Crossing the pond for a great DID conference

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I’m writing my blog today sitting on a plane, which hopefully will take me safely to Orlando in Florida. Now yes Florida does mean sunshine, golden beaches and Mickey Mouse but more importantly it also means the Healing Together conference organised by An Infinite Mind.
Now in it’s fifth year this conference is a fabulous event and one I am determined to go to if I can, I was first introduced to this event in 2012 and I’ve so far managed to attend twice.

Each time I have been privileged to hear speakers with a wealth of knowledge and experience talk about various aspects of dissociation and dissociative identity disorder. I have also been honoured to meet survivors who like me have D.I.D and their families and I have made many friendships. I have been very inspired by some of those I have met and really feel it has given me much hope of a future living life with dissociative identity disorder.

 

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This year I am attending the conference accompanied by my daughter and together we are speaking on ‘parent and child dynamics and multiplicity’. The talk will include the journey we have taken as a family, what’s worked and what hasn’t and will raise some of the key issues for both survivors; who are parents and family members. As a family we know that we have faced some big dilemmas as a result of my dissociation and there have been times when all of us have made mistakes. Mistakes that disrupted relationships and caused more heartache, mistakes we have learnt from and mistakes which we intend not to make again.

There are challenges for me as mum, how and when I told my children, how I told other family members. There were fears too, would they understand, how would they react and would they reject me. I was shocked by the children’s response, they were relieved to discover why I was always changing my mind, losing awareness and forgetting things. Because despite me not telling them what was happening in my life for years, hiding as best I could the switching they noticed.

My children faced challenges too especially when their mum suddenly became a young alter who announced she couldn’t be their mum, she was too young. They have had to explain to friends that mum might suddenly change, with different voice tone and behaviours. It really hasn’t been easy for them at all and it’s taken us all time to grew and develop coping mechanisms that work.

There have been lots of hard lessons to learn and our talk is about sharing how we have progressed as a family unit and how we manage to have positive relationships. There are some key issues that people need to understand, but the biggest of all is that despite everything I am still a parent. My children tell me I’m a good parent and having D.I.D doesn’t prevent me from giving my children the nurture and love they need. Family life is possible with D.I.D, yes it isn’t easy but with the right things in place and lots of understanding on both sides it can and does work.

The talk is also helpful for professionals who work in this field as it’s helpful for them to understand some of the issues faced by trauma/highly dissociative clients and their families. It’s helpful to grasp how as a parent I feel a failure at times because of my switching and that how my family and friends have reacted to my multiplicity has impacted greatly upon me. One of the key things I have found is that therapists see me for an hour a week, whatever happens there may impact my entire week. The reality is that therapy alongside the trauma, flashbacks and body memories which are part of my life impacts upon me and impact upon family 24/7 to one degree or another.

Alongside presenting at the conference I have the joy to listen to other great speakers, meet old friends and learn some valuable things as well. The conference opens up new avenues and allows those who attend to learn more about D.I.D at the same time as providing me and my daughter opportunities to meet others in similar situations to ourselves. The healing together conference really is an invaluable event and one I thoroughly enjoy attending.

 

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Now as I said at the start of this blog it’s in Orlando, Florida, it must be good I’m travelling a few thousand miles to attend and it attracts others to travel long distances also. Now beside the event itself which is held over the course of a weekend I’m intending to spend a week in Mickey Mouse territory, this is one place where it is acceptable for adults to be children. It’s a space where my little alters can be out and I don’t need to worry, I find this a useful opportunity for all of me.

I will try and keep you posted with how it goes and will be updating my blog as the next ten days progresses. Hopefully there will be lots of fun, laughter and enjoyment alongside virtual therapy courtesy of my very accommodating and helpful psychologist. Till the next blog post Happy Holiday Greeting from sunny Florida.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Triggers and the Power of the Brain

 

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The brain is an amazing organ it carries my memories in ways I find difficult at times to conceptualise. This week for instance a simple smell triggered me and sent my brain into overdrive, it was yet another example of the way my memories are stored away, hidden from my consciousness.

