To discuss trauma or not?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Copyright DID dispatches 2015

Facing the demons of my past – learning my bedroom is safe

As many of you will know I have found sleeping in a bed and a bedroom difficult, the fact is these caused huge triggers for me. So as a result I have become accustomed to sleeping on my sofa for what feels like forever. But slowly over recent months I’ve confessed my difficulties to my psychologist and he has begun helping me to break down the fear that has had such a strong grip on me. 
  
We started with just actually getting upstairs and into the room, I couldn’t face staying in there more than a few seconds at first, but this slowly built up to minutes. Each day I’d visit the room I named Bertie and my task initially was to move one object from the pile of clutter. Clutter that had suddenly build up in there and I had to decide if I needed it or I could throw it away. I found this a huge challenge at first, but spurred on by my psychologist and the fact I knew he’d ask me about it at our next session, I attempted it most days. 
Bertie was no longer just a room he gained an identity, an identity that I could seize hold of and build a relationship with. So each day I’d visit Bertie and I’d enter and say hello, Bertie didn’t seem as scary until I thought of him as a bedroom. My visits each day soon built up in time and I found some days I could sort out a few objects in one go. Eventually the clutter disappeared and I felt I had a room I could work with, a room that no longer felt so overwhelming and frightening. 

Yet I still could not visualise sleeping in there and I certainly couldn’t visit him in the darkness of night, parts of me felt itchy and fearful just going up the stairs. I had to keep telling myself it was safe, we were safe and that the horrors of the past were no more. After sorting the clutter I had to build up time in there, so I started to go in there and just be there for ten minutes at a time. Some days I could sustain this and others I was so agitated and upset I had to leave after just a few minutes, but I was assured it was best to not push too hard. So leaving wasn’t a failure the attempt was all that mattered it would seem and we were by now doing that every day. My alters and I felt we could achieve this and some parts were great at pushing me, by reminding me to go visit Bertie. 
  
I acquired a couple of new cuddly friends who we decided must stay in Bertie, the idea was it would be helpful to see it as a safe room, safe for them and me. Shortly after about Three months after my confession I found myself progressing into sitting in Bertie and we would watch a program or cartoon whilst in there. I didn’t achieve this every day as sometimes just going in there was all we could achieve, but we had more days of sitting than not. 

Then about a month ago my Psychologist suggested I build a tent in there, I remember thinking he was a bit bonkers but tried anyway. The tent was erected about 3 weeks ago having borrowed my daughters, I’m sure people must think I’m bonkers, but I don’t care. I soon managed a couple of periods of sitting inside the tent, snacks in hand and iPad too. I made these visits to Bertie’s tent fun, after all camping is meant to be fun isn’t it. 

After my recent holiday I came home and visited Bertie, I decided it was time I moved to the next step so bought an air bed. Just over a week ago I decided to set up the tent for a night time adventure, torch, snacks, magazines, blankets and extra treats. One night I went up to watch a cartoon sitting inside the tent, when I began to feel tired. I decided I should try and fall sleep inside the tent, all the while knowing I could leave if it didn’t feel right. My psychologist had told me that if I tried and it didn’t work I could easily go downstairs and back onto the sofa. He had made me realise that if I had to go in the sofa it want a failure, trying was what mattered. 

  

So with a bit of bravado and not really assuming it would work I ventured to try and sleep, the next thing I realised it was the early hours of the morning. Tired but now awake I did a bit of a reality check inside and decided that I felt able to try and return back to sleep, which we managed to do. The next night I decided to try again and we were quite stunned when we were successful once more. 

That’s not to say that some nights since then haven’t had some difficulties because they have, some nights I’m having to spend quite a bit of time reassuring myself. I’ve had some disrupted sleep and have found myself stressing in the middle of the night, but so far we have managed to remain in the tent. Now over a week on and we haven’t slept on the sofa and boy it feels good, I’m not being too pressured though. So if we have to sleep downstairs some nights that’s okay, in fact it’s more than okay it’s the trying that counts. 

This week in my therapy session my psychologist suggested I might want to start looking for a bed soon. In fact we have now set a date well a month, by which I need to try and be settling into a real bed. This may not sound like a great deal to many people but for me beds have been a place of nightmares, horrific body memories and trauma, so sleeping in a bed it’s a big deal. Though I’ve set the date I know it’s an approximate measure, if I don’t make it that’s not a failure either, but strangely I actually think we will achieve this. 
  
I firmly believe that by breaking down the steps into tiny manageable chunks I have desensitised myself and built up stronger coping strategies. It’s been and continues to feel manageable, it doesn’t feel as scary neither does it feel too overwhelming. Currently I’m enjoying camping in Bertie, it’s not something I’m use to doing so it is quite an adventure. Bertie isn’t such a frightening place anymore in fact he is just a room with walls and a door, yes being there might trigger memories, but I know now that’s all they are. Memories of the past which took place in a room located far away from Bertie, far from this place I now call home. Coming to terms with the past isn’t easy but for the first time in my life I don’t feel afraid of the bedroom in fact it’s as safe as any other room. Now I just need to go bed hunting and I intend to make that an adventure all of its very own. 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015 

  

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

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

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

Body Memory

Trigger warning please exercise self care when reading this post.

