Heroes

That’s the truth. We are just kids. The body may be 34 years old, and our littles may be more advanced in some areas than chronological children, but we are just kids. We range in age from 4-17 years old and we have some stunning lacking skills in the area of social skills and emotional regulation. 
But you see, we have had to become superheroes over time. I guess some of us were created to be heroes. Being a hero is a really big job, and had K and A not been hurt so badly when the body was little (and through most of the rest of our life), there would be no need for most of us and no need for kids to be heroes.
Our system, the huge bunch of kids we are, has done alright through life. Jessa has been an incredible protector throughout the years. Yeah, she’s made some awful choices (we all have) but she has been a rock and has been the first in line to help us navigate the murky and sometimes dangerous waters of life. She has been the first to slip out and take some of the worst abuse. She has had the worst things said to her, and has experienced the darkest sides of human nature and has never once held anything against the rest of us. She has been the biggest superhero this system ever had and she rarely misses anything.
Since we moved though, the terrain has been unfamiliar. No one has intentionally tried to hurt us or take advantage of us here. Dad has time and time again gone out of his way to ensure our happiness and our safety. He has made sure the littles know he loves them and thinks of them often… as is evidenced by…..
Real picture from the top of our shelves…
The unfamiliar environment and unfamiliar social setting has made things very hard on Jessa. Jessa, who has worked tirelessly in our life to keep us safe, is at a loss. Nothing she does here is right. Some of what is right feels really wrong (because it’s uncomfortable, vulnerable, and unfamiliar), and some of what should be wrong feels familiar. We came here expecting things to be a certain way, and when there was something new inserted into there we tried to fight the new element that we weren’t prepared for… and we lost. We lost big time. And while being expendable and inconvenient/unwanted isn’t unfamiliar at all, it hurts and we aren’t sure what to do with that pain. 
Yesterday was a day of several triggers, none of them small triggers. Jessa went into yesterday already struggling. She had weeks of feeling defeat on her shoulders. When the triggers hit yesterday and we had to work through them all by ourselves all day long, I think it may have broken something inside of her. There was an argument between Mom and the neighbor. The neighbor is Mom’s best friend. They had been arguing for about 2 days. It was actually, now that I think about it, the most time Mom has spent with just us since we got here. But anyways, the argument started loud and sounded aggressive. That was all it took. The trigger hit and we were down for the count in a blind panic. What do we do? Do we try and save her? Do we let her fight her own battles? Is there anywhere to turn for comfort? Does anyone want to comfort us? There were so many questions. We ended up with a shower and some TV. Mom and her friend worked through their argument with conversation and weed, which moves into trigger number 2. We are living in a state where that is entirely legal (for inquiring minds) but them high reminds us of our cousin on heroin. We watched her roll unconscious off of our toilet when she took too much one day. The treasures were home for that. The fear, the feelings, the having to make huge decisions, the inconsistencies, the conversations that make absolutely no sense, and most importantly the utter disregard for anyone else’s emotions or feelings are all shared between heroin use and weed use. Between the argument and the fact that they were high (which is NOT a problem for them… and only a problem for us because of triggers) and being alone all day (we were alone all afternoon due to an appointment Mom had a few hours away), I think Jessa broke. Last night, after Dad was home from work, Hayley came out for her 1 hour a week and Mom left to go hang out with the neighbor. Dad had left to pick up ice cream at the store so Hayley stayed home alone coloring pictures and sending pictures of her art work to Mom and Dad by messenger. Jessa felt like a complete failure as far as a protector goes because she hadn’t expected Hayley to be alone, so she wasn’t co-con or even paying attention. This morning K ended up alone all morning because Mom went to have coffee with the neighbor and they were smoking. One of the dogs went missing and K walked for 20 minutes trying to find her while running a slight fever and struggling to breathe. By the time her rotation scheduled was done she was convinced no one wants her and that she’s a bad girl. 
Jessa had the scheduled time after that. Mom was back by then and gave Jessa meds and snuggled her up on the parents bed with the remote to their TV and it was quiet and dark and peaceful, but Jessa felt like she had been put away because the neighbor was here and by now I think they all figure we hate him but the truth is, we’re terrified of him. His drug use and inability to have a coherent conversation (among other things) already had made us leery and threat assessment on him was very high but after yesterday we are really afraid of him.  
But see, the thing is, we have no reason to be afraid of him. He is NOT a bad person. He’s a good guy who has gone out of his way to help us more than once. He’s been patient, kind, and has even taught us a thing or two. He’s good with the treasures and even better with the dogs. I won’t even hold it against him that he likes all the other dogs better than ours… he’s still good to her.
After all of this… Jessa has decided she’s done being a hero. More specifically she’s decided that she sucks at being a hero and that we are obviously too much work, unwanted, inconvenient, and expendable. We are the ones that people feel fine about ditching last minute after making plans and something better comes up. We’re the ones that will still be there later so we can be safely ignored in favor of others. The littles hurting is more than Jessa can stomach and she no longer has any desire to fight with anyone about it. Because she’s learned that she can beg to talk all she wants, she’s going to be turned away. She’s going to be told that its not family therapy, that she needs to get a handle on her emotions, that she needs to back down, and that she needs to fix herself… that we all do. 
We try. We try so hard. We bought books about therapy and have worked hard at distraction, visualization, and even imagining a white healing light. We list everything we are grateful for every night before we go to sleep. We talk to each other near constantly, we remind each other to be good, to be kind, to be patient, to be fair. We analyze almost every action and word that comes out of this mouth to see how it could affect someone else. We walk on eggshells so that we can survive, like we have always done. And its still not enough. And Jessa no longer believes that we can ever be enough. 
Jessa posted on Facebook today in a group for systems like ours, specifically protectors, and asked if protectors can resign. She wants to be done with her job as protector and she’s decided we failed as members of this family. My heart is broken. It takes me a long time to attach to anyone emotionally and Jessa and are bonded. We are a bonded pair. I have always taken Jessa’s presence and activity as a definite. Now there’s talk about me taking over the primary protector duties and Jessa taking a break/going dormant. My heart is broken.
We’re just kids… we aren’t supposed to be heroes.
This is what happens when kids are expected to be heroes. 

