Triggers creep up on you when you least expect them, causing chaos internally and sending life into a spiral of fear. That’s what happened to me this past week and I wasn’t expecting it to happen as I ventured for an eye test, after all it was just an eye test. I wasn’t too bothered about the test except I was keen to not lose time and for me and not my alters to take the test, so as I sat waiting I was internally communicating with my alters; the other parts of me.
Suddenly the optician appeared and I was catapulted back in time, gripped by fear and absolutely in chaos inside. I knew this was just an optician, it was 2015 and we were safe, but parts of me didn’t see a random stranger no they saw a rather large, tall lady of similar build to our mother, they sensed the danger that came from our mother. Immediately my emotions were all over the place and as I tried to walk into the test room the terrified parts of me felt grew stronger and stronger.
Try as I might to reassure those parts it wasn’t easy, I kept saying that “we are safe”, “she isn’t her, this lady isn’t mum”, yet it felt like my legs were lead weights. We made it into the room as voices filled my head, the fear was palpable and yet I still knew this wasn’t her, this lady was just the optician. My little parts who were terrified of our mother couldn’t rationalise that at all, they clearly felt we were in danger to them I guess it wasn’t 2015 but more like the 1970’s.
I kept trying to work at staying there, staying present and staying in the here and now, parts wanted to bolt out of that room, to escape. Of course that is not an ideal response and I knew that, I knew we had to stay, we had to take this test. As the test began I was desperately clinging to be in today’s reality, to be upfront and in control of this body and so the internal dialogue between me and my fragmented parts of me was constant. I kept praising them, offering reassurance and telling all of me I was safe even though it didn’t feel like I was. My emotions were all over the place, terror, fear, anguish, anxiety and dread gripped me, my heart was beating fast, it felt like it was going to bounce straight out of my chest. My breathing was faster, I was taking short gasping breaths as the panic rose inside and I realised I suddenly felt extremely hot as if I was overheating. My throat felt tight and my mouth drier than usual, I was certain I was shaking, well it felt like I was trembling inside.
Dialogue continued and I tried to stay focused on the test which the optician was by now proceeding with, unaware I think of just how much chaos was going on inside of me. She did say “there is no need to worry” a couple of times and she paused at one point checking I was ok, it was helpful that she explained every step before it happened. It also helped that she didn’t make any sudden moves or get too close, thankfully modern technology means eye tests involve less close contact. Every time she spoke kindly I was able to utilise that as an example to those inside that she wasn’t our mother, I kept saying “this lady is nice”.
Desperate to stay in control, I was constantly asking for that to happen and for my parts to trust me on this occasion. Voices inside were yelling ‘get out, we need to get out of here’, ‘we are at risk’ and ‘it’s not safe’. Every time I had to counter these statements, it felt like a battle to stay in 2015, to stay in that room and to stay in control of this body we all share. To deal with the physical symptoms and also stay focused enough to take the eye test was draining me physically and emotionally.
Thankfully we survived and when it was over and we were able to leave I sensed a huge wave of relief from my inner me’s, meanwhile I felt exhausted as if I had just run a marathon. Yet there was also a sense of achievement as I had faced a trigger head on, managed to not dissociate and survived. I realise that by using internal dialogue I managed to calm my alters enough to stay in that room, whereas previously I would have run out of the room in uncontrolled panic and anxiety.
Triggers are everywhere though and I cannot avoid them all so learning ways to cope like this is critical if I want to not be walking around in a constant state of hyper vigilance. It’s a bit like having a fear of spiders and spiders suddenly appearing everywhere, you couldn’t avoid them but facing those phobias and fears head on well I can tell you it’s not easy. For me my triggers invoke similar feelings of fear, but I don’t fear a tangible thing that you can see in the here and now, my triggers remind me of fears that are located back in my childhood. Those fears are every bit as real for parts of me today as they were for those parts back in the 1970’s and 80’s, they are unable to realise those days have long gone and it’s now 2015. I guess I’m slowly learning new ways of helping them to understand, to feel safe and in turn that will hopefully help me to live with D.I.D.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015