Involving Your Children in the Healing Process, Part 2

As my wife/my girls and I have traveled together to help her heal from dissociative identity disorder, a.k.a. multiple personality disorder, I made the executive decision to involve our only child in the healing process. See here:

But it’s been nearly 3 years since I wrote that post, and I wanted to do a follow up to it as we prepare for his imminent departure to grad school.

As I said previously the little girls relate to our son as a big brother. They call him, “Brother” and “Boy” affectionately. And though for the last 4 years he has held both a part-time job and gone to college fulltime, he still makes time for them whenever his schedule allows. Time with Brother is worthy of the girls stopping anything else they are doing especially if all 3 of us are present so that “all their peoples” are together.

And for his part, he continues to be a doting big brother who takes them out on dates, watches TV and movies at home, and insists on taking trips around the area to have fun together. When KA joined us, he especially connected with her as they share so many similar interests; I only half jokingly tell her, “He’s your child, not Karen’s.” But he also teases them goodnaturedly and “fights back” when they got too precocious. He adds a dimension to their healing that I still can’t replicate.

Five years into the healing journey, Karen told me a couple of days ago “how glad” she was that our son was part of things instead of following what the experts say to shield children from the presence of the insiders. She feels our entire family is closer now, and as he looks ahead to moving to New England he told her that he will miss the little girls a lot. In fact his hope is that we will move close to him once he gets settled in a career: a clear sign to Karen and me that I made the right decision to involve him in the healing process.

So as we finish this phase of the journey in which our son is a daily part of his mother’s healing, I want to share a few ways our son helps his mother heal. These aren’t hard and fast rules. They are simply what we do. Do whatever works for your family. More


Helping Someone who is Suicidal

For 25 years I’ve been in a one-sided marriage. For the first 20 I didn’t understand why, when I tried so hard to love my wife, she never responded back to me. But 5 years ago we found out she has dissociative identity disorder, and I had my “ah-ha” moment. But understanding why my wife treats me the way she does, still does not take away the pain of a one-sided marriage.

In a different life I was on top of the world: I was one of  the best at everything I tried and was voted “most likely to succeed” in high school: senior class president, high school valedictorian, 4.0 g.p.a. throughout college. Then I married a broken woman and, poof, it was all gone. To stay true to myself and the woman I still do love meant I had to give up all the hopes and dreams and desires I carried in my heart to give her the support and love she needed so desperately but NEVER returned in kind. On top of that my family scattered over the States, and so I lost that support network as well.

It’s a strange state of affairs in which my wife, who has d.i.d., has repeatedly told me she NEVER struggles with suicidal issues, and yet for me it is a near daily companion. And as I keep this little-noticed blog, blacklisted by every official d.i.d. group I have tried to join, it’s only added to my isolation. It doesn’t matter that my wife/my girls are doing phenomenally well in the healing process because of my efforts. It doesn’t matter that they have so few of the common maladies associated with d.i.d. that they quit being part of d.i.d. support groups because they simply didn’t fit in. I’m not doing things the prescribed way, and so I’m not welcome to be part of the larger conversation how to heal d.i.d. So even though I am once again excelling with the hand life has dealt me, I’m still invalidated and ostracized. I don’t have a graduate psych degree, so I’m unworthy of a hearing. Sigh.

After journaling 3900 pages, I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on my internal workings. I don’t have any mental disorders that I’m aware of unless you’re part of the thinking that says “Hey, dummy! You’re suicidal. There HAS to be something wrong with you! Duh!” My struggles are because of the epic ordeal my wife’s disorder has been to our marriage. I’m tired;  I NEVER have someone to turn to like spouses ought to be for each other;  my needs NEVER are met except superficially; I never even got the chance to pursue my dreams and goals; and all the natural support systems one is supposed to have got stripped away from our lives for various reasons.

So, as one who is mentally healthy but still has struggled with this issue so much, I wanted to give my take on how others can help someone who is struggling with suicide issues if you ever get the chance. More

Why I Stay

We live in a throw-away culture. Not only do we throw away our multitude of material possession when they break, but so many of us do the same with our relationships if they falter. But we, the spouses, partners and loved ones of someone with dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder, truly face some huge issues in our relationship. If we are going to buck that trend as we deal with a disorder that breaks many relationships, we need to know why it’s worth denying our own needs to help our loved one heal deeply and completely.

