Friday, June 24, 2011


     This week I found a wonderful author, a person I resonated with and deeply respected in his field.  It was one of those rare times when you find someone who seems to have answers for questions you have had unanswered, that acts as a soothing balm on your brain.  Finally someone who understands what I am asking, and not only that, knows about it.  I was eagerly perusing his articles, sucking them up like a dry sponge.  Then I came across one that was out of his field of expertise but something he claimed to know about in which he claimed to offer advice and warn others.  It was about people with a certain brand of mental illness, which he claimed were often known to spread lies and sabotage good peoples' lives with horrendous accusations of childhood abuse or sexual assault, and with their devious manipulation rent families apart.  It was a warning to watch out for such people and be careful not to believe any of their lies.

      It definitely struck a nerve.  I was stunned.  Midway through the article I realized my mouth was hanging open in dis-belief.  That someone I had such respect for would suddenly and passionately denounce a group of people trying to seek justice in such a hateful way was a shock.  Especially since I was a part of that group.  Especially since every one of the many I have met in that group has shown courage far and beyond what anyone would reasonably expect.  I have not known one set out to hurt any person or family, not one that has been manipulative or a liar or deceitful. 

     This is not the first time I have been elated to find someone helpful and then felt let down to hear ignorance and hate pour out of them.  It sort of feels like having your car break down by the side of the road, with car after car passing by until one stops, a smiling maternal looking woman gets out that you think will help you and then she reaches down and slashes your tires.  Not helpful.  I realize that my own particular energy disruptions, mental scarring, or disorders, whatever you want to call them, can exaggerate the response to this.  Because I very likely have an attachment disorder, I am more likely to seek out a person willing to fill a parent/leader/guru role and cling to them with all my might, and fall like a rock when I realize they are not that role.  Because I have a dissociative disorder, I am more likely to space out, switch, or black out when faced with any kind of harsh confrontation, and have trouble remembering the truth.  I also know that when I admit this many people will dismiss my intelligence and moral character out of hand or ignore it completely (see "Crazy").   But there is nothing impaired about my intelligence, and having any disorder no more makes me prone to lying or deceit than drinking Red Bull would make me prone to shoot lightning out of my butt.  Yet many professional, well educated people spout this mental illness/bad character connection as if it were scientific fact.

     Because of my personal history, my hackles raise whenever I hear someone who claims to have been falsely accused of sexual abuse.  I do acknowledge that this can and does happen, but I believe it happens much less often than the public believes, and even in those rare cases such an accusation means that something serious is going on that needs to be addressed.  Society will hack you to pieces for such an accusation, whether or not you are right.  It is a desperate act to make such a claim, done only by desperate people.

     Perhaps the most emotionally charged phrase for survivors of sexual abuse is "False Memory Syndrome."  This is the idea that memories can be false, and can be easily influenced and altered by misleading therapists.  This does not say that people who claim to have been sexually abused are lying, it simply says that what they know has no validity, because of the possibility that what they know might be wrong.  It has become a national household phrase touted with authority, again, by professionals.  The truth is the memory IS tricky, and little is known about it by anyone.  I read about a case last year where a girl accused her parents of sexual abuse, and went to court.  The judge said she was in favor of the girl, but because her memories were not early enough or consistent, the judge dismissed the case and sent the girl back home to live with the people she had just accused.  Concerning memory, and the theories around it, I wish there were things that more people- especially those whose jobs involve it- were aware of;

1.  "False Memory Syndrome" is a theory, not a proved diagnosis.  It is not in the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV).   Psychiatrist Judith Herman is quoted as saying; "The very name FMS is prejudicial and misleading: there is no such syndrome, and we have no evidence that the reported memories are false.  We know only that they are disputed."

2. The False Memory Syndrome Foundation is primarily made up of people who have themselves been accused of child abuse.  It's main function is as an advocacy group, not a scientific one.

3.  Traumatic memories are stored in the brain differently than regular memories.  During trauma the memory of sound, sight, smell, touch, taste, emotions - are stored in different areas of the brain, whereas a regular memory is stored intact.   For someone to remember a traumatic memory intact is much more unlikely than them remembering one sense of the memory without the rest.