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Understanding Ourselves….

Henry David Thoreau said “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

We have spent the better part of our lives lost. We didn’t really gain much for understanding ourselves.
I’m not really sure where I’m going with that. I just know that today has been rough, almost from the beginning. Jessa was out this morning, and she’s struggling hard emotionally and has been for months now. She faced our first major trigger by  9:30am and then the triggers just kept coming.
We have been working hard at reigning in strong emotion and not forcing anyone to pay for our emotional fall out. We succeeded in keeping our emotions quiet so far today, but not with a lot of struggle and a lot of silent tears. We are losing time badly and aren’t even positive who is out. I know right now I’m Layna, but I have no idea who was here or what happened in the last hour. Its Cadie’s turn at 3pm and I hope we can get that together. 
I just now remembered that the youngest child is here in the house.  I was in a full blown panic because I could hear noises and I didn’t know where they were coming from. I was sure that I was in danger… and it wasn’t the fist time today we thought we (or someone we love) was in danger. Being faced with triggers like that, especially the big triggers, ends up causing intense fear, dissociation, and paranoia. When faced with big triggers together, like we did today, we become almost emotionally catatonic, or an emotional volcano. 
I hate when it gets like this. I hate when we are triggered so badly that we slide into black outs and losing time. I hate that we can’t handle being alone at home for more than a couple of hours. I hate that we are so pathetic. I hate the messages from J and J. I hate the fact that we are expendable and second string. I hate that we are so easy to push aside and not at all worth chasing or talking things out with. I hate that I can not remember what I’m writing right now and I have to keep re-reading to remember. 
 
