Identifying Why I Dissociate



I am currently working on finding the reasons why I dissociate, this might sound simple but actually it’s quite hard. Often I am unaware that I have dissociated and switched alters until well after the event, after all I am not the part of me in control at that time.

Often my first realisation I have switched is a loss of time, I can find myself feeling confused and perplexed and wondering why I am eating a food I don’t like, or doing something that is unusual for me. Yet without that inquisitiveness I wouldn’t be able to understand more about me and my alters the other parts of me.

I know one of my little parts has a very sweet tooth, not great when I’m on a healthy eating plan and one of my parts clearly like clothes very different to my usual choice. Perhaps that’s why there are clothes in my wardrobe I have no recollection of buying, things I would never be seen wearing.
One of my parts is sporty and can get quite loud apparently at sporting events even shouting at the referees and at least one of me is scared of heights and yet other parts are not.

When I dissociate I switch alters, I take a back seat and some other part takes control of this body that we all share. It is challenging and it disrupts day to day life in a way many would find hard to comprehend. With each switch comes different emotions and feelings, different vocabulary and annotation and different reactions to the same situation. It’s no wonder that living with or supporting someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is a challenge, that requires a huge amount of patience and understanding.

Thus for me currently one of the things I need to do in order to make life less chaotic and less disruptive is to try and reduce the number of times I dissociate in a day. But for me to do that I need to establish the triggers that cause me to dissociate in the first place. These triggers are wide and varied they range from different sounds to they way people speak to us, they can include everyday things that are impossible to avoid. My phone ringing can cause me to switch and I even find using public transport difficult, I haven’t been on a bus in years as they trigger me.

So in recent weeks I have been writing down when I recognise a switch, this is usually as a result of my sensing a change in emotional state. I also try and record other periods when I realise afterwards that I’ve dissociated, usually based upon the information supplied by family, friends or my support workers. But not only do I write down the switch itself, but what I was feeling, thinking and doing at that time. I’m trying to establish what it is that causes me to dissociate and which part of me it triggers. It can take a while for a pattern to emerge enabling me to identify a trigger and realise at least at little about the part that takes over.


It’s an ongoing process and it’s time consuming and yet it’s already helping me to see the reasons why I dissociate. I now know for example that being judged or feeling like we are being judged leads me to dissociate and often a more vulnerable part comes out who is distressed and fearful.

I’m also aware that when things go wrong I dissociate, though on these occasions usually a part of me that gets angry and cross comes out. In fact earlier this week an incident occurred when I felt I had broken something that wasn’t mine and I did dissociate. I apparently swore like a trooper and much to my sons consternation was not a very nice person.

Of course how I change this is still anyone’s guess but my hope is that by knowing what things and situations cause me to dissociate I can reduce these occurrences. If I can find a way of reacting to these situations without dissociating that has to be progress with a very large capital P.

Dissociation has been my life line for so long now, it saved me as a child from mentally enduring the worst of my abuse and I know without that ability at that time I would most probably not be here today. But because dissociation became my life saver back then means it has also became my inbuilt default position, hence why today I still dissociate. I don’t do this consciously it is an automatic reaction to a set of circumstances whatever they maybe, and it’s not something I can just stop. Things that triggered me as a child to dissociate still trigger me today, hence the judgemental issue being a trigger. As a child I feared being judged because it usually meant I’d be hurt and that fear still triggers me now, hence I dissociate.

I know this is a long process and so until I establish ways of working through my trauma, reducing my triggers and dissociation I will keep noting down my feelings. For by doing this my hope is I can move forwards and one day I might not dissociate quite so much.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Reflecting Upon Why I Value My Therapy


Yesterday for the first time I realised just how much I value my therapy, how it is important to me on a level I have never really fully understood before. Now I have had a number of different talking therapy interventions since I first entered into this world of mental health services and many of them have had limited benefit.

Back in 2004 I saw a psychotherapist briefly and they talked to me about my self harming, but they never asked me why I did it, they just kept telling me it was a coping mechanism. They seemed to think I should just stop harming and use alternative thought processes. They implied my thinking was skewed and needed to be corrected, but we never discussed the reasons why I felt so desperate.

A few months later I was referred to a psychologist who saw me for just a short while too, she and I seemed to get along ok and her technique was a mix of CBT and DBT. I believe she was one of the few people who I felt could help me and we were talking about my family and my childhood in basic terms at least. It was upsetting when she told me she was emigrating and someone new would be taking over my case. I had just starting to open up about my family and even though looking back she didn’t fully understand me, she was someone I trusted. If she had stayed maybe I would have made progress at that time, but whilst hindsight is great I can never really be sure it would have worked out.

The person who followed next was to be fair rather awful, I’m sure she was a nice person, dedicated to her job yet she used CBT and I really didn’t need CBT, my thought processes whilst skewed were not the cause of my dissociating. We saw each other for a year during which time I was an inpatient for significant periods. I can recall seeing her and being so much worse after our sessions, she didn’t get me and I ended up dreading every session. My family were relieved when the sessions ended because they realised it wasn’t working, in fact it probably made me worse. Yet when there was this void I felt abandoned and desperate, I just wanted to get better, I wanted someone to help me get better. I didn’t want a magic wand and an instant cure I wanted to be helped, guided and enabled to weave my way through the cacophony of emotions that overwhelmed me and the awful memories I was having.

