My name is Jeanette R. and this is my story. I was a victim of repeated abuse for most of my growing years. I couldn’t remember the abuse for a long time because I left my body during the experiences and suppressed my feelings. As I got older, I learned that alcohol helped to numb the feelings. I also learned that I felt “relieved” after I hurt myself. I quickly became ashamed of this behavior, along with the binge eating and stealing. I knew I was crazy.
I entered a religious congregation at age 21. It was a secure, safe life. I loved it. I enjoyed teaching. But I knew I had a problem with “the Church.” I was very confused and conflicted.
After 30 years as a “religious,” my life took a drastic turn. My twin sister, who was in the same congregation, developed cancer and died within two years. My behavior went out of control. I was isolating, binge-eating, drinking, and hurting myself on a daily basis. My congregation knew something was wrong and sent me to a psychiatric hospital. I felt devastated and beaten down. I also knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was.
My first diagnosis was major depression, with an eating disorder. Then alcoholism and being bi-polar were added to the list. I was given psychotropic drugs. I felt like a prisoner in my own head. In the safe environment of a psychiatric hospital, I began to open up and reveal my feelings. Comments just came out of me. I didn’t know where they were coming from, except that I knew I was saying things that didn’t make sense.
For years I was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. I could not function and did not feel safe. One astute woman realized that I had dissociative identity disorder (DID). She arranged for me to go to a hospital that specialized in the treatment of DID. From there I was assigned to a therapist. As I made progress, the drugs were decreased and finally stopped. I began to feel hopeful.
The Road to Healing
In therapy I was taught to imagine a safe place and go there. My safe place was a pool of water with a beautiful waterfall that gave off a mist of healing spray. I learned to imagine that it had the power to return me to my original innocence. I also created a separate “time-out” building as a safe place. Different parts of me would go there when they were feeling unsafe. The door only locked from the inside, so I could feel safe. No key was needed. Once I felt better, that part of me – sometimes male, sometimes female – could simply leave.
I found that it was, and still is, very helpful to dialogue with the different parts of me that split off. Sometimes we simply communicate with each other in my head, sometimes through writing. Sometimes, these different parts come out and dialogue with my therapist. Sometimes I am watching and listening, while at other times I am not present at all.
For the past several years working with a DID therapist, I have made much progress. I feel safe and am functioning well. Some of the techniques I have used that have been helpful are:
– As I feel myself being triggered, “we” go my safe place;
– I accept and honor my body’s recall;
– I ask God to help me to surrender;
– I acknowledge that God can remove what is troubling me and ask God to do so;
– I express my feelings – usually felt in my body – about the recollection;
– I allow myself to shed tears;
– I sit and focus on my breathing;
– I allow the healing water to cleanse me and bring me back to my original innocence.
The hardest part of this process is letting go of the memory or feeling that is triggered. The only way to do this is to focus on God and not on the trigger. Once I allow God to take over, I am enveloped in peace.
Since my diagnosis of DID and the help of therapy, I have stopped hurting myself. I am also in recovery from alcoholism and compulsive over-eating. There are still times when I deny that there are different parts of myself. What quickly brings me out of denial is the question: “What has been my experience with my parts?”
My recovery is a process, which will last until the day I die. For the most part, I function well today. Life is worth living. I began my life being forced to experience, witness and believe in awful things. I know now that, when it’s my time, my life will end joyfully, worshipping and praising a God who truly loves me. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Nun, Teacher and Survivor