Crossing the pond for a great DID conference

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I’m writing my blog today sitting on a plane, which hopefully will take me safely to Orlando in Florida. Now yes Florida does mean sunshine, golden beaches and Mickey Mouse but more importantly it also means the Healing Together conference organised by An Infinite Mind.
Now in it’s fifth year this conference is a fabulous event and one I am determined to go to if I can, I was first introduced to this event in 2012 and I’ve so far managed to attend twice.

Each time I have been privileged to hear speakers with a wealth of knowledge and experience talk about various aspects of dissociation and dissociative identity disorder. I have also been honoured to meet survivors who like me have D.I.D and their families and I have made many friendships. I have been very inspired by some of those I have met and really feel it has given me much hope of a future living life with dissociative identity disorder.

 

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This year I am attending the conference accompanied by my daughter and together we are speaking on ‘parent and child dynamics and multiplicity’. The talk will include the journey we have taken as a family, what’s worked and what hasn’t and will raise some of the key issues for both survivors; who are parents and family members. As a family we know that we have faced some big dilemmas as a result of my dissociation and there have been times when all of us have made mistakes. Mistakes that disrupted relationships and caused more heartache, mistakes we have learnt from and mistakes which we intend not to make again.

There are challenges for me as mum, how and when I told my children, how I told other family members. There were fears too, would they understand, how would they react and would they reject me. I was shocked by the children’s response, they were relieved to discover why I was always changing my mind, losing awareness and forgetting things. Because despite me not telling them what was happening in my life for years, hiding as best I could the switching they noticed.

My children faced challenges too especially when their mum suddenly became a young alter who announced she couldn’t be their mum, she was too young. They have had to explain to friends that mum might suddenly change, with different voice tone and behaviours. It really hasn’t been easy for them at all and it’s taken us all time to grew and develop coping mechanisms that work.

There have been lots of hard lessons to learn and our talk is about sharing how we have progressed as a family unit and how we manage to have positive relationships. There are some key issues that people need to understand, but the biggest of all is that despite everything I am still a parent. My children tell me I’m a good parent and having D.I.D doesn’t prevent me from giving my children the nurture and love they need. Family life is possible with D.I.D, yes it isn’t easy but with the right things in place and lots of understanding on both sides it can and does work.

The talk is also helpful for professionals who work in this field as it’s helpful for them to understand some of the issues faced by trauma/highly dissociative clients and their families. It’s helpful to grasp how as a parent I feel a failure at times because of my switching and that how my family and friends have reacted to my multiplicity has impacted greatly upon me. One of the key things I have found is that therapists see me for an hour a week, whatever happens there may impact my entire week. The reality is that therapy alongside the trauma, flashbacks and body memories which are part of my life impacts upon me and impact upon family 24/7 to one degree or another.

Alongside presenting at the conference I have the joy to listen to other great speakers, meet old friends and learn some valuable things as well. The conference opens up new avenues and allows those who attend to learn more about D.I.D at the same time as providing me and my daughter opportunities to meet others in similar situations to ourselves. The healing together conference really is an invaluable event and one I thoroughly enjoy attending.

 

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Now as I said at the start of this blog it’s in Orlando, Florida, it must be good I’m travelling a few thousand miles to attend and it attracts others to travel long distances also. Now beside the event itself which is held over the course of a weekend I’m intending to spend a week in Mickey Mouse territory, this is one place where it is acceptable for adults to be children. It’s a space where my little alters can be out and I don’t need to worry, I find this a useful opportunity for all of me.

I will try and keep you posted with how it goes and will be updating my blog as the next ten days progresses. Hopefully there will be lots of fun, laughter and enjoyment alongside virtual therapy courtesy of my very accommodating and helpful psychologist. Till the next blog post Happy Holiday Greeting from sunny Florida.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

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Its time to learn about Dissociative Identity Disorder

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I am often faced with stories from others with Dissociative Identity Disorder who have encountered medical professionals who don’t understand or have any knowledge of D.I.D. I myself have had to deal with both ill informed and often sceptical professionals who to be honest have done more harm than good.

Yet in all honesty there is little reason for psychiatrists, psychologists, GP’s and other healthcare professionals to be aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder,the usual channels of guidance available to them have little if any information of Dissociative Disorders. Which is both unjust and alarming as estimates of the prevalence of complex Dissociative conditions is around the same as that of Schizophrenia for which quite a lot of information exists.

This lack of information doesn’t mean that healthcare professionals can be excused though for their lack of knowledge, as in today’s technological world information on both Dissociative Disorders and how to treat those with a condition like Dissociative Identity Disorder is readily available. You just have to search a little harder perhaps than other conditions, but the information is there and from reputable sources too.

Treatment guidance is available from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. This detailed guidance paper for professionals and can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2011.537247  Whilst the site also contains a wealth of other relevant facts and information and it’s definitely worth exploring to find out more  http://www.isst-d.org

Furthermore other useful easy to access educational tools are available, one that I recently had the privilege of watching was a preview of the latest DVD ‘NoTwo Paths The Same’ from First Person Plural, this DVD is designed to explore the phase orientated treatment described by the ISST-D.

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The DVD was well received by both professionals and those with D.I.D. In fact it’s a great tool for educating yourself about D.I.D and understanding how to work therapeutically with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is in my opinion a must for all healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and GP’s. It is useful also to survivors, partners and others too who wish to have a better understanding of the therapeutic process and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The DVD features seven people, including 3 experts by experience, 3 clinicians and a partner of someone with D.I.D.
The clinicians include a Clinical Psychologist based in the NHS, and 2 Psychotherapists, all of whom use the three stage model in their practice with D.I.D clients. These aren’t just any clinicians but people with decades of experience of working in this field and between them they have a wealth of knowledge. The 3 experts by experience are people who live with and are receiving appropriate long term therapy for their D.I.D. This really is produced by people with a wealth of knowledge of Dissociative Identity Disorder in other words they know what they are talking about.

The film focuses upon the different stages of treatment including Stabilisation, Working through Trauma, Consolidation and Integrated Living, Hope and finally a Partners Perspective. It’s been interesting to view the whole DVD at home and understand more about the therapeutic journey of healing that I and my alters are on.

I am so impressed by the DVD, it is useful on so many fronts I have asked my family to watch it as I feel they need to comprehend the journey I am on. I will be asking my community mental health team to watch it too alongside First Person Plurals first DVD ‘A Logical Way of Being’ which compliments this latest training and educational tool.

The DVD is available  to purchase at http://www.firstpersonplural.org.uk/sales and  more information can be found at the first person plural website, whose address is on my resources page.

Educating yourself about Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t hard it just takes a little initiative to search for the information that’s out there. Be that through the sites I have mentioned in this blog or by watching this DVD, or utilising the wealth of knowledge that exists on many other sites too. I will be updating my resources page in the next few days as it’s important people know where to look for guidance, accurate information and advice.

I truly believe that it is important people understand the impact trauma has upon people’s lives and the issues of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. That’s one reason I started this blog, I was aware from my own experience that a lack of knowledge existed and I live with Dissociative Identity Disorder on a daily basis and face the impact of that lack of knowledge. Sadly I have to deal with the aftermath that is often caused by well meaning professionals and individuals who don’t comprehend my condition.

In the future any well meaning professional who demonstrates a lack of knowledge or understanding that I encounter will be being given a copy of this blog alongside a copy of my updated resources page in the hope we can educate them and help others along the way.

 

Disclaimer: I am a member of First Person Plural alongside other relevant organisations, I have personally chosen to highlight this information and have not been asked to do so by any organisation. 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

I’m fine ….well not really

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This past week I have come to realise that I have a habit, no it’s not alcohol, or smoking, or any other illegal substance…its saying I’m fine – when the reality is something different. It’s as if I can’t say how I really feel to people and so this has led to the familiar terminology that now seems an everyday occurrence in my vocabulary “I’m Fine”.

I spent time this week in my therapy thinking about why I do this, and it’s really got me be waxing the old grey cells. I guess I grew up in an environment where it was best to feel nothing and to want desperately to please people, today despite no longer being in that emotionally abusive environment I still have the need to please, to try so hard to be ‘normal’ whatever ‘normal’ is, and to not admit life some days is down right hard.

I spoke to my daughter about this habit of mine, I asked her if she’d noticed this particular trait in me, and she sighed and smiled and nodded her head, it wasn’t the response I was hoping for. I wanted her to tell me I wasn’t always saying things were great, I wasn’t always saying Yes when I really needed to say NO, that I didn’t say “I’m fine”. Sadly the harsh reality is that I do have this habit, a habit formed out of years of psychological abuse.

