Inner Excavation: Learn to Thrive?

Inner Excavation is a book we found at Goodwill. Have I mentioned that Goodwill is our most favorite place to shop?

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No? Well, now you know, haha.

The book is pretty awesome. It’s all about exploring yourself through photography, writing, crafting, and mindfulness. Some of us have been following some of the exercises in the book and it’s been fun. I thought I’d take some time to share. There’s a lot of chaos inside this morning and too many different post ideas. It seems like the perfect time to share what we’ve been seeing on our walks. Part of one the photography exercises was to take pictures of what’s happening right now (or right then, as is in this case).

Walking around our neighborhood kind of seems mundane, but we noticed the other day that we’ve been missing a lot by being so focused on just walking. We haven’t been enjoying some really awesome things. The pictures I’m going to share now are just the beginning of recording our experiences visually.

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For whatever reason, Erica is drawn to trees. She loves everything about big, strong, and tall trees that have withstood the world. Storms, drought, and humans didn’t get the best of them. Looking at these pictures I see life. Strong life. I want to be strong like the trees Erica values so much. I want to grow as the trees did (and are doing). A lot of us want to experience life. Be involved, like the roots of these huge trees. Dig down and build relationships with God, with others, with each other. We want to learn about people and societies. We want to understand the intricacies of the world.

We want to thrive.

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Running With the Shadows

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Image Credit: Facebook

Charlotte is about 9 years old. She made her presence known on Circus Day. She came in with confidence, knowledge, and almost an arrogance. She prefers to be known as Charli (No “e”. That looks too much like a boy’s name and she doesn’t want to be a boy). She immediately made her presence known both to those of us inside and to Mama, outside. She started sharing the information about each of us and the jobs we do inside. After a few hours she said she’d rather go back to where she came from and not stay close to the front. A day later Sunshine followed her. And that’s about when the Shadows reacted.

It’s been over a full month since we started this post. It’s been sitting in drafts since 5/31/16 waiting for the story to resolve itself. Now, a little over a month later, we have many new reveals and a story which we barely understand. Shadows now oversee every move we make, all in their misguided attempts to keep Sunshine safe. It’s almost like we are several systems trying to form one cohesive system, only the systems aren’t operating on the same page or under the same guidelines. The Shadows don’t allow for us to step out of line, or what they see as “the line”. We often lose control of the fingers and have constant tapping, fidgeting, grasping, and random movements. A few times a day we lose control of the eyes, as the Shadows scope out what’s going on around us. We lose train of thought and forget information we are trying to share or pass on to each other, courtesy of the Shadows.

I don’t know where this is going to lead us all, or what the outcome of this is going to be, if there’s ever any resolution to any of this. We have no idea if this is our new normal, or if things will eventually settle down. We do know that we have been through the ringer this past month and we know there’s no end in sight.

Hopefully we can convince the Shadows to start dancing with us and stop running.

Mia

Hold Up….. Weight a Minute….

This entire system is plagued by absolutely horrific relationships with food. The vast majority of us can be divided between two categories. Binge eating, or bulimia. Body hatred is big in this system for a variety of reasons, most coming down to size. For years now my sweet sisters have toyed with trying to “fix” the body, but it always comes back to the same results.
Image Credit: http://www.helpyourteens.com/teens-body-image-and-eating-disorders

We have been with Mom and Dad for about 9 months now. When we first moved in with them we were almost 300lbs, hair was falling out, teeth broken and cracked, fingernails peeling, and skin cracking. We had some kind of weird awful cyst putting pressure on our spine and our blood sugar routinely ran in the 300s. My sisters complained about it but were met with a mental block every time they tried to make a change. Daily life was so chaotic that the body refused to respond to good interventions at all.

Fast forward 9 months and the body is now 245lbs. Hair is growing back, teeth are getting fixed, skin and nails are much better. Blood sugars are under 150 more often than not and there’s no more weird cysts. Logically we all know these things to be fact. The clothes in our closet are a size we don’t remember wearing before. Mentally, we can’t see the change. 
All of us are self sabotaging on a regular basis, especially when it comes to carbs. There’s some kind of self protection program running that’s refusing to allow us to make real progress in the way of weight. Over and over again we can hear F’s voice telling us that we are fat and ugly and no one will ever want us. Maybe if we stay fat and no one still wants us, then we run less risk of getting hurt again. Maybe we feel like we deserve to be ugly and huge. 
I want us to be kind to this body. This body has carried us through some incredibly awful events and somehow managed to keep us alive. This body has given birth to the 4 boogers that have made it possible for Mom and Dad to be parents again. This body has found courage and hope where there wasn’t any and has fought off an angry gall bladder in order to save the youngest’s life in utero. This body has done amazing things. It deserves our kindness, and no, trying to sabotage it to protect it from pain is not a kindness.
We all seem to share the all or nothing trait. We want to do yoga to the point that we physically hurt, or we don’t want to do it at all. We want to walk 5 miles or 0 miles. We want to eat 12 cookies or no cookies. We want to test blood sugar 10 times a day or we don’t test at all. There’s simply no happy medium with us. 
Some of my sisters seem to have a tendency to use exercise to cause the body pain. Those same sisters will make poor food choices for much the same reason. They don’t necessarily enjoy the pain, but they believe we deserve the pain. Some of the rest of us want to build strength in the body, while yet others don’t want to risk any pain to the body at all. To people outside of this body it looks like laziness, enablers, and a general not caring. Most of us will agree with it and say thats exactly what it is because it becomes too hard to explain and our attempts at explaining end up sounding like excuses.
And still yet, it could also be parts of our addictive personalities showing up. Some of us are addicted to pain, some are addicted to nicotine, some are addicted to being hurt. Sadly, none of us are addicted to being happy. All of these emotions, thoughts, feelings, wants, desires, and needs pile on all day long and quickly become overwhelming for the emotion regulators (Jenna and Mia) to keep up with. The outside becomes challenging and we can’t figure out simple things like what to eat or how to eat, or how to prepare what to eat. It’s a conversation Mom has with us a lot. She, like many others, view it as laziness. It frustrates her because she knows we have the skill set. We are completely capable of cooking macaroni and cheese, or following recipe directions, etc. We just end up with this massive mental block and it becomes emotionally raw and almost impossible. Like words scramble in our head and we stop understanding the simplest of instructions. It’s frustrating. Especially when we know we KNOW this. 
So today, today I made a protein shake (protein powder and almond milk) for breakfast. I’m drinking water. I did 40 minutes of yoga this morning. Our muscles ache. I am out of brain power and feeling pretty defeated in terms of body image/help/etc. I feel like we are letting down our family who knows we are capable of better. I wish I didn’t care what they thought. 
Sabrina

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. 

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