How I Stay

Awhile back I posted an entry entitled Why I Stay here (and a related one here). In it I gave 4 reasons why I have decided to stick it out with my wife on our joint journey to see her dissociative identity disorder healed. But the battle to stay, when so many spouses leave, is a daily, sometimes minute by minute battle for me. I never seem to deal with it once and for all. So I wanted to look at some more things that have helped me to deal with the massive, secondary trauma that my wife’s disorder brings my way. There are reasons that I stay. I listed them in the entry I linked above. But in the end I simply choose to stay. Lots of people have broken their vows. Societal and religious pressure actually push us toward self-fulfillment, not sacrificial giving nowadays. None of the reasons I gave before are insurmountable if I want to run; but I choose to stay.

How do I stay? First, I stay by owning my decision to stay. The first year or two that we started this journey was filled with a LOT of anger on my part. I was tired of my needs being ignored and diminished and as the little girls joined us, a lot of things that I thought had been buried in the past resurrected themselves back into our marriage.

But at this point in our journey, after lots and lots of journaling, I’ve owned my decision to stay in my dysfunctional marriage. I think my anger was tied to my feelings of being trapped in this marriage by various forces. My anger was also linked to my feelings of being wronged in this marriage by my dysfunctional wife. But once I made the decision to stay in this marriage knowing what that meant, the anger began to dissipate because I had made an informed choice. More

Keeping Sight of the Forest

There’s an old adage about losing sight of the forest for all the trees when a person is focusing too much on specific problems and is missing the larger picture. As I’ve helped my wife heal from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, one of my key roles in this journey has been to keep sight of the forest for all my girls.

First I try to be an emotional compass for them. As I read other blogs by those with d.i.d., dealing with emotions is an overwhelming task by those who dissociated most feelings away in the face of trauma. As my girls, especially Karen, learned to deal with feelings from the past and even in the present, I had to help them not be overwhelmed. I need to be the calm and cool one, when they feel like everything is falling apart. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever lose it or become discouraged, but it does mean I can’t wallow in it like I used to. Whether or not it’s fair, my wife’s healing progress is directly tied to my emotional stability. When I can be strong for her, it gives all the girls the safety and stability they need to heal from the past and begin to move forward.

Another way that I keep sight of the forest for my wife is by being the one who understands the goal of healing. My wife has no idea what being emotionally healthy means. Karen especially has said this repeatedly: she doesn’t know what healing looks like. From the time of their earliest recollections they were abused and neglected. On top of that a lifetime of dissociation means the various girls in their network have little idea what co-operation truly means. Many times I will watch the various girls do things that are NOT healing. And they don’t even realize the results of their actions are to prolong the dissociation. So when I watch them doing something that detracts from the goal, I try to gently explain why another course of action will not only give them what they desire but also help them learn to work together better. I walk a fine line; trust me. No wife wants her husband to constantly correct her. Sometimes the little girls receive the suggestions better than Karen, and I never demand their obedience. I offer suggestions and then give them the complete freedom to accept or reject my suggestions. I never pout if they don’t listen to a suggestion!

Another way that I keep sight of the forest for my girls is by helping them to remember the progress that has been made. As we travel this healing journey together, I’ve noticed Karen especially has a very difficult time seeing all the progress she and the other girls have made. Many, many days she is discouraged that they aren’t done yet. And on those days, I have to be her cheerleader and remind her how phenomenally far they have all come.

In 4 years we have brought 6 little girls into our lives. Four of them largely are outsiders and are co-conscious/co-fronting with Karen. Sophia is half and half. And Tina we’re still working with to help her join the family. But all the girls have moved from broken little girls into “dancing fairies” as I like to envision them. They rarely act like abuse victims anymore and they are growing and developing intellectually, emotionally and socially, giving me hope that one day they will all become a healthy woman and wife. More

The Need to Go “Above and Beyond”

Helping my wife heal through dissociative identity disorder, a.k.a. multiple personality disorder, has been a fulltime job for the last four years. I’ve had to reprioritize my life, and everything except the essentials has largely been ignored. Moreover, the safety needs of the little girls have been paramount with me. At times I have been criticized for doing too much, but sometimes that’s exactly what the little girls need to heal and grow . Here’s an example.

Recently the girls went on their first-ever women’s scrapbooking retreat over the weekend. The little girls were excited at first. Then they started feeling nervous about being away from me for so long. So here are the things we did to help calm their fears.

