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Artwork © 2015 Jocelyn Patrick

The Art of Survival:
Caring for Your Parts of Self

Written by: Jane Doe, 2007

The following has been written for those diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly. called Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). However, if you're curious, or have someone close to you diagnosed with DID, please also feel free to read this.

If you're diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder and feel you're losing your mind, please pay attention. This may help you to get a grip on how you're life really isn't over and it really will all be okay.

Once you're diagnosed as having dissociative identity disorder it can take a while before you eventually come to realize that you're "head of household" in a family full of strangers who all share the same body and mind - yours. You might find yourself asking, "Who are these people? This is crazy...what am I going to do"? Whatever you do, don't look at yourself as being a mere fragment of a person. Every single one of these "strangers" is just a part of you, only magnified and separated from your conscious awareness. Hopefully the following information will help to give you some ideas on how you can begin to take care of yourself, including these pieces of consciousness that make up your mind. By stabilizing your inner system of fragmented memories and feelings - split from your consciousness - you will enable yourself to live a more functional life.

LISTEN

After years of living in pain, there are parts of your mind that may "need to be heard". Sometimes these pieces hold one main emotion that may burrow itself around some past period of your early life. For example, these emotions can be sorrow, shame, or anger. .But they're currently bottled up within hard to reach crevices of your mind. They're hidden where you can't feel them because you weren't quite "awake" when they formed. These deep emotions know nothing of what happened before or after this period of your life, be it having lasted an hour or ten years. So now, no matter how scary and uncomfortable it is, these magnifications need release, even if you're not necessarily consciously present when it happens. It can take crying, screaming, drawing, painting, colloguing, writing, and the use of any other way imaginable to let out the pain. Each part exists behind a veil of suffering, and it's important that you to listen

KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE

Safety is huge. Especially for the parts of you still frozen in stages of your development as early as ages 2 - 12. These are often referred to as "Little's". They are you, only they're you stuck back there, within the context of these things that happened - obviously things too painful for you to handle as a whole. Try to remind yourself when you can that everyone has "parts". That's no big secret. But when you made it through by distancing yourself to the point of blacking out during these periods, there was still a part of you there.

It's rather possible that, in the past, these parts of you knew no safety what so ever, so its important for you to relay the message that things are different now. You need to be reminded that no ones going to hurt you now so that you can heal. Each part of you is in a new home with safe people so you don't have to worry anymore. If you're not in a safe place, it's vital that that changes, or healing cannot begin. You might have all your inner parts practice grounding techniques for times when you get scared and triggered.

Create for yourself and your inner parts a place mentally, where you can go in your mind, when you're scared or hurting - place where you can feel safe. You probably still have quite an imagination. Just do your best…that's all that any of us as humans can really ever do. This place, for example, might be a room where the door can be locked. It just needs to be a safe place for you, within your own mind, where your sense of danger still ruminates. Whatever you feel is best for you - try and be creative. It can help to draw this place…to make it more concrete and real in being able hold it in front of you and really see it.

A DIFFERENT LIFE

You have most likely known nothing but abuse so it's very essential that you be shown that life can be different. Go to an amusement park, play, and celebrate holidays. Given enough positive experiences, your outlook on life will start to change. This change will be an important part of healing for "all of you". By sharing these experiences within your inner system, you're building a new foundation upon which you can grow. None of the above can be done unless there is good communication between you and your inner parts of self. How can this puzzle of different needs be met if there is no way for you to be fully aware what they are?

One basic way of keeping the lines of communication open is by keeping a journal to write back and forth in. This is also a neat way to record your progress. Write as if writing a letter to your mental fragments. When you have dissociative episodes, you may come to find that you've written yourself back from a place that seems foreign… from a different age, with different handwriting, thoughts, and beliefs. Continue writing this way, back and forth.

Probably not right away, but eventually you may be able to develop some internal dialogue with your parts. Many of us who have dissociative identity disorder hear what seem like inner voices. But these are just nothing more than audible thoughts of parts that, being so disconnected, sound like auditory hallucinations. Don't worry; you're not having a psychotic breakdown. Mentally "call out" to them, and respond, mentally, to what they "have to say." See if they answer back. This might sound absurd and ridiculous, but your need to take charge and reconnect somehow. You aren't sharing your body with different people. Your ,memories and emotions are just fragmented and can be integrated through therapy and dedication. But also never lose sight of the fact that such unconscious entities prove that the human mind is an amazing thing.

PATIENCE

The process of healing for you and your parts can be very slow. There is no way to deny this. But always, you ARE making progress. The abuse went on for a long time so unfortunately its not going to heal over night. It's also going to be very hard at times. These are realities for any survivor. There might be times when you won't be very functional, and at those times you need to be patient and know that it won't last forever. Never forget that you're in charge, no matter how much it may seem otherwise. This is your mind, and each alter is part of you. It's your job to enforce behavior and coping skills that are acceptable, and to learn new ways of expressing strong emotions.