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This morning I woke and instantly felt fear, it’s not a pleasant feeling at all but then neither was the fact parts of my body felt numb. Numb in a way that reminds me of times long ago when I was being abused, numb in areas that I don’t want to feel numb. My body was basically talking to me about the past, about the abuse that was inflicted upon us years ago.

When I have flashbacks or body memories I feel myself spiral into that moment of terror that is so hard to escape from. Today I initially thought here comes the whole darn memory, and unable to move I had to wait, wait for the feelings to continue to build. It’s as if I am there in that time, it’s happening all over again and here I am in 2015 unable to stop my body fully recount being raped.

I can’t tell you how old I was when the incident occurred because it could be the memory of any number of events that span an age range that well covers too many years. I know I’m a child, I know it haunts me and my body to this day and I know I’d rather not experience these moments today. But they are a way of my body telling me what happened when I dissociated away back in the distant past when the original abuse took place. It’s also a way for my alters; parts of me, to share with me the horrors they endured.

The numbness meant I couldn’t actually move, my legs and other parts of me didn’t want to respond to the messages from my brain today, instead they were recounting messages and signals from the past. I lay there desperately telling myself I was safe, it was 2015 and I was secure in my own home and yet the numbness and feelings continued. I endured the various feelings that followed, desperate to stay in the here and now and yet trapped in the terror that builds in my mind. I kept trying to focus amidst all of the sensations and feelings, telling myself that it wasn’t for real, it wasn’t happening now. But if I’m honest it felt like it was happening, my body felt like it was hurting and I was powerless to stop those feelings.

Eventually the feelings stop, as suddenly as they start and it wasn’t as bad as some memories after all I didn’t feel the worst bit. I felt enough to know what was being remembered but my body and the part of me it relates to saved me from the worst, I’m thankful for that. But my legs still felt unable to move I was so traumatised I guess it takes a while to settle back and regain control.

I did regain control of this body of mine and I was off the sofa where I’m sleeping as soon as I could. I wanted to just move away from the moment, to be free of it, to no longer be trapped in that horror. Of course I didn’t at that point know whose memory the body had recounted and so began the gentle questions and reassurance to my alters. The first thing I did though was clean myself, I always feel dirty after a body memory like this, so I needed to do that physical act of washing, though in truth I’m not dirty I’m clean. You see I haven’t been raped or abused this morning, it is just a memory, but it’s hard to tell yourself that in the moment.

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I then grabbed a drink of tea, I use that mug of tea as a security blanket so much in my day to day life, in meetings, in therapy, at home.  People who know me well know I drink a lot of tea in a day, I need the physical reassurance of holding a mug of tea, knowing it stands between me and the world like a shield. I so needed that shield this morning.

Then began the fact finding mission in earnest, I asked who was around which parts of me were there, soon a little voice responded. My little me was clear but frightened all the same, she just said ‘bad people hurt me, I don’t like bad people’. How do I answer that, she’s right bad people long ago did hurt her, hurt me, and nothing can change that fact, it happened. But it happened a long time ago, it didn’t happen today and so I had to reassure her that she was safe with me.

I tried to ask if this was her memory, did she remember this and to be fair she can’t tell me and I’m not going to push her. I know that for whatever reason my body recalled that moment today it wants me to know about it and whichever part took that abuse when I dissociated as a child, they want me to know too. Other parts were also around this morning and so in the end I decided not to  push for more information they will tell me when it’s the right time, all I’m to know right now is that it happened and it hurt. Maybe I’m to know they couldn’t move, or that they were terrified, or that my body was numb, felt weighed down and heavy. I’m not fully sure but I know they will tell me when the times right, so all I can do right now is wait.

It may sound strange but I thanked the alter whose memory it was, I thanked that part of me for sharing this information. Because as horrible as it was it is only by sharing information between us, by breaking down amnesic walls will I be able to deal with the trauma of my past.

My little me wanted me to write it down in the journal we keep, so I have done, at her request and then well we sat and did some self care. We watched cartoons, we read a little, we listened to the birds, all the while reassuring us all it was ok now, we are safe the bad people aren’t here anymore. Body memories they come without warning, they sweep in when you least expect and they leave you feeling fragile and vulnerable. The reality is that it’s the past impacting upon life today, in a way you’d much rather it didn’t and yet that’s just part of life after trauma, its part of life with D.I.D.

I wonder how many people out there in the world truly realise the impact abuse has on people like me, decades of turmoil, decades of pain and decades of body memories like I encountered today.