I had no idea time travel could be so sudden, but sudden it was and yes it does feel like time travel, as in my mind I was catapulted back to an age long ago. The simple smell of a workmen was just too much for my brain to bear and so it kicked into overdrive and protection mode. I’m told that the brain stores memories in many ways, smell being just one of them. In this case the workman triggered a memory that wasn’t pleasant, a memory that evoked fear and a sense of heightened risk.

Triggered by the smell my brain reacted and suddenly fear gripped me, fear of a man long dead but who still can send me into a spiral of terror. The reality of course is my body faces the flight or fight response and then in heightened alertness reacts to the memory that is evoked. Not long ago such a trigger would instantly send me hiding under a desk, or squeezing into a tiny safe space though thankfully not as often anymore. Now at times I am able to ground myself and reverse the time travel, the hyper vigilance and the fear.

On this occasion a part of me was back in 1970 and she was gripped by fear, but I was able to reassure myself and that part of me, that we were safe. I was able to explain that the risk we feared was only a memory and thankfully not real, we were just remembering a time from long ago. However it wasn’t easy as at first I was taken by surprise, I didn’t even know what had triggered me into feeling so terrified.

So unsure was I of the reason for this overwhelming fear that I had to ask internally for help, as I tried to rationalise the situation. The fact was nothing except having a workman in our home had changed, so it was quite easy to establish it was something relating to him. I soon realised his odour stood out and an inside part was able to make me aware that this was what was causing them such fear.

As my mind raced with memories of the man who I feared back in 1970, flashes of memories overwhelmed. I recalled his actions which I feared then and sadly fear now, I recalled the abuse he inflicted upon me as a small little girl. I recalled him, his shouting, his aggression, his awful actions which he inflicted upon me despite my protests.

The poor workman had no idea he had caused me such distress, but in truth he hadn’t, all he had done was kick my brain into overdrive. Now hyper vigilant I realised I needed to act so I opened windows, lit fragrant candles and tried desperately to reduce the odour. I did my best to avoid the workman and when he had finished I grabbed the room freshener and sprayed it around everywhere. All the time I was internally communicating to those parts who were frightened, offering reassuring and trying desperately to ground us into 2015.

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As the odour dissipated my brain reactions slowed and began to get back on an even keel, the time travel that had gone on in my mind stopped and I was firmly stood in today. I was able to settle myself down and resolve the fears by thinking logically and yet also acknowledging the past.

The reality of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder though is that there will be times when I am triggered, by smells, sounds, objects of one kind or another and by people who just so happen to remind me of others. These triggers will occur without warning and they are all around me, it’s impossible to avoid them all. I’m aware of some of the more frequent ones, but not all of them and yes there will be new triggers that I unearth,

The truth is my brain stored those things as being dangerous, and associates those triggers with risk, with pain and fear and so today the brain reacts accordingly when it senses the danger. My brain goes into overdrive yet by doing so it keeps me safe too, it instantly sounds the alarm that risk and danger may be around and I have time to react. It may at times be inconvenient, it maybe difficult to deal with and yet it demonstrates my brain is functioning and doing it’s job of warning me of protecting me.

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Today I just need to be able to establish what risk there really is and act accordingly, I know overtime I will get better at doing that and my time travelling will lessen. I’ll be grateful when that happens, till then I best keep my tardis close to hand.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

It’s been a rough week – illness and DID

 

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The past week has been a bit of a nightmare I have had a really bad virus of some kind, so with a whole host of symptoms I have felt really quite unwell. The problem is that means I have just wanted to curl up in a ball and hide, I have had days were I just slept for hours, others were I’ve shivered and felt rough and others were I have had no energy at all.

The impact isn’t just physical however, as being unwell has meant many plans have had to change and that’s upset many of the different parts of me, my alters. My intended trip to the beach with my teen alter didn’t happen and time with the little parts was forgotten as I slept through the cartoon time. It’s not so easy being unwell but it seems even more difficult as someone who is fragmented, someone who has many different parts of me.

Now as I sit and recover I’m trying to rebuild bridges with those alters who have at times felt that I have once again neglected them. It isn’t uncommon for me to be building bridges it’s a skill I’m learning to be quite good at, after all I am forever making comments that I later regret and which upset some part of me. I’m also very good at trying to block the other parts of me at times and then have to re build a rapport with the part who I have just physically and emotionally ignored.

