with some of the other staff and founders, but in the end I was told point blank that my perspective was NOT desired on the website unless my wife validated it…doesn’t matter what I’ve done, accomplished, sacrificed to make her experience so radically different than most here who got sucked up into the system. But most family members feel lost and overwhelmed at the thought of doing what I did…I know I did the first few years until I learned that I really did have more ability and knowledge and power to help my wife heal than ANY professional who would see my wife an hour or two each week…in some ways I wish we hadn’t had that conversation as my attitude was never quite the same here…knowing I wasn’t really welcome here…the proverbial unwelcome third wheel in a discussion that I feel I have so much to offer…but not here…and so mostly I’ve moved on…and part of me is loathe to even make this comment as I, too, am tired of getting attacked…
My biggest concern about ex-patients/trauma victims who go on to become therapists is that too many of them simply haven’t dealt with their own issues and then they get triggered by their patients’ issues and it gets ugly quickly. I’m not saying that’s the case with Noel as I have no personal knowledge, but I’ve seen tons of patients on wordpress who have to deal with therapists’ issues that end up further traumatizing them.
And I speak from experience: until I dealt with my own issues, my wife and I were simply in a vicious circle. Once I got my stuff together, she couldn’t trigger me. She can and still does hurt me, but now I’m able to process it for what it is and continue to help her despite that….
Just watched a movie on Hulu starring David Tennant about Laing. It was interesting, though if it was accurate, I feel Laing failed because he had a savior complex. He was trying to be a ‘safe haven’ for too many people. It takes a ton out of me to do that for just my wife, and he tried to do it for all those in his care at his Kingsley house or whatever it was called. It was an interesting movie, but a little sad by the outcome.
After I made my first comment to you, I began to wonder if my approach to these various movements has been all wrong. For the first 20 years of my marriage, my wife and I were in a slow death spiral. I would give to get, like most of us do. But she was so engulfed in her pain, that she wasn’t able to respond in kind. So then I would be in a huff…until I would try again…over and over and over…until I finally broke the cycle and began to love her unconditionally. And it was ONLY when I began to love her unconditionally that she began to open to the fact that she wasn’t able to do the same….and maybe that’s how I should view these various movements. These are the cries of people who simply want to be loved unconditionally, and until that happens they will never feel safe to open themselves to pulling back the curtain to address whatever trauma might be there…
I have no problem with diversity. I’ve been fairly immersed in the LGBT world ever since my wife was diagnosed with d.i.d. as many of my fellow bloggers are from that community. And our closest ‘couple’ friends are a trans couple. I don’t get much chance to be culturally inclusive as I live in small town Ohio, but I try to live the golden rule no matter what and no matter who.
My problem is the indiscriminate acceptance of diversity when at least some of it is based on the mind’s attempt to cope with pain and dissociation. In my opinion, Mad Pride, Neuro-diversity movement, Hearing Voices and a host of other movements exacerbate this problem in their attempts to affirm the people whom society discriminates against. So, imo, they are addressing one problem (discrimination, public shaming and coercion) while they still leave the pain from the trauma and the dysfunction from the dissociation unaddressed. And though it is a step forward, since I don’t believe most of psychiatry or psychology’s tactics work, it still leaves these people engulfed in the aftermath of whatever trauma they have suffered.
Mad Studies is anything BUT critical psychiatry as Emily and I have been going round and round about it’s uncritical acceptance of all things ‘mad.’ As much as I am happy for Emily that she feels it saved her life, simply normalizing ALL experiences isn’t helpful to those of us who realize that some ways work better than others in our daily lives. And I’m pretty sure this all goes back to the Left’s uncritical acceptance of ‘diversity’ as that concept seems to pop up over and over and over on this site, and so we are right back to the intractable culture wars, sigh, which on this site have been won by the Left.
Ironically, I’m the one who struggles more with my wife’s healing and the natural integration that is occurring between the 8 girls in her group, than they are. 2 of the girls have assumed more and more of the ‘fronting’ duties for the others. And so despite what Emily probably thinks, I actually miss the days when the 8 acted more individualistically than now when they act more as a group. They are all still there. I can call any of them out when I want and they can jump out any time they want, but when one heals the trauma and removes the dissociation, it would seem, at least in my wife’s case, that the personality moves toward integration and not remaining separate.
I do wish you understood that they are an example of what happens when dissociation becomes so hardened that part of the person views another part as ‘the other’ or ‘an alien’. Some of the girls in my wife’s group still, kind of, see the others that way, and yet, they’ve come to the conclusion, after a lot of healing and the dissociation dissolving, that they work better when they work together as a cohesive group. I believe MIA even discussed this in Ron’s most recent blog here when he talked about psychosis.
Again, I do wish you well,
I wish you well in this endeavor, Emily.
I’m not sure I saw anything about dissociation in your series. It’s the direct outcome of trauma and the earlier in life the trauma is experienced the more hardened the dissociation becomes…and the more it wreaks havoc on a person’s personality and mental states. Most people don’t get the chance to see it close up, not even many in the d.i.d. community because so many of them, imo, take the exact wrong approach and desperately do all they can to avoid the dissociation (only 6% allow their d.i.d. to become ‘florid’), whereas my wife and I fully embraced it, and I believe it made all the difference in her healing.
Essentially it allowed me to see how so many extreme states (which aren’t chemically induced) are a direct result of the fracturing/dissociation caused by early childhood trauma. And just because someone doesn’t have d.i.d. doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by dissociation. It’s a spectrum issue and we all are affected by it as we all suffer trauma to varying degrees.
Anyway, maybe someday you would find that as key a concept to understand as I did when it comes to the entire concept of mental health, mental health states and even the formation of our personalities and include it in your studies.
totally agree with you, Rachel.
Ah, thanks for the explanation. I guess I had a much narrower understanding of ‘extreme states’ but do see what you mean. It’s truly a shame that so many Christian weaponize their ignorance and twist so many things into ‘spiritual’ issues in an attempt to control and manipulate others.
I was raised a conservative, evangelical Christian and even have a ministry degree…and I’m really NOT sure I understand your statement about extreme states being sinful according to the Bible???? Now I know that some (ignorant) Christians consider my wife’s d.i.d. as a form of demon possession, especially if they would have talked to my wife’s defender in the beginning (gravelly voice filled with hatred and vitriol), but which ‘extreme states’ are you talking about that would be considered sinful???
I haven’t read thru the comments: so I’m not responding in any way to any of them.
If you want this ‘movement’ to reach some critical mass, then get it out of the domain of the “Left” and find some common ground with the other half of the country. As someone who used to be on the Right, but now, happily and firmly lives in the middle, I have grown tired of the smugness of both sides. You mention Black Lives Matter and the LGBT movement and others, and the Right would point to the defense of the unborn and a host of social outreaches that are largely missing on the Left.
This website is so Left leaning, that it is a little tiring hearing all the self-righeous moralizing assumptions that come from the main commenters. I often wonder why the founders of the website are largely absent, and I’ve been told, moving on.
In the past I’ve tried to argue for the key place that SO’s and families hold in turning the tide on this scourge against our common humanity, but instead I get treated more like I’m the enemy and a NAMI spy than embraced as someone who has NEVER seen my wife’s d.i.d. as anything other than a quite logical reaction to terrible trauma. And yet if we SO’s who don’t take the typical route and drug or institutionalize our mates, complain even slightly about how hard it is day in and day out to help our loved one heal and all the sacrifices it requires to do so, then we are attacked like we are shaming those with mental health issues and they should just be allowed to be whatever they want to be as if their issues occur in some kind of magical bubble that doesn’t affect anyone else.
So, until you open up your eyes, get past your Leftist tilt, and embrace not only those struggling with the fallout from mental trauma but those in their sphere of influence, this will just be another piece of a rather tiring culture war that I’m no longer interested in partaking of. I kept my wife out of the mental health system and she is healing better than anything ISSTD can even imagine is possible, and yet I still get attacked like I’m part of that oppressive system.
I do wish you well. One of my wife’s ‘alters’ has opened my eyes to social justice issues, and I do believe in them, but until all of us find a way to bridge the Left/Right divide and see our common humanity, instead of moralizing about the decadence of the other tribe, we will continue spinning our wheels in the culture wars.
“I did want to clarify that I don’t see healing from trauma as necessarily negative. I just don’t believe it should be the required or expected approach for all cases. If your wife wants to heal and has made that decision for herself then that is great for her. But people should also have the right not to heal and to be accepted for who they are.”
I agree that people ought to have the same rights concerning their mental health, that they have for their physical health. No one forces someone to have a broken leg set or a cleft pallet fixed or decayed teeth filled or cancer be treated if they are an adult…and yet this website has taken a very curious stance that seems informed by the Left’s uncritical view of diversity and thinks we should ‘celebrate’ a person’s decision to stay mentally unhealthy. Wouldn’t we look at someone a little odd who ‘chooses’ to leave a broken leg broken? Sure it’s his/her choice and right to leave it broken…but who does that? Wouldn’t even those of you on the Left wonder about such a choice? Is there no end to the uncritical acceptance of diversity if you are on the extreme Left?
I guess I’m glad my wife finally, after 20 years of marriage dysfunction and emotional heartache on both our parts chose to try to get better. My wife has full agency in her healing. I do suggest many things, but always with the caveat that, “I will love you no matter what you choose”: and she knows I mean it and never ever make her ‘pay’ for rejecting my suggestions. But I’m glad she’s trying to deal with the trauma and resultant dissociation and all the other things (symptoms) that come from them…though we do focus on the roots and the symptoms tend to take care of themselves…
…well since you didn’t respond in any way to my reply…maybe you only care about my views on Missy and Skylar…my views about them are completely irrelevant since 1) I don’t have a relationship with them and 2) they didn’t ask my opinion. It’s unfortunate that the Left feels we must agree with someone’s views, that we must affirm an uncritical stance to ALL diversity or somehow we are setting ourselves up as judges. As someone who has lived intimately with a person who has d.i.d. I have numerous reasons why the route my wife and I have taken is not only better but adheres more closely to the nature of our humanity. Besides, my wife was once where Missy and Skylar are. I didn’t ‘force’ her/them in any direction, but as the lies from the past trauma were replaced with the truth of our love and relational security, the power of the dissociation (the fear and pain from the trauma) dissolved (with help). It saddens me that MIA has diminished its credibility by uncritically publishing stories about issues that it doesn’t understand just because it adheres to some progressive views on diversity. I hope some day you understand that even though diversity is truly a great thing, all diversity is not equal.
Hello, Emily, and thank you as always for being willing to engage me thoughtfully and politely.
Yes, I did read that blog when it was first publish.
It is so hard to bridge the gulf between your experience and that of the other mental health system survivors on this website, and the experience my wife and I have had as we walk the healing journey together totally outside that system. I use words that I feel are obvious, and yet I can tell by your reaction and that of many others here, that they seem to be taken just the opposite of my intentions. And I’m not sure how to overcome that.
When I talk of healing, I’m not talking about outward ‘traits’ like one’s weight or personality. I’m talking about untangling all the lies associated with the past abuse. Releasing my wife from her abuser’s lies like ‘you are MY girl” and “no one else will ever want you” and “I will kill your family if you ever tell them” and the feelings associated with the abuse of being dirty and feeling utter terror and the physical pain. But it also meant undoing the feelings of being all alone and unloved by her emotionally distant parents. I have spent 10 years undoing each of the 8 girl’s feelings of being unloved and unlovable, by filling each of them with happiness and joy and companionship when they had been lost and forgotten inside for over 4 decades. When they express wants and desires, I make it clear that it is my great privilege to meet those needs. When the littlest girls want me to care for them just as any little child dreams of a daddy caring for her/him, after I get home from 10-hour shifts each day, I never make them regret asking for my help or needing me to take care of them while I also manage most of the house and serve them dinner and whatever else they ask. Unlike her/their parents who couldn’t be bothered by their daughter’s needs, I relish in the chance to love them and care for them and they know it.
I truly am sorry that you see healing and treatment negatively. For us healing and treatment has meant I had to learn to be a safe and gentle man for each of the girls (‘alters) no matter what each girl needed even when it has meant repeated, temporary celibacy as 3 of the girls healed and connected to the others. It meant I had to resolve my anger as I made a renewed commitment to live with and love my one and only love despite all the difficulties that her d.i.d. brings to our relationship . And for her she has learned to be loved, to be cherished, to be released from the lies of the past and as the dissociative walls have come down between the 8 girls, I’ve taught them to respect and care for and help and work with each other… and that’s all. I don’t have some mold of conformity that I demand of her/them. Instead I feel like I’ve had the privilege of watching her be reborn from the ashes of her trauma and spread her wings like the glorious phoenix as each girl adds to their collective beauty.
Sizeism, Sanism and Paternalism. Growing up on the Right, I really struggle with this kind of stuff. My wife and I like to watch TED talks to expand our understanding of issues, especially those outside our upbringing. We didn’t make it thru the one on a similar topic. But I have sat with your blog and tried to listen and hear what’s behind it even though I do disagree with some of your points.
It’s always wrong to fat-shame. I never ever do it and can’t even imagine some of the stuff I read and how cruel others can be. Whatever happened to the Golden Rule, sigh? But then again, I have never ever ‘crazy-shamed’ my wife for having d.i.d., not ever. When she got the diagnosis, it helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together why our marriage had struggled for the first 20 years and allowed me to begin to walk with her in a much more gentle and understanding way.
I struggle to understand the desire to make obesity and/or severe mental health issues ‘normal’ on this website and elsewhere. I try to see it as an understandable reaction when so many have been so cruelly treated. I just don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of seeing it as ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’; however, that doesn’t mean I believe it’s my place to ‘fix’ my wife and certainly not others with whom I have no relationship. So I wouldn’t get in a face-to-face argument with others about their relative physical or mental health: I have enough issues of my own to worry about. But for my wife, her issues have pushed me to be the best, most healthy and balanced person I can be as I walk with her, and as we interact I try to provide her the love, stability and attachment she needs as she heals. However when she makes certain, definitive proclamations about herself/her personality, I usually deflect and just say, “we don’t know how you will be once all of you girls get connected, so let’s just wait until then…” because the other girls have radically changed ‘who’ my wife as a whole is at this point. My main focus for her is the trauma and dissociation and not the outward reflection of her current inward state.
Thanks for giving me a glimpse of the pain others have to endure, and I will continue to try to hear that and not focus on the areas where we may disagree.
Just because the dsm is corrupted and has been co-opted by big pharma and big insurance doesn’t mean people don’t suffer from real mental health issues. Trauma victims do suffer dissociation and dissociation is a nightmare to undo when it’s left for decades like my wife’s. So I hope Ron won’t affirm your simplistic challenge. When my wife got her d.i.d. diagnosis, it finally gave us something to grasp and understand and ONLY then did we finally understand what had been plaguing our marriage for 20 years. She has come so far in the last 10 years, and it started with the diagnosis. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I kept her out of the mental health system completely, found an unlicensed counselor, and realized our son and I were the best people in the world positioned to undo all the attachment issues my wife had suffered which are at the root of d.i.d.
How it seems with my wife is that some of the girls definitely struggle with low-self esteem and the tendency to blame themselves for anything and everything that goes wrong, but that seems to be very different than the constant negative memories and lies that her mother or the abuser fed her. Both girls who struggle with esteem issues have come a long way, but her mother is still toxic at times and I constantly hear that ‘my mother wouldn’t like this’ though they tend to do it anyway as she’s not really a part of our lives and lives 2 hours away. But even on that front her mother’s negativity is less and less powerful because the other girls who don’t care about their mother’s opinion can help the ones that do…
Pat, I’m sorry you don’t have anyone there with you to help you thru it and help transform those ‘mean voices’. They have a story to tell, and once I validated, loved and affirmed those mean voices in my wife, they transformed and became such a wonderful, helpful part of her experience now.
I wish you well,
I’m not totally sure I understand your question…my wife was an early childhood trauma victim…since her parents were wrapped up in their own issues, there was no one to help her process the trauma and so those memories got sequestered (dissociated). They always bled out some, but 10 years ago she purposefully began to embrace them with my help…and as we brought the memories, voices, pain, etc back out…after the healing, we discovered those other girls (alters) controlled huge amounts of personality traits and mental skills she, my wife, had lost access to. And so, to answer your question, yes those other voices hold all kinds of perspectives and skills and traits my wife formerly never had. On my blog I make the analogy that my wife, kind of, was ‘flat-Sam-ish’ but now as she connects to the other girls she has become much more…I don’t know…more in so many ways…vibrant, vivacious, beautiful, adventurous, emotionally expressive and less…of a wallflower, someone willing to stand up for things…
Just rambling at this point…not sure I answered your question…
when my wife began hearing voices, she called them ‘aliens.’ Fortunately neither her counselor nor I agreed and we slowly helped her accept that those voices were part of her larger self and so she began the process of learning to talk, live and cooperate with the other girls (alters).
