Healing Tools by Bill Sullivan, husband of Kathy Sullivan
Even though I was used to giving orders (30 years in the Army), it was difficult for me to humble myself and start listening to others who were more knowledgeable, in particular my psychotherapist who was female and younger than I.
My therapist helped me to recognize I am who I am and not to worry about what others may think and to be positive about myself. Moreover, my wife has been my mentor in this area. Because I have had triple bypass heart surgery, stroke, and other serious medical problems, my therapist also discouraged me from doing further memory work. She said it added too much stress. Instead she encouraged me to get on in with my life.
I have always had difficulty with not being critical of others. I have worked on this in myself, and have become less critical. However, I still have difficulty not being critical with myself. I managed to be this way from being in the military for so many years. I feel what has helped me the most about being more kind and more accepting of myself is having a wife with a “really open heart” and knowing that she cares about me.
Watching my wife change and get better and more on top of things has also helped me to be willing to face myself and change for the better. I feel that I no longer let things bother me so much, as there’s more in life than my past.
Because of a series of spinal operations that still cause me considerable pain, I have changed my pace of life which makes it hard to be active. In the past when I was more physical, I kept out of depression and was more positive about myself, however now that I’m taking several antidepressants, I feel better. I am now learning to be “a human being instead of a human doer.” This is new for me. Being forced to not be physically active has helped me to go through a dark time – I was suicidal now and then but I’m finally beginning to realize that I have value for WHO I am instead of what I do. I am beginning to realize that I have value for my contributions to the lives of others. I also try to stay out of depression by doing some physical activities each day and by “poking my head out of my cocoon, not staying in it as much.”
Our marriage has been a “great motivator.” My past life was totally different – like daylight and darkness and living a lot in a dream state. Now I’m based in reality.
I now have good medical doctors which has been an important part of my mental and emotional recovery, since medical problems affect not only “host” Bill but also my more hidden parts. It’s been very important to have medical doctors that I can trust. I am very thankful to have my current physician who, although very busy in his practice, takes time to talk with me and shows me respect.
A crucial part of my recovery has been having a healthy sense of humor. Humor goes a very long way and I have now become witty which in the past did not occur.
My therapist taught me how to set emotional boundaries – particularly with people who are disrespectful or abusive. Since I had been in a victim role for so many years especially around older family members, this was a difficult change for me to make. I no longer tolerate disrespect or abuse from others, especially from family members and more assertive. However, I am still working on not being as controlling as I was when in the military and no longer see myself as a “controller.” I have had a problem with perfectionism (again, military conditioning) and am learning not to berate myself if certain tasks are not done as quickly as in the past.
I have been teaching myself not to automatically accept at face-value what I am told by authority figures. It has been hard to break after 30 years in the Army. I am learning to question what I am told by such individuals and to value my mind, will, wisdom and intuition.
In the past I was seriously betrayed and now allow myself to be soft and vulnerable and to fully accept love from my wife, which has been especially difficult. We have been married eighteen years and only in the past year or so have I been able to really feel my wife’s love for me and my love for my wife.
A more recent therapist, a male, has become important to me because that therapist who is like a loving father who takes the time to explain what is going on and emotionally present. He has a good attitude and writes notes during the session and quickly reviews those notes with me the next time we meet and is more professional. Not only do I feel more secure with this therapist, because nothing is lost or forgotten from the previous session, but it also indicates that this therapist cares about me.
I also feel having only reliable, trustworthy people in my life is a real plus which my previous therapist taught me.
I did anger work with a plastic bat, “to the point of exhaustion.” When playing golf, I visualized the face of an abuser on the golf ball and hit it with great pleasure. When I did anger work “to the point of exhaustion. It worked. My prior therapist also taught me the importance of physically walking away and staying away from people when I felt my rage getting too strong and not returning to the scene until I had “cooled off” to talk things out in a constructive way. She also taught me the importance of staying away from abusive relatives and to avoid being overly angry. This was sad for me because my family is so close that staying away from the “bad” relatives meant losing contact with the safer ones. More recently, I have felt stronger to reconnect with my childhood family. I have done this carefully, person by person, confronting those who need it, and letting those close to me know what the problem has been so that there are no more secrets. I feel stronger and more assertive now and no longer fearful of the abusive family members. I am careful to set boundaries with each person, especially concerning personal information that I may share with certain family members, letting them know of the consequences I will carry out if they repeat confidential information with unsafe family members. This has been a problem in the past, partly because I did not reinforce those boundaries sufficiently. I am now willing and able to do so.
I have had problems with drinking, but stopped drinking before I started therapy. Still, some therapists in a codependency inpatient program told him me I was a “dry drunk.” I did not appreciate being told that and chose not to get involved in a 12-step program, but have relied on my personal relationship with God to help me stay out of trouble. In therapy, I learned that one of my alter-states compartmentalized my alcoholism. For this reason if I do drink, I only drink one or two glasses of wine and avoid the types of alcohol that trigger that part to come out. I do not keep anything stronger than wine coolers in the home and have only one or two coolers a week.
Because host Bill is responsible for carrying out daily activities and interactions with others, I rely on another strong adult protector part to communicate internally with other alter-states that compartmentalize traumatic memories that I have not yet worked through. During my intensive work with my prior therapist, Bill and the protector part became co-conscious. I am aware that as “Bill”, I do not have sufficient strength to deal with those memories. My protector part however was created to cope with trauma and is able to “filter” the memories so that what “little Bill” remembers is bearable. Since I am 72, I recognize that it is time to learn to rest. I am more at peace with myself now and with the realization that I have “parts” that I may never reconnect with.
My internal system rearranged itself during therapy, to where the other parts work together fairly well now. Some parts are no longer needed, because their skills and specialized knowledge is not needed in my “regular” new life. However, I work at being grateful and honoring them for their existence. If not for them, I would not have survived. With the help of the other parts and their doing their work outside of my consciousness, I can now rest, am more at ease, more at peace and feel more relaxed. I needed sleep to give my brain time to heal itself and to process unremembered material from the past. Each morning, I wake up and remember more of my past, what I was involved with which I naturally abhor. However, I keep in mind that that is the past, it is not happening now. I now choose not to “beat myself up” about what is past, and to be a real Christian and be the best person I can be, always working on myself to be better. Not knowing how long I have to live, and knowing there is nothing I can do to change the past, I am working on reconciling with my loved ones and making sure they know how much I love and care about them. I was not able to do this as fully in the past as I can now.
I am better at taking responsibility for my part in what went wrong in past marital relationships. This is another big step for me. It has taken gentle confrontation on the part of my loved ones, as well as introspection, to be able to do this. Acknowledging my negative behaviors that caused some of the problems in my past seems to be freeing me even more.
I feel my relationship with his God as a Christian is most important to me. As much as it has caused me some misery in the past (trying too hard to be perfect to please God), I now realize that God accepts me as I am – hidden parts and all. That God accepts what I cannot in myself. This realization is also very freeing and gives me great peace.