Reclaiming Mothers Day -life after childhood trauma

 

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Here in the UK we celebrate our mums on Sunday with Mother’s Day and though I am a mum to three wonderful children I still struggle at this time of year, it has been the same for many years and yet it never really gets any easier.

In truth I believe I do that thing many victims of childhood abuse do and I regurgitate the past over and over in my mind, questioning why and what if things had been different in my childhood. Of course I can’t change the past nor dull the pain that it has caused me but somehow I know we have to find a way forward and not allow the past to haunt us.

I try and tell myself that truth all the time and yet on certain dates it’s harder than normal to stay focused and strong and not do the ruminating that I guess I have found myself doing this evening ahead of Mothers Day.

I grew up in a rather dysfunctional home and to say it was different well that would be an understatement and my childhood was not a happy or stable one. I knew my dad loved me and I knew he cared and for that I will always be grateful, he was a good grandparent to my children too. But my relationship with my mother wasn’t such a positive one, I don’t wish to write graphically about that time it isn’t something I want the world to know, except to say my mother was sadly one of the people who betrayed my innocence as a child.

Previously it has been so difficult for me to celebrate Mothers Day at this time of year, especially when I knew my ‘mum’ was still alive. So my children came up with the idea we would celebrate on American Mothers Day and for a number of years we did just that, with the children buying their cards in March and saving them till May. initially after my ‘mums’ death I still couldn’t face celebrating in March, and then a couple of years ago I decided we needed to change this, I needed to stop letting her my ‘mum’ control my present.

The children and I agreed to realign with the UK date for Mothers Day and so I am already the proud recipient of a beautiful bouquet of flowers which adorn my lounge and smell divine. There are cards for me to open and we have already had an early family meal as sadly one of my sons has to work this weekend. I know I am richly blessed to be a parent and I know I am blessed too to have a great Mother in Law who I will call on Sunday Morning. I will be made to feel special, loved, valued and appreciated.

Yet I will still find the biggest challenge of the weekend will be stopping the blame game, I tend to find myself doing this blame game. I blame myself for being unworthy of a good mum, I wonder if I could have done things differently to make her love me, it’s the sort of questions I can find myself asking about any of my abusers if I’m honest.

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I’m sure that I’m not alone in doing this, many victims of childhood trauma and abuse will take the blame for what happened in their past, despite knowing all the facts, despite knowing that they weren’t to blame it’s as if we cannot stop ourselves. The truth is of course as victims we have been trained to take the blame, any victim adult or child who has been under any psychological or emotional abuse will know exactly how clever the abusers are, they ‘the abusers’ will at some point make us blame ourselves for their actions it’s what they do.

Today though I am realising just how much control I have over my future, my present even, I now accept that I can’t change the past and believe me I wanted to for so long, I couldn’t focus on the future for constantly looking back at one point that is how bad the blame game was for me.

The fact is victims need to accept who they are, find themselves and find a way forward, I now comprehend that I cannot erase my past, I can’t erase the fact my ‘mum’ was like she was, it was simply beyond my control. The past will never go away but how I deal with it will change though and that will alter how much of an impact it does have on me In the future.

I feel able now to accept the truth that I control my present and my future, and I have two choices, one carry on playing the blame game, or two carve out a life for myself and my children. The past won’t magically disappear but it won’t have such a huge stronghold over my life.

It was recently suggested to me that maybe one of the ways to combat some of the negative memories of people, places, dates even will be to create new memories attached to those dates, places etc. This isn’t about fantasy, it’s about creating new positive memories about a place or a date which in time will enable me to feel less focused upon the negatives.

That’s why celebrating Mothers Day this weekend is important, each and every time I find myself tearful, negative thinking, playing the blame game or allowing the past to stop me in my tracks through fear, I need to take action. I will reassure those parts of me that are sad and hurt, I’ll challenge critical thoughts, I will kick back virtually at least any misdirected blame and I won’t let fear rule my life. None of this will be easy, but in time it will get easier and in time I will see a positive change towards such dates, places, people etc.

There are opportunities for change not just around Mothers Day but other dates too, I am more determined than ever to not allow this blame legacy to continue, I am determined to change how I react, you see my past is exactly that my past. I can’t live in the past I don’t want too, I want to live in the present and have a future, I deserve that.

I know this day won’t be easy for me, but it doesn’t have to be easy to be enjoyable, so long as I can make new positive memories with my children which I can then carry forward I will be making progress. This year that is my hope for all victims who find Mother’s Day difficult, that we can all make progress towards building our own futures, whether your steps be giant strides or teeny tiny footsteps like mine it’s still progress.

 
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

It’s good to talk – learning to communicate internally

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Last week was to say the least quite chaotic, we were really busy and we seemed to lose time more than usual and we felt very numb. I felt as if I was a little out of control at points because I felt overwhelmed by everything and it certainly wasn’t an easy week. I realised that since my holiday I had neglected my work on internally communicating with the other parts of me, internal dialogue though still one sided is something my psychologist has encouraged us to do.

I felt quite sad that just because I had a busy week; my CPA had been at the start of it, I had forgotten the one thing that if I am honest has been most helpful recently. I tried to correct this by trying to restart my internal dialogue and within a short time I saw results and then I began to comprehend just how much of an impact not communicating with my other parts was having on me as a whole.

Internal dialogue still feels alien in fact it is odd to me, yet it works, don’t ask me how, I just know it does. My alters the other parts of me don’t speak back, but they do let me sense and feel the feelings they hold which I am told is their way of communicating at the moment. So it feels very one sided to me at present and yet somehow it enables us to be a little less chaotic, and believe me our experience of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder is that it can be very chaotic.

Not wanting to hibernate was a positive and actually feeling was good, yes it’s still an odd concept for us and I find it difficult to understand but it is helpful. I guess I am slowly learning that we are allowed to feel and it’s acceptable and safe to do so, it’s not easy but I know it’s helpful.

I went to therapy and explained how I had allowed my internal dialogue to lapse a bit, now instead of telling me off my psychologist was understanding, it was more about encouraging me to keep trying and less about making me feel guilty, which I really appreciated.