Hi Little Turtle,
for my wife her panic attacks were caused when unresolved feelings of terror/fear from the past abuse and trauma was triggered by something in the present. As I helped her heal and resolve the issues from the past, the present lost its power to trigger those feelings. She tells me she still gets ‘triggered’ but at this point its much milder and what I would consider more typical of what most non-traumatized people experience. There’s still work to do, but she no longer gets overwhelmed like she used to be.
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!
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.
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…
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…”
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.
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.
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.
Hi Someone Else,
thanks for the heads up. I don’t get on YouTube much, but I will make a note and try to look into them.
Thank you for your reply. I wish you and your group the best!
I do appreciate your kind reply, but I would love to hear your understanding, if any, of how dissociation effects and complicates the healing process. For my wife, the dissociation has been much harder for us to undo than the actual trauma.
My wife has d.i.d. I’ve been walking thru the healing journey with her using a lot of attachment theory concepts to help her work thru the trauma and undo the dissociation. So that is the lens I see things thru.
I know you briefly addressed another person’s question about trauma. How does your group understand the practical effects of dissociation? If I wanted, I could try to list the 8 ‘alters’ in my wife’s system, and explain how each girl’s cognitive biases, distortions, delusions, etc are a direct result of dissociation and the resultant fact that each only controls a portion of the mental faculties of a non-dissociated person. It wasn’t until I helped heal the underlying trauma which then gave me access to connect the girls internally that those distortions, bias and delusions were foundationally altered.
There are still 3 holdouts in my wife’s system, and so those 3 girls (alters) tend to default to their unique distortions even though I have them superficially connected to the others in the system…but until I can remove the internal barriers via a restructuring of their internal working model, I understand that any progress they make externally is limited though moving toward permanency.
I know that’s an extremely simple explanation of what has occurred over the last 10 years that she and I have walked this journey together…so I will just summarize saying, unless you address the underlying dissociation that is likely at the base of much of what you are seeing in the distortions, delusions, etc, I’m afraid your therapy ‘may’ be temporary.
I wish you well,
Note: maybe I should add that some people like to differentiate d.i.d. from schizophrenia by saying the voices are internal versus external, but I have to wonder about that arbitrary delineation. When my wife first started hearing the ‘voices’ she thought they were external, too. She called them aliens. But I redirected her by gently insisting they HAD to be internal and thus part of her ‘system’. It took her a few years to fully embrace the other girls, alters if you prefer, but now she recognizes them as part of her internal mental system.
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.
Thank you for responding, Twilah.
I have been trying to figure out how to personally address the entire, uncritical acceptance of “diversity” pushed by the Left. I understand that it seems to be a pushback against some of the uglier things from the Right, but sadly this unfettered celebration of all diversity will damn many into a lifetime of pain and dysfunction. I’m far more conversant in the push to uncritically accept ‘diversity’ in the area of hearing voices since my wife has d.i.d., and it saddens me to read some of the stuff from the Hearing Voices Network. I can respect my wife’s agency. I can treat her lovingly and kindly. I never treated her like she was crazy. I recognize that she is literally a genius and joke about me being the family ‘idiot’ now that our son is in a PhD. program. But that didn’t mean I had to celebrate her d.i.d. and all the pain and dysfunction that comes with it. I give my wife’s host and all her ‘alters’ my love unconditionally, but I also walk with her and gently move her toward a healthier existence as I have helped release her from the trauma, pain and lies from her past. But if I had uncritically celebrated her ‘diversity’ like I see being pushed by the Hearing Voices Network and what seems to be a similar move within the autistic community and elsewhere, she would never had a chance to experience a release from her trauma paradigm as she has begun to experience the benefits of being emotionally healthy and ‘securely attached’.
Well said Twilah. And I agree with greggieboy as well. Kind of surprised this got published by MIA, but glad it did…
“Michael Meaney of McGill University has shown how early-life stress permanently blunts the ability of the brain to rein in glucocorticoid secretion…”
when these so-called experts make definitive statements, I get skeptical…especially after my wife and I continue to accomplish things in her healing that the ‘experts’ say can’t be done…like shutting off her hyper-arousal that kept her in a heightened state of stress…It can be done…
I could be wrong, but stress is still one step away from the real problem even if I give you the assertion that some people default at higher stress levels (which is a BIG if)…thus, stress is a symptom not a cause. For my wife the cause was her childhood trauma, for others it may be something else, but I didn’t address the stress, I addressed the trauma and now the hyper-arousal, i.e. stress, is gone…
my wife has d.i.d. I have shepherded her healing using attachment theory among other things. I get frustrated by her ignorance of how lucky we got as she never used any drugs nor got caught in the mental health system. I have struggled to show her how detrimental these drugs are while she defends all the women she knows who uses them. So I sent her your 4 charts and hope, maybe, a picture will be worth a 1000 words to her.
I’m deeply sorry for all you had to go thru and all the hacks who made things so much worse for you. I’m glad you found a way to take your life back.
If there’s something ‘nice’ about my wife’s d.i.d., it is that it is helps me chop the various issues we’ve had to deal with up into their respective ‘parts.’
My wife’s host is the one who suffers most from ED issues. For her there were a couple of issues going on. 1) It was a matter of control: she couldn’t control the trauma or current events, but she could control her weight. 2) It was a matter of HATING every imperfection with her body…and as we both have hit our 50’s that has only increased. And 3) it was a matter that she literally does NOT feel hunger. What so many don’t understand is that when people begin dissociating they only can access part of their mental functions. My wife’s host simply doesn’t feel hunger pangs.
However, as the other 7 girls joined us on the outside, and as they began to heal and mature, they acted as a counter measure to the host’s imbalances. The little girls are DEEPLY connected to the body and will nearly cry if they feel hungry…and so as they have all become more connected, my wife’s host can no longer simply ignore being hungry. And some of the girls have a GREAT self body image. One of my ‘girlfriends’ who views herself as a Millenial told me one time, “I look damn good for 50!” And she does, indeed, and so as she and my wife’s host become better connected, all the negative self talk the host tells herself is being counterbalanced by some of the other girls’ great self image. And the same goes for the control issue. As I have helped each girl heal and empowered them to spread their wings and grab life for all they can, they no longer are overwhelmed by the feeling of no control from the trauma. They’ve moved on from their trauma paradigm in many ways.
edit: oh, and I guess I should add that I have taught all the girls to work together when it comes to eating and weight. The little girls love to eat and last winter they gained nearly 15 pounds which about sent my wife’s host into a tailspin, but I help them work together so they are respectful of the host’s desire to maintain her weight. I find them food they can enjoy but which is low-cal and low-fat, and so they all work to maintain a weight that is more than the host would desire and yet is a weight that she can tolerate, and when it gets above that limit then all the girls will join together to get it back into the range to which they have all agreed.
Well…I went onto Wikipedia and tried to figure out the differences between psychiatry and psychology…hmm…maybe I’ll have to rethink my ‘critical psychiatry’ stance.
I tried to have a similar conversation, but didn’t get much response over on the recent Freud thread over Christmas. Maybe I was so far off base and that’s why only Nancy99 responded…not sure.
Stephen, how do you see the BRAIN’S reaction to trauma and how that affects healing the trauma, the personality, and so many other things? I tried to lay it out at the end of that blog if you want to reference it. But maybe it would/could still be covered by psychology…idk…Certainly a medicalized approach wouldn’t fix the brain’s response to trauma. Again I tried to explain the things I’ve had to face and how we took a non-medicalized approach to deal with all the ‘brain/mind issues’ that result from trauma and the resultant dissociation…so maybe that’s psychology not psychiatry…
Seriously, so much of the stuff that MIA debates I had never even cared about or heard of since the healing journey my wife and I have been on has been in a little cocoon outside of the mainstream of mental health stuff…I’m really more a champion of attachment theory and the place of SO’s and family in the healing process, but since the MIA staff has shut that perspective out of the larger conversation on this site [unless you stick your loved one into the system and then they die and then you realize AFTERWARDS ‘this wasn’t a good idea…’] But I digress…
Anyway, maybe I’ll have to rethink my position. Thank you for asking.
I’m unequivocally against ALL forms of coercion, too. Maybe that will make ‘critical psychiatry’ untenable in the end, idk… Fortunately, for my wife and I, that’s more a mental exercise, and I do understand why it has much greater implications to those have been abused by our ‘mental health system.’
