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

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

Having Dissociative Identity Disorder Doesn’t Mean Life Is Over. 

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Just a few years ago at my lowest point I felt my life was over, I felt as if I would never be any good at contributing to society anymore. I didn’t feel like a great mum or wife or friend in fact I felt worthless and pathetic, I used to think about what my life could have been and how I’d failed. Of course the failure I felt back then was not really justified at all and yet I couldn’t shake of those feelings of worthlessness or of guilt.

I blamed myself for that breakdown point when life became too overwhelming and I could no longer hide the truth of my past. I blamed myself for that point when suddenly people were noticing I wasn’t ok and that I kept losing time and forgetting things. Of course now I know that really I was dissociating and as the wall of amnesia began to leak and my past hit me head on, well it all became too overwhelming.

That led to my self harm and my suicidal attempts, attempts I don’t regret but am glad we’re not successful. You see I don’t regret falling apart for by doing so I learnt what was wrong and I learnt the truth of my past.  I’ve learnt who I really was and the childhood I endured and I understand now just how strong I really am. The self harm and suicide attempts are just moments in my life, visual scars of the past I hid for too long and today they allow me to see how far I’ve come. There markers in the sand that show me where I was and where I am now and that is important.

Before I started that meltdown I had been productive, I held a job that I enjoyed and I contributed to helping others too. I found myself being a person who ran at 100mph, working, running a home, volunteering and being actively involved in community life. I had some physical issues that slowed me down at times and my mental health was never fully ok, yet I still felt I contributed to life and that was important for me.

So when I became really unwell and my mental health deteriorated it wasn’t easy, in fact being hospitalised felt as if my world had come crashing down. Suddenly I couldn’t participate in the things that gave me an identity and a purpose, rather than helping others I became a burden. I couldn’t sustain work and so was made redundant, that didn’t help me especially as it happened whilst I was in hospital. I was hoping to leave hospital pick up my life and carry on like before and then I didn’t have work to return too, I was deemed too mentally unwell or so it felt.

Ever since then I’ve either drifted from one crisis to another, one hospital stay to another, or care package to another. I haven’t really been able to move forwards, well not until about 18 months ago because then life began to change. It’s continued to change at such a pace that at times its felt surreal and I often pinch myself to ensure I’m not dreaming this. 18 months ago I felt desolate and confused and I had full time care, it felt like I just couldn’t understand D.I.D and I never would.

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Fast forward 18 months until today and life is beginning to change again, I now feel far more assured of my skills and of who I am and I have less support. It’s not easy having D.I.D but I now know enough skills to understand that it’s not impossible to live with either, it’s just slightly more complex but that’s ok. Yes I have to do far more than many will do just to ensure I function each day and to ensure that the day goes well, I doubt most people need to give so much time to the things I need to. Mornings are a crucial part of that daily process of stabilising me and that means all of me, including my alters the other parts of me.

I now have a fairly structured approach to my days, well mornings at least and I know that I need to pace myself, take time to do art and other activities. I’m learning each day and I can now deal more successfully with some things that used to send me into disarray, I cope more often than not with body memories and flashbacks these days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t  times when they overwhelm and cause chaos, it’s just it happens less frequently than it used to.  Instead of being an unbearable part of every day it’s once every few days now, for I have the skills to rationalise and cope better with them.

I’m still fragmented and I’m still not there at the end of the journey of recovery, but I’m moving forward and making progress. My attitude to life has changed dramatically and now I’m far more focused on my recovery and on my treatment than ever before. I’m able to have fun, to laugh, to feel and I don’t feel bad about giving myself time, or saying no to people. I’m learning that I’m an ok person and I’ve gained some ability to be more patient and less of a perfectionist. I don’t take things for granted though and know I have to work hard to sustain the progress I’ve made and want to continue to make.

I certainly don’t feel like my life is over or that I can’t contribute to society anymore, I don’t feel like life isn’t worth living in fact far from it. Even when my moods dip and I’m low I know life is still there for the taking, it is worth living and it’s worth fighting for. I’m starting to see and accept that I’m a good parent and a good friend and I’m starting to believe I can once again contribute to society.

Whilst I am getting involved in village life and doing things, I clear in my mind what is most important and that’s my recovery and my treatment they do come first, I’m also clear that any involvement I have is to be non-detrimental to me and that for every meeting I attend or project I’m involved in, there is me time afterwards. Art, fun, feeling, these are key parts of this and my approach to life now is so different from the past, it’s so much more healthy. I realise now healing is possible it’s not however a simple task, it’s an ongoing mission, a daily mission of recovery.

