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

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The influence my past has upon my today

Over the past few weeks I have found myself struggling as the past invades my present, my here and now. It came to a head when I received a letter from the hospital saying my psychiatrist appointment had been amended, I would no longer see the doctor I was expecting, instead a random stranger. I haven’t seen the original doctor for ten years, but the fact I knew he was ok had made my transition to the new team bearable, suddenly I was now being faced with a stranger, someone who might judged me and that triggered me.

 
I found myself hurtling back into the past and then came the tears, irrational thoughts and fears which culminated in me deciding I just wouldn’t go. Now if course on reflection I know not going isn’t helpful its just plain avoidance.

At the time I didn’t understand why I felt so terrified, so wound up and there wasn’t space to think rationally. I had thoughts of negative coping strategies which scared me too, but seemed the only solution. I really felt I was terrified of this person, that he was unsafe, bad even.
In the end once I had decided I wouldn’t go, the fear dissipated and I felt able to survive the day, but I couldn’t help wondering what it was I was really scared of. Using strategies I have been taught in recent times and speaking to my psychologist I began to think about why I reacted so badly, eventually I realised this was my past hurtling at full pace into my today. The fear wasn’t this doctor, it was the fact he could judge me and I hate being judged it fills me with horror and memories of my past.

You see in my past I was constantly judged, I wasn’t ‘good enough’ and no matter how hard I tried I didn’t hit the mark of perfection that certain people wanted. When in hospital I was reminded of this by professionals who didn’t understand me, who made assumptions that were often incorrect and then judged and labelled me – which caused consequences that impacted upon my life. Of course my reactions to the doctors back then, were influenced by my experiences as a child when no matter how hard I tried I seemed to mess up. So when I faced the thought of seeing a stranger who had the power to judge and label me, I was reminded of the past not just my previous experiences in hospital but those as a child.


I couldn’t stop my past racing back into my today and spewing my thoughts and thus my reactions, which looking back were illogical and very much out of proportion. But despite controlling in a fairly safe way the impact of this trigger, I felt wounded, drained even and so weak and vulnerable, it hit me with such force. In fact it’s taken me a while to recover not just from the event itself, but also from the reality that I am still so vulnerable to full on triggers. I think that has been as hard as the trigger event itself, coming to terms with my own vulnerability and accepting I still have a long way to go on this road of recovery.

I can recall a time not too long ago when triggers would impact at this force numerous times each day, but in recent months I had been coping much better. I really found this incident a huge shock, it reminded me just how vulnerable I can be and how unable I am currently to stop such events from happening. I guess you could call it a wake up call to my reality, the reality of a past that wasn’t great and that led to me having Dissociative Identity Disorder.

So I have tried to take more me time in recent weeks, I’ve been more gentle with myself. I have given myself time to think, to reflect and to deal with triggers as they appear. I faced a similar judgemental trigger last week and I realised straight away what it was, I just couldn’t stop my reactions or my tears.

I’m aware that I feel more sensitive and I have needed to accept I will be crying more often, to let out this mix of emotions racing around inside of me. I have sought advice about the upcoming psychiatrist appointment my first in a while, and I will be attending now. I’m no longer going alone though, I’m taking a relative to help support me and I have prepared a list of things I want from it and that I want to say.

I’ve been empowered to attend and take control of the appointment, so I aim to tell them I fear being judged before they start. You see I can either go in all meek and mild and let them control what is in effect my time or I can seize charge of this time. I’m not going to be bossy but I will be assertive, I will explain my condition and I will tell them that I fear they will make wrong assumptions. I also will tell them I know me better than anyone and all I can hope is that they respect what I say, if they don’t I have a right to challenge wrong assumptions.

I am afraid of the appointment but I’m also afraid of my past and I need overtime to stop this, my past has no right to control my life now. I’m slowly learning about the psychological theory behind my triggers, why they happen and what is going on in my brain. I’m finding ways to start to challenge this past as is hurtles into my life here and now, I realise in time I will hopefully manage to stop the past controlling how I react today.

My appointment is next week, I will let you know how it all goes though I do feel better equipped than I ever have to attend such an appointment. I guess that’s a sign of progress in itself, I just need to remind myself of that fact, especially as the appointment approaches and the panic sets in as it undoubtedly will.

 

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 

  

Returning to my roots

Things often catch you unaware and yesterday was no exception, I travelled along a road I have been on many many times before and yet it caused a shiver to run down my spine as the past collided with the present. Something had changed, something so simple and yet so significant that it’s impact upon me was huge. Building work has exposed a dwelling I once lived in and that building holds a place in my life which I’d rather had never happened.

This weekend as memories flooded back and I felt that shiver run down my spine, I knew instantly what it was about and yet I felt helpless to deal with it. I think it hit me hard because I really wasn’t  expecting the emotions I had encountered and I wasn’t aware the building work was going on. It was also a surprise because I’ve recently dealt with this particular building in therapy and yet I realise now there’s clearly more to confront about the time I lived there.

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You see I returned to my roots at the weekend this is not an unusual thing for me to do, I try and visit quite often as I have both friends and relatives still living in the area. People I choose to visit and stay in touch with, and who in general know about my past, my childhood and the abuse. But this area is also were some of my abusers reside and as you can imagine I do not wish to meet these people at all. It’s odd to go back knowing there is always a master plan in place in case we meet those we’d rather not, an escape route and plan of action if you like.

I restrict were we go, choose routes carefully and plan ahead always and I limit going alone, in fact I tend to rarely go there on my own. I avoid the area near my abusers homes and places where I think they might go, that does restrict us but my priority is and always will be safety. I also avoid driving past any of the homes I have been abused in, I might get close at times but never past. Part of my thinking has been that these houses hold memories and therefore triggers, so avoiding is clearly the most sensible option. So when I passed along the road close to a house, it was a surprise to see it far more exposed and visible than I expected.

That shiver I spoke of earlier ran deep and instantly memories came flooding by, but most of all came a ache of deep anguish. Anguish and hurt the result of the events of the time I lived there, of the abuse I endured and of what that house means for me. My mind instantly remembered a little girl sitting on a wall posing for the camera, a sibling by my side and also an abuser.

 

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I calmed my thoughts as best I could, tried to reassure internally and tell myself we were safe and ok, but I could feel the tears welling up inside me. You see I have many memories of my childhood abuse now, but this house holds a specific point in all of them. It’s a house that exists in a small northern city at the corner of a two terraced streets, and to all who pass by it seems so unassuming, so normal. But to me it’s anything but normal, it means so much to me, I can still visually walk around that house, see the faces of the people of that time.

You might think well why go there, why visit, but it’s simple if I ran away from all the houses I have lived, all the places I was abused I let the past win, I want to be free of my past, well at least the heavy painful burden it holds over me so I can’t hide forever. I can take precautions and safety measure which is what I already do but I can’t stop going there, it isn’t something I’m willing to do.

But passing this house was tough it wasn’t easy at all, in fact it has caused a whole host of emotions to race through me in the last 36 hours.

The house we saw, holds a pivotal point in my childhood, its not full of loving memories instead it’s hurt and pain I recall there.  You see it is in this house that I have my first full memory of being abused as a child, that moment when I guess I stopped being an adorable, loved little girl and became an object to be used. Now I know I can’t be certain other abuse didn’t happen before then, but I just don’t recall it and I can’t be certain I was loved prior to that date either. In fact if I’m honest it’s most likely I wasn’t loved or adorable in the way I hope but I was innocent, and to me it was that innocence that was robbed from me in that place.

 

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Moving forward from this point will be a toughie, I need to reassure the other parts of me and let everyone know we are safe. I need to ensure that I don’t let the past take over or let it ruin my present either, instead I need to deal with my emotions and the feelings evoked by this latest encounter with these memories. Most of all though I need to find a way of moving forward so that I can learn to pass along that road again and nor dissolve in the way I did. I guess it’s a case of accepting it’s just a house, bricks and mortar, walls and windows, the memories it holds live in my head not in the fabric of the building. I can choose how I let those memories affect me, whether I let them control me or not. I guess that’s part of the ongoing trauma work I’m doing, so this past weekends event will need to be processed and dealt with at some point.