Again, I often watch movies and TV shows that imply I am somehow pathetic for staying in a less-than-satisfying relationship. Our culture makes it clear that if we are in a relationship that isn’t mutually satisfying, we have a right to go and find one that does meet our needs. So why do I stay?

A couple months ago I tried to answer that question in my personal journal. I needed to know if I’m a pathetic, spineless man for staying in a marriage that has denied me so many basic needs and dreams, or if I had good reasons for sticking it out. These are the four reasons I have for staying with my wife.

The first reason I stay is because I love my girls. Valentine’s Day is hard for me. When I look at all those cards, they are all about “I love you because you do this or that for me.” But in our marriage I have always been the one to give, while my hurting wife received. I had to give up a lot of hopes and dreams and deny a lot of needs to stay with my girl(s), and yet something in me still loves her. Maybe it’s because she’s the only one I’ve ever had sex with. I don’t know. But I love her(them) regardless of how hard the last 24 years have been. To me being “in love” is about what someone else does for me, while “loving” someone is about what I do for someone else. I do love my girls!

The second reason I stay is because of the vows I made on my wedding day: “for better or for worse.” On the bad days, there’s a voice inside my head that reminds me that no one forced me to make those vows. Those vows are there for a reason, and I’m not a liar. I’m a man of my word even if sometimes it feels like it will kill me to keep my word especially when so many people in this culture get divorced over such pathetically petty things. Plus some day I hope to see my girls healed so we can take part of the “for better” part of that clause. It’s a goal I have for my wife and me. More

Sometimes a Step Backward is Forward Progress

One of the most incredibly difficult things I had to learn on this journey to help my wife heal is that sometimes/often I have to give up my “rights” as a husband before healing is possible in my wife’s heart.

Here’s my side of the story. For the first 15 years of my marriage, Alexis the defender (now Alley my girlfriend) would essentially tell me my needs were only valid if they coincided with hers, Karen’s. (Remember at this point she wasn’t outside, so she just used Karen’s voice.) But somehow 15 years into the marriage, Karen finally realized I had legitimate needs as her husband, and so she began to try to meet them. Things were finally getting better from my perspective. Yippee!

But then in the 20th year of our marriage, after Karen had begun therapy trying to deal with the fallout from her csa and the insiders began to join our life, our marriage “crashed.” I saw all the gains in our marriage “disappear” as the desperately needy inside girls entered my life. I loved these girls who were part of my wife’s core and vowed to do NOTHING that would traumatize them, but on a personal level I thought my hope of a mutually fulfilling marriage was slipping away from my grasp. It felt like I was being held underwater, and I my lungs were screaming for air. For the first couple of months as I courted the littles outside and realized what this would mean to my own needs, I cried every night at work and on my walk home from work: heart-wrenching, snot-running-down-my-face, unable-to-breath, fall-on-the-floor crying. I felt like I had literally lost the few things that were deeply important to me in the marriage.

But sometimes you gain by letting go…

I have a goal for my marriage. I want a “normal,” emotionally well-adjusted wife when we are done on this journey, but that means I have to meet the insiders’ needs for safety. Period! I am willing to do that no matter how it affects my needs at this moment. However, this stance is made more difficult when the needs of the host (my wife) are in sync with my needs, but these needs would be harmful to one of the insiders. I always tell each of my girls that I will NEVER play one girl against another. So I have to be the impassionate third party when there is disagreement within the network no matter what my needs might dictate on the subject. More

Her Needs, His Needs

On this blog I have done very little talking about the needs of a husband or the non-DID spouse. As a Christian there are so many commands in the Bible to put the other person first that it almost feels sacrilegious for me to talk about my own needs. And so I tried, though far from perfectly, to do what I thought was right hoping that if I loved my wife and satisfied her needs, somehow or someway my needs would get met. But though I honestly found a lot of joy in loving my wife, that joy never seemed able to erase the ache in my heart from the lack of my needs being satisfied.

Expressing my needs on this blog or in comments on other blogs and personal emails has brought mixed reactions, however (which is why I wrote this entry 3 weeks ago, but have feared posting it lest I start another firestorm.). A few have expressed empathy at the difficult situation both Karen and I are in as they acknowledge their own marital struggles. But more often I have been expressly told, or it has been implied, that Karen’s healing needs must come first. Period.