This week I have tried even more to internally communicate and I thought I would share some of this with you, in the hope it can help others who like us live with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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I start each day talking in my head to the other parts of me, we go through our plans for the day and let all the different parts of me know what is happening. I give time to allow them to respond if they want to, of course I don’t hear them but I do get feelings sometimes, which I have learnt are important to acknowledge. I don’t put demands on the other parts of me, just a simple relaxed explanation of our day and the things we need to try and do.

I usually give time over to the little parts of me, so cartoons are quite important, I used to lose time well most of the time at this point previously which isn’t necessarily helpful but felt necessary. The little parts of me need to be acknowledged and understood and by giving them time we felt as if we were trying to avoid so much switching in the day. I do feel a responsibility to them, to nurture them and to enable them to feel safe and secure.

Recently it was suggested that I actually try and watch the cartoons and not dissociate but stay present, it sounded so complex it felt impossible. I tried but in the beginning we just dissociated as normal and lost time, chunks of time that I used to wonder what had we done in, was I ok etc. But we persevered and the other day we actually managed to stay present for part of this time, I do have to watch and internally communicate at the same time which believe me isn’t easy, however it was kind of fun to watch a cartoon it’s not something I am used too. I lost the end of the cartoon, I guess I just couldn’t sustain the effort of watching, internally communicating and trying to stay and not dissociate all at the same time. This felt like a huge step forward though and I knew internal dialogue was the key to this success however small it was in reality.

Whenever I Carol am present I internally communicate with the other parts of me, be that just saying what we are doing, or recognising and acknowledging a feeling. Sometimes I might just self talk about how we are or that even if something feels scary reassure by saying it’s ok and I am going to keep us safe. As I write this blog for instance I am acknowledging a feeling and letting the other parts of me know that after this blog is written we can watch a cartoon. Multi-tasking is a phrase that springs to my mind, because I guess that is what I am doing.

When I sense or am overtaken by a feeling, if I can I acknowledge during the feeling that I sense it, but if it overwhelms me then as soon as I can I acknowledge the feeling and respond accordingly. When I lose time once I return and realise once again I acknowledge I have been away but that I am here now and no one is in trouble for the fact they took control.

This may all sound surreal and I guess to some people it will just seem unusual, perhaps even odd but it works, well for me at least. Yes I do still lose time and plenty of it, I still feel overwhelmed at times and I experience alien feelings which feel frightening and at times confuse me. But there is very slightly less chaos in this world of ours, and for that I am grateful, I am learning to think of myself in a different way and that alone is helpful.

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At one point I just felt out of control, confused, lost and isolated and a body inhabited by a host of very different individuals who I could not see as parts of me, I felt a freak sometimes and I would see us all as separate and the pain of memories and flashbacks were not mine but theirs the alters. Now I see that we are one body, which due to circumstances beyond our control was left fragmented, however all the alters are parts of me. Yes they are different ages, different genders with feelings, thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which at times seem very much separate from myself. But I am learning the alters are parts of me, who happen to carry feelings which in truth are mine, but they carry them for me, they are different because of their experiences yet they are still parts of me.

I am learning that in order to progress we need to learn to work together a bit like a team or a family, and that is I guess what we are trying to encourage by the internal dialogue. We accept we are in the very early stages of utilising internal dialogue which I can only hope will get better the more we practice, perhaps one day it will become a two way process, well that’s one hope I have. In the meantime we will keep on practising as much as we can even though it feels strange, because in truth it is the only hope we have currently of moving forward. It is a glimmer of hope I never dared to imagine was possible, and for that I am truly grateful.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Statutory agencies attitudes to mental illness

 

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Mental illness has led to me being treated differently by some statutory agencies

This past week I had a pre-op appointment. to discuss my upcoming surgical procedure, as I sat there I read one of the many charts littering the wall. It gave instructions to the staff about what to do if a patient discloses a mental health issue, it stated that such patients must be seen by the nurse practitioner as part of the pre-op procedure. I can see the benefit of doing this, yet at the same time I also recognised the possibility for stigmatising to occur, as in truth I a person with a mental health issue was being treated differently.

As part of my pre-op I was duly sent to see this member of staff, who clearly had no idea about my own condition which really didn’t help me. Try explaining Dissociative Identity Disorder to a nurse practitioner who has absolutely no idea, it wasn’t easy.

The various staff I saw made me feel judged, judged because I have self harmed by cutting in the past, as the point was rather laboured to me that I couldn’t have any open wounds when I attend for the surgery. The fact I have a care package also raised a few eyebrows and yet I doubt they would be like this if I had a physical disability. This was just my pre-op I still have to face the ward and surgical team who will I am sure see the rather large placed on my file.

In truth having a mental health condition has led to me being treated differently and not always in a positive way, and I find this concerning especially in a hospital setting.

All of this has led to me thinking about the times when I have been treated differently  by statutory agencies because of my mental health, I thought I’d share some of these occurrences with you.

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When I hurt my foot two years ago, I needed to stay in hospital and as I had a care package it was decided that my support workers at the time would have to come too. Imagine if you can being on an open ward surrounded by other patients and having a person glued to your side, it certainly doesn’t make it easy to fit in. Now don’t get me wrong it was helpful at times to have someone there who understood my condition, but the nursing staff assumed they could abdicate any responsibility to understand my mental health issues as a result.

When the support workers were late one day the nurses seemed unhappy with the situation and were in fact concerned that they might have to deal with me, so much so that I felt like a leper.
Failing to take responsibility for me as a patient meant I was left vulnerable and isolated and to be blunt treated differently in a negative way.

When I have had interactions with the police as a result of either leaving hospital or home, or when there has been concern for my welfare I can recall receiving a different approach dependent upon the situation and the police force. My mental health has played such a role in this, it has been the key factor in how I have been dealt with.

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One police force, not my local one, were rude, arrogant and at times very unhelpful, they treated me differently and all because I was a patient in a psychiatric facility. Some officers clearly held stigmatising views of mental health and treated me in a manner than reflected this. I can recall once leaving a hospital in their area shortly after being placed on a mental health act section, the police officer who found me was none too happy and he told me so.

