Tips on What to do After Someone You Love Has Cut

~By: Jess Mei


After my latest episode with cutting, I realize that most ‘common folk’ are just not equipped to know what to do, or even how to react to self-harming. I think it is interesting how some people act like they are actually offended when we self-harm. Like ‘how could we put them in that situation’. I do try to look at other people’s points-of-views, so I thought I’d try to give some pointers for loved ones of self-harmers. Please pardon me if I come off sounding like I have an ‘us’ versus ‘everyone else’ mentality. But unless you are a self-harmer – I really don’t think you can understand. This is just generalized advice. First, let me see if I can shed some light on the ‘why’ of it.

1. It’s not about you…its not about us, and its not about suicide, either.
Outsiders need to understand that self-harm doesn’t have anything to do with them…that’s why it is called ‘self’ harm. Most times it isn’t even about us, the self-harmers. Sometimes it is about the pain; sometimes it is about the blood. Sometimes we self-harm to heal another part of ourselves. But it is almost never about suicide. We’re not trying to kill ourselves. Trust me – we already know exactly how to do that. Self-harm isn’t about suicide…even when we’re suicidal.

2. Self-harm is full of symbolism and ritual.

The scarring, the blood, the act of self-harm it self is extremely symbolic for us. Sometimes we’ll even write poetry about it. For me, this symbolism has nothing to do with Satan, God, or anything like that. For example, once I’ve used a particular razor to cut, I’ll cut with it until I feel ‘okay’ again, then I’ll discard that razor. I don’t want to even touch it again. It has served its purpose. Now, that doesn’t stop me from going and getting another one (I purchased a 100 pack of blades) – but I don’t because that self-harming episode is over and I feel okay again.

3. Self-harm usually occurs when we are under a lot of stress and are frustrated.
Sometimes we cut because we want to express frustration but don’t want to express it verbally. The cuts then become like little screams, a way to yell, let out that ‘pressure’, and not have to confront the source of the stress and/or frustration. Sometimes we cut when we feel like we’re not being heard or understood. Whatever the reasons, the underlying cause is a great deal of stress and/or frustration.

Okay, so knowing all this, you as the bystander are supposed to do what exactly?

       

      • Don’t look at us like we’re crazy. This is an addiction and coping mechanism…just like smoking.
      • Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that we’re trying to kill ourselves. Dying a death of a thousand cuts isn’t something we’re interested in.
      • Don’t panic and try to remove our instruments of choice. That makes us feel like a child and when the next time comes up, we’ll find something else to self-harm with. And because we would be self-harming with something less familiar, we risk potential fatal injury.
      • If we want to talk about it, please – please just listen. Don’t try to fix anything.
      • If possible, help to keep the stress levels down.
      • Keep a medical first aid kit handy. Be prepared to take us to the emergency room if the cuts need stitches and be willing to fight with us for humane treatment at the hospital.
      • Don’t crowd…give us some space to regroup.
      • If we have DID, know that this cutting episode may be triggering or may have been a reaction to a trigger.
      • If you see us wearing long-sleeved clothing in the middle of summer, don’t make a big deal about it. More than likely, we are trying to hide our scars.
      • Don’t help us if we don’t ask for it.

      Basically, the best action to take is to just ‘be’ there…follow our lead. We usually find our voices after the self-harm and are able to articulate clearly how we will need your assistance and support.

      I’m in Crisis

      ~By: Jess Mei

      For anyone out there who has been following this blog-I am in crisis. My housemate is tired of me living off her (I don’t have a job or a place to live), my ex and I are still fighting and it was bad…really, really bad – and I need to cut. But I want to cut for good this time. I want to take some pills and cut, cut, cut until I can’t bring my hand up to cut anymore. I have 2 kids who hate me because I left the family home, a mother who hates me because I breath and just happen to look like my father, and I hate myself. There’s a dog here to hug, but I don’t like him, knitting won’t do. I really need some help. I don’t have a therapist, no medical insurance, no life. I’m tired. I’m scared and I hurt so much. You’d think I’d be too old for this, but pain is pain. If you’re still young, please get help – don’t be my age still dealing with this. Help me somebody. God isn’t even here for me now. I have no one – nothing. HELP ME!!!

      Different Types of Dissociative Disorders

      ~By: Jess Mei


      First – let me say that I’m no expert. I’m just one woman who went searching for answers to this ‘thing’ that has both saved my life and changed it so profoundly.

      There is a term for the progression of dissociation called the Dissociative Continuum. The presence of this continuum is now widely accepted by those psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who are familiar with dissociative states. Let’s take a look at this together. I will present them from least to greatest – in terms of the dissociation only. In no way am I minimizing the impact of any of the disorders.

      I. Psycogenic Amnesia
      [Definition]: A sudden inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to merely explain away by normal forgetfulness and is not associated with an organic mental disorder (like Alzheimers Disease).

