The Value of Art in Healing

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In psychology this week I recounted how it was a joy to watch my teen alter painting, and as I recounted her adventures I realised I was laughing. I know that the things we have shared in the past few weeks as I have let her paint have been momentous times. I’m learning through her to have fun and the freedom to express myself through art, whilst also learning it’s good to work with my alters.

Having spoken through ideomotor signalling with my teen it’s been agreed that I can share with you via the blog the adventures we have shared recently. I wanted to ensure my teen me was happy doing this as the last thing I want is to destabilise the relationship I am building with her.

So here goes…..
My teen has helped me have fun in recent months and yet she is nervous and reserved, however in recent weeks I have been allowing her to take control of my body and participate in her own art activities. Some of the time I have not been aware of what has happened during this time but occasionally I have been able to watch on and observe, even though I have no control of the actions of my body it’s better than losing time.

My teen alter was quite keen on painting and so we began to let her experiment with art, it soon became clear she isn’t into just watercolours or poster paints, she likes using acrylics. So after a rather expensive shopping trip art supplies were bought that we marked just for her, I don’t want little parts of me using paints this costly if they are happy with regular less expensive poster paints.
My teen started to try out various techniques and seems to get really engrossed in her art, but the adventure has been fun to share with her.

She began by painting a canvas with precision and care, which apart from needing a protective cover on the table didn’t make much mess. In fact I felt it was good to see the picture developing though I really had no idea what she had in mind. Then however began a new technique which was much messier and that has led to both tears and laughter and a better understanding and acceptance of her.

She likes to be free flowing and so splattering paint around kind of fitted her mood I guess, on the first occasion yellow paint was suddenly not only on the canvas but on the floor, walls, and chairs in my kitchen. I came to awareness to find paint on so many surfaces and as an adult instantly began to clean up and tidy the mess. My teen vanished and it was only afterwards that I realised I had probably frightened her and not been helpful. The adult me is much more concerned about mess than other parts of me and whilst that is good, it can also hinder the freedom to express ones self through art.

After much communication and my apologising for rushing in and not thinking she and I began to repair the damage I had caused. I know my family were concerned at the mess it had caused and my adult son can’t help put point out the yellow paint still adorning the walls. I’m blind to it now as I now realise life is too short to worry over a bit of yellow paint, I can’t quite believe this response from myself but it’s a sign I’m growing as a person too.

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After a few days she returned to her painting though this time she splattered paint outdoors in the garden, red paint did end up on the garden table and lawn but not on any walls. At one point I took back control mid painting as paint went on the table and yet it appears I am not as good at being careful with the paint as she is. I made more mess as I tried to stop mess being created. In the end I dissociated fully and my teen took back control and I lost time!

My PA watched on as my teen rectified my mistakes, my mess and took back ownership of this piece of art. When I came back to awareness the art was on the table drying and I realised I had more apologising to do. It was wrong of me to take back the time I had given her free reign to own and control, it was wrong of me to force my way through in order to try and prevent mess.

Admitting my mistakes, apologising and working at acknowledging her and her rights have allowed me to nurture this part of me, allowed me to forgive myself and overcome fears about making a mess. This fear stems from my past and so it’s been momentous to challenge it and win.

My teen and I had many conversations mainly me saying sorry, accepting her and the fact she is a part of me and carving out a way of working that is suitable for us. No more denial here with her at least, she is a part of me, an alter and I value her and accept her.

This week she completed this art project, I watched on as she carefully took the canvas into the garden and then wearing my best clothes and not painting ones, began splashing paint everywhere. My poor PA had to run for cover a paint flew through the air towards her, narrowly missing her and ending up on the path. The joy I could feel my alter experiencing was palpable, and she was laughing….I was laughing.

By the end she had paint on my body, in my hair, on my clothes, the table, the lawn and the path and yet I really didn’t care. What mattered was this feeling of happiness and carefreeness which I haven’t experienced before. It was a joy to see this part of me letting go and experiencing fun, fun that as a teenager I wasn’t allowed to have. Fun that if I’d had a normal upbringing would have been a part of everyday life. I realised my teen alter and I are catching up on lost time, we are building an inner acceptance that fun is safe as is mess, as is laughing freely.

