The second neurofeedback protocol focused on the trauma center of my brain. Very quickly, things started to go crazy at home. My husband and I began to have truly ugly fights. Prior to the second protocol we’d disagree and talk it out; at most extreme we might have argued without name calling or profanity. After the second protocol started, name calling or profanity became the new normal. The arguments we began to have had to do with how I felt I was being treated, how my husband felt he was being treated, money I didn’t recall spending, not being able to account for time lost. After these arguments I wasn’t receptive to reconciliation, which was another difference in my behavior from before the second protocol.
In addition to these ugly fights, I resented accounting for my time. I couldn’t say why it took me hours to get home from work or why a 15-minute errand took two hours. I had no patience with the dogs. I started a sentence with a peaceful understanding point of view and ended it with hostile aggression punctuated with profound profanity. As a result of the increased hostility in my interactions with my husband, I began to emotionally retreat behind a wall of silence. When that wasn’t safe or peaceful enough, I physically retreated into another room.
My husband has his own history of trauma and PTSD. His response to the changes in our relationship went to a polar opposite direction from my responses. The more I retreated the more aggressive and angrier my husband became. He was becoming triggered in every interaction we had. My home life became a war zone. I was at wits end. I begged my husband to get a mental health doctor to help support him through this crisis. He adamantly refused. My husband began to talk about divorce. Parts of me liked the idea of divorce. It is much easier to deal with and heal mental health issues when there is no one else around. The wife was heartbroken.
In all this chaos I went into survival mode. Typically, we don’t believe in unsolvable problems, but as far as my marriage went we were at a complete loss. It was a distinct possibility that in the near future I would be kicked out of my home. We share a car – without a car I wouldn’t be able to go to work. The worst possible outcomes were coming closer to reality.
When I reported all of this in my neurofeedback sessions the MD was consulted. Should we change the protocol to include dealing with disassociation? Should we stop the protocol all together? Should we continue the protocol? Stopping the protocol left me broken – as far as I was concerned this was not an option. The MD, though concerned about the havoc the neurofeedback protocol was causing, advised against changing the protocol. I asked about books or resources on dissociative identity disorder. Shana, the psychologist, gave me a couple of names and titles. The title I chose to start with was ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk. The citation is listed at the end of this blog.
I had been praying on this crisis. I felt lost and overwhelmed. I prayed for help. I prayed for clarity in understanding what caused this crisis. I prayed that there was something I could do to correct the direction my marriage was headed. There had to be a way to sort out this mess that was my life. I began to read ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ and was touched with how blessed I truly am. It is a blessing to pray for help and receive it.
One of the first things that I learned is that there are two ways that people respond to PTSD and trauma, retreat or attack. It because clear – my husband and I were responding to this crisis differently. Specifically – I retreated and my husband attacked. Additionally, Bessel van der Kolk was writing about things my husband and I had experienced as trauma. In many ways it was as if he was speaking directly to us. Van der Kolk’s book helped me to understand and heal; it saved my marriage.
Imagine what it must have been like for my husband. At the beginning of this protocol he didn’t know that prior to his marriage his wife had reintegrated fractured personalities. The husband certainly had no idea what fractured personalities were. All of the sudden his wife begins to change. She begins spending money unpredictably. She can’t keep track of time and begrudges an explanation. His wife becomes a stranger, reacting differently to things he says and does. Some of these reactions are over the top. Other reactions are a lack of response.
The way the woman he married talks is different. Her facial expressions don’t match the person he knows. Interactions that once were normal elicit anger or fear. The shouting matches begin. Being yelled at ‘I’m not your wife!’ Dealing with confusion when the wife tells him ‘I didn’t do that’ or ‘I didn’t say that’. Dealing with a frightened sobbing child in the body of an adult who is rocking back and forth holding onto a pillow with a death grip. The sobbing child shouts ‘Go Away! Go Way!’ Frequently my husband was talking to more than one aspect at a time.
My husband’s first response to this crisis with dissociative disorder was disbelief. After all, what a convenient way to get out taking responsibility. Somebody else did it. Once I began reading ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ we were able to talk about how our interactions were feeding each other’s crazy. My husband began to do his own research on dissociative disorders. We, my husband and us, began to talk our way through our obstacles. We each have our own individual mental illness issues, but when we recognize what the triggers are and when the triggering happens my husband and I can make different choices. One of the things my husband still struggles with is how quickly the aspects can change in conversation – he has no idea who is talking to. I have no idea who is going to be talking.
So What Changed between Reintegration in 90’s and Refracturing in 2019?
I also reached out to a dear friend of mine for help. In addition to being my dear friend, she is also a mentor and priest who knew me back in the 90’s when I was reintegrating. Part of our discussion was asking the question – what had changed from reintegration in the 90’s to re-fracturing in 2019. After a long discussion I remembered that reintegration in the 90’s hinged on the decision that no matter who was on the computer, I (whoever I is) am responsible for all action or inaction. I also realized that when I was diagnosed with Adult ADD at the beginning of the year I had taken the diagnoses as permission to no longer be responsible. This was a huge aha moment for me, and something I continue to work with. Integration is still the goal. For the moment, however, I am still doing neurofeedback to get my brain centers communicating clearly, and at the same and appropriate speed. It isn’t time to integrate, yet.
Shortly after this conversation with my dear friend it became apparent that my aspects were talking to each other and working together to make things more peaceful at home. The aha moment on the topic of responsibility was a huge influence. Which was a great blessing. I was beginning to have difficulty coping with and hiding my dissociation events at work, which was awful.
Changing the channel. I noticed that I’d be in a conversation with someone who was aware of my mental health crisis and several aspects had things to say. My words would get bunched up and my mouth wouldn’t work. I’d finally get one aspects words out and I would have to change the topic of conversation to get a different aspects words out. This is changing the channel.
The second protocol came to an end. At the end of each protocol a brain scan is done to evaluate the training that was done. The brain scan was very encouraging. It showed continued success in the frontal lobe (dealing with ADD issues) and a significant reduction in dissonance in the trauma centers of the brain. A third protocol was established targeting dissociation.
Bessel van der Kolk MD (25 September, 2014) ‘The Body Keeps The Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma’. Penguin Group. ISBN-13: 978-0670785933