There was a bit of a break less than six months when I saw no one and then I was referred to a new psychotherapist, I felt we were building up a relationship and I began to trust her. It was only a few months later when suddenly it seemed my memories, my issues were too much for her. Suddenly sessions were stunted and I couldn’t discuss certain issues from my past, it wasn’t about my safety or containment it was about her safety and the fact I was complicated. She went on planned leave and never came back, it was apparently because she wasn’t skilled enough to deal with someone like me. There was no closure work, no goodbyes just a void again.

When I entered secure services shortly afterwards I again had to see a therapist, this person held much power and she was my fifth therapist in 3 years. I can recall being made to feel on edge, she wanted me and all her patients to trust her so much we depended upon her. I couldn’t depend upon anyone at this point, my trust; the little I had, was long gone. This person would take note of my emotions, whether I was angry or upset and she would relay this back to the clinical team who then would make decisions imposing sanctions if they thought I was angry. I lost the right to have my bathroom unlocked because she felt I was angry, this meant I had to be observed once again whenever I used the bathroom. There were many other sanctions that never made sense, usually imposed because she felt I was not showing enough emotion, or refusing to divulge the detail she wanted.


I can recall it wound her up because I wouldn’t become dependent upon her, I even said I wasn’t going to her sessions at one point. Yet in secure services you don’t have such luxuries as choice, I was forced to attend and the staff stood the other side of the door, so if I tried to leave they could make me return. When I refused to speak to her or answer her questions because it felt like there would be sanctions whatever emotion I portrayed, I was sanctioned for my silence.

In this place I’d lose access to the outside world namely the hospital grounds which at this point were my outside world, or they’d take away some of my possessions. Impose observation levels which were intrusive and bullying and they called this therapy and care. She wondered why I didn’t want to work with her and why I felt averse to trusting a person who I only ever saw as wielding huge power. I saw her for the whole time I was in secure services, I guess I learnt to comply because it was just easier, though I never trusted her. She was the first person to suggest I had Dissociative Identity Disorder and for that I will always be grateful, so many others had misdiagnosed me. But her therapy style wasn’t right for me and it was a relief when I eventually left secure services and her behind.

Then I had yet another psychotherapist someone who I believe was able at first to help, but her skill base though good wasn’t sufficient to deal with someone who had lived my life. She understood D.I.D yet she didn’t seem to understand my thinking processes and this was an issue, I firmly believe we made some progress and yet in the end the relationship disintegrated and fell apart. Yes I was inpatient and I wanted progress and I felt after 4 years there should have been more. I also believe now that I needed more stabilisation work back then before we entered into trauma memories and that didn’t happen, by the time it was suggested 3 years in we were too afraid to stop the trauma work.

So when I started seeing my current psychologist I was anxious, unsure and yet I also knew I wanted to make it work. My psychologist who is an expert in trauma and dissociation was very clear from the start that things won’t always be plain sailing, there will be times when I feel angry and annoyed at him, times when we don’t get along but that together we could always work out those difficulties. It was about having the trust to talk to each other and work as a partnership in this therapeutic journey.

It’s early days I guess but more than six months on and I can see a difference in me, in my understanding of my alters, of me and of D.I.D. What’s been different so far has been a total openness in how therapy works, this is a partnership where he helps me and I then go off and do the work for the rest of the week. I am still finding it hard to let my emotions flow freely, to show anger and distress, but unlike previous therapeutic relationships I have been able to tell him about those difficulties. He is able to be honest with me and I respect his opinion and his expertise, I value his input and his ability to understand me better than I understand myself.

The main difference though is I think that I truly value my therapy, because it’s making a difference in my day to day life. I feel enabled and empowered in a way I never have before, learning to accept my alters, accept they are parts of me as been a key element. Learning it’s ok to have fun, to try even if I don’t succeed, that I’m not stupid or a failure and it’s ok to have internal dialogue even if it’s one sided.

I’m learning that healing is painful, that I have to grieve to heal and that it’s ok to admit that having D.I.D is never easy, that some days are tougher than others. In the past 6 months I’ve also learnt I’m inpatient, self critical and I judge myself harshly, but that these things are a response to my childhood. I will learn to be less hard on myself one day, I am already learning to challenge self criticism and I see when I’m judging myself.

All of these things and the fact I am an equal partner in my therapy are the reasons why I value this therapeutic relationship. I can see that overtime we will make further progress and learn more about ourselves. I don’t want to jeopardise this therapy, I want it to keep working, to keep helping me move forwards, I know I can learn so much more about myself and deal with the past slowly and at the right time. I was never sure I could deal with the past, deal with my emotions but now I believe just maybe we can, yes on a bad day I think I will never be able to cope living with D.I.D but on the good days I realise I have a future. Therapy plays an integral role in achieving that future and that’s why it’s so important to me, why I value it so much.


Copyright DID Dispatches 2014


Working as a Team


For the past few months I have been trying to learn to work with my alters; the other parts of me, this is proving to be at times challenging yet also interesting. Initially the aim was to prevent me dissociating in the kitchen and has I have recounted before begin trying to share the load and start cooking in the kitchen. But more recently the aim has been to work with the alters when I attempt days out in my quest to accept the concept of fun.