I’m honestly not sure how you get around the use of the word symptom. Even though these are ‘natural reactions’ to trauma they are still symptoms of trauma. And I would argue that a symptom of trauma does NOT put it in the category of disease/disorder. It all depends on the paradigm one is using what the word symptom means. That is why so many of these discussions are fruitless because we don’t define our words or explicitly state our ‘a priori’ beliefs.
I believe you are basing your statement on the ‘bio-medical model of mental health’, but my use of ‘symptoms’ is based upon the ‘trauma-model of mental health’.
You are correct that my correlating trauma with ‘the baby’ didn’t make sense, lol. That’s what I get for making a reply from work when I’m too busy to think about it!
And you may also be correct that the reason that I am NOT anti-psychiatry is because when my wife first got the d.i.d. diagnosis, the first thing she asked me to do was to NOT read any of the popular literature out there because she liked what I was doing with her and the others. So she and I kind of developed our own system of doing things. A couple of years later when I was very comfortable with the way we were doing things, I started reading the literature out there from ISSTD, the trauma and dissociation ‘experts’. Oy Vey! We were doing nearly everything ‘wrong’ and yet getting better results than any of their patients. And so I was summarily blacklisted from almost every d.i.d. site because I wouldn’t affirm ISSTD’s recommended ways of ‘helping (cough, cough) someone with d.i.d.
A little later as I was reading more, I realized I was doing attachment theory principles without knowing it. And so I became more purposeful once I knew some of the basic tenets of that theory and those have NEVER let us down at all.
All that to say, I will give you some of your arguments. If you find ‘hatred’ offensive, I will rescind the charge, but if you read your comments, I do think they come pretty close to it.
I guess one last chance to try to unmuddy my ‘baby with the bathwater’ comments. I’m one of the ‘critical psychiatry’ people on this website. And thus I have a very difficult time any of you in the anti-psychiatry camp make your broad, sweeping generalizations. Maybe I have that luxury since I kept my wife 100% out of the ‘system’.
Wishing you a good new years,
I’m very clear on what you and others believe, and I stand by my statement. There is such hatred for psychiatry that you can’t see past it. The baby I was talking about is the trauma, not psychiatry. And though I’m sure some people were victimized solely and ONLY by ‘the mental health system’ as we’ve had at least one writer who said her initial incarceration was vindictive, I’m guessing most people who entered the system did so for a reason as many do so willingly.
When my wife was diagnosed with d.i.d., it was my eureka moment. Our 20-year marriage had been struggling that whole time and we had NO clue why. Once I understood what was going on, and it took a couple years for me to truly understand d.i.d. as I carried her thru the healing process, then I was able to help her in ways that I never could have before.
Psychiatry did NOT cause most people’s mental health issues. It may have exacerbated the mental distress by its ignorance of basic humanity and also because of its legalized drug pushing, but you and others have simply gone to the other, far end of the spectrum. That’s your choice, but I respectfully disagree, and I’m glad my wife did too when she decided to work on her trauma and all the issues it brought into our marriage.
Slaying and Stephen Gilbert,
PTSD may not be a disorder, but can’t we agree that the cluster of symptoms signify there is trauma, stress, imbalance, pain, etc in a person similar to what a broken leg causes? And in a similar way, if that broken leg is not properly set and physical therapy occurs to help re-strengthen the muscles, etc, the damage/dysfunction can become nearly permanent?
So maybe we change PTSD to PEMT(post emotional/mental trauma) symptoms, or whatever you prefer, and move the focus from the ‘disorder’ to the trauma where it should have been all along. But a weakness that the anti-psychiatry faction seems to have is separating their hatred of the bio-medical model and its complete reliance upon the useless and harmful drugging of people (often because of their personal trauma as a result of that paradigm), from the fact that there is REAL mental distress from trauma which causes REAL emotional/mental damage/dysfunction in the person if it becomes overwhelming enough, and hence, we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
I share Bonnie’s concerns, and I already helped my wife be healed of her PTSD symptoms (as well as the underlying causes) using attachment theory techniques. It can be done without any ‘magic’ pills.
thanks for the reply, but I’m simply not sure where to go from it…I’ve written a half dozen different replies and keep deleting them as I have portions of this response. We clearly see things very differently, and that’s ok. Thank you for your time and responses.
thank you for responding and happy holidays.
My wife has d.i.d. and though she is thru much of the necessary healing, we never used mindfulness techniques. I’ve heard that catch phrase mentioned a lot, but we simply have no experience with it. The ‘nice’ thing about d.i.d. and the ‘alters’ is it allows me to go to the source of the worry, depression, ruminations etc, and use attachment theory and what any good parent would have/should have done when ANY trauma occurs…and once I did that for each girl, the trauma symptoms (over time) disappeared.
But my hope had been for a more generic discussion of the ‘biology’ of mental health trauma. I did a search of this website, and maybe I missed it, but MIA is so against the bio-medical model of mental health, that I’m afraid it is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.
I’m really good at observing my wife and by getting constant feedback from her, meeting her needs for her healing. But then when I try to go back and apply ‘theory’ to what worked with her in practice, that’s where I struggle and am on less solid ground.
I think I’ve observed at least 3 places in my wife’s healing where the biology of the brain/mind hinders healing AFTER the trauma. Again, I’m NOT talking the bio-medical paradigm of mental health nonsense here. I’m talking about how the brain/mind react to the trauma and then complicates the healing if these factors aren’t considered.
The first we’ve already addressed: the neural atrophy that results from the dissociation, but apparently from your comments it can also result from worry, ruminations, depression, etc, as well.
But the next 2 are the ‘arrested development’ of my wife’s traits and abilities because it wasn’t only the trauma that was dissociated, but personality traits and mental abilities also got grouped into the dissociation with various girls. And so those parts of the brain/mind, once they are dissociated, go into a kind of ‘stasis’ and the personality traits and mental abilities never undergo the maturation process a healthy child’s brain/mind does. It’s been a HUGE issue I’ve had to contend with the various girls: I’ve had to literally help them ‘grow up’ because they controlled so many traits and abilities that an adult needs, but those traits and abilities were trapped back at a childhood level.
And then the last factor that I see which further complicates healing for a trauma victim is that those mental abilities are subdivided and sequestered in the various ‘alters’ and inaccessible by the various ‘alters’ until the dissociation is removed between them. And this is the place one must understand when a person becomes unbalanced and develops eating issues, body perception issues, obsessive compulsive issues; pretty much most the dsm ‘disorders’ occur because the trauma sequesters the various ‘balancing’ factors in one’s personality. My wife has many of those tendency that are so debilitating in others but because I realized that one girl ‘controlled’ a balancing trait for another girl, it simply became a matter of ‘rebalancing’ the girls as the dissociation dissolved, if that makes sense…
When I used to read extensively from the ISSTD experts’ literature, from my memory, they didn’t discuss these things much. Maybe I just missed it. I finally stopped reading about 5 years ago because my wife was so far past what they were dealing with and it was a little discouraging when I couldn’t get any of them to take me seriously since I’m ‘just a husband.’ Sigh.
Anyway, if you want to continue the conversation and MIA doesn’t shut us down, I’d appreciate it. If not, thank you for your initial reply and maybe some day I’ll find someone with the expertise to help me better articulate the theory to what I have had to ‘practically’ do to help walk my wife thru all the twists and turns that occurred from her mental trauma.
I do understand what you are saying. Our conglomerate tendency is to simplify things. I understand that mental health issues can be caused by dietary issues. I guess I, and I’m kind of assuming MIA, feels that when all other biological factors have been ruled out (dietary, brain injuries, disease/tumors, etc), THEN they want to proclaim that mental health has NO biological component. What I’m suggesting is there’s still a biological component even if the person has perfect health, diet, etc. But I do feel that biological component is NOT permanent, just a function of how the brain/mind deals with trauma and once the trauma is processed and the memory is entered in the main personal narrative, then the brain/mind goes back to ‘normal’ functioning.
That’s why I’m with you and for critical psychiatry and NOT for anti-psychiatry.
As we’ve been discussing things in general, the more I think about it, the more I’m trying to figure out the biological component of mental health issues. Since I can’t seem to get any of the experts to engage me on the issue, I’m struggling. I have intimate experience helping and observing my wife as she has healed over these last 10 years, but I simply lack the technical knowledge to explain what I have observed.