 

 

2 envelopes 8 years apart – from suicidal to survivor mum 

Trigger warning : please exercise self care. 

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This week I came upon an envelope, on the outside were handwritten instructions of desired funeral arrangements and the envelope was addressed to three young teenagers. Shaking I gripped hold of this envelope as thoughts raced through my mind. Was it wrong to read it, would it stir up memories and emotions I wouldn’t be able to deal with or was it best to leave this well alone. Yet as I sat transfixed my eyes focused on this emotional heartfelt letter I knew what I needed to do, it was time I read the words that I once had written to my own three dear children.

As I carefully unsealed the envelope I examined every word written on the outside, it hit me that these were my funeral plans, plans I had at one time felt so vital to record on paper. I hadn’t wanted my children to have to make those difficult choices so I told them simply what I would like. The letter was long, it started with an apology, and those familiar words of I love you, I am sure many people will never understand the thoughts that raced through my head when I had written this letter, but 8 years ago when I wrote it I didn’t feel like I could survive.

You see back then my trauma, my past were destroying me and I felt I could take no more, the turmoil and anguish I felt were basically consuming me. Each day was a torment, painful and soul destroying, it felt like I was being abused over and over again, as the flashbacks consumed every minute of every day. If not the actual flashback, the fallout from them filled every day and I couldn’t take anymore of this anguish. I can recall the feelings of desolation I had felt at that time, and then the decision which seemed like a rational, sensible one to me was made. I’d end my suffering, I’d end everyone’s suffering and instead of being the nuisance to my family; that I felt I was, I’d give them a fresh start. They wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore, they wouldn’t have to watch me being consumed by the past or see my torment; which was the result of my memories. Suicide I had felt gave me the best solution, best for me and most certainly best for my children.

That was my mind set the day I wrote lovingly to my children, fast forward 8 years and here I was sitting with this letter I had written them. I digested every line, each word and I sensed the anguish and the torment I had been in when I wrote to them. It seemed somehow to seep out from within the pages, it was palpable and so clearly evident that I was suffering. I recorded the distinguishing traits of each one of the children, the things that made me proud and their individual strengths. I told each one how much I loved them and why this was the best outcome for them. I apologised numerous times for all the pain I had caused them and how I just wanted to make things right for them and I  begged for their forgiveness. By the time I had finished reading it all, tears streamed down my face and my body was shaking as I sobbed and sobbed uncontrollably.

You see I know how close I had come, how close I was at that point to no longer being here with them. I had planned so much, it wouldn’t go wrong and yet somehow it did and somehow I’m still here looking back retrospectively at that dark time. No longer in that dark unforgiving place, that once overwhelmed me and made life seem impossible to live.

I couldn’t help think of all the things we had done as a family since that time, all the highs and the lows. This was written before my stay in forensic psychiatric care, before my being sectioned under the mental health act. But it was also before any of them had graduated, before I even began to study for my degree and before they had celebrated milestone birthdays. There is so much we have done since that time, so much I so nearly missed out on.

I have had the joy of watching these teenagers grow into amazing adults, seeing them all receive their degrees and feeling such motherly pride as they did. We have shared so many Christmases, birthdays and holidays together, things that I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on. I’ve enjoyed learning to have fun, to laugh at myself especially when I splash in the sea and I now gaze in awesome wonder at the beauty that I see in this world all around me. I appreciate it from a different viewpoint today, as I see things from the perspective of my little parts of me.

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But when I wrote that letter I didn’t see any light, I didn’t see any hope, just pain and I thought it was best for us all for me to not be here. Now looking back I see that whilst it hasn’t been an easy journey and I have a long way still to go, I’m aware that I’m stronger than I ever believed was possible. I’m now aware that you can with the right help overcome those dark days, learn to live with the pain of the past and carve a new way forward. I’m learning the skills I need to cope with my life, with the damage that was once done to me.

Looking back isn’t easy, but it was important to do, it reminded me of how far I’ve come and of how much I have achieved. It’s allowed me to reflect and be glad that I’m still here, that I can tomorrow open other envelopes this time address to me and not my children. These envelopes will contain cards to celebrate Mother’s Day and I have no doubt that I will cry with joy as my wonderful children’s card tell me how much they love me.

Their words mean so much to me, because they know how close I came to not being here, they know we so nearly didn’t have this day. They have been through this nightmare with me and we have had to rebuild our relationships after the prolonged periods of my hospitalisation. I’ve kept the letter I wrote it’s hidden away in a box, I think one day when my treatments over I will burn it, till then it’s there and it’s my reminder of a time that once was desolate but now has beams of hope shining through it.

If I could have written to myself back then, it would have said quite simply ‘hang in there, it’s not going to be easy but you will get through this, you will get the help you need one day. Most of all you have a future, you will laugh again and even when you cry that’s ok, because often they will be tears of joy and of motherly pride.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015