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

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Shadow People in the Closet

Image Credit:  http://thehorrormoviesblog.com/2015/06/16/shadow-people/

I’m physically in the livingroom. My mom is with me. She’s knitting and watching TV and I am working on DID awareness stuff and keeping up with the support group we run on Facebook for DID. I’m coughing, clearing my throat, and gasping for breath, Mama mumbles under her breath.

“I wish I could break into the closet and strangle them”

I heard her. To an outsider this makes no sense, but to me she just said “I love you.” It takes a bit of the fear out of this scary situation. Mama is here. Mama is watching. Mama cares.

Our inside world has been through incredible changes since last August. One of these changes happened over the last month. It was the opening of a gate inside, a gate guarded by a sweet 3 year old. Olly had guarded her gate faithfully for almost 20 years, but time has a way of changing things. The gate opened when it was ready and we welcomed Olly, Sami, Trinity, Shiloh, and Andee. They are a group of sweet and fun little girls that we affectionately call the C-Continuum. They hold a lot of memories, triggers, and fears from the body’s childhood years. They were not alone though.

Also behind that gate is a group of shadows. They are people but no one, not even the C-Continuum has ever seen them. They arrived some time after Sabrina posted Olly at that gate and they “shut off the lights” and made it cold. When the gate opened, the littlest ones chose to come out and join the rest of us. The shadows retreated into a closet and locked the little ones out. Or locked themselves in.

From that moment we get choking sensations a few times a week. It happens around eating, strong emotion, or at seemingly random times. There’s never any actual lasting damage done, but it’s uncomfortable and hard to fight through. At first I believed they wanted the body dead. Sami agreed and said that’s definitely what they want. I had decided to leave them, and the entire closet, alone.

Over the last two weeks I’ve noticed an increase in posts in our group about “angry” or “challenging” alters and Brina and I have educated many about patience, love, and kindness when these parts don’t seem to want it. So I was reading yet another post a minute ago while regaining my breath when it dawned on me.

We aren’t taking our own advice. We need to show love, kindness, and patience. We need to remind them that the body is safe, our life is safe, and we are surrounded by love. Most of all, that they are welcome to join us and receive the safety and love.

-Kaysie

Our Aching Feet…..

Most weekday mornings we head out for a walk. We aim for anywhere between 3 and 5 miles, although sometimes we’re lucky to hit two miles…. haha.  The walks weren’t something we could really do in our old life. We didn’t feel safe enough or comfortable enough and it always seemed like our time was better spent in other ways. Here, though, we are greeted every morning by this sight:
Our mountains wish us good morning (taken 11/1/15 with the samsung S6 around 7:45am).

We really didn’t think the walks were accomplishing much except for aching feet. (Pretty sure we have a muscle/tendon problem in the right foot, but no pain no gain, right?!). When Mom realized we were serious about the walking she decided we needed new shoes and that has helped a lot (stupid arch in the right foot is still killing us tho….shhh). We seriously had no shortage of aches and pains but we own a mirror and nothing seemed to be changing. It was getting pretty disappointing, which was leading to feelings of defeat and failure. Those feelings were, in turn, fueling some massive bad energy and I’m willing to bet causing us to overreact to other things. We were getting tired of seeing this (see picture below) and still feeling rejected and worthless (other things contribute to that feeling but this wasn’t helping):

This a partial screen shot of our Fitbit Flex today (11/1/15).

The negative emotions were eating us alive. We were second guessing a lot of our recent major decisions and trying to figure out how we had screwed up so badly in life. We were trying to figure out what was wrong with us and why we are always rejected and/or left behind. It was just bad. If you’ve read other posts, you know how bad things got. Everyone in this house was dealing with their own problems and adjusting to their transitions in their own way. Everyone was battling big things… and we were sick. We spent almost all of last week with a bad cold and a mild fever. That helped NOTHING at all, especially because we couldn’t safely go for our walks. We could barely make it safely across the driveway. 

Being down for the count last week, having to rest and not walk seemed like a great thing. It seemed so wonderful to not ache and not deal with the arch pain in our right foot. It continued to seem like that, but our life seemed to be falling apart at the same time. We were a mess, our life felt like a huge mess. 
Thursday of last week Mom insisted that we were not only going on our walk, but that we would complete two miles before coming home. Honestly, I (meaning me, Alayna) was pretty sure she had lost her mind because we were still running a slight fever so in my mind we were still sick. Sick kids don’t go for walks. Sick kids binge on Netflix. I wanted us to binge on Netflix. Needless to say, if you’ve ever met my mother, we lost and we went for our 2 mile walk. We lived through it and Jenna at least, was pretty proud of us for getting it done. Then we went back to hanging out with Netflix. (side note: Netflix is pretty much our only friend here, so we’re pretty attached…lol)
Friday morning comes around and Mom, once again, insists on a 2 mile walk. We ended up with close to 2.5 miles on Friday. 
By yesterday, we realized that when we don’t walk, we miss a lot of benefits from walking. We miss our park, our mountain, and our trees.

More importantly, we miss out on the good feelings that come from walking. We’ve always heard that walking releases endorphins and raises mood, blah blah blah. I can honestly tell you that the blah blah blah is real. Our mood and our life was spiraling out of control because we weren’t doing what we needed to do in order to take care of ourselves. No, we shouldn’t be walking when we’re sick but we could have tried sooner. Mom knew though. She knew how badly we relied on that, even when we didn’t. She made the choice to force us back into it knowing we didn’t feel well. 
That’s not to say that our problems as a family were all due to a lack of walking. God I wish it were that easy. No, we as a family have a lot of work to do in order to make everyone feel welcome, safe, and happy. But we can make it better on ourselves and, in turn on our family, by keeping up with our walking. 
This morning, while we were hanging out in Mama’s room watching her go through her laundry, she had us try on some pants. Almost everything she gave us to try on fit, and most of them were smaller than what we already had. She had noticed that we were struggling to keep our pants up. We noticed too, kinda, but figured we stretched them out or something. We never considered that we were ready for smaller pants. Her scale (which she only lets us use once a week) showed us today that we have lost 30.2 pounds since we moved here in August. That’s huge. It’s seriously huge and we never noticed. I spent a bit looking in the mirror today, and I really can’t see it. The neighbor sees it. Aunt Leslie says she sees it in pictures. Mom says she sees it. We just don’t.
What we do see: Our hair is growing back thicker and in much better shape, our nails are getting healthier, our blood sugar is almost always close to perfect and a blood sugar level of 90 feels great. When we first moved here 130 triggered a low reaction. Our average blood sugar sat around 300 and refused to budge.  
Today, after completing 3 miles and seeing the scale, the clothes fitting differently, and spending some not emotional, perfectly normal time with Mama, I feel good. Not only do I feel good, I feel hopeful, strong, and I feel a weird sort of peace. I don’t really feel safe yet, that I think will come in time. I think I need to work on not pushing myself to feel safe. Pushing this system to feel something we aren’t ready for or can’t seem to grasp always seems to lead to disaster. I think I’m going to do my best to keep my sisters and I looking ahead and I’m going to keep building my support system. I love my family and I won’t give up.
Alayna Jade

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. 

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.