Legacy of child abuse – Flashbacks

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This is a short blog but one I felt was important to share. One of the things I find hardest currently is trying to cope with flashbacks. 

I woke yesterday morning to a flashback,  it’s hard to explain the fear that gripped me, my heart pounded and I couldn’t move I was so afraid,  I was only aware of a few brief moments of a memory that I haven’t relived before and yet it felt so real, and so terrifying.
The reality is that for a part of me this once was real and their fear, the fear that I was feeling was as genuine today as it had been years ago.

When I realised I was actually lying in my bed, in my bedroom surrounded by my familiar objects and my bear, I still couldn’t shake off those feelings of fear, I felt violated and I was truth be known so scared that I didn’t want to dare step out of my room.

I spent what felt like forever trying to pluck up the courage to move I just couldn’t shake it off, eventually I told myself that if someone was outside my room waiting to defile me I would scream louder than ever and my daughter who was staying would rescue us.

I ventured downstairs in a state of hypervigilence, of course we were safe and no one was there waiting to hurt us. But the whole flashback was recalled over and over again in my mind well the small fragments of a memory,  I was trying to understand it, make sense of it. I was trying to self talk internally to the alters that we were safe, it was ok now but in reality I was not only trying to reassure them but myself too.

Thoughts of that flashback never left my mind for most of the day. It was my first thought this morning especially when I had to venture from my bed again.

This isn’t the first flashback I have had nor I doubt will it be the last, it is just a part of my mind slowly opening memories locked away decades ago.

Sadly it is just a part of who we are currently, flashbacks are a part of my life with dissociative identity disorder.

People often tell me tell yourself they were in the past and not now,  that you’re safe now.  I understand that but it doesn’t stop the feelings of fear, or the symptoms that causes.  It doesn’t matter how much I tell myself it’s a memory I feel like I have just relived a nightmare, I have just been abused.

I try not to dwell on the memory, but I believe that memory it’s not something anyone could make up. I really feel it’s real and thus I have face upto the reality that this happened to me when I was younger. I have to live with that,  live with the realisation that this happened to me and some days I really am not sure how.

I can look in a mirror and wonder if this defines me was I just an object.

I read sometimes of comments asking social media about why should historical abuse cases be put before the courts, I can answer that quite simply.
Abuse especially child abuse destroys lives, it not only robbed me of my childhood it robs me today of my security and it still plagues my days more than thirty years later.

Having dissociative identity disorder is never easy its just some days are tougher than others. This was one of those days.

Written January 29th 2014
Copyright DID Dispatches

Birthdays with dissociative identity disorder

 

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One of the rather unusual challenges for me of Dissociative Identity Disorder is that of  my birthday, I have to try and consider all the different parts of me, my alters each and every day yet on my birthday its more vitally important.

For I have over the years come to realise that this isn’t just the adult me’s birthday, but all of the alters share this day with me and I know that for some having a good birthday is even more important than ever. Given what I do know of the past I realise that many of the alters have reason to be nervous, even anxious and fearful of this day and so now its my chance to ensure they celebrate in a way I would have wanted to as a child.

For the past two years due to attending an awesome conference in the USA around this time of year I have been able to ensure that all of me has had reason to celebrate and enjoy our birthday. I have been able to give each age group of alters time and fun in a way that has been far easy that usual and that has made the past two birthdays pass without incident. Prior to this my birthdays have been a bit chaotic as those parts of me that dread my birthday time would normally shut down to avoid the stress that they feel at birthdays, we’d lose time and we’d get frustrated at not being around for the birthday period.

This year sadly I am not heading to the sun of Florida and I am unable to attend the ‘Healing Together’ conference organised by An Infinite Mind,  an non-profit organisation that is dedicated to improving the lives of survivors with trauma based dissociation with a primary focus on Dissociative Identity Disorder. You can find out more about this organisation at  www.aninfinitemind.com

As I won’t be able to give all of my alters a  magical time in Disney as a birthday treat this year, nor spend time with others who like me live their life’s as multiples; so share an understanding and are accepting and supportive in equal measure. I am having to find alternative ways to help us survive not only my birthday but the week that surrounds it.

This will mean having a birthday that includes time for me, my younger alters and my teenage ones too, so unlike most people on their birthdays as a multiple I have to share.  I also have to give attention to others needs, as I feel its important to remember that my alters are all in reality a part of me, fragmented by circumstances beyond our control. I have a responsibility to ensure we all have a good time, a time that is positive and safe, I need to make sure that all of me feel valued, loved and accepted.

My children will help in this, reassuring me throughout the day, offering support and making us all feel special and I have tried to plan ahead. Crafts are at the ready, treats are planned and my week is organised as best as it can be for someone who loses time yet none of this would be possible without the help and support of others.

Now many people will think its all a lot of fuss for one day yet for me, all of me, I have learnt that this is what works and that in reality is all that matters.  As a multiple I know I see the world differently to others, I use plural terms, I have to try and talk internally and watch for triggers, I dissociate and all that entails. Yet as a survivor of parental abuse I am also trying to make up for the past,  my child parts need nurturing, caring for and helping so they can now at last understand birthdays are a good thing, a time to celebrate and have fun.

If other multiples have any good tips for how to deal with the competing demands of alters at times like this, please let me know it is only through sharing knowledge that we can learn more about this complex and often misunderstood disorder.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Overcoming my lack of self-worth – breaking the chains of my invalidating childhood

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Over the last few weeks I have come to realise one impact of my childhood and the abuse  I endured which I had  not realised before, that is my lack of self worth. Since I re-started my therapy it has become something I can no longer ignore, quite simply my therapist is not going to let me, every time that I make some negative comment about myself it is pointed out to me and then challenged.