We only have one car, and they insisted on driving it so that they could come home if they got too scared even though that would strand me at home. But then I arranged to have my uncle’s car available in case they needed a visit from me for “moral support.” We also got skype updated on our laptops and made sure we both knew how to use it before they left. And I promised to text and call them “lots and lots.” I was also prepared to email each of them daily. Essentially I was creating a “safety net” of sorts for them in their mind so that they would have the freedom to spread their wings and fly without fear of falling. I wanted to continuously be in contact with them so they wouldn’t feel the fear of our separation.

Since my wife was a trauma victim, I have discovered how important it is for the little girls to never feel “trapped” like they were when the abuse was occurring. So now when they are doing something new, I always help them map out multiple “escape routes” and also multiple support devices for them. This creates a “safety net” in their mind and allows them to focus on enjoying something that they would be otherwise afraid to try. More

The Husband in a Therapeutic Relationship with his Wife

Recently I have been confronted with the idea that a husband should NOT be in a therapeutic relationship with his wife. This was specifically stated to me by a therapist on another site, and then I read it recently in a transcript here http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/transcripts/living-day-to-day-with-didmpd/understanding-did/

Let me be clear: I don’t know if this is a general consensus among therapists, but since it seems to be a concern by some, I thought this issue is worth addressing.

Should a husband be in a therapeutic relationship with his wife as they deal with dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder? Well, anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time would expect my answer to be yes! But to do justice to this topic, I think I should qualify that ‘yes.’ There really are issues that should be considered before a husband and wife consider replicating what Karen and I have done.

First, when my wife and I began this journey together, I had a lot of anger and bitterness. I had spent 19 years in a relationship with her that was often one-side and left me feeling used and neglected. We had a cycle in our relationship in which I would try desperately hard to be the perfect husband in the hopes of her reciprocating and taking care of some of my needs. When that never happened, I would begin the downward spiral becoming more and more unhappy until I would stop trying to please her. Then I’d become pouting and petulant. This would last for a short while until I would pick myself back up and try again. I was always sure that if I was “just good enough” for her she would want to please me in response. Until 4 years ago, I never understood that it was the little girls who kept her from responding as a healthy woman typically would.

So near the beginning of this healing journey, I had to make a conscious decision to break my pattern of interaction with my wife. I came to the place where I decided I would meet my wife’s needs knowing that she could NOT meet my needs at this point in our relationship. That didn’t make it any easier to have unmet needs, but it broke the cycle of anger and bitterness that always followed my disappointment: I don’t expect my needs to be met currently, and so I’m rarely disappointed.

My parents gave me a gift for this journey that they never could have imagined. I always grew up feeling loved and secure in my family in spite of having typical middle child issues, lol! And that innate sense of love and security has enabled me to weather the sacrifice and self-denial that the little girls needed me to have while I met their needs for love, safety and belonging. When I scan the professional literature, it often assumes no one can deny his own needs, and if my childhood had left me emotionally needy, the literature might be right. But for the 4 years since the little girls have joined my life I have never once purposely violated their safety needs to satisfy my own even though I have bathed Sophia weekly, slept in the same bed with them, dressed in the same room and had (sporadic) sex with Karen. More

A Husband’s Definition of Dissociative Identity Disorder

When my wife first came home 3 ½ years ago from a counseling session and suggested she might have dissociative identity disorder, my mind was blank. I had absolutely no idea what that meant. Then when I found out it used to be called multiple personality disorder, all the whacked out ideas that Hollywood has promulgated assaulted my mind. Aren’t those kinds of people always twisted sociopaths? Fear briefly gripped my heart.

Since that baptism by fire nearly 3 ½ years ago, my understanding of this personality disorder has become very intimate. Psychological terms like alters transformed into personal relationships with wonderful little girls like Amy, Alley, Sophia, Shelly and KA. What used to seem like extreme selfishness and sometimes emotional cruelty in my wife began to make sense. And a hopeless marriage was given a second chance to have a “happily ever after” ending.