4.  Traumatic events that occur in childhood are most commonly forgotten completely until adulthood.

5.  Doubting memories is a common stage for all survivors.  This by itself does not indicate it may be false, simply because of the nature of trauma and the way the mind works.  For example, if someone puts a pair of red sneakers in front of you and puts a loaded gun to your head telling you they are green, the tiny part of you that clings to the knowledge that they are red will most likely be overwhelmed by the rest of you suddenly saying they are green.  Sheer terror will control your mind to tell you what is and isn't, not knowledge itself.  Despite many survivors who may know for a fact that they were abused (red), the mind as a survival mechanism will continue to tell them that they were not (green).

6.  "As with every other crime, false denials are much more common than false accusations" (Courage to Heal, p497).

7.While the reality of memory and "False Memory Syndrome" is uncertain, the reality of overwhelming evidence for sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect prevalent worldwide is not.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Old Poem for Tomorrow

Another poem
Another damn song
Isn't that what love is
That I write
Poem after Poem
Fumbling for words
To express the pull in my heart
They all say I love you

I heard an old love song yesterday
And it is still in my head
Every time I hear it
I think of you
And fields in the fall
And you in your work coat
With frost coming
Harvest just done

I see the old man singing (the old love song)
Dancing in the field near sundown
It overlaps my memory and
I nearly see him dancing
Around us
Working in the field

An old Italian ballad
Maybe I don't understand the words
But I know what love is

We lived in an old world
Carefully wrapped inside a new one
Maybe that's why
An old song
Makes me think of you

Of course everything
Makes me think of you these days

This time it's the Fall

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greater Than the Sum of my Parts by Erin Lale

               One of the things I found most striking in reading Erin Lale’s autobiography, Greater Than The Sum Of My Parts, is that her life seems relatively normal—except when it isn’t.  A litany of memories, many of them seem everyday scenes from childhood or teen years that present the puzzling picture life with DID.  Lale’s book is not a psychiatric pamphlet or even a story presented from her viewpoint now.  She goes through everything in her life as she saw it at the time, letting her reader go through it with her with as little preconceptions of what they should be thinking as a person living it would.  Her style of narration can be informative both to people trying to understand DID from an outsider perspective and those who have it.  I almost, as a reader, shared the same reactions I imagine she did at the random acts of cruelty and loneliness that dotted her life back to back with stories of simplicity or happiness that one might find in anyone’s autobiography.  Simply with surprise and confusion, and then shoved it to the back of my mind since it had no explanation or place in this world, and quickly got back to the things that did seem to fit and make sense.  Later those things had obvious consequences that showed in her emerging ‘divisions’ as she refers to them, sides of her that functioned primarily to fight, or be still, or be silent.  Some things stand out such as extraordinary intelligence and frequent yet untreated health problems. 
            After facing a nearly complete breakdown of mind and body simultaneously, Lale narrates how she used her own methods in recovery.  Using her experiences trying to survive after her internal system of divisions (alters) crashed, including hospitalization, lawsuits, and bankruptcy, she demonstrates how difficult it is to navigate a legal system that actually makes receiving help extremely difficult, if not impossible, for someone who suddenly is incapable of the most basic life functions.   Having chosen to “integrate” her divisions, Lale finds herself now able to not only function as she couldn’t before, but able to utilize all the skills and knowledge her divisions had individually.  Having chosen to “integrate” her divisions, Lale finds herself now able to not only function as she couldn’t before, but able to utilize all the skills and knowledge her divisions had individually.  She uses this to attempt to change the system for the mentally ill, explaining it from an insider perspective and fighting for their right to dignified treatment.  Greater Than The Sum Of My Parts is jointly a narrative of life with dissociation and a description of the American legal system for those struggling with mental illness.  It is a much needed voice for those who cannot use their own.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Where's the ^&^%$ Manual for This?

Wait, someone wrote a manual?  For friends and significant others, at least, I've found one:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Get Close to People

