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

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 

  

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

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

Therapy – what a difference 18 months makes

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This week marks the half way point for my therapy, well it’s half way through the agreed three years of funding. I sat in therapy on Monday and thought about how I feel at being at this point, after all when I first started therapy I had so many ideas of what it would be like. In fact I had ideas of what I wanted to achieve and it’s been weird really to see were I am now.
My concept of successful therapy has been changed and the possibilities that have been opened up have grown as we have progressed. When I first began treatment with my psychologist I had previously seen a psychotherapist, she had basically helped me to regurgitate my trauma. She did understand D.I.D. which made a change from other professionals I had encountered. However we had not really moved forward, we still had 24 hour care and I had no internal communication of any kind.
So when I started with my psychologist what I really wanted was to move forward, to just be less chaotic in my life. I thought I had to work through all my trauma in order to progress and to remember absolutely everything that has been hidden for so long. Well 18 months make a huge difference to attitudes, to beliefs and it’s made a huge difference to me as a person.

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I can so recall that first session when my psychologist told me that he had no magic cure, that he only saw me for 1 hour a week and that meant I had to work hard on my own the other 167 hours. I thought he was a bit forward and well I sat and thought I didn’t expect a magic cure, I knew I wanted to make it work so of course I knew that I would work hard.
I spent a few months trying desperately to check that I was working hard, that professionals knew I was trying my hardest – I guess that was my insecurity playing out. I didn’t believe that talking to myself, my alters, would make any difference and it sounded stupid and yet it’s being transforming. I soon began to realise the psychologist didn’t treat me like I was unequal, I didn’t feel like a patient in fact it’s often felt like I’m visiting someone who is an acquaintance or maybe a friend as we sit and have a brew and chat away as equals – I like that.
I think the first six months I was basically building up trust, that’s been hard for me and yet I did find myself being able to do the things suggested without much difficulty. I could say if it wasn’t going well and we rarely went into trauma, well not in any depth and that felt ok at the time. In fact I was afraid to discuss trauma and I was quite bothered about venturing onto that stage of therapy.

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Six months in and I realised I knew more about myself than ever, I realised I had low self esteem, a lot of negativity and lots of issues with my own self confidence and self belief. In fact I realised that because of my childhood I had so much learning and developing to do and I began to see that there were many things I had never done. When paddling was suggested I thought it was daft and I can so recall how it felt as we spoke about it, but I began to consider it and thought maybe just maybe I can do this. That’s why exactly a year ago I ventured to the beach and splashed around like a child, self talk however weird it felt was helping me establish links with my alters and so one of them helped me on that day.

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Building sand castles soon followed, painting and art became more regular, cartoons became a regular daily feature of my life and we even managed to have a barbecue picnic. I realised fun was a great way to get in touch with the alters; the other parts of me and I learnt giving them time was helpful to all of me. But with the fun times came the grief, that grief of knowing what I had missed and of starting to accept the trauma and the emotions that my alters carry.
We then began to do more stabilisation, so more progress with internal dialogue and understanding the alters better. I started to challenge myself when I was critical of myself and in sessions were before my psychologist would counter my negativity, now I was doing it myself. I think there was a period were I was dreading discussing trauma, dreading if I couldn’t cope and feeling afraid of it. But I guess my psychologist realised that and I was helped to feel assured and less bothered by it. In fact letting my tears flow in the sessions was hard back then, I have always find it hard to express my feelings. It has over time though got easier and now there are times I feel like a tearful wreck.
In the past six months I have continued to learn things about myself and I have continued to grow and develop, when I felt bothered by a session I was slightly surprised I felt comfortable to actually say – but I did. It was more than ok though, my psychologist was truly helpful at reassuring me. I realise that were as before I might have reacted very differently to such situations I am now able to think more rationally about things as I’m less impulsive, well except when it comes to booking treats which I do far more often – that’s because I now believe I’m worth it.
My ability to interact with other medical professionals has improved as I no longer see myself as insecure and lesser somehow, I feel I have a right to be an equal and to be treated as such. I can sit through a CPA without storming out in frustration and my adolescent part is now able to respond in a far better way. I am losing less time which is amazing and I’m learning so much more about myself and my skills and abilities.