      There are 4 classifications psychogenic amnesia:

      1. Localized – where all memory is loss that occurred in a specific period of time
      2. Selective – where some, but not all memory is loss of events that occurred during a specific period of time
      3. Generalized – where memory of important events that occurred over the course of life is loss
      4. Continuous – where all memory is loss for the entire past and the memory loss continues into the present

      Psychogenic Amnesia is the most common form of dissociative disorders and appears to be caused by either blunt trauma to the head or as response to an immediate traumatic event.

      II. Psychogenic Fugue
      [Definition]: A sudden act of traveling far away from home or place of work, and having no recall of doing so or why. Many assume a new identity or personality trait completely uncharacteristic of the ‘norm’.

      Research has shown that this new identity is usual really ‘free-loving’ and less inhabited than the ‘normal’ identity. This dissociative disorder does not include those moments when we all drive from point A to point B without recalling the road or things around us. Those occurrence fit better in the Psycogenic Amnesia category. It appears that people who suffer from psychogenic fugue states have no memory of the actions and experiences done while the ‘free-loving’ personality is present.

      III. Depersonalization Disorder
      [Definition]: The chronic experience of a profound loss of sense of self, of feeling unreal – as if in a dream. The experience of feeling like your are completely outside of yourself.

      People who have depersonalization disorder have memories that feel like dreams that sometimes cannot be recognized as real versus fantasy. They can easily tell themselves that certain real life experiences didn’t happen because they [the memories] feel like dreams. Because of the ability of the person who has depersonalization disorder to mentally step outside of self, past memories can be seen as occurring to someone else. The onset of this disorder is abrupt; however recover can be very slow.

      IV. Dissociative Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNOS)
      [Definition]: This is a bit of a ‘catch all’ category for any dissociative behavior that doesn’t fit solidly in the definition of the other categories. There is still marked dysfunction in memory, identity and consciousness.

      I’ve had the opportunity to speak with someone who has DDNOS and she says that for her, she doesn’t hear the internal conversations and she retains co-consciousness for much of the time with no distinctive personality taking full control of the body at any time.

       

       

       

      V. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD))
      [Definition]: The presence of at least two distinct personalities within the body of one person.

      People with DID typically display symptoms of other categories of dissociation. People tell of loss time, amnesia, profound feelings of being outside of self, and hearing internal dialogs that are not those of the primary identity. DID is a chronic, but allegedly treatable disorder. This dissociative disorder holds the most societal stigma than any of the others and if often mistaken for Schizophrenia – a disorder that can be controlled with drug therapy.

      From everything that I have read thus far, there are no medications specific to treating DID. Drugs are given to assist with symptoms of things like insomnia, depression, and anxiety; however these drugs cannot address the disorder itself.

      In my next post, I will speak about various forms of trauma that cause dissociative disorders. Until then, friends.

      Tips for Significant Others of Multiples

      It has been over a year since I posted this and I felt it needed 1 more tip added. So I have updated this post with Tip #10 – There will be Destruction.

      ~By: Jess Mei

      Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder – or any dissociative disorder for that matter – can be HELL! I can only imagine what it must be like for those of you who live with us. Our actions are difficult to understand on the best of days and some times infuriating on other days (I know). For some of you, you’ve been living with a multiple for years and years and still haven’t recognized the signs of it – or been introduced to the multiple’s alters. I want to present you with some tips for living with your DID loved one in hopes that these tips might help you to navigate your way through the turbulent storm of DID.

      1. Don’t take it personal.
      I set this one as #1 for a reason – you really cannot take what a multiple may say or do personally. I know this is easier said than done, but please try. You have to understand that while the body may be a certain age, we have young children, babies, inanimate objects, seniors, bee-bop young adults, and teenagers inside of us, and these alters can and do come out and control the body at times. Not all of these alters are pleasant – in fact some are downright mean and destructive. So sometimes you, as the significant other, will get targeted by these alters. I have one who hates everything and everyone and deeply resents the fact that anyone would or could love me.

      2. Alters can and do mimic each other.
      I’m not sure why this is – but it happens. I’d imagine it is just a game for the alter…to see if she/he can ‘fool’ the SO (significant other) or those that are around. Get to know some tell-tell indicators for the alters, so that no matter how much they joke around, you’ll know with whom you’re dealing with.

      3. Be vigilant of reckless behavior.
      Some people with DID will engage in fast, reckless driving, over-indulgence in alcohol or recreational drugs, gambling, and other general risky behavior. It isn’t that we necessarily think we are invincible, it is generally because we simply don’t care. Or one (or more) alters in control of the body at the time don’t care. I must also say that more than 1 alter can not only behave this way, but also develop addictions because of it. Imagine trying to quit smoking when more than 1 of you is addicted to nicotine. I mean, how do you know if the others want to quit? My SO has alters who come out, smoke his cigarette, then leave. He still wants to have a cigarette himself, so he lights up again. Can you see the difficulty in this?

      4. People with DID LOVE to play mind games.
      We tend to be extremely secretive and are generally distrusting of others. This is a fact that has nothing at all to do with love or the foundation on which the SO relationship is built upon. We will ‘try’ the SO and will most often test your love and commitment to us. This is primarily where the mind games come in, but not always. We absolutely HATE to be manipulated and recognize it quickly and will sometimes turn the tables on the manipulator so that they become the manipulated.