I hate that today we feel defeated and either useless or a fuck up (can’t agree on which). I don’t even know what to write about. Noises keep coming from outside and a couple of the dogs keep whining and crying and I have no idea whats causing any of it. The kids that are home keep asking whats going on and I don’t have an answer which is making me feel more scared, pathetic, and useless. I’ve done chores around then house in hopes of proving that we are worth something…. have any kind of value.  Anything that makes up for these PTSD reactions. 
Its now Cadie’s turn but we’re having trouble switching.We seem to be doing okay co-con. We just can’t totally switch. We are gonna have to work on that because Cadie is less emotional than me and I’m freaking out and no one comes home for another 3 hours. so she’d really be the best option. We will have to keep on working on that. I feel so alone. I can’t tell if this headache is from the emotions or the cold we are fighting. My eyes burn too. Hoping its not a fever.
**Layna**

When the Parents are the Monsters

I found this image on Pinterest when looking for writing prompts. It is incredibly tempting to create a beautiful story to go with this quote, but it hit a nerve and so this won’t be some made up story.
You see, there are those of us in the world who can understand and relate to this one.
From the age of 3, the monsters in our life were our parents. More specifically our biological mother and her second husband. He entered our life right after the bio-mother forced the bio-father into leaving. Possibly even before then. Those two had a long history, dating back to the bio-mother’s teenage years when she babysat his children from his first marriage.
From what we can remember, the sexual and emotional abuse and manipulation began right away. Years later, while trying to process everything, I believe we have come to terms with the fact that we were an easy target and quite possibly the only reason he married her. We were 4 when they married and we were someone else’s child. Bio-mother was so intent on having the picture-perfect family that she kept bio-father as far away as she could, and she turned a blind eye to the things in her life that didn’t fit into her perfect family. She was all about appearances.
Even at 4, (I’m going to use “we” here. It’s more comfortable for me.) we knew that we weren’t good enough for bio-mom. He told us that on a regular basis. He groomed us to be available to him and he made sure we understood that we had no hope of her ever loving us. By the age of 6 we had been told that she hated us. She hated us, and would be jealous and hate us even more if she knew we were getting his attention. We didn’t know… we had no idea that this wasn’t happening in every family. We didn’t know there was only supposed to be one of us. We had no idea that anything was wrong on a conscious level.
On a subconscious level, we knew. We were a** full-blown bulimic by the age of 9. By 12 we were hugely overweight and made to weigh ourselves in front of the family so that he could tell everyone how fat we were. He was sure to tell us that no one would ever want us, we had no hope at a family, marriage, love, or children. We were expendable and not wanted and the only reason we had a roof over our head was that he pitied us. All of this was being fed to us while he abused us sexually. She – bio-mother –  was rarely home. She went out with friends, went to school, went to work… she talked to us on the phone after school every day but that was simply to tell us what chores she wanted to be done. When we were alone, the bad things happened. To this day we feel rejected and struggle with nearly paralyzing anxiety when we are alone. We lose time badly and often forget the children are here and rarely remember where they are or what they are doing.
At the age of 14, we told. We told a camp counselor, who told the camp director. We were at an overnight camp for a week. They reported it all to social services and then sent us home. Bio-mother told us all about how our report was going to cost her the house and her cars. She told us to “shut up about it”. She told us that we weren’t the first girl it ever happened to and that we probably wouldn’t be the last. She told us all about her anxiety, and how her feelings needed to be protected, and how she needed us to give her space to deal with her emotions. She made sure to tell us how hard her life was and how she needed her space. It was 3 years before we heard her say she loved us. As a matter of fact, aside from necessary conversation she pretty much ignored us.
She didn’t leave him. We were forced to continue to live with them. It was the early 1990s and reports weren’t handled like they are now. She wrote a letter asking social services to close the case and made us sign it (she says it didn’t happen like that). They closed the case and left us with them. We spent some time in counseling but that ended when bio-mother was done taking us.
We left that house at 17. And I wish I could say that was the end of the abuse, but we left there broken. Broken and split.
How I wish there had been a monster under the bed to protect us from them.
** I understand that there are some issues grammatically.  It was done intentionally and in a way that makes sense to us.
Alayna Jade

 

Office Hours, Processing, and Jessa

We, or maybe just I, seriously need “office hours”. We need to dedicate a time where we can just write, research, learn, grow, think… and to process things. I process things through reading and writing, and using our cell phone to research and write is a lesson in futility… or maybe a lesson in patience… or possibly a bit of both. With so many changes in our life recently processing is soooo seriously necessary.

