Therapy and life afterwards

This past week Therapy came to an end and a life transforming journey with my psychologist that lasted 4 years  is now over and to say it exceeded my expectationa would be an understatement. Therapy has provided me with an amazing opportunity  to grow, to develop an understanding of myself and establish a greater awareness of what is important. So I thought I’d explain a little of the journey and what the future holds too.

When I began I hoped that I’d find an opportunity to lose less time, to be a less unhappy and disfunctional person. Yet during the four years I’ve really changed, not only am I far more content and happy but I’m also more aware of how to live with my past. Letting go of the trauma, the anger and the guilt has really assisted me in coming to terms with that part of my life. Learning to accept and communicate with my internal me has enabled me to feel more at ease and to accept the feelings of my inner me’s are actually mine. Taking ownership of those feelings and no longer being afraid of them has taught me to no longer fear emotions however strong or overwhelming they feel. I’ve developed a resilience and found my inner strength to accept emotions, accept them and work through them.

By learning to have fun, something I was encouraged to do from early on in my therapy, has allowed me to recreate and partake in activities I had once been deprived off in my past. Whilst accepting that I cannot ever change the fact there were experiences I lost out on as a child, I can make up for that time by allowing myself the opportunity to have fun now. When I first paddled about a year into therapy I enjoyed the fun and also grieved for the loss of my childhood, but that grieving and the anger it stirred allowed me to heal in ways I never imagined. Being encouraged to be creative was quite enchanting, I never realised how relaxing art could be and yet now it is a regular activity I undertake and enjoy. My first few art classes I felt inferior and useless, yet my psychologist continually reminded I wasn’t and as I learnt to value my art, I learnt to value myself. Throughout my first years in therapy I continually derided myself, silly and stupid we’re commonplace in my vocabulary. These words a sign of the lack of value I felt for me, and that lack of value was continually oppressive and held me back. Each time I said a negative word about myself my psychologist corrected me, pointed it out to me so often that in time I found myself correcting me. This work over time allowed me to value me in a way I had never done before and that has been transformational on many fronts.

15 months in I had told my psychologist I was unable to sleep in my bed, and was fearful of my bedroom, he utilised CBT to assist me and I was advised to try venturing into the room each day and remove just 1 item from the clutter I’d used as a barrier to the room, soon 1 item became 2 and so on, the room soon cleared and whilst  I still felt fearful he persuaded me to erect a tent and camp in there.  I’ve blogged before about the tent but in summary I slept in a tent for months, still unsure if it felt right. Then just over 2 years ago I decided to go bed shopping, with a new found belief and value in myself, I bought a new bed and I bought fancy bedding and pillows too.  This investment in me was critical looking back, as it was a sign of my worth and my belief in that worth. Thankfully the bedroom no longer holds fear and I no longer have flashbacks or nightmares, indeed I quite enjoy my bed and my room, which to me is a symbol of how far I’ve come.

16 months ago as we persuaded my funders to continue my therapy for a further year, at the time I was fearful of therapy ending and of how I’d cope, I knew I wasn’t ready to walk this journey alone. Thankfully they agreed and so the last year has been invaluable. The last 15 months as been about growth, learning to live with the complexities of life that everyone faces. I learnt to say no when it’s needed and whilst that has shocked some folks it’s been helpful to me which is what matters afterall. I realised I had become a people pleaser which is actually quite draining and certainly not needed. If people can’t accept me as I am then that’s there issue not mine. So I’ve thought long and hard about what I want to do, and I’ve changed my commitments to suit my life not others. This increased belief in oneself is quite weird at first, but soon becomes truly inspiring, I have managed to do things alone I never dared belief possible and found I enjoy my own company. I’ve realised I can feel confident enough to travel alone which has been invaluable given my eldest child has relocated overseas. I have been blessed to enjoy fully family events,  this has included attending my sons wedding last year and no longer feeling insecure or vulnerable and I no longer feel like the cared for mum who was inadequate, but someone who can truly be there for their children. I’m fortunate to have become a grandparent this year and that has brought so much joy and in the last year I have grown in so many ways that I feel a better mum to my children, a better friend and a better person all round.