      5. Be patient when it comes to making love.
      Sometimes we act ‘weird’ with sex and we don’t even know why. Sometimes we get triggered (it could be a smell, a touch, a position, a ‘look’ in the eyes of the SO – anything) and off we go to whatever memory of a past event that got triggered. We might be able to work through it then and there, but sometimes, it might take days, weeks, months (or more) for us to recover. 1 step forward, 20 steps back – but as long as you don’t give up on us, I think we’ll make it.

      6. We need PLENTY of alone time.
      So, don’t get upset when we take it. If you think about it, we could literally be on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific and not truly be ‘alone’. There is an entire group of us there in the 1 system, talking, screaming, crying, and watching. Some people in every day life come home and turn on the TV because they need the background noise. I stay at home all day without one on because I don’t want to add anymore to the chaos already going on inside the system.

      7. Sometimes, people with DID come off as indecisive.
      Most times, we’re not really. We’re just trying to get a consensus from more than 1 person inside the system. This indecisiveness shows up for me most when deciding about where to eat and what to eat. As the host personality, I tend to mediate most times within the system, but this isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagine. YOU try getting more than 3 people to agree on any 1 thing! As the SO, please allow us to change our minds without reprimand and know that in general, we want to please those around us, especially our SO – and when you reprimand us, it hurts so deeply. And please don’t take our ability to choose away.

       

       

      8. We Lie – A LOT.
      I don’t know if this is rolled into our need for mind games, secrecy or what, but we lie, omit the truth, stretch the truth, hide the truth, make stuff up – whatever you want to call it – we do more than our share of it. I honestly can’t even remember all the lies I’ve told or why I told them. Was it to make myself more interesting? Was it to keep someone out of our business? I do remember lying a few times because I couldn’t remember doing what I was accused of having done. I have also lied and said I recognized someone who clearly knew ‘me’, when I didn’t. We hide; we lie. And as the SO – just know this going into a conversation that a DID person may (or may not) be completely forthcoming might be helpful to you. Sometimes, alters come out, drop the lie and leave whoever is out to deal with the fallout. This can be extremely frustrating for everyone concerned. I have personally stood by, watched the body’s mouth moving, heard the words coming out, knew what was said were lies and couldn’t stop it from happening. I got depressed knowing that eventually, I’d have to come out and try to untangle things.

      9. Sometimes – we cheat.
      And I don’t mean ‘lust in our hearts’ cheat, either. This is closely related to the reckless behavior point made earlier. We engage in on-line affairs and real life affairs. Sometimes it is more than one alter engaging in this sorted behavior as well. As the SO, I advise you to please be vigilant. If it looks like a duck, it probably is one…maybe even two or three. Even if the person you married would NEVER do something like cheat – bear in mind that she/he isn’t the only one in the system. There are oft times alters of both genders within the system who don’t have the same value system as your beloved. She/He may not even be consciously aware of what has occurred. Which brings me back to point #1 – please don’t take it personal. If you’re willing to work through these issues and stand by us, we will too.

      10. There Will be Destruction.

      After having continued to live with DID for over a year since I posted this, I simply had to add this final tip about destruction. You can well imagine the psychological destruction this disorder causes for those around their DID loved one. From personal experience, there is so much more destruction than that.

      We have all sorts of triggers that may send us straight to lashing out, self-injury or worse, suicide/suicide attempts.  As the SO, you have probably already met a few angry, mean-spirited, hateful, just generally bent-on-destruction alters. Those alters are holding one or more parts of a terrible memory and maybe getting flooded. Flooding will cause us to act out either outwardly (hurt the SO or someone else around) or inwardly (cutting, anorexia/bulimia, or any other self-harm practice). Destruction will reign supreme if we are under a lot of stress.

      Please keep in mind, SO – because of the past trauma, we are pretty much always in flight, fight or freeze mode which keeps us tense and watchful at all times. We feel we need to be ready to either run, fight or internalize all the time. Day after day, we generally already feel like we’re backed into a corner and someone is poking us with a stick. Enough agitation and we will strike out. When we strike out, we go for the kill – whether it be a verbal, physical or psychological confrontation.You as the SO must understand this. We will do anything, anything to protect ourselves from any type of harm. This even goes for when we self-harm; there is always at least one insider that tries to stop the self-injuring. That person may not win, though.

      We always play for keeps.

      Understand that there will be destruction when you are mated/partnered to someone with DID. If you’re not strong, fully self-confident and thick-skinned – you should back away from the DID person and move quickly away. Until the system has some long-standing consistency of order, the entire relationship will be baffling and frustrating. If you are already involved with a multiple or feel you wouldn’t mind if the person were DID, please re-read these tips and get ready for an extremely bumpy, though sometimes rewarding, chaotic ride.  Godspeed!

      I hope these tips have given you, the Significant Other, some insight into our world. If you’d like to add another tip – please do so in the comments and I’ll incorporate it into the blog.