“I have better things to do with my time than deal with nutters like you” he said, as he and his colleague roughly manhandled me into the back of a police van and locked me in the cage. I wasn’t fighting, I was crying, deeply distressed and desperate to just not go back to the hospital which was in chaos, I wasn’t being rude, or shouting in fact I recall I just held my small teddy bear and sobbed, deep pitiful sobs. I begged not to go in the cage which terrified me, but he just wouldn’t have it, he was unhappy at having to deal with me and he wanted to show me that.
I was frisked, put in the cage and locked in for the journey back to the hospital, on arrival at the hospital I was manhandled out of the cage and taken into the ward. My feet didn’t touch the ground as these two rather burly policemen carried me into what was a normal acute unlocked psychiatric ward.

I hated the way I was treated it was so unlike my own police force, and I kept feeling like I was bad, for a victim of abuse this treatment was not in the least helpful.

Now looking back I wonder if he would treat other missing people in this way, of course the answer is no, I was treated differently because I had a mental health condition.

When I was self harming significantly and required treatment, the local Accident and emergency department were mainly unable to deal with me in any manner of decency. There were odd exceptions but in the main I was treated with disgust and seen as a nuisance. Now if I had broken a limb or had fallen no one would have dealt with me in this way, so why do it to someone in distress who has a mental health issue.

My mental health condition has led to me being treated differently on so many occasions, and why, when at least one in four people suffer mental health problems isn’t this all a bit unfair. Isn’t it time we stopped the stigma, and put an end to the different treatment.

It’s not impossible, some people are able to accept me without attaching a label or treating me differently.

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My local police force were thankfully always efficient, kind, compassionate and caring. They seemed to understand mental health to a point and were always helpful and resourceful, in truth I think at the time I didn’t fully appreciate this but I do now. If they can do it, why can’t other forces it isn’t that difficult really, just train your officers and stamp out stigma.

When I had to be admitted in hospital for neurological tests a few years ago in London, the staff dealt with me absolutely fine, they didn’t assume I was a pariah or that I had 3 heads. They just accepted me for who I was a patient in their department undergoing tests. Why can’t all hospitals do that it just requires training.

I know people will feel the need to take account of my mental health issues when they deal with me especially statutory agencies, and it can be helpful for them to do so. However please can it be in a positive manner and not a stigmatising one, can I be treated just like everyone  else and not differently.

I guess my surgery next week is a good opportunity to see if the hospital and their surgical team are able to deal with me in a fair and considerate manner and not treat me differently, all because I ticked a box that said yes I have a mental health issue. Guess we will have to wait and see, I will let you know how it goes.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

 

Struggling with the past – life with Dissociative Identity Disorder

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PLEASE EXERCISE SELF CARE WHEN READING THIS BLOG

This morning as I woke I would have rather hidden under the duvet than face the world. Why You may ask, given its the start of a new week and I was feeling ok yesterday, especially after spending time amongst my church family.

It’s a question I started the morning asking myself, as I prised myself out of bed and prepared to face this day. The fact I didn’t sleep too well maybe part of the issue but then again I am use to not sleeping well some nights.  After much thought and attempting to understand my emotions and feelings I realised that I am worried.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this, one I face Therapy tonight; I know I will have to admit that for at least part of this past week I failed to communicate internally, and there is a  memory that is plaguing my mind.

Internally communicating is critical to aiding my progress and it’s crucial to everything I do and yet this week it’s been hard to do the self talk we have learnt in therapy over the past few months.

I wish I could explain why, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason, just it’s been a rather manic week  following my Care Plan meeting and I have been too focused on trying to deal with external pressures and cope with the chaos of switching alters.

The chaos of switching has probably been worse because we haven’t self talked and communicated with the other parts of me, guess I never learn! If I had only spent time internally communicating maybe the switches and emotions wouldn’t have felt so messy in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong we have had periods when we have felt ok, but each and every day there have been times when we have  lost time I wished we hadn’t and then of course there is the question of what did we do in that time. I can only hope we have been in situ and haven’t wondered off and done things we ought not.

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Thankfully having my PA’s and my Son around is some reassurance that we have been where we are meant to be, but then there are times we are unsupported and I guess it’s a case of  accepting we have being taking calculated risks. Risks which I hope don’t come back to bite me later on.

The most difficult thing though has been dealing with this plaguing memory, it began just after my CPA and started with a face in a TV program which set my heartbeat racing and my head into a whirr. At first I couldn’t work out why this had happened the face wasn’t familiar and yet it had clearly set something off inside off me.

If I am honest I think it was the facial expression that was the cause and well everyone in society makes facial expressions, so this could have been triggered by anyone at some point. I pondered this for a couple of days and spent time awake late into the wee hours of the early morning, a 3am bedtime isn’t helpful.

I realised that I was bothered, I could feel the palpable agitation and anxiety,  I felt the nervousness and recognised my breathing was faster along with my heartbeat which felt like it was racing around a speed track. I thought about the reason why so much, I knew I was ruminating and over analysing this whole thing. All that kept flashing into my head was brief flickers of images and thoughts which kinda made sense but not really. I find such times so frustrating as I’d just like these things to be in some semblance of order and structure but of course they rarely ever are.

Then yesterday I spoke to my friend who is due to move out from hospital, I am so pleased for her but anxious too. Not for her but for myself which may sound selfish but isn’t meant to be, you see she is moving to the town I once lived a place which holds bad memories of hurt and pain, a place I rather not visit.

In fact her new home is a stones throw from one of the places I was subjected to abuse and horror, yet I can’t tell her this it just wouldn’t be fair. The abuse I endured in that locality happened a very long time and the abuser is now deceased, I cannot let this mar her relocation or our friendship. Yet I know visiting her is going to be a mountain I am not sure I can climb and I feel worried by that, hence why I didn’t want to face the world today.

Of course recollecting that place has stirred up so many memories and fears, Its impacting upon my everyday now some 40 years after the original abuse took place. I cannot get the face of one of my abusers out of my mind. He was a close relative who I quickly learnt never liked me, he was volatile and angry. I felt like I was trapped, a captive unable to flee his actions and yet he called me his princess which of course I grew to hate.