My teens art is abstract it’s different, but I’m so proud of it, I’m proud that a part of me enjoys art, enjoys being creative. I’m proud that we are working together, sharing this body, sharing time and observing the world through one another. I may not have full control at the times my teen is painting but I’m not losing time as much with her, I’m watching on and seeing and hearing laughter and enjoyment.

My teen is still nervous and reserved, but the feelings she holds of negativity and sadness are just a part of her. She has the ability to have fun and laugh, that’s important for me to know going forwards. I am grateful that internal dialogue in recent months has led to this and I know working with my teen and the other alters I can carve a way forward. Art will play a huge part in this and I’m glad about that it’s already helping me and I’m sure it will continue to do so.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

 

 

 

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Them and Us – The battle lines of Mental Health

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This week has been busy, on Monday I faced yet another Care Plan meeting; my CPA, I wasn’t looking forward to it as I particularly dislike having my meeting at sites that I regard as the medical professionals territory. This meeting instead of being on neutral turf was at the Community Mental Health teams base and so I felt at a disadvantage somehow.

I had to literally force myself to go, I felt so stressed and so wound up about going there, the CPA meetings are bad enough but on their turf it felt like a mountain I didn’t want to climb. I don’t think things were helped by the fact I had not had therapy for 2 weeks so that made me feel somewhat distant from my psychologist who I knew would be there. It’s funny how such a short gap can leave me feeling less secure and at ease with people.

The meeting went fairly well given my mood, it felt as though everyone was pleased at what I was achieving and they said the usual kind of things that are familiar at these events. I found it hard to give eye contact at first which was silly really, but happened to be a phase of that day, the meeting was by far the quickest I have ever had. I was thankful for that and couldn’t wait to get out of the venue and that building.

Looking back I can see my feelings are a little skewed, I mean it’s just a building, it’s just a meeting with people who I’ve met so many times before. I knew the format, who would chair it and I even knew what I wanted to say and had written it down in readiness. So why was I so bothered?

I grew up in an environment that wasn’t always safe, and people would challenge me with questions I couldn’t win no matter what I said. When I first became ill and ended up in secondary mental health services I truly thought these individuals could help me. Instead I felt judged, penalised and worthless even more so than before I entered the system.

That generated a growing feeling of fear and mistrust, a feeling of them and us developed and I suddenly became the person who I felt they all wanted to hate. They certainly controlled me, where I lived, my medication and my observations levels. Even when out of hospital they still had a heavy presence in my day to day life, they decided if I stayed free or was sectioned, if I needed more meds or had to attend things. It really was a surreal existence and a life I didn’t expect for me, I never thought I would be detained against my wishes, restrained or forcibly medicated but it happened.

Those experiences tainted how I viewed these professionals, they no longer had individual identities they were a collective, and in my eyes they were at times the enemy. Just like people from my past they controlled me, they would ask questions all the time often intrusive ones and it felt that I couldn’t answer them right no matter what I said.

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Over the years those feelings of mistrust grew and my attitude towards these medical professionals hardened, the more I felt undermined or belittled the more I responded just as I wish I had done in my past. But of course in my past I didn’t for fear stopped me, as an adult I didn’t fear so much, instead I became belligerent and annoying. I’d challenge people, demand responses, expect answers and object at every turn of events that led me to feel belittled or treated unfairly. I’d ask so many questions as it felt unfair to be treated the way I was and yet looking back it didn’t help me or the staff. Instead it allowed the battle lines to be drawn, further barriers to be erected creating an increasingly them and us culture.

I don’t think I was unreasonable, I was merely trying to express my opinion at a time when everyone was making wrong assumptions about me. If I had stayed quiet and complied, I’d have just felt like a puppet such as I did as a child controlled by my mother. That wouldn’t have helped either and I would most probably have still endured all that I did within the mental health system anyway.

However I had a bit of an epiphany moment after the meeting on Monday, one of my PA’s and my psychologist have helped me to reconsider my thinking. To see things in a different context and understand that the so called enemy isn’t quite as it seems.

I realised this week that these people, and in particular the community team are just doing there job. They are trying to understand me and my rather complicated diagnosis, they are operating in a system that’s all ready defined for them by the people at the top. Most of all they are trying to help me and now they treat me with respect and listen to my views, they don’t judge and they are not overly critical either. In fact they reinforce positive beliefs, telling me how well I am progressing and helping me to remember just how far I have come.