Fun for me is still alien, though I am learning it is actually allowed and beneficial to take time to laugh, be inquisitive and relax. The initial issues I encountered were that parts of me would attempt to shut down my system before we even managed to leave home and thus it felt like a battle. These past few weeks I have tried to work on this specific issue by engaging the other parts of me before we plan the day, encouraging them to be observers and participate in a none controlling way. The aim is that they don’t take control of my body, or my plans; that is still very much to be mine, and yet they can be present as long as they remain in the background.

It’s a reverse I guess of the side by side encounters I have found myself in, when the alters are in control and I am a silent observer unable to take charge of the events going on before me. The reality is this way round though I manage to learn to have fun, to engage in life and still be in control and hopefully not dissociate.

One day a week for the past few weeks I have set time aside to go out, to experiment at new activities or to take part in familiar ones but in a more open and fun way. There have been further trips to the seaside, a visit to a castle and a trip to a stately home all of which have presented challenges and yet fun and excitement too.


When I visited the seaside again I planned ahead internally communicating to all of me about the day ahead, what I hoped I would be doing and how they could help by being observers. I wanted all of me to enjoy this time and for my littles especially to enjoy being a part of the day but working alongside me. We sat on the sand and my dialogue internally was all about the textures and feel of the sand, how I needed help with building my sandcastle. I asked them to observe what I was doing, I kept communicating with them and I kept asking them to let me stay in control.

I never realised how much fun one person could have making a sandcastle or drawing in the sand, it felt great and I felt I was able to maintain control of this body that me and my alters often fight over. Dissociating is so inbuilt that at the first sign of stress or fear I seem to lose control and the alters take over, having fun is alien and can be frightening for parts of me thus a sure sign I may dissociate. I need to learn ways of us all working together, so that we can push past such fears and not dissociate and these days are just one way of doing that in a relaxed and positive way.


When we visited the castle last week following advice from my psychologist I attempted to give the other parts of me a specific task, we felt that if they were included they’d begin to see fun was safe. The castle has a number of rooms which are open to the public and being in Wales their rooms all contained soft fluffy red dragons for children to spot. I tasked my littles with spotting these dragons, and my older parts with looking for the directional signs, I didn’t know if this would work.

I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being pulled towards these red dragons, feeling excitable making me clearly aware younger parts were around. I would always acknowledge these and thank them for showing me the dragon, it was a constant dialogue which is still one sided though from me to them. I also found other parts of me where doing their bit in showing me they were around, my feelings were all over the place as alters were communicating to me via their emotions.

I found myself at the end just really pleased that we had managed to not dissociate, enjoy time out and venture into a place I’d normally feel fearful about. It was good to sit on a bench and eat a picnic and though I didn’t quite make it onto the grass as I’d hoped, I knew I’d pushed my limits. My son who had accompanied us had a good time too, having time with me which wasn’t hijacked by other parts of me.


Yesterday I ventured to a stately home and decided I was going to explore the grounds and hopefully this time get myself sat on the grass. This may seem like nothing to most people but to me it was a huge challenge, these are things I wasn’t allowed to do as a child and thus are scary and uncomfortable. I instantly fear the repercussions of enjoying myself, of daring to have fun and of daring to do those things which I was never allowed to do.

I strolled around in the British summer sunshine and to most people looked just like everyone else, except inside of me was a whole dialogue going on. The gardens were amazingly beautiful and I found myself being drawn to things that I hadn’t seen myself, a stork in the Japanese garden and the ducks in a pond. I sensed the feelings of excitement, of fear and of irritated boredom too, I guess not all my parts were excited about being there.

As the afternoon wore on I ventured towards a grassed area of open parkland and decided I needed to be brave, reassuring myself and my alters I took the plunge and sat down. Initially I felt terrified which may seem silly, but to me it all made sense as this was uncomfortable to do. I can recall so many family picnics with my own children where I was too afraid to sit on the grass and so they all did whilst I sat as an observer on the park bench. Today I understand why, for as a child I used to have sit and watch whilst others played and had fun, it wasn’t something I was allowed to do. That feeling of being excluded somehow lingers today and so just sitting on the grass was a huge step forward, I kept telling myself and the alters it was acceptable, safe and we were entitled to do this.


All of these days out have given me hope, hope that I can learn it’s ok to have fun, to push past fears and not dissociate and that I am allowed to enjoy today those things which I wasn’t allowed to as a child. I am realising that having fun is impulsive, often happening with little gestures and actions when you least expect it. At the moment a lot of my days are still very structured, but I hope in time that will improve and we will be able to just relax, go and take part without thinking ahead.

But most importantly of all I hope that me and my alters are learning to work as a team, to achieve goals and enjoy things together instead of being fractured and fragmented by dissociation. I still have a long way to go, currently I still seem to punish myself or more likely the alters on the days following these small triumphs. That’s something we aim to keep working at too, I don’t want to feel as if I have to persecute us for daring to have fun.

I’m sure in time with the right effort and support I can stop feeling this fear and I can stop punishing all of me every time we do something which pushes the boundaries of my past. I will one day be able to have fun and have no repercussions for doing so. I’m also sure that the way ahead for me with Dissociative Identity Disorder is to learn to work as a system, working together instead of as fragmented parts. Maybe then I’ll have less lost time and less dissociating, working together has some positive benefits but I guess it’s all about taking time to learn, experience news things and lots and lots of practise.


Copyright: DID Dispatches 2014

Things I Wish I’d Said In My Therapy Session

Trigger warning: This blog may be difficult for some people, please exercise self care.