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Looking back I have always tried to be ‘Super Women’ which I know I’m not, but I felt if I could fill my days with external achievements, get people to like me and accept me then maybe just maybe things would be alright. I could say I had dealt with the past when in reality I was just boxing it away and not dealing with it. If I acted as if I was ‘normal’, coping with life, then maybe just maybe the past that haunts my every day would be somehow be lessened.

But the harsh reality is “I’m Fine” is not a good thing to keep saying, especially if it’s not the truth, trying to please or fit into society just piles on the pressure and doesn’t help in the long-term. The truth is I am who I am, and right now that means if I am honest I’m a bit screwed up by the damage caused from years of childhood trauma and the prolonged and protracted psychological abuse that continued well into my adult life.

I am on a journey of healing and that is going to take me some time and it’s not an easy journey to be on either, I have to face my demons and accept that the impact of all that abuse has really messed up my thought patterns and my own image of myself, it’s caused me to search desperately to be loved and accepted and most of all to fit it to the world around me.

Hence “I’m fine” or the number of different variants of this I use have been a great response to deflect the truth,they have allowed me to seek the acceptance that I still crave and to not face up to the harsh truth that I am hurting and finding daily life difficult. Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t easy, I have to spend a huge amount of my day doing internal dialogue, trying to give time to the alters, and many more things in order to function as a multiple.

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In my past I had little positive reinforcement, I was made to think I was a failure, no good and well that everything that happened to me was my fault. I was told I was never good enough in every walk of my life, so no good at school, no good as a daughter, no good as an object, no good as a parent.  My mother would continually and constantly put me down and make me feel inadequate and so I tried desperately to please her, to make her proud of me, to make her love me, but nothing absolutely nothing worked.

I had positive reinforcement from my Dad, but in my childhood when these self images and default positions were formed he wasn’t always around, that wasn’t his fault just the circumstances of life that my Mother kind of ensured happened. Infrequent positivity wasn’t enough to stop me forming a belief that I was a failure and some how not good enough to fit into the world. My former husband of over 25 years was good at telling me I was loved and good, but again it couldn’t shift the by now well-developed thought patterns that I had formed. Even my children telling me it was ok to be honest and that no matter what they still  loved me hasn’t been enough to shift these thinking traits that exist to this day.

So instead all my adult life I have tried desperately to fit into society, I found it hard to say NO to people even when it was what I needed to say, and I have found it impossible to admit that I am struggling to live with my past, and the disorder that formed as a result, my Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I realise now that in order to heal I have to be honest, not only to others but more importantly to myself, I need to admit that it hurts to have been rejected as a child, to know that your own mother never loved you. I need to prioritise my healing, learn to say NO and instead of desperately trying to say “I’m Fine” be honest and say if its been a tough day.

I need to not still be searching for the acceptance that I never got from my mother, but instead self nurture myself and reinforce positive things in my days. I guess I need to retrain this brain of mine to learn to like me and learn that just maybe my thinking that people won’t like me if I’m honest  is flawed. I don’t need to search for acceptance anymore, I don’t need to keep saying I am fine if I’m not, I can just be honest and if people don’t understand that, well that is their issue not mine.

I doubt anyone who has lived my past would be in any different a place from where I am now, childhood trauma or psychological abuse at any age skews how we think about life and ourselves.  It’s so easy to find ones self craving to fit in, or be accepted and to think you just need to please other people in order for them to like you. It’s so easy to take the default position of thinking you must not admit if you’re struggling or having a tough day, hence my habit of  “I’m fine”. So from now on I need to say if I’m not fine, that doesn’t mean I am going to spew out all my past, it’s just a simple statement of today’s been a bit tough.

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My mother didn’t love me I can’t change that and she is no longer here to try to get her too and even if she were I couldn’t make her love me.

But I can stop trying to feel like I must please others and I must fit in, after all they say you can’t please all the people all the time and well wish as I would I’m not Super Woman. I’m just Carol a survivor of a really tough and difficult past and I can’t help that, it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to change that.

I can’t change my past but I can change my future even if that’s tough to do, I just have to hope people in my community, my family and my friends can understand that this is who I am. I need to hope that people will accept me for who I am and not for what I do, that people will support me through this journey of healing and if by chance I say “I’m fine” perhaps say “really?” so then maybe  I might be able to remember that I need to be honest and not put on a front in order to please or be accepted.