My fears on Monday were based on the past, on the reinforced thinking from my youth and the way some Mental Health staff treated me in hospital and secondary services. Yet it’s wrong to judge them based on someone’s else’s behaviours, it doesn’t do me any good either as I live in a state of fear. I ended up building a barrier between these people instead of learning to trust and develop mutual respect.

Today I can see that the healthcare professionals involved in my care now are not a collective enemy they are caring individuals who work hard to ensure I am treated with respect. They are trying to ensure I am treated as an equal and have a right to express my views, most of all all of us are working together to keep me moving forwards and making progress.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Feeling Low

Feeling Low

 

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Over the past couple of days my mood has taken a dip and I have felt flat and emotional, I want to curl up in the safety of my pillow fort but I haven’t. Instead I have tried to carry on as if it’s business as usual still going about my daily life even though the impact of doing so is not good.

By trying to keep going and attempting to shake off these feelings I have just piled even more pressure on myself. Instead of self-care and being gentle with myself and all my parts I am desperately attempting to ignore my own needs and carry on as normal. That’s included travelling a couple of hundred miles to visit a relative for a few hours, visiting my Dads grave which I don’t do often enough, seeing my son off to college and attending my care plan meeting.

Just one of these things would be enough to wear me out at present so all together they have been exhausting. Exhausting not just physically but emotionally too and yet I doubt many people will have even picked up on the signs I’m struggling. I am sure it’s something many people do, hide away their own difficulties, pretend everything is going well and yet behind close doors fall apart.

I hate the fact I feel the way I do, it’s so hard to deal with emotions which I can’t really describe adequately and that I am not sure which part of me they belong to. I currently cannot tell you who I am or which part of me has control as my emotions have flatlined and I’m as baffled as everyone over who is feeling like this. I’d like to say it’s not me but another part of me, yet I can’t be certain of that, for all I know these may well be my feelings.

Yesterday I felt as if I just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide away instead I pretended I was ok, I wore a fake smile and I sat and ate dinner with my relative in a busy restaurant. I tried to make polite conversation and tried hard to listen to what was being said; whilst losing half a sentence here and there.

 

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Today I sat in a meeting with healthcare professionals and tried to sound positive and look ok, I made an effort to engage with people, even though at times giving eye contact was the last thing I wanted to do. I tried to sound positive and talk about the progress I know that I have made and yet inside I felt confused and low in mood. I didn’t feel positive in fact if I’m truthful I feel quite pessimistic currently, this flat lining of mood is really annoying and it’s hard to shake off.

I openly admit I’ve been keeping overly busy in the past couple of weeks to avoid feelings, trying to ignore the drop in my mood. Yet I have had some positive days added into this mix as well so it’s all been a bit confusing and messed up. I’m not averse to saying I dislike feeling as I do, I’d quite like to know which part of me is struggling so much right now because it’s bringing us all down.

I’d appreciate having the chance to help whichever part of me is finding life tough and recognise that maybe this is their way of communicating with me. However I really can’t think what I need to do to make my mood lift and yet you’d think by now I’d have these answers, it’s not the first time my mood dropped and I can’t be certain it will be the last.

This week life is rather chaotic and so just being gentle with myself and hibernating isn’t possible right now, though I know in a weeks time I can once again take time to be me. Realising my diaries becoming too full I’ve already cleared it next week in the hope this will help and I’m attempting to sleep even if it’s disrupted and short currently.

I’ve missed my fun days recently so intend to try to build them back into my routine and I’m back at therapy in a couple of days time after over 2 weeks off, I’m hoping that helps too.
Emotions aren’t always easy to live with and when you seem to have so many different and competing feelings it’s even harder.

No matter how bad I feel right now the reality is at some point it has to get better, until then I can only keep trying to find a resolution to resolve these mood and sleep difficulties. If anyone has any good ideas I’d be glad to hear them.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Living with the Reality of Dissociative Identity Disorder -book release

 

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This week saw the launch of a book that has been in the making for a couple of years, and it’s a delight to finally see Living with the Reality of Dissociative Identity Disorder – Campaigning Voices published. The book edited by Lady Xenia Bowlby and Deborah Briggs is a compilation of individual chapters written by people who are impacted by Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Back in 2010 I saw an article about a campaign day for those survivors and supporters with D.I.D, they were asking if people wanted to speak. I’m not quite sure how it happened but before I realised I had volunteered to get involved. It was a decision that meant in March 2011 I stood before a room full of people and spoke about my life ‘Living with D.I.D’,  I say I but in reality it was a part of me who stood there.

