The madness of the NHS and therapy funding for Dissociative disorders

I am often asked how I was able to get NHS funded treatment here in the UK and given I know there are so many people struggling to get the same help I decided to write this post.

Like many people I had to fight for treatment, a long and often destabilising fight to get those in authority to see that long term specialist therapy made sense given it’s the only internationally recognised treatment for Dissociative identity disorder.

Looking back it still seems strange that I had to fight for help which has in fact saved the NHS thousands, but fight we did. If I’m honest I couldn’t have done this without the support of my daughter who would often challenge the beuracracts when I wasn’t able to. At times we wrote letters, telephoned the funding bodies repeatedly, and utilised social media when we could.

Research* clearly indicates the financial benefits and cost savings achievable when a client with a dissociative disorder is given long term talking therapy. It demonstrates the financial madness of refusing treatment and yet CCG’s across the UK still refuse individuals applications for therapy funding.

Given research demonstrates that at least 1% of the population has some form of dissociative disorder isn’t it time the NHS took notice of these facts instead of wasting ££ by not treating people.

A single A & E attendance costs ££, as does each crisis intervention. In fact every single contact with a health professional incurs a charge. Yet many DID clients are left floundering from one costly crisis to another and yet are still refused funding for therapy, the one treatment internationally recognised as beneficial. In fact every time I spent a week in hospital cost money and given I spent 200 weeks as an in-patient this often unhelpful intervention cost far more than my therapy ever did. These costs were at first reduced and then eradicated as I recieved therapy. In fact I’ve not had a single admission since my therapy started saving the NHS tens of thousands of pounds.

The potential for cost savings by giving therapy is huge and I mean HUGE!!! And these financial benefits are relevant to many many people with a dissociative identity disorder. Yet the NHS still blocks funding in the main, its as if the beauracrats cannot see the financial gains they can achieve and their understanding of DID is often not existent.

So my advice to others here in the UK is challenge every refusal, lobby your Medical team be that a GP or a psychiatrist to get them on side and then lobby your local CCG (clinical commissioning group) at every turn. Use social media to contact the chief executive of the CCG, and their mental health lead too. Contact your local MP and get their support as well and If you are able to perhaps consider if local media might help. Basically its Challenge, challenge, challenge.

Outline continually the research evidence which shows the cost benefits and the ISST-D ( international society for the study of trauma and dissociatiom) international guidelines for treating dissociative disorders. If you can obtain through a freedom of information request the costs attached to each crisis intervention and medical contact you have had, if you’ve been an in-patient obtain these costs, basically try and demonstrate how much it’s costing them already by not giving you therapy. I learnt recently that back in the dark days when I was suicidal and went missing from home the costs were huge. In fact £8,000 to just ping a mobile phone mast and that’s more than the cost of 1 years therapy.

I know how fortunate I have been to get my treatment in the NHS and know first hand tbe enormous benefits of long term talking therapy. So now my treatments over I aim to work to get the funding madness changed, with this in mind I recently had a meeting with my local CCG to raise the treatment of those with DID in my locality who sadly were being rejected for funding at every turn. It was a useful meeting and I hope will prove fruitful in the end.

They are so many CCG’s failing those with dissociative disorder and it needs to stop. I intend to lobby as hard as I can to get those in power to see the financial madness of not funding therapy. So if you are fighting for funding let me know I’m happy to offer advice where I can. It’s time this madness of NHS funding was stopped and the treatment proven to be beneficial to recovery and financially sound is a right not a fight.

* research by Dr Mike lloyd ‘ How investing in therapeutic services priovides a clinical cost saving in the long term’ as featured in the health services journal.

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What is DID? A brief 16 step guide.

This week I have found myself in London trying to explain DID to a journalist. Funny how suddenly facing a microphone forces one to become more succinct and yet I do find it hard to explain dissociation and how it impacts my life. This got me thinking that maybe others would find it helpful to have a basic intro to DID.

This post is therefore a very basic guide to dissociation and DID.

