Altered States of Consciousness and Me

Recently, after meeting some psychologists who presented at a cult conference I attended, one specific psychologist was posting on his Facebook page that he felt ritual abuse survivors were misdiagnosed with DID.  He questioned the validity of DID, and if it was, in fact, a valid diagnosis for anyone in general.

Since this controversial diagnosis has been the one which has caused me the most personal bother, meaning, I don’t necessarily fully understand it, this post excited me. I was going to get to hear another perspective, so I asked this gentleman to expound. I was genuinely interested in learning, understanding and gaining more knowledge as is most often my intent.

The way I was responded to floored me.

First, I was asked by someone else in the thread to whom I was not addressing, if I had read my own mental health records (as if I was a moron if I had not, assuming I might be too stupid to read my own records, obviously not having taken one moment to know anything about me.  How very counselory of him. O_o).

Then the actual individual I asked the question to, came right behind the previous commenter and sarcastically wrote, “Maybe Ed Snowden can help you get your records.”

Immediately, a mental state of consciousness came about.  In my mind she said, “Type thisAre you fucking kidding me you piece of shit, arrogant, pompous asshole? You actually think this is funny, a fucking joke, and you call yourself a professional, an expert, and you say some idiotic shit like that to a ritual abuse survivor?”

But my sweet Knowing reminded me that I actually have power now, and I simply could just de-friend them, so I did that immediately. To ask a professional to further expound on their thoughts so that I could understand and learn then be responded to that way is not someone whom I would consider safe.

With that said, being the information sponge I am, naturally, I went off on my own to find more understanding and learn more about other perspectives in regards to DID.  I have an open mind to understand all perspectives of life, especially this particular subject.  I also had to process my feelings of being let down on that level by someone who most likely had really valuable information that could help me grow.

To share more about my own process of survival, I have had five specific identities who were/are very pertinent and important to me, on a level upon which I couldn’t imagine not having them.

  • Sila Caprin – the little girl; the once wandering soul, who took severe and excrutiating torture as a child
  • Madge – the bold and brazen teenager who is protective of Sila
  • Maude – Madge in adult form – yet takes on a mother role towards Madge
  • Angie – the human who does the every day mundane shit; the persona in which I’m least comfortable, the one which often feels fragmented, confused, making shitty decisions
  • Knowing – the Empath/Intuitive who reminds Angie that she actually makes great decisions, is strong and capable and able
  • Vennie – the writer, artist, poet, singer, songwriter, creative, the person I am the MOST comfortable in.

When being Vennie, I feel the most authentically me.

Most of my “counseling” through my adult life has been self induced, meaning, I have only been seeing an actual professional counselor for about two years. Before that I researched and did 99% of my study and self understanding on my own without a lot of support.  I read.  I created my own systems to survive, de-program and find my own authenticity.

When I first decided to understand the parts of me, I wrote in-depth character sketches and even created pictures for each one. I didn’t really have to name them because I realized that somehow they had already developed names.

Sila came forward full force in two ways.  One, when I began to call back the soul which had taken flight.  I could see her, hiding in corners, cowering and ridiculously terrified.  Two, I needed her to write my memoirs. We had to take that journey together.  Vennie couldn’t do it alone.  All of this felt so natural to me.  It took no effort at all to know these parts.

Madge was actually one of the first ones to come out in me, soon after I left the cult, at the age of about sixteen. She came out to defend Angie. She liked to fight, and I would literally become someone else, black out, and have little memory of the incident afterwards.  Madge got into a life of crime, went to jail and much more.  She had no name then, she just existed as another part of me who emerged as a hardcore defense mechanism, and often when I came to be in that state of existence, I would have cloudy memory afterwards.  I remember my mother saying “you’ve got to stop seeing red all the time, Angie.”

I didn’t realize that I was becoming someone else until I was able to critically think back on it over the last ten years or so. I don’t know why she is called Madge. I just know that is her name. I could hear her voice in my head.  I had conversations with her.

Madge, you’ve got to calm down.”

I know, I’ve tried.” she’d reply, “but I get so mad.”