In truth I’m creating memories to replace the old tarnished ones, I’m building a future for myself and I’m gaining strength in so many ways. I have enjoyed picnics with my children where I’ve sat on the grass and been involved, this is so unlike the past, when I didn’t feel good enough or allowed to join in. Celebrating my birthday nearly 2 years ago allowed me to create positive memories of this date and I’m developing new Christmas traditions to again build positive memories for the future.

Therapy has taught me to belief in myself, to belief anything is possible if you try and that recovery and hope are there for the taking. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, because these past four years have been about work, hard work on my part and dedication on the part of my psychologist. Recovery is quite simply a journey, where a client and a therapist walk together side by side. I couldn’t have found the real me without both my hard work and the direction and skill of my psychologist.

As this chapter of my life’s comes to an end, I know I am ready for this third chapter of my journey of life, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t slightly anxious because it’s been a long time since I walked life alone and yet I now have an Inner belief in me that says together all of me can do this.  I work in a collaborative way with all the various inner me’s, I’m no longer separate parts I’m one person with an inner system of inner me’s and we can and we will deal with whatever life throws at us.

I feel so blessed and so thankful to my psychologist, and my family who never gave up believing in me. I make no excuse for admitting I am a Christian and as such each and every week of these past few years I have asked for guidance when entering the therapy room and I truly feel God has guided me on this path. The transformation has beeen truly amazing and I am so grateful. Finally I’d like to say thank you to all those who have supported me in any way on this journey, the funders, the ‘DID’ community and my friends.

Now as therapy ends I step forward in hope, hope for the future and hope for better awareness of the complex misunderstood conditions called Dissociative Disorders. With a inner belief that life is for living and that I have the strength and skills to live life in all its glorious technicolour.

: This blog is dedicated to my psychologist and my children to whom I will be forever grateful.

 

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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

Breaking free from medication

As many of you who read my blog regularly will know I have been engaged in therapy now for just over 18months and if I’m honest my life is being transformed as a result. There have been many milestones along the way, from my adventures at the seaside to those in the kitchen and it’s certainly been an experience. This week I celebrated another milestone though that for me personally means so much, I have finally stopped my anti-depressant medication.

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Now this may not seem like a huge achievement to many people but believe me when I say that it is, after all I have been taking these pills for such a long time. I never thought I’d get to this point and it’s not been without its challenges after all my psychiatrist wasn’t on board with the changes. But there is nothing worse than a determined woman, a woman on a mission and I guess that was me.
Back in the 1970’s I was prescribed my first set of anti depressants I was a little short of my tenth birthday at the time I didn’t know what the pills were for, I just knew I had to take them. I knew they numbed my pain I guess and even if they didn’t I was made to take them by my mother anyway, my teachers were so concerned at the sedation they caused they wrote to my doctor explaining their concerns and fears, but little was changed. Sedated and numbed from life I entered my teens and twenties in a daze a drug infused daze not of my own making.

I stayed on medication for the majority of the next decade and by then they became my crutch. Joined by Benzodiazepines this cocktail of pills was my lifeline and right through my twenties and thirties these pills remained a present force in my life. Yes they’d be stopped and started by the doctors depending upon how my life was, but I spent more time on them than off and rarely had any time without either of them.