Dissociation

1. Dissociation is something we all do, when we go on auto pilot or take a regular journey and suddenly realise we are further along than we thought.

2. Dissociation is only an issue when it becomes dysfunctional.

3. It is an effective survival mechanism blocking painful unbearable memories.

4. A sane reaction to insane circumstances

Dissociative Disorders

5. There are 5 types of dissociative disorder, dissociative depersonalisation, dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, Dissociative identity disorder and other specified dissociative disorder. The most extreme is Dissociative identity disorder (DID).

Dissociative identity disorder

6. DID means a person has 2 or more distinct identies with their own unique perceptions, thoughts, feelings mood and memory.

7. Yet each part is a part of one person, one body.

8. DID is often caused by traumatic events such as childhood trauma.

Myth Busting

9. DID is not a personality disorder

10. It doesn’t mean the person has 3 heads.

11. Unlike the portrayals in the media people with DID in real life are no more likely to commit crime, harm someone or be a danger than anyone else.

Symptoms (based upon my own experience)

12. For me the symproms were many and varied and included: Loss of time, confused identity, gaps in memory, internal voices, feeling detached, disrupted sense of self and sense of place, self-loathing, denial of trauma, nightmares, flashbacks, suicidal thoughts, self harming. Broken relationships, often buying the same thing multiple times.

13. For someone with DID life can be very chaotic, and at times frightening.

Treatment options.

14. International guidelines recommend that long term talking therapy is the only effective treatment for DID.

15. Long term talking therapy is very cost effective, research shows that it reduces emergency department visits, Crisis interventions and hospital admissions.

16. It is actually cheaper to provide therapy than to leave people with no provision.

Helpful sources of info.

First person Plural – firstpersonplural.org.uk

An Infinite mind – aninfinitemind.com

ESTD – estd.org

Exciting News

I have never given this blog over to anyone else but today’s  exciting news in the New Years Honours for a stalwart of the D.I.D. Community makes it seem a fitting thing to do.

For those who don’t know First Person Plural founder Kathryn Livingstone was included in the New Years Honours list. She has been awarded a British Empire Medal for services to people with a Dissociative Identity Disorder. You can find our more here.

I’d like to start by offering my congratulations to Kathryn she has certainly raised the profile of D.I.D in the UK and seems a worthy person to include her news on this blog.

Here’s Kathryn letter regarding today’s news which at long last recognises Dissociative Identity Disorder, those living with D.I.D and those working within this field.

 

I can’ t believe I’ve received a British Empire Medal in the New Years Honours. It’s an amazing honour recognising the work of First Person Plural, the charity I co-founded way back in 1997. I suspect this is the first time ever that an honours listing has cited “For services to People with Dissociative Identity Disorder”. I don’t see this honour as mine alone but for everyone involved in First Person Plural over the last 20 years and for all those who live with DID. It is a great recognition for the field of Dissociative Identity Disorder as a whole. I’ve been keeping this secret for about six weeks on the orders of the Cabinet Office. It’s a great relief to be able share widely at last. Please feel free to pass on the good news. 

 

Thank you to the FPP trustees who nominated me and special thanks to those of you who wrote supporting letters. It’s been 3 years since I was asked if I’d agree to be nominated and  at the time I said yes only because I saw the possibility of racing the profile of FPP and getting recognition for DID. I had nothing further to do with completing the nomination, so in all honesty I had totally forgotten about it. When I first opened the official letter, it took me a while to reconnect to the memory of agreeing to be nominated, so it’s contents were a big shock at first. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of conflicting thoughts and feelings since, but I am humbled and proud to be given this honour. 

I have no idea when I’ll actually receive the gong, I know the presentation won’t be at the palace. It’s the Lord Leuitenant of West Midlands who’ll do the deed, not royalty. But I will get an invite to a Royal garden party at Buckingham Palace during the summer of 2018. Will I have to wear a hat, I wonder? Don’t really do hats except the functional woolly winter kind😀

Anyways I’ll leave you with that amazing news for now and wish you all a Happy New Year. 