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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

Feeling flat and unsettled

Last week I felt excited, I had had a day of little me’s playing and having fun and I had a whole new week to look forward to. Fast forward 7 days and I’m sitting here feeling flat and unsettled and I’m not really sure of why, it seems so unfair to suddenly find myself overawed by everything once again. I realise that I have had a busy week it’s been full of builders coming and going as they work on creating a safe space for me. There hasn’t been a spare moment really and at times I’ve felt like I’m juggling way too much and I’ve just wanted the world to stop so I could get off.

 

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But like I always do I’ve tried to push on, put on my fake smile and just keep going, but then that doesn’t seem to be as effective these days. My family seem able to see through this and my fake smile seems to wear off quicker these days too. My body starts to let me know when I’m struggling whether it’s aches and pains, upset stomach or painful headaches, it finds a way to communicate it’s unhappy.

Yesterday my plans to be at a training event were thrown into chaos as a headache overwhelmed and I just wasn’t able to keep going. Physically I felt drained but emotionally I was gone, I had nothing in reserve all I seemed able to do was cry. I conceded defeat, well more my family made me concede defeat and accept I needed to rest, I needed me time. I slept for most of the day struggling to stay awake and yet I was stunned by just how drained I really was.

In between the sleep I was thinking, thinking about why I felt so rough and why my mood was lower than usual. Having workmen in the house as been hard, it’s meant really early mornings and lots of intrusion, it’s been harder to just sit and relax. I haven’t found it easy to just sit and watch cartoons or do art, or many of the things that I’d normally do, I have been constantly aware of switching and worried more when I lost time.

On one day I couldn’t get out, I had to be in for the workmen and for a delivery, I found myself feeling restricted and couldn’t help feeling uneasy. All I could think about was not being able to go out, no fresh air or space either, I guess looking back I probably had ‘cabin fever’. It reminded me of days in hospital when there was no space, no place to hide from anyone and of being confined to the ward. I spent nearly six weeks at one point locked inside my secure unit, no fresh air or space or escape I hated those days and I realise that just one day of being stuck inside my own home made me feel back in that time.

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I also realised that I haven’t had time as much for me or my alters; the different parts of me and that I think has played a part. I have tried to give parts time, but if I’m honest I haven’t been as effective at doing so this last week. So today I have tried a little harder, I’ve watched cartoons, done a few hours of art and I’ve taken time out from home. Just knowing I can go out even if it is for a cup of tea at the local coffee shop somehow seems to lift my cabin fever feeling.

I’ve sat and worked through my diary, it’s still too busy whilst the building work continues but I have marked out a couple of days for me. Time when I can be just me, a person living with alters, a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, no fake smile, no hidden emotions. I’ve also restructured the next few weeks so they are less chaotic and more self caring, after all I hate this feeling of numbness, of emptiness, that I have currently hanging over me.

I do currently feel flat and unsettled, I know that won’t shift overnight but I can try and help myself to make this period less distressing. I can be honest and say sometimes life’s tough, sometimes it feels just too much and that at times I want the world to stop so I can get off. I am conscious there maybe an underlying issue that I need to resolve, some of which I can’t  post in a blog, but I am aware of it and that is a start. I have therapy this week and I hope I can try and discuss some of the issues that I’m aware of in the hope it helps. I need to be truthful about how I feel and truthful about my fears, I need to be honest about the reasons deep down that I think might be exacerbating my current mood.

Years ago when I felt like this, I’d give up and I mean give up, I’d succumb to harming and worse, but not now. Now it’s different, now I’m able to rationalise things a little better, understand why I feel like I do and I have the skills to at least attempt to help put things back on a even keel. I’m able to know that this is just a phase in my life, a period of time which might be a struggle but which will pass eventually. I also have access to services that can help sustain me through this period, people I can talk to and people who can help me help myself.

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Most of all I have a whole army of alters who hate me feeling like this and I know that they can in their own way help me too. Watching cartoons earlier with my little me’s gave me light hearted relief for a brief period, taking time to do art with my teen alter helped give me a sense of accomplishment. I guess I’m learning collaboration with my parts is beneficial for all of us, that we each have unique gifts and qualities that we bring to the mix. Yes it’s hard living with D.I.D but if I’m honest I can’t imagine being without my alters, they are all a part of me and together we make up the whole person called Carol.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juggling the adventures of the little parts of me

Over the past few days I have juggled the needs of all of me, so I’ve been to a conference, played at being a soldier and visited a castle. Sounds like I live in the fast line, not really its just life with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The two days I attended the conference we had to try and juggle the demands of me being upfront and in control as much as possible, whilst not neglecting the other parts of me. Each morning I woke extra early so there was always time to communicate internally and have cartoon time. I’m  slowly learning that it’s important to give other parts of me time and space, if I want to reduce uncontrolled switching and loss of time. Every morning after cartoons I would explain what we were doing that day, if anyone would be there we might know and try and explain that I needed to be in control of this body we all share.

