Surprises

Grief and anger are the two prevailing states of my mind these days, so pardon the endless ranting posts.  This one focuses on abuse, with some specifics thrown in.  Please be safe while reading.  My standard trigger warning applies.

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I hate it when surprise triggers pop up.  This morning, I was doing the simple task of making my bed.  It’s something I do most days, so I had no reason to think it would cause problems.  However, a friend of mine recently gave me a blue blanket that was, at one time, an electric blanket.  The electric part of it no longer works, and the wiring was removed.  I realised I was feeling a bit nauseous, but that’s fairly typical these days.  Then, the memories came.

Electricity is the friend of many cult trainers.  Children are forced to wear shock collars, electric fences are used to hold people in pens, electromagnetic stuff is used to monitor vital signs during particularly violent training sessions.  For me, electric cord was frequently used as a restraint.  I’m not talking about actual charged electric cord.  I am, however, talking about restraints to hold me to the lovely stone sacrifice tables.

Obviously, I was not sacrificed.  Early in my training, though, I had to watch quite a few sacrifices of animals and humans of various ages.  Some were incredibly brutal, and the sights and sounds stay with me.  There’s nothing like looking in the eyes of a sacrificial victim who is begging you– the only person not actually participating– to save them.  It makes me want to vomit to even think about it.

And that’s where the anger comes in.  Making a bed should *not* be something that concerns me.  These people warped my mind to the point that even a simple task held a surprise trigger.  I get angry when everyday activities become so upsetting to me.  This is progress to some extent, I suppose.  Until very recently, those memories would have immediately sparked guilt.  Now, the anger came first.  The guilt is still there every bit as strong as ever, but it came on the heels of the anger.

I’m an excellent stoic, so people rarely see my emotional reactions to triggers.  This was no different.  It’s made me take time out of my day to sit and write for a bit, but that’s not a problem.  I’m not missing any deadlines.  I’m fortunate to be among the few who can remain functional, probably out of necessity more than strength, when dealing with triggers like this.  Some SRA survivors make it out only to take their lives.  Many have to cope with limited functionality.  I deal with triggers rather often, but I find myself able to function most of the time.  For that, I am grateful.  My heart goes out to the families and individuals who have to cope with losses of loved ones who are still physically alive.

Comfort in Strange Places

As anyone who knows me can attest to, I have a very hard time with outward expressions of emotion. Actually, dealing with loss is the only thing that has left me unable to control my tears. That is so very frightening to me. The comfort in strange places bit comes from a time like that soon after my sister’s death. The memory of the day I cleaned out her school locker still pierces me from time to time. The song ‘Box of Rain’ from the Grateful Dead album ‘American Beauty’ (if I remember correctly) kept playing over and over in my mind that day.  It was an amazing comfort to me. Sitting alone by the ocean that night, I was thinking about the image of a box of rain, and that helped me open up all the Stuff I had held back through the funeral and all the formalities.  The irony of the group’s name is twisted, if nothing else, but I’ve always loved their music, and you take any comfort you can find at times like that.

As I attempt to deal with my daughter’s death, some lyrics from that song keep popping in my mind. A box of rain will ease the pain, and love will see you through. Lately, I’ve thought about the losses in my life and wondered if my parents and siblings welcomed my daughter. Even a glimpse through this blog makes it obvious that my family wasn’t exactly healthy. Still, they were my family. I have no idea if they exist or where they are, but I’d like to think they are together and happy. I have so many questions for them and so many questions for the Universe at large. Sometimes the world really can be a phenomenally unfair place.

It’s just a box of rain

I don’t know who put it there

Believe it if you need it

or leave it if you dare

And it’s just a box of rain

or a ribbon for your hair

Such a long long time to be gone

and a short time to be there

The Jim Croce Sessions

Wednesday was my first memory work session with my therapist, and it went much better than I expected.  No one freaked out during the session or even after.  The therapist didn’t flinch when I mentioned generational satanism, and she listened to my description of an animal sacrifice without showing any outward signs of horror, other than one point where her eyes looked something I can’t quite put into words.  Sad, maybe.  I wasn’t just bringing up that terrible of a subject to test her endurance or my own– it’s just a memory that has been playing through my mind constantly.  I’ve learnt that writing about even the session, as I’m doing at the moment, pops back the emotions.