LOVE

Love, above all else, is the most important ingredient in healing. Without it your growth will be seriously stunted. Through all the listening, communication, patience, etc. your inner system will come to reconnect within the realization that each part of you — even the angry, bitter, vengeful parts — are lovable, and deserving of love. It's important that you love all angles of yourself equally. Remember that every human being has sides that can be difficult for a reason, and reconnecting with these sides may require extra attention. During your therapy sessions you can allow your therapist to try and communicate with your inner parts if you happen to have a dissociative episode during your session. If you don't have a therapist seek counseling immediately.

Always remember, the more you work with reconnecting with your inner system, the easier it will become. No goal is ever unreachable and no situation is ever hopeless.You're living proof of that.

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS

Content below © Sara Lambert.
Originally published in Team Spirit. Reprinted with permission.

Daily Schedule:
Create a pie chart to represent your daily schedule, so you can evaluate and reconsider time-sharing amongst your alters or inner parts, and maybe work out a better balance. {Ha ha, she said Pie}
Treasure Box:
Create a box for your children into which you can put messages of encouragement and praise, nice pictures, special treats. You can write little stories about what you did during the day, especially if young alters/inner parts don't get much body time, so they know how the life is being spent and get a regular reminder that this is "Now", not back then. You can ask the children if they would like to make or decorate the box themselves, or it can be a surprise for them - a box belonging to the good fairies who watch over them. Every evening at a quiet time that you have to share just between yourselves, the children can open their box and see what you, others, or "the good fairies" have put in there for them. This is a nice way to spend some safe, positive time with your children, acknowledging their existence and repeatedly showing your appreciation for the fact that they are there. You're not only saying that you love them, but also WHY you love them. And you're teaching them about what it feels like to get gifts in a SAFE way, which is something they may never have experienced before. This is reparenting at it's most enchanting! One warning - please make sure a reliable adult checks the box first to make sure there is nothing scary or negative in there.
The Layers Of You:
This exercise is especially good for those who have large, complex systems. Using sheets of transparent paper, draw each layer of your system on separate pages and then bind them together. Each self may be represented by a symbol, and their various relationships with other selves may be denoted by different types of lines (ie, solid, dashed, dotted, colored). OR ... For this you need a photograph of yourself, sheets of white tissue paper, turps, and a rag. Lay the tissue paper on a hard surface. Do an enlarged photocopy the photo and place it face down on the tissue paper and rub its back hard with a turps-soaked cloth. Do this for about a minute. See if the image has transferred by gently peeling back one corner of the photocopy. The result should be layers of images on each of the sheets of tissue paper, representative of your layered selves.
Family Crest:
Create a crest of your inner family. What are the qualities of yourselves of which you are most proud? What symbols and colors would you use to represent these? You can design a personal crest or coat-of-arms that incorporates the best in you, then paint and frame it, or embroider it onto clothes, cushions, pillowcases. For those with complex inner systems comprising many sub-sections or families, each individual unit may life to contribute something to represent themselves, such as a lion for the teens and a flower for the kids. Or you may prefer to go with more general ideas, such as bravery, tenacity, and compassion. Non-multiples can also do the latter. This idea adapted from Christine Cantrell in Many Voices.
Story for Parts:
Write a story of courage and friendship for your inner children and then read it to them
Make A Face Mask:
A mask can illustrate any number of things about yourself. It can show the face you present to the outside world - what are the features? Are the eyes shadowy or hidden, or are they wide open but showing nothing of what lies behind them? Is the mouth smiling or straight? What colors best express your outward moods? The mask can also show what you hold beneath the face, what pictures are within. Turn the mask over, or lift the flap of the top layer, and what do you see there? Are there rainbow colors and pictures of birds, trees, people? Or is it a clutter of broken eggshells and splinters? Is it simply colored all black? The mask can be layered, showing what different faces you have. If you do this, then each person depicted in the multi-layered mask can create their own face to contribute. Does everyone have a set place in the layers? Are some face connected somehow? Does one face look through the eyes of another? The mask can even show what sort of person you strive to be. So you may make it from strong colors, or delicate lace. Mask-making is a great tool for self-awareness, and it's fun, and it fills in time if you're bored and lonely! There is a vast choice of materials to use - cardboard, paint, crepe paper, felt tip pens, glue, glitter, black card, wood, felt, satin, fabric, eggshells, ribbon, clay, pictures cut from magazines, photos, leaves, paper mache. After you have made your mask, keep it in a safe place so that you can come back a few months later and see how your perceptions of yourself have changed. Are you still presenting the same facade to the world? Do you feel comfortable with this, or would you change it somehow? What is there to add to the inner layers? Have you become any closer to becoming the sort of person the mask depicts?