New and trying to figure things out

JGirl

Confident
I have dealt with PTSD for a long time from several traumas throughout my life. My T has recently said she wants to do parts work with me. She encouraged me to purchase Coping With Trauma-Related Dissociation. I got the book and have read through a couple of chapters. There is definitely a lot that I can relate to. I am feeling confused about what this means. My understanding is that PTSD is a spectrum that goes from PTSD to DID. Is that correct? I am learning that I am further along the spectrum that I thought. This is both upsetting and a relief because it means that I can get the correct support. Due to a huge trigger that occurred a month ago and basically brought back ALL of my past traumas, I had to take a leave from work. Here are some of my questions:

Is it possible to have parts that I am aware of only when I am stressed?
What is the difference between having a part and the inner child?

I feel like I have "gotten lost" in myself since I had a trauma happend as a teenanger. I basically stare into space, sometimes lost in flashbacks, sometimes just feeling numb.

I felt like I was both inside me and outside, coaching me about what to do at the same time when my daughter disclosed a trauma she had gone through. That triggered extreme PTSD for a few years until I found my current T who helped me feel happy and "normal" for the first time in my life.

I became aware of a child part a couple of years ago from doing inner child work in therapy. Through EMDR, I rescued her and helped her feel like she wasn't alone. I haven't felt her for a long time. These feelings have come back due to the triggering incident and I can feel her again. She is part of me but not me. When I visualize her she has blond hair, mine is dark. She feels sad and alone. I feel sad and alone sometimes, but I can feel her sad and alone feelings separate from mine. I bought her a teddy bear that she hugs and sleeps with sometimes. Lately, I sleep with the bear when I cant feel her just in case she needs some comfort. Before I took my leave from work, she wanted to stay home and hug the bear, but I told her that she could hug it now and then had to put it away until later because I had to go to work. That day, I felt her again at work. I was walking down the hall and everyone else was busy. She was feeling abandoned and alone. I also felt her the other day when I went to the dollar store to buy myself a workbook. My husband kept suggesting notebooks that were small because they had nice covers, but I wanted one that was bigger. Then she saw a small, fuzzy pink book with a rainbow on it. When I picked up the book, she hugged it and loved that it was so soft. She actually spoke to my husband and said "I want it." She had never spoken before. I bought that book even though it wasn't what I wanted because I wanted to make her happy. I haven't felt her since then.

I felt another child. Or maybe it was her. I don't know. This was after the triggering incident but before I felt her sadness. I was at the hospital for a severe migraine. I also have a brain disorder (fluid doesn't drain properly from my brain and it causes high pressure) , so the doctor wanted a CT. I felt the child when the porter was taking me to get the CT done. He was wheeling me really fast and it was a lot of fun. I had a huge smile on my face and I felt like I was not myself, but a child. I have also suddenly started to feel scared. I have loved thunderstorms for as long as I can remember. We had a storm last week and I felt scared. I was like a child being scared, but I could not feel the child. I don't know if this is the same child or not. There was one day that mys husband said something in a weird growly voice when driving. He was complaining about another driver not turning. His voice frightened me, and I felt like myself but it isn't something that would normally scare me.

I also have a teenage self that I don't like. She is very argumentative and picks silly fights with my husband. This has only happened a few times, and not for a few years. I was aware of her but unable to stop her/myself from being so difficult.

The other thing I have experienced was very bizarre to me. I was driving home after a very stressful day at work, again after the triggering incident. I was looking forward to going home to eat some pistachios for a snack. I started talking in a really weird voice. It was me but I could not control it. I don't do impressions. I have never been able to. The voice kept repeating "nut snack" then said "I'm nutty for nut snack" and then had this weird cackle type of laugh. I had two thoughts at the time. 1. I had gone totally insane. 2. I was impressed that I could make my voice do that. I thought that maybe I was able to do impressions but didnt know it.

Do these incidents relate to typical PTSD? Where are they on the spectrum? I don't exactly know what this means. I want to explore it, but I am afraid to at the same time. I appreciate any insights you may have.
 

Sideways

Moderator
I'll have a crack at some of your questions. I have cptsd and DID, so I'm coming at it from experience based largely on my my personal healing journey through those 2 conditions.

My understanding is that PTSD is a spectrum that goes from PTSD to DID. Is that correct?
2 different illnesses, 2 different spectrums.

PTSD: ranges from ordinary, to severe/chronic. People can get it from multiple traumas, or a single event.

People with mild ptsd can expect their illness to resolve itself with the passage of time (lucky bastards!).

The more severe ptsd gets, the more it impacts a person's ability to function, and the more likely it is to become chronic.