Saying the memory aloud was interesting.  The therapist asked me to describe it in absolute detail, down to the clothes everyone was wearing.  She interrupted me several times, telling me I was skipping pieces that she had no frame of reference for.  I keep forgetting that what I think was a just so-so bad time is absolute horror to most people.  We got through the memory, though, the therapist and I.  We established that my coping mechanism of simply going dead started when I was about 5 years old.  Going home after my cat had been sacrificed, I felt nothing.  No sadness, no anger, no fear.  Absolutely nothing.  I felt dead.  20+ years later, I still do that when emotional stress gets too high.

The session was on Wednesday night.  Thursday and Friday I still felt a bit shaken.  Saturday, though, I woke up feeling good.  I wasn’t physically tired, and I felt mentally peaceful.  I don’t remember the last time I felt like that.

I will say, though, that we have alot of work left to do.  The memory has been spoken aloud, but it’s not resolved.  I kept my composure throughout the entire session, even when I felt like dissolving into absolute sobs.  Expressing emotions has never been my strong suit.  As most SRA survivors can attest, you literally have the emotions beaten out of you.  My mother didn’t help in that regard, either.  Even when we were not around the cult, my mother would absolutely berate us (my sister and I) for crying or showing fear.  Sometimes she would even get physically violent.  I went roughly ten years without crying, and only a very severe emotional trauma brought it on.  It’s still not something I do easily, even when the need is pressing.  Resolving the emotions should be just lovely.

And now for the title of this post– I said I’d call these the Jim Croce sessions because listening to his music relaxed me on my drive home from therapy and through the rest of the week.  I’ll probably keep the Greatest Hits CD in my car for a while.  His song ‘Operator‘ expresses quite well the mixed results I got on Wednesday–

Isn’t that the way the say it goes

Let’s forget all that

And give me the number if you can find it

So I can call just to tell them I’m fine and to show

I’ve overcome the blow

I’ve learned to take it well

I only wish my words could just convince myself

That it just wasn’t real

But that’s not the way it feels…

Change of Heart?

I’ve always hated December.  As any SRA survivor will tell you, December brings some ‘interesting’ issues.  Why, then, am I wishing December of last year had never ended? I dearly missed going to see my family-of-choice, and I’m working toward getting up to see them soon.  Still, Christmas comforted me somehow, and lighting the menorah with some of my internal crew brought peace as well.  I spent Christmas day with my best friend and his family, and it was nice to feel like I belonged.

Grief issues hit hard in December, another thing that bothers alot of people round the holidays.  Maybe I feel like, since December is over and the new year has started, everything should be fine again.  But it isn’t fine, no matter how much I pretend otherwise.  Maybe I felt like I could let that show in December and that I need to appear perfect now.  Maybe that’s why December comforted me– I could feel, unapologetically.  I felt connected to the Universe as a whole.  I felt held.  Now I feel it’s time to put on the armour again and make sure none of the broken places show.  In the earliest hours of the morning, though, I write in my journal that it’s December once again.

Perfection

The cult in which I grew up is organised so perfectly that even when things at the leadership level went horribly wrong, a new plan was put in place quickly.  It wasn’t as good as the original plan, of course, and it has caused years of repercussions that aren’t likely to slow up soon.  Still, when one of the top few gets pushed away and someone else slipped in in a matter of hours, the group shows its structure.  Looking at it from a completely dissociated space and taking away all of the instances of pain and danger, the cult system is incredibly efficient.  It’s just the minor bits about torture and programming that stop the system being good for mankind overall.

It was always funny to me when teachers called me a perfectionist because I knew the genesis of that characteristic.  It can be a good thing, motivation to do your absolute best.  It can also be a bad thing, motivation to keep up the appearance of perfection all the time.  I know I’m far from perfect, but I try to hide my flaws at all cost lest someone use them against me.  I guess this is the more eloquent version of the previous post– even around safe people, I try to hide my flaws in order to protect myself.

Emotions aren’t flaws.  I’d tell this to anyone, but it’s not something I can quite apply to my own life at the moment.  My emotions still feel like breaks in my armour that allow people to see in to the spots that can be easily damaged.  There are times when I feel like shoving every bit of protection aside and showing fear or anger or sadness for whatever it is, not just an extremely filtered version.  Sometimes I *want* to be out of control, only for a minute or two, just to signal that I really do need help from time to time.  I keep everything so neatly tucked away most of the time so that I don’t burden my FOC with the intensity of my emotions.  Lately, though, I’ve needed to just let go of my restraints for a bit and let whatever happens happen without trying to immediately bottle it all up again.  That takes appearing less than perfectly in control of myself, though, and I can’t seem to get past that particular block.  Part of me doesn’t feel deserving of such indulgence.  Part of me is just terrified to let it happen.  I still apologise for the one time in mine and my best friend’s relationship when I *did* let go rather completely.  It’s been a while since that happened, and the thought of having done that still embarrasses and terrifies me.  I feel like a lousy friend for putting that much weight on my best friend’s shoulders.

