Please be aware that the content of this blog maybe triggering for some people.
Seven weeks ago a dear friend left hospital and moved to the town where I spent six years of my childhood. I so wanted to see her in her new home and yet it meant facing some demons of my own and I knew that would be difficult.
I had lived in this place for six years back in the 1970’s and they were not happy years, they were sadly filled with incidents of abuse and trauma. Going back would mean facing those memories head on and trying to cope with the plethora of triggers that are there. After many weeks of procrastinating I made the difficult decision to go and so earlier this week I ventured to this place full of memories and triggers.
I didn’t make this decision alone, I had discussed this with my family and briefly talked the matter over with my psychologist. It was his words that resonated the most, he had said that going would allow me to replace the negative memories of the past with positive memories of today. That seemed to make sense to me, I realised that I could let my past control me forever or I could attempt to reclaim my life.
I arranged with my friend to visit her and made plans with my daughter J, who agreed to drive me and be my supporter for the day. She knows a little about my past, but understands Dissociative Identity Disorder and so she is more than able to deal with any trigger reactions.
We travelled on bank holiday Monday and set off quite early, the journey was going to take us between 2 and 3 hours so plenty of time for me to talk internally with my alters, the other parts of me. I felt slightly anxious in the morning as we set off, but also very determined to do this and confront the past. As we got nearer to the small former mill town in the heart of Yorkshire my stress levels were rising, but I had kind of expected this so we pushed on through. I felt I was doing alright until I realised that our sat-nav was directing us on a route that past a key trigger point, there really was no other route there and my decision began to feel like a disaster waiting to happen.
Suddenly I could feel one of my alters, the fear and anxiety began to mount as I tried to communicate internally with this part of me. I did the usual talking in my head to them, then out loud, in the hope I could calm them and reduce their fears. I totally understood their fear I was taking them past a place where they had been abused, this wasn’t just going to trigger them but potentially destabilise the whole system, the whole of me.
It wasn’t easy and J suggested we pull over, but I didn’t feel that would help I knew we had to do this, we had to confront the past it was important. It was also important for my friendship as my friend isn’t going to move anytime soon and I hope to be able to be visiting her quite often. She cannot help living in a place which is full of triggers for me, and I am certain my past will not hinder this friendship that was formed in the darkest of times in hospital.
My emotions as we neared her home and the trigger house were all over the place, I was tearful, sad, afraid and much more too. My daughter kept trying to focus me on the here and now and how safe we were today, it helped to be grounded and to be reminded of why we were doing this journey. We made the decision to look away when we passed the house, but in the end I felt drawn to look at the driveway entrance which hasn’t changed in over forty years. I can recall shuddering and feeling a chill run down my spine, yet we managed to keep talking internally and keep safe. J tells me that I switched on and off throughout the journey, but I just kept feeling distance and surprised at intervals at how far we had travelled already.
Throughout the day wherever we went I passed places or buildings that triggered me, I felt as if it didn’t matter where I looked it took me straight back to the 70’s. The flats were I once lived, a school I had attended and the council estate that I lived on before I left this dull and dreary place and where I can recall being hurt. So many moments during the day, it was hard to not panic especially when I could feel the fear of those days. Everywhere I looked I saw something that reminded me of those awful days when as a young child I was robbed of my innocence and defiled by those who really didn’t care about me, my feelings or my anguish and pain.
J and I had planned to take my friend out away from the town to the rural landscape that is less than half an hour away. We did this and I felt at ease for the first time that day, I was treated to the glorious sight of bluebells; my favourite flowers and the sound of water flowing gently down the river. I felt at peace for the first time that day and my friend and I had chance to catch up on each other’s news and enjoy each other’s company. It was good to see her free from the confines of hospital, she is doing so well and I am so glad she is rebuilding her life.
The sun was shining and so we decided to have an ice cream, my friend and J queued as I sat in the sun waiting, when I suddenly realised I had lost a brief amount of time. I panicked, I felt vulnerable and thus began my internal dialogue with the alters once again. Now the dialogue is still one sided I talk in my head to them, a bit like most non DID people do self talk, and I just hope they hear, listen and respond. There is no dialogue back but I feel some emotions from some of the other parts of me, and that enables me to focus on trying to ally their fears, desperation, sadness or anxieties. I was trying desperately to establish what had caused me to switch; it really bothers me when I lose time, I realised that all around us were people speaking in a Yorkshire accent and that was really bothering parts of me. I did lots of positive reinforcement, reassuring all of me that these people were not going to harm us and that many of the people who did are no longer here.
I was able to reduce some of the anxiety and fear by the time my friend returned and I did enjoy the ice-cream.
By the time we ventured back dropping my friend of en-route I felt exhausted, I also felt proud of me, all of me for beginning to rebuild memories of this place for replacing bad ones with good.
Yes it wasn’t easy and yes I couldn’t have done it without support but I managed it, I haven’t beaten the triggers yet, there is a long way to go. However I have begun a process of challenging the past and not allowing it to ruin my present or my future.
Once home I did struggle with sleep, my alters were finding it hard not to be afraid or anxious of the past. I felt desperately sad as I began to think that I had caused all the distress that I now knew the other parts of me were feeling, I guess I felt guilty. I found myself ruminating over my past, I have so many questions that I know I may never be able to get answered. As a victim I truly believe that the impact of abuse isn’t just something that impacts you at the point of the incident or as in my case sadly incidents, the damage has lasted over forty years. The impact of that time is me being fragmented, of having Dissociative Identity Disorder and so much more, the pain hasn’t gone away no it’s damaged and invaded my very being right up until today.
The impact of confronting my past this time was that It was gone 5am by the time we managed to sleep and the impact of that poor sleep lasted into Tuesday. Yet I know that I did the right thing by going and I would do it again, for it is only by challenging the past that I can build a better future for me, all of me.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014