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I believed that I was over his actions, that they were left far behind how wrong was I, in truth I am still plagued by the actions of this person and he still has a hold over my life. Fear lives on, yes I am frightened of him, well the man he once was and I am afraid of this place which if I visit my friend I will see. It all creates issues which  mean I am anxious about my friends move, no matter how much I tell myself it is safe now, some parts of me are yet to believe that.

I know it is a fear that I will have to overcome hence why I did force myself to get up this morning and not just hide away, however I know I face a battle to stem this tide of fear and anxiety, to stop the worrying going on inside my mind.

How I am not sure, but I do know it has to be done and it will be better for me and for my friend in the longer term. I do not want to worry her ahead of her move, it’s such a huge important step and one she so richly deserves, instead I am going to try improving my internal communication,  I’m going to focus on keeping going and not letting the past destroy my present never mind my future.

I guess therapy will be interesting today, but at least it will allow me a chance to air my views and feelings and hopefully work through some of this stuff, I just need to get passed the apology for not using the tools I have been given.  Oh well I assume worrying and anxiety might be an issue, an issue that I best get used to,  feeling these emotions isn’t going to just disappear I think they are going to stick around a while longer yet.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Feeling labelled and judged

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There are many things that I; a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, finds difficult some of the difficult areas are as direct result of my condition, whilst others are a direct result of my past and my own self image.

Living life with a label isn’t easy, nor is it easy to live with the pressures that stem from society, a society that at times seems to view people who like me have endured a period of mental instability and illness in a different way.

If you look at my arms for instance they are littered with the scars of pain, I did at one point self harm on a daily basis it was how I survived. Today though my scars are faded there are times when peoples gaze is fixated upon them, they give an awkward inquisitive kind of frown and sometimes ask those questions that I wish they’d never ask. “Have you been in a fight with a cat” was the strangest question I ever had, but the usual is ‘”oh! did you do that yourself'”.

I’m not sure what people want me to say in these circumstances, but I have learnt over the years honesty is the best approach, yes occasionally it leaves others slightly shocked but I am in all truth no longer ashamed of the scars, they just reflect a period of my life. Yet I do find it hard that I am judged, often by those who have no idea what it’s like to be in that kind of intolerable pain that leads to self harm.

The same awkwardness can happen when I lose time, personally I get frustrated with myself its something I really hate doing and yet what’s worse is often the fact that people don’t always understand, I can’t help the fact I lose time or say the same thing over and over again in a slightly different way. Yet it means we stand out from the norm as as such are open to criticism and judgement.

When I was an in-patient in a locked rehab unit, a secure facility with an airlock as standard, the local taxi firm wouldn’t collect people from the unit, they judged without any real information. Ignorance I guess led people to hold a view that was without foundation and based upon stigma. The patients, well we were judged, it was as if we some how became pariahs just because we needed help and were being detained in this unit.

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As an informal patient there I regularly attended a local community group if a new person asked me where I lived I would just say the street name and not the place, I’d tolerate the comments of sympathy at having “those people as my neighbours”. they meant me of course but I never told them I was one of the patients.  I regret now not being brave enough to face them to let them say their piece and then reply “oh you mean me, I’m a patient.”.

Yet sadly medical people judged me too, some still do, I can recall countless times when I was judged and labelled those times when no matter what I said my views didn’t count, or they were ignored. I can recall being asked more than  once to undergo a breath test in one hospital, I hadn’t been drinking in fact I’d been on an Alpha course and had permission to attend. But it often over ran and thus they judged I must have been drinking or doing something I shouldn’t. It irritated me to be treated in such a demeaning way, undergoing breath tests, drugs tests, searches etc and all I had done was attend a local group, yet I knew complying was the only answer and so I accepted what was needed to be done to appease my jailers. I say jailers because they held the keys to the air lock and they dictated if and when I could go out even though I was a voluntary patient.

I am sure that I’m not alone in feeling judged or labelled, we are after all a society fixated on labels and psychiatry is full of them, we don’t seem to treat causes just a set of symptoms. We treat people as objects rather than human beings with feelings and emotions, can this be right. One of things I have found helpful recently has to be the fact that when I discussed how I was judged in my first psychiatric hospital with my psychologist he seemed to understand why I had done what I had.

If a patient acts out in a psychiatric unit they are seen and judged as aggressive or troublesome rather than as someone who is distressed and trying to demonstrate their feelings, their hurt and at times their frustration. Looking back I can see how if instead of labelling me, judging me and drugging me they had offered me help to understand and explore why I had reacted in the way I had it would have been far more beneficial to me, my alters and to the staff.

Today whilst I live in society and I’m a free person and no longer a patient I still find at times that I feel judged, now it maybe the case I am over sensitive to feeling this though perhaps it’s more likely that unfortunately some members of society find it impossible to not judged others.  Many people know I have had a difficult past, some even know I have D.I.D but at times it can feel that others don’t understand what it’s like being me, this person with many parts.

Yes it’s chaotic at times, life for me and my alters is never easy some days are better than others, but easy isn’t something we experience.  I don’t want people to give me sympathy, I am not asking for people to give me special treatment, I’d just like that they wouldn’t judged us when they haven’t walked even one hour in my shoes.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Challenging the past – life after trauma and abuse

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FIGHTING TO ADAPT MY AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHT PROCESSES:

This week it was pointed out to me that now when I say self critical comments I sometimes smile, as if in recognition of the fact I realise I have just said those words that epitomise my past; I’m stupid, or I’m pathetic seem to be regular terms which I use. Yet until a few months ago I didn’t even realise I did this negativity and critical thinking now I not only know that I do, but I am starting to recognise those times too, hence the smile of recognition as it dawns on me that I have done it again, put myself down when I know I don’t need to.

I don’t for one minute think I can just change the habits of a lifetime yet it’s progress to start acknowledging the times when I am in the words of my family, my own worst enemy. I think less of me than most people and why, because I was groomed into believing I wasn’t good enough, that everything was my fault.  I can’t say when all this began because it has in truth been all I ever known, even as an adult the contact I still kept with my abusers meant I was subject to a regular dose of criticism and negativity which just reinforced the work they did when they had access to me every day.