The best way I can think of for dealing with this is to find safe times and places to release emotions bits at a time, whether alone or with safe people like my best friend.  At the moment, though, so much has built up in my body and mind that it seems all of it wants to burst out at once.  It’s not likely to, which probably really is a good thing, as I’m not sure when I’d be able to shut it off again and life does have to go on in the meantime.  I just need to find a compromise between the control I try to keep and the release I seem to need.  Should be about as simple as bringing on world peace.

Support for the Supporter

Years ago, while searching online for information to help me in dealing with my mother’s DID, I found an excellent source of support and quickly signed up.  In the decade or so I’ve been part of that group, I’ve been fortunate to meet people, some online and some in person, who have become like family to me.  When someone I consider family is being disrespected, I get annoyed.

Let’s face it– being in a relationship with someone with DID, whether romantic, familial, or friendship, is hard.  As with any other relationship, there are highs and lows.  The lows with DID, though, can be a bit stranger, for lack of better terms.  I say all of this from the perspective of someone who was once a Significant Other (SO) and as someone who brings DID into a relationship herself.  My best friend can attest to the fact that, even though we both consider our friendship to be unbreakable, there are times when my insiders and I do not make things easy.

Those in relationships with people who have DID need a bit of support all their own.  They need a place to share the things that make their unique relationships special, but also a safe place to vent about the inherent difficulties.  That venting might seem resentful at times, and it might actually *be* resentful– I remember many times writing in complete frustration that I simply wanted a mother, not a mother with children, teens, protectors, and a whole host of others who sometimes required me to act as parent for them.  Guess what?  Feeling resentful at times is OK.  It’s done in relationships that don’t involve multiplicity as well.  In the end, the SO feeling resentful at that moment likely loves the other person in the relationship quite strongly.  There are just times when the relationship gets overwhelming.

I’m writing this because I feel that a dear friend of mine is being attacked by a couple of people in an environment that has always been supportive.  The environment, by large majority, still is supportive.  I just feel like a couple of people have really singled out my friend and are being a bit attacking.  This opinion is mine alone.  I haven’t even mentioned it to my friend and am not likely to.  It’s just my perception.

The golden rule in relationships with multiples (as well as with non-multiples and probably in pop psychology overall) is that it’s not about our SO– it’s about our *reaction* to them.  In the end, that’s really the only thing we control.  Those of us who have at one time been SO’s of multiples, whether or not we ourselves are multiple, understand that our emotions about the situation run the gamut from bliss to anger.  And that’s OK.  We’re allowed to feel and express our anger, fear, and sadness regarding multiplicity in a safe environment where our SO’s won’t be triggered by our reactions.  Our relationships are actually stronger for that.  We’re also happy to talk about the wonderful times we’ve had with our SO’s as well as their others.  I *loved* playing with my mother’s child alters, and some of her teens were hilarious.  I shared coffee with some of the adults from time to time.  Each person brought another dimension to our relationship.

As SO’s, we learn from each other.  We rant and receive support from those who have faced a similar situation.  Sometimes they can even tell us how *they* dealt with that situation and help us in facing our own.  We share good times and provide hope for those who feel like they have nothing left to give.  We support each other as we learn to support the special person in our lives who just happens to have brought along a few extras.  Becoming catty and attacking amongst ourselves hurts everyone involved on both sides of the relationship.  We can certainly disagree with each other, but respectfully.  A quick glance at any reference book will show a simple truth that I think sometimes gets forgotten– the words support and attack are opposites.  In discussing our relationships, it’s so important to remember that.

Just a Note

This afternoon I was sifting through some old papers when I came across the last birthday card my mother had given me.  It’s been years, of course, since I’ve seen her handwriting.  The note was lovely.  She’d written to me how much she enjoyed our unique relationship, and it made me smile to think of the happy times we had together.  We were friends almost over being mother and daughter.  We went through rather alot together, and we frequently acted as equals.  For better or worse, she didn’t always fill the parent role, and I frequently acted as head of household.