With MIA, I don’t believe a permanent, biological ‘defect’ in the brain causes mental health issues from which there is no hope of recovery. But I do believe there is a biological component of sorts that kicks in AFTER the initial trauma. That is the brain or mind’s desire to ‘sequester’ (dissociate) the trauma from the core personality of the personality. The earlier and more severe the trauma occurs in the person’s life, the more that biological component hinders healing from the trauma. What the dissociation does is cause a person’s neural pathway’s to work around the trauma…and yet the brain fights the work arounds and the trauma memories spill out in the form of flashbacks, panic attacks and triggers as the brain/mind desperately wants for those memories to be processed so they can enter the main narrative of the person and peace be brought back to the system.
The longer the trauma is sequestered the more the brain/mind is at war with itself trying to un-sequester the memories…but at the same time the more the neural pathways are becoming ‘hardened’ (descriptively not technically) and thus the pathways to those memories begin to ‘atrophy’ from disuse.
In my wife’s case, more than 4 decades after the trauma, the dissociation was so severe and so complete with the last 2 girls, that the attempts to undo the atrophy so we could reach and heal the trauma caused headaches that were debilitating for months. But slowly with work we were able to strengthen those long forgotten pathways, access the trauma and the ‘girls’ who held them, release the trauma and now we are in the process of tearing down the vestiges of the dissociation so that there is conscious access to all parts of my wife’s brain/mind.
There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the best I can describe the biological component (in a brief space) that I have observed in my wife’s trauma. I believe ALL trauma sufferers are subject to some degree of dissociation and so they all must deal with the fallout from the disuse of those pathways. Thus, imo, the biological component is a RESULT of the trauma and it complicates the healing of mental health issues, but it doesn’t cause, per se, those mental health issues..
I guess I’ll add, that if there are any interested, there is another factor that complicates healing: once the brain/mind begins to sequesters those trauma memories, mental skills and traits are sequestered along with those memories. And in my wife’s case, because the trauma happened during childhood, it meant those skills and traits never matured: thus there truly was an arrested development that occurs. So her healing also included a maturation of those skills and traits AND also gaining access to those sequestered skills and traits.. and until that happens the person simply doesn’t have full access to the healing and other abilities of his/her mind….which is why ’empowerment’ talk is kind of useless for early childhood trauma victims (an entirely different discussion).
I have really struggled with your article. Part of me wonders how in the world you believe a romanticized version of feminism will fix everything. You certainly don’t support that contention in any way. I’d rather see a different kind of feminism that sees men and women as true equals and understands that only TOGETHER can we fix the problems we have all made instead of the ‘patrifocal’ strawman you have created.
But beyond that, part of me loves your main thesis and wishes your 40,000-foot perspective was correct, but I simply don’t see it down here in reality. I wish you well. I’ve used attachment theory to help my wife heal from d.i.d., but all my attempts to share what I’ve learned about the power of human connections has been met with very mixed responses and much of it has been on the negative or at least skeptical side of the spectrum. Maybe the messenger is the problem in my case, idk, but I think people prefer their little/big blue screens, their fast-food culture, their safe personal cocoons, and being masters of their own fate even if it’s a miserably lonely, dysfunctional fate because when we are truly connected to others we have to be willing to give up some of our autonomy ‘for the greater good’. And though I’m wiling to do that for my wife and son, even I am hesitant to do it on a larger scale…
no the neural atrophy I’m referring to has to do with the concept of neural plasticity. My wife has never used any psychiatric drugs.
Thank you for being willing to share your story in a somewhat hostile environment. I won’t pretend to completely understand, but I do applaud your desire to stand against ALL abusers and with your lost friends. You are MORE than equal to those who would harm another person.
I do agree that we need this debate, but only if it’s going to be a true debate. Usually it seems more like 2 camps refusing to discuss the hard issues…like much of the rest of our society.
I tried to discuss with Lawrence my intimate work with my wife, how I ‘think’ maybe, biology does have some role in the brain/mind’s habit of sequestering (dissociating) trauma and all the havoc that wreaks in a person’s attempts to heal: the neural atrophy and many other issues I’ve had to contend with as I help my wife heal the trauma and remove the dissociation. But he chose not to engage me for whatever reason.
I also was in a rather elongated discussion with Frank and LittleTurtle when Lawrence took one small statement I said and jumped into the conversation to misconstrue what I had been arguing for. I personally have NO use for the phrase ‘mental illness’ as I have NEVER seen my wife as mentally ill, crazy, or anything else. I simply see her as someone who was severely traumatized as a young child. I view her NO differently than I do someone with a broken leg. I don’t stigmatize someone with a broken leg: why would I stigmatize her? Unfortunately the healing process is MUCH longer and more convoluted when it comes to mental trauma and that’s where I disagree with the overreaction so many on this website have to the proper role (as I see it) for therapy.
So, again, Richard, I welcome debate as long as it’s true debate. I always appreciate your comments because you are respectful even of those with whom you disagree and often try to find points of agreements even with those whom you disagree on the main thrust of an article, just as you did here with Lawrence and his article.
Yes, I hear you LittleTurtle. It is unfortunate that Robert Whitaker’s critical psychiatry view is being lost on this site as more and more on this site are turning anti-psychiatry.
“…often instantly makes things worse in many ways, such as by implying that they are powerless to actively help themselves if they do want to change anything. It implies a lack of free will and resourceful adaptability, traits which if not used, prevent the individual from making use of their amazing abilities which humans have used to accomplish so many amazing things. It instead makes that person vulnerable, since they are more likely to passively rely on others’ help. ”
Lawrence, you do understand the HUGE difference between an adult trauma victim and a childhood trauma victim, right?
I’ve often thought about the difference between my one sibling who was raped and my wife. My sister fought and clawed her way back to health, powering herself thru the trauma. But my wife repeatedly confided to me that she had ‘no idea what health looks like.’ And often I’m mystified by her apparently lackadaisical attitude about her healing, even now, after 10 years. Maybe she’s an anomaly, but I saw the same sentiments repeatedly on WordPress by other c.s.a. victims. And so I finally decided the ’empowerment’ movement that you are referring to, at least for my wife who has NEVER known anything but a trauma-paradigm as she was victimized when she was 2-years old, simply wouldn’t work.
And that’s why she and I work as a team. In many, many ways I carry her. I model for her healthy habits. As distasteful as it is to many experts I’m essentially ‘raising’ my wife, especially via the 7 littler girls. I’m always careful about her agency. I never make my love or our relationship be dependent upon her accepting my guidance in her healing, but I’m not going to apologize for doing what she needs. Maybe she’s unique and no one else in the world needs it…but I’m guessing from the feedback I’ve read that there are others who need what she needs.
I’m sure you don’t follow my posts, but I whole heartedly agree in MIA’s stance against the current bio-medical model of mental health that is currently dominant. Where I diverge is where we go from there. As is so often the case, there is a tendency for extreme backlash when rejecting something. And I think that tendency is often in display by so many who have been abused by the mental health system on this website. I understand it. I try very hard to be as sensitive to it as I can, just like I am with how I treat my wife. But when discussing ideas, sometimes it’s a little difficult to be both ‘sensitive’ and accurate (at least how I see it).
Your reaction to ‘mental illness’ is likely based upon your experience in the very corrupted mental health system. But I kept my wife 100% out of that system. So neither she nor I have that view of ‘mental illness’. However, I never used that concept until I came to MIA. I tend to see most mental health issues simply as symptoms of the trauma that my wife and others have suffered, but even that I mostly keep to myself when I interact with my wife. For me to harp on her issues would be counterproductive. I focus on the goal with her (the complete cessation of the dissociation between the 8 girls) and am her biggest fan and cheerleader. And if you’ve read any of my other comments here, you would realize that I believe in her complete ability to heal.
My eureka day was when she said she ‘might’ have d.i.d. Unlike your attitude about mental illness, for us her diagnosis finally gave us hope that we could fix whatever was going on internally in her, and fortunately I never let her get sucked up into your world and so our hope has continued as I learned how to truly help her heal from the trauma and resultant dissociation.
“The rest of you?”
I guess I was thinking more of the corporate position here on MIA. “Mental illness” is a forbidden concept on this site. So, ‘the rest of you’ refers to the corporate MIA attitude. For those of us on the other side of things, the SO’s who have to live with the fallout of our loved one’s ‘issues’, I think we take a more nuanced position, at least I do.