I have become accustomed to saying negative things about myself , putting myself down and all the while it all felt normal to me, its only in recent days that I realise I am actually not alone in doing this. The impact of my past still lingers long and I am now actually doing the work of my past abusers….who would regularly use negativity and the blame game to put me down, silence me and make me bear the guilt of what they did to me.

While I know in reality the things that happened to me as a child were not my fault and that I am a good person, it seems hard for me to accept that deep within. I am I guess trying to break the habit of a lifetime so this past week I have paid even more attention to the number of times I say something that belittles me, puts me down or blames me.  I so want to try and reinforce a new approach to how I view myself, for I know it is something I and only I can change.

I know that I am not alone and many who have been abused  be they adult or child will also have had their self worth depleted by their abusers, in my case it was a constant stream of negativity from a very young age. Psychological trauma is extremely damaging and it leaves a legacy that can last a lifetime and I know its certainly not going to be easy to change that habit, to improve my self worth and to stop blaming myself .

Blaming myself for every minor thing that goes wrong, for the past, for not being good enough to be a ‘normal’ non-abused child and for the chaos that is my life today, a life with dissociative identity disorder.  Its not easy to accept I have lost time yet again or more frustratingly misplaced something, or have said or done something that is more suited to a child and not an adult.

The truth of all of this is I will have dissociated, or switched alter and perhaps rearranged things so nothing is now in the right place anymore, or perhaps a younger alter has been out playing or watching cartoons. Because I lack co-consciousness I don’t realise we do these things, the realisation only comes when I become aware that time has moved on, or I have lost something or am told by those who love me what I have being doing.

I have a plethora of things I can put myself down for, and sadly I do; well at the moment anyway, yet I know with time we can slowly try and retrain our thinking to no longer be so hard on myself. For I am currently self inflicting the words that would echo throughout my childhood and into my adulthood  spoken over me by my abusers. I need to stop this habit and change my thinking!

For anyone who has tried to give up something that is a habit, you will understand this is no easy feat and I am going to have to break this task down into small  achievable steps. I need to listen to myself and challenge my words when they are attacking, or negative or just clearly illogical  – I need to alter my core belief about myself.

As a child everything was my fault, I was bad, I was the reason I was hurt it was my fault, always my fault. At school I would be ridiculed by others because I was different and I missed out on a lot of education so I was often pulled up by teachers for not paying attention, when in reality I didn’t understand the lesson. If I failed to get top marks that was a failure, 9/10 in a test wasn’t good enough and anything less than an A+ was a fail in my Mothers eyes. All this negativity, blame and ridicule just kept heaping one on top of the other and that made me feel absolutely worthless.

As an adult I continued to perpetuate this  if one of the children was ill, my first reaction would be ‘what have I done wrong, this is my fault,’ when I ended up in hospital I felt a failure too, here I was a mum and wife and I couldn’t cope so I heaped more blame on myself. In hospital every time I self-harmed I was judged and that made me feel even worse, and when I was suicidal I lost count of the lectures from staff telling me how inconsiderate I was. This just added more fuel to an all ready raging fire of negativity and low self worth.

This last week as I answered my Therapists questions I realised just how much I am continuing to bind the chains of my invalidating childhood, how much the system as at times hindered any progress by reinforcing those chains and my skewed view of my self worth.

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Now for the first time in my life I want to change this, I want to rise above the past and I want to alter the thinking patterns that have lasted for decades, I need to break free of the chains of  low self worth, of negativity. I know this journey isn’t going to be easy and I know I will make mistakes but I am focused, eager to change and supported. Its surreal to think that for years I did this and yet never realised, but now I do I  know I have to try and change I owe that to myself and to all the alters, all the different parts of me.

I know I am fortunate, as a christian I know I am valued, loved and accepted and today I have a family who love me and care for me and friends who support me, this is a vast change from the past of my childhood when all this negativity began to form… maybe just maybe this is my time, to value myself and to challenge and change the habit of a lifetime.

Copyright: DID Dispatches 2014


Poignant times – celebrations and reflections

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Please be aware some people may find this blog triggering

As this week draws to a close my mind is focusing upon the family, my youngest child and myself will both celebrate our birthdays in the next few days. I can’t help feeling a sense of pride as I see my son celebrate another year, I am so proud of all my children and of the people they grown to become.  Birthdays are especially poignant times for me, I want to celebrate with my children on their birthdays and try and ensure they always have a good day, I value the fact we can now share the magic of these times, I missed some of their birthdays during my hospital admissions and I guess that makes those we do share now all the more special.

This year I hope I will remember their birthdays, and not lose time or switch at the most important moments of their special day, you see as a mum with Dissociative Identity Disorder I have lost some of their birthdays. Not just when I was in hospital but as they grew up, I have no memory of certain parts of those years. Its hard sometimes as they talk of certain things we all did together and yet I am hearing of it for the very first time, for it wasn’t me that was there but another part of me.

Dissociation has meant I have lost certain parts of their lives, I can recall my daughters first day at school, yet have limited memory of my sons. I can recall some of their birthdays, but not others so I can  remember as one would the finer details of my daughters first birthday and yet have none of my two sons. Such gaps brings me much sorrow and frustration too, I feel like I have been cheated and robbed of parts of their childhood and it feels so unfair. I know many of their birthdays had parties, some I remember through the photographs we have, but others seem like a blur or are just blank. I have had to learn that I cannot blame myself for these memory gaps, the truth is I might not have been there yet another part of me was and that is something that for my children was and is all that mattered. This body was there, just this body like all multiples is inhabited by many different parts of me. but we are still their mum.