All best wishes

Kathryn xxx

 

 

Therapy and life afterwards

This past week Therapy came to an end and a life transforming journey with my psychologist that lasted 4 years  is now over and to say it exceeded my expectationa would be an understatement. Therapy has provided me with an amazing opportunity  to grow, to develop an understanding of myself and establish a greater awareness of what is important. So I thought I’d explain a little of the journey and what the future holds too.

When I began I hoped that I’d find an opportunity to lose less time, to be a less unhappy and disfunctional person. Yet during the four years I’ve really changed, not only am I far more content and happy but I’m also more aware of how to live with my past. Letting go of the trauma, the anger and the guilt has really assisted me in coming to terms with that part of my life. Learning to accept and communicate with my internal me has enabled me to feel more at ease and to accept the feelings of my inner me’s are actually mine. Taking ownership of those feelings and no longer being afraid of them has taught me to no longer fear emotions however strong or overwhelming they feel. I’ve developed a resilience and found my inner strength to accept emotions, accept them and work through them.

By learning to have fun, something I was encouraged to do from early on in my therapy, has allowed me to recreate and partake in activities I had once been deprived off in my past. Whilst accepting that I cannot ever change the fact there were experiences I lost out on as a child, I can make up for that time by allowing myself the opportunity to have fun now. When I first paddled about a year into therapy I enjoyed the fun and also grieved for the loss of my childhood, but that grieving and the anger it stirred allowed me to heal in ways I never imagined. Being encouraged to be creative was quite enchanting, I never realised how relaxing art could be and yet now it is a regular activity I undertake and enjoy. My first few art classes I felt inferior and useless, yet my psychologist continually reminded I wasn’t and as I learnt to value my art, I learnt to value myself. Throughout my first years in therapy I continually derided myself, silly and stupid we’re commonplace in my vocabulary. These words a sign of the lack of value I felt for me, and that lack of value was continually oppressive and held me back. Each time I said a negative word about myself my psychologist corrected me, pointed it out to me so often that in time I found myself correcting me. This work over time allowed me to value me in a way I had never done before and that has been transformational on many fronts.

15 months in I had told my psychologist I was unable to sleep in my bed, and was fearful of my bedroom, he utilised CBT to assist me and I was advised to try venturing into the room each day and remove just 1 item from the clutter I’d used as a barrier to the room, soon 1 item became 2 and so on, the room soon cleared and whilst  I still felt fearful he persuaded me to erect a tent and camp in there.  I’ve blogged before about the tent but in summary I slept in a tent for months, still unsure if it felt right. Then just over 2 years ago I decided to go bed shopping, with a new found belief and value in myself, I bought a new bed and I bought fancy bedding and pillows too.  This investment in me was critical looking back, as it was a sign of my worth and my belief in that worth. Thankfully the bedroom no longer holds fear and I no longer have flashbacks or nightmares, indeed I quite enjoy my bed and my room, which to me is a symbol of how far I’ve come.

16 months ago as we persuaded my funders to continue my therapy for a further year, at the time I was fearful of therapy ending and of how I’d cope, I knew I wasn’t ready to walk this journey alone. Thankfully they agreed and so the last year has been invaluable. The last 15 months as been about growth, learning to live with the complexities of life that everyone faces. I learnt to say no when it’s needed and whilst that has shocked some folks it’s been helpful to me which is what matters afterall. I realised I had become a people pleaser which is actually quite draining and certainly not needed. If people can’t accept me as I am then that’s there issue not mine. So I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to do, and I’ve changed my commitments to suit my life not others. This increased belief in oneself is quite weird at first, but soon becomes truly inspiring, I have managed to do things alone I never dared belief possible and found I enjoy my own company. I’ve realised I can feel confident enough to travel alone which has been invaluable given my eldest child has relocated overseas. I have been blessed to enjoy fully family events,  this has included attending my sons wedding last year and no longer feeling insecure or vulnerable and I no longer feel like the cared for mum who was inadequate, but someone who can truly be there for their children. I’m fortunate to have become a grandparent this year and that has brought so much joy and in the last year I have grown in so many ways that I feel a better mum to my children, a better friend and a better person all round.

