I used to worry that I had multiple personality disorder. I had all these voices in my head. As it turns out, they were different parts of me, crying out to be heard. I was too afraid to let them out – to give them the freedom to express themselves. To trust that they were all a part of the whole that was me. I didn’t trust that I had a whole – I was sure if I let them out, I’d be institutionalized. Locked up. Yet again, not seen for who I was. Not even by me.
Every time a therapist would ask me what part of me was feeling something, I would roll my eyes and say “I am,” with disdain. What a stupid question, I thought – on a conscious level. I don’t believe in that crap. Oy. Gimme a break. Avoidance is a great tool, when you’re not in a place to deal with the depth of your emotions. When things are too raw. When letting go was too frightening to contemplate.
After I decided I had to heal or I would die, I had to face profoundly hard truths. About my father. My family. The fact that they had never understood me (my mom told me this when I was an adult – it was a blessing and a curse). That I was operating on a different plane than they were. I had to face the possibility that I would die from the truth. Or from not knowing it. I had to decide I wanted to live.
I was blessed to have a team of empathic, skilled, and patient therapists. One for talk therapy, one for EMDR, and one for meds. I was blessed to have clergy who helped me find my way to God when I was sure God had disappeared. I was blessed that my then-partner was a kind and gifted parent to our daughter, because I was unable to get too close. I was sure – 100% sure – that I would do something horrible to my child, given the chance. I know now that isn’t, and never was, true. It took a therapist 40 minutes to walk me through why I would never hurt my child. How I was different than my father. It had taken me innumerable years before that to admit to myself that this was my greatest fear.
Anyway – back to the parts. When I decided to move forward and live, I knew I needed access to the parts of myself that had been so deeply damaged in my childhood. I didn’t know how to get to them. I was so stuck in fear and shame that I couldn’t lift myself up and over. Finally, I went to my EMDR therapist and talked to her about my struggle. She told me about a therapy model called Internal Family Systems, and a little bit about how it worked. I honestly don’t remember how we got to the end of the session, but after I left, I was finally able to write about and to my parts. It was my first communication with myself. My little girl, who couldn’t speak because she was so filled with terror. My warrior child, who protected the little one with the ferocity of a mother lion. And the adult. Ready to step up as she could, to take the hands of these parts, to hug them close to her, and give them their voice in the world. Here’s an example of this exploration: “Arms Akimbo (A Disintegration Journey). The title of my book is Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing. It comes from this poem.
Being able to have these conversations was a huge turning point in my journey of healing. There’s an entire section in my book called Talking to the Parts. I learned that I wasn’t crazy. I had parts of me that were so pent up with fear and rage that I couldn’t possibly integrate myself in a healthy way. I realized that the way through was opening up a conversation with them, so that I could know what I was holding back, holding onto. How I was protecting myself in ways that turned out not to be protective, but prohibitive.
From time to time, I still talk to my parts. I recognize when the conversations have become necessary. Usually, I’ll be pig-headed about something, digging in my heels when it’s really counterproductive. I’ll be talking in black and whites – no shades of grey, no nuances. My tone will be disdainful. That’s when I have to go back to the source – me – and find out what’s going on. My parts will let me know. They’re the best. Reliable. Open. Honest. I love them.
Next on the agenda – “Language – What’s in a Name?” See you tomorrow!