Tag Archives: Alters

Just One Thing

Last week, I started a journal-style blog to explore my inner world. As usual, I didn’t write in it much at all, so I’m resorting back to this blog. The reason I wanted another blog is because of the derogatory comments I’ve gotten here regarding my dissociation. No, I don’t have a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder anymore and no, I don’t claim to be DID. I do however have insiders, parts, alters or however you’d like to call them. I don’t care what people think of this, or at least, I try not to care. To reclaim myself and my experience, here I’m sharing a post I wrote last week.

Manyofus1980 from Therapy Bits posed an interesting question: if the world could understand just one thing about your mental health diagnosis, what would it be? In the post title, the question is about your “mental illness” rather than your “diagosis”. This is important to my answer, as my short answer is: my diagnosis does not dictate my experience.

I have had countless diagnoses over the years, some of which I agreed with and some of which I disputed. I don’t even know what my current diagnosis is according to my community treatment team. According to the university hospital where I got a second opinion last spring, it’s autism spectrum disorder, recurrent moderate depression and borderline personality disorder traits. Of this, I doubt the depression, because my default mood is low. Then again, I do seem to remember feeling much lower than low in the months that I had my assessment at this hospital. The thing is, I can’t usually connect my feelings from the past to the present if they’re very different.

We didn’t really go into my trauma experience, as my assessment was primarily focused on autism. However, the university hospital psychologist did recommend I get EMDR treatment for the negative experiences I had in the process of moving towards independence. I have not had a trauma-based diagnosis since 2013 and that’s fine by me. I don’t need a diagnosis to justify my experience.

I am who I am. We are who we are. We don’t fit in a diagnostic box, because, well, we’re we.

Sometimes, we feel upset that we don’t get recognition from our treatment team (as far as we know) for our traumatic and post-traumatic experiences. I had a lot of difficulty answering my psychiatrist’s questions about this during my intake interview. I mean, most of the trauma we endured, didn’t leave visible wounds. I know that dissociation can be caused by attachment issues, sometimes even too mild to create PTSD. However, there is still a common belief that only prolonged sexual or ritual abuse can create alter parts. I try not to care. We are we are we, so deal with it.

Age Is But a Number?

Age is but a number, we so often hear. There are many, usually older people who say they never grew beyond age twenty-nine (or whatever age they like the most). Some people even say they remain children at heart.

I can relate to this, and yet I can’t. I can relate in the sense that I strongly embrace my inner children and teens and the fewer and fewer selves who are older than me. Right now, only my crafty self identifies as older than my chronological age.

Yet I am also very much aware that certain developmental expectations are tied to certain ages. I was made aware before I was nine-years-old that, by age eighteen, I’d be leaving the house. My father jokes that the family cat should earn his high school diploma if he ever turns nineteen. The cat is only thirteen, but you get the idea. Even cats need to conform to developmental milestones, so people certainly.

Of course, in the privacy of my own room or even with my husband present, I can be childish all I want. I for example bought a Barbie doll when one of my inner children was particularly active. Nothing’s wrong with that. On the other hand, the only reason I can go on forums that are commonly visited by teens, is that I’m female. Had I been male, I would’ve been seen as a pedophile. (For clarity’s sake: I don’t go on forums that have a clear age limit or ever lie about my age, and I have absolutely no intention of exploiting anyone.)

My age is not only significant in highlighting the inappropriateness of my embracing childlike roles, but also in making clear that I’m missing out on adult milestones. I never spent much time in college, let alone graduating it, though I’m hardly technically a yooung adult anymore. I never held a job, even a summer job. I am not pregnant, let alone a mother. I hardly ever lived independently, which even on sites for people with autism is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood.

I have written about many of these issues before. I grieve the loss of my child identity (and an inner child is no excuse). I also grieve having missed out on adult milestones and likely missing out on even more as time goes by. Age is but a number, but you can’t just act whatever age you feel, at least not in public. That’s with good reason, of course, but it is still somewhat hard to deal with sometimes.

mumturnedmom

Masks and Alter Personalities

This week, Ginny Marie’s spin cycle prompt is “masks”. I saw this topic being announced a few weeks ago already, and immediately knew I wanted to participate. Now that I’m sitting in front of the computer, a thousand thoughts spin through my mind.

Throughout my life, masks have played an important role. Not literal masks, but the figurative masks people put on, or are made to put on, to appear like something they are not. In all honesty, I’ve worn and been made to wear so many masks that I don’t know whether at a given moment I was being sincerely me or was wearing a mask.

I have many alter personalities. They’ve come to play less of an important role now that I no longer carry the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, as I did from 2010 until 2013, but they’re still there. These alter personalities represent aspects of my life I feel forced to disown, either by some internal or external force. Two of them have always played the most important role.

The first one is Jane. She is a strong, independent young woman. She doesn’t need much help from others. She is intelliigent and she knows it. Her only negative characteristic is that she’s a bit distant and she would rather live alone than for example with my husband. Maybe it’s because she was formed when the least of my priorities was finding friends, let alone a partner. Independence was much more important. I mostly acted like her when in high school, doing overall well. If anything, I asked for help too little.

