The Unexpected Way Childhood Trauma Affected Me
As a child, I experienced trauma that shook me to my core and affected every part of my life going forward. It wasn’t just one incident, or one person, and I never had anyone to turn to. And I never told anyone until I was late into my teens, when I had completely lost hope. In fact, until two years ago, I never saw myself as having a future at all.
The stress from trauma presented in many different ways over the years. When I was 4, I started getting sick to my stomach all the time. I experienced panic attacks, I self-harmed throughout my childhood without really knowing what I was doing, or why. I stopped eating when I was 11, and I spent my entire adolescence in and out of treatment centers, hospitals and institutions.
The trauma in my childhood was so profoundly terrifying, that at some point, my mind began to shatter. By the time I was 16, I wasn’t just me anymore. I was made up of separate people, or alters, that each served a purpose to protect me and keep me alive. A cheery 7-year-old who held onto hope, an angry 8-year-old who took every opportunity to be self-destructive. For several years, I floated on the ceiling watching my life from afar while my body was inhabited by 15 different personalities that were working to keep me from completely losing it and disappearing permanently.
It took three years of therapy to put the pieces of my mind back together. Slowly, I was able to thank my inner protectors for saving my life, and I assured them now I was an adult and was safe, I could handle things as a brave, competent 23-year-old. I started living my life through adult eyes, and I learned how to take care of myself.
I’ve met many people in the past two years. I’ve talked about my history with eating disorders, I’m OK explaining scars on my body and I’m proud of my story. But I never talk about my diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID). Maybe out of shame, maybe out of embarrassment, maybe because I want to leave that part of my life behind, but likely because I still feel the need to protect my precious inner children.
I live my life today with both feet on the ground and my adult mind inside my body. I acknowledge the whispers of fear, anxiety and doubt from my inner children, and I protect them fiercely so that they always know that it’s going to be OK.
And I quietly thank them every day for keeping me alive all those years and helping me find the courage to just be me.
Getty Images photo via Grandfailure