But I guess I am slowly coming to realise just how much I need to do to in order to leave my past behind,  the past which plagues my every day and influences and affects each decision and thought I have. As a child and even as an adult I have for many years existed in this world of negative connotations,  the automatic thoughts of negativity, self doubt and in many cases skewed thinking.

This has led me to think about why, why did the people involved do this to me and no I haven’t been self pitying here it’s more a logical question. Why do some people feel the need to put other people down, to make them feel inferior and worthless?

As I put away my suitcases this week in the loft and frantically  searched for something I had lost, one of my favourite pastimes – losing things. I came across a photograph of some of those abusers and it was hard at first not to react in a fearful way, in an angry way, but then I looked at it, at them and thought of the people they once were. my reaction and my thoughts even surprised me, there would have been a time I couldn’t even look at their photo without being sent into a frenzied panic.

Today I see them and in a way I feel pity for them, that doesn’t mean I forget but it does me I am taking control a bit, you see for someone to treat another human being in such a negative way speaks volumes about that person, the one committing the abuse. You can’t have much self respect if all you do is put others down, or hurt them in one way or another, you can’t look at yourself in a mirror and see any good if your life is about being so controlling of others.

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My mother was a controlling person of that there is no doubt, yet she didn’t portray that outside of our home in a bad way, she wasn’t angry outside, she lived her life putting on a pretence , a show if you like. She tried desperately to be this person everyone liked, the so called pillar of the community, yet nothing could have been further from the truth in reality.

I realise now that she and many of my abusers lived a life built on lies, built on image and falsehoods, pretending to be some thing they weren’t. I pity them because they never changed, well as far as I know and that’s kind of sad really, they didn’t learn to change their negative behaviours  or adapt their belief patterns from their skewed thoughts of control and abuse. I have no idea what caused their behaviours nor do I want to, but it seems sad these individuals who had such a huge negative impact upon my life had issues which they never addressed.

You see I may have the negative thoughts of myself but I know what causes them and most of all I am with help changing my automatic thinking patterns and thankfully for the better. I intend to keep working on challenging myself when I put myself down, think critically of myself and demean myself. That doesn’t mean I will stop my automatic thought processes  but it does mean I will notice when they come into play and I will be able to internally at least think that wasn’t good, or more importantly still, that’s not true.

Now this is a journey of trial and error and so I am not setting huge targets, for me I’m quite happy that right now I’m just aware of  the self critical thinking I have. I know I also have issues with food, self image, anxiety, confidence, decision making, the list goes on and on.  My past has shaped me and whilst it won’t be easy and whilst I may know I don’t have to let it define me and that I can shape my  future, I also know that’s my logical head talking and not the emotional parts of me who don’t seem to be able to stop letting the past influence today, tomorrow and the future.

Now logically I know that my future doesn’t have to be shaped by my past, it is harder to accept emotionally, and so it’s hard to not let the past influence who I am, it’s hard to not allow myself to continue the negativity, It’s hard to change these habits, to amend how I think. I am making progress but it is teeny tiny steps of progress, accompanied by the familiar one step forward and two steps back every now and again.

But unlike the abusers I am not alone, I have a team of people willing me on, helping me change how my past impacts my tomorrow, my family and my psychologist they are helping me, they are supporting me.

I am being helped to recognise, to think and I hope in time to adapt the damage of my past, it’s a hope I once never thought I’d have, and it’s worth fighting to cling onto. It will be worth all the hard work even if I manage to change just one negative thought process, thats what makes me so different from those who hurt me, I am addressing the past, maybe that’s why today I can look at her picture and not immediately fear her; well not quite so much anyway.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Dreading my Care Plan Meeting (CPA)

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We’ll having arrived safely hone from my journey to the Arctic circle, I am straight into operation CPA mode, as this week I face my first CPA meeting in six months, to say I am dreading the experience would be an understatement.

A CPA meeting is a Care Programme Approach meeting more information on these is available at http://www.rethink.org/resources/c/careprogrammeapproach-cpafactsheet

If there is one thing I have found the most difficult as a service user of mental health services it has to be the concept of care planning meetings, these meetings are crucial to the future delivery of the funding for my care program and my long term psychological therapy. They are as traumatic an event as one could imagine, as the pressure feels intense and rather than being conducive to my progress and well-being they have previously caused me to spiral downwards.

I am not sure that the professionals who attend these meetings actually realise just how daunting these events are for me and my alters, or even for that matter if they care. It seems as if it is just a process that they have to go through and to which I am just a pawn in a wider game of funding cuts and bureaucracy.

The thought of this meeting has plagued my thoughts for many weeks and especially in the latter days of my holiday I found myself thinking more and more of the impending meeting. Certainly since returning home it’s been hard to not feel overwhelmed about it all, to not think of the potential outcomes that may arise. I guess if I am honest I feel over powered by the professionals, outnumbered by them and at times outwitted too.

This meeting like many before was meant to have the usual people in attendance , my care co-ordinator who is faced with reducing staff numbers and increasing work-loads, who basically goes through the motions at these meetings and sees me as a commodity. He finds Dissociative Identity Disorder complex and overwhelming and often refers to me as a complex case who has after all been in secure services, I can only assume that this means therefore in his opinion that I must be a risk!

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The local trusts psychology professional who thinks she understands Dissociative Identity Disorder, yet in truth has so little understanding of the condition or me. This person will insist if I switch in the meeting that the meeting is stopped until I magically resume being me, she won’t talk with my younger parts nor has she any desire to know anything about the reasons why we have D.I.D. It’s as if she cannot comprehend that the alters are all parts of me, and that I have no control over my switching, I find her approach and her ability to furrow her eye brows both frustrating and irritating, she often triggers me as her approach can be quite condescending, often authoritarian and that reminds me of my mother. We only ever meet at these meetings for which I am rather thankful, I think I couldn’t cope with seeing her more often, she has no real involvement in my care yet somehow seems to wield a great deal of power.

