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

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

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

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

When the tears won’t come 

 

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This week I had a tough therapy session focused on processing some baggage from my past, yet despite trying to face up to the difficulties of my past the tears were not that evident. Now I did get a little emotional, but the full force of the anguish evoked by the grieving process as I recalled memories from the past just didn’t come through. I really felt the tears were just on the edge and so as I left my session I did expect them to start flowing, but they didn’t come.

I had a couple of jobs I needed to do and well tears at that time would have been an inconvenience and a little awkward. I think I was trying to stem the tide and so focused on the tasks in hand and blocked any emotions, by the time I was nearly home still no tears had come. I felt awful I was deeply saddened by the mis-mash of feelings whizzing around inside, feelings of sadness, hurt and a deep anguish that was wrenching at my heart. Yet for whatever reason when I had time the tears still didn’t come and so at home with a PA in place I couldn’t just hide and let go.

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At home instead I tried to keep busy, I tried to push on and well I couldn’t cry in front of my new PA after all what would she think. I longed for her to leave, I longed for time to grieve and oh did I want to grieve. In fact I knew that grieving was exactly what I needed to do, you see remembering the horrors of the past, knowing it’s true, yet again seals in my mind that I can’t deny I was abused. I so wish my abuse hadn’t happened and I so wish I could deny that it did, but the more I recall the more I realise I can no longer pretend this didn’t happen to me.

I spent the majority of the day trying to carry on, being stoical if you like and putting on a brave face, yet inside there was a deep hurting that so needed to be expressed. When I was alone I truly thought the tears would flow and yet they didn’t come, I talked internally, I tried hard to reassure all of me that we could grieve and it was ok to do so, yet tears remained absent. It wasn’t like I didn’t need to cry in fact I felt as if they were just there on the edge waiting to flow at any second, except they didn’t flow, they didn’t come.

That night I went to bed early snuggled up under my pillow fort, my hope was the tears would come finally and at last they’d flow, but in the end I fell asleep and still I hadn’t cried.  The days since then have taken a similar path I have felt like they are just there on the edge but then they disappear. I have let out the odd few tears, just a few seconds here and there but not enough to really let go of the feelings deep within. The feelings of anguish and grief that so need to burst forth seem to be having trouble being expressed, it’s often as if the dam is about to burst and I think I will cry uncontrollably, that it then simply dissipates away.

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Last night I thought it’s coming, at last I can rid myself of the desperate anguish trapped inside, but somehow I stopped those tears once again. When I feel like it’s ok to cry something happens and I need to stop myself, be it a phone call or a person walking into the room. I know I need to cry, I know part of me is worried about doing that and I know they are scared they have upset me. I’ve tried to reassure them and myself that crying is actually ok, that crying is an acceptable and appropriate response to have. Yet somehow the message isn’t getting through loudly enough and so I’m grieving in silence and I’m grieving without tears.

I know I need to grieve, it hurts to think this abuse happened to me, to know it wasn’t my fault and that I did all I could to stay safe. I know for a long time I used to think this wasn’t me, the abuse it happened to an alter not me. You see I truly felt no emotion, I had so limited a recall of that time, that in my mind the abuse didn’t happen to me. But as the amnesic barriers come down the emotions of that time are making themselves known to me, and now I realise that this, this abuse it happened to me. To come to terms with that is so hard, it’s so hard to grasp and so hard to take in fully after all I’d so rather it wasn’t the case.

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Accepting the past isn’t easy, accepting I can challenge those ingrained beliefs that crying isn’t something I’m allowed to do is equally as hard. Yet I know I need to do both and I know I so need to cry, to grieve, to let go of the emotions of the past and the anguish it evokes. But knowing and doing are two very different things and right now it seems doing is something I’m finding difficulty with.

Now I know at some point the tears will come, probably when I’m least expecting them and most likely at an inconvenient time. Yet I know they will flow it’s just right now that seems an impossibility  and so I’m left trying to find a way forward that allows me to accept and deal with these feelings inside. I’m left trying to accept that I need to not block my feelings or my tears anymore because when I do I end up in this predicament, when I so wish I could cry but the tears won’t come.

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

Its not easy being me 

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Sometimes it’s not easy having DIssociative Identity Disorder, or being a survivor of child abuse and there are times when you just wish life was different, that it was somehow that little bit easier to deal with. I have been trying to collate data from my old medical records in recent weeks and that has involved trawling through case notes one page at a time. Reading some of the information about myself has not been easy, especially when it relates back to the time I was most unwell.