Right now I’m hiding away in my room with a laptop and music. I feel at peace today. Its a much needed feeling because the family has struggled with transitioning and adjusting and we take the blame for that. We all, as in all 11 of us, take the blame and that gets to be a bit complicated sometimes because we can’t possibly ALL be responsible for the family struggling. I started wondering a few days ago why we do that. I started to really think about it but got stuck because I can’t seem to process anything without writing and I’m out of notebooks to hand write things in. I prefer writing online anyways.

Why do we automatically assume that we are responsible or to blame for everything?

Well, its certainly not because we believe we are THAT important or because we feel everything revolves around us. That is definitely not it.

After some thought (and a few song changes) I think its because we have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong since early childhood. I don’t want to be one of those people who place the blame elsewhere or who complains endlessly about their past, but our childhood is kinda how we ended up a “we” in the first place. Oh… just thought of this possible reason too…. if we take the blame for everything then we don’t have to face conflict.

I think that’s a real possibility… and I think thats part of what’s going on with Jessa. Jessa is the oldest (in age) but still about 16 years old. She’s the main protector and has shouldered that responsibility for a long time. She has single handedly made decisions for the system and decided for what we will and won’t accept/take responsibility. She’s been told before that it would one day backfire, and I think that day may have come.

We are safe here. We have parents, the treasures are here and safe. We have a family. We have extended family now. We have loving aunts, an amazing nana, and the treasures have that too (along with some cousins… whoot!). We have supervision, guidance, and space to be ourselves in entirety. And we have NO idea what to do with all of this. Add to that an absolute inability to understand how to deal with conflict and some seriously immature social skills and you get an epic disaster and an overall emotional explosion.

That’s where Jessa is, I think. She’s pretty much not communicating at all with anyone at all. She’s almost perfect in her politeness. She’s staying calm, polite, civil, and out of the way. She’s doing her best to not ruffle feathers and is taking care to be productive and useful. And she’s miserable. What’s worse is that she can’t see how uncomfortable and sad she’s making other people. She’s stuck and can’t find her way out of it and refuses to discuss anything with any of her trusted adults because she doesn’t want to cause them any trouble. Maybe she doesn’t really trust anyone. Maybe she’s too scared to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability is a hard one for me, personally. I hate admitting weakness and traditionally my fears, anxieties, and weaknesses have been met with exploitation or just ignored in general. That doesn’t inspire me to open up and be vulnerable. I have zero good experience with being vulnerable and I have a hard time talking about hard feelings and emotions when the conversation doesn’t change anything. Too many times in my existence people have said they care, they love me, they are going to help me… and then they disregard and ignore my anxieties and leave me literally struggling to breathe and to not dissociate while they go out and have a good time. That kinda gets old. I know Jessa sees that too and she’s usually the one that has to help me function through my anxiety so that might make it hard for her to trust too. I’m really not sure.

I know that me, Mia, and Jenna are working our way through some self-help workbooks. We are doing our very best to teach Lyssa and Cadie what we are learning and we are working hard at applying what we are learning. I think its been helping. I mean, we don’t feel much different, but family life seems to be running more smoothly.

Now that I think about it, I believe part of why its running more smoothly is because we have finally let go of a power struggle we were having with Mom. We can NOT keep saying we trust her and then treat her like we don’t. We understand what we are doing and why, but she doesn’t always and that’s not fair. And she has her own emotional shit-storm to process too. It doesn’t make it any easier for anyone in this house to bond or function well and somehow Dad seems to end up in the middle of it all and that’s not cool either.

Mom and Lex had a really really good talk yesterday. Lex has settled in at the age of 4 years old but we have strong reasons to believe she’s the original. We did learn yesterday that she understands things far better than we ever gave her credit for. Alexandria has been around for as long as any of us can remember. She hasn’t always been active, but she’s always been there. Lurking. She’s a clever little girl who proved yesterday that she can listen, understand, and apply what she’s given for information. It takes her a little while to process everything, if she retains it, but when she applies it she has the ability to calm the entire system and calm our inner world.