Later this afternoon, I walked a couple of miles from my house to a spot that feels safe and let myself cry about her death.  That might actually be the first time I’ve cried specifically about my mother’s death.  When I wrote the goodbye letters my therapist suggested, I certainly *felt* like crying.  Today, though, I let it happen.  No idea what it was about that card or this afternoon or really any combination that led up to it.  I feel a bit sad now, but better.  As one of my insiders said during our walk back home, that was d*mn near healthy.

Learning Emotions

It’s not unusual for survivors of childhood trauma to have very little concept of emotion as adults.  For survivors of SRA, this is magnified even further.  Recognising that SRA is a very controversial topic, I can only speak from my own experiences.  However, I’m hoping this post might be helpful to other SRA survivors out there.

‘Act, don’t think’ is a popular adage among cult leaders and programmers.  Especially for higher-ranking members, the idea is to completely eradicate any sense of emotion.  Among the top, that includes even any concept of right or wrong.  Life becomes solely about action.  I’m very fortunate to have made it out of the cult system without losing my sense of right or wrong, and I’ve always been able to feel emotions, even if only slightly.  My problem has been identifying them, and then learning to express them.  Inherent abilities for most people, even though we sometimes muddle up that process along the way to adulthood.

My process of learning emotions went from simply conceptualising them as dictionary definitions to assigning them to physical responses to now, when I’m actually trying to name whatever it is I’m feeling.  I quite literally thumbed through a dictionary reading the definitions of words like ’emotion,’ ‘anger,’ and ‘sadness.’  I needed an understanding of the terms, which seemed quite like a foreign language at that point.  In case it hasn’t become completely obvious yet, I am incredibly analytical.  Everything has to make sense and follow logic or at least be open to having a system of logic applied to it.  I *make* my world logical, even in a spiritual sense.  When things happen outside that system of logic, as they have lately, I haven’t got a clue how to deal with them.  That’s partially what this rambling post is– my attempt at analysing why I can’t analyse some of the situations I’m facing at the moment.  I’m also known to be a bit stubborn.

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend explained one of the most perplexing concepts of emotion to me.  His family went through a very difficult and unexpected situation recently, and it’s still not over.  His mother is grappling with that situation, which shook her faith and made her question the very things on which she bases her identity.  I’ve sat with her many, many times as she’s cried or spoken in anger, voicing her concerns and questions over and over again.  I’d do it again any time– she’s like a mother to me, and I’ll always be right there for her and anyone else I love.  Compassion is something on which I pride myself.  However, I didn’t understand *why* she needed to express those feelings over and over again.  I could relate– my grief issues wash over me on a relatively regular basis, and even if I can’t follow through with it, the need to express my emotions is there– but I didn’t understand *why* that basic instinct of human nature existed.  It seemed maladaptive.  Feeling and expressing something once, and then being able to move on indefinitely seems like the better option.  And I’m almost laughing as I say that.  It’s the robotic response I was taught, but it’s also something I’ve broken through now.

My best friend put it in the simple terms I need to understand emotion.  The situation hasn’t changed, so why would the response change?  *That* makes sense to me.  That’s logical.  Even though the initial sting of his family’s situation has passed, the situation and its aftermath still exists.  His mother needs to keep talking about her feelings on the subject because the situation is still there.  She still feels it because that initial break can’t be mended.  And even though my losses didn’t happen in the past year, the people I lost will never be back.  The initial shock and acute pain of my grief has passed, but the situation remains as it was and the feelings surrounding those losses remain in me.

It’s an important lesson that has taken me years, literally, to understand.  I’m hoping this post might help someone get there a bit quicker.  We feel emotions because we are alive.  In fact, some might argue that the ability to understand and express emotion is what *makes* us alive.  We all have those passing issues that are more like annoyances.  When we face the really difficult situations, though, we come out of them changed.  They stay with us, if only by taking a piece of who we are with them as they pass.  The emotions they inspire stay with us as well.  Why, then, wouldn’t we need to express them more than once?  It’s our attempt to process the concepts introduced in our new lives and our new concepts of self.  In expressing the emotions of the situations that change us, we’re merely telling the story of who we have become through what we have experienced.  Very little in life is more important than that.