If I have learnt one thing this weekend it’s that just because I think I’ve dealt with something that doesn’t mean all of me agree. That’s just another part of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder that I’m slowly uncovering, another part that surprises me and confuses me all at the same time. No one said this was a easy journey to make and I guess I learning that but having DID is a part of who I am, and my job now is to learn to live as a multiple more effectively.

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

Triggered at the opticians

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Triggers creep up on you when you least expect them, causing chaos internally and sending life into a spiral of fear. That’s what happened to me this past week and I wasn’t expecting it to happen as I ventured for an eye test, after all it was just an eye test. I wasn’t too bothered about the test except I was keen to not lose time and for me and not my alters to take the test, so as I sat waiting I was internally communicating with my alters; the other parts of me.

Suddenly the optician appeared and I was catapulted back in time, gripped by fear and absolutely in chaos inside. I knew this was just an optician, it was 2015 and we were safe, but parts of me didn’t see a random stranger no they saw a rather large, tall lady of similar build to our mother, they sensed the danger that came from our mother. Immediately my emotions were all over the place and as I tried to walk into the test room the terrified parts of me felt grew stronger and stronger.

Try as I might to reassure those parts it wasn’t easy, I kept saying that “we are safe”, “she isn’t her, this lady isn’t mum”, yet it felt like my legs were lead weights. We made it into the room as voices filled my head, the fear was palpable and yet I still knew this wasn’t her, this lady was just the optician. My little parts who were terrified of our mother couldn’t rationalise that at all, they clearly felt we were in danger to them I guess it wasn’t 2015 but more like the 1970’s.

I kept trying to work at staying there, staying present and staying in the here and now, parts wanted to bolt out of that room, to escape. Of course that is not an ideal response and I knew that, I knew we had to stay, we had to take this test. As the test began I was desperately clinging to be in today’s reality, to be upfront and in control of this body and so the internal dialogue between me and my fragmented parts of me was constant. I kept praising them, offering reassurance and telling all of me I was safe even though it didn’t feel like I was. My emotions were all over the place, terror, fear, anguish, anxiety and dread gripped me, my heart was beating fast, it felt like it was going to bounce straight out of my chest. My breathing was faster, I was taking short gasping breaths as the panic rose inside and I realised I suddenly felt extremely hot as if I was overheating. My throat felt tight and my mouth drier than usual, I was certain I was shaking, well it felt like I was trembling inside.

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Dialogue continued and I tried to stay focused on the test which the optician was by now proceeding with, unaware I think of just how much chaos was going on inside of me. She did say “there is no need to worry” a couple of times and she paused at one point checking I was ok, it was helpful that she explained every step before it happened. It also helped that she didn’t make any sudden moves or get too close, thankfully modern technology means eye tests involve less close contact. Every time she spoke kindly I was able to utilise that as an example to those inside that she wasn’t our mother, I kept saying “this lady is nice”.

Desperate to stay in control, I was constantly asking for that to happen and for my parts to trust me on this occasion. Voices inside were yelling ‘get out, we need to get out of here’, ‘we are at risk’ and ‘it’s not safe’. Every time I had to counter these statements, it felt like a battle to stay in 2015, to stay in that room and to stay in control of this body we all share. To deal with the physical symptoms and also stay focused enough to take the eye test was draining me physically and emotionally.

Thankfully we survived and when it was over and we were able to leave I sensed a huge wave of relief from my inner me’s, meanwhile I felt exhausted as if I had just run a marathon. Yet there was also a sense of achievement as I had faced a trigger head on, managed to not dissociate and survived. I realise that by using internal dialogue I managed to calm my alters enough to stay in that room, whereas previously I would have run out of the room in uncontrolled panic and anxiety.