A person from the social services outsourcing agency who overseas direct payments which fund my support package, her role is mainly an academic one as we only ever meet her at these meetings and she has no other direct involvement in my care. Her job is to basically ensure we are following all the procedures necessary for having a direct payment budget, that’s something my daughter deals with as it’s too complicated for me. Alongside my daughter who is my nearest relative and myself who both find these meetings stressful and not particularly empowering or enabling.

However this meeting will be unlike any before as my new psychologist will also be present, I am really unsure how this will go as I have no idea what to expect from him on these occasions. It might help that I will see him ahead of the CPA, though I do worry what if something upsets me I won’t be able to discuss it with him until our following session a week later.

I’m not sure whether he will say what he thinks or will he say what the professionals from my trust want to hear, after all it’s the trust which has the contract with him not me. I know that we are making progress since starting work with him, and I trust him as much as I dare trust anyone, I’d like to think he’ll be fair and say what he feels rather than treading carefully and being politically correct in the ‘professional’ sort of way, I hope he’ll say if other professionals make nonsensical or unfair statements about us or about D.I.D, but I worry that like previous therapists before him he’ll just be the professional that he is and take sides with the other professionals in the room.

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This may sound like its a them and us kind of event, that’s not how I want it, but it is how these meetings are often played out by the people who attend. I often feel like a pawn in a chess game which I have absolutely no control over, it’s not uncommon for the professionals to meet before hand and plan their agreed decisions before we even enter the room. We are then just told the outcomes and have little input in our future planning or the decisions that they make, so much for the agreed care pathways, and a joined up approach.

There will also be a notable absence this week, though no professional has had the courtesy to inform me, and no one from the health trust has felt the need to inform my nearest relative either, but we found out on Friday second hand that my Care Co-ordinator is off sick so won’t be attending the meeting he has spent the past couple of months planning. Indeed I am led to believe that the one person I will find greatest difficulty with is to chair the meeting. Now this might not seem such an issue to the healthcare professionals  involved, but to me it’s huge and I am left wondering if I can actually attend my own care planning meeting.

The trusts  psychology professional who triggers me is to chair my meeting, she hasn’t even set eyes on me once in the last 5 months, so I am unsure how she can lead on this. then again she hasn’t seen fit to inform me that my care coordinator is off sick. Maybe in her opinion I don’t matter, well that’s how it feels and her lack of communication hasn’t eased my worries or improved my trust issues that I have with her.

The toll of this meeting will be great, it would have been even if my care co-ordinator had attended, I will find sleep difficult the night before, I will feel sick due to anxiety and I will struggle to not switch from one alter to another rapidly, as seems to be more prevalent when we are highly stressed. I’ll likely lose sentences in the conversation that ensues and then wonder what I have missed.

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I know we will take along at least one of our comforting objects to this meeting, I don’t think you’d get me in the door without them, my fear and anxiety will be so great. I probably won’t eat that morning or lunchtime ahead of the meeting and by the time we arrive I will most likely have descended into floods of tears at least once in the preceding hours. It’s probably a good job I have a therapy session on the day of the meeting as it gives me a reason to get out of bed and not hibernate and avoid.

I know I will whatever the outcome analyse and reanalyse the meeting over and over again, worrying and stressing about each tiny little comment or off the cuff remark. I will be exhausted by all of this and it will take me some days to recover.

These meetings are meant to be about planning my care for the next few months, ensuring my views and that of my family are heard; well that’s what I’m led to believe should happen. In theory it all sounds so laudable but in reality is very different, I am often overlooked, and I am  seen as a commodity and not a person. My Dissociative Identity Disorder is so misunderstood by many of the people in these meetings and I am left feeling guilty for being dissociative, for having alters, for basically for being me.

The annoying thing is that I want to just be treated like everyone else, an equal partner in my care.  I want to not need all the help, support, money and time which I currently require, I desperately want to stay out of  the revolving door of hospital admissions too, they robbed me of years of my life.

I know the cost of meeting my care needs today when compared to previous years is reducing, indeed compared to when I was in hospital it’s significantly cheaper, yet the professionals seem to over look that fact, instead they see a cost and a person to blame, namely me. Do these people really believe I wanted to be hurt as a child, to have D.I.D, because I didn’t and I don’t. In fact truth be known I didn’t ask for any of this I cannot help who we are, our symptoms or our needs this isn’t my fault, yet that’s how they make me feel. Perhaps that’s the hidden purpose of care planning meetings to make service users like me feel guilty, or maybe it’s to encourage our disengagement from services, it’s sure not about forward thinking approaches to care needs or service user involvement and empowerment, well not where I live anyway.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Overcoming fears of the past – reflecting on the hope and aspirations of my holiday

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When I started out on this adventure, taking this journey to the Arctic Circle and the far northern reaches of Norway I had many hopes and aspirations. This was after all a trip I have planned, organised and waited for, for over 15 months, it was a holiday with me in mind rather than living my life with the needs of the alters at the forefront of my decision making. But what as holidaying with Dissociative Identity Disorder really meant not just for me but for the other parts of me, my alters and for those travelling with me. Have I realised those hopes and aspirations which have seemed so crucial to me throughout this trip and when all is said and done has it been worth it.

I came to Norway with three main hopes, and a few secondary ones too though I believe it has only been as the journey has progressed that I fully appreciate those secondary issues.

My main hopes where to break down some preconceived ideas and phobias that have remained with me since childhood, the first was I wasn’t worth doing this for, that meant I believed that I wasn’t good enough to witness the magical spectacle called the Northern lights; which was something I have been fascinated with for quite sometime. The second was to try and overcome my fears of big dogs which has been with me ever since I was a small child, they would be used to scare me or belittle me. Finally I wanted to overcome my dread of heights, it’s something that has been with me ever since I lived in a high rise block of flats when I was a primary school age child.

All of these hopes were at one time simply out of reach, I would never be good enough, I’d always be afraid of both dogs and heights and nothing I could do would ever let me leave behind those fears and thoughts generated at a time when I was being abused and hurt. This trip gave me the opportunity to prove I can leave my past behind me, I wasn’t sure that I could I just knew I needed to try.

I started with the dogs, and planned a husky ride, I would sit on a sled pulled by husky’s trained for that very purpose there would be lots of noise and the dogs would jump up at us. My idea being if I was going to do this I needed to do it full on, not just test myself but my alters too I guess. As the day drew near I remember feeling physically unwell, anxiety was overwhelming us and yet this was for me and I was determined. I am told I switched on the coach journey to the site, my little alters clearly stating they were scared, whilst a teen alter had let it be known they were not impressed with me Carol either. I meanwhile kept trying hard to shut down any feelings, so I guess I was quite robotic by the time we arrived on site.

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The noise was deafening and the dogs very boisterous indeed, we had very simple instructions given to us and before long I was sitting on traditional wooden sled being pulled along by 5 adult husky dogs across a white heavily snowy landscape. Initially I felt terrified and I mean terrified but I kept self talking telling myself we were safe and then about half way though this experience I realised just how beautiful the landscape was around me I became quite absorbed by this white landscape. Realising I was doing this that I was overcoming my past, I even managed to take pictures of the dogs pulling me along and felt confident enough to stand near to the dogs at the end, though I couldn’t bring myself to stroking them. I would highly recommend a husky ride to everyone, it’s such a good thing to do whether your afraid of dogs or not, it’s a truly once in a lifetime experience.

With one down I still had 2 to go and I really didn’t know if I could do these, or even if nature would be on my side.

That evening in Alta we went up on deck to see if there was a clear sky and at first it was cloudy, but eventually in freezing cold temperatures the cloud began to dissipate and the beauty of a star filled sky was over head. Lots of people were searching too for these elusive northern lights and so the decks of the ship were quite busy, by the time my hands we’re freezing and my feet starting to chill too I was close to giving up on this aspiration. I probably looked like the Michelin man I had so many layers of clothing on, I must have looked a real sight. But it didn’t matter I was warm and in the cold arctic air that was all that mattered.

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Suddenly the clear sky changed and there before my eyes were the Northern lights, the Aurora borealis, it was even possible to see hints of green in the sky with the human eye, whereas through the magic of a camera lens the colours were even more vibrant and purple and green. Apparently I kept squealing with delight, my daughter had to try and keep me calm as I couldn’t stop making noises and saying how pretty it was. Neither could I contain my excitement it was such a awesome experience the lights lived up to everything I had expected and more, they truly took my breath away.

The good thing was that this was an experience shared by many parts of me, my littles were so happy they had me jumping up and down, whereas I was just in awe at this spectacle before my eyes. I felt as of I was tingling all over, I couldn’t stop that feeling I would be quite willing to see them over and over and I’m sure I’d never tire of the excitement and feelings I felt that night.

Seeing them wasn’t just an awesome magical experience, but it meant so much more for me as I truly realised that I was worth this trip and worth seeing such a wonder. I couldn’t sleep afterwards I was so pleased and excited, I’m not sure if what I felt was me having fun but it sure felt great and I wish I could capture that feeling in a bottle to use as I need it.

Two down and only one to go…..would it be possible, could I make this last challenge. When delays leaving port meant we arrived in Tromso late I really thought it wouldn’t happen, but despite being 12 hours late they managed to rearrange our tour which included a cable car ride. That morning I honestly spent hours self talking and internally communicating with my parts telling them I knew we could do this, we really could and we’d be safe. I’m not sure if they believed me as I wasn’t so sure myself.

As we travelled by coach I felt so nervous, it was hard not to bail out and say no, yet I knew this was a journey involving 3 challenges and I’d be so disappointed if we hadn’t managed all 3. As the doors shut on the cable car I felt my stomach lurch and took a huge gulp of air, it didn’t take long to the top but it felt like a lifetime if I’m honest. The view from the window was spectacular and I could see my ship in the dock below, it seemed so tiny from so high up. Once at the top my daughter encouraged me to venture out onto the viewing platform and nervously I did so, it wasn’t as frightening as I had thought, I think the vast amount of snow side tracked me, and given it was snowing as we were there it felt quite magical in itself.

I even managed to throw a snowball which isn’t something I would normally do, but I think I felt so pleased with myself that I kind of got carried away. I insisted on standing right at the front of the cable car on the way down I was so keen to watch the view as we descended from the mountain top.

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Once my feet touch terra-firm-a I was ecstatic I had done it, I had conquered some of my biggest fears and I had managed to prove to myself that I was worth more than I had believed in my past.

I had proven that despite my past, my abuse, my trauma and my D.I.D I have been able to accomplish those hopes and aspirations that meant so much to me. I had overcome fears and phobias which I had never thought possible. Wow did it feel good.

This trip has also allowed me to learn more about me as a person, as a multiple, but it hasn’t been without cost, I have had to shut away many of my feelings as it’s so hard to let those feelings show in such a public place surrounded by so many people. The feelings have come but I have had to box them away in the hope I will be able to let them out once we are in the safety of our home.
I have had so many periods of overwhelming emotion, so much switching and loss of time that I feel exhausted mentally and physically at the end of this journey.

If I’m honest I am glad we did this journey, but I feel perhaps the timing could have been better maybe just maybe I needed to be further along my journey of recovery, of understanding about my D.I.D as the price of this holiday emotionally has been high. It’s been a huge strain of those who travelled with me too and this trip may not have been so fair on them or my alters.

I’ve spent the past 2 days mainly sleeping and hibernating, resorting to old habits of shutting off from the world to safeguard all of us. I have so much I still need to learn about me and if there is one thing I have learnt this past 2 weeks it’s that I still have a long way to go, life with D.I.D is a challenge and I need to accept that whilst I can shape my future, my past will for the time being still impact my present. Instead of feeling angry at this fact I need to accept that is how life is, be proud of my achievements yes, but also acknowledge the true reality of life with Dissociative identity Disorder.

I know that over the next few days once I return home I need to allow myself time, time to let my younger alters watch cartoons and be surrounded by their toys. I need to allow the feelings I have tried to box away these past days to surface and flow freely, most of all I just need to reflect upon this experience accept the positives but also acknowledge the difficulties too for it will be through all of this that we can move forward.

My favourite Symbolism of Dissociative identity disorder

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Hello from Norway. …I have decided to do a short blog.