I subscribe to the trauma model. My wife’s disorder is one of the few trauma-based disorders in the dsm, but since having migrated to MIA, I would say a trauma model would fit well with most/all dsm disorders. The brain/mind gets ‘traumatized’ and no longer functions as intended [and I do wonder if biology has at least a part in the brain’s ‘desire’ to sequester(dissociate) the trauma until it can be properly dealt with], but with help, if needed, it can heal, integrate the trauma into the personal narrative and move forward.
But it seems the desire on this site to scream ‘no mental illness’ because of the (correct) opposition to the current paradigm in mental health circles has clouded the reality that there are real-life consequences to mental trauma and simply saying there’s no ‘mental illness’ doesn’t make things magically better for the sufferers or their families. And though the trauma symptoms DON’T have to be permanent because of a permanent ‘mental illness’, they often are because of the lack of help and understanding.
the whole problem with how the rest of you approach LittleTurle is that you all don’t realize that you are being ‘authoritarian’ to her in the same way the psychiatrists were authoritarian when they declared the rest of you to be ‘mentally ill.’ And the more the rest of you try to ‘enlighten’ her from the ‘errors of her way’, the more she digs in and won’t listen. What ALL of us want from others is TO BE HEARD!!!!
It’s why I approach my wife’s d.i.d. issues very differently. I walk with her in them. Sure, from time to time I will voice my disagreements with the various girls. I tell them my eventual goal is to marry all of them. I tell them I believe they are all part of the girl I married 30 years ago (not the host, but the conglomerate). But for 99.9% of my time, I live in their world and validate THEIR perspective. And as they interact with me and I love them, care for them, and help them heal, my presence and example is slowly moving them toward a more healthy paradigm, but my arguments DO NOT do that for them.
I’m making no judgments about LittleTurtle either way. But if she feels she is mentally ill but has found help in that, I believe we should affirm her, walk with her, learn from her and her perspective, allow it to change us where we are incorrect (as my wife’s issues have MASSIVELY changed me and my character), and, who knows, maybe she’ll adjust a little too. But when the rest of you simply invalidate her, you all are doing the EXACT same thing as the psychiatrists, whom you hate, did to you.
I’m sorry for the blowback you are getting. I’m glad you found people who could help you where you were at. I’m afraid there are so many people who have been abused ‘by the system’ that they can’t entertain a different story. I wish the tent was bigger here at MIA, but like everywhere else, there are lines drawn which can’t be broken even if others outside those lines could make significant contributions to the goal of MIA.
No, you aren’t. I grew up on the Right, but helping my wife pulled me to the center/right. I think there’s a lot of tendency to victim blame on the Right, and I also think it over-values the ideals of self-sufficiency and independence, and I had to learn those were NOT conducive to my wife’s healing. But that said, in the middle I simply see the faults and strengths of BOTH sides instead of ONLY seeing the faults of those on the Left and the strengths of those on the Right like I used to do for most of my life…
no, my wife has never taken any psychiatric drugs. The atrophy I’m talking about is a function of neural plasticity and the brain’s habit of ‘punishing’ the disuse of neural pathways and ‘rewarding’ the ones we use.
Stephen, yeah. It’s definitely been hard, but it’s doable even after 4+ decades of hard core, complete dissociation of the last 2 girls. I emphasize them doing activities in which all the girls have interest and as they do these over and over and over and over, slowly the pathways are strengthened until they can communicate internally as easy as I can. There are other factors which slow her progress, but she’s definitely healing and the experts out there who love to say that childhood trauma causes permanent changes in a person’s brain are full of it.
That’s what my wife did. I found her a theophostic counselor. Of course it’s ‘buyer beware’ but that’s true even of the ‘licensed counselors.’ And we hit gold because this lady was nearly a perfect fit for my wife as she had already competently helped someone else with d.i.d. and they connected and now are pretty good friends. So my wife has ZERO paper trail to connect her with d.i.d. There are a lot of alternative counselors out there, I believe, though it has been 10 years since I’ve had to look for one.
Yes, but trauma-based dissociation essentially chops up the brain/mind into smaller, partials which try desperately to keep the façade of normalcy/health, and yet because these ‘partials’ can only access part of the brain/mind’s abilities, that fact can easily contribute to some of the very things you describe.
I don’t know if the brain scans of people with d.i.d. are accurate. I don’t really care because I’ve got extensive experience helping the 8 girls in my wife’s system overcome the limitations that their dissociation causes them while helping them connect and dissolve that dissociation.
My wife doesn’t have a brain disease that a neurologist could help. She simply has to overcome the decades of neural atrophy that comes from dissociation and disuse which can cause many of the ‘extreme states’ this site loves to talk about. I believe my wife’s brain/mind can be whole again, just like a broken leg can be reset and after good physical therapy can become as strong or even stronger than before the trauma. But I do believe these things have at least some basis in the biology of the brain and how it copes and adapts to severe trauma. My wife’s issues are just on one end of the spectrum: all trauma survivors fit along that spectrum at varying degrees.
I haven’t seen or heard from you since your last comment. I hope things are still going ok. I do wish there was a forum for us to discuss things more and connect.
how do you understand the effects that dissociation has upon the brain NOT mind? My wife has d.i.d. and so I’ve had to deal with the worst case scenarios of dissociation upon the brain. Plus she’s over 50, and so even though ‘hard wire’ isn’t technically true, it is pretty descriptive of how hard she and I have had to work to undo the neural atrophy between the 8 girls (alters). I’ll be honest, even the therapists on this site who talk about dissociation seem to have a pretty simplistic understanding of how truly deep the dissociation affects the healing process, hindering it in so many ways and forcing me to find all kinds of work arounds as I have to help each girl individually until I can get her connected to the larger group…and until that point she doesn’t have access to the rest of the mind/brain’s abilities to heal…on top of the MASSIVE headaches that accompany this process which I can only attribute to the stimulation of those neural pathways after 4 decades of disuse…
I don’t know…maybe you and others would place this issue elsewhere, but from my intimate experience helping my wife undo the dissociation and how deeply it affected her brain as well as mind…I still wonder if it’s truly a place for psychiatrists not just psychologists…
…Maybe I should add, because I don’t expect you to know me or our story, I don’t think there is anything ‘wrong’ per se with my wife’s brain..and we have NEVER used any medications…but that still doesn’t mean I don’t understand the extreme changes that took place in my wife’s brain/mind when she suffered trauma early and deep enough to shatter her personality into the various girls(alters)…
I think Lawrence and Steve both have good points. Most SO’s seem pretty overwhelmed by what is necessary to help their mates heal, especially when so many are dealing with their own issues. I certainly was overwhelmed, but simply refused to give up until I mucked my way thru the first 3 or 4 years at which point I figured out how to really help my wife. It would have been GREAT to have the help of a professional to guide me and my wife in the beginning. I think they could have helped me get ‘my head on straight’ and also have taught me how to help my wife better and SOONER.
The counselor that my wife still uses was invaluable in the beginning while I got my act together. But at this point, the counselor doesn’t understand what I’m doing with my wife and so her role has largely receded to being a good friend with whom the little girls feel free to talk to, the only other ‘outside person’ other than me and our son with whom they interact face to face.
I still contend that none of them can do the things that we SO’s can do, but I do believe they have a vital role to play, and it is more than just being a ‘good listener’.
I was out on the trails of the Smokies this morning, thinking about your comment, and I wanted to add one thing.
My wife has been subjected to many different kinds of fears, many on the verge of paranoia. What I learned when helping her is that there is no such thing as an ‘irrational’ fear from the perspective of the person who is in its grips. What I had to learn to do was enter into my wife’s and understand her fear from her perspective and VALIDATE that fear without exacerbating the fear. Many of her fears were based on past trauma, but me simply declaring, “There’s no reason to fear” didn’t magically release her from the fear.
Fear shuts down a person’s ability to logically think about things, and so if we denigrate our loved one’s fear, all he/she can hear is “no one believes me. I’m still all alone.” And the fear intensifies because so much of the power of fear is based on a person experiencing the trauma by him/herself.
So when the girls told me of their various fears, I would sympathize ‘how scary that would be…” and then try to redirect them and say, “But now you aren’t alone anymore. Now I’m with you, and I’ll keep you safe.” Sometimes that was enough to release them from the fear if it was a superficial fear. But for other fears, I had to be pragmatic, and say, “What would help you feel safer?” And usually the girls have very specific things that would help them feel safer…I don’t argue, I simply do what they need to help them feel safer. Once I do those things, it releases them from the overwhelming intensity of the fear and then they can begin to move on.