In truth I’m creating memories to replace the old tarnished ones, I’m building a future for myself and I’m gaining strength in so many ways. I have enjoyed picnics with my children where I’ve sat on the grass and been involved, this is so unlike the past, when I didn’t feel good enough or allowed to join in. Celebrating my birthday nearly 2 years ago allowed me to create positive memories of this date and I’m developing new Christmas traditions to again build positive memories for the future.

Therapy has taught me to belief in myself, to belief anything is possible if you try and that recovery and hope are there for the taking. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because these past four years have been about work, hard work on my part and dedication on the part of my psychologist. Recovery is quite simply a journey, where a client and a therapist walk together side by side. I couldn’t have found the real me without both my hard work and the direction and skill of my psychologist.

As this chapter of my life’s comes to an end, I know I am ready for this third chapter of my journey of life, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly anxious because it’s been a long time since I walked life alone and yet I now have an Inner belief in me that says together all of me can do this.  I work in a collaborative way with all the various inner me’s, I’m no longer separate parts I’m one person with an inner system of inner me’s and we can and we will deal with whatever life throws at us.

I feel so blessed and so thankful to my psychologist, and my family who never gave up believing in me. I make no excuse for admitting I am a Christian and as such each and every week of these past few years I have asked for guidance when entering the therapy room and I truly feel God has guided me on this path. The transformation has beeen truly amazing and I am so grateful. Finally I’d like to say thank you to all those who have supported me in any way on this journey, the funders, the ‘DID’ community and my friends.

Now as therapy ends I step forward in hope, hope for the future and hope for better awareness of the complex misunderstood conditions called Dissociative Disorders. With a inner belief that life is for living and that I have the strength and skills to live life in all its glorious technicolour.

: This blog is dedicated to my psychologist and my children to whom I will be forever grateful.

 

Living life successfully – what does progress look like

Progress comes in many guises, but long term talking therapy can make huge differences to a persons life. During the past eighteen months I have felt myself shift and change, as I began to learn more about myself and the different parts of me. I’ve come to realise that hope is possible, and those with a dissociative disorder can live life successfully.

If someone had told me ten years ago when I was stuck on a psychiatric ward that there was hope I wouldn’t have believed them, but I can honestly say that with the right help and support things can work out okay. I have now had 3 1/2 years of therapy with my psychologist during which time he has helped empower me to rebuild my life and find the real me.

As many of you who follow my blog regularly will know my initial funding was for 3 years, yet last year my psychologist and myself decided that there was still work to be done and so a further funding request; supported by my local mental health trust, was submitted to my Clincal commissioning group for an additional year, thankfully they agreed and hence I have benefited from this additional time.

Now in the last few months of my therapy, I’m moving forwards and rebuilding my once shattered life, I have learnt to understand that I have the tool kit within me to live life successfully.
I have learnt to say no to external pressures, placing myself at the forefront of decisions and taking into account my needs. I established the level of self care I need to ensure all of me is content, I ensure I take time out to reflect, to talk internally, to meet my needs and that includes the needs of all the differing parts of me. Internal dialogue has been key to this and I’ve developed an awareness of my parts, enabling me to be more responsive to my needs, to be aware of triggers and how to respond to them effectively. Building a rapport with the various parts of me has enabled us to work together, to become more integrated and more as we really are one human being with various configurations of self, who just happens to have a dissociative disorder.