Some of my bridge building I’m told is because like many with Dissociative Identity Disorder I still have moments of denial, denial of the past and denial of the alters. I’m fortunate at times that the other parts of me are very tolerant and very understanding of my mistakes, we would be in a much worse state if they weren’t.

During the past week one of my little parts as been very vocal at reminding me she is around, when I couldn’t talk because I had no voice, she filled my head with her words. She made it clear she didn’t like feeling poorly and she was sick and tired of me coughing and coughing. She’s told me that she wasn’t impressed our daily routine of having time first thing each morning had stopped. It seems being ill was clearly no excuse for ignoring the other parts of me and I soon gathered that she was unhappy.

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Now as I have started to recover despite still having limited energy my little part has at least been happy to watch cartoons again and to be able to have that agreed time each day. Though she’s not too impressed my energy levels are lower than low and so I’m currently running at tortoise pace or slower. Other parts too are around some more prominent than others, I am developing a real bond with those parts of me who I now sense more regularly, my teen who only 7 or 8 months ago I would block and fear for being overwhelmed by her emotions is one such part.

It’s hard to imagine how she use to overwhelm me, take control and leave me a virtual wreck as her emotions, her pain, her anguish would flood me and I’d collapse in floods of tears. Today we communicate and that’s been the result of a lot of hard work,we still rarely communicate with words however, but ideomotor signals are amazing and so helpful. They have been a real breakthrough for me and my teen part and even today I know whilst I still know so little of her anguish, she at least is learning to trust me and I’m learning to not block her.

She has been truly great this last week reassuring me when I have felt down and dejected at feeling so unwell, she seems to know when I need that reassurance far more than other parts.
Despite missing the beach an activity we both enjoy and share, she has forgiven me and is far more able to understand the reasons why, than perhaps the little parts can.

 

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Of course all my parts, my alters are just different fragmented parts of me, fragmented as a result of my past. However I can’t change the past but I can learn to shape the future and even being unwell has been an opportunity to take time to reflect and to work at understanding the alters better. I realise being ill has impacted all of me, parts included and together we are trying slowly to recover on a steady slow path of progress. Each day if we manage one more thing then that’s helpful, I’m having to learn to pace myself far better and accept what I can and can’t do right now.

Most of all I’m learning that I can’t ignore my alters, even when I feel unwell they still need the time and space to be. I guess despite being a nightmare of a week I have still made progress, well progress that matters. For me that’s me and my alters getting to know each other a bit better and learning to work together no matter how ill we might feel.

(The pictures for this blog have been chosen by the little parts of me.)

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

My Battle With ‘Self Harm’

TRIGGER WARNING

 

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The feelings come suddenly swooping down and descending upon me, the darkness hits me when I least expect it. I’m use to my mood changing, it fluctuates quite often as I switch from one alter to another but this is different. A part of me is clearly struggling and her mood is more lower than usual, she feels despondent and so negative and I am finding it difficult to know what to do.

This alter, this part of me has never been so evident until now and yet suddenly the emotions and feelings overwhelm. She loathes herself and it’s seeping slowly into me and whilst I try to not feel so negative it’s in built in some weird kind of way. I was never good enough as a child and it’s clearly influenced my thinking and now I’m more aware of just how self critical and self loathing I am prone to be. So it’s no wonder my feelings this week have been far more negative than in recent months and it’s impacting upon life.

I wrote earlier this week about the desire to self harm being strong, I thought it might be helpful to explain what that’s like for me. The urges come from nowhere suddenly appearing and so powerful and strong, they start often without any warning and they catch me by surprise.

The other night I couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard I try it just wasn’t happening and I felt on edge and agitated. I couldn’t explain why I was so anxious or agitated I really didn’t understand, however I did know I felt a dark cloud hanging over me. I tried distraction, relaxation techniques and even the hot drink that I knew my crisis worker would suggest yet nothing worked. As the time ticked by once again and I felt exhausted but still couldn’t sleep my feelings towards myself sank lower and lower. I guess I get illogical at these times in some kind of way and soon everything bad that ever happened in my childhood was my fault, I was bad, I was to blame. Then began the urges, I found myself searching for objects that I could use, I haven’t done that in a while. A few years ago I wouldn’t have had to search, the blades were close by and all I had to do was take a few paces to find one.