     "What you hide from everyone is your biggest strength".  Or something like that.  It's a quote from a trailer of a movie I saw a long time ago.  A dance movie.  I liked it.  I had secrets, things I hid.  I had come to a point where I thought everyone must.  I liked the idea that my deepest demons could be the brightest light in disguise.  They would have to be, to survive out in the open.  They would have to be nearly stronger than anyone could imagine, to conquer the fact that to me they were worse than anyone could imagine.  I didn't talk about that.  I didn't think about that.  If anyone brought it up, I didn't know about that.
     My nightmares brought with them certain rules that made it hard to blend in, to pretend I didn't know they existed.  First and foremost was stay away from people.  Don't ever get close.  To anyone.  For anything.  Ever.  This was not up for debate, it was ironclad, as solid as a fortress wall.  Secondly was don't talk about anything related to it.  Don't let anyone find out.  At any cost.  We know what you are talking about.  But you better not let anyone else find out.  Hiding it is an automatic reaction.  Most of my life I did not directly remember sexual assault but I did remember this.  I knew the rules better than the back of my hand even if I did not dwell on why the rules were there.  They were there to deal with things we don't talk about.  Everything about those personal demons were seeped in shame.  Shame was the basis of much abuse-make you humiliated for existing, thinking you are a filthy disgusting being and you are the only one that way.  Continual reminders from my abusers were hardly necessary -although they were there- they wired it into my brain and I carried it on for them.  There were points I was too ashamed and terrified to use the bathroom, held myself too stiffly to move easily like other children, times later in life when any conversation that even hinted at child abuse made me shake, and many times where getting near people would set a trigger and I kept my distance to settle my nerves.  It was all me, I thought, I was all bad, and I carried it inside me forever.  If anyone got past the surface and saw what I knew was there, it would be-unthinkable.  I could not get close to people, not only out of fear of them, but out of fear of setting off a bomb- and I was the bomb. 
     More than anything I have always been afraid that people would find out my secret.  Having split into alters was the only way I could have kept a secret like that.  In order to keep it secret and live and semi-normal looking life I had to be able to hide it even from myself.  Now this idea that my secret might actually be my strength, in a way enables me to tell it, because keeping it a secret is no longer a good thing, if it ever was.  Keeping secrets does not protect me, it protects the ones who hurt me, and allows the hurt to continue. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

and now she brings god into it

     What can I say, I majored in philosophy and religious thought for a reason.  I am always searching for god, not to start a debate or comparison with anyone else who may say 'you have found god, now stop,' or 'you do not know god, god is this way.  Simply because I love god, to always continue searching for more, anywhere I find it/him/her.

Confessions (project for a theology class)

     I am always searching, always challenging.  Usually people say to me "that will get you into trouble."  And I have no doubt they are right, but it is trouble that is worth it, in fact a kind of trouble that makes everything worth it.  It is something very personal, and not something I would normally talk about, but I feel it is very relevant in a blog concerning Multiple Personalities, and the fragmented life that that is.  Certainly it would challenge the beliefs of anyone, no matter what belief that may be.  My life was split into many worlds, with a different part of myself present for each world.  It was seamless to anyone who did not look closely, and no one looked closely.  Now I am faced with the challenge of comprehension as all those separate worlds start to merge into one.  They do not mesh.  They are completely contradictory.  It is hard to remember everything in my head and even when I do I balk at believing more than one at a time.  In one world there is unspeakable bad and in another world there is the good christian family.
     Concerning God, despite my radical ideals I was frightened by the thought that my parents could in good conscience pray to the same God I do.  If they can do such horrible things in the name of their god, I want nothing to do with that god.  If following their god meant hiding the truth and being forced to live in a harmful world I hated their god.  So often people claim to be following God so no one will challenge them.  It is frightening to think that by even entertaining the idea of thinking for yourself you are going directly against a divine power that knows what you are thinking and has absolute control over your existence.  People misusing power love to be associated with God, so you will think they have God's power and God has their morals, and you will live in terror doing what they want, because it is in the name of God. 
     I realized they were scaring me away from God.  Not the God that goes to one church and wears a flower hat on Sunday and only associates with a certain group, because I don't care about that, but they had frightened me away from MY God, the God I knew as a kid and felt all around me all the time, the God who I knew personally and needed no outside source to tell me about.  Although mentally I knew otherwise, they were always speaking to me about their issues in the name of God, so part of me had actually associated them with God.  I started to peer around the fear there and see that that could not be right.  I knew in my gut that God existed independent of what people painted it as, and I did not need their approval to co-exist with God as I knew God, and not as they said they knew him.
     The tremendous amount of guilt I had for not being on their/God's side was the same guilt that surfaces every time a person talks to me like a condescending adult to a small child, only manifest to an omnipotent level and coded into my DNA.  In seeing past this I have started to see me keeping myself from God, by believing them, and worrying about it.  Abuse of another human being has absolutely everything to do with excuses the one doing the hurting tells themselves, and absolutely nothing to do with God.  Denying a person God is something no one can do.