I have an alter named Caitlyn who is the part of me that is super confident at public speaking and is a good trainer. She stood in this room and she presented our story, I think she had decided the best way to explain our story at that time was to use a multi media presentation. Mainly I think because she wanted it to be her work, to be right and we only a short time slot and well our story is quite complicated .

That day was a success and I can recall traveling back home from London with the two people who had supported me on that day feeling it had gone ok. A few months later I was asked if I’d be willing to write a few thousand words on my presentation for a book, a part of me said yes. That book has been 3 years in the making and thanks to the dedication of lots of people and Karnac books is now complete.

A part of me wrote my chapter over a weekend as I sat in a hotel room a few miles from where I now live I knew I couldn’t write this as the presentation we had given wasn’t my work but Caitlyn’s ‘
Whilst Caitlyn is a part of me I had at that time very limited awareness of her, we didn’t have and still don’t internally communicate fully though I try now but it’s still very one sided.

Once that weekend was over in 2011 I kind of put it to one side, I couldn’t tell you what I’d written or how it flowed as it wasn’t me that wrote it. I’d made that very clear in my chapter as it only felt right to give the credit to Caitlyn who I now know slogged away until it felt right. So this week when I received the call to say the book had finally being released I was excited, after all it’s not everyday something like this happens.

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Book available from.  http://www.karnacbooks.com/Product.asp?PID=35245

Imagine my surprise when I went online and saw a few pages from the book as part of a preview, as I read I realised Caitlyn knew more about my internal system of parts then I did. She clearly knows more about me and the life I have had than I can recall, and yet I know so little about her. It’s clear she is far more confident, professional and organised than the majority of me and she is blunt and honest at the same time.

My children tell me that when I or rather Caitlyn was writing essays for my degree she would complain to anyone who interrupted. Apparently she even hung up the phone on them if they disturbed her mid flow and she’s a burner of the midnight oil if she has a task to complete. Be that the chapter for this book, my essays or training presentations. Of course Caitlyn is a part of me, one of many alters and yet she is a fragmentation of this whole person people know as Carol. I’m quite pleased I have a part of me who is good at public speaking and good at writing in this way, it’s a talent and a skill I often lacked as a schoolgirl.

When the book arrived on my doorstep I read the whole of my chapter and yes it was strange to see Caitlyn’s words, I recall some of the events she talks of and yet there are things here and there that I read and think and I wonder was she really writing about me. Though I know of course she was and that the chapter is all about me, all about my life and my past. Its hard to read back about my past, especially seeing her call my mom our other biological parent, it kind of hits home I didn’t have a mom. I know that deep down but denial likes to rear it’s ugly head here and there.

Reading about my time as a child, my time in hospital and the times when my Dad clearly helped me deal with the symptoms of my dissociating from the perspective of another part of me hasn’t been easy. Yet I can say that since this chapter was written 3 years ago I have made strides towards progress. Progress comes in many guises and for me three things stand out. 1. I now manage and employ with help – my own PA’s/ support staff so am free of the retrainsts of a care company which I find is far better, 2. I’ve started having internal dialogue and some side by side working with some of my parts and 3. I’m now with a psychologist who is helping me to learn more about me, all of me. These things are signs of real effective progress, signs that I’m learning to live with D.I.D, most of all I’m learning I am one person with many parts and I can learn to like all of me.

I’m grateful to have been involved in such a great project like this book, it’s a brilliant legacy to the campaign and a huge asset for those working in the field of Dissociation. I’m certain it will be an invaluable tool for many professionals, survivors and supporters and I hope it remains such for many years to come.

I’m pleased I know so many of the contributors for this book, from the art of Kim Noble to the wise words of Ruth Cureton, Deborah Briggs and Oriel Winslow alongside many others. It shows me that the way society treats those with Dissociative Disorders is changing, by working together we can ensure that everyone including myself has a brighter future and a hope for better things to come despite Living with the Reality of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Please note I have not been asked to write this blog by anyone associated with the book nor do I financially benefit from any sales of this book. 

D.I.D – doesn’t mean I have three heads so why was I ignored.

