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.

 

Feeling unwell

It’s been a tricky few weeks so much has happened and yet what has impacted the most has been a sore back. I have damaged a couple of the discs in my lower back and this has resulted in a trapped sciatic nerve, which is more than a little painful. In fact when it first started it felt far worse than any labour pains I had endured. My bad back has meant I’ve had to rest and that’s not been so easy for me or my alters, the other parts of me. 
  
Suddenly our planned trips to the beach, days out to recharge my batteries and catch the last summer sun disappeared. I couldn’t get off the sofa without great distress and so I seemed to just exist, I managed by sheer luck and determination to make therapy but sitting is so painful that it’s not been easy. However as time passes by  I am starting to deal better with the pain, I’ve managed to get myself into a safe routine that means parts of me still get time just its different to what we are used to. I had to spend a lot of time trying to work out how to do things for the different parts of me whilst feeling unwell and laid flat on my back. 

So reading has become  a lifeline, along with the TV and even some knitting, it’s been more about internal dialogue explaining why we can’t  do things we would normally have done. Some parts of me are having to except that right now I can’t do the things I would like. I can’t make the gym, or swimming and I haven’t been able to visit the zoo something I’d promised we would do in September. 

Yet life is sometimes about dealing with the unexpected, trying to keep moving forwards whilst challenged in new ways. I guess right now I’m challenged by pain and the fact I can’t move as well as I used to, but time is a healer and I will heal. My family have been really supportive and people have been very understanding when I cancel appointments or planned events. 

I guess feeling unwell has been a learning curve too and it’s also given time to think, time to rejuggle priorities and balance my diary better. Suddenly faced with being unable to move meant I had to wipe my diary clear and start again, that’s not been all bad if I’m honest. 

Now I’m managing my pain better and I can potter about the house carefully as long as I rest quite often. Whilst my diary is still quiet I have managed a few things. I made it to church this morning and whilst I felt unwell throughout and in pain it felt good to be out and to be there. I’m visiting my youngest son tomorrow evening for tea I haven’t been able to see him for a few weeks so I’m glad I’m getting the chance.  But I know I will need to rest the day afterwards to ensure the recovery process can keep going. 

I’m learning so much through this bad back, I’m learning to prioritise my family, to manage my diary better and to value the little things in life. Things I haven’t had a chance to do for ages I’m suddenly able to, knitting is one example of that I’m often too busy to do it, but now I have time and suprisngly you can knit laid flat on your back. Parts of me are understanding too and seem to appreciate the efforts made to give them time.  What I’ve realised too is that feeling unwