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