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There are times when I find myself bewildered by events and today was one of those days when I really wasn’t expecting events to unfold in the way they did. I had seen a few weeks ago an invite on social media to an open day at a peer led user support organisation in the city close to where I live. It immediately attracted my attention as I really feel it’s the right time for me to start engaging with such services in my own area.

The organisation were keen to promote their day and I was keen to attend, so this morning I ventured 14 miles from my village to Chester. After difficulties finding the venue which had resulted in my going around in circles for a good half an hour as I dealt with Chester’s roads and it’s one way system I managed to make my way in.

I expected I guess to be welcomed at the door, that people would be chatty and helpful. I hoped I would find out more about the services they offered and other organisations which use the venue. I didn’t expect to feel ignored, judged and isolated but that’s exactly how I felt within a very short time.

There was no one greeting people as they arrived and no one to talk too either, some people who clearly knew one another sat engrossed in conversations as they ate their lunch at the far end of the room seeming somehow distant. Whilst the professionals stood huddled together hovering nearer to the exits, as if service users and mental health and social care professionals couldn’t mix. They eyed me with an air of caution, I did wonder if I had three heads that made me stand out as they looked so concerned.

In the end after studying the display boards and looking at service users art I decided it was time to leave. I felt so upset that no one wanted to even talk to me, what was wrong with me that people couldn’t even say hello. As I walked down the street I felt the tears begin to flow down my face and had to try and deal with so many mixed emotions of various parts of me.

I sat on a nearby street for quite a while, trying hard to ensure that those parts of me who were clearly very upset felt reassured and safe. I also needed to feel settled and less distressed before I could venture home. If I’m honest I was quite shocked by how this situation had made me feel, why should the fact people ignored me make me so distressed. I kept trying to think had something reminded me of past events, was there any other trigger, but I couldn’t make sense of things.

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I thought perhaps people saw me as different, I mean I might not have three heads visible but I do have a complex dissociative disorder and most people I meet for the very first time, well they’ve never heard of this diagnosis before. I know I have found in the past that there is a fear of the unknown and part of the reasons behind starting this blog was to dispel the myths and scepticism that surround Dissociative Identity Disorder. But I didn’t even get chance to say my name, let alone discuss any mental health related topic. So unless I had literally grown three heads suddenly or switched in a very obvious manner I realised it wasn’t my diagnosis that had caused this situation.

As I made my way home I began to reflect on the split between service users and professionals, why is it that the two groups find it so hard to be seen as one collective body interested in Mental Health services. I thought about the service users who were in that room who didn’t engage with me either, were they struggling or feeling as isolated as I was. Most service users I have met have been far more friendly, more engaging, but I also know it’s not always easy if you’re feeling nervous or more vulnerable.

Perhaps some of the professionals lack of engagement is as a result of situations like today, I’m sure if people had encouraged and initiated an interactive dialogue between the groups of service users and professionals in that room today we’d see a change in attitudes. Professionals wouldn’t be so blinkered and service users like me would be less likely to fear the people, who many of us feel hold far too much power. The medicalised model of Mental Health has led me to fear many doctors, nurses and other professionals who at one point in my life controlled everything. I’m even anxious currently at facing my upcoming CPA simply because it’s being held on NHS territory.

Today’s events bothered me and they could have been avoided I’m certain of that, if only a bit more thought and consideration of people’s needs had been taken into account by those organising the event. If only I’d been welcomed, greeted at the door and even introduced to others in the room. Then I would have felt welcome and I’d have wanted to use this service week in and week out, I’d have contributed too. I’m keen to expand my involvement in such organisations not just to take out but to give back too. I’m sure those who run this service tried hard to organise their event and yet sadly failed to think about a simple greeting system.

I know organising an event like this isn’t easy, I’m a trustee of a charity and we make sure we welcome every new and existing member at each and every event we hold. It’s just a natural part of what the charity does and maybe that’s why it hit me so hard today when things went array. My expectations were perhaps of the same kind of welcome I know I give out to people who attend any event I’m involved in facilitating.

