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