If your husband still believes the CIA is spying on him, ask, “What can I do that would help you feel safer?” Remind him, “I’ve got your back. You aren’t alone anymore. They won’t get you without going thru me…” Again, validate without exacerbating the fear…and if he knows he’s no longer alone, he WILL begin to be released from the fear. Eventually he may even tell you the source of the fear, but even if he never does, your presence and support in that fear will lessen it for him.
you might check into the concept of “proximity maintenance’ within attachment theory. It’s pretty much what it says: using your presence to calm a loved one like a mother does a small child. Most of the literature on attachment theory deals with the raising of small children, but I think it’s transferable to adults because so much trauma that adults deal with is based in childhood and so they are essentially stuck in childhood. My wife had one girl (alter) who was essentially agoraphobic, but over time as I submitted to her needs for extreme proximity maintenance, she slowly healed and now is fine.
The ‘safe haven’ concept from attachment theory is another one I used a lot when I helped my wife. When she got overwhelmed, I literally wrapped her up in my arms and just said what any parent would say to a little child who is terrified, “It’s ok now. I’ve got you. You aren’t alone anymore. I’ll keep you safe.” I spent years doing that when we first started this journey, until I essentially ‘overwrote’ the fear in her mind with my words of safety and comfort.
There were other things I did, too, if you have interest. Just realize that you have more ‘power’ to help your husband than anyone else in this world, period! Therapists can help, but we who are the primary attachment figures simply have the ability to reach deeper into a person’s psyche and bring healing where no one else has access.
Maybe I should stay out of this conversation, but there is another way to view those voices. I fully engaged my wife’s voices. I met them where they were. If they had needs, I met them. If needed, I made amends to them. I treated them as if they were a new part of my wife that I had the privilege to discover, and one by one each of them decided they liked the life I was offering them, and all of them at this point have securely attached to me and become a vital part of my marriage and family life.
Ron, I never ‘called the bluff’ of my wife’s voices. I validated them even the angry, vitriolic ones and offered them a relationship with myself, without strings or ulterior motives. “Unconditional love” might be a good term. And the transformation in all of them has been pretty astounding.
I know this is important to Emily, but I just don’t think this is the way to help people who are called ‘mad.’ I’m 100% for respect, full agency, respecting the full diversity of personalities and human traits/abilities, etc. But indiscriminately normalizing ALL things associated with ‘madness’ is folly.
Healing is not easy. It’s messy. It shouldn’t be forced or dictated ‘from on high’. But making a simple ‘truce’ with one’s voices is not what is needed when there’s severe trauma and dysfunction in one’s background. Those angry, vitriolic, ‘mob’ voices can be engaged, validated, loved and with patience brought to peace, healing and great positive value in the person’s life. That is much better than just making a truce with them in my opinion.
I guess I’ll add that similar to one of the people in this article, my wife had a voice that used to say vile things about me. It was so full of anger and hatred that neither my wife’s host nor the other girl who was with us at that time would tell me what was said by this new girl. I reached out to this new ‘voice’. When she finally fronted (came out fully), for months she made me cry every time we interacted. One time I slammed my head into the wall in absolute frustration (and kind of freaked out our son at the time, lol). but I refused to respond in kind. I kept offering love, acceptance and kindness until one day…she changed. I still remember it. And then the transformation that occurred was breathtaking. She went from being angry and vitriolic to beautiful and still full of passion for social justice causes, and loving a good debate… She was the first of the girls to ask for us to get engaged.
That’s so much better than simply ‘making a truce.’ That girl, now young woman, is breath-takingly beautiful in an inner sense and has added such depth to my wife.
although, in general, I like a lot of what you have to say, and I know that you simplified your presentation a great deal, respectfully, my concern is with the general hubris I find in most therapists. Over at ISSTD they have grabbed hold of attachment terms and some of the basic concepts of the theory and then applied them in a most simplistic fashion in their therapy methods. I see some of the same terms popping into your article here, and I hope you understand how completely unqualified most therapists are to implement attachment theory principles for the relationship they have with their clients.
1) The first disqualifier is money because it should NEVER be the basis of an attachment relationship instead of commitment and trust. If the money dries up, most therapists aren’t committed beyond the next payment.
2) But beyond that the more traumatic the experience and the earlier it was experienced during life (i.e. childhood vs adulthood), the deeper the traumatic paradigm is entrenched in ways that no therapist can ever reach using the boundary-crippled relationship that takes place once or twice a week in the therapist’s office.
I have spent 10 straight years undoing the trauma paradigm of my wife and rewiring her brain/mind (or mapping it if you prefer). Every day multiple times an hour, day, week, etc, I not only am tearing down the lies of the past (trauma attachments as you call them), but replacing them with positive, loving truths and experiences of the present (positive attachments). It’s simply NOT something any therapists can do, nor would it be appropriate as I have to do this in ALL areas of her life and our relationship. It’s systemic in my wife’s personality and being all the way down to some of the simple, seemingly-unrelated habits of hers that I had no idea were related to the trauma until we were years into the journey (like why she used to refuse to use a soup spoon).
When we first started this journey my wife begged/warned me NOT to start the journey if I wasn’t committed for the long haul. And truly I have seen so many clients with deep trauma and attachment issues devastated by therapists who had no business trying to co-opt attachment principles in the glib and simplistic fashion which seems to be gaining steam, only for them to get in over their heads or petulantly quit when the client didn’t respond on the time-table of the therapist.
Truly I wish you therapists would understand that the best place you can occupy is to be a facilitator in your client’s life and try to help him/her set up attachment relationships where the real work of unraveling the trauma and replacing it with positive experiences can take place. Yes, there are simple things that can be done in the short span of the hour or two you have with a client each week, but the deep, systemic things simply MUST be resolved by the attachment figures in the client’s life. Thus, teaching and empowering those figures ought to be one of the primary goals of any therapist dealing with a client who has deep trauma/attachment issues.
Finally, I don’t mean this to be an attack on therapists. Unlike so many on this website, I truly do believe in the value of therapy and therapists, but I believe they have their role in the journey just like willing SO’s, friends and family members have a different role. And the reason I believe this movement continues to falter is because too many therapists have taken up the wrong role and the SO’s, family and friends have largely been left out of the equation.
thank you for the interesting food for thought. I’ve been struggling last night and today after reading this multiple times, trying to figure out what I think. You’ve packed so much in here, maybe I’ll just throw out some thoughts. I don’t know how organized they’ll be…
1) As long as we are talking about non-medication induced ‘psychosis’, which I assume you are…in my wife’s case…I just don’t see much evidence of psychosis in her even though, supposedly, people with d.i.d. typically are ‘psychotic.’ I even looked up the definitions to make sure I understood the term. I almost wonder if psychosis is in the eye of the beholder. Since I learned to see things from her point of view, the various manifestations of her d.i.d. made sense to me; hence, I didn’t think she was psychotic. She kind of jokes that something is wrong with me for NOT thinking she was crazy. It doesn’t mean she didn’t have trauma issues, attachment issues, etc. But what I observed made sense in light of her past experience.
2) The Rip Van Winkle effect. I talk about this on my blog. When the other girls (‘alters’) joined us, they had essentially been ‘frozen in time’. Initially their frame of reference was from over 40 years ago. On top of that, their maturation had also frozen. And so I kind of took the attitude that I had to help them ‘catch up’ with things and I also had to help them ‘grow up’, but again, from their perspective it all made sense even though I had girls who viewed themselves anywhere from 1 year old to 8 years or so… So, again, no psychosis, just how dissociation works in a trauma victim and I met them ‘where they were’ and then helped them move forward in healing and maturation.
3) As for ‘transforming’…me personally, I’ve actually moved the other direction. Having grown up a Christian, I desperately tried to live in ‘2 worlds’ but I just never seemed able to figure it out. So I happily moved to that ‘soulless objective reality’ where I don’t expect help from a god who never showed up. Since I was on my own, it allowed me to unleash my creativity to help my wife through all the things her d.i.d. has thrown at us. I think before I used my faith as a crutch and kept begging for help. Now I understand I AM the help my wife needs, and so I either figure it out, or it won’t happen, because she has made it clear to me that she wants and needs my help.