I am blessed that my children accept me as I am, and I try and make each new day count, I am learning more of how to be a great parent, so I will make my sons birthday special. I will ensure he has a good day. We hope to spend time together as a family, time to celebrate with him and tell him how much we all care.

However it is hard at these times not to look back , when each of my children was born I was quite a young mum, but I knew the minute I held of each one of them that I would do absolutely anything to protect them, keep them safe and love them always unconditionally just as a mother should. Those feelings are I guess are part of that natural maternal instinct which many mothers have for their children, except of course mine.

I grew up knowing my mother was different to other mums, she would often shout and be physical aggressive, but most of all I now know she was even worse than that she was one of my main abusers. There are times like birthdays when I think of my own feelings as a mum and then I think of what I lost out on by not having a mum who had the ability to hold similar feelings towards me.

I would nurture and protect my children as best as I could, and yes I wasn’t the best parent ever, I had so little experience of a real childhood that I didn’t have that experience to fall back on, nor did I ever have a mother I could go to for advice.  In fact I have no happy memories of this woman who gave birth to me, every contact we had even in my later life was fraught with tension and I would feel like I was walking on eggshells desperately trying not to offend or upset her.

egg shells blog

A mother is meant to love her children, to have a bond like no other, and that is the bond I have with mine and yet my mother seemed incapable of parenting me her daughter. As my birthday draws near I wonder if she ever loved me, did she ever really care and then of course I end up with those nagging doubts and questions in my mind. Did she mean to hurt me? what was wrong with me? Was there anything I could have done to make her love me?

Questions which sadly will remain unanswered, and which I guess I don’t need answers for because I do deep down know the truth and that tells me the answers its just like many victims its not the answers I want.

Many people think its only men who abuse or hurt their children, but as we have seen this week in the news and sadly many times before Mothers do hurt their children, women do abuse. Yet each time it happens society seems to  still remain incredulous that this type of thing could happen, if we are to ever stop mothers abusing their children I believe we as a society have to start acknowledging this is an issue, not a one off incident that we show shock at but then forget about. We actually need to teach medical professionals, teachers, social workers and all those who work with or come into regular contact with children, that its not only men who abuse they need to learn to spot the signs and stop being so blinkered.

I know I am lucky to be here for my birthday, I can recall times when  my mother came close to taking my life, times when her anger, her rage was so great that my life was  at risk, I was at her mercy. Yet  despite everything there was a part of me that for years yearned for what I never had a mother who loved and cared for me. I am sure many others who like me have been abused will hold similar feelings, you don’t want the abuse whether that be physical, emotional or sexual but you still want to feel loved and to have that parent.

Yes this weekend I will be thinking of my family, the children and all the joy that they bring to my life I know I am truly blessed to be a mum but I will also be thinking of the family I never had, a family with two parents who loved and cared for me. With a mum who actually wanted me, loved me and was there for me.

I have to learn to accept those blessings I have and to accept that the past is something I cannot change, I didn’t have a mother in real terms and over time that’s something I have learned to survive without.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Denial and scepticism of Dissociative Disorders – feeling like a commodity

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Being  a victim of abuse has had many challenging implications on my life, Dissociative identity disorder is obviously the main one, however there are of course other psychological impacts of trauma which I still carry today.  This week I encountered one head on in an unexpected situation and it has been a difficult time trying to grasp the reasons why I felt so distressed over someones rather insensitive comments.

I had cause to visit my GP this week and during the appointment issues were raised about my new Therapy, the Doctors main focus was upon what was the cost, and who was paying. There were also clear evidence of his lack of understanding of  dissociative identity disorder and how it impacts my life., this isn’t an uncommon situation for many healthcare professionals seem unable to accept the disorder.

I was frustrated at the time and even a little angry but I didn’t expect  the reaction it caused within a short while of being back home I realised I was feeling switichy and agitated, the next minute I was aware I had erupted in a manner I wish I hadn’t; taking out my frustration on those around me.  I then proceeded to get very upset at the fact I had reacted badly and also I was feeling  deep sadness at being misunderstood once again.

Even before I was diagnosed with D.I.D I came across the barrier of labels and the closed mindedness of many healthcare professionals.  Psychiatry is clearly a system weighted against the patient and in favour of clinicians, its also very much a ‘them and us’ environment.  As a patient with mental health issues you are not always treated with respect, and yet everyone expects you to give them respect.

During the period running up to my diagnosis, I encountered a different type of attitude  – that of scepticism, my initial doctor telling me that D.I.D wasn’t real even though many of her colleagues had said they believed I had a dissociative disorder. There followed a period of much debate amongst the professionals as to the legitimacy of the diagnosis and since then despite having a number of medical professionals,  including psychiatrists, forensic psychiatrists and clinical psychologists assess me as having D.I.D I have encountered on a fairly frequent basis the same lack of understanding and scepticism. I often wonder if the medical profession question physical diagnoses made by equally competent doctors as readily as they seem willing to question mental health diagnoses.

Much of this lack of understanding stems from a lack of knowledge, Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t one of the key subjects taught in med school, even those doing psychology at University might never be told of Dissociation and/or D.I.D. So expecting my General practitioner to know about it is I guess asking quite a lot, after all GP’s get little enough teaching on mental-health.

But for me as a person with D.I.D it is actually quite hurtful when people question my diagnosis, because I know the impact this has on my life, I know being a multiple isn’t easy nor is it something I can just take a pill for in order to be fine. I have to work hard in long-term therapy to have any chance of understanding myself, my alters, my past and for any chance of moving forwards.