I doubt I will get the chance to go back to this organisation it will certainly be hard given parts of me feel rejected and judged by them. I doubt my tweets about what happened will even get a response as organisations rarely take criticism well, even if it’s constructive feedback. I feel that’s a shame my views are honest and fair and I’m not judging anyone, it’s just what happened and perhaps this was an oversight. But I can’t help wondering how many other people ventured into that building today as prospective new users of a valuable service and walked away feeling more isolated, distressed and hurt.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Learning to laugh at myself

 

 

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This week I had to face doing something which I knew might be stressful, it was certainly allowing myself to be slightly out of control as how events unfolded relied on other people’s actions. It taught me a lot about myself and it also offered me an opportunity to recognise yet more signs of when I switch alters.

Imagine if you can suddenly becoming aware that your entire body posture has changed in an instant, yet you don’t think that you feel different emotionally. That was a feeling I encountered this week, suddenly I went from sitting calmly in a neutral position to my arms folded and a rather hunched up position as if in a rather petulant moody mood.

That was what happened to me, from nowhere my body posture changed and I thankfully recognised I was no longer quite in the driving seat of this body of mine, but somewhere between the back seat as an observer and the drivers seat. Not quite out of control but not fully controlling us either. Internal dialogue at a hundred miles an hour seemed to ensue as I asked to stay in control explaining that at this particular point I really needed to be the one in charge of this body.
Thankfully I didn’t dissociate and I managed to stay in the present and carry on driving this body of mine that I share with the other parts of me.

At the time I wasn’t aware if the other people around me realised that I had come close to dissociating, had they seen the sudden changes in me. I wasn’t even sure if I had been aware of all the changes that might have happened so I guess I felt a bit of confusion.

Afterwards I talked to my PA and she and I managed to discuss this from both our perspectives, she had seen the body change, apparently so did my face. Yet other people around us were we think totally oblivious to the changes they certainly didn’t react in any way.

My PA and I managed to laugh about what might have happened if I had switched alters, if a moody annoyed part had come out at that moment it certainly might have been difficult beyond belief. I think it may have shocked a few people who were around, and probably resulted in some damage limitation exercise afterwards. But my PA and I managed to laugh about the possible consequences and how she might have had to intervene. We even laughed about how this particular part of me had surfaced at times in the past and how that had resulted in lots of difficult issues.

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The reality of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder is that life is always for now at least going to be about trying not to dissociate uncontrollably. Instead it’s about giving time and space for the other parts of me, my alters to have time in a safe and structured way. It’s not about constantly walking a tightrope of pretending everything is fine instead it’s accepting that I am fragmented and different and that I need to just do things a little differently to other none D.I.D people.

Yet instead of feeling constrained or blocked by this difference, I am learning to embrace it and I’m certainly learning to laugh at the idiosyncrasies of being dissociative. That includes laughing at those times when I open my wardrobe door and gasp in shock at whichever item of clothing has recently been purchased by another alter. Things I would never wear in my wildest dreams and yet they now hang proudly amongst my clothes.

It includes laughing at the times when I find six of the same product in my house, we have forgot that we bought said item and so bought it again. Right now I’ve got a few bottles of shower cleaner taking root in my bathroom cupboard as we seem to have gone through a phase of buying that product each time we have gone shopping. I’m currently trying to tell all parts of me we don’t need shower cleaner, I’m not sure if it will help or not.

My children and I laugh too about the things they notice, even when I have dissociated and they recount things to me afterwards. There are classic tales we share too, one about the time I took my adult son on a children’s ride in Disney and a little me decided to keep moving the car up and down so he got sprayed with the water jets every time we past a water shoot. Then I as adult me wondering what on earth he had done to get so wet, showing that frustrated mum attitude that all mums get at times, scores highly on my favourites list.

My daughter can tell you how I used to tell her when she was young to get dressed in a morning and then complain about why she was wearing the very clothes I had earlier picked out for her. Dutifully and rather confused she would change into another outfit and then face the same barrage of perplexity from a different part of me. At the time it wasn’t funny, at the time we didn’t know I had D.I.D, but now looking back we can both laugh at those events and that seems a good thing to be able to do.

It would be quite easy to fall into a pit of despair, unsure how on earth we will ever manage to cope. Believe me I’ve been there in that pit and it didn’t help, for the lower my mood got the more I ended up feeling awful and desperate the more I seemed to lose time. Stress does exacerbate my dissociating so it’s no wonder really that feeling low and stressed isn’t helpful. I’ve cried bucket loads before about switching, about losing things, about upsetting the children, you name it I’ve cried over it. Yet it didn’t stop it happening or change anything if I’m truthful it just made me feel more guilty and more desperately anxious and stressed.

