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.

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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

Internal confusion

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The start of my holiday as a multiple hasn’t been as good as I had hoped, I thought I had planned and prepared for everything really well, but sadly I missed one important thing.

Despite booking and planning my trip for over a year I have never internally communicated that fact to my other parts of me, the alters. In fact it was only as I left home to travel to the port did this become a reality in my mind. I was aware of internal confusion by lots of switching and a mis-mash of emotions, at first I couldn’t understand why and then it suddenly dawned upon me I had never told the alters we were taking this trip.

I can only describe what I was encountering as my washing machine head, it’s as if everything is swooshing around inside my brain and the intensity is overwhelming, I kept drifting in moments of lost time and felt very disorientated. A bit like I assume it must feel like if you were inside a washing machine whizzing about and been shaken around, it’s one go my worst feelings.

Try as I might to internally communicate it felt like a lost cause, and I really didn’t feel like I was making progress. I decided to just give clear simple instructions of our day just as I do each morning when I self talk internally, so at least all parts of me who we’re listening knew we were going on a trip and it involved a coach journey and a ship.

I continued to internally communicate each and every step during that first day and then last night I spent time alone as in not with my companions, and tried to rectify my mistakes.

This has involved a huge apology to the other parts of me, letting them know I messed up and I am truly sorry. It involved a clear breakdown of our trip and lots of reassurances, honest, frank explanations and most of all clear concise truthful statements.

I have continued today to once again invest lots of time telling of all of me what we are doing, so every time the ship starts to roll to and fro in the stormy North Sea I reassure everyone it’s normal and we are safe. They know now I hope that we have books, sweeties and toys with us, they I hope feel included and involved.

I thought I had planned for everything this trip, brought all the things we might need, it seems I still have huge lessons to learn about getting this internal communication right. Most of all I know I need to think more about all of me, and that I can’t overlook the little things which are of course the most crucial like letting all if us know what’s happening, not just on a day to day basis but on a more forward thinking level, the next week, month etc.

I guess it’s only through making mistakes we learn, so I need to accept that I have learnt a tough lesson this weekend. I won’t make the same mistake again.

 

copyright DID Dispatches 2014