Having the diagnosis dismissed feels like you are being denied, for me at least it feels like my parts, my alters are being ignored and their very existence denied. I am only just coming to terms with my alters, acknowledging that they are a part of me and yet I felt angry for them when I felt they were being denied. I realise now I was being protective of them and that is a good thing because its time I learnt to accept them and if I can’t fight for them, who can.

So the GP’s comments showing a lack of understanding and awareness had made me upset, frustrated and a little annoyed, all of which I could comprehend, but as the day wore on  the sadness inside of me just wouldn’t shift .With my Therapy time fast approaching I began to find myself more and more conscious of why I felt so unhappy and it wasn’t so easy to admit. The GP’s random insensitive comments related to funding had made me feel worthless and treated like a commodity.

I am sure many victim will have at times felt worthless and being put down or misunderstood well  it reminds you of the feelings you held as a child,  I felt worthless back then too. As a child I also grew up feeling unloved and unwanted, but most of all parts of me the alters that took my pain when I dissociated they felt like a commodity, to be used and hurt by others. The feelings aroused by the funding questions had made me feel like I was being viewed as a commodity again and that was the main distressing factor.

With help I was able to express how I felt and I was able to let out some of the pain of the past, crying not just for now but for then too, it was helpful to acknowledge I had felt protective of my alters as well when I felt they were being denied. I don’t feel angry towards my GP indeed I am keen to ensure he and those like him are educated, for it is only through awareness that people like him will grow to accept, understand and recognise Dissociative Disorders, and that has got to be good for everyone, not just me but those fellow multiples who come after me.

If you have experienced similar scepticism of a dissociative disorder from within the medical profession, feel free to share your experiences by commenting on this blog.

COPYRIGHT: DID Dispatches 2014

Update on my recent meeting with my care coordinator

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I recently posted about my fears of meeting my care coordinator, well this meeting wasn’t too bad though funding still remains a big issue, in fact funding is an issue throughout the whole health care system. As my care coordinator referred to my therapy and also his need for progress, he set a definite date for the matter to be discussed and for decisions, he left me with the parting words of how much funding the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has to save.  A CCG is a regional health group, set up by the Government to manage the patient services and clinical health needs of an area they receive their funding through the National Health Service.

My care isn’t funded through my local CCG,and local authority, Section 117 aftercare is complex and so despite living a distance from my funders because this particular CCG has a legal duty to fund my aftercare they still pay for the services I receive. They also deem that I have to receive my mental health care from their local area, and not the service providers closer to my home. It means that money is wasted as the care coordinator has to travel over 40 miles each time he visits, I have to travel the same distance to see a psychiatrist despite their being a local one closer to my home. My crisis intervention team is located even further away and so cannot undertake any home visits, instead if they are worried about my safety they would involve the local police, who if they deemed it necessary would have to arrange for me to go to the nearest hospital; who have no knowledge of me at all.

All of this cross-border working is a nightmare and its also hugely expensive, and I doubt I am the only person receiving such provision of care, so there is probably even more wasted miles and costs incurred as a result. Let alone the cost of the police time if I ever needed them, who to be fair should not need to ever be involved, my mental health needs are a matter of healthcare and not a law and order issue. But because the CCG decided in their wisdom to demand that I receive this cross border treatment and services, thus the police are more likely to have to be involved in my case.

The funding the CCG has apparently received is a higher budget amount than previously, but after inflation and increases in other costs now needs to save some £16 million pounds. That isn’t likely to come from cutting the number of managers at the top, or the number of bureaucrats it will come through cuts in patient care.  The Local Authority involved has to find even more savings, and so I guess some would say things are not looking good for people like me.

Yet the law says you have to continue to fund Section 117 aftercare if the care needs of the person haven’t changed, I am not sure if the managers at the CCG or Local Authority understand this. I also wonder if they actually calculate the additional costs they would incur if they reduced services to those like myself, its likely we will require additional crisis care, out patients appointments and maybe even hospital stays all of which are vastly more expensive than any savings they might choose to make.

I know we are fortunate in the UK to have a National Health Service but the standard of that service is reducing, the staff who provide the care on the whole work hard and are caring and diligent, yes there are exceptions and some care provision leaves a lot to be desired, sadly I have encountered them along my journey too. But surely the top heavy health care system isn’t helping improve provision to patients, its just providing more job opportunities for those managers at the top.

I will have to face a discussion about funding in mid March, and whilst I am confident that I can work through this as I have some legal protection through the 117 aftercare legislation, and I can access an advocate who will come to my meeting and the family will support me too. That doesn’t mean I won’t worry from now till then, it doesn’t mean I won’t stress and lose sleep especially as that date draws nearer. The more stressed we get the more we switch, and so by the time of my March meeting, I am now worried I will be switching so much I might not even be there, but some other part of me will. That causes issues in itself as one of the professionals present at these meetings wants to stop the meeting if I have switched, so if the part of me that is writing this blog isn’t present and a little alter is, then the meeting maybe delayed. There will certainly be at lot of extra pressure placed upon whatever part of me is there, and if that’s not me it will increase the potential for the system to shut down altogether.

I know that the care coordinator and the other Community Mental Health Team, (CMHT) professionals there want to see progress coming from my therapy, but their idea of progress is that I need less care. I found it hard this week not to erupt at my care coordinator when he asked about therapy, because he was basically asking if we had started trauma work. I think I need to be stabilsed and understand my parts better before we do this, and I think my T agrees with that position. I did divulge the fact I was feeling a couple of the alters, he seemed so disinterested in this yet I feel this is a huge achievement and a great step forward after years of therapy.