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Half way through and I’m totally amazed by how different I am, in fact others now see that difference too and practically I need less care. I am able to understand myself far more, understand the complexities of D.I.D and the things I need to do to make life less of a challenge. This week I even realised that I have skills and abilities I never realised were there, I cooked Sunday lunch last weekend for my family and yet a few months ago I couldn’t poach an egg without dissociating and losing time. That marks progress in a practical way, but there has also been progress on another level too in that I can cope far more with things that life throws at me, I cope better with flashbacks, thoughts of self harming, attacks of negativity and self doubt and I know I can cope better with the trauma too.

I realise that I don’t need to recall or process all the trauma, just enough and I can work with and accept these memories are mine- they are just carried by the alters. I also see that progress is possible in fact it’s evident already. I can see that life is moving forward, there is less chaos, I am growing as a person and that is far more than I ever imagined would be possible.
I still have much work to do and yes there are times when it’s hard and that it feels way too much, there are times when I feel I can’t cope but somehow I do. Most of all I now realise having D.I.D whilst it is a challenge each day is manageable, it is possible to live with this condition and the impact of my abuse – to have a life – now I never thought that I would be saying that, especially at the half way point.

 

copyright DID Disptaches 2015

Sharing time 

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Sharing time can be an adventure, doing fun things can have a whole different meaning when you do things for yourself. This last weekend I took myself off to a sea life centre I haven’t ventured into one since my eldest child was tiny so that’s more than two decades ago.  But I didn’t go with children in the real sense of the word, but I did go with me, all of me and it was amazing.

Having DID means I can appreciate such experiences from a child perspective, I can look in wonder at things that most adults would just take for granted. But my little me’s can enjoy these things as if it’s there first time experiencing them and with the real wonder of a child, that in turn means I get to enjoy it to, if I work hard at staying co-conscious throughout such adventures. Now that doesn’t mean it’s easy but it does mean I get to have fun if it works well and parts of me get a chance to communicate with me in a far greater way.

The hardest part is often taking the time to do these things, be it going for a stroll on the beach, visiting an attraction or having some time to play. I am often not too great at sharing time and some parts of me don’t feel so worthy of time so they can easily make it difficult as well, yet when time happens and adventures begin its good.

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I’d planned to go to the sea life centre weeks before and so on the morning was a little worried when a younger part said she wasn’t worthy of the cost, which in her words was expensive. So with a huge amount of persuasion and lots of reinforced messages I assured her that we were worth this. So we stepped out into a sunny morning and ventured to the sea life centre with its penguins, coral reefs, rock pools and otters. Wow did I cherish the few hours we had in a whirl of childhood wonder and amazement, it was truly amazing.

I managed to keep a dialogue going with the younger parts of me and it was at times two way dialogue, so a big step forward from the one sided conversations I used to have. I listened intently at the gasps of surprise as we saw one new thing after another, the Penguins were cute and my littles found them real fun. The rock pool brought a new challenge star fish were there and young children were being encouraged to touch them, now I am clearly an adult and yet inside my littles wanted so much to touch a starfish too. I’d normally feel too conscious of the reactions of others around me to do these things, but the voice in my head was so excited at the thought of touching a starfish that I had to try and overcome my own fears of awkwardness. So we did stroke a starfish, well my hand did and my littles were fully in control and happy. You see to the world I might be an adult but inside of me is a whole host of little parts who never had these opportunities before. They deserve now more than ever to experience the joys of childhood that was so cruelly deprived from them and me.