The other is Carol. She is a young woman too, but pretty severely disabled. She has trouble with self-care, engages in self-injurious behavior, has meltdown after meltdown. She can speak, but barely communicatively so.

There are others, too. Teens, like Elena, the cheerful one, or Brenda, the angry teenager. There are young ones too, like Milou, the curious eight-year-old, and Suzanne, the seven-year-old with too many responsibilities. Some represent hopes for my future, like Esther, who is a mother. Carol and Jane, however, are the most important in shaping my current self-image.

Many people, in today’s rehabilitation-based society, expect me to disown Carol and embrace Jane. She may be a bit schizoid, but she is intelligent and independent and that’s what matters. Many people not involved in my care see her as the authentic me, not realizing she is as much a mask as Carol is, and as much a mask as all the others are.

The thing is, all these parts or masks or alters make up me. I have learned over the years to stop having to put an alter’s name to my every action. That is improvement, but it doesn’t mean the alters weren’t there when I still dissociated significantly, and it doesn’t mean they’re not there now. When I go into a welcoming Mommy community, I’m still Esther. When I craft, I’m Annemiek. When I play with Barbie dolls, I’m Little. Yet I don’t show it openly or even covertly all the time.

I still have a very unstable sense of self. That may be why I wear all these diagnostic labels that I talked about in previous posts – they help me understand myself. So do all the alter parts. I may not be putting them on like a mask to the outside world anymore, which means I’m no logner diagnosable with a dissociative disorder, but I do still inwardly experience them.

First Step in Healing the Inner Baby

When I still had the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, my inner children came out relatively often to people I know. This is not common with DID I’m told, and was probably one reason for people not to believe me. I now have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and, while the inner children are still there, I keep them in hiding. I tend to believe that only the adult me is allowed to be out in the body.

This belief, however, is counterproductive to healing. When we want to heal, we need to acknowledge all parts of ourselves. We also need to validate our experiences. I strongly disagree with the idea, which is how my therapist used to word her inner child theory, that only the abandoned inner child should be allowed to come out because the rest are there to mask her. I consider my angry innenr child as important, and I for one don’t have a critical parent insider – all insiders are part of me.

Trust is the first step in healing your inner child(ren). They need to know that you will be there for them. In this step, I achieved something important in art therapy last Thursday. One of my inner children is the “mini baby”, a preemie in an incubator. She isn’t really active in the outside world, but I sense her. For clarity’s sake, while some people with DID have baby alters who hold traumatic memories, I don’t believe the mini baby is like this; she seems to be more a symbol for my early experiences.

Anyway, in art therapy, I created a baby out of clay and made a crib for her out of a cardboard box with fabric and fake fur bedding. Like I said, the inner baby isn’t a typical alter, so the symbolism was enough. It was more of a gesture to myself and my actual inner child alters to let them know I can be trusted and they will be cared for.

The second step is validation. I’m not sure I really need to validate the inner baby, since like I said she’s not a real alter. I mean, some people with DID give their inner babies pacifiers. I won’t do this. What I do feel that I need to acknowledge, is the fact that I was wounded from the beginning on. I don’t mean this to pass judgment on my family or the hospital staff. I was probably well cared for and had more interaction with my parents than many preemies from earlier generations or whose parents lived farther from the hospital. What I want to say is that, as much as families and hospitals try to prevent this, a NICU stay can entail a form of attachment loss and can, depending on the baby’s temperament, be traumatic. For now, the symbolism of the ceramic baby in the crib helped all of me.

The As of My Life

My Interet access got cut off last week due to data overuse. I have a mobile USB modem, similar to a cellphone Internet connection, and until recently had virtually unlimited data use. That was changed to 1GB/month without my knowledge (I’d forgotten to issue an address change). I used this up, plus E100,- in extra data use, within three days and was cut off. Today is the start of a new month, so I have an Internet connection agian, though I have to be very careful not to overuse this time. I obviously switched ISPs, but the new modem won’t be delivered till sometime in the coming week. This is the reason I’ve hardly been online – I published Wednesday’s post while at my husband’s -, and I’ve not been able to catch up with other bloggers much.

You’d think I’d have a ton to write about with a week of Internet-free time. Well, since I get most of my inspiration online, I don’t. Today, I am therefore writing up the ABCs of my life, or at least the As. I got this idea from a post I came across while browsing PoCoLo, a general interest linky. I go with the letter A only because I can’t be motivated to think of something for every letter, and I don’t intend to post a follow-up.

Acceptance: this is a tough one. I strive for and advocate for acceptance of myself, autistics, disabled people in general a lot, but do I accept myself? I honestly don’t think so.

Adjustment: related to acceptance. Adjustment is a constant process, because life constantly changes. You can adjust without accepting the new life situation.

Advocacy: what I do a lot on my blog, but fail to do in daily life. My husband has pushed me to stick up for myself in regards to the difficulties I’m facing in the institution, but I don’t. I fear that I’ll lose my support if I do.