Feeling Not Good Enough

When I was a child there was one phrase that seemed to sum up my days, it was a phrase that seemed to be said by so many different people. This phrase was said in so many different ways but it amounted to the fact that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough to be a daughter, to be anything other than an object for others to hurt and abuse and even then I wasn’t good enough at that.

This phrase really summed up my childhood and it was how I learnt to feel about myself, that somehow I was a failure at everything. That everything that went wrong in my life was my fault and that I deserved all the things that happened to me because I wasn’t good enough. If I sit in the still quiet now I can hear my mothers voice uttering those words, I can hear the countless friends she had who hurt me uttering those words and it still hurts.

This week I have felt yet again that I wasn’t good enough, I have no proof of this fact but it’s how I felt all the same. I feel an outsider in my community sometimes, it’s nothing anyone has done it’s just how I feel. I mean I am the one person I know of in my village who has Dissociative Identity Disorder and I am sure some people think that this means I have 3 heads. Maybe I’m vulnerable to feeling like this, but I am a relative newbie in my village and it’s a typical rural place where most people seem to know one another and I don’t know very many people.

Since I began this journey of hospital admissions, labels and diagnoses I have lost much of my social circle of friends, work colleagues etc, I have some friends but I no longer have the number I used to. I lost my job following my first psychiatric admission and so went my friends at work, I am no longer part of a couple so lost friends there also. Now I find myself feeling a misfit sometimes and thats how it was this weekend, I felt isolated and vulnerable. In truth I felt not good enough once again and that hurts, it probably hurts more than I can explain in writing this blog.

So I went to my psychology session a couple of days ago and found myself in tears explaining yet again that I hate D.I.D. and I hate me. It’s strange to suddenly realise with passion and feeling that you mean what you are saying, that you actually hate who you are. The reality is that I hate the fact I was abused, I hate the fact people said it was all I was fit for and that even then I wasn’t good enough. I hate the fact I feel I was a failure as a parent, as a wife, as a daughter and as a human being but I can’t help those feelings, feelings which consume me and I can’t seem to shake off.

My psychologist was telling me not to compare myself with others, which I can do in my desire to be normal, to be accepted, yet it’s not so easy to stop. I do know that he is right of course, that the only person I can honestly compare myself to is me. Though in all honesty it felt a bit like one of those sessions where I so wanted to say something but did everything possible to avoid saying it, I can have them every now and then. But unlike most sessions I have, I left this one and sobbed a far bit of the journey home; even though I’d settled in my head at least that I was ok before the session ended. In my heart I now realise I wasn’t ok and I actually had so much else I should have said but didn’t.


I so wanted to let out those feelings of anger and hurt that I carry, to finally let out the feelings I have kept locked deep inside for too long. But of course I didn’t, I mean how can I when all I have ever been told is that being angry isn’t good. If I was ever angry or answered back as a child, there were serious consequences, consequences that hurt and left me mentally more in fear. In hospital people don’t like you being angry either and expressing any kind of emotion well that was a no no, I used to suffer sanctions if the staff ever felt I was angry. Sanctions that deprived even more of my liberty and took away any rights I had, I’ve lost my right to live with my sons because people thought I was angry. Because people thought I had no right to be cross or annoyed, to feel the feelings I have and rightly hold.

Yet now I’m meant to feel and apparently it’s ok to express myself that’s what I’m told, but somehow I can’t do it. I can’t risk showing all the hurt and yes the anger I hold because I don’t know if I can stop it once I open the flood gates. I am angry, angry that I was failed by a society that left me in a home that they knew was unstable, in the care of someone they had labeled as pathogenic. People knew I was being abused, neglected, traumatised and they did nothing more than prescribe me an 11 year old child with Valium to help me cope with the difficult circumstances of my life.

I’m angry at her and her friends for all the things they inflicted upon me, for treating me worse than a piece of garbage. For all the physical, emotional and other types of abuse they inflicted upon me. I’m angry because I live each and every day with the damage that all caused, I live with my D.I.D and with the emotional scars that come from being a victim of abuse.

Yet now I can’t let out that anger, or the rawness of the emotions I feel because of fear, fear that I won’t be understood, that I’ll be deemed a risk. Fear that I will explode and not be able to contain or control the immense feelings that I have. Yes I feel not good enough to fit in anywhere because I am different, I am unlike anyone else I know. I am the child who was used, hurt and defiled, a child who was constantly criticised and belittled and a child who desperately wanted to be simply good enough to be loved by the person who gave birth to her. But most of all I am different because I am this person who hates herself and yet has tried to hide that fact for so long.

I know other victims have suffered too and many who make this journey won’t see light at the end of it, they are worse off than me, but my feelings of hurt are real and I was messed up and failed. Failed not just at the time of the abuse, but in each and every opportunity that was missed to stop the nightmare I lived.

No matter how many times I am told how far I’ve come it doesn’t help, because no one knows the anguish I feel, no one knows what it’s like to feel overwhelmed with emotions and unable to show them. Yes I have every reason and right to be angry, I just can’t let that anger out now and it is eating me from the inside and yet I’m still to frightened to bare my soul and show those who want to help me now the true feelings I hold. I missed out on the opportunity in my psychology session to let it out, maybe one day I might be able to, maybe one day I’ll feel good enough, I guess only time will tell.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014




The Life Sentence of Being Sectioned



The other day I read a comment on social media which asked approved mental health professionals to think before they section someone in order to get them a hospital bed. It was stated that being detained under the Mental Health Act remains on a persons file for life, and suddenly it got me thinking about the impact of my time in mental health services.