Now I have a somewhat different tactic I try not to have any blades in the house, yes there are knives in my kitchen but they are usually not great ones more blunt than anything. So I had begun looking at things and deciding what to use, I was logically working out where I would cut to avoid it being seen by others. My children are far more sharp eyed these days and I can’t just hide a scar like I use to, as all these thoughts raced through my mind the urge to cut was growing stronger by the minute. My head was a whirlwind, voices raced away in conversation some clearly urging me on whilst others condemned me. Meanwhile others mainly my protector alter were stating quite clearly that harming wouldn’t help and telling me I didn’t want to do this.

The feelings of confusion kept growing and tears were streaming down my face, in truth when I’m strong and coping with life I don’t want to harm, but I know I might and that is something I have to accept. You see harming is my default position when emotions become too strong too much to bear and when I feel I’m bad it’s even harder. I looked at my arms and I saw my veins and began thinking of the her DNA, her blood running through me. I can never escape the reality that my Mother made up half of my genetic code and without her I wouldn’t be here. Years ago I wanted to just cut her out of me, but of course that isn’t possible and I found out that after years of cutting and harming it didn’t eradicate her from me. So today I know that deep down I can’t take her away by hurting me, maybe that’s why I worked harder than ever the other night at trying to stop myself from giving in to the urges to harm and eventually resorted to extra medication yet again to help numb my pain.

The desire to harm has continued at a pace this week often linked to feelings of anguish and turmoil and the pain of years ago suddenly overwhelming me clearly demonstrates that healing hurts. I think feeling such self loathing and negativity; it’s been stronger than ever recently, hasn’t helped either as I feel I need to be hurting physically not just emotionally.

This evening I had been doing ok and then it swooped out from above and descended like a thick heavy cloud squishing me. I felt like my heart was being ripped in two and tears began to stream once more down my face. The feelings of self loathing grew instantly like a huge crescendoing wave battering me as if I’m being tossed in a storm. I realised I was scratching my arm, desperate to self inflict harm, desperate to hurt me for being so pathetic and so definitely to blame for my past. I want to somehow express in a physical sense the emotional hurt I am feeling, but I know self harming isn’t going to stop this pain well not for long anyway.

I am surrounded in lots of ways by a loving family and tonight my daughter and eldest son have been a big help. They have phoned me often, made me cups of tea, distracted me, reassured me and generally badgered me. Telling me how good I am, how it’s not my fault and reminding me of the words my psychologist has said about not being to blame. It hasn’t stopped the urges far from it, but it’s helped me reach into my tool box of resources and work at trying to stay safe.

Earlier this week my psychologist kindly emailed me and I have re-read his email over and over, slowly the words are sinking in. Slowly all the stabilisation work we have done in the last year of therapy is coming to the forefront of my mind and I’m able to use it to good effect. Internally parts of me are hurting, others though are rallying to help and yes my protector has been telling me I deserve better and reminding me who was to blame in the past. My teen alter has also been present and using her way of communicating to reassure me, I know my distress impacts upon her and I don’t want to hurt her. It’s strange how getting to know my parts, my alters has meant I care about them more and as such I don’t want to cause them more distress.

I’m still here and I’m still trying to not self harm, but if I do please don’t look down at me or think I’m attention seeking or bad. If you only knew how hard it was, the anguish and the pain we go through, then maybe you’d understand why it’s difficult to not self harm. Why I’m in the midst of a battle and I’m not sure if I’ll win.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Facing the Shame and Guilt of being Groomed

TRIGGER WARNING !!!!

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Over the past few weeks it’s been very hard to write a blog, so my apologies for not posting very much recently. The holidays have caused me to face some memories from my past which have been extremely difficult and that I have found very painful and challenging.

It all started with a new alter who emerged one day as I tried to give my little alters time, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion I felt scared and a sadness that was blacker than black. It felt dire and it really was difficult to feel, I tried to find out who these feelings belonged to and so I asked inside. Suddenly the new alter appeared, she’s aged I guess about 8 or 9, I’m basing that on two things one this is definitely a little alter and two the memories that have surfaced revolve around a very specific time period in my life. Her only questions to me were quite specific, ‘was she bad’ and ‘why did her mummy not love her’.