Its clear March is going to be interesting and its clear my idea of progress and the CMHT’s differs greatly, I wanted to shout at my meeting this last week “Do you think I want to be like this, to need this help?” but I realised it would be futile and so I am saving my energy for the important things in my life, like my alters and my therapy sessions over the coming weeks.

Yes this last meeting wasn’t as bad as I feared, but March well that’s clearly a different story and another blog post at a later date.

COPYRIGHT: DID Dispatches 2014

Juggling the needs of my alters – Dissociative Identity Disorder

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This last weekend I have spent sometime trying to appease one of my little alters, last week in the midst of continual shut downs by this alter I made a deal. The deal was simple if she let me do the task I needed to then she could have a treat, now as I am not co-conscious this deal was basically made through me utilising internal dialogue, saying in my head that this was the deal and hoping beyond hope she would hear me and respond.

Thankfully she allowed me to complete the task but she didn’t initially give me any sign of the reward she wanted, and so rather perplexed I bought something I thought was age appropriate for her.  But I still felt a sense of unease as if I hadn’t met the conditions of the deal, it has been a few days and I knew that without two-way internal dialogue I was relying upon my feelings.

So yesterday I decided a visit to the toy shop might help I wasn’t going to buy unless I really felt a huge change in how I felt, as we browsed around the shop I felt nothing at first. Then suddenly a sense of excitement gripped me as I saw a retro craft toy, something I could remember from my childhood and that I didn’t think was still being sold today. We picked up the said toy and started to make our way to the till, when we suddenly felt anxious and concerned, our eyes flitted from side to side as the anxiety grew. We noticed a more modern craft toy and one I guess would be age appropriate, I was surprised how drawn we were to this toy and yet we found ourselves gazing at these boxes which were brightly coloured and attractively packaged, I felt my anxiety ease and a sense of excitement gripped me once again. I seemed to have lost some time at this point, but thankfully my daughter who was accompanying me was able to fill in the blanks, she said we basically asked if we could have this new toy and was it safe. My daughter said we had to choose and so after much deliberation and difficulty in making a decision I apparently picked the more modern toy; it’s a craft activity with a Disney theme.

By the time I became aware again I was stood at the till, holding this box and waiting patiently to pay, I was a little surprised to see we were buying this but I also knew my alter had through her feelings indicated her desires to me and I was just honouring our agreement.

Today after a rather manic week which was way too top-heavy with serious adult appointments and meetings which is something I try desperately to avoid, I knew I had to repay my little alters. So my PA and I have visited a local ice cream farm, and enjoyed ice-cream topped with both sauce and sweets, for those that have never heard of ice cream farms; it’s basically an ice cream outlet attached to the farm from where the milk comes to create the ice-cream. The ice-cream is also made on site and we have two quite local to our home and this one is a very busy place and extremely popular.

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As a multiple I have to spend my life juggling the needs of many alters if I ignore them then I suffer the consequences, more switching, more lost time and more confusion. It means life is more chaotic, and believe me its chaotic all the time, but when its worse it can feel impossible, so juggling the needs of many alters is a critical and important thing for me to do as a multiple.

I have to try to live my life without co-consciousness and there are times when I make mistakes, when I do things that I realise afterwards were not the best solution. For instant an open-ended promise of a treat could have been extremely difficult, my alter may have wanted even expected a reward way above my financial means and I could have been put in a difficult position. Thankfully on this occasion she wasn’t that demanding, but I have learnt a valuable lesson in that I will not offer open-ended rewards or bribes again, it was only after my T explained the predicament I could find myself in that I realised how foolish I had been.

In future I will offer cost limited rewards or treats, I can’t afford to break a promise to those few alters I have actually managed to develop at least some type of dialogue, even if their communication with me is through their feelings. I need to protect, nurture and develop this limited understanding of the alters not break their trust by careless words.

I am also having to learn to ensure time is set aside for things that they enjoy and not fill my diary, it sounds easier to do than it  actually is in reality. But with support and help we are trying to not get too overwhelmed, and to be kind to our self. I manged this new system the first week of the year and yet last week failed miserably. This coming week should be better, but I know its something I will have to keep an eye on as it will soon become overwhelming and too busy again.

Like many people with dissociative identity disorder I often fill my time, so I can’t think about my past and I am so desperate to fulfill the high expectations that I place upon myself; that’s a default position from my past. I find it is sometimes easier to deny my D.I.D, the trauma and the alters themselves but I realise that is not a good thing in the long-term and its something I need to work on.

I guess that is the reality for me, I have dissociative identity disorder, I am a multiple and I was abused, now I have to work at repairing the damage done in the past and that means accepting who I am and accepting my alters even though I don’t feel many of them, they do impact upon my life in so many ways and they should, after all they are a part of me. Having a dissociative disorder is challenging and it feels like I am on a continual learning curve, however I know without my ability to dissociate as a youngster I wouldn’t have survived. In all honesty today’s difficulties  and challenges are not too high a price to pay for surviving a childhood filled with trauma.

COPYRIGHT: DID Dispatches 2014

My life as a parent with D.I.D

family blog

Having D.I.D. has many challenges for me and for my family, long before I was diagnosed as a multiple I married and had three children, as a young parent I was never sure of the things I was meant to do in order to be a good mum yet I did know what I wasn’t meant to do. It wasn’t easy being a parent even back then, but with help from the children’s Dad and other relatives we managed to raise our children.  Some of my parenting difficulties resulted from a lack of parenting experience, and from the lack of nurture I had encountered as a child, alongside I guess the impact of the abuse I had hidden away in my mind as a young child.  Its hard to parent when you have no real experience or role model upon which to base your actions, and I had no role model on how to be a mum, so the whole concept was alien to me.