But as for her, she still considers herself a Christian, living in ‘2 worlds’ and I see no need to disabuse her of that. I fully admit I could be, and wish I were, wrong…
4) One thing helping my wife taught me is that ‘arguing’ over whose reality is correct is meaningless and even counterproductive especially to a person who was severely traumatized as a child. For years she told me I was the one ‘with issues.’ And even once she realized she had ‘issues’ the trauma, dissociation, rip van winkle effect, among other issues, trapped her in a matrix that she couldn’t see past. And so I chose to enter her ‘matrix’. Our private lives are dominated by the little girls who want a daddy to care for, protect and love them. Originally they saw themselves as 8 distinct individuals because of the depth of dissociation. I didn’t demand they accept my reality of them being one woman, my wife. I walked with them in theirs, and slowly as they healed and the dissociation dissolved, their reality began to morph from the trauma paradigm that was forged and trapped in the past, to one more reflective of their current lives and one that is definitely more healthy and includes them as a group.
Anyway, sometimes I wonder if psychosis is…I don’t know…overused as a label/symptom. I know when I validate the things the various girls tell me rather than try to argue with them over perceptions and such, I could often see that such validation released them from the stranglehold that the past had on them and allowed them to move forward. People want to be heard! And ‘psychosis’ from my perspective often seems to be an excuse for ‘the non-psychotic’ to ignore what is being said by those in distress.
I’m very happy for you! My wife used to go catatonic, too, from time to time until I learned how to engage her back out of it. It sounds like you have started to learn, too.
that is NOT my understanding of MIA’s stance. I was asked to blog for MIA by someone whom I would think has the authority to do so based upon that person’s position with this website. But when that person talked with the staff at MIA that person was told that “nothing about us without us” meant I couldn’t say ANYTHING about my wife and my healing journey together on my own even though my slant on my blog has ALWAYS been about how we SO’s can influence the healing journey for good and also a little about our (SO’s) struggles in the midst of the journey. I probably white wash my blog too much, as I try to keep it mostly positive.
So anyway, that was what I was personally told. If you know otherwise, then maybe the staff simply has a personal problem with me and not other SO’s in general. Since none of them have stepped in to clarify the position of MIA, all I can offer is what I have been told, and in the end, I feel the movement as a whole is worse off. I really liked the idea of an ‘anti-NAMI’ group, but I don’t know how to do that, and I’ve got my hands pretty full helping my wife, which is probably the same for most non-NAMI SO’s who are helping rather than taking the typical stance.
Oops, I didn’t answer your question, Julie, sorry. I think my wife would say she is better, BUT it’s hard for all of them when girl #8 is still consciously dissociated from the rest of them and so the 7 girls still have to ‘share’ time on the outside with the last girl. But my wife has ALWAYS had control of her life. Despite the skepticism with which I am met on this site, I have NEVER taken away my wife’s agency in any ways. And so as the little girls have healed and matured, they are like little birds and after a lifetime of being ‘caged’ inside, they are so ready to spread their wings and fly and I encourage them to do so. It’s really pretty awesome from my perspective to see my ‘wall flower’ wife transform into a woman who is so vibrant and self confident in many ways.
in many, many ways my wife is so much better. In many ways she is the most beautiful, vibrant and balanced woman that I know, literally. But d.i.d. is so systemic in a way that I could never have imagined, and so she’s not completely better. Physical intimacy is still at a standstill because of girl #8, and there are other minor things, too. But, yes, most of her other ‘lesser’ issues have been resolved as I’ve taught the girls to ‘work as a team’ which balances each one’s tendency toward things the dsm calls ‘disorders.’
my wife’s d.i.d. gave me a pretty good understanding (in her case at least) of what is happening internally when it comes to eating disorder issues, and so once I understood the internal mechanics, it was a matter of rallying the various girls (parts of my wife for those without d.i.d.) to counterbalance the various factors which were contributing to this tendency.
In fact, her d.i.d. taught me that so many of the lesser disorders in the dsm really are a matter of being internally unbalanced, and so, again for my wife at least, so much of what I helped her do was teach each girl (part) to counterbalance the other girls who had a tendency toward various ‘disorders.’
“The reason I have not been replying to this thread lately is that it seems like some comments are implying that people with a variety of mental and emotional differences are a burden onto their significant others and family members. I just wanted to be honest and open about the fact that those kinds of statements are pretty painful for me to hear. I struggle with a lot of self-doubt and often worry that I am completely wrong for being proud of my differences. I fear that the things I consider unique and good about myself are actually symptoms of an illness that negatively affect others. Through the process of writing these articles, I have learned that listening and believing those internal voices of self-doubt/self-criticism, as well as external voices that feed into those ideas that I am a burden, negatively affect my personal well-being and self-esteem (and, ironically, that in turn very much can negatively affect others!). ”
I’m sorry for the distress you are feeling, but at least for myself, it’s not black or white.
I love my wife. I love all the little girls. There are so many good things in our relationship. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still difficult AND even painful in some areas. I work 55 hours most weeks, then come home do all the housework and take care of the little girls. 95% of my time at home (not in public) for the last 10 years has been with the little girls who finally have someone to love, care for and protect them. My wife hasn’t worked outside the house since we brought our son home from the hospital nearly 27 years ago. It IS a burden. I work myself to exhaustion, but that doesn’t mean I fret and fume about doing it. I have accepted that my wife needs that kind of love and care: the kind she never got growing up. So, yes, it is difficult, even a ‘burden’ at times, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my wife; in fact, my love for her is the very reason that makes me willing to do this for her/all of them.
And as for the heartache, I’m not sorry to admit that I did NOT sign up for a celibate marriage when I said my vows. I’m one of those weirdos who saved himself for marriage, and our sexlife has been nearly nonexistent for our entire marriage. Talk about a let down and disappointment. But again, it is my love for my wife that makes me willing to accept the daily heartache. I’ve told each of the 3 girls who needed us to be temporarily celibate while they healed, “I love you more than sex”, but they also knew how much it hurt to give them the space they needed to heal. It’s not about me being a martyr, but I do have to sacrifice things not normally required with a spouse who doesn’t have a traumatic history.
I’m sorry I abandoned you. I just haven’t been up to the constant questioning of my motivations, etc, on here, so I stepped away.
The biggest thing that helped me deal with my anger issues was to completely own my decision to stay with my wife. 29+ years ago, I did NOT sign up for what my marriage became. I dreamed of a fairytale marriage and instead it has been difficult to put it minimally. And so when she and I began to walk her healing journey together 10 years ago, it took me a couple of years of journaling, but I finally came to the place where I understood the challenges of having a d.i.d. spouse AND I understood that, for me, walking out would ‘kill’ parts of myself that I simply wasn’t willing to see die. And so I made the decision, over time, to accept my wife for where she is, instead of where I wish she were, and I understood that with that decision, I was accepting a certain amount of daily heartache. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good things in our marriage. I love all my girls and they are truly delightful, but I thought I was marrying a woman and instead I ended up, essentially, having to raise my wife via the 7 little girls.
It’s not easy. I struggle with suicidality at times in a way that NONE of the girls do, but it is what it is. I wish I could say their was a magic pill. There isn’t that I’ve found, but I love my wife and part of the reason I work so hard to help her heal, connect and mature is my hope for a win/win for both of us.
it simply wouldn’t be right for me to out the person. And for me to say much more about it would do so.
Again, this is MIA’s stance, and though I strongly disagree and think they are hamstringing their own desires because we SO’s and family members are the best hope, I believe, to turn the tide because we have the deepest access and most intimate knowledge of things even if it isn’t from the distressed person’s perspective it is still a VALID perspective.
I’m sorry I stirred this hornets nest. It just makes me so sad to see some of the stuff that is written on this site as much as I respect MIA’s purpose and desire, their experts are still mostly experts in ‘theory’ whereas we SO’s and family members are experts in ‘practice’ because we are in the trenches and never get to say ‘time out, end of session’ or “these are my boundaries, and what you need is outside of what I offer.”
So I had to figure out how to bring my wife out of catatonic states, how to help her process flash backs, how to calm her when she was hit by panic attacks and night terrors, how to undo the attachment issues that each girl had, how to tear down the dissociative walls between the eight girls, how to undo the neural atrophy that resulted from 45 years of dissociation, how to be a completely safe person in ALL areas of our lives including physical intimacy, how to respect her agency and yet not flinch when she made it clear she needed my help and guidance because she didn’t know how to get to ‘healthy’, how to turn my wife’s d.i.d. into something that brought our family, including our son, together, rather than tore it apart, and so much more. I, like other SO’s, had to figure out how to make this work lest it tear our entire lives apart, and I had to do it despite the massive stress and secondary trauma her issues have sent my way. I love her. She didn’t desire this, but it has cost me everything including my birth family to stay with her.