Stopping Nightmares

For nearly the last five years, my wife/my girls and I have been on a journey to heal her of her dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. From time to time nightmares have been part of that journey. But since Tina, the last insider, joined us last year, the nightmares have been persistent and disruptive.

I’ve talked with her a couple of times in the past about controlling her dreams, as I had done for myself once a long time ago, but neither she nor their counselor seemed to know how, and I wasn’t quite sure how I had done it either. So we have struggled with the fallout from the nightmares. Recently they’ve become so bad, that Tina was beginning to refuse to go to sleep at nights.

I finally did a little google search and within a couple of seconds I found the following two links that provide clear and simple steps to help deal with her persistent nightmares.

http://drphil.com/articles/article/206

http://www.nativeremedies.com/ailment/stopping-nightmares-and-scary-dreams.html

Were these a miracle cure? No. At first when I shared these links with Tina and the others, I was met with disbelief. Having been traumatized by these nightmares for so long, she totally rejected the claim that she could control them.

But the second night, she and I continued to talk about “re-scripting” the nightmares as it is called. Re-scripting simply means one changes how the nightmare ends while the sufferer is awake. The person can make a happy ending, or funny ending or anything else that she wants. She/he simply needs to talk about the nightmare and then make a new ending.

It was obvious that she was thinking about how to change the “script” of her repeated nightmares. Currently she has been being chased by vampires who then “hurt her” like her abuser did and then try to kill her. As we talked I suggested that I could join her in her dreams and fight for her like I have every other step of the way. But she objected: these are vampires; we need Buffy the Vampire Slayer she thought. She also knew the “rules” of fighting vampires even though the other girls and I watched Buffy long before Tina ever joined us on the outside: we needed wooden stakes, crosses and holy water. More

Overcoming Panic Attacks

As my wife and I have traveled on the road together for her healing from dissociative identity disorder, panic attacks were something we had to contend with initially. Panic attacks seem to be the ubiquitous bane of those with DID: the irrational fear that seeks to consume and debilitate.

Recently I came across the following article: http://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/panic-disorder/panic-attack-causes-what-causes-panic-attacks/. This article started out by stating that although they don’t know what causes the attacks, they were looking at things like stress, trauma events, excessive stimulant intake, illness and abrupt changes in environment.

I realize that I only have experience with my girls, but their panic attacks seem trauma based. Their panic attacks emanated from the link their mind connected between a past trauma and a current event for a specific girl within the network.

What did that mean for us? In the beginning of our journey, panic attacks seemed to arise for “no reason.” Sure we could recognize the triggers, but why did the trigger trigger a panic attack? Then I realized that if the girl who was fronting didn’t understand why she was getting panicky, I simply had to find the one inside that was“bleeding thru.”  That removed the aspect of irrationality from these attacks. Then it became a fairly easy matter to stop the panic attacks. More

The Rip Van Winkle Effect

I don’t remember much about Rip Van Winkle other than he went to sleep for a VERY long time, and when he woke up, everything naturally had changed. Life continued without him.

I keep having a similar conversation with my girls: Amy, Alley and now Shelly. From their perspective each of them simply went to sleep and 30+ plus years later they awoke to find their entire world had changed. The people Karen and I call their parents don’t look anything like they remember. They live in a different house in a totally different climate. My son and I are new to them. Their friends/acquaintances and toys are gone. Even their body is different. They still see themselves as little girls, and yet they are trapped in the body of an adult woman that now needs eyeglasses, has breasts and “gross” menstrual periods, just to name a few changes.

That’s not to say panic attacks were caused solely by this aspect of DID, but it was a factor with my girls. As the girls have moved to the outside world, they have found everything alarmingly different which is scary and disorienting. Add this to the fact of their past trauma and their emotionally and socially underdeveloped skills in the beginning, and the effect of their RVW experience is exacerbated.

So part of helping the insider girls was giving them a prolonged orientation to their “new” world. More

The End of Panic Attacks!

I wish I could say all panic attacks and incidences of the girls biting themselves are forever and ever a thing of the past. But in the last couple of months, the healing process seems to be picking up steam, and as it has the girls have become more and more like normal outside children whose primary reaction to adverse situations is no longer panic or self injury.

Here are just two recent examples. At the beginning of September we took a two-week vacation to Orlando and did all the Disney parks, Universal parks and Discovery Cove and Sea World. Amy has come so far in the healing journey that this vacation she quickly raised her hand anytime they asked for audience participants, and at Disney’s Hollywood Studios she got to be part of the Indiana Jones attraction. She had a great time and fully participated in all the crowd scenes while I sat in the bleachers nearly in tears of joy remembering that only a year earlier my girls were nearly housebound because of their fear of all strangers.

And for her part, though Alleylieu found the thronging crowds at all the theme parks difficult, only once did we have to leave something because she felt uncomfortable: that was at a restaurant that was tightly packed with people and exceedingly noisy. This was a far cry from the girl who just this spring would regularly look around us in the local Walmart (even when it wasn’t busy) with panic in her eyes because she was out with me in a public place.

Then just last Friday my girls were driving home from a visit to their parents. It’s a 2-hour drive. While I was talking on the phone with Amy, a car nearly side swiped them on I75. She and Karen seamlessly changed positions. They slammed on the breaks and moved over the best they could. Things went flying inside the car, but there was no collision. Karen told me what happened, and then Amy popped back out and began frantically talking with me. I calmed her down and tried to talk her through it. She told me her heart was beating rapidly, but whose wouldn’t be?

