Facing the demons of my past – learning my bedroom is safe

As many of you will know I have found sleeping in a bed and a bedroom difficult, the fact is these caused huge triggers for me. So as a result I have become accustomed to sleeping on my sofa for what feels like forever. But slowly over recent months I’ve confessed my difficulties to my psychologist and he has begun helping me to break down the fear that has had such a strong grip on me. 
  
We started with just actually getting upstairs and into the room, I couldn’t face staying in there more than a few seconds at first, but this slowly built up to minutes. Each day I’d visit the room I named Bertie and my task initially was to move one object from the pile of clutter. Clutter that had suddenly build up in there and I had to decide if I needed it or I could throw it away. I found this a huge challenge at first, but spurred on by my psychologist and the fact I knew he’d ask me about it at our next session, I attempted it most days. 
Bertie was no longer just a room he gained an identity, an identity that I could seize hold of and build a relationship with. So each day I’d visit Bertie and I’d enter and say hello, Bertie didn’t seem as scary until I thought of him as a bedroom. My visits each day soon built up in time and I found some days I could sort out a few objects in one go. Eventually the clutter disappeared and I felt I had a room I could work with, a room that no longer felt so overwhelming and frightening. 

Yet I still could not visualise sleeping in there and I certainly couldn’t visit him in the darkness of night, parts of me felt itchy and fearful just going up the stairs. I had to keep telling myself it was safe, we were safe and that the horrors of the past were no more. After sorting the clutter I had to build up time in there, so I started to go in there and just be there for ten minutes at a time. Some days I could sustain this and others I was so agitated and upset I had to leave after just a few minutes, but I was assured it was best to not push too hard. So leaving wasn’t a failure the attempt was all that mattered it would seem and we were by now doing that every day. My alters and I felt we could achieve this and some parts were great at pushing me, by reminding me to go visit Bertie. 
  
I acquired a couple of new cuddly friends who we decided must stay in Bertie, the idea was it would be helpful to see it as a safe room, safe for them and me. Shortly after about Three months after my confession I found myself progressing into sitting in Bertie and we would watch a program or cartoon whilst in there. I didn’t achieve this every day as sometimes just going in there was all we could achieve, but we had more days of sitting than not. 

Then about a month ago my Psychologist suggested I build a tent in there, I remember thinking he was a bit bonkers but tried anyway. The tent was erected about 3 weeks ago having borrowed my daughters, I’m sure people must think I’m bonkers, but I don’t care. I soon managed a couple of periods of sitting inside the tent, snacks in hand and iPad too. I made these visits to Bertie’s tent fun, after all camping is meant to be fun isn’t it. 

After my recent holiday I came home and visited Bertie, I decided it was time I moved to the next step so bought an air bed. Just over a week ago I decided to set up the tent for a night time adventure, torch, snacks, magazines, blankets and extra treats. One night I went up to watch a cartoon sitting inside the tent, when I began to feel tired. I decided I should try and fall sleep inside the tent, all the while knowing I could leave if it didn’t feel right. My psychologist had told me that if I tried and it didn’t work I could easily go downstairs and back onto the sofa. He had made me realise that if I had to go in the sofa it want a failure, trying was what mattered. 

  

So with a bit of bravado and not really assuming it would work I ventured to try and sleep, the next thing I realised it was the early hours of the morning. Tired but now awake I did a bit of a reality check inside and decided that I felt able to try and return back to sleep, which we managed to do. The next night I decided to try again and we were quite stunned when we were successful once more. 

That’s not to say that some nights since then haven’t had some difficulties because they have, some nights I’m having to spend quite a bit of time reassuring myself. I’ve had some disrupted sleep and have found myself stressing in the middle of the night, but so far we have managed to remain in the tent. Now over a week on and we haven’t slept on the sofa and boy it feels good, I’m not being too pressured though. So if we have to sleep downstairs some nights that’s okay, in fact it’s more than okay it’s the trying that counts. 

This week in my therapy session my psychologist suggested I might want to start looking for a bed soon. In fact we have now set a date well a month, by which I need to try and be settling into a real bed. This may not sound like a great deal to many people but for me beds have been a place of nightmares, horrific body memories and trauma, so sleeping in a bed it’s a big deal. Though I’ve set the date I know it’s an approximate measure, if I don’t make it that’s not a failure either, but strangely I actually think we will achieve this. 
  