I think the Russian doll symbolises Dissociative Identity Disorder for me.  My alters are basically parts of me that are often hidden away, I’m  told I switch from one part to another and I sometimes feel them too yet in truth I am often not aware of what is hidden inside of me – just like a Russian doll in that you can’t see what or how many parts are inside.

In time I am hoping to find out more about the parts deep within me, those parts who often take control over this body and make me lose time.

The fact is that during holiday all of me has been on this trip. I am thankful that I managed to be present on the husky ride, something that I desperately wanted to do.

Yet if I’m honest quite a few of me witnessed the spectacular Northern lights.  Some of me were very excited at seeing this natural phenomenon and my feelings were bouncing around as I switched from one alter to another. 

This is a picture of the lights we witnessed, my apologies for the poor quality of picture but we are writing this blog on a phone, not the easiest way to write a blog.

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In many ways I’m glad I was able to share this experience with other parts of me as I wanted this trip to be for all of us even though I chose the destination and itinerary for me. 

Having D.I.D has made this holiday more of a challenge but I am beginning to realise that it was the right thing to do.

I end this post with some more pictures of my trip so far. Internet signal allowing I’ll post again soon. 

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Basketball, hopscotch, storybooks and tears…..the joys of D.I.D

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Shooting some hoops, hopscotch,  cartoons and children’s storybooks have filled many hours in the last few days as we sail towards the northern town of Alta in the Arctic circle.  2 full sea days has given me lots of time to think,  feel and contemplate life as a multiple and my conclusion so far is that holidays with Dissociative Identity Disorder are far from easy.

I have come to realise that just because we are far from home doesn’t mean we can leave our DID behind us,  indeed we have probably switched just as much as we normally do except now it’s harder to give the time over to all the helpful techniques we use at home.

Try giving yourself time to let those inner feelings out when you are aboard what is basically a big metal container filled with over 1500 passengers and around 800 crew. Finding space to be just me has not been so easy and so every once in a while I have to take myself off to the upper most decks and the basketball court to find space.  The alternative is hiding away in my cabin and asking my trip companions to leave and let me be, not so easy when three people are sharing less than 300 square feet of space.

Thankfully the wonders of modern technology alongside a very willing psychologist has allowed me a virtual therapy session. I’m not so sure that the NHS would facilitate this kind of approach but thankfully it has been available to us this week. 

By the time Monday came around I needed a chat with my psychologist and if I’m honest so did all of me. It certainly helped us think in a much more joined up way and allowed me the chance to accept that it was ok to ask for space and time and to stop trying so hard to be this perfect person I wish I was.  You know the one who can cope with anything and everything and manage to have Dissociative identity disorder and yet not be affected by it, in my dreams maybe, but the reality is very different. 

Finding a reason to excuse myself from dinner when we were sharing a table with a group of random strangers who we only met on Saturday in time for therapy wasn’t so easy,  but we did it.
My main worry was we would have a technological blip and no signal or Internet connection when we needed one, but despite a dropped phone signal during my session we managed to have the majority of our session time.

I had anxiously worried as the captain  had stated he was trying to race out if the port of Stavenger towards the Norweigan sea to avoid a storm and so my plan of the ship still being in sight of land was rapidly disappearing from sight.

Thankfully we still had a Norweigan phone signal meaning we could call England and at the appointed time and a virtual therapy session was both possible and useful.  I think I was left with an overriding sense of relief that it had been possible as well a host of helpful advice on how to deal with our mishmash of emotions.  I spent the following hours internally communicating,  drawing,  playing and being me, Carol,  the person who has a whole host of alters with whom I share my life.

Something must have worked because I slept better that night and I even managed a lie in the next day. So since Monday I have made more time for the other parts of me, my alters, hence the plethora of activities we have been undertaking and I am sure we have given pleasure to some of the other passengers as I am certain I heard strains of muffled laughter as I feebly attempted to play hopscotch on the top deck of a moving ship as we bounced and bumped along a slightly choppy sea.

I am however hoping that my moments of meltdown have passed by with relatively few observations from others, as it’s hard to not be visible in this place. My feelings are as evident as ever so full on crying with an inability to stop is much harder to deal with currently, yet I know that part of me needs to express them self.

I think crying is one of the hardest emotions for me as when I was a child it wasn’t something i could do freely therefore today it still feels alien and at points scary.

During the last few days I have felt guilty at being selfish at wanting to undertake this trip, as it’s for me rather than my alters. I can’t even begin to explain why I wanted to try and see the Northern lights or visit the Arctic circle, I just knew I did, apparently parts of me are none too happy at my choice and have bluntly informed my daughter of this fact.

But I know it was right to give me time too, me the adult who in the course of this holiday so far has switched from adult, to young child to moody teenager and then back again and all in less than a day  This isn’t an uncommon experience for us but it’s harder in the full glare of public gaze away from the cosy safety of our home.

My daughter thankfully has kept me grounded, offered reassurance and the occasional but much needed hug when the tears and my emotions have overwhelmed us. I was once told going on holiday with a multiple was like taking a whole coach party away, and yet thankfully my family are willing to encourage and support me and the alters on these trips.

In the next 3 days my daughters patience will be tested even further, in truth I will be tested and I’m sure my alters the other parts of me will be tested too. I am hoping to undertake 3 trips which all push boundaries and limits that for me at least are entrenched deep into my core, is this reckless well maybe, but if I have learnt anything in the past 40+ years of my life it’s that life is for living.

I was robbed of my childhood, robbed of years of security and safety, I have lost so much including the ability to feel and to believe in myself. I have been left scarred by the psychological impact of my past and now face each and every day not as a single being but as a fractured person made up of many parts. But I know that all of me deserve a future and a chance to rebuild our lives, to build memories that are happy, positive and above all made because we wanted too.

That’s why this trip is so important, because I am taking a tiny step forward to rebuilding a future filled with positive memories, memories that I hope will last a lifetime and bring me and all my parts a new sense of achievement and accomplishment.

Yes we have Dissociative Identity Disorder; its tough, but it won’t define me, my past won’t define me, how we live our life now and how we rise above the negatives and rebuild our life, and carve out a future will.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014