Everyone who cared had tried to help me for so long, but nothing was working. The elders of my church, although they placed no confidence in psychology, didn’t know what else to do. They offered to pay for a year of psychotherapy for me. That was twenty years ago. I’m still working in therapy.
Although I’d begun to have memories of being sexually abused by my father before I began therapy, I didn’t think that had a whole lot to do with my problem, which was the tortured reaction I experienced when I heard certain everyday sounds: breathing, chewing, sniffling… I would go from being almost catatonic in my depressed withdrawal to, at other times, a fit-throwing rage to self injury to plans for a quick and painless suicide. I found a therapist whom I believe was God-sent, with whom I still work.
During sessions, sometimes I would feel as if I were being sucked into a big, gray cloud; other times as though I were falling into a deep, black velvety hole. I’d fight hard and make it back to continue whatever we’d been discussing. This “going away” happened at other times; I’d just never really talked about it before. One time, the grayness pulled me away, but I didn’t come back. Instead of me, a 30-year-old, extremely depressed and repressed woman, a 15-year-old, bubbly and happy girl named Katie started talking to my therapist who, God bless her, never missed a beat, and spoke respectfully to Katie, listening to her complaints about me, of which she had many!
Over the next several months, I learned that I had a dissociative identity disorder (DID). Different “parts” of me (who had memories that I did not ) would come out in therapy and at home. They revealed a life of abuse and torture that I had kept hidden from myself. These parts experienced things that my mind could not bear at that time and remain sane. They split off from me and kept me functioning in the everyday world while my father and, later, people in a satanic cult, performed horrible acts upon my mind, body and emotions.
Over the course of uncovering the memories, I struggled with desperate doubts. Who would want to believe that such things could happen? It wasn’t until I read about other survivors of such abuse that I knew I wasn’t alone, and that these atrocities really did happen. I was hospitalized several times during really rough patches, when the memories would trigger suicide plans and increased self harming. Once I was on a psych unit with other survivors of satanic ritual abuse (SRA). Developing relationships with these men and women was very healing (although the hospital program itself wasn’t as helpful). But, to talk to people who had experienced atrocities similar to me and who I saw as wonderful, creative, intelligent and compassionate, helped me to see myself as more than the slime I’d been programmed to see when I looked at myself.
Throughout all this, my therapist has been my strongest support. She disagrees with my self-assessments when I am brutal about myself and redirects self-hatred to anger towards the people who hurt me. She has helped me see that I am not who the abusers programmed me to become, and that I am stronger than they told me I was. She has not given up on me. She has, step by step, helped me to uncover the lies I have believed all my life because the abusers, who had such power over me, told them to me.
I believed that I would die if I remembered.
I remembered, and I’m still alive.
I believed that I would die if I told.
I told, and I’m still alive.
I believed I was worthless and disgusting.
I’m still working on that one.
As their stories became mine, various alters were absorbed into the whole of the real me; they also are the real me. As I continue to draw and write and cry and remember and rage and take three steps forward and two steps back, different parts of me perform different functions. As I raised my daughter, an alter called “Good Mom” took over sometimes. When I was teaching in the public schools, the extremely organized “Monica” taught my students when I couldn’t. When I needed to experience anger but was too afraid, “Sofya” got angry for me.