One of the difficulties I encounter with my dissociative disorder is the awful headaches which can plague my days and my nights. They tend to be random in pattern and frequency so it is impossible to predict when they will suddenly strike.
Headaches often follow or precede a period of significant switching or come as part of a period of stress or anxiety. This week has been particularly bad for me as we suffered headaches on three consecutive days at the start of the week, these rendered me incapable of functioning in a way that impacted significantly upon my life.
On Monday following a positive and productive therapy session during which I felt I had made a breakthrough, I felt exhausted and I am not sure if the tiredness contributed to the initial headache or not. I was also facing a period of stress, somethings were going on in my life which were triggering me and generating stress and so potentially this caused me issues too.
The stress continued into the next two days and thus the headache seemed set on staying around, now unless you have had such a headache it’s hard to comprehend the impact or the pain. I felt as if my head was going to explode, it was full of pressure and the pain was so bad at times that I couldn’t cope with any light. I felt like a hermit hiding inside my house with the curtains drawn in broad day light, a cold compress on my head and sunglasses on to shield me even more from any light that remained.
Now normally when I encounter a switching headache it can last up to 24 hours but no more, this week they kept on coming, weakening a little and then crescendoing to a peak of pain again. In the end desperate I visited my GP’s which I am loathe to do at the best of times and they suggested I take a third pain killer.
On Wednesday I was so doped up on pain killers that I couldn’t function at all, but I had been crying so much with the pain it felt impossible to go on, you see the difficulty with such headaches is that not only do I suffer but my alters do too. Try explaining to a little alter that this awful pain will pass It isn’t easy and they don’t really understand at all, if you have ever encountered a poorly child you will understand the difficulties. At one point I was crying in pain and I couldn’t say whose tears they were, mine or the little parts of me or both.
Headaches do pass but on this occasion it took three days and a lot of suffering before it went and of course I am always conscious we could suffer another headache at any point, such is life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I’m aware that I am not alone in suffering from headaches or indeed other somatoform symptoms, it’s part of having a trauma related condition. The body sometimes exhibits the pain of trauma and psychological suffering in a physical way, be that a headache or indeed a pain in my stomach or other physical conditions.
I know certain times one of my alters suffers the most excruciating abdominal pain and before I was diagnosed with D.I.D, I underwent so many tests to try and establish what was causing this pain and all the tests came back inconclusive.
It was only many months after my diagnosis that I began to understand this pain which came and went without warning, was attributed to a different part of me, it’s part of her memory I believe and my body exhibits that pain in a physical way. This doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real, it is actually very real yet instead of being the result of a physical condition it’s the result of my trauma, it’s a somatoform symptom.
I guess its a bit like when people feel sick when they are anxious about something, the sickness is as real as any other form of sickness, yet it’s root cause is linked to the anxiety rather than any bug or virus.
This week I cannot be certain if my headaches were linked to the switching or indeed the stress I was feeling, but either way I know it is part of the legacy of being a victim of trauma, a legacy which sadly lasts long after the event.
I am aware that many people I know with a trauma related condition be that Dissociative Identity Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder suffer from physical illnesses or symptoms which stem from their trauma. It is I guess part of life that we have to contend with, a part of life that often gets overlooked by professionals and yet which can cause significant disruption to our lives.
I was told once of a famous quote about trauma I think it sums things up really well, it certainly sums up me, my alters and at times our life. The quote goes something like this:
‘TRAUMA SURVIVORS HAVE SYMPTOMS INSTEAD OF MEMORIES’
I have found out to my cost this week that symptoms have plagued me, caused significant disruption to my week and lost me nearly 3 days. 3 days that I can ill afford to lose as I try and rebuild my life, work at understanding my condition and my alters, the other parts of me.
This week it feels as if I am playing catch up as we try and regroup and work at calming those alters disrupted by these symptoms and the pain. I’m determined to not let the symptoms beat me I want to move forward, it’s important to me. Yet I do wonder if the people responsible for my trauma ever really understand the pain and the damage they caused, sadly I very much doubt they do.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014