I firmly believe that by breaking down the steps into tiny manageable chunks I have desensitised myself and built up stronger coping strategies. It’s been and continues to feel manageable, it doesn’t feel as scary neither does it feel too overwhelming. Currently I’m enjoying camping in Bertie, it’s not something I’m use to doing so it is quite an adventure. Bertie isn’t such a frightening place anymore in fact he is just a room with walls and a door, yes being there might trigger memories, but I know now that’s all they are. Memories of the past which took place in a room located far away from Bertie, far from this place I now call home. Coming to terms with the past isn’t easy but for the first time in my life I don’t feel afraid of the bedroom in fact it’s as safe as any other room. Now I just need to go bed hunting and I intend to make that an adventure all of its very own. 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015 

  

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Processing the emotions of my past

Processing the emotions of my past

Please note some people may find this blog difficult, please exercise self care. 

Life’s been a bit tough this past week, tough because I’m in the process of trying to understand my past and the anguish that seems to come from the legacy of my abuse. I’ve found myself crying with real pain, but this is not physical pain, no it’s deep within and it consumes all of me. It’s a pain like no other, a pain of deep scars and ingrained thoughts knocked into me years ago. This hurt is the dawning realisation and acceptance that the abuse I recall actually happened to me.
You see it is often easier to just acknowledge the memory, to think it through but not get emotionally involved, to remember but not accept these events happened to me. Yet once you start acknowledging these memories, the hurt and anguish that goes with them it hurts so much more. Acknowledging the emotions that co-exist alongside the actual memory itself is far far harder and I’m slowly realising that this hurt is something I have to go through if I want to recover.
For years I’ve had memories, fragments of time that suddenly appeared into my subconscious taking over my mind and plaguing me with horror. I’ve been inflicted with flashbacks and body memories which do so easily catapult me back in time, to when the events were actually happening. But for years I lived under the premise of these events happened to this alter or that alter, I never thought about the emotional impact that I as a child felt when the events were actually happening to this body of mine.
I’ve tried hard the past year to accept these events, this abuse well it happened to me I may have dissociated during the actual event but I was still there. I may have shut the memories, the pain and hurt away but I can’t deny this didn’t happen to me. I can’t deny I was scared, I was afraid or that I felt anger or guilt because back then I did. I can’t deny any longer that I as a child suffered horrendously, that I felt terrified, that I wished I could stop them because I did. Looking back now I realise that I boxed my emotions from this time away, I wasn’t allowed to feel, to express an opinion I had to just lie there and endure, that was my role.
But today decades later I can feel, I can express the pain and anguish of those times and the inner child in me needs to do that. I need to be able to let go of the hurt, the fears and the anger locked deep within. You see parts of me have carried these feelings and these memories for so long and now it’s right that we express them, it’s time for them and me to let go of our emotions, to feel.
So this past week I’ve found myself crying, consumed with anguish and hurt because for the first time in my life I’m feeling the hurt from decades ago, I’m actually allowing it to have an outlet, to stop it from being locked in. I’m giving the emotional hurt from that time an opportunity to be expressed, the feelings I have well they are those carried by me as a child when the abuse was a daily event.
Today I maybe an adult, but deep within lies the emotional scars of a child who has endured so much and yet thankfully survived. Those scars need to break free and the emotions contained within need processing, they need processing by me. I’m slowly realising that it’s ok to grieve, to feel, to cry, in fact it’s ok to be angry, to feel fear and a thousand other feelings I’ve carried over the years. I do feel dirty, I feel used, I feel rejection and I feel angry, I’m angry that this happened to me. I’m angry these people felt they had a right to abuse me when they had none.
I’m slowly coming to realise just how much this impacted upon me, not just the physical scars but the emotional too. You see being unable to express emotions over the years has taken a real toll on me. I’m scared of anger, I’m uncomfortable when I cry or feel overwhelmed and I find my emotional reactions to events quite alarming at times, because emotions feel alien to me.
I know that feeling and processing those emotions, my emotions is a huge part of my healing journey. It’s so critical to feel and to understand why I think and feel the way I do about many things. To acknowledge my grief, my hurt and to accept that these feelings are ok, they are safe and I’m ok to express them. So right now I’m accepting I need to take care of me, that I need to let my tears flow and that its safe. I used to think they’d overwhelm me and never stop but I know now that if I needed to stop crying to answer the phone or deal with an emergency I could stop them. I know that if they consume me and it becomes too much I can take a break from the pain they hold, I can say that’s enough for now I’ll feel some more tomorrow.
I know that this hurt and pain will take time to pass, indeed processing the emotions from the past will take sometime. But I know it’s better to start processing than leave them unworked through and full of their deadly sting which they hold. In time processing will lessen that sting and it will mean these memories and the emotional baggage they contain will not be able to come bite me again, they will not have the same hold over me.
Right now I’m slowly learning to manage my emotions, I’m coming to terms with the past and all the scars it contains. I’m taking time out in order to allow those emotions to be safely expressed and I’m ensuring all the parts of me have time too. Time to cry, to laugh, to shout and to feel but most of all to have time to heal, for that’s what this journey is all about. So I’ve structured my diary to give me some space, some free time and I’m ensuring I have space to think, to communicate internally and to work through these emotions, this legacy from my past one teeny tiny step at a time.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Surviving a Therapy Break