I know this is all over the place. I’m about to jump topics again. I need to get it all down now and I can come back later over time and chip away at it.

Triggers… we aren’t handling some of our triggers very well. Some of them are worse than we originally thought. Some are really hard to swallow and we are left feeling very alone with them. Others aren’t so bad and are clearing up a little, I need to explore the relationship between trust and our triggers.

External people. We have been recently made aware that not all of “us” are accepted by everyone we are around on a regular basis. That has been a bit of a blow. We understand are completely accepting of the fact that not everyone has to accept us all. That part isn’t the issue. It’s trying to figure out how to keep everyone around us comfortable and happy.

Everyone.

That’s kind of a big job. Maybe we shouldn’t be worried about keeping everyone happy and comfortable. But if we don’t, we are going to lose people we want to keep around. Or lose out on their time and attention. Ick. That’s going to take more thought.

Moving on…. Dad’s home and dinner will be ready soon.

So I read a really great blog post today about DID being an injury vs an illness. It was such an eye opener. I shared it on our Facebook and can post it here if anyone’s interested. DID is not an illness. We are not contagious. We have not contracted a sickness. No amount of meds will make it go away. What it is, is an injury. We were injured at a very young age. Someone deliberately hurt us.

Dad just cut me off.

Later!

~Layna

Except when we don’t. Because we are a family and we are real. And lately, we do “leave people out, hurt feelings, yelling, door slamming, frustration, and unrealistic demands of each other”. Awesome, huh?
We’re a new family. We are still transitioning and learning how to be a family. Every single person in this family… from our system, to the parentals, to the youngest of the treasures…. has issues they are working through. It’s like a sea of damaged people coming together and trying to mesh to become this thing called family. Only most of us have no idea what family is or is supposed to be. We all have these ideas in our head that should be good enough but they don’t mesh with other ideas and it causes tension and problems. Everyone in this house is trying to learn their place, the rules, the routine. Everyone in this house is struggling with poorly set expectations, dealing with major triggers on a daily basis and being expected to be fine with that, and trying to be what each other needs despite the chaos and lack of communication. Everyone is expecting things from each other that simply can not be obtained… not because anyone is lazy or refusing, but because the skill set isn’t there and full trust isn’t there yet.
To most, this would look like a recipe for a serious disaster. Honestly, it kinda felt like one for the last few days.
But it’s not. It’s real. It’s raw, its messy, its painful. It’s hard and its complex. Without love, it would be doomed. But there’s love in this house and in this family. None of us ever give up. We make it through and we come out better for it. We all learn. We all grow. 
This family will make it. Failure isn’t an option here.

I just now finally found this blog again. Not one of us could remember what the name was. I’m glad we found it because we badly want to write and we couldn’t figure out where to write.

Figuring out what to write isn’t hard. It’s a pain using the phone to write but right now it’s what I’ve got available.  We are currently visiting Mama’s parents 5 hours away from where we live and it’s been a great visit. Hung out with the aunt, the treasures played with their cousins and Mama and Mia went for a drive. It ended with Mama getting angry at us but to be honest most things do lately. We are far from good enough.  I’m ready to go home now. I miss our Dad, Lulu, Sophie, and our bed.

One good thing that came from Mama being mad was that it gave us motivation to ask Mama for some self help materials. She said yes and they’ve been ordered and will hopefully be at the house on Monday.  We looked up support groups in Denver but couldn’t find any geared to DID. We did find a hospital with an outpatient program if it gets that bad. I don’t see it getting that bad but it’s an option and it’s good to know.

This weekend has been a bit tough as far as external social interactions go. We had a heated discussion with our bio mother over text message and then our neighbor got mad at Mama and he’s behaving exactly like our bio mother does. The trigger there sucks.

I have a massive headache. I want to write more and write about Mia’s awakening but autocorrect is pissing me off and my head hurts so bad I can’t put my thoughts in order.  ~Jennaleigh