So what is d.i.d.? The first word is dissociative. A layman’s definition of dissociation would be something that is “broken, hidden, split apart, compartmentalized, uncommunicative, etc.” This is a critical difference between me and my girls. I often tell my girls that we both have multiple voices in our heads, but the key difference between a singleton and a multiple is that the voices in my head do not block out or lock up any of the other voices in my head. Sometimes it’s a free-for-all in my mind, but all my voices get a chance to be heard. That’s not the case for someone with d.i.d. For someone with d.i.d. the voices get separated and compartmentalized. And since they are compartmentalized, each voice learns to act independently and often without any regard for the others. Sometimes they don’t even realize that there ARE others about whom they should be concerned.

Right now the little girls like to watch the series Charmed with me. I pointed out to the girls that the 3 sisters in the series are stronger as they learn to work together. But whenever they are separated they are much weaker. That’s another key thing to remember about dissociation. Dissociation weakens each person (alter) within the network because he or she does not have access to all his/her mental faculties. Amy and Karen swim like a fish. Shelly and Alley sink like a rock. Dissociation or the literal dissolving of the natural bonds between a person’s voices means the mental faculties available to the whole person must now be divided up, often unevenly, among the various girls within my wife’s network.

The second word in d.i.d. is identity. This is the part everyone knows about. A person with d.i.d/m.p.d. has different people/personalities in the same body. It’s the “fascinating” part of the condition that people think is cool or delightful or that gives ignorant script writers a new breed of perfect killers. More

No, She Can’t Help It

Before I began the journey with my girls through dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder, I was a confirmed religious and political conservative. To me one of the pillars of those positions is total personal responsibility. We are all responsible for our actions and inactions. Period. Plain and simple. Right?

However, as I have been deeply involved in the healing journey with my girls, I was confronted with the fallacy of this a priori assumption. I had never even questioned that someone might literally be unable to control every decision and action that proceeds from their being.

Humans are incredibly complex creatures, and I don’t want to launch into a complex philosophical evaluationof every factor that influences human free will. Philosophy’s not my forte. But in the beginning of our journey especially, as I watched my girls suffer from panic attacks and get triggered from “insignificant” events, I came to realize that they literally were NOT responsible for their every action and inaction. And that realization was a window into my own soul as well.

Dissociative identity disorder is just a disorder on a larger spectrum of human functioning. The more emotionally healthy a person is, the more, I believe, he/she has the ability to exercise freedom of choice in everything. But when a child is exposed to a traumatic childhood, that ability to act in healthy ways is significantly impaired. And that realization helped me take a large step toward proper compassion for my wife. More

Food Related Issues

Food fight! I was only involved in one food fight my entire school career, and I had the sense to dive under a table when it started. Food fights might look like fun on TV, but they can be nasty especially when they involve different people in the network of someone suffering from dissociative identity disorder or more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. There’s no hiding in those fights.

The girls tell me food and weight are two huge issues on the abuse websites they are part of. Some abuse survivors overeat. Others undereat. Plus bulimia and anorexia often are linked to the trauma as well. As spouses and partners of our loved ones, what role can we play to bring healing in this area?

In our situation Karen and Amy were at war over this issue. Karen has little interest in food. When her world was out of control, she always told me that her weight was the one thing she could control. And she was merciless. I’m not even sure she feels hunger like a normal person does. She’s by no means anorexic, but she has a better figure than most teenagers at age 45. For most of our marriage, she has been at the bottom of her height/weight category.

But when Amy entered our lives, she was a girl who loved to eat. Her mother had always tried to manipulate and control her eating and weight growing up because of her own unresolved trauma issues. But in my house, Amy now was allowed to eat things that she found delightful. She was in heaven. She loves to eat so much that she still will eat herself sick because she doesn’t pay attention to her body saying “whoa, Girl. It’s full down here!”

But last year I began to realize a problem. Food was literally a dissociative issue for my wife (host and insiders). Amy was constantly blocking out Karen and the other girls so that she, Amy, could eat whatever and as much as she wanted. And slowly the body’s weight was increasing which became a source of stress and trauma for Karen. At first I kind of aided Amy because I was glad she was finding joy in something that her mother had made unpleasant during her childhood. But then I realized that Amy’s joy was coming at Karen’s expense, and that is NOT healing.

So once I recognized how much dissociative fighting was happening because of food, I took steps to help solve the problem. Now your situation may be different, but the key issue is to find out which people in the network have issues surrounding weight and food and what is important to each of them. Then like a good mediator, you have to help them find a solution that is amenable to all. Look for a win-win solution! More

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