Repeat Performances

My last therapy assignment was to practise feeling emotions, and for once,  I took the assignment seriously.  My first effort led to SI.  I take full responsibility for that, but I recognise the catalyst as well.  This time, things went better and I actually learnt something that might be useful.  If my therapist will actually listen to me, that is.

This morning, I was feeling incredibly sad.  I’ve faced more than a few losses in a relatively short time, and I’ve put off dealing with those for quite a while.  For whatever reason, some of them are making themselves known more definitely now.  My emotions absolutely attacked me this morning, but I managed to control them again before they controlled me.  I actually stopped feeling anything at all almost immediately.  I took a bit of time to consider *why* it’s so very important to me to stop those pesky little emotions, and it all comes down, of course, to a lack of control.

I wandered down a sort of stream-of-consciousness that brought me to a conclusion that should have been obvious all along– in my experience, people who let their emotions lead for even a short time often become dangerous.  A bit more thinking, and I realised I was modelling that almost completely on my mother (and the Freudians laugh…).  She was extremely flighty, bouncing from one mood to another so frequently it was hard to keep up sometimes.  She had DID as well, and at least in her case, it seriously inhibited her ability to be a parent.  She felt intensely, and could be quite compassionate sometimes.  She could also be incredibly dangerous, leaving my sister and I in fear for our lives.  Add her family’s freemason background and her direct marriage into a powerful cult bloodline, and you have a recipe for devastating disaster.

Through my child eyes, I saw my mother become so violent in her anger that everyone around her suffered.  Her anger led her to break all of my fingers, send me to hospital with an explained-away concussion, and put so many scars on my body that I sometimes lose track of which were caused by what.  It led her to destroy all of my younger sister’s toys and hide her away in dark cupboards until I was able to get away and find her.  It even led her to hurt herself.  She attempted suicide twice and physically attacked her own body much in the same way she attacked my sister and me.

My mother’s deep grief and sadness was less violent, but destructive all the same.  She starved herself, stopped speaking, stopped bathing, and barely existed.  The strong psych meds she took only made things worse.  We were terrified to watch what was happening to her and absolutely certain that we were the cause.

As an adult, I still wonder if that will happen to me as well if I truly give in to my emotions for even a small bit of time.  It’s in my blood afterall.  It seems better to simply stop the emotions before they start.  Wrapped up in the safety of my best friend’s arms, I’ve been able to release some of my strong emotions.  Still, when I feel that sort of shift that tells me my emotions will soon be leading me, I stop my feelings completely.  Part of me knows that I will feel better if I learn to give in for a bit, but my fear stops that happening.  It’s a fear that all of my logic and analysing can’t make better.  My therapist says the only way to get past stubborn fears is to let the thing you’re afraid of happen so that you see it isn’t anything to be afraid of afterall.  This fear is too dangerous, though, and I’m not quite ready to take the chance on repeating what I’ve seen in the past.

Fallout

Ever been hit so hard by your Stuff that it prevents you concentrating on anything else?

At my therapy session last week, we spoke very briefly about the goodbye letters I wrote as part of the grief therapy bit in my treatment plan.  We did not get in to detail in the least, as I’m working on something rather important at the moment and neither I nor my therapist wanted to dredge up things that will take quite alot of work.  My Stuff, however, has a different perspective on this.  It keeps popping by for not-so-brief visits anyway, and I’m trying to figure out a way to keep it from taking over for long periods of time.

Yesterday, for example, I got stuck in to the project I was working on and some silly little detail reminded me of my father.  Our relationship was complex, to understate it terribly, so the issues surrounding his death are a bit sticky as well.  I’ve done a fine job putting those bits away for the past four years, but my Stuff is apparently bored or lonely now.  It was just a tiny little detail that brought about his memory– he loved studying history, and the piece I was reading fell under that category– but I spent the next two hours in a fog and finally stopped trying to study when I realised I’d read the same paragraph at least five times and still had no idea of its meaning.

My brother-of-choice, whose word I trust absolutely, told me just after my mother’s death that there are times in life when we need to let our emotions guide us for a bit.  That is such a difficult task, especially for those of us who are so analytical and insistent on self-control that it hurts our progress sometimes.  The fact that I’m newly grieving over old losses complicates the situation a bit further even.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s good to allow grief a bit of time and space.  Lately, my problem has been stopping it taking over *all* of the space in my mind.  The obvious answer to this problem is to feel the grief when it hits and allow myself whatever safe release seems best at that time.  And as soon as I’ve single-handedly brought about world peace, I’ll get started on that.