There was a dialogue that started happening in my head where Knowing started helping Madge heal.  Madge stopped coming around as often as I healed parts of that anger. Occasionally she emerges, but Sila and our parts have to seriously be fucked with, and she isn’t as quick tempered as she used to be. Madge is a meat eater and loves steak, which horribly upsets Vennie and Knowing’s stomach. Knowing and Vennie love spirit food, fruits, salads, health, nature. Knowing meditates, goes into nature, helps keep the rest of us balanced. Vennie vomits out the pain in writing, music and art.  Angie is business minded and craves carbs. Knowing reminds Angie to love herself and not eat carbs. Angie highly dislikes doing mundane tasks including but not limited to filling out paperwork, dealing with bills, anything that has to do with the human rat race.

I know these girls and women better than I know anyone on this planet. I keep them to myself and only my closest family, mainly my brother, knows them, recognizes them, accepts them, and even finds some of them amusing.  They are my inner family. Just the thought of not having them, creates a feeling of great loss for me. It literally feels as though I would be left alone, floundering, by myself.

So how could none of these be real for me? I am not an unintelligent woman. In fact, in spite of the possibility of being accused of having delusions of grandeur, I’d venture to say that in some ways, in regards to myself and my understanding of the Universe, I can dive deeper than even science. I luckily have an AMAZING counselor who agrees, understands intuitiveness, believes in psychic abilities, etc.

I was really looking forward to speaking with my counselor this week. I deeply needed to understand this other perspective on DID and relay to her what my experience had been that day and how this cult expert had immensely triggered me. When I told her what this individual said, along with the other very dismissive language, my counselor’s jaw dropped. She was first floored at how I was spoken to, and then additionally disturbed by the perspective in and of itself being put on me in such a way.

Her first response was “I hope you de-friended all of these people immediately.” I was able to smile and say, “Absolutely.”  Yeah for my Knowing of my boundaries.

One of the most difficult parts of being in counseling was the feeling that I was being labeled. I hated it.  I hated being told I had  complex ptsd, anxiety with agoraphobia, ocd’s, mania, etc.   I hated psychiatry/psychology and only went to counseling when my insurance required it, not because it was something I skipped through the flowers towards.

I felt I was being labeled crazy, and I had enough of that shit in my life.

Indicative of how amazing my therapist is, she once sat back after one of rant then softly replied “It’s not a label. It’s an understanding. It’s no different than knowing that the round, red, edible fruit sitting in front of you is called an apple. It’s merely a definition. It’s not necessarily a horrible thing.  It is allowing you a language to identify these characters you’ve created in order to cope.

She went on to stress to me how absolutely crucial it was to my emotional survival as a child, teenager and adult that I was able to create these compartments.  They are literally how I have been able to endure and cope. As she explained, they function in me like a wheel, each having their space, and they have allowed me to thrive. I can follow my gut and be whomever makes me the healthiest on a day to day basis.  The thought of these pieces of me having to become one or getting rid of them or to tell me that this coping mechanism is bad creates a feeling of anxiety in me.

As a creative and a human being on a deep path of healing and growing, having her not only validate, but understand me on that level was extremely comforting and supporting. She gets me. She knows me. She understands ritual abuse, what it does to a child and why we create the coping mechanisms we do. She finds it wonderful that I have, over the years, all by myself, found ways to come to a place of being where I am today, however I chose to get here.   This is the type of support and loving counseling which keeps my faith renewed that there actually are counselors out there who come from a place of understanding and learning from their patients.

I would say to the whole professional world of psychiatry/psychology, that if you think your knowledge completely overrides the experiences of us ritual abuse survivors, then maybe step out of the field for a bit. Stop being so goddamn pompous and classist. Open your minds to understanding not only beyond “science” but beyond your own ego. You might actually learn a thing or two from us.

When you’re a professional counselor or cult expert who can’t even recognize your own triggering language, you still have some learning to do. When a ritual abuse survivor asks you a question out of need to understand and you flippantly and pompously respond as if they are “beneath” you, you have not only lost us, but you have abused us in the same way we were emotionally abused as children; dismissed and belittled.  This makes you a dangerous counselor.

Everyone has an opinion. It may be right for some. It’s not always right for all. It wasn’t right for me. I have altered states of consciousness, and that’s not a label which makes me damaged. It’s a definition which should allow others a platform by which they are able to understand me. My family understands it and recognizes when I’m in a different state of being.  They do this thing called adjusting, so anyone not having that capability to do the same does not make me wrong, bad or even mentally ill.

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