We moved on to the otters who were a bit of an anticlimax as there was only one awake, but the next step was stingrays and they were funny and got quite a lot of attention. The jelly fish caused more wonder and my littles were very impressed at their beauty. The turtles made for great entertainment and the vast array of different tropical fish at the coral reef was a great attraction too.

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All the while as I wandered from stage to stage within the complex my little parts were talking away, telling me what they saw, what they liked and pointing out how much fun this was. If I’m honest it was fun for me too, I felt a sense of wonder that I’ve never really experienced before and I felt a sense of calm and inner peace, for once I am giving to myself and that feels good. By the time my adventure came to an end I felt so happy, so relaxed and I really felt I wasn’t alone, as my alters and I were enjoying time together.

It’s been a few days since we went and visited the sea life centre and yet that sense of childlike  wonder is still clear in my mind. I’m more determined than ever to do more days like this, it’s got to be the way forward after all it’s enjoyable and rewarding all at the same time.
Taking time for fun has really helped me this last year and this past weekend it’s helped me acknowledge my own worth and that improves my own self esteem. I’m aware that fun still feels alien and it will be for some time, yet the more I practice the easier and more natural it will become.

I am so looking forward to planning more fun days for my little me’s and I already have a list of places I’d like to go with them. I missed out on so much as a child I guess I’m making up for it now and whilst that may seem odd to some none DID people, it makes perfect sense to me and my alters; the different parts of me.

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Copyright 2015

When physical health and mental health collide – stigma ensues. 

Earlier this week I felt unwell and ended up calling my out of hours doctor, who decided I needed to attend my local emergency room. There followed a bit of a mad panic as the first responder medic arrived who duly began taking down my details and telling me an ambulance was on the way. My daughter ran around trying to get some things together to take with us as the medic began to do basic observations like blood pressure. A short time later the first of three paramedics arrived at our home and they began to do more tests, I live in a remote rural area so the hospital and ambulance station are miles away.

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The paramedic did some heart tracings and sugar levels and things and I tried to stay calm, except deep inside I felt anything but calm. My chest hurt like hell and I was starting to panic a little, all this attention was unsettling and when more paramedics arrived I felt well overwhelmed. Inside I was trying to communicate telling all my alters; the different parts of me, that we were going to be ok. I kept trying to reassure them and explain what was happening and what was likely to happen next.

A few heart tracings later and I was being whisked to the emergency room in an ambulance, the ECG monitor still connected to my heart. I was given medication to help with the symptoms and that in turn helped calm me down thankfully. On my way to hospital I remember telling inside that it was ok we’d probably be home later and all would be well, except I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The paramedic was great he asked me about any other health conditions and I’d said I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and he wanted to know more about it, he’d never come across it before.

The hospital staff were at first quite helpful, they did more tests and then we just had to wait for results. But then I noticed a change in attitude, it was odd but after I’d been put in a hospital gown and my arms and their scars were visible it seemed to change things. I’d like to think they were just busy but I realise actually it was more than that, there is and I guess always will be a stigma attached to self harmers and I was a prolific self harmer not that many moons ago.

I was sat alone in the hospital as relatives were not able to stay with the patient, something to do with space apparently. Yet for the little parts of me that meant fear and doubt creeping in, there we  were alone in a busy environment and so much chaos going on around us. There were people being sick, people shouting, people clearly more unwell than me and it wasn’t easy for any of me to be there. I tried to keep reassuring my alters and settling them down, but I was still suffering pain and I felt woozy so it wasn’t ideal at all.

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At one point I felt on the verge of tears, but I daren’t cry for fear of being judged which in hindsight was a bit silly, after all I was already being judged by my scars. I tried to block the emotions pummelling through and at one point I texted my daughter who was sat in a nearby waiting room and said ‘I want to go home’.  I knew the pain was subsiding yet I felt tired even unwell, but I just wanted to feel safe and I didn’t there. Staff didn’t speak to me for quite a long time, in fact I think I sat waiting for the results for over 2 hours with no staff interaction at all. If I’m honest I felt quite abandoned and that was quite hard to deal with. Now I know most adults would find no interaction ok, some would maybe find it hard but they’d cope and yet I was there with chaos going on inside my head and I didn’t feel able to cope. I felt vulnerable, I felt exposed and I felt unsafe it was so hard to just sit there with a hospital gown on, things stuck on me and a cannula in my arm.