I’ve learnt to understand why I react the way I do to certain things, to accept emotions and process these feelings rather than run a mile from them, which was my previous default setting, I feel as if I’ve rewired myself internally, my negativity being replaced by an open minded ability to be more positive. I’ve eradicated negative destructive thinking, conditions imposed upon me by my past and learnt to see them for what they are….lies and bullying. So I no longer view myself as worthless, instead accepting this was a value placed upon me by bullying abusers. I now accept I can make decisions, no longer thinking I am useless and at the mercy of others – as my abusers told me. The previous desire to be ‘perfect’ has long gone as I now see that this is both unattainable and draining, a construct forced upon me by my female biological parent who told me I was never good enough to  be loved. Instead I now accept that being ‘good enough’ is okay, that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. My valuing system has gone from being very external to an internal one, where my views about me matter most, not the demands or judgements of others. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to please others, or conform, I can quite simply be myself.

All of these changes I now accept as progress, as learning how to live with DID has had a dramatic impact upon my life, it’s changed how I view myself and the world, but it’s also enabled me to stay up front and not lose time. The best way to explain this is as if I’m at a bus queue, me first and the parts in the line behind me, where previously they would jump in front and I’d lose time, now instead we are more in tune, we talk, we take account of our needs and as a result they don’t jump ahead taking over and I don’t lose time. I haven’t eradicated the parts of me, far from it, instead I’ve learnt to embrace them, accept them and take them into myself. I view myself as a team of parts, who all work together so we can live life with DID, rather than letting the dissociation control us.

None of this progress would have been possible without the right support and talking therapy is integral to this growth, but I am also aware of how much effort I have put into this journey too.
I attend each session ready to learn and to grow, ready to take on board what is being said, to undertake the homework set and acknowledge that I won’t learn or grow if I don’t put the effort in. Quite simply therapy is a collaboration between a therapist and a client, one offering the other the compassion, empathy and understanding that allows growth to occur and the other bringing an openness to trust and a desire to grow. It’s a process that requires both parties to be in tune with each other and to be willing to work hard. I’ve realised how vital the therapeutic relationship is in this process there needs to be respect and acceptance and a level of equality between both parties.

At my first session my psychologist told me that he had no magic wand and that I would see him for one hour a week and the other 167 hours were down to me, he emphasised that I needed to be ready to work hard. At the time I really thought why is he challenging me, I want to get better doesn’t he realise this, but looking back I see his words are so true. There were times on my journey preceding this therapy when I had given up hope, when I expected a magic wand from a medical professional, when I really didn’t understand that recovery comes not from a doctor or a pill, but from within yourself. I had become entrenched in a battle with medical professionals seeing them as someone to fear and dread, not accept them as someone who wanted to help me. I know this was because of how I was treated along the way by misguided and misinformed professionals who sadly didn’t see me as a person, the medicalised model has a lot to answer for. Yet I soon realised my psychologist treated me as an equal, he respected me and was genuinely interested in my views, my thoughts.

I have no doubt recovery wouldn’t have happened without my psychologist, but no matter how good he is, recovery wouldn’t have happened without me the client being open to learn, to grow and put in the effort. At times on the journey it’s been painful, I’ve doubted what he has said, but I’ve stuck with it trusting that he knows what he’s doing. Internal dialogue is such a case in point and yet I worked at it, likewise I jumped into the sea and paddled because he told me to go have some fun, I ventured into the kitchen and worked at collaboration because he gave me the tools to do so without dissociating. I’ve trusted his judgement and learnt to trust myself along the way, I’ve trusted enough to share my deepest pain, to cry and to grieve for my past. I’ve trusted enough to stop blaming myself for the abuse and instead process the anger, and acknowledge it’s my abusers I’m allowed to be angry with. I’ve learnt a myriad of emotions and how wonderful these emotions really are, so instead of running from them I can now embrace them.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey and it’s not at the end yet, I have six months to go during which time I’ve no doubt I will grow even more. But right now I can safely say hope is possible, no matter how dark it gets, and everyone can with the right help and support learn to live life successfully with DID.