As part of this work I came across some old psychological assessments and they both perplexed and upset me, there in stark print was the assumptions of one clinically qualified person. I felt annoyed when I first read the document, was I really as bonkers as the report seemed to imply and if so why. I took the report to my psychology session today in the hope of gaining a better perspective and in truth I gained from doing so.

I found out that much of what had been written about me was accurate, the tests used are good tests to analyse someone psychologically and most of all its a fairly accurate assumption of me, my traits, my personality and my deficits. The tests were not designed to describe positive characteristics like kind or caring, instead they are meant to identify those things I find difficult, being avoidant or overly compliant for example. Talking it over in my session I felt tearful, but like I often do I batted away the tears and carried on in my non emotional manner. Except this time it hurt for me to do that and I was much more conscious of doing this, this act of blocking feelings, this act of suppressing my tears.

I had a logical reason to block things, I’d gone with a list of issues I wanted to discuss and I felt I needed to get through the list, not get sidetracked by emotions. But as I travelled home my tears began to flow, I couldn’t stop them in fact it felt like I was never going to stop crying, but of course I did eventually. I realised that I wasn’t crying because I am someone who is overly compliant or a person who has clearly got a plethora of psychological traits that are negative, I was crying with grief. Grief at what an impact the past has had upon me, you see I can sit and read this report and understand why I do the various things it states I am more likely to do, than your average person.

I am overly compliant for example because I lived in fear as a child and I learnt it was safest to comply with the demands of my abusers. I’m someone who has a low view of herself because for years I was told daily what a pathetic child I was. I fear people thinking I’m bad or no good because as a child I was told the fact I got hurt was because I was bad. These traits are basically the psychological legacy of being abused, neglected and hurt.

Yet I also knew the tears related to my fear that I’m bonkers, and I began to think why am I fearful about this, then it kind of all made sense. You see as a child when I was first referred to psychological therapies I was terrified, the fear then was as a result of being told it was because I was mad, which was all my fault and if I didn’t improve they’d lock me away. Mad people get locked away was a mantra I learnt so much as a young adolescent. My brothers had previously seen psychological services and I was informed it would make me be just like them, except my brother was an abuser, he was the last person I wanted to be like. So confused I remained terrified of the child psychologist for years and in my adulthood when things did get worse, I ended up hospitalised and I was demonised by some staff who I encountered. Staff who failed to understand me, or the reasons I was unwell. These negative messages had a big impact upon me which was aided by the negative put downs of my mother and brother who still had contact with me at that time.

My fear I guess is that if I’m bonkers, or more to the point if people think I’m bonkers will I get locked away, will I become like my brother the person I fought desperately to not be like. So the tears I cried today were tears of grief at the fact I do have a number of personality traits as a result of the damage inflicted upon me as a child. Plus I worry that I will be viewed in a way that isn’t fair or true, and that people will not understand but instead judge and berate me as happened in the past. But most of all the past infiltrated my present when the fear of being just like my abusers filled me with dread.

I know it was wrong today to stifle those tears of mine, I should have let them flow inside the therapy room where I could work on resolving issues. Instead by blocking them I now face them at home and the fears that I held for a thousand days or more come flooding back.

I’m trying hard to tell myself it’s ok to grieve, it’s ok to have these traits because many people do and it’s not my fault. I’m trying hard to remind myself that I’m not bonkers just because I have some issues, I’m not mad or bad, just me. These traits don’t make me like my abusers, in fact I’m anything but like them and I succeeded in breaking the cycle of abuse that often infiltrates families generation after generation. I broke those chains I didn’t become an abuser, I chose to walk the right path.

It’s often a painful journey trying to work through the damage that has been left, my traits including having a Borderline personality disorder are part of that damage. I know I need to talk through the feelings I encountered today, to talk through the reasons I think they came to the fore and my fear of being a bit bonkers or skewed in some way. I also know I need to face the grieving that I have to do in time, my childhood wasn’t perfect it’s left a painful and difficult legacy. I’m determined to find my way forward to overcome as many of these traits and difficulties as I can, to break free from them in time. But today if you see me crying please understand, it’s not easy being me sometimes.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015