Then when they got home, Amy called me to tell me they had another frightening incident right before they got home. A deer jumped out, hit the car immediately in front of them. That car spun around (at 65mph) and nearly hit my girls, but again they were safe. And yet after both of these near accidents my girls continued to function. They didn’t shut down. They didn’t freak out. They were scared, but so would any normal adult be. Yesterday their theophostic facilitator continued to help them talk these incidents through as I have since they happened, and both girls said they are doing much better.

So are panic attacks and the desire to self injure a thing of the past? More

What is Sex? Giving the Insiders Time to Heal

Trigger warning if even a general talk of sex is upsetting, please don’t continue.

Because the trauma of a person with DID so often seems to revolve around childhood sexual abuse, my guess is that the spouse of said person often ends up wondering this question. In 22 years I could never say that our sex life was good, happy or exciting. Sometimes it was non-existent. Normally it was strained. I often tried to turn it into lemonade and make the best of it, but then in moments of transparency my past attempts to be positive about it were thrown back into my face with, “you said you were happy with it!” Sigh.

But now that the insiders are finally coming out, there is a chance to truly deal with the root issues of that abuse and hopefully end one of the most painful aspects of our marriage that Karen and I have both had to endure. For me the entrance of the insiders into my life meant the slow exit of sex out of my life during the healing process. But my attitude is that I want to do whatever is necessary for the quickest means of real healing possible. We have both languished 22 years in this dysfunction: I’m going to stop the hurting or die trying!

As the insiders joined my life, I adopted another cardinal rule: no more panic attacks! By that I mean that I never wanted to be the source of a panic attack. Saying that and fulfilling that goal are two different things. But that was my desire. As I became more aware of my girls and attentive to their needs to facilitate healing, I realized that sex with Karen was going to need adjusted.

We went from having (bad) sex 2 or 3 times a week to having sex once a week. But as the healing continued and Alleylieu came out more continuously, we began having “platonic married time.” Karen and I would get naked (or just topless) together and do a little touching, but that was it. Every once in awhile we’d try to go all the way, until the day that we tried and I saw Karen switch on me. And that was the end of sex by my choice.

NO MORE PANIC ATTACKS. PERIOD.

Karen didn’t even like my rule. Every once in a while, she actually wanted to have sex with me, but because I had voiced this promise to Alleylieu, she, Karen, and all the ladies on her forum felt I really needed to keep my word, not that I was intending to break it.

By doing this I honored and validated Alleylieu and gave her the space and time to heal that she needed. This doesn’t mean Karen and I didn’t keep trying to find ways to satisfy me sometimes. But even that had to end when Alleylieu one day “accidentally” shared that she was clawing herself during these times. Alleylieu knew how important these times were to me and how much I needed them and how much their absence was ripping my heart apart, so she was trying to encourage Karen to have sexual time with me every once in a while. But even though I wasn’t penetrating Karen, it was still too much intimacy for Alleylieu.

LET ME SAY IT AGAIN. NO MORE PANIC ATTACKS.

Alleylieu went on to explain that even though Karen thought she could have sex with me without switching, she, Alleylieu, was now so close to the surface ALL the time that it would be impossible for her NOT to be part of our sexual times. And as I’ve said previously, I learned during the course of this healing journey, that every bad sexual encounter I had with Karen over the last 22 years was actually endured by Alleylieu. To keep having sex before Alleylieu was healed would mean I was reinforcing all those bad times: continuing the hurting instead of promoting the healing. More

Helping During a Panic Attack

During the first year of our healing journey as the three main insiders (Amy, Sophia, and Alleylieu) began to come outside, we had to deal with flashbacks/panic attacks/trigger events. (During this second year of healing they have become much less frequent.) Whatever you want to call them, they can be a little scary or confusing if you don’t understand what’s going on and how to defuse them quickly.

In the beginning the insiders are essentially in a time warp. From their perspective the trauma events from which they were created are still a present danger. Because they don’t have access to all the memories, for all they know the trauma is still happening. So as they come out into the present, current events may feel similar to events from the past trauma events. When those similar feelings or situations occur, they may get triggered into a flashback.

For my girls when this happened they would typically close and roll back their eyes and that was a pretty good sign that they were moving back into their past memories. They began to shake and cry out in terror or whimper and look for a safe place to crawl under. In this situation they were most tempted to self injure. My girls were only prone to bite their hands and fingers, but many insiders can be much more violent to themselves as they seek to relieve the emotional pain by causing physical pain as a distraction

Now because I always saw the inside girls as if they were normal outside girls, dealing with these terror attacks really wasn’t significantly different from or more difficult than helping a child who is terrified of a thunderstorm. Here are the two rules I lived by to help my girls out of these panic attacks and one special circumstance:

1) Never forcibly restrain the insider unless she is doing something that is immediately life threatening. When an insider is this mode, to forcibly restrain her is counterproductive even if it involves lesser forms of self injury. By using force you are reinforcing the original trauma when these girls were probably, forcibly abused.

When my girls began biting in front of me because of a flashback, I would gently take her hands and only remove them from her mouth if she allowed me to do so. If not, I talked to her soothingly until she allowed me to do so.

One time I had to follow an insider out of a parking garage. She was scared to be inside it, so rather than me stop her, I just stuck close to her to make sure she was safe, and once we got outside, I was able to show her some of the pretty church buildings surrounding us. As I talked to her and showed her things outside, she calmed down and went back inside.

2) Talk her back to the present while you try to get her to open her eyes. Like I said, the insider is associating a current event with a past trauma. Talk to her soothingly, but use your talk to pull her back to the present. This is often what my girls would hear me say during these times: “Honey, you need to come back to me. Open your eyes, Honey. You are part of my family now. You are safe now, Honey. I won’t let anyone hurt you. You are a deeply loved little girl.” More