When I eventually had a chest X-ray that felt worse, my radiographer was a male staff member and for me that felt too scary. I didn’t have the courage to say I can’t do this, to say I have a trauma history that makes this too hard, so instead I retreated inward and felt as if I was no longer in control of me. Whoever came out did an ok job they kept us safe and they began to deal with the doctor too, when I came back the doctor was asking me more questions about my health history and of course my mental health came up.

I tried to explain I’m in the process of a medication reduction and as such I’m reducing my anti depressant, but of course that gave them something to hang a label on me. The conversation revolved around who was supervising the reduction, was I no longer depressed and why such a gradual reduction. The logistics of reducing meds is a whole other blog, but I tried to explain to the doctor and yet I knew I wasn’t making many inroads into the stigma she clearly held.

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When eventually they said I could go home I was utterly relieved, and so were the other parts of me after all none of us were enjoying this time. My daughter helped me get changed back into my own clothes and that felt a huge relief and then together we left the hospital. On the drive home I sat and talked inside reassuring everyone and thanking them too, for they had been helpful and stayed  as calm as they could. By the time I got home it was the early hours of the morning and I was truly ready for bed, I felt exhausted.

But perhaps because I have alters, because I have D.I.D going to sleep wasn’t a straightforward  option. Little parts of me had missed out on their cartoons and they felt agitated and unsettled by our visit to hospital, the chest pain which had now gone had frightened all of me. I knew trying to sleep wasn’t going to work, I also had at least one part who was steaming mad at the stigma we had encountered. I decided to acknowledge the frustration being felt, I said I understood how it made us feel and I reminded us of just how good we are. I told myself that they had no right to judge me and it was their problem not mine, after all I don’t mind my scars or my mental health history it’s just part of who we are. I can’t help my past but I can help how I let it influence today and as such I can chose to not let the stigma and archaic views of a few medical staff hurt me.

I did settled down eventually to sleep, watching cartoons in bed as I tried to relax and calm down different parts of me. Since then well we have had more tests and more pain, but we are working through it as a team my alters and me. I guess that’s what I’ve learnt this week that if I face situations that freak me out or unsettle me I can deal with them if I do so as a team. A few years ago I would have just dissociated not for a short period but for days, I wouldn’t have coped with the stigma either I’d have reacted to it.

Perhaps the last few days have shown me just how far we have progressed in terms of working collaboratively.  I realise now that I need to accept stigma exists and whilst I don’t like it I can’t change other people’s ignorance. That doesn’t mean I won’t fight to end stigma, of course I will and I’ll continue to challenge where I can attitudes that need changing. Having D.I.D is a challenge especially when you are physically unwell, people don’t understand  it and they don’t want to either. Guess I have to work at educating people about this condition after all that can only help people like me in the future.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Sharing time and activities with my alters

Taking myself on a day out with my alters is anything but dull after all it’s a bit like a big family outing. Obviously there are challenges but those tend to be based around ensuring I allocate time for various alters and accept its ok to lose time and switch a lot.  Generally its accepting that I have to play the juggling game that comes as part of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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Yesterday I planned to visit a woodland were I hoped to see bluebells, these are one of my favourite flowers as they remind me of one of the few positive memories from my past. I knew I was likely to switch alters and I also realised that there is absolutely no way I can give each part of me individual time. I planned instead to give time to various groups of alters so little me’s, teens/adolescent parts and then adult me’s as this seemed easier. It takes a great deal of preparation and lots of internal dialogue to make such a day possible and I have to be extremely conscious of everyone’s needs.

