This is an article from my forthcoming book “Your Strength to Heal: Healing from Trauma, Abuse, Addiction, PTSD and Self-Abusive Behaviors”. This article is by Sonya.
Integration and Beyond
Living after integration can be very confusing. It’s supposed to be difficult. It is a difficult disorder to recover from. It’s supposed to be hard. But what’s even harder is not recovering. It can be extremely difficult to learn how to accomplish every day tasks. The most challenging thing I realized was that I did not know how to live as a grown woman. I knew how to be ill. I knew how to get others to take care of me. I knew how to remain a child/woman. I did not know how to grow up. I now have the chance. As difficult as it may be in the beginning, it is equally rewarding to actually accomplish things and make them an every day part of life. What’s even more rewarding is to actually get so used to doing most things, that they become second nature! This makes me laugh, but it is so very real!
I had to literally grow up in public. Even though I had a 30-year old body, I still felt like a younger person. I had spent years owning my child/children and incorporating them into myself. I had to experience and own every single part of me that I had tossed aside in my life. This included every memory, every experience, every age. And now it was time to fit it all into one functioning human being that was not simple alive, walking around, but who actually could have purpose and meaning. Someone who could walk in a crowd and not feel apart from the crowd. Someone who could feel a part of the human race instead of “apart” from the human race.
When I got serious about being serious, I found myself not even knowing how to make it through a day. I had to literally focus to get through a sink of dishes, – get through a paragraph in a book. I had to mentally scream each word of a sentence to myself, in my head, to comprehend the meaning of the sentence. Sometimes I had to go over a sentence two or three times. And it worked! I found that I had made it through a paragraph and I actually remembered what I read and it made sense! I could consciously wash, rinse and dry each dish and put it away and get through a sink of dishes without throwing one, getting distracted by something else or coming back later. It took time. It took consciously making a decision to stand on both feet in front of the sink, wash one dish at a time, and ignore anything going on around me.
And it worked!
The common factor in both of these is focus. I had a goal in mind and nothing was going to get in my way of achieving that goal. Focus – Focus – Focus. If the task was too complicated, break it down into mini tasks. I still use this one today, after 16 years of being integrated.
Another major change I needed to make was to quit using reasons. I had TONS! “I’m an incest survivor.” “I dissociate.” “No one ever taught me how.” “I have a mental illness.” All these were valid reasons in the beginning. I needed to know all of these reasons for who and what I had become. I needed to own them. And then came the time when I did not want them any more. Not because of shame, but because of lack of necessity. They were no longer needed. It was time to retire them.
I had become so very comfortable in my disorder. Finally I had learned why I felt so abnormal, so “different than everyone else, alone at the center of the universe, with everyone circling around me, going about their own lives, never seeing or paying attention to me, unless I decided it was time for them to pay attention to me. Then I would put on a show that would make them all notice – even all the way to the emergency room, with dripping cut wrists or self- inflicted burns on my arms. All this had to stop.
And it stopped when paying attention to myself became more important than other people paying attention to me did. I’m not talking about the attention I pay to myself in therapy or looking at my issues. I’m talking about paying attention to where I was as a 30-year old woman in a world of other people who are living productive lives without daily therapy. Other people who are genuinely happy – who actually have purpose and meaning in their lives. I wanted to be able to go to the grocery store and buy groceries without dissociating into a small child when I saw a mother gently holding her newborn. I wanted to go to a movie without abreacting an incest incident when I saw two people making love on the movie screen. I wanted to go to the park and not spiral into a shame-filled fetal position, flashing back to a time when I was so very scared for my life, when I saw a father disciplining his daughter because she almost ran into the street in front of cars. My life had been filled with abnormal reactions and triggers to every day occurrences.
So, using the reasons I was ill, became the “reasons” I wanted to heal. They became things I want to “recover” from. I no longer wanted to identify myself as a victim of incest, someone with a mental illness. The reason, “No one ever taught me” became “Now it’s time for me to learn”. And learn I did – and am still doing.
Piecing together the intricate fragments of my whole, I reminded of the “glue of faith” securing the essence of my soul. This was my motto. I trusted the Process. I had faith that Whatever kept me alive back then, during my childhood and during my therapy, would get me through learning how to live as an independent woman, in an independent life, self-supporting through my own contributions.
And it worked.