Somehow though for many years we muddled through, I had support in daily living from either family or social services, the more natural parental nurture came mainly from seeing how others parented their children. But many things seemed hard for me to grasp, I couldn’t somehow just be a mum and enjoy the little things in life such as playing in the sand with my children. So I buried myself in work and community activities anything to fill my time and my days, and which allowed me  to feel like I was coping even when we weren’t.

Deep down I knew that I was struggling, when we began losing time, forgetting things, realising we had said or done things without any recollection of doing so, my moods were fluctuating so much I realise now I was probably switching alters at this time. I just didn’t realise it back then, in fact I thought I managed to keep most of my difficulties well hidden from everyone, including the children.

When I became an in-patient in a psychiatric unit my children were all teenagers, the day I was admitted my daughter drove me to the hospital for an assessment and she returned home alone. In the weeks that followed the children all realised I had been harming and wanted to die, and yet they came regularly to visit, never judged me and showed real care and compassion. As time progressed and one hospital stay led to another the children learnt to deal with my absence from home.

judged blog

Because of the decline in my mental health there was a time I was judged by some to not be able to live with my children, people felt that I wasn’t safe enough as a self-harmer to be around them unsupervised. It split our family apart, it meant I couldn’t live at home, it also meant I was judged and watched at every turn by people who knew nothing more about me than the fact I was unwell and had tried to end my life. I was deemed unfit to be a parent, yet the fact was I would never have hurt the children, they meant more to be than words can ever say and I would have died trying to protect them. But mental health carries a stigma, and that is at times used to judge those of us who are ill and to deny us the right to family life, the right to be a  mother to our  own children. I was only allowed to be with my children alone once each of them turned 18, despite the fact they felt safe with me, that their Dad was happy for me to be with them and I was capable of being safe around them.  It caused huge damage to our relationships which were strained , by 2007 I felt more useless and a burden to them than I had ever felt.

Looking back I realise that I was a good parent, even in the dark days and no one should have ever used my mental health to attack my fitness to parent. It wasn’t as if they had done assessments to make such horrendous decisions they were based on stigma influenced judgement’s and yet still I know parents with D.I.D fear people finding out the diagnosis in case it leads to similar issues regarding fitness. Shouldn’t we be able to treat people with compassion and care and help families to remain as families, now don’t get me wrong if there is any suspicion of abuse I would want the services to protect children, but in the cases involving mental health we need to be cautious that its not stigma based decisions that are being taken. I know the cost of those ill informed decisions as do my children sadly as I wasn’t really able to be mum properly from 2005.

So by the time I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 2008, I had spent  a total of over 2 years in hospital, I had been away from our home area  in the secure units  for nearly a year and out of their day to day lives as a result. But I had contact with my daughter nearly every day via telephone and letter, she’d visit every month travelling for 10 hours to spend just a couple with me. My sons would come to visit less frequently, but we would speak  a couple of times a week if not more and they did keep me up to date with their lives and what was going on for them.

So when I was diagnosed I remember thinking how would I tell these very special people in my life the people who I loved and cherish and I worried frantically about it. In the end I recall telling the diagnosis to my daughter first, her words were simply “that makes sense”. I was initially annoyed and alarmed at this response; I thought  the diagnosis would shock and surprise her but it didn’t, and that meant that I had not hidden all the struggles with dissociation as well as I thought. that was a hard pill to swallow.

But I soon realised that in my children I had three allies who all cared, understood and accepted me for who I was, their mum first and foremost and the fact I just happened to be a multiple was a secondary issue for them.

Today sometimes I am aware that our roles are reversed, if my young alters are present my children will ensure our safety and well-being,  its at these times they provide care for me.  It is in every way a full on role reversal, but it isn’t an all day situation, my daily life is one that is very fluid as we switch from alter to alter this means my children’s  lives are fluid too and they have become very adaptable to this changing situation.

The children have also gained their own expertise in dissociative disorders, and they deal with our D.I.D in their own individual unique ways. The switching which is unpredictable can be draining on the family, especially for my son who lives with me, it isn’t easy being a multiple but it isn’t easy on the family either. My trauma, my past, my dissociative disorder impacts all of our lives and yet it also makes us stronger people.

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My children have come to terms with the fact that I their mum have a teddy as a best friend, who has to come on holiday with us and at one point was carried every minute of every day. They have learnt to have a mum who is forgetful, loses things, buys things and doesn’t remember, at times gets very distressed and whose mood will fluctuate depending upon which alter is present.

My youngest son once told me after he and I had been away for a week that he felt like he had been on a coach trip as he had in reality taken a whole group of people on our trip, one mum, one body but a whole host of identities. My son who lives with me is honest and has recently asked for  a couple of days a week rest and so he know spends a couple of nights each week with his Dad, now it would be easy to take offence but  I don’t I know its not easy for me or them.  My daughter is often the person who reins me in if younger alters want to go toy shopping and if I get overwhelmed she helps me to rationalise life again, she also attends all my Care plan meetings and is good at fighting my corner now if its needed.

I realise today that as a mum I have missed out on so much, but that despite everything I am blessed with three truly awesome children who I love so much and who I know love me no matter what. I see each of them as unique individuals who bring me immense pride and enjoyment, they all have their own talents and I can see some of me in each of them. Yes we may have been through a lot as a family, but our honesty with each other, our openness and understanding has allowed us to move forward with hope. We are able to accept each other for who we are, accept each others strengths and weaknesses and accept and acknowledge each others differences.