On arrival at the nature reserve I visited the information centre, were little me’s looked at the children’s activities on offer, they find such things interesting alongside of course the play area close by. Now at my age I don’t think It would look good if I suddenly tried to go on a swing whilst actual young children waited, so I have to try and explain this to those inside. We have an agreement that if it’s quiet we can go on them but if it’s busy its best we don’t. They seem to accept this but I do wish at times we had adult only play areas equipped with swings and slides etc.

As we ventured for a stroll into the woods my little me’s we’re excited at the thought of seeing bluebells and possibly deers which we had been told might be sighted. All the time I was communicating with my alters discussing what we were doing and seeing, I’m learning its vital I notice every change in my feelings as often this is a way of noticing who is around inside of me. It is a mix of one way communication and two way dialogue and it varies from alter to alter. Also I  sensed the switching from one alter to another that was happening during this time.

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There was great excitement as we saw the first bluebells, and lots of interest from many parts of me at that point. My teens and adolescents parts were more interested in the noises we heard, so the different birdsong and the noise of the rain and wind as it touched the leaves on the trees. It felt more intense with them and more detailed and my adolescent teen who enjoys talking with me as we enjoy the countryside near my home was keen to talk here too. I sat for a rest and she and I were able to talk, though we were soon aware of little me’s excitably watching a bird feeding close by. I had to try and play that juggling act of pleasing them all whilst balancing needs and that isn’t so easy.

As the bird flew on its way my adolescent was soon able to carry on having our chat, it was interesting to hear her enjoying this time. My teen who doesn’t talk was soon squeezing my arm, her sign to let me know she is around and we were then able to communicate via Ideomotor signalling. The sense I get from the emotions they bring forward is that they enjoy time to just be and time to be heard and that makes adult me feel better too,

I then took time for me, to stop the noise in my head and the thinking that rages on inside of me that often feels a bit like an out of control speeding car. So I tried to practice the techniques my psychologist has previously mentioned relating to mindfulness, though as I am still learning its not always so easy.  However sitting in the quietness of a fairly empty woodland with the birds playing their natures very own musical symphony it felt truly relaxing. I found it quite easy to focus in on the noises which surrounded me and was surprised by the variety of sounds. Time past quite swiftly and my mind settled down as did the various parts within, they didn’t go away but we’re just accepting that I needed time too.

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As we strolled back to the main centre and time for a drink the noise inside grew, I now faced the battle within as to which part of me would choose the cake we were going to eat. The little parts won and were soon trying to decide which of the yummy treats on offer we could have. It ended up with a gooey vanilla slice which tasted delicious and certainly filled a hole. Part of me who is worried about weight found this hard, but we did enjoy it despite the vast calories it contained. The Ducks that played outside the cafe window attracted little parts attention and they were soon very distracted by them.

As we made our way towards the exit I felt happy but exhausted, its hard ensuring all of me enjoys time together. I think it’s the fact I’m trying to get everyone who lives inside of me to co-operate and to start working as a team. It isn’t easy but I do enjoy the time we get and I enjoy knowing parts of me get to experience things they haven’t done so before.  Most of all it’s good to know that despite having Dissociative Identity Disorder I can live my life even if it’s more complex and challenging than your average persons.

Though our day went well it came at a cost and I lost time soon after we left as other parts of me took control of this body we share. I didn’t lose time for long, about an hour or so and I realised it was most probably because I was so tired. Today I have needed to rest and recuperate and I’ve started the day giving time to other parts of me, I will get time but I need to ensure all of me has time too.

But I can feel happy about yesterday because I know through our hard work and perseverance a lot of me managed to enjoy a spectacle of nature, that ‘carpet of blue’ as the flowers filled the woodland floor. It’s a sight I was glad I witnessed and the birdsong chorus we enjoyed, well that was the icing on the cake. Juggling demands and alters can and does have rewards it makes life easier in the long run and for that reason I will keep on trying to enjoy activities with all of me.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2015