Tag Archives: Inner Child

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

To My Baby Self

I have been thinking a lot about my life in the context of premature birth. It may be because I’m currently reading For the Love of Babies by Sue Hall, a neonatologist writing about her experiences treating preemies and other sick babies.

Today I also came across a writing prompt for PTSD survivors, to write to yourself before any trauma occurred. Since my trauma started right with my NICU experience, and I’m over most PTSD symptoms now, I will instead write to my baby self reassuring her that things’ll be okay in the end.

Little baby, born too soon
You feel so insecure
But let me tell you, you’ll be fine
Of that I am sure

You are too young to realize
That you are here to stay
In this world that may be harsh
You will be okay

Times are hard on you, you feel
So often in pain
If you could tell me, would you say
That your life is in vain?

I will tell you, it is not
Your life is worth the fight
I am your older self and feel
That you and I came out alright

Some people may think of you
That you should not survive
But guess what, you did exactly that
And I am here and thrive

You will have many hardships ahead
But please persist and cope
I will wait here to remind you
Not to give up hope

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.

Writing Letters to the People Who Hurt You

One of the steps in changing maladaptive schemas, according to the authros of Reinventing Your Life, is to write letters to the people who contributed to the formation of these schemas. You obviously don’t need to send these letters, but the goal is to have your inner vulnerable child speak out.

I have told my story of the traumatic expeirence sin my life many times, but it is hard fo rme to actually write letters to the people who caused or didn’t protecct me against these experiences. I am not at this point in therapy yet, but one of the things that I think will hold me back is the need to address these people directly. Even if I’m not going to send or publish these letters, it still feels as though I’m telling these peole to their face that they abused, abandoned or failed to protect me.

Another thing which the authors acknowledge, is the fact that sometiems people who abuse or otherwise trumatize others, are well-intentioned. In my case, the people who hurt me didn’t know better, had the best of intentions, and/or didn’t realize what they did was causing me long-term trauma. I struggle with this big time. When I still had a DID ddiagnosis, I struggled with the connotation of severe, usually sadistic abuse. After my diagnosis was changed to BPD, I told some of the people who hurt me that I realize they aren’t sadists and that I had been struggling with this connotation in DID. Reading this chapter in Reinventig Your Life, I found for the first time someone acknowledging that well-intentioned treatment can still traumatize children (or adults). The authors say that, in writing the letters to the people who hurt you, you need to let go of excuses like this and let the vulnerable child in you speak freely and express her feelings.

Later in the process, the authors say, you may choose to forgive your parents (or others who hurt you, I suppose). I have often written aabout forgiveness, and I realize now that it’s required to feel your true feelings before you can come to forgive. Forgiving means accepting what happened, but also letting go of the need or want to be angry about it for the rest of your life. I have often tried to forgive the peeople who hurt me, without feeling the true extent of the hurt. That is stuffing feelings, not forgiving people.

BPD Subtypes

When searching for information on BPD, I came across a set of subtypes that describe the various features of BPD. These subtypes are:

  • Discouraged: this type of borderline is either avoidant, believing no-one will like them anyway, or overly dependent on others. They have an intense fear of abandonment. Borderlines of this type may also suffer from depressive symptoms.
  • Impulsive: this is the most hated BPD type among professionals. People who are primarily impulsive tend to act before thinkign. This includes violence or other antisocial behavior. Conversely, they may also engage in constant approval-seeking.
  • Petulent: borderlines of this type use passive-aggressive behavior, including emotional or physical self-abuse, to get their needs met by others. They have an intense fear of abandonment,, unstable self-image, and inability to express their needs properly.
  • Self-destructive: this includes depressive and self-harming tendencies. People of this type may not have many BPD traits other than self-injury and affective instability, so they may not technically meet the criteria of BPD.
Please note that people with BPD may have some features of one type and some of another. I, for one, have features of the discouraged and petulent types.

All types except for the petulent borderline operate in an abandoned child mode. Petulent borderlines operate in an angry child mode. I do see this point, but I want to stretch that the angry child usually masks the needs of the abandoned child, as my therapist explained. I myself cannot feel sadness unless I’ve first expressed intense anger or rage. Yesterday, I found myself in such a situation. I had had a minor conflict with my husband which led me to fear abandonment. As I got back to the ward, the nurses were assuming I’d had a good day – after all, it was my anniversary -, and were encouraging me to think positvely. Now I could and maybe will at one point write up a whole post on the positivity paradigm, but suffice it to say I snapped. I had a rage that, after a lot of back-and-forth screaming between me and the nurses, led to me running off and wandeirng around grounds screaming. I could only start to feel the sadness and fear of abandonment after I’d blown off some steam and calmed down again.