I may not have been able to be the best mum in the world, but my children are secure and happy, they know I am there for them no matter what, that my love is unconditional. We have rebuilt our relationships, we have shared laughter and a few tears but most of all we have created our own memories of life post diagnosis, holidays together, days out enjoying shared interests and fun at home be that baking or just having a simple family meal.  Most of all we are building a future full of happiness, hope and opportunity one that involves all of us, the children and me their mum their multiple mum.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Stepping in to save a life….why its important to help

bench blog

All the media attention this week highlighting suicide has led me to thinking about the times when I was at the point of wanting to end my life, its been really inspiring this week to hear of the current campaign in the UK to ‘Find Mike’ . The campaign is a search by Jonny Benjamin for the person who helped him in his hour of need which prevented him from committing suicide in 2008 so he can now say Thank You face to face.

Its heart warming to hear that in Jonny’s case someone did stop and did help, but how many times do people just keep walking on by someone who is clearly distressed and in need of help whether suicidal or not, it seems society has lost in some ways the human touch of reaching out to those in need. Now I know that it is not everyone who has become like this many people will stop and ask if someone is ok, or if they need help, but isn’t it something that we should all do?

Not many years ago I walked the same path that Jonny did, I would make the decision to take my life make a plan and then when I was able to I would act upon it, there were many times when people simply ignored me or just walked on by. In 2006 I travelled by train to the place where I had decided I would simply take my pills and go to sleep, it was a special place for me and held memories dear to my heart so in my illogical and irrational state it seemed a logical thing to do. The journey involved some 100 miles and 3 train journeys, I was dressed totally inappropriately for the weather, a lack of medication had caused me to have side effects so there I was on a busy train in the height of summer wearing a thick winter coat, carrying a teddy and a huge blanket for extra warmth. I was deeply distressed, sobbing for most of the journey, I can recall sitting on the  first train hoping no one would notice  me, and no one did not even the train staff who just walked on by, they didn’t even ask for a ticket, though I did have one. The other passengers kept a safe distance, in fact I was aware that people were avoiding me, there were seats across from me and next to me and yet they remained empty whilst people stood. But no one asked was I ok, did I need help, no everyone decided avoidance was the best course of action.

The second train was jammed to full and people did sit near me, but not once did any of those passengers ask if I needed help or was I ok, I remember losing time on the journey drifting in and out of awareness and struggling to just keep focused upon my mission in hand, being out in public was causing me massive anxiety and I wasn’t in any position to manage those symptoms of panic. As we got nearer to my destination I remember feeling a sense of calm as I realised I wasn’t far from my then goal. I arrived at the station in a large northern city and I was absolutely thrown into confusion when I found a small station I had previously used and was my final, final point, had been decommissioned, trains were no longer running there. I remember wandering around lost, confused and in sheer panic as I realised I couldn’t think how else to get to the final point, I must have looked a sight and yet not one person stopped.

I sat on a bench in the station because I felt so faint and weak, the side effects of withdrawal were really kicking in, I had been missing doses of my medication for a while as i needed to store supplies for this final mission, so on that day I had none, and had gone for over 24 hours with no medication. As I sat there people walked by, oblivious I think to this women who sat a few feet from their path and was crying and shaking and struggling with life, I tried to rationalise my thinking in the hope of finding a solution to get me to my final point, but my head was also busy dealing with trying to ignore the vibrations from my phone as my family frantically tried to make contact, I had been gone a number of hours and the family had by now realised I was missing, I didn’t want to switch it off, as on it was the picture of the people I loved the most and that matter to me, so in an absolute frenzy of confusion and turmoil I decided I would walk the rest of the journey.

Thankfully it was at this point someone decided to intervene, it wasn’t the people of my age nor the train station staff who took action, but a young woman who simply marched over to the bench, bent down to my level and asked gentle was I ok, because I didn’t look ok and she thought I might need help.

Looking back I estimate hundreds if not more people had either seen me on my journey or passed by the bench, they had all ignored me, or more likely avoided me. This one persons act saved my life and gave me a future that i enjoy today, yes it probably took her a great deal of courage to approach a random stranger clearly upset and behaving in an odd manner. Many people might have thought of the potential risk implications, but I doubt whether that even crossed her mind because the way she approached the situation and took charge of it showed compassion and understanding, it was as if she knew what I was thinking and she knew I needed help.

There were many times before her intervention and a few after, were people walked on by and didn’t choose to help, not that I wanted them to stop back then, but my family desperately wanted people to stop me. They desperately wanted me to live, to see that life was worth living and fighting for, to see that I wasn’t the burden that I felt I was to them. Many times it was the police who came to mine and my family’s rescue, they would find me and intervene and help me on the journey back towards life.

Looking back I can see that so many people did walk by, turned the other cheek and decided it wasn’t their problem so they wouldn’t get involved. I know how I would react to those situations today I certainly wouldn’t walk by, I’d help in any way I could no matter what the risk, for I would see the person as someones wife, mother, husband, father, son or daughter with a life worth fighting for, a life that is worth going that one extra step.

You see without those people who did help, did show concern, genuine concern, I would not be writing this blog, I wouldn’t have seen the sun rise this morning or hear the singing of birds, nor would I have seen my children graduate or celebrate their 18th or 21st birthdays. I wouldn’t have got to enjoy the many happy times I have been blessed to share with my family since those dark days. I owe all of those people who did help and/or intervene so much, that words seem simply inadequate, I know I will always be grateful for their efforts and their help and I hope they realise just how much their willingness to step in and help, means to me and my family.

I now know that suicide is not the panacea those in distress think it is, it doesn’t solve anything in fact it just robs you of a future and the right to happiness.

