I et al was started by Katia in 2002 two years after Integration of 22 alters from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This is her story..........
Back in the 80’s, Survivors were regarded with disbelief, ignored and treated like pariahs especially by the authorities who refused to listen and discredited anyone who spoke out. Those who dared to tell were regarded as ‘damaged goods,’ somehow responsible for their own abuse forever condemned to ‘never being able to recover’ or live a useful life. It seemed that it wasn’t child sexual abuse that was the problem, it was the victims that broke the taboo and talked about it. I disclosed my abuse at school aged 5, my teacher said I had an ‘overactive imagination’ and then again at 11 when I was urged to be grateful I wasn’t a starving Ethiopian like the ones in the Blue Peter Appeal.
I realised I was Multiple when I saw the TV film Sybil aged 14. It was such a relief to make sense of my ‘madness.’ I was so naïve, I thought the film meant someone could help me but quickly got the message that I was a fraud, a liar and an attention seeker because MPD did not exist. I was known to suffer from depression I thought perhaps it was me, maybe I really was a mad sick liar? I rang the Samaritans, who sounded very uncomfortable and sent me to Incest Crisis Line, they were kind but they were closing due to lack of funding. I gave up and forgot about being a multiple.
By the time I was 19 my PTSD symptoms made life difficult, particularly OCD. I tried to run from it and ended up in Australia where I found a self-help group for Survivors of Child Sexual abuse. This was a revelation, people talked openly about what had happened to them and were heard. They felt like my people. Unfortunately, no one knew what to do to facilitate recovery but being believed gave me hope, I was determined to do something to stop children being hurt. Back home, there were no groups so I joined the Survivors Network and started my own. Once again, no one knew how to facilitate so it wasn’t safe but I met some good people and found somewhere to belong.
At 22, exhausted from managing my symptoms of PTSD and OCD I had a mental break down. I was becoming aware of losing time and terrified I was going mad. I was so sure I’d be ‘locked up in the nut house’ I gave notice on my flat when I attended my mental health assessment. Afterwards, when the ‘men in white coats’ did not come I ran to my car and sat in stunned silence. There, I met my Protector for the first time. She drove home. I remembered I was multiple.
Over the next couple of years I had ten minutes with a psychiatrist once a quarter to review my medication. This was really useful as the medication slowed my flashbacks down. We discussed my childhood ambition to become a psychiatrist and help sexually abused people- he didn’t laugh. He discovered I had a good understanding of mental health terminology and encouraged me to use the language to discuss my condition. This felt empowering giving hope that maybe one day I could recover enough to achieve my ambition and perhaps have a life. He also invited me to stop being a victim and embrace the identity of a Survivor which was empowering but as MPD did not officially exist back then I didn’t tell about my alters.
Eventually, I had an assessment for psychodynamic counselling. When I used psychological language to explain my condition the counsellor told me off…she didn’t check it out by asking what I meant, she made an assumption and brutally disempowered me removing coping I relied on. Now, I know this was ‘her stuff’ but back then I was devastated. We felt so hurt, lost and disappointed - everybody hurt, life hurt, we couldn’t work due to PTSD and we didn’t want to be alive anymore but no one, not even a counsellor, whose job it was to see, could see how much pain we were in.
When I told my psychiatrist he was very angry – we were scared until we realised he wasn’t angry with us but for us. He said it wasn’t fair I worked so hard on my own, he’d like to treat me but he didn’t have the recourses. I heard ‘I could get well’ for the first time and although I didn’t know it at the time, a clever alter, decided that she would become our ‘internal therapist.’ Now, after much work with Survivors to undo damage unwittingly caused by counsellors I’m eternally grateful we were deemed ‘not mentally ill enough for counselling.’
In 1993 I discovered I was a healer. It wasn’t something I set out to do- it just happened. I was shocked to discover other people didn’t think synthetically or ‘see’ auras as I did. I met a lot of Survivors in the healing world probably because abusers can’t completely violate our spirituality and our outstanding talent for dissociation invites us into the healing energy space. Despite never adverting people found us and they were always Survivors so it felt that helping Survivors was what we were supposed to.