Triggers are everywhere though and I cannot avoid them all so learning ways to cope like this is critical if I want to not be walking around in a constant state of hyper vigilance. It’s a bit like having a fear of spiders and spiders suddenly appearing everywhere, you couldn’t avoid them but facing those phobias and fears head on well I can tell you it’s not easy. For me my triggers invoke similar feelings of fear, but I don’t fear a tangible thing that you can see in the here and now, my triggers remind me of fears that are located back in my childhood. Those fears are every bit as real for parts of me today as they were for those parts back in the 1970’s and 80’s, they are unable to realise those days have long gone and it’s now 2015. I guess I’m slowly learning new ways of helping them to understand, to feel safe and in turn that will hopefully help me to live with D.I.D.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

On Vacation with my Alters

 

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I thought I’d share a little of what it’s like vacationing with alters, after all holidays are different and I guess more challenging as well. You see I am trying to entertain not just me the adult but my alters; the other parts of me too and that includes child and teenage parts, who all have differing likes and dislikes. My family tell me that going on holiday with me is a bit like taking a coach load of people on a trip, we are forever changing what we’d like to do and well you can’t please all of me at the same time.

For me it can be both interesting and challenging as I switch from one alter to another, and well my head is full of chaos and noise at times. There have been moments when I have felt overwhelmed by the competing demands and others were it’s felt just right. I think I am slowly learning to not be so hard on myself and to accept that at times I will get things wrong, but what’s important is I tried and that’s a start.

This past week I have found myself hugging characters with a glee and excitement that is surreal, as little parts of me take control. We have been on a flying elephant ride ‘Dumbo’ and gone in search of ‘Finding Nemo’ as well as watched Mickey and Minnie and Co dance around. Yet I have also found myself at the Space Center lunching with an astronaut and paddling in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean. My teen has enjoyed the two art shops we ventured too, she certainly hurt my purse but I know she was happy and that’s what’s important.

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My packing for this trip was done by adult me, as I have taken a bit of a back seat this week much of that packing hasn’t been worn, my younger parts have totally different dress sense to me. My eating habits have also been erratic as different parts of me seem to like different foods, some parts are fearful of food so that’s made life awkward. In one restaurant we went to the younger guests were being encouraged to dance around on hobby horses in a parade, there was a strong desire from young parts of me to join in though it would have looked a bit odd to say the least. Thankfully my daughter managed to distract those parts with gooey pudding and my dignity remained intact.

Different alters like different activities, and sometimes what one likes another is fearful of and this can lead to feelings of fear gripping me mid way through an activity. I have spent so much time internally communicating that I feel as if I have neglected my daughter, who at times I am just too busy to talk to. Of course I’m not silent there is communication going on it’s just internally and others can’t see or ear that internal dialogue.

Taking a trip away is complicated, but it’s also good too and so far despite the odd meltdown moment we are surviving. I guess you could say we are doing better than surviving, I am letting go off control and giving over control of this body I share with my alters to the alters at times. I have been surprised by the amount of co-awareness that I have had during this vacation, it’s a positive sign things are slowly improving. I have established some key triggers so am now able to plan ahead and work around these more which is helpful. I’m also conscious of the needs of certain alters and by offering reassurance found that this has helped, it has certainly given my teen alter more opportunities to learn things are safer today; than in the past where she still thinks and feels she lives.

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I’m learning to have fun as well, paddling on the beach was my chance to experience an activity that until last Summer I wouldn’t dare undertake. I’m realising too that it’s ok to smile and laugh at silly things, that I don’t have to be serious all the time and I’m more aware of my own feelings. Most of all though I’m realising that the past doesn’t have to dictate the future, I can retrain my brain to think differently and to react to triggers differently. I’m also aware I have feelings for my alters yes I actually care about them, I guess that’s a sign of me nurturing myself and valuing myself. I guess overall I’m aware that despite my past, despite my Dissociative Identity Disorder life is safe today, I don’t need to let the fears ingrained in me as a child control today.

I’m off now to create some more memories, good ones that will last a lifetime and make me smile and laugh.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015