Please if you see someone who is clearly distressed, clearly needs help or you even think might need help, don’t you owe it to them and to yourself to stop and ask, a few simple words are all it takes and you could save someones life, If you don’t feel comfortable approaching the person at least get help from someone who can. Your actions are critical and tomorrow it might be someone who you love who needs that kind of help, every victim of suicide is someones relative and the impact of suicide is vast.

Don’t assume someone else will stop, because I know from my own experience that If that young woman had walked on past that June day its highly unlikely anyone else would have stopped?

Fearing my Care Coordinator

Fearing my Care Coordinator

In 2 days time I face meeting my Care Coordinator for the first time this year, I am somewhat reluctant if truth be known as it seems like forever since I last met him even though in reality it is about a month. I am concerned because when I spoke to him last week; he had to rearrange our appointment, he was asking lots of questions about my therapy. I have been seeing my new therapist since the middle of November  and things are going well but I view that what happens in therapy stays in therapy and it’s not really up for discussion with anyone else in my Care team.

I can foresee issues with the care coordinator whose knowledge of D.I.D is to say least limited, how do I explain my progress, which for me is vast and great and yet I know to him will be perplexing and seem slow, it’s not what he will want. I currently have some support in my daily life, so the Clinical Commissioning group fund the help I receive as part of a Section 117 after care package.  For those that don’t understand the Mental Health Act let me explain, when someone has been detained under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act they become eligible for Section 117 aftercare once they are released from hospital as long as their care needs remain.

In my case I was eligible for Section 117 aftercare, I am no longer on any section that detains me or takes away my liberty, but the aftercare has enabled me to leave hospital and live in the least restrictive environment with the support I have needed, I guess its similar to the care in the community concept and its less expensive. Now over the last few years that care has changed and reduced which is a positive sign of me understanding my D.I.D and also regaining some of the skills I lost as a result of being institutionalised by the hospital admissions. It is also as a result of my family agreeing to help me in times of crisis instead of me having to rely on individuals I didn’t really know.

Now I currently have 2 great PA’s, they are people my family and I chose who have had training in Dissociative disorders and who really empower me, support me and help me to live as best we can in the community. Now not everyone with D.I.D needs this kind of help, but I do and that is I guess partly down to  my dissociative identity disorder and partly the fact my childhood didn’t allow me to learn the life skills that others take for granted.

But my care co-ordinator is pushing for cuts, cuts in funding and services, he would like me to reduce even further the level of support we currently have, now I have given them over a 50% reduction in my care provision without any requests from them, when I have felt we could mange with less we have been the first to offer the reduction and of course the cost saving. But for the first time the care co-ordinator is suggesting more cuts and he seems to think that therapy will bring this about in super quick time. I only wish it could, but I am realising what I can and can’t do, the skills I have and  those I lack. Now I know people will think well just learn those skills, but it really isn’t that easy, many of these are linked to thinking patterns and thought processes that I have lived with and perhaps under for over 40 years. It’s not so simple to just learn, if it was don’t you think I would have done by now.

I lack skills in lots of areas, and sometimes its hard for people to comprehend, they see me as a mother and therefore well I must have done x,y and z, but the reality is my children’s upbringing is mostly not down to me their mother, but the fact that certain people have been so instrumental in helping them to develop and grow into the well-adjusted adults they are today. Their Dad, their Grandpa and Nanna have all helped them become who they are, to have a normal child hood, and to thankfully learn the skills that I their mother lack.

Now without my PA’s I would flounder and be lost, I’d go backwards and would soon end up back in the spiral of the revolving door of mental health admissions and crisis after crisis. I really don’t want that, nor do I want to cost anyone more than I have too, but my Care co-ordinator seems to think that therapy will be this panacea of solutions and be able to move me forwards at a rate of knots. I know he will ask how is therapy going, and I will say its going well, because in my opinion it is, just it won’t be getting him what he wants… he isn’t really bothered about me learning internal dialogue, or feelings. He isn’t bothered about me having more awareness of  D.I.D or of myself in fact all he wants is for me to be needing less care, less support and at a super quick time.

Truth be known I feel trapped, trapped between wanting to please him which is a default position and wanting to know my alters, understanding the parts of me and learning to work together with them instead of conflicting with each other. I fear going backwards and I fear being misunderstood and judged which happened so much in my childhood and into my adulthood. People assume that when you are abused as a child it ends as a child, but because my main abuser was my mother who I still had contact with until less than 8 years ago my abuse well the psychological and emotional abuse it carried on past my 40th birthday.

I have to change patterns of behaving, thinking and submitting formed over  40 years, not just a childhood. I have to stop telling myself I am stupid when I cry like  am now writing this and I have to learn that I have a value that isn’t about being abused, used or judged. I have to learn to trust people, trust them and know that I am safe for I live my life in this state of hyper-vigilance day in and day out.

Yes I can write a blog, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle or have issues, it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t awake till gone 3 am this morning, that I didn’t have a crisis moment at midnight yesterday when I felt one of my alters who emotions are of fear, dread and a low mood I’d place as being in the pit of depression. I want to feel her, and I want her to know its ok to be there she is after all a part of me, but that doesn’t mean its easy.

I am dreading seeing my care co-ordinator because he sees me as the adult we are, but he doesn’t see whats going on inside our head, how we feel or how we function. Because he doesn’t understand D.I.D he doesn’t comprehend the complexities of our life, he isn’t open to dialogue about it. He just wants a budget saving and to hell with the human cost to me, my system of  alters, my family or the impact on our progress long-term in both therapy and daily living.

Perhaps he needs to go on a course about D.I.D, or to spend a few days working with me, instead of one the PA’s maybe then he might understand what its like to be me. this mess of a multiple who suffers the impact of the abuse I endured far longer than many would have ever imagined.