Exactly one year ago today I sat down for the first session with my new psychologist, I can recall the feelings of nervousness and anticipation as I travelled to the appointment. My head was filled with questions, would this work? would it be ok? what if he felt after the settling in period that he couldn’t work with me or vice versa? Its funny how despite meeting him for an assessment a few months earlier I really had no idea what to expect as I walked up to the door. I prayed before that first session and every session since as for me my faith is an integral part of my healing and my life.
That first session was more a general discussion, he told me that I would have 1 hour a week in therapy and so the rest of the week I’d have to implement the techniques we would discuss. He made it clear that he couldn’t make me better, he didn’t had a magic wand and that moving forwards was basically down to me, supported of course by him. He also told me that there would be times when I might find myself not liking him or his advice, but that if I ever felt like that I needed to tell him and we could discuss it.
I came home realising that I had a big task ahead of me, after all there are 168 hours in a week and it’s me and my alters without therapy for 167 of them. Suddenly realising there wasn’t a magic wand wasn’t easy, I guess a part of me had always hoped that therapists like doctors make you well, now I knew that wasn’t the case. But I also felt a sense of optimism in that he treated me like an equal, respected my contribution, saw me as a person and he didn’t seem to judge me.
It certainly wasn’t a me and them scenario that I had come to know so well in mental health services, that was a huge difference.
I came to realise that he uses analogies a lot and over the last year I have learnt quite a few, I also understand; that as uncomfortable as it can sometimes seem, he understands me better than I do at times. Over the past year I’ve kept a diary and looking back through the pages is a visible reminder of just how far I have come.
A year ago the thought of self talk or internal dialogue was alien, I think I thought it was all a bit bonkers back then, today it’s a natural part of my everyday. In fact I wasn’t very good at first it all felt odd, but in the last year I have learnt so much and I now communicate with some of my parts. From what started as a one way stifled conversation as become a huge world changer for me, I now use both verbal and non verbal communication techniques and I have two way conversations with certain alters.
That dialogue has enabled me to begin accepting the reality that I have D.I.D, the reasons behind that namely the trauma and at least starting to understand that it wasn’t me who was responsible. It has enabled me to face the world and begin exploring life in a way I never thought possible. Using dialogue with my alters has enabled me to grow as a person, I will never forget the feelings I felt when I went paddling for the very first time. This wouldn’t have happened without internal dialogue, without support and encouragement from my psychologist who allowed me to believe it was ok to have fun.
Fun is a concept that for me was hard yet now I enjoy my fun days, be that throwing a frisbee, building a sandcastle, doing art or feeding the ducks. I recall that first time I went paddling the one person I wanted to tell was my psychologist, I wanted him to know how euphoric I felt, it’s a feeling I will never forget. Of course my psychologist had also prepared me for the grief and sorrow that would engulf me after the euphoria had dropped away and boy did it hit me like a tidal wave.
I can recall messaging my psychologist and saying it hurt, his response was to remind that no one said healing didn’t hurt. Yet he also encouraged me to really feel and to accept it was ok to cry, to grieve and to hurt it’s all part of the recovery process.
Over the last year I have been allowed to accept and acknowledge my feelings, what they mean and why they happen. I now know I block certain feelings especially sadness and anger and that my childhood dictates today how I think and react to life’s situations. I’m learning I’m a really self critical person and in the words of my psychologist “I need to stop being so hard on myself”. My latest favourite phrase that I’m trying to remember is that I don’t have to be perfect just ‘Good Enough’, I’m sure it sounds easy enough to remember but actually in reality it’s hard to not fall back to my default position of I’m not good enough. Yet my psychologist has persevered and still even this week reminded me again that I’m doing ok.
A year on and I feel like I have been on a journey, one which has at times hurt like never before, recovery from trauma isn’t easy. I’ve learnt so much about me, my thought processes and thinking patterns, as well as much more and I also understand Dissociative Identity Disorder better now. But most of all I now understand more about the other parts of me; my alters and I understand that working with them makes it easier for me. Dissociating and losing time still happens but the aim is that the frequency of losing time will lessen the more I progress.
Progress can be measured in so many ways, for me the past years therapy has equipped me far better to deal with the trauma. It’s allowed me to laugh, to play, to feel bold enough to spend time on my own and to cook tea without dissociating, all things that seemed impossible before. It’s meant learning to feel, to cry, to grieve and to take bold brave steps such as relinquishing control of this body to the alters at safe and appropriate times. This isn’t a monetary target, like those that health service commissioners would understand, for me progress is measured by the improvements in my quality of life. I can see these changes they are tangible and it feels amazing to realise I’m making progress and I’m able to do more now than I ever dared dream a year ago.
I owe my psychologist so much, because in the last year he has allowed me to begin to reclaim my life, a life stolen from me in childhood. He has enabled me throughout the highs and the lows to feel supported and most of all understood. Knowing there is someone who is skilled enough to help me help myself as I begin to rebuild my life is invaluable. The reality of the past year is I have felt understood, accepted and supported and I feel safe enough in therapy to express my emotions. For the first time I feel safe enough to start to unpack the trauma and I know that I am more able today to deal with that trauma than ever before.
One year on I want people to understand that with the right help, a skilled therapist and appropriate support people like me, people with D.I.D, people with a trauma background can make progress, they can move forwards.
To my psychologist I want to say Thank You, for enabling me to smile, to laugh, to cry, to grow as a person, but most of for encouraging me to believe in myself and make progress, I couldn’t have done any of this without you.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014