Thoughts on Plural Positivity World Conference & ISSTD’s viewpoints on DID

Sometimes, I think, even among survivors, I’m lost.  Even among the DID community, I just don’t get it. Here are some of our latest thoughts sparked by the Plural Positivity World Conference. 

I’m not sure how I feel about this conference.  I’m not overwhelmingly supportive of it, but I’m not writing it off as unimportant, either.  I’m wondering, though:  Is this REALLY what my fellow DIDers are thinking about healing and the professionals who treat DID?  They clearly begin with: we organized this against the ISSTD conference but we’re not against them BUT…here’s a litany of things we demand change and the ISSTD has wrong!  Yet…my experience working with the specialists at Sheppard Pratt, including past-ISSTD president, Dr. Loewenstein, is totally different.

The following quotes are from the Opening Remarks.

This is what led us to organize this counter-conference, intentionally timing it simultaneously with the ISSTD conference happening this weekend in New York.  Let me clear. We are not protesting that conference, nor we arguing against the ISSTD.
…using other language such as “metabolizing” experiences (Lynne Harris) rather than “integrating” them, now that integration has such a negative connotation that it’s actually become triggering verbiage in and of itself.

Is integration a bad term, though?  This is what I taught by ISSTD therapists, as recent as 10 months ago:  Integration refers to an integrated understanding of the current day, present, healed self.  Trauma becomes part of your life story, but not the main focus anymore.  This does not refer to integration of alters or parts.

I don’t think anyone associated with the Plural Positivity World Conference is lying.  I’m just confused where the disconnect is coming into place.  I would expect such a glaring misconception from our classic experience with therapists not trained in dissociation.  Why are these DIDers under the mistaken belief the ISSTD would support such an outdated view?

The general attitude regarding survivors having contact with each other needs to change, especially in regards to the online community. For years we have been isolated from each other and it was recommended we not have contact with one another. 

Again, this is a completely opposite view than that which the professional community supports.  In fact, at Sheppard Pratt, the therapeutic milieu is recognized as a core piece of healing.  Part of self-care, we learned, was talking to people who understand DID and are capable of having compassion for us.

 

We know, in differing degrees, but especially once we have been in therapy, that we are “parts of a whole”. Please interact with us as we present, just like you would for any other client. There is a reason why we function that way as a system, and listening to us will help you understand us more, and help us trust you more quickly.

This is where I’m going to end my post.  Because being “parts of a whole” was a statement I heard repeated to me on a daily basis by ISSTD therapists at Sheppard Pratt.  I felt like the therapists there understood even better than myself, exactly this statement.  That there was a reason we function as a system, and they were willing to listen to us for as long as we needed.

I was surprised to see this was the attitude in the Keynote.  I believe we do have a healthy, strong supportive network of DID survivors online.  I believe the dissociation professionals have come a long way in their understanding of treating severe dissociation, and we’re on the verge of seeing growth in the professional community as a whole with better understanding of trauma and dissociation.

Good wishes and healing thoughts to you all.
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Why is therapy a slow process?

K. and I are reviewing treatment goals. 

“Of course,” She says, “There’s the ongoing goals of monitoring triggers, safety, improving internal communication…” She pauses while thinking.  “And we haven’t even gotten to grieving loss yet.”

I was trying to listen, but I lost the tail-end of her sentence.  “We haven’t gotten to what yet?”

“Grieving loss.  Loss of control of the body, loss of self-identity, loss of safety…”

I started to get floaty and check out.

K. nodded, “Aaaand, now I’m triggering you.  I think we’ll stop there.”

I can’t even talk about treatment goals without dissociating. :/

Inside the Fragmented Minds of People with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Just a quick update. I wanted to share something I came across. This is a recent article entitled Inside the Fragmented Minds of People with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This is a really great read, and features some discussion from Dr. Loewenstein (Medical Director/Founder of the Trauma Disorders Unit at Sheppard Pratt.

Here is a link to the article.

Here is a link to my discussion about the article on Reddit.

Thoughts on Self-Harm

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm

Therapy continues…we’re still seeing K. once a week and going to group once per month.  Yesterday, we couldn’t shake some intense feelings.  We did DID symptom management skills like grounding and a couple “past vs. present” ‘s for different parts.  But, we just couldn’t control the intensity and dissociation.  So, we called K., and she had us come in for an emergency session.

We talked about some things I’ve told her before, and we talked about some things I’ve never told her before.

As a result, I’m having a ton of increase in urges to self-harm.  Most of it has been impulses to harm and thoughts/plans, but not actions.

So, let me talk about Alex.  Alex is a teen part, who was mostly present during the body’s ages of 15-18.  During that time, she often engaged in self-harm.  Most she cut the skin but she also sometimes hit/bruised the body.

Why does Alex self harm?  Alex had to do a lot of talking in counseling with our then-counselor, Andrea, but she eventually learned why. This was huge not just for her, but for us as a system to better understand Alex and what she went through.  At the time the body was ages 15-18, we had no escape from the trauma and re-traumatization of not being believed by family, school teachers, and child protective workers.  Feelings of loneliness and and depression were so severe that cutting became one of the few outlets that worked to relieve some of the intensity.

As Alex began to trust Andrea, self-injury took on a new meaning.  It became one of the few ways she could communicate to Andrea tha inner turmoils she was constantly surviving.  It also became a way of communicating she needed help.

I think this is important to note, because although the behavior of cutting remained the same, the why evolved over time.

Next, we have a child part (unsure of who exactly), but this part will sometimes intentionally bang their head, pick/scratch cuticles until they bleed and bite nails until they bleed.

For this child, we are still learning the why.  This seems to have to do with impulsivity and an obsessive need to hurt the body.  There is definitely focus for this part on the creation of physical pain.  Once the pain has been created (or the bleeding started), she then can hyperfocus on that physical response instead of the (unknown) emotion that triggered the impulsivity.

I’m starting to realize that we (several adult parts) also engage in self harm indirectly. What we mean by this is we do things that aren’t intentionally self harming (like Alex and the unnamed child part). Unfortunately the actions do end up causing harm to the body.  For example, Carrie and Beth engage in substance use.  Vickie gets into risky sexual situations with men.  Nel doesn’t eat enough food or sometimes eats too much of a food that is worth little to no nutrition (e.g. chocolate for breakfast–for 5 days straight).

Lastly, I’m beginning to understand that there is programming associated with some of my tendencies of self harm.  This is a very overwhelming and scary thing to realize.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  Every time I seem to realize this (or remember I have realized this before), I blank out, lose the memory, or lose a couple hours.  See, even me trying to put it into words now seems difficult to do.

Until next time…

“Each falling apart eventually brings a coming together.” -Mina (co-fronter part)