Complex ptsd is at the more severe end of ptsd, and can develop in people who have experienced repetitive/continual traumatic events over a period of time. Common examples: domestic violence, living in a warzone, ongoing child sexual abuse.

Dissociative disorders: these sit on a different spectrum, from mild to severe. Mild dissociation is something everyone does (daydreaming is an easy example). But it's also a way that the brain can cope with traumatic events - it seperates itself from what is happening in the here and now.

More severe types of dissociation can start to really impact on a person's ability to function, and that's when you get dissociative disorders. They're common with ptsd - people often have both.

These disorders can be depersonalisation (not feeling like you're real) and derealisation (not feeling like the world around you is real). Even more severe is dissociative fugue (amnesia, and not knowing your own identity at all). And finally, people who develop a dissociative disorder in childhood can develop Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Is it possible to have parts that I am aware of only when I am stressed?
Absolutely. Identifying 'parts' is something that often only happens when a person works on it in therapy.
What is the difference between having a part and the inner child?
Let's start with the 'inner child'. This is a concept that therapists have used for a long time with trauma survivors to help them connect with, and heal, the part of their identity that was hurt by their trauma.

For some people, their 'inner child' is never any more than that: it's just a helpful way to approach healing themselves. Particularly the part of their self that they hid away inside to cope with their trauma. Reparenting that inner child can be part of that process.

Increasingly common? Is using the concept of 'parts' of our personality in order to heal the parts of ourselves that cause us distress, or make it difficult to function.

For example, your doctor has the part that turns up to work, and the part that has an intimate sexual relationship with their partner. Different aspects of their personality.

A lot of people find that breaking down their personality in that way is a helpful way to specifically target the parts that are dysfunctional. For example, someone may decide that the part of their personality that deals with 'being angry' is too shy, or too aggressive. So they focus on that part.

A lotnof childhood trauma survivors easily identify with having a 'childlike' part as part of their personality. Often, it's akin to the shut off prt of themselves that dealt with the trauma. They put it in a box to cope, and it stayed there, hurt and traumatised, till they enter therapy, and decide "it's time to heal that inner child".

Clear as mud? Let's make it more confusing.

IFS is a therapy approach that deals with the personality in distinct 'parts'. These are descriptive, and purely theoretical tools to help a person with their recovery.

The there's the place where complex ptsd overlaps with Borderline Personality Disorder. A person with cptsd and/or BPD will very often be able to identify their personality as several, seemingly distinct parts, that are usually apparent when the person experiences emotional extremes. They get angry and Bam! Suddenly they're Freddy Kruger. They experience shame, and Bam! Suddenly they're a terrified child. They experience love and Bam! Something else entirely. These people are very high on the dissociative spectrum: they dissociate as a way to cope frequently, and often to a degree that it impacts their ability to function.

As a seperate condition, you then have DID. Life is experienced through multiple, distinct personalities, and high levels of amnesia associated with switching between parts.

Do these incidents relate to typical PTSD? Where are they on the spectrum?
They sound very familiar to someone suffering a chronic and severe form of ptsd, which may or may not be cptsd.
 

JGirl

Confident
They sound very familiar to someone suffering a chronic and severe form of ptsd, which may or may not be cptsd.
Thank you for your thorough reply. I will have to read it over a few times to try to absorb everything. I agree with having ptsd or cptsd. I know that I don't have DID. I am still feeling confused about the dissociative spectrum and where I fit. I experience a lot of derealization. It is typically infrequent when things are going well, or I can completely lose where I am or experience the world as completely foreign most of the day when I am really stressed or triggered. I am trying to educate myself to help understand it all.

People with mild ptsd can expect their illness to resolve itself with the passage of time (lucky bastards!).
This made my day!
 

Renly

Learning
I am also struggling with where I am on the dissociative scale. I assume I do not have DID (no ongoing amnesia or switching), but I do have “extreme parts” that seem to be a byproduct of my trauma which I often feel are battling each other inside of me. I have memories of extremely violent trauma where I float out of my body and view it like a movie…no longer inside of myself (which I know is dissociation). And my trauma was ongoing for a number of years. I do have “fog” around my most abused years and don’t remember much. I’m struggling to know if my current “dissociative” behavior is actually dissociatiom, or maybe just “emotional numbing.” I’ve noticed recently when I get a wave of emotion, my brain “shuts it off” and I’m numb… I cant find any good resources on the difference between dissociation vs. emotional numbing.
 

JGirl

Confident
@Renly I'm sorry that you need to be on this journey too. I appreciate you sharing, It helps me feel less alone. I will let you know if I find any good resources.
 
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