Am I fine……well not really right now but one day, maybe one day I will be.

‘Healing Together’ – a D.I.D conference like no other

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This weekend I will be sitting at home here in a rainy North West village, and all the while I will be thinking of a amazing group of individuals who run an non-profit organisation in the US. This weekend An Infinite Mind will be hosting their 4th Annual conference aptly named ‘Healing Together’, I have  had the privilege of attending their last two conferences and so wish I was with them again this year.

An Infinite Mind was  founded by Jaime  who is such an inspiration to so many people, her drive and passion for helping others is truly amazing. The organisation was formed out of a need for more accurate information on all Dissociative Disorders, especially DID and it does so many things, from training,  education and outreach programs, to providing  low to no cost supportive therapies to both survivors and their families.

The Healing Together conference is one of a kind, when I first heard about the conference there simply wasn’t anything quite like it anywhere in the UK, and certainly as far as I am aware in Europe either. I can remember trying to convince my family that  travelling so far for a conference on Dissociative Disorders would be worth it. I had no idea just how much that weekend would transform me, it gave me a new vision, a new perspective on life as multiple I met people from all walks of life and for the very first time I felt accepted and understood. It felt like I was amongst friends, people who understood what it was like to live as a multiple and who were welcoming and full of optimism.  I realised that people like me shouldn’t have to hide their diagnosis in fear of being shunned, I have D.I.D so what! were key words that conference and it left a lasting imprint on my mind.

To this day whenever I face a new challenge I think ok, I have D.I.D, but ‘so what’ I can do this, and if I am anxious of others thoughts or views I tell myself I am who I am, I shouldn’t be ashamed of my diagnosis or the fact I am a multiple. I guess I stopped seeing myself by my diagnosis and so I changed my outlook, I stopped being ‘I have D.I.D, my name is Carol, to ‘I’m Carol I have D.I.D, so what’, I also happen to be a good mum, a not to bad public speaker, and I’m creative too. In other words my D.I.D no longer defines me, it is just something I happen to have.

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None of this would have been possible without that time in Florida back in 2012, and the time I was there allowed me to be me and to start to heal from my time in hospital. My youngest son attended the conference with me that year and we began to rebuild our life as mum and son, and my alters enjoyed the down time as well. The conference is held in Orlando, and that year the conference hotel was located next to ‘Downtown Disney’ I remember thinking how much I could just be me, whatever alter I was. Instead of hiding my dissociation and trying to pretend we were ok when deep down we were struggling,  I could just be me, a multiple, someone with child alters and adult alters, who lost time, forgot things, felt confused and all the other issues that comes with the territory of having D.I.D.

My family must have been impressed with the conference, they saw the changes in me brought about by attending this brilliant event,  for last year the entire family came along as well.  Now Florida isn’t somewhere you can just head for a weekend, well not from the UK anyway so we traveled with the intention of attending the conference but also having some magical Disney time too.

I was delighted to present a plenary session last year with my daughter on ‘Parent and child dynamics and multiplicity’,  even my sons contributed to the presentation so it was a truly family affair. The presentation was well received and I know helped others trying to deal with the whole issue of family dynamics and D.I.D. My children truly believe that there are positives as well as challenges to having a parent who is multiple and I needed to hear that too in all honesty.

Attending last year allowed all of us an opportunity to learn more, and to understand from each others perspectives, it was once again an awesome experience. Its hard to explain how much this conference means to me but its as if I have found a place where I feel ok to be me, without worrying about being judged or standing out. I have met people who I now regard as my friends, and who this year I will really miss.  As the conference has drawn nearer I regret not being able to attend  and so wish that this weekend I was sitting in that hotel close to Downtown Disney, learning, healing and having fun.

If you want to know more about An Infinite mind their contact information is available  in the resources section of this blog, to learn more about the Healing Together conference watch the video below. Whilst it might be too late for you to attend this year, the conference will run next year, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

For someone like me  to travel a few thousand miles to attend a conference on Dissociative Disorders it has to be good, others must agree too as this conference is now truly international, with attendees from a number  of countries. I for one can’t bear the thought of missing the conference  again next year and  so I  have already penciled the dates into my diary, as soon as I can my flights for 2015 will be booked. Maybe I’ll see you there too.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014