But this sentiment may be the reason why many husbands simply walk out or threaten to do so. I understand that the healing journey for a trauma overcomer means that they must learn to have their needs validated: something that never happened when the abuse was occurring. But validation should never come by invalidating the needs of others especially a spouse or significant other. The non-DID spouse/so has just as legitimate needs as the DID spouse does even if they are different. Period. To suggest that the trauma victim should be given pre-eminence simply because of the trauma is to invalidate the needs of the other person, and that is a recipe for abandonment, divorce or, as in my case, struggling with thoughts of suicide for the last 22 years. More

Our Healing Journey

When two people are married, I believe their lives ought to become so intertwined that eventually they become to some degree like one. Some call it being “one flesh.” Now I will be the first to admit that my wife’s DID issues and my own selfishness have severely hampered that ideal state of matrimony for all 22 years we have been married. But I also admit that I never felt like these gave me an excuse to try any less diligently to reach that goal.

So when her DID became apparent and the girls entered my life, I had the attitude that her trials are my trials. In fact, I “owned” her past abuse as “our” past abuse for it in a very real sense has had nearly as devastating of an effect on my life as it has on hers. This kept me from pushing this off as “her” problem, and it also gave me a great incentive to do everything I possibly could to help her in “our” healing journey. I help her in any way that she allows because this affects the woman I love, it affects me and it affects us.

Just because I have this attitude does not mean that Karen and the girls are totally transparent with me. In fact they are frustratingly tight lipped about so many things they are dealing with. Sadly the DID keeps them from sharing my view about oneness in marriage. But anything they entrust to me, I do my best to help in the healing process. And I think that my involvement has speeded the healing process significantly.

DID is a divisive disorder. It literally divides the person who has it. And it will do its best to divide the marriage that must deal with it. That is why attitudes are so important. More

Trying to Find Support for Myself

Trying to create a support network for myself during this healing journey has been exceedingly difficult. To make things harder my girls have tried to put a “gag order” upon me. They tell me that some people with DID talk about it freely, or at least freely with others who have DID. But they are in the other category of those who desire absolute secrecy and anonymity even with the other ladies on their survivors’ forum.

So I have tried to honor their desires for secrecy and anonymity as much as possible; HOWEVER, I have needs too. This path toward their healing has been the most difficult thing in which I have ever participated. As the girls have come outside, in the beginning I picked up all household duties. I lost most adult companionship with my wife, and our “bad” sex life slowly asphyxiated into no sex life as I am giving Alleylieu time to get healed from the sexual times we had together without my knowledge.

Many, many times I examined my options: 1) suicide and fulfill my marriage vows “til death do us part” 2) run away to try and keep my sanity 3) divorce—not really an option that I wanted 4) stay in the marriage but let her struggle alone in the healing process (talk about shooting yourself in the foot!) or 5) somehow stay the course and help in any way that I can the woman I love to get healed. But if I was going to make it through this, it is NOT unreasonable that I have some kind of support network in spite of their gag order. The girls had me and my son. They had their theophostic facilitator whom they considered a friend. And they also had all the women on their forum.

I had no support because as much help as my son was to the girls, he was very little emotional support to me. And that is never to denigrate all the stuff he did while I was gone at work. He kept the house going, fed Amy and Alleylieu, did some chores, and fulfilled the role of big brother wonderfully especially the first year. Without him I know the girls would not be nearly as far in their healing. But he refused to talk with me about the situation. Maybe he didn’t need that, but I did.

Now before you consider people to include in your support network, you do need to understand that some people will be “safe” people to share with and others will NOT be. This is true of any confidante. Additionally I have wondered if the younger generation of the 20 and 30-something crowd view DID as no big deal because of the internet and Monk, The United States of Tara, Hoarders: Buried Alive and other shows that have showcased personality and mental disorders. Shows like these have taken away a lot of the mystery and stigma surrounding such issues. And even though there’s a lot of disinformation out there, most of the people I have talked with have been extremely empathetic and understanding. Lastly, I have either told my girls or they have found out about all my attempts to get support. They weren’t always happy that I have told others, but because none of my confidantes have approached Amy or Alleylieu to try to start a relationship with them and none of them have been truly unsafe, I think they have tolerated my need for support. Just remember to choose wisely if you ask for help or you may cause your girls and yourself unneeded emotional stress. More

Previous Older Entries