Feeling unwell

It’s been a tricky few weeks so much has happened and yet what has impacted the most has been a sore back. I have damaged a couple of the discs in my lower back and this has resulted in a trapped sciatic nerve, which is more than a little painful. In fact when it first started it felt far worse than any labour pains I had endured. My bad back has meant I’ve had to rest and that’s not been so easy for me or my alters, the other parts of me. 
  
Suddenly our planned trips to the beach, days out to recharge my batteries and catch the last summer sun disappeared. I couldn’t get off the sofa without great distress and so I seemed to just exist, I managed by sheer luck and determination to make therapy but sitting is so painful that it’s not been easy. However as time passes by  I am starting to deal better with the pain, I’ve managed to get myself into a safe routine that means parts of me still get time just its different to what we are used to. I had to spend a lot of time trying to work out how to do things for the different parts of me whilst feeling unwell and laid flat on my back. 

So reading has become  a lifeline, along with the TV and even some knitting, it’s been more about internal dialogue explaining why we can’t  do things we would normally have done. Some parts of me are having to except that right now I can’t do the things I would like. I can’t make the gym, or swimming and I haven’t been able to visit the zoo something I’d promised we would do in September. 

Yet life is sometimes about dealing with the unexpected, trying to keep moving forwards whilst challenged in new ways. I guess right now I’m challenged by pain and the fact I can’t move as well as I used to, but time is a healer and I will heal. My family have been really supportive and people have been very understanding when I cancel appointments or planned events. 

I guess feeling unwell has been a learning curve too and it’s also given time to think, time to rejuggle priorities and balance my diary better. Suddenly faced with being unable to move meant I had to wipe my diary clear and start again, that’s not been all bad if I’m honest. 

Now I’m managing my pain better and I can potter about the house carefully as long as I rest quite often. Whilst my diary is still quiet I have managed a few things. I made it to church this morning and whilst I felt unwell throughout and in pain it felt good to be out and to be there. I’m visiting my youngest son tomorrow evening for tea I haven’t been able to see him for a few weeks so I’m glad I’m getting the chance.  But I know I will need to rest the day afterwards to ensure the recovery process can keep going. 

I’m learning so much through this bad back, I’m learning to prioritise my family, to manage my diary better and to value the little things in life. Things I haven’t had a chance to do for ages I’m suddenly able to, knitting is one example of that I’m often too busy to do it, but now I have time and suprisngly you can knit laid flat on your back. Parts of me are understanding too and seem to appreciate the efforts made to give them time.  What I’ve realised too is that feeling unwell is not unmanageable,  yes it felt it at first but once I’d accepted the situation and got used to the fact I will be in continuous pain, things were more bearable. 

Having DID makes feeling unwell harder to manage, but it is manageable once you get your head round it. Maybe once this is over and my back fully healed I will be able to look back on this time and see the positives and not just the pain.  I hope so. For now I’m taking it one day at a time and managing my pain as best I can and I’m going to keep smiling and remember that there are people who are far worse off than me.  I will heal in time and my pain will eventually disappear, till then I plod on, me and my parts together. 
Copyright. DID DISPATCHES 2015 

To discuss trauma or not?

Over the years I have encountered many therapists, I have seen people of varying levels of expertise and the way they work has been very different. Most of those who I saw in the past had a keen focus on the trauma itself, desperately wanting me to regurgitate the events of my childhood. But is that the best approach for recovery, does it help to go over and over the bad things that happened.

 

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Due to my dissociation I have many gaps in my memory of my childhood, my brain has been good at protecting me and locked many horrors away. I have found over the years those memories spilling out into the here and now, snap shots of trauma which often haven’t been the full details of an incident. The memories have often been just enough to give me a clear idea of the event, what happened without all the terrifying finer details. Sometimes they have been drip fed to me, so a snippet of the event one day and then a week later another piece of the event. Weeks pass and eventually the whole horror of an abusive event has been revealed. Other times the memories come flooding back in an instant, with a flashback or body memory overwhelming me and sending me into a bit of a frenzy.

