April 14, 2020

The Voices in my Head

It's been a year of knowing I have dissociative identity disorder. I was so confused for most of my life due to the inability to access canyons of memories held by other parts cut off from the rest to hide, and carrying their burdens.

My inner voice tells me some weird shit sometimes. Growing up I imagined it was God, or some other divine being talking to me. Today I know it’s Zen or Self energy. Part of me cringes when they come along.

After months of therapy and self-reflection one day, my Inner Guide said,
Envision your exiled Littles as adults. Imagine them overcoming a survival state of mind, to a thriving life full of community. 
How do we see us evolving? 
Learn to cast off the polarizing emotions, the lingering trauma leading us away from self. 
A revolution in character is about radical acceptance of our parts. 
To breathe life back into our dissociated parts we must learn of their burdens, and fit their story into our narrative. So we may lift the veil between warring parts, and sit in a committee of selves.
To understand our multiplicity we need to understand it’s inception. Today it’s a comfort to have all my parts together

Like an algorithm on a neural circuit, the chronically abused mind recognizes patterns in the environment triggering reexperiencing, avoidance behaviors, and finally dissociative episodes.

If you knew me, one might think I was an inconsistent character in our story. The truth is, we are both missing large amounts of information about me. See, I might have yelled at or disparaged you, got aggressive, or something else out of the character from the version known to you. Thus damaging my credibility and our relationship. Trust me, I’m as perplexed.

Much like we know black matter by the gravity it imposes, the only way I know for sure one of our exchanges has changed our relationship is by the consequences.

Some close might say I split between personalities.

I have three exiles, my littles; two five-year-olds, and one three. One has dyslexia, the kind where the words move around on the screen. Often this part confounds my concentration when writing. He sits in the Inbetween, or as our inner guide calls ‘everywhere.’

His name is Scotty. He is the five-year-old holding the memory of being repeatedly raped. He is one of the managers of our system. His job is to keep the system from remembering. He is very fucking good at his job, and a pesky little fucker. Mischievous as fuck,
a prankster, always testing your ability to have fun.

It wasn’t until we found an experienced child and combat trauma therapists at the Vet Center spoon-feeding us the possibility we had dissociative identity disorder, and learning how to get in touch with these exiled parts, we’ve been able to interact or discern who is who with some time and energy into building relationships with our other parts.

Scott, “I used to see myself as broken, fractured and shattered. Internal Family System (IFS) has taught me to see our mental arrangement, our multiplicity as a naturally occurring phenomenon.”

Committee of Selves, “Now we all know, it was our father was who raped us.” It was hard to ignore our decent part saying, “He would never.” Or Lee’s alter ego apart from the protector, the part thinking it’s his job to call people out, and other self-sabotage tactics used to protect the system from remembering. Creating chaos and fighting were ways of shutting down the system.

Contrary to pop culture the voices in my head were not always obvious. In the beginning, the competing voices were drowned out and easily confused with memories, dreams, and nightmares relived, and reexperienced.

Remembering back to the time of our original trauma when our spirit folded inter-dimensionally within the self. The trauma was so profound, it shattered our unitary perspective. Causing the death of our sense of wholeness, and the birth of our multiplicity.

In the beginning, Leah was an exiled three-year-old infant with no name and only body sensations, instincts, and early cognition to interject her shards into the system to be experienced as bound emotional states, nightmares, hallucinations, and flashbacks to our younger selves.

Hindsight, I have a sense mom knew or found out what was going on. She was powerless to stop our father on a threat to life, limb, and offspring.

Dad was a sociopathic tyrant and pedophile. To the local public, he was a pizza magnet. He helped the two largest pizza chains gain billions and received almost nothing. Anyway, this is not his fucking story. I worked in a pizza kitchen from ages 5-19.

The exiles carried the traumatic memories locked away from our managers so we may survive a dangerous existence. In my case, our family home and restaurant.

After six months of developing a safe space within by visualizing a place where everyone could congregate, this led to an exponential increase in interactions between parts.

Today, we see the flashbacks, auditory and visual hallucinations, dissociative episodes, delusions, and psychosis as our other selves trying to communicate their burdens.

Outside the context of IFS model dynamics, this would have sent us straight to the psych ward for the 25th time. Instead of these mental intrusions, my parts and I have conversations or exchanges of memories, emotions, love, and appreciation for one other.

Scott, “I just realized that Lee the superhero has become a bully by interjecting his skewed sense of right and wrong. This ‘police of the world’ get us in trouble all the time.