You see I had assumed that having not been detained under the Mental Health Act for over 5 years, I was free of that part of my life. Indeed I haven’t been in secure services since that time either, so again I had assumed it was behind me. Yet if the comments are true and these things stay on file for life, I am in many ways doomed.

Doomed because no matter how long I keep myself out of a mental health bed when people look at my medical file, my past will jump out and hit them in the face. The professionals will see that I have been sectioned for more than a year and that I have spent time locked in a forensic medium secure unit. Will they then assume that I have a criminal record, because most people think you only get sent to these units if you have committed some type of heinous crime. Furthermore will they wrongly assume I must be dangerous, because believe me that’s what some misguided people think.

When I was studying for my degree I had to challenge the course lecturer on the issue of forensic services, it was stated in course material that these units were for criminals with serious Mental Health issues. It also stated that they had to have demonstrated a high degree of risk to others to be sent to these places. I knew of course this wasn’t always the case, I was living proof of that and yet it took a lot of determination and challenges to prove to them their views, their facts were both flawed and inaccurate.

I doubt that I could change or remove these medical facts about my section from my file, they are truthful and accurate statements, the difficulties lie of course in people’s interpretation of those facts. I have always wondered what people would think of me having being detained, would professionals treat me differently.

I know in the early days post discharge I feared being re-sectioned, I worried that at the sign of any small crisis I’d be locked up and send miles away. I was certain if I needed hospital I would be send back to secure services and yet my then CPN told me I was being silly, no one would judge me. But that fear remained and I think that fear has led me to fight steadfastly to never need a mental hospital bed again. That’s why I find it hard to call for help when I’m struggling, I have self harmed before because I was so desperate and yet I wouldn’t, I couldn’t call crisis services.


Now it seems that these facts will stay on my file for life and I can’t help wondering if that’s already led to changes in how people deal with me. Do professionals already treat me with more caution, do they pre-judge me when they see my history. Will they pre-determined who they think I am, instead of coming and seeing me as blank canvas and judging me on my merits.

What about if I seek employment will these facts be available to prospective employers and if so how will that impact me, I doubt it’s going to help. What if I want to volunteer and need a DBS check (police check), will these things come up in that. There are so many unanswered questions that I have, so many fears that my past will taint my future. The powers that be need to allow this data to be removed from a persons health file after a certain number of years.

To those Approved Mental Health professionals (AMHP) who now hold the power to take away a persons liberty, I’d ask them to consider their actions. I feel I was sectioned initially to off load cost implications of a specialist bed from one team to another. I know my later sections were done by the very people whose living depended upon me filling their beds, operating in the private sector that was funded by the NHS.

The fact AMHP’s today are placing people on a section because that’s the only way to find a bed is deeply worrying. Do they realise the impact they make on that persons life, not just at that moment of taking away someone’s liberty but the longer term implications. It seems now those implications last a lifetime, and my records are duly marked. As I said before it feels a bit like I’m doomed, this life sentence is hanging over my head forever and there little I can do to change that.

The sad thing is I was sectioned because I was unwell, I didn’t ask to be unwell it wasn’t even of my doing. Yet it seems being unwell is punishable in this country and probably many others too with a life sentence of being labelled, pre-judged, disadvantaged and treated differently.

copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Forgetfulness and Dissociative Amnesia



I have been conscious this week of the amount of times I suffer from memory issues it seems to be a recurring issue for me. The number of times I have faced a cup of tea still with the tea bag in situ has been increasing and it’s annoying to say the least. Though to be fair at least I manage to get the drink, I have developed a new habit of starting to make a drink and then forgetting it and so my son keeps finding cold cups of half made tea.

I am trying to laugh about this because it is a part of everyday life for me and my alters, the other parts of me. If I let it stress me out then it would soon become an issue that dominated my life and distress me and I feel that really isn’t beneficial for me. I can though usually tell how stressed I am by the number of tea bags I leave in my drinks, it is an unusual marker to have.

The reality is that amnesia is just one of the many symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder and it’s something I am slowly learning to deal with. The harsh reality is that I seem to have the ability to forget so many things and so we have multiples of notebooks, or clothes I have no recollection of buying. In fact I properly have multiples of many things as I forget I have bought whatever object it is only a few hours ago and purchase some more.

Currently we have a lot of notebooks, pens, cleaning products, tissues and sweeties which I think seem to magically make there way into my shopping trolley. I don’t even like some of the treats we have purchased but obviously some part of me does. It can all be very expensive and wasteful and yet this is part of my life, I am forgetful and I seem to struggle with amnesia.

I can put something down and forget where it is just a short time later, this is more than ordinary forgetfulness this is serious and it impacts upon day to day life. I know my children are use to me losing things and they are now aware that when I do I get frustrated. We can end up searching for what seems like forever until we find the missing object, the house can end up in utter chaos as I frantically look for my keys or a book.

The day to day things I lose or the simple things I forget like a drink some how seem rather irrelevant when I think of the other things I forget. I don’t have a recall of certain times or events and so I can’t recall my children’s favourite cartoons or books from their childhood. I don’t have certain memories of my own childhood, I can now tell you where I lived but I can’t tell you the names of any school friends I had.