For the past couple of weeks my psychologist has been on vacation and that has meant no therapy for me. Whilst a couple of weeks may not sound like a long break it hasn’t been easy and I find such breaks difficult to cope with. The reality is that a two week break has meant I’ve had no therapy now for approaching three weeks and that is an extremely long time. 

Now don’t get me wrong I know my psychologist is entitled to his holiday and I’m grateful he only takes a two week break, I’ve had therapists who take a whole month off. Yet it is never easy for despite all the stabilisation techniques I have learnt I always seem to find myself struggling, when there is a gap in sessions.

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Now I’m fortunate in many ways as I can still email my psychologist if it’s desperately needed, though I am not guaranteed a response. Previous therapists have just gone off on a break and left me high and dry which believe me is much much worse.
The break this summer hasn’t been easy and I have tried to plan ahead in order to mitigate the impact of no therapy. So for the first week I took myself off on holiday, surrounded by family who I knew would support me if needed. Having something to distract me helped and the holiday did work for the first few days. The second week I made plans to go out for the day and took myself off to the middle of nowhere surrounded by the sound of a babbling brook and beautiful scenery. The fact it rained wasn’t an issue but despite the attempt to distract and fill my time I found myself struggling,
As more and more thoughts raced through my mind and I began doubting myself and my own self worth, I realised things were not going great. The longer the break the more I struggle or so it seems and by the second missed session I was floundering, in the end I had to resort to sending an email, disturbing my psychologist and admitting I was finding things tough. The main concern for me wasn’t a flashback or a memory as such, but the feelings of anger and frustration I felt about the abuse I had endured. I also found myself consumed with grief once again, grief about my past and grief that these things, these dreadful things hadn’t just happened to an alter, they had happened to me.

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In the end as I typed my email I realised I needed to vent, I needed to let go off the anguish that was consuming me, overwhelming me. I knew that the best thing I could do given I had no idea if or when I’d get a response and that even if I did my psychologist wouldn’t be able to rectify how I felt was to vent. So in true style I opened my car window and screamed at the top of my lungs and poured out the anguish and anger. I cried buckets in the process and I guess most of all I admitted to myself these feelings of grief that I held.
My screams and tears helped a little but they couldn’t take away my fears or concerns about messing up, or my worries that I’d get it wrong with my teen alter. Thankfully my psychologist responded the next day and his words well they kind of resonated within me. He told me not to forget I wasn’t meant to be my alters therapist, that I wasn’t in this alone and to remember we were a team. The fact that he can assist me in my sessions and help me to process the anguish, the pain and the grief is reassuring. The fact I’m not alone of this journey of recovery is a positive, the reality is I have a therapist willing to help me on my journey and together we are a team.
Yet of course the break in sessions has been difficult and I have found it at times over whelming, currently it is a team of just me and my alters for my psychologist isn’t here, he’s away. This coming week sessions will reconvene but as is normal I am likely to find it hard for the first couple of sessions after the break. I can’t help this its just a fact of life, for me a break impacts upon my trust levels and my therapeutic relationship with my psychologist.