Trying to find answers to these questions was difficult, I know she is not bad but were does one start with the question regarding my Mother. My Mother clearly didn’t love me, not even for a minute and she was intent on making sure I knew that especially as a child. Yet even now I find it impossible to explain why, some tell me she was mad, others bad, I just see her as someone whose actions and reactions were incomprehensible to any sane person.

I was able the first time to sit with these feelings and reassure my alter who settled after a while and disappeared from my radar again. Over the next few days she kept appearing and mainly it was her feelings I felt, alongside the voice in my head which joins the cacophony of voices that I live with most days as a result of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Over time my head was filled with memories of specific incidents and people, times in my past that I really wish I could leave behind. I found myself sitting and thinking, remembering what I did know yet had chosen to block away and yet at the same time dealing with memories of things I had not fully recalled before. Alongside these came the emotions that I guess stem from this time but which I have never really felt before, it’s as if I am reliving the events of decades ago.

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It’s not time travel but it’s the nearest thing to it, I’ve been catapulted back to 1974 yet I’m living in 2015. I’ve travelled back to a small rented house on the edge of a mill town in Yorkshire, relived in my mind the horrors of a man who skilfully played me. I say skilfully play because that is what he did, he spent months grooming me in full knowledge my Mother wouldn’t object. My Mother introduced him to me when he was on bail for offences against children, she knew his bail terms and she allowed him to break them in our home; until he was sent to prison for his crimes against other youngsters.

He wasn’t like other abusers who bullied me, threatened me or were violent and aggressive towards me, no he was different he befriended me. He made me feel like I was safe, he provided stability in the utter chaos that was my existence back then and he cleverly orchestrated to break down my barriers and then psychologically played me. He spent months helping me with my school work, stepped in and protected me from my Mothers chaotic random behaviours and he gave me time and attention. In fact for years I thought this man was my friend, a friend who cared, who was a calming influence in my childhood. Then the memories began and about 10 years ago I started to realise things were not as idyllic as I had convinced myself they were. I began to remember his actions, the things that really happened that I had blocked out for so long. I realised it was at those times I had dissociated away to avoid the pain, but a part of me still lay there took the abuse and carried those memories that for years stay hidden from me.

It is this part I’m now engaging with, this child that is me who was betrayed and conned by a man who groomed me to such an extent that I didn’t need physical coercion in order to fulfil his requests, he psychologically had full control of me. This man had played with my head so much that looking back if he had told me to jump off a bridge into a deep river whilst weighed down with a heavy weight, I would have.

This man was a career paedophile who knew from the moment he first met me what he wanted to achieve. Then he skilfully worked at getting what he wanted, whilst at the same time making me carry all the shame and the guilt. This week that shame and guilt carried by my alter has for the first time really hit home with me, I have felt it and I am now trying to deal with it and survive.

To say shame and guilt is overwhelming would be an understatement, the feelings of disgust with myself is so bad that my skin feels like it’s crawling. I feel dirty, I feel soiled and I feel like I am bad.
I know logically none of the abuse was my fault, but what my head knows my heart doesn’t and so the emotions are intense as are the feelings they evoke. I have had such a strong desire to self harm this week that at one point I sat looking at tools to use, trying to decide which one was best. I haven’t planned in such a way for ages and it felt like a huge battle just to stay safe, thankfully with the help of additional medication I have been able to do so thus far.

My abuser will be old and wrinkly now I don’t think he is dead, I doubt he ever thinks of me but this past few weeks he is at the forefront of my mind. What happened over 40 years ago is being played out all over again.

My job now isn’t to dissociate it’s to keep talking with my alter, keep building a rapport and trust with her and it’s to feel my feelings that she’s held for so long. My job now is to learn to feel these emotions, and deal with them so that they no longer hold such a stronghold over me. As my psychologist told me this week this won’t be easy and it will take time and work. I know right now its a challenge and it hurts, it’s the first big test of the skills I have learnt in the past year of therapy. I can only hope I manage to survive this without too much damage or harm to myself.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015