I have limited or no memory of significant things, things that matter and things that I should remember. I have no memory of my first day at school nor the children’s first steps, I can’t even recall house moving days as a child and yet I lived in 17 houses. This causes me much pain as I feel detached from the lives of others and from my own life.

It hurts to think I dissociated at these times and that I therefore have no memory of these events, I can only assume that another part of me was present. This isn’t normal forgetfulness or the sign of early onset dementia, it’s a sign of dissociative amnesia, it’s a part of my D.I.D.

The other day I sat down to watch a new cartoon side by side with my little parts of me, I’d never seen this one before it was chosen randomly. Imagine my surprise when suddenly my eldest son tells me this is his brothers favourite cartoon from his childhood, I had no memory of this. I argued about it, I even protested he was wrong, until I sat and thought and then I realised I had no memory of what my son had watched. The next day I asked other family members if they knew my youngest sons favourite cartoon from his childhood and they all knew the right answer, all of them except me.

I am not ashamed to say I cried, it hurt to think I had missed this and that no one seemed to notice either. To them I was there, I was distance maybe but there and yet in truth it was another alter who was there, a part of me whose memory is still blocked from my own.

Being forgetful and facing amnesia are parts of life right now and yet I guess I need to try and keep this all in perspective. Yes I lack those memories but parts of me will hold them and that is ok to accept and to come to terms with. I will one day break down this amnesic barrier and one day just one day maybe I will recall these things, that’s my hope. Of course I can’t be certain it will happen but by remaining hopeful I’m trying to not let it spiral me into a pit of despair.

I still might forget what I am doing or end up leaving the tea bag in my cup numerous times each day but its probably because I have switched alters, even momentary switches can cause this chaos and yet I need to face it and find a way forward.

That’s why I am trying to accept that such ‘forgetful’ incidents are just mere inconveniences, set to frustrate me a little but no more. I need to see it as a good stress indicator, a sign that I maybe need a break, or a chance to relax or unwind. It’s so easy to see the negatives in these things but I am learning slowly that by turning things around I can use this forgetfulness to help me, help me learn more about me.

Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder is a Challenge


This week I have been trying to focus on self care, that’s a bit tough when I’m struggling with all kinds of issues some I can’t write about at this moment in time. The news has been full of triggers and so has social media, so I have had to avoid these at times. Alongside this is of course my ever ongoing switching and losing time which is both frustrating and irritating and I seem to dissociate at the first sign of stress or people judging me.

I tried to pace myself, so planned a day of fun in the middle of the week alongside time for work, household chores, art and cartoons. But still plans to cope better with dissociation went array, all because of the actions of one person. It seems life with Dissociative Identity Disorder is a constant ever changing challenge and for ever couple of steps forward there is at least one step back.

On Thursday I was all set to do some paperwork, things that urgently needed my attention and that I really had to complete. I popped to the village to get a few things and in the process was made to feel judged. I’m not sure if that was the intention but it happened all the same and it destroyed the rest of my day.

Feeling judged is a trigger and as such by the time I arrived home I was switching, I felt tearful and desperately sad. I dissociated and lost time, I’m told that I was very distressed my alter who took over felt alone, vulnerable and isolated. They communicated with my son who tried very hard to reassure and help, but somehow it wasn’t enough and in the end we fell asleep.

When I woke I felt frustrated, I felt confused and I also felt in desperate need of reassurance, I’d messed up the day and I had lost precious time which meant I couldn’t get all my jobs completed.
My son is great and he can reassure me, but it’s never the same as that given by his sister who somehow is able to help me rationalise better. I wanted more than anything a hug, a hug of comfort and reassurance, a hug that said it’s ok and you can deal with this.


My daughter bless her is at work in the daytime now and so it meant she wasn’t instantly available to help, I knew she’d be at work for a short while yet. I waited desperately and as soon as I knew she’d be free I called her multiple times until I got a response. I asked if I could call round to see her there followed a period of hugs and comforting words, a cup of tea and the assurance I really needed. For I needed someone to tell me that it was ok not to achieve everything, that my expectations of me were too high, I didn’t need to feel bad or judge myself. That the reason I dissociated, the trigger, was not such a huge threat, the person who judged me today wasn’t going to punish me as happened in my past.

I am fortunate to have that help, to have people who are able to understand me and my D.I.D, I know I’m blessed to have that, many people I have met with Dissociative Disorders don’t. They struggle alone and with little support or understanding, if I’m honest I don’t know how they manage.

Triggers have been an issue for so long now, that I know some of them well and can try and avoid hence why I haven’t watched much news this week. Yet others surprise me and spiral me out of control and into a cycle of fear and anxiety. Maybe that’s why when I was asked this week what my ambitions were for my future my answer was that I desperately want to have a life with less triggers, less switching, less chaos and less dissociating. In time I hope that’s what I achieve but I also want to deal with the feelings of hurt and anguish that I carry and to develop my coping skills, my life skills and that seems so hard to do.

I realise that in truth there are so many things I want to achieve but they are not your average, I am sure people didn’t expect the answer I gave. I don’t think of a new car, or house, or job I think of skills I lack and desperately wish I had, I think of a future which is just less of the mess that I seem to have right now. But how do I explain that to people who don’t understand Dissociative Identity Disorder, who seem to be unable to comprehend the unfamiliar, that is my world.