My younger parts found this annoying, they don’t want to be blocked out so I had to make concessions and compromises. They could watch the event through me, talk internally to me at anytime and choose the biscuits at break times. Once conference was over each day it was there time, time to watch more cartoons, listen to music and yes choose what we ate for tea. I also bartered and agreed on the free day we had they could choose what we did, and be up front as much as was possible.

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Day one was fun, the voices in my head ranged from little parts telling me they were bored to a rather new adolescent saying it how it was. Especially when they were not impressed with someone’s comments, boy did I know. I ate cake at lunch that well somehow seemed to appear on the plate, it was obviously important to one of me. I found myself switching off mid afternoon as it felt just too long and I felt exhausted trying to constantly listen to the parts of me and the actual voices going on in the outside world. My Therapist was at this event though we sat in different parts of the room, but my littles were worried about that. There was an outstanding question they were desperate to have answered, and as the voices inside grew louder I knew I had to ask him.

That night having spent a day trying to be a ‘normal functioning adult’; whatever that actually is, I ended up watching lots of Postman Pat as my littles took over and I lost time.

Day two was more conference, again I woke early and planned out the day so all parts of me knew what was going to happen. I ate a sweet chocolate flavoured cereal for breakfast that other parts of me chose, and sang on the corridor back to our room. We sat amongst people we knew and that was reassuring and helpful, parts felt like they could watch was going on whilst I stayed up front. The sessions varied and at times I could concentrate and digest the discussion whilst at others comments made seemed to ignite a cacophony of noise from inside.

At one point a question was asked of a speaker that really upset my adolescent me, I had to stop myself from blurting out loud the thoughts that suddenly were racing around my head, audible and loud inside of me. At one point fearful of being triggered I actually stared at the blue sky outside, not focusing on the images on the screen. I’ll choose  more wisely  next time the sessions we attend. My little me’s would tell me when they were bored and I know they desperately wanted to draw at times. At one point we retreated to the sanctuary of the restroom, it provided a quiet space that enabled me to think and communicate more effectively with my alters.  On this day for lunch, I hibernated in the quiet stillness of a small side room as I couldn’t really network at that time. I needed down time and some thinking space, so that was what we found for ourselves.

There were opportunities at this conference for us to catch up with some people we haven’t seen in a while, including one of the specialists who originally diagnosed us. Plus we met some really interesting people who work in the field of trauma and dissociation, and we gained some knowledge too. But it was tiring and it meant parts of me didn’t get the time they needed, so at the end of day two I watched even more cartoons and promised my little parts time the next day.

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That’s why today I have lost quite a chunk of time, I haven’t been in charge today because other parts of me have. So this morning we ventured to a castle, it was one of my littles who chose this place to start their fun and wow did they have fun. I recall arriving at the castle, even paying to get us in and then I lost control to resume awareness a few hours later. In the intervening hours I had explored the castle, played at being a marching soldier and fired pretend arrows at pretend soldiers with sound effects. The parts took lots of pictures and one even posted on social media for me, I saw a canal boat which went whoosh! as it sailed by. I ate a big ice cream despite having a milk intolerance and they bought our trusted Ted not one, but two new outfits from the toy store.

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The only reason I know any of this is because my son came with me today, so he could help fill in the gaps and the pictures the alters took helped create a time line of events for me too. I have to say I am absolutely exhausted after all this fun, and yes I can say we had fun because clearly parts of me did have fun and they did enjoy themselves. I may not recall the events firsthand but I know another part of me was in control and they do recall what we did, this was their time and after the past few days they deserved it.

Thinking back I can’t recall me ever playing soldiers or making sounds like whoosh, or kerpow, but I so wish I had done as a child. I think it must be good to have such fun and excitement and to just see the world through a child eyes once in a while. My teen and adolescent parts need time too, my teen will get to chose things for the art room and my adolescent; who is quite new will get a treat in the coming week. I’m still getting to know them so it’s harder to know what they might find beneficial, though I’m certain they will tell me when they feel ready.

All in all its been a busy few days and I do feel like I’ve attempted to juggle a lot, yet I also know that even in  everyday life it feels like a constant juggling act. Facing competing demands of various parts of me is an everyday occurrence , it’s just putting ourselves into a situation where it feels less safe, which is unfamiliar territory that evokes extra burdens. I’m hoping that the next time my little parts want to pretend play, we can do it together just like we are learning with cartoons. Sharing time and being co-aware is definitely the way forward and I quite like the idea of being a soldier in a castle, or maybe I could be a train driver or a space man or a fairy……the possibilities I guess are endless.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Internal communication, dialogue and chit chat

There are days when it feels like my alters are far more evident, days when I don’t block them and instead listen away to the cacophony of voices filling my head. This past few days it’s really been noisy inside and I feel closer than ever to a few of my alters; the other parts of me. I thought I’d share some of what’s happening at the moment.