 

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I have lost track of the various varieties of pills I have been prescribed but recall Prozac featured highly in my thirties, there was propranolol and Sertraline, whilst Valium and Diazepam well they were my benzo friends. By the time I reached hospital in the early 2000’s I was stuck on anti depressants and then the medical profession placed me on a list of other medication. It became a regular cycle of tablets, the good old medical model of care and each time my medication was reviewed it would be added to rather than re-evaluated fully. Suddenly in 2007 it was decided that the new type of anti depressants didn’t suit me and so I was forced back onto old style drugs like lofepramine which I’ve taken for the past 8 years. I can’t recall a time I didn’t take some form of prescribed medication and that, well that became scary.
In hospital the drugs lists just got longer and longer as more and more drugs were added to the list, seroquel was stuck in there, despite me not having any symptoms that would warrant such a drug. It came to a head about three years ago when I realised I couldn’t think or feel in any way, I slept more than I was awake as a result of the cocktail of legally prescribed medication I was made to take. It was a feeling I remembered from my childhood and those early days of being medicated, I told my then GP I needed to try and sort out the sedation it was impacting upon my life and thankfully she listened. Slowly we reduced and then stopped the Seroquel but it did take many many months and when I suggested further reductions she said not unless your team approved, they didn’t.

 

So for the past couple of years I have complied with this guidance despite believing the drugs made absolutely no difference to my well being at all. I did manage to persuade the team to allow me to reduce the diazepam down from over the legal limit to an average amount, yet they didn’t want to go any further than a partial reduction. But that changed a few months ago when sick of the side effects of the lofepramine I spoke to my current GP, who was willing to help without seeking the teams input first, so we began a slow reduction of both the lofepramine and the diazepam.

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Each reduction had to run at least a month before we reduce further and every reduction was tiny in order to avoid massive withdrawals. Previously I encountered horrific withdrawals when refusing medication in hospital, my refusals back then were more about me trying to gain some control in the chaos of my life at that time. Of course serious withdrawals just led to forced medication and even more control, being exerted over me. This time around this was a serious decision made with a great deal of thought and self belief and to ensure my safety I read all the literature I could find on the impact of withdrawals and became quite hyper vigilant at looking for signs.

Twice we had to stall the reductions and let my body catch up with coping with suddenly not having as much of these drugs inside us. I have been quite persistent at getting further reductions and my GP and I have often laughed at the irony of a patient who is actually not asking for pills but wanting to stop them, it’s apparently rare. My diazepam reduction is still ongoing we have three more weeks to go before I hope we can finally say goodbye to the drug I’ve taken for the majority of my life.

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But this week heralded that moment when I stopped the last of my lofepramine, I’m keen to ensure that there will be no more anti depressant tablets in my medication cabinet. My poor team didn’t know a thing so imagine my joy at sitting in my CPA and announcing to the old team worker and my newly appointed care coordinator from the new team that I’ve reduced and come off this medication. The look on their faces was priceless and I’m glad I did this reduction the way I did, in my control and without their support.

 
You see I knew these meds were not helping me, I knew I wasn’t depressed, I knew my anxiety levels were significantly lower than its ever been. In fact I know that I feel so so much better as a result of stopping this medication, I know I’ve been proved right I didn’t need these drugs, they didn’t help me.

 
What has been the impact of all of these medication reductions, well for the first time in my life I am feeling real feelings, my feelings. I can cry tears that I know are mine, not falsely suppressed or brought on by a drug. I’m actually waking earlier than before and I’m coping really well with any changes in anxiety levels, I’m utilising alternative techniques to cope with life. Mindfulness is really helping me as is being able to talk about things with my psychologist, understanding why I cry and why I have low days is helping me to grow and develop.
I no longer sleep in the daytime and I’m managing to pace my life to make it safe and manageable, I felt able on Monday to tell the medical professionals that I know my body, my moods my emotions and if I need help I’ll ask, until then I don’t want them to force medication onto me. For the first time in my life I feel empowered and I feel alive.

 

Forty years of mental health sedation is quite enough and now I’d like to move forwards free from all the impact of chemical stimulants and suppressants, I want to fly I want to soar high and live the life I’ve never been able to do. This is a turning point and yes today I’m wearing a big broad smile on my face.

 

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Disclaimer : Please be advised never stop taking any medication without first seeking medical advise. Any prescribed medication should be taken in accordance with prescribing guidelines.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015