My aim right now is to try and keep moving forwards and if not to at least stand still, that means to self care as much as I can and to survive the short break I’m having from my psychology sessions. Right now I just want to survive the chaos that is going on in my life, the chaos that isn’t always of my choosing but which causes me a great deal of stress and thus triggers.

I have to trust that the difficulties in my life which exist currently, the situations which are causing me additional stress at this time will soon be dealt with. I hope that once my psychology sessions restart and I get back into that routine of therapy, I will feel better equipped to deal with situations like I have this week. I’m learning I guess that life with Dissociative Identity Disorder is a challenge, a challenge that I am still determined to win one day.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Empowered to be Involved in My Care



Would you expect a service user to be present on an interview panel for support workers?

Last weekend I sat through a number of interviews for new support staff, I wasn’t alone as my daughter was also present. We had decided to hold them as always away from my home as I am always conscious of the fact it’s my space they invade if we hold them at my house. The difficulties of interviews can be many and varied, direct payments enable me to choose who works with me and yet they don’t cover the cost of  things like room hire for interviews; that has to be self funded.

We had a number of candidates to interview and the time it took was quite lengthy, this was hard for me as I found it difficult to concentrate fully for that length of time. My alters were in truth very good they allowed me to be present for the majority of time and I saw each candidate and felt a part of the process. But in the downtime between each candidate it was hard to remain in control of me and I know at times I did switch alters, I found myself more fascinated by the world outside than that in the room. More interested in the biscuits and juice that was available than thinking about the next candidate or the last ones answers.

The thing that struck me most though during the day was a comment many of them made, now this is not a criticism of anyone and I can understand people’s perceptions and views. However the reality is it shows societies mindset of people with care needs and I think that’s worth writing about.

The majority of the people we interviewed seemed shocked or surprised that I was present during the interview. I was introduced at the start of each interview by my daughter as Carol and it wasn’t until later on in the interviews that it became fully apparent to each candidate that if they were successful I was the person they’d be working with. The person who needed the support and the reason why they would be employed as support workers.

This confused me as in most jobs I have ever been interviewed for, the departmental head or person I would be working with as sat in on the interview, they have been part of the interview panel. Why should this not be the case for people who need care and support, after all it’s my home these people will be working in, my daily life they invade.

Now don’t get me wrong I appreciate the fact that in a hospital or care home the service users may not be part of such processes currently, so it may for some seem unusual for me to be there. But just because I have support needs and a mental health diagnosis doesn’t render me unable to be part of this decision process. Direct payments allow and enable service users to be involved in their care and in the recruitment and employment of the people who work with us.



I feel that whilst direct payments are now available, societies views in general haven’t quite caught up yet. We still as a society assume that people who need care; people like me, are not meant to be involved in their care. One of the things I found before I transferred from organised structured social care companies to direct payments was I felt dictated to, with decisions imposed upon me. Direct payments empower me to be involved and yet that still surprises the majority of people, I do wonder if and when attitudes will change.

I am fortunate that I can be part of the interview and selection process for my support, I am fortunate that my daughter enables and empowers me to be a part of this. She knows that I need her guidance and advise, I know I couldn’t as yet be the person who undertakes all the paperwork and other issues that evolve from being an employer. I am grateful my daughter is able to take on that role but we agreed at the outset I would be involved in my care.

My daughter is obviously aware of my limitations and my mental health and she ensures everything is organised so I don’t need to worry. She deals with staffing issues, holidays and sickness leave and she organises the payroll and time sheets. When it comes to recruitment she organises the adverts and the application forms and at interviews she helps me to organise the questions we are going to ask. She takes a clear active role in the whole process and yet the decision regards who we employ is a joint one.

I wonder though about those who don’t have someone to help, how do they manage to organise all these issues. Does their local authority offer the support they need and does it really empower them in the way it should. I once attended a meeting about direct payments organised by my local council and it became apparent that most people there were not receiving support because of their mental health. The fact is very few people who need support as a result of a mental illness are encouraged to use direct payments, I believe that’s wrong. Unless that changes, then how can societies attitudes change about service users being present at interviews. Unless hospitals and care homes include service users on selection panels how can it become the norm to be inclusive and not exclude.

I did sit through all the interviews and I feel it went well, we are having a really tough time making the right decision over who to employ. We were blessed with some really great candidates and now my daughter and I are trying to evaluate those individuals to determine who is best for the job. I know I couldn’t do this without her support and her guidance to keep me on track, I doubt she realises how much it means to be allowed to be involved in my care. But it means so much to have a choice, to be able to make decisions and not to feel dictated too.

I know that I couldn’t make any choice if I wasn’t present at interviews and given these people will work with me in my home, it is right that I get to be involved in choosing who my support workers are.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014


Please note this blog is not a criticism of any of the people who I interviewed last weekend, neither will anyone’s surprise at my participation in the interview process play any part in the decision we finally make.

Rebuilding Relationships With My Children



Part two…

Whilst this is a stand alone blog You may find it useful to read part 1  ‘parenting with mental health issues’


Five years ago I faced the realisation that my relationships with my children were no longer that of a parent and child. My children who had been teenagers when I was first admitted to psychiatric services were now adults, adults with their own lives without me.