You see no matter who we are or our mental health issues the reality is that if you can laugh about things it helps. It gives some light relief to the intensity of a situation and that is why right now I’m glad I’m learning to laugh at myself. I’m learning to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I’m learning it’s ok to be me, all the different parts of me.

Copyright DiD Dispatches 2014

Realising How Unwell I Once Was

 

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This past week I undertook a journey to visit a friend in hospital, she was someone who I met 6 years ago whilst in hospital myself. She had been discharged earlier this year after a very long admission and placed in a supported housing scheme. But the toll of going from 12 years of 24/7 support to no more than 5 hours support a week hasn’t been easy.

The reality is that in just a few months she has had 2 acute hospital admissions and is struggling to cope after years in an institutionalised environment. I have seen her quite regularly but I hadn’t seen her this unwell for many years until this past weekend.

The visit was short as my friend wasn’t able to cope with a long visit however I felt good to have visited her and helped her. However what caused me difficulty was the words of my daughter as we left the hospital. I had stated that it was upsetting to see my friend is so unwell and I asked my daughter how she felt, her response shocked me greatly. She stated that she was fine as she was used to seeing people this unwell having visited me frequently when I was this unwell. I asked her for clarification as I had never in my opinion been that unwell.

After a rather lengthy discussion it became very apparent that in my daughters opinion I had indeed been as unwell as my friend is currently, this was something I had never fully realised. To think that I had been so unwell I couldn’t string a sentence together, couldn’t stay awake and was so doped up on medication that I couldn’t stay focused or hold a cup safely.

My daughter tried to explain that I had been like this and worse and she had often travelled to visit me for over an hour only to get a few incomprehensible words and then have to leave. I started to cry, because I had never realised this before and I felt guilty that I had put my family through all this. It was if you like one of those lightbulb moments when you suddenly see things clearly for the very first time.

I have spent time since thinking this over and talking to my sons as well to ask for their views, it is a harsh reality to realise that at times in the last decade I have been so unwell as to not realise it. That I have been so unwell I haven’t been able to do basic tasks like string a sentence together or hold a cup of tea without spilling the contents. It’s so hard to realise that I was so doped up on medication I no longer walked but shuffled.

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My children tell me they were often relieved when I was like this as it meant that for a brief period I wasn’t in any position to try and end my life. Certainly as my daughter informed me it gave them some light relief from the nightmare that was my desire to take my life.

I have felt so wracked with guilt at the fact my children had to see this, especially when at the worst times they were still of school age. Yet having reflected a while and spoken to my psychologist I realise logically at least I have nothing to be guilty about, I was unwell and couldn’t help how I was. Yet it is still hard to accept that I was once this unwell and whilst I am no longer like that it is still frightening to have never realised I once was before.

I know it is going to take me time to fully forgive myself deep down, to accept I am not to blame for the things that I had no control over. I’m sure some of this is a result of my past and the way I was to blame for everything no matter if it was out of my control.

The visit also raised other issues for me this includes the lack of support available to people leaving long term hospitalisation like my friend and I have both done. It also raises the issue of medication and it’s impact and the often over use of medication in psychiatry, which seems to increase in an inpatient setting.

I know that my friend will not be alone in being failed by services which seem to think it’s acceptable to discharge a patient with such low level support on hand. This is the harsh reality for many people but in my friends case she was hospitalised for over a decade, and so was very institutionalised and required consistent and reliable support. Support that would have allowed her to reintegrate into society in a safe manner and not send her on the revolving door of admissions which seems to be the case currently.

The other main issue I feel is that of medication over use in hospital, I can recall being heavily medicated during my time in hospital. The reality was if something didn’t work they’d add another drug on to your medication chart rather than take any away. Surely this cannot be the solution for many people, I’m not saying medication doesn’t have a role to play it does however that needs to be controlled in a safe manner. The fact is I left hospital taking so many pills at their maximum dose and without much monitoring or control of their effectiveness and I know I’m not alone in this.

I will be visiting my friend again soon and can only hope the staff treating her consider her needs now and in the future. I do wonder if she has any awareness of how unwell she is, I can only hope she hasn’t currently. But I am certain if the day comes when she becomes aware that like me she will feel shock and distress too, I know that whatever happens I will be there to support her.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014