Writing this post helped us see Lee, the Superhero is the decent part. The protector of morality and Leah, and the possessor of our deep-seated contempt, anger, and rage. Now we’ve brought these conflicting characteristics into his wheelhouse so we can understand their binds or polarizations.

That's where I'm at right now is working on loving the protectors. I've spent over half my life admonishing, banishing or hating them. My parts of letting me know some of what's happened to us in the past. Stands to reason it'll take some time to bridge those gaps.

April 19, 2019

This Veterans HIV Story

Eight weeks ago I was diagnosed as HIV positive from indiscriminate sex. While giving me clarity, it's had a profound impact on my physical, and mental health.
by Scott Lee

A year ago the rashes on my face and neck began. Gradually I started feeling hot and cold, and becoming more fatigued over the year.

Four months ago intermittent fevers began until they were daily.

Three months ago when  shingles appeared, it dawned on me two rashes at the same time was bad. So I scheduled a follow up appointment after getting treated in the ER.

Normally I give high praise to the Robley Rex Medical Center in Louisville KY.

Due to scheduling snafus with both, primary care and the infectious disease, my testing and treatment was delayed a month. If not for an insightful resident calling, I might have completely fallen through the cracks.

On my first blood test I was given two numbers. The first is the viral load at 208,000. The second is CD4 at 208 (healthy immune system averages 1500). Anything below 200 is an AIDS diagnosis.

After my diagnosis I had not seen a doctor at the VA until landing in the emergency room severely dehydrated, and running high temperatures.
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The doctor in charge of my care in the clinic will soon be fired.
Until then, I know my patients rights, and the patient advocate is familiar with my case. Let's not forget the resident on point doing a stellar job.

My diagnosis made me feel even more isolated, and created a panic around who I could, and shouldn't tell.

When I started opening up and telling a couple people, all the extraneous conflict dissolved, and began deflating my sense of imploding.

Yesterday I took my 30th $100 pill. After two weeks of taking the medicine my viral load is down to 1200, and my CD4 is 254.

The doctor said it will take a couple of months for my immune system to fully recover, and to test undetectable.

The clarity?

I want to be alive in 25-30 years, being around family, and watching my grandkids grow up. Which means leading a healthy lifestyle, on all fronts.

Words carry the ability to open, or close our spirits. I keep hearing, “At least it's not a death sentence anymore.”

While I'm grateful for the medicines, science, and knowledge, it doesn't take away the fear, or symptoms.


April 13, 2019

Importance of an Empathetic Therapist for Chronic Traumatization

Finding a compassionate and empathetic therapist is a must to heal from trauma.

Vets, if we do not develop a connection with our therapist, it’s unlikely we will keep our appointments. If missing an appointment call to cancel, and reschedule, so another vet can take your place.

There is no time frame in healing from war trauma.

We may feel an urgent need to purge, or have a sense of never being able to talk about our experiences. Similar to running distances we need to pace ourselves in therapy so we do not retraumatize ourselves, and return to our old coping habits.

It might take a couple of therapists to find the right one, so it’s important to keep appointments even if your not feeling secure in sharing. If after three or four visits, a rapport is not developed with your mental health practitioner, ask for a Change of Provider form at the counter.

To increase the likelihood of approval, write lack of rapport or connection, and do not feel they can help. It may take up to three months to see another therapist.

Remember, your mental health is important. Keep your appointments, and find the right person to guide you through the process. An empathetic therapist is paramount to healing from trauma.

Our emotional and spiritual centers are damaged, to find our way through the wreckage of our minds, we need a guiding hand. A ‘therapeutic window’ is an empathetic connection between the therapist and client, enabling a safe place for exploration of traumatic memories and events.

Traumatic events shape our lives, and alter the way we process information. Especially chronic traumatization, our symptoms mimic depression, bi-polar disorder, and personality disorders. We can be misdiagnosed by a less knowledgeable and skilled practitioner.

Veterans with chronic trauma need an empathetic practitioner, knowledgeable in the latest treatment modalities to take our emotional hand and guide us through the wreckage of our minds.
It is helpful for therapists to understand the implications of structural dissociation as an undue division of the personality, how it manifests, and how it must be treated. They should strive to understand the importance not only for psychodynamic, relational and behavioral aspects of treatment, but also become proficient in assessing and working with the mental energy and mental levels of patients. Therapists need to analyze survivors’ mental and behavioral actions for adaptively. (The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization, van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele).
The dissociative features of chronic trauma have a distinct set of emotional states we cycle through distinct from the others, the common symptom such as anger and rage to the less talked about emotional numbing to the different personas that can emerge from trauma states.