We read everything we could about child sexual abuse discovering ‘Strong at the Broken Places’ by Linda T. Sanford. This book challenges the belief that survivors are forever damaged and introduced us to the concept of ‘dissociation’ as a consequence of child abuse for the first time. In this book we found permission to be, to heal and an insight into our condition. (This remains a book I cannot keep on the shelves).
We needed to get stable, we got a job and we bought a house where we started to feel safe. Recovery was a slow process. We had no one to help us so we wasted a lot of time in denial. Throughout our 20’s we were very aware that life was going on around us we, a life we were not participating in. We had already lost our childhood and just as we started to feel safe PTSD cut in and wrecked everything. It wasn’t fair we still couldn’t find anyone to help us.
Sometimes I dreamed of a therapeutic centre, somewhere my alters and I could go to receive safe counselling and to be with other Survivors and Multiples. I was particularly confused by the concept of ‘I’ and ‘we’ at the time which manifested in the name- ‘I et al’….I and others. No one ever said we could get better and we weren’t sure we could. We decided if we got resolved we’d become the counsellor we needed so no one else would have to be as alone as we were. We would use our knowledge of how to heal to help others….. if we ever got better. We agreed we would not try to kill the body anymore and gave ourselves until we were 30 to get well.
We tried a couple of other counsellors without success. One of our most empowering experiences was when we walked out of the session when the counsellor insisted child sexual abuse was ‘rare’ and memory a ‘funny thing’ so I only ‘thought’ we’d been abused. My alters decided it was ‘bloody rude’ and dangerous ‘trying to get me to deny them again,’ there was no way they were letting the Innie kids out to be ‘head fucked.’ I was delighted we’d had the strength to stand up for our system….my ‘family.’ This was the start of true co-consciousness for me.
In 1999, after 7 years of the most painful and wonderful journey of self-awareness and discovery - we Integrated. I made promises to my alters to honour them by living, the most important was to make I et al a reality, use my knowledge to help other Multiples, increase awareness of Multiplicity and of child abuse.
I took my time to work out who I was and enjoy my inner peace. I wanted to understand what ‘functional’ behaviour, thoughts and feelings were- I’d rarely experienced it externally but it seemed fundamental to help others out of their own darkness in the safest, quickest and least painful way I could. The books ‘An Adult Child’s Guide to what’s "normal" and ‘Secrets of Dysfunctional families’ by Freil and Freil were invaluable.
When I started counsellor training I deliberately chose a general course over a Survivor specific one because I knew how Survivors and Multiples thought already but not how non-abused people think and experience emotion. Initially I trained in psychodynamics and experienced similar attitudes and beliefs towards Survivors that I had in counselling- I felt disempowered and infantilised. It seemed to me that deliberately inviting me to re-experience being a child was dangerous as it cut me off from my adult coping recreating the power dynamic that caused the problems in the first place. I was glad I’d waited until I Integrated. I switched training to humanistic counselling because counsellors believe it is the client, not the counsellor that has the power to heal and trained in Transactional Analysis (TA) that has a core philosophy of equality in the client counsellor relationship replicating my therapeutic experience with my psychiatrist. All therapy at I et al is founded in TA philosophy.
In 2002 I started working with multiples at Rape Crisis as a volunteer telephone counsellor putting my own Inner Child therapy into action. I qualified to work with adults in 2006 and with children and adolescents in 2007 as I believe child alters deserve the same care as any other child. I qualified in EMDR in 2011 which helps traumatised people process their trauma and recover. I continue today as a qualified BACP accredited counsellor and Supervisor working with Survivors of Child Abuse, Child Sexual Abuse and Multiples developing I et al, the safe therapeutic centre I dreamed of, a place to be and to recover in the community of Survivors
Late last year I moved to a new place because it had the facility to host I et al as the stand alone place where Multiples can 'be.' We've already started groups and workshops and we're expanding it. We have applied to become a Community Interest Company to work with the Multiple community. When this is sorted we will be applying for funding to expand our work.
This beautiful picture was drawn for me by Storm, the artist in a system of 68 to express how she felt about how I work with Innie Kids. I love this so much I use it as our logo. This client is now integrating and as they are already a qualified counsellor they have joined me as a mentor of other Multiple clients and a new chapter has begun.