 

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Breaks in sessions are never easy there have been times in the past when I have spiralled out of control and resorted to negative coping strategies. Yet today I find myself more able to cope and the fact I have email access is a huge benefit. The truth is being able to see myself as less isolated helps me and the stabilisation work we have done is really beneficial too. But an absence of two sessions is as much as I can cope with currently, I am so relieved that after this weekend my sessions recommence.
Looking back I’m glad I now work with someone who isn’t off a month at a time, the impact of that would I know cause me much more difficulty and hinder my long term recovery. I wonder if those therapists who choose to take a month long break realise the impact on their clients if they did maybe they’d think again.

Copyright DID Disptaches 2015

Communication breakthrough – building trust 

Trust is a key issue for me and it appears to be as important to my alters; the various parts of me. Over the last year I have been slowly trying to build a rapport with a particular part of me, a part who is clearly very fragile and who carries memories of a specific period of my abuse. Initially I spent time communicating using my one way dialogue, I talked and she I hoped listened, then with much uncertainty I began using Ideomotor signals and the dialogue between us began to build.

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Using the ideomotor signals she and I have been able to work together at having fun, so when I first went paddling in the sea I knew she was there. This part of me has tended to get overwhelmed with emotions and she was at the start much more likely to suddenly overwhelm me with tears and sadness. But the more I talked and the more we communicated using ideomotor signals the more these episodes have dissipated.
For the past year that dialogue with me speaking and her communicating using hand signals has progressed, I’ve got better at asking yes and no questions and she has begun to build up a rapport.  A  few weeks ago as I strolled on a beach I felt her around and suddenly realised that the thoughts in my head might well be hers. She was at least trying her very hardest to communicate with me in a different way. I thanked her and though she soon resorted to ideomotor signals I realised this was an important step for her and for me. But yes and no responses whilst great don’t allow much opportunity to mend the damage of the past, to rectify and heal the scars of abuse.
During my time away last week I sensed her presence a lot more and when I took some time to visit a spa and just relax she was right there with me. I felt a chance to allow her yet another opportunity to communicate with me so I acknowledged she was there and I told her that I wanted her to feel safe and trust me. I said her memories were important to me, I wanted to know them when she was ready to share.
There followed dialogue in a rather odd way about the fact she didn’t feel I could cope with the things she holds, I explained that I wanted to and that its vitally important for her and me to work together. I set out some pointers so if for instance I told her that if couldn’t cope with whatever she reveals I will tell her I can’t process that right now. I will acknowledge it though and we will together take it to therapy. Of course I had no idea if this would help her trust me enough after all trust is so hard for me, so hard for her too given my past.

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But as I sat in a relaxing spa room which smelt of fragrant flowers suddenly all that hard work began to pay off, for the first time she communicated verbally with me. Not just a thought not just a hand signal but out loud and clear and audible. I was a little shocked but also so excited and happy because I realise this alter now trusts me enough to start to talk. I now know why she finds talking so difficult, why I think emotions become too overwhelming for her and I know a little of the past she holds.
I don’t know major graphic details and I may never know all the finite detail but that is really not important what matters is that I have a general idea of what happened, how it made us feel back then and how it makes me feel today. The emotional impact is what counts not the graphic detail of abuse, but how she felt, why she felt and how I feel today. It’s about coming to terms with the abuse and the feelings more than the actual detail of what happened.
I am slowly learning a little of what she endured though when I dissociated and went away whilst bad things were happening to me. Strangely I’m not anxious about the possibility of her memories pouring out or that they may overwhelm me, I know I have put things in place to help keep me safe. I know I’m stronger and more able to deal with whatever this alter carries, more importantly whatever she holds has already happened to me long ago. I know this body of mine managed to survive the horrors that she holds so in theory I can survive the memories now.
I realise it may not be so simple or easy, life never really is and yet I know I’m not alone in this journey I walk it with my alters and in particular I walk it with a part who is slowly opening up to me. A part who is slowly building a rapport with me and building up trust too, she is for the first time in her life communicating without fear or repercussions.