Alters: I still feel them, though not as much as I used to. Maybe they were fake all along. Maybe they’ve gone in hiding, being told they’re fake so much over the past year. I don’t know.

America: not really relevant anymore, but I dreamt of living there when I was a teen. Still sometimes wish I could live in the U.S., but I know I never will.

Autism: that one is obvious, though people around me still like to question it. In this sense I can totally relate to Joanna, who inspired me to write this post.

Autonomy: what I ultimatley strive for. Autonomy means being able to direct your own life. This is not the same as not needing support or care. You can be perfectly autonomous while needing lots of help. What it means is making your own life choices and taking responsibility for them. I really wish the care system, with its mouthful of deinstitutionalization and self-reliance, would help clients on the road to true autonomy.

June 16, 2002: Becoming Aware of My Autism

Good Friday has a special place in the mind of Brielle’s Mom, blogger at Brielle and Me, because it was the day she first became aware that something wasn’t normal about Brielle. I do not know when my parents became aware of my blindness, or whether there was a specific event that caused them to worry. I do know they, like Brielle’s parents, knew I was at risk, because they kept warning the NICU nurses not to turn up the oxygen.

With regard to my other disabilities, my parents knew about them for years before I was diagnosed. Like, when I was first diagnosed with autis, my parents told the doctor that they’d suspected it since I was two-years-old. That was eighteen years ago at the time.

I do not remeber becoming aware of my blindness at a specific moment, but with the autism, there is a specific moment which caused me to start to wonder. It was June 16, 2002, 3:50 AM. I was in my rooom, the volume of my CD player turned up, writing in my journal. On June 17, I was expected to disclose a very personal struggle of mine to my high school tutor. I had not been able to speak out of anxiety the previous Friday, and he had me come in on MOnday to write down what was going on, what caused me to fail five subjects in ninth grade because of mostly lack of effort. The reason I struggled was my becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I was never going to be seen as “normal”, and that I had to compensate for my blindness in some way. I also started becoming aware of my alters that year, but I didn’t disclose this to my tutor that Monday, or ever until several years later when he read my online journal.

Back to Sunday June 16. My father came into my room shouting. I don’t know until now, and never knew, what made his angry: the loud music, the fact that I was still awake, or what. “Are you autistic or somehting?!” he shouted. I knew better than I know now why he was saying that I was autistic, believing at the time that antisocial behavior like turning up the music in the middle of the night, is typically autistic. It wasn’t the first tiem or the last that my parents labeled me autistic or any number of other neurodiverse conditions or mental illnesses. It was the one time that the message got through. Not that I shouldn’t be up late or play loud music, but that something wasn’t normal about me. I suspect neurotypical teens sometimes play loud music at night too, so in this sense I do not know what made the comment get through to me this time. There were far more typcal signs that my parents commented on: my stimming, my meltdowns my social withdrawal and bizarre behaviors, etc. But this time, I believed my father.

I was obsessed with autism for the next nearly two years, until again it was my father who pulled me out of it. I didn’t want anything to do with autism for the next two and a half years, until my staff at the independence training home decided I needed an evaluation. I was given the diagnosis of autism on March 16, 2007.

If you have a disability, is there any specific event that made you aware of it? If you have a special needs child, when did you first realize they weren’t developing typically?

Autism, Special Interests, and Elevated Moods

Many years ago, I read an article on Suite101 or About.com or the like that discussed similarities between Asperger’s Syndrome and bipolar disorder. The parent who wrote the article described her son’s mood swings from elated to depressed. However, she realized that these mood swings were related to whether the son could engage in some special interest.

I find the same thing happen to me, but in my case, it also ties in with the dissociative or emotion dysregulation symptoms. I find that when I’m in a particular personality state, I engage in a certain special interest a lot more than when I’m in another state. For example, Clarissa is my blogger part, who is behind most of the posts on this blog. Annemiek is my crafter. And I at this point can’t think of anyone else.

Getting back to mood swings, I must say that I get very elated when I engage in a particular interest for a certain period of time. I uttered the phrase that I would’ve been manic if I experienced this (mania) at all. In a way, this is extremely inappropriate and comparable to when a currently mentally healthy person talks about “going all OCD”. I in no way want to say I suffer from bipolar (hypo)mania, but these mood swings do get problematic at times.

For example, last night I didn’t sleep at all. I spent around $80 on useless online services without even bothering to read the not-so-fine print that clearly said these services would not be working for me. I actually took a PRN Phenergan at 2:00 AM, before I went ont he shopping spree, but swung right through it. Phenergan, for those not familiar with it, is a strong tranquilizer or low-potency neuroleptic. I’m now relatively calm again, so again I in no way mean to compare myself to people who have these experiences for weeks on end, but I do see actually how this could become a problem.

So, should autism parents limit their children’s special interests in order to prvent this from happening. I don’t think this is universally the case, but parents must teach their children about time and money management. I, having been pretty stingy as a child and teen, never really had to learn about this. I always had enough money on my hands anyway. I actually must say I have no clue about budgeting, and really don’t know whether I need to learn it yet. I guess so.