They had developed a very strong sibling bond that had sustained them throughout my time in hospital and my sons saw their big sister as being more like a mum to them than me. I was no longer able to offer them the support and guidance I once had, I was discharged from hospital but that didn’t mean I was suddenly well. I still had complex issues and needs and I had become very institutionalised by the system.

When I came home from hospital that last time I was in truth still a mess, I carried a bear constantly and I was afraid of basic everyday things. I would ask if I was allowed to make a drink using the kettle because I hadn’t been given freedom to do that for what felt like forever. I was so drugged on medication that I napped in the day and I was switching rapidly and dissociating a great deal. I wasn’t that used to living in the community, it had been something I hadn’t done for a while and it felt alien to not have to seek permission to go out. Taking medication without having to queue at a hatch felt weird and the TV seemed like a frightening object which scared me.

Initially it was agreed that I would stay with the family, that wasn’t so straight forward as I was no longer in a relationship with the children’s dad. But I moved into what had been the dining room, everyone else arranging for a bed and other furniture to be provided. It felt alien in the house which now felt odd and not my home, the kitchen which had once been mine now felt like my daughters territory.

My sons were both away at university still, my youngest came home every weekend whilst my oldest son returned in the holidays. My daughter was working and my former partner was busy too so it was decided that in order for this to work I needed care in the daytime. My returning home caused disruption to everyone’s life’s, it meant my family once again had to accommodate me and my needs. I had support workers every day of the week in order to cope with life in the community, support workers who came each morning and invaded not just my home but the families too.

Initially I just felt strange and uncomfortable with the children, they were noisy, they interacted so well together and I felt detached. I soon realised that I knew very little about what was going on in their lives, despite regular contact during my time away. I only knew very basic information and not the things I felt I needed to, I didn’t know their favourite TV shows or who sat where on the sofa, day to day things that mattered now I was home.

It soon became apparent to me that we needed to rebuild our relationships, especially as they seemed to tip toe around me for fear of upsetting me. They worried about me self harming or trying to commit suicide to such an extent it frustrated me, I wanted them to trust me. I felt like they didn’t believe me when I said I wanted to live, to rebuild my life. We often talked about our feelings and frustrations with them but how could they trust me when the mum they last knew was on mission self destruct.

I suggested that they see me as a friend and not a mum because my sons especially seemed to have found a surrogate mum in their sister. I had to accept my daughter now ruled the kitchen and I needed to not get upset when my sons turned to their sister for advice and not me. It wasn’t easy but over time I think I adapted into my new role within the family.

I moved to my own flat a few months later which I think helped everyone, though I knew they worried frantically about me at times and I felt more detached from the family. Moving was the right step for everyone and gave me time to observe and rebuild my life as a mum. The toughest thing for me has been when my eldest son told me he wanted to get his sister a Mother’s Day card, because she was more like a mum to him than me. It was painful to hear but I know it was true too, she had been there when I wasn’t and he is grateful to her for that.


Today my daughter is my best friend, she and I have now learnt to trust one another more and I believe she has learnt to let go and not worry about me as much. It’s taken time yet slowly we have found our way through a minefield of emotions and come safely out the other side. I feel like her her mum now, a mum who can offer advice and go shopping with her, a mum who can laugh with her too.  She lives nearby so visits or calls me every day and she no longer fears I will suddenly disappear never to return.

My eldest son has returned from university and together we have found mutual interests which have helped us forge new bonds. He now lives with me though he says that at times that’s hard because of my switching and my dissociative symptoms, I know he gets frustrated when I lose things and then panic looking for whatever I have lost, but we also laugh and have fun too. He is learning to seek my advice as well as his sisters, and he has slowly learnt to trust me again. He has got used to my alters and now understand which cartoons the littles like to watch.

My youngest son is a bit of a workaholic and very much like me in lots of ways, we have found mutual interests that have enabled us to spend time together. We both enjoy music and theatre so have been to a few concerts, having time with him is precious especially after so long apart. I know he sees me as mum again though I know he still seeks out his sisters advice too. Initially we struggled to find time together but now have found that it’s important for us both to make an effort to spend quality time one on one. Even though he works what sometimes feels like non stop he makes an effort to call or text most days.

The relationships I am now building with all my children are built on solid foundations, together we have all rebuilt our relationships. The children have been extremely forgiving and also very much appreciate that having Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t easy for me. They understand D.I.D so well and are so sensitive to not only mine but other people’s mental well being. Carving out a new relationship with each of them hasn’t always been easy, but having maintained contact and visits during my admissions has helped so much with this process.

I know I am truly blessed to have 3 wonderful, compassionate children who understand me and my alters, their love, compassion and tenacity truly amazes me. I look forward to their calls and enjoy spending time with them and doing fun things with them, I know they feel the same way. We all could have let the experience of my long term hospitalisation destroy our relationships instead we have worked together to build better, stronger bonds with each other.

Being a parent is a blessing and I nearly lost that when I tried to end my life, I appreciate how much I hurt them when I self harmed or went missing. My children mean the world to me and being their mum is the greatest gift I have, reclaiming being their mum was a gift they gave me. For no matter how much I tried I couldn’t have reclaimed that role without their help, the fact they were able to be tolerant of my needs and understanding of my past was crucial.

Today we are no longer just friends, I am mum too, reclaiming that parental role has meant lots of changes for them and for me and yet today we are a secure family and we love each other very much.


Copyright DID Dispatches 2014