 

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Communication plays such a vital role in my journey, in my recovery and communication doesn’t need to be audible or written. Communication can be in a variety of ways and there are different techniques that each of my alters prefer. Lucy one of my littles is shy and nervous but she is giggly at times too, her way of communicating is a far cry from that of my teen alter. Some parts communicate by being a voice in my head audible and clear, whilst others may use drawings, thoughts or feelings.
I know some people with Dissociative Identity Disorder find using a journal helps, it doesn’t work for me but that is ok we all find our owns ways of working with the parts who make up who we are. Right now for me knowing my teen alters finally feels able to communicate verbally with me is a break through, it’s a sign of trust and of progress. It’s a sign that all the effort we have put into dialogue and communication is worth it, yes it’s definitely worth it. Trust isn’t easy it may never be, but I’m aware not only are my alters trusting me more but I’m trusting them too, that’s a breakthrough for all of us, all the different parts of me.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Taking time out helps the healing process

There are times when life feels less stressful than others and times when the opposite applies and life feels a little too overwhelming. Right now as I write this blog I’m having a positive moment when life feels less stressful, some of this maybe because I am sat in the sunshine amidst tall forest trees, miles from my home. I’m currently on a short break with my sons and it’s interesting taking a break from the hurly burly of life, I haven’t quite escaped everything but having a free diary means I can enjoy things that often get put on the back burner at home and missed out.

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So far I’ve managed to sunbath, go on a bike ride in a traffic free zone, play adventure golf and spend time in a pottery painting studio. Now all of these activities please different parts of me and they enable me to just be me, whoever me is at the time. It’s funny but as I played golf I found myself getting quite competitive and stilly, when painting there was a serious amount of concentration and when cycling lots of internal dialogue and a new sense of belief in myself. I haven’t cycled for over a decade so it’s quite surreal really but so enjoyable.
My time away though isn’t about activities, it’s all about enjoying myself and getting to know my inner parts far better. The child parts of me have enjoyed giggles, sweets and cartoon time. But most of all they have enjoyed the chance to just spend time being themselves and letting me know their fears, thoughts and concerns. For my part I’ve been able to reassure them and offer a sense of internal calm, I’ve found myself doing lots of self talk and reaffirmation.

My teen and adolescent parts have enjoyed their own activities and time, be that cycling in the quiet still morning air, listening to the birds singing or spending a few hours painting. All of these activities have allowed me opportunities to talk internally and to get to know them far better, my teen is especially building up more trust and I feel she is starting to respond in a positive manner. My adolescent is happy to just talk one on one and is learning to tell me how she feels rather than bottling it all up inside.

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There are parts of me that have enjoyed just relaxing and being mindful and others who have enjoyed cooking and taking care of the family, whilst I’m enjoying having no phone signal and thus no interruptions unless I choose to look at my emails. The truth is being away offers me a little more time to understand me and to work at building relations with my alters. You see at home it’s so easy to fill my diary, to cram things into a day and then push myself too hard, too far. It’s easy to find distractions rather than face my feelings, my memories, my trauma, my Dissociative Identity Disorder.
But coming away even if for a few days means I have no excuse but to face life, to face who I am and so whilst a holiday is an escape for me it’s a huge opportunity too. An opportunity to face life head on, to acknowledge and work with my alters without distraction, to give them time and to get to know them better.

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Tomorrow I intend to spend the day with my teen at the spa, to give her and I an opportunity to get to know each other better, to build up trust and to work collaboratively. This is so important for me as I know this part of me has a lot of healing to do and I realise the only way that is possible is for us to work together and heal side by side.
Having DID means life is different and thus holidays are different as well, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be positive or productive. I’m learning investing time in connecting with my parts offers new rewards and opportunities, new ways to have fun and to repair the damage of the past, I guess it’s all part of the healing journey of recovery.
When I return home I intend to remind myself to set aside a couple of days each week to just be me, to have fun and to take time to enjoy the simple things in life. I know by doing this I will continue to build on my understanding of myself and my alters and in turn this will enable me to continue healing. I realise that communicating internally and having fun are such a significant part of my recovery. Its enabling me to build up my sense of self worth, challenge negative thinking processes and create new memories.
Now if someone had told me fun and internal dialogue would be so significant in my life 18 months ago I’d have laughed at them in disbelief, funny really how I’m changing as my recovery continues.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015