Following a few days of low mood and a lack of motivation out popped one of my littles, M was nervous about therapy which was scheduled for Monday. She was around first thing in the morning as we watched cartoons side by side, she was certainly in control but I didn’t lose time instead it was as if I sensed her feelings and watched my body from afar. My analogy of being side by side is that of driving a car, sometimes I am the driver of this body, other times the passenger in the back seat aware of what’s happening but oh so not in control. Being side by side means I’m in the back seat aware of events but not in control.

M is quite nervous and gentle in nature and she was bothered she had upset my therapist from the week before. So despite lots of reassurance and my therapist emailing to say he wasn’t annoyed or cross M was clearly nervous about our scheduled for that evening. When my therapist had to unexpectedly cancel our session it really worried her, she was distressed and all her worries from the week before came rushing back. Yet I knew logically it was just one of those things and well we’d be fine till next week, we have skills we can use now to help us. But M didn’t understand that and so my morning was spent reassuring her and giving her time and attention, I knew communicating with her was helping as we now have two way dialogue and so she was talking back to me. Giving M time really helped settle her worries and that in turn helped me, I gain a better perspective on situations sometimes as a result of trying to explain something to one of my alters.

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Tuesday morning was L’s turn, initially I thought of her as a precocious little alter a bit cheeky and quite confident, but I realise the more I get to know her she’s not like that at all. Yes she appears to be quite confident but deep down she’s nervous and scared, she is fearful at times and worries a lot. She and I enjoyed chatting on Tuesday and as always she asked lots of questions, it’s clear she likes to know what’s going on and I think I can understand why as fear is a big issue for her. Watching cartoons with a little alter like L or M, sensing their excitement and hearing their giggles is an odd feeling to get use to, but it also brings a new joy. For I am learning to have fun, to switch off from the humdrum of day to day life and see the little things in life that really matter. L likes having time and she is getting better at sharing time with me and other alters, she is also one of my alters who likes to cook and so our chat on Tuesday was all about our next adventure in the kitchen and what could we make. We sat and watched a children cookery programme together and that graves us some ideas for our next adventure together.

Of course I don’t just hear one alter everyday, it’s not that easy or straight forward, I can be in dialogue with a number of alters at once, and will hear, feel or sense many of them each day. Yet the constant noise in my head, the rush of emotions and feelings that I encounter seem at times to be just normal now after all this is my life, my life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I am slowly realising that understanding my condition is helping, it’s helping me to accept who I am. With acceptance of course comes less denial and that’s meant less blocking of the alters, so a little less losing time and a little bit less chaos at the moment.

On Tuesday afternoon I gave up my time, my control of this body and allowed my teen alter to take the reins. For me that means not blocking my alter, getting out the art equipment and just allowing her the chance to be herself. The creative art she accomplished in the space of a couple of hours was wonderful, and I felt so relaxed when I finally came back to the fore. My teen was more settled too and that’s helped with our ongoing work of trying to get to know her better. It was a real achievement today to actually have a dialogue with her, we still use ideomotor signals to converse and yet I am getting better at asking yes/no questions more naturally. Sensing her emotions is less frightening now than it was just a few months ago and the frequency of her overwhelming me has lessened. Some of that’s down to being able to converse with her when I sense her struggling and that calms her down, helping both of us.

 

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I know if you read this blog and haven’t got D.I.D you might think internal dialogue or chit chat is odd, you may well be sceptical of ideomotor signalling, I know I was when we first began using it. But talking internally and starting to get to know the other parts of me is helping, I may not be the best person to explain it, I may not fully understand why it helps but I know it does.

I’m someone who likes to logically rationalise and understand things, but there are times when I realise that all the matters is does something help, does it work. Trying to build a relationship, a rapport with the alters is helping and hopefully it will help me into the future as we progress through trauma work. But all of this takes time, time and effort, I know that it’s not easy and I mess up a lot and it can feel like I’m taking 2 steps forward and then 1 step back every time. It’s hard work and there are days when I wish others could understand what life is really like, the constant juggling of competing demands, the ever changing emotions as my mood speeds from high to low and back again. I can feel low in a morning, overly excited in the afternoon, fly to the land of confusion and mixed emotions at tea time and then be in utter despair by night time. My different parts all have different feelings, different likes, different needs and yet they are all a part of me, so I feel all these different feelings. I’m often asked which alter are you now and my answer often is I don’t know who I am, and that is how it feels some days. But right now my daily aim is not to block the alters out, it’s to accept and understand them, it’s to realise that internal chit chat is actually a good thing, it is ok.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2015