 

There are times when I really can’t cope with what I’ve remembered, it becomes too overwhelming, too consuming, and yet I have learnt to process in a better way too. So I can say I can’t deal with this particular trauma memory now I need to wait till therapy to think about this in any detail, it’s my way of protecting me. I can now accept sometimes that I’m not at risk right now, but it’s not easy and any trauma memory holds feelings of terror and pain.

 

Trauma and abuse have been a significant part of my life, it started when I was small and continued for years, in fact all through my childhood. I can’t name all my abusers but I can at times see their faces, I can tell you much of what happened because my memory has now revealed many of the horrors I endured. But I still have gaps in time and I still have periods of abuse were I only have part of the memory.

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In therapy for much of the early years of treatment, the professionals who treated me wanted me to share that trauma with them. They felt that me and in turn my alters revealing the past trauma was important to recovery. I would be encouraged to share the past, to regurgitate the horrors in all their gory detail, often through tears and great pain. Yet I never had the ability to process those memories, I never felt attached to them.

 

For much of my early years of treatment I felt irritated at the thought these people wanted me to share my inner most secrets. I recall one therapist and I falling out over the fact she would push for more graphic detail, when I felt it wasn’t needed. I didn’t feel able to share my secrets and I knew I didn’t have them all, my memory had stored them well away, locked out of even my reach.

 

 

One would push for information which I didn’t have, causing me to dissociate in session and thus losing time. She would expect me to spill the beans as she put it, yet I didn’t know what the fragments I had meant and I just wanted to understand. Throughout this time I wanted to know what had happened in my past, why I lost time and why I would dissociate. It just led to more and more confusion and concern, which at the time didn’t help me or my recovery.

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One therapist insisted on naming my parts and seemed to want to give them identities, I felt that my alters were totally different people and their memories were not mine but theirs. I now realise of course my alters are parts of me and the memories they carry are mine, locked away from me to ensure my safety and sanity at the time. I also now understand we all dissociate every single one of us, you and me, when we drive a familiar route and suddenly realise we are further on than we thought – that’s dissociation.

 

Of course I dissociated in a bit more of an extreme way, I switched off as a child to avoid the horrors of my abuse and it probably kept me alive. I know now that my alters are just parts of me, not separate people as such but fragmented parts of me, they formed when I dissociated as a child. Unlike most people who grow up in a seamless way, my 5 year old me wasn’t able to become 6 year old me she stayed locked inside of me – held by the terror of that time. Hence why I have lots of parts, lots of different bits of me who today are my alters, they carry memories of my past that I didn’t know. They need time, nurture, parenting if you like and they have skills and talents which I so value today, but until recently didn’t realise I had. Some have a function, like my protector whose job was to carry the frustration of not being able to protect myself as a child. I couldn’t protect me back then, but today she ensures we are safe and protected especially when threats similar to the past come to the fore.

 

So the idea of giving them separate lives and detailed identities wasn’t in reality so helpful, the memories they hold are my memories. I need to process those memories as my own not someone else’s. But do I really need to regurgitate my past in all its gory detail, do I need to try and reassemble each trauma memory in order to recover from my abuse.

 

My current therapy does involve trauma work, but not in all its minute detail, the aim isn’t to regurgitate the past as such, it’s to process the emotions that are attached to those memories. I don’t need to divulge every moment of a trauma event, but I do need to explore how that trauma impacts in my today. So I am having to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma itself, but I don’t have to start going through incidents in the way I was forced to years ago.

 

Processing trauma is an integral part of therapy but how that’s done can vary greatly from one professional to another, I know for me the key hasn’t been to regurgitate the past, it’s been to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma, those emotions that co-exist with the trauma. Emotions matter more than the actual trauma itself and learning to understand that and deal with them is so important on the road to recovery. I do not see myself ever regurgitating the past trauma again, it will be discussed in a more generalised way. Instead I will be focusing upon the feelings and how it impacts me now, rather than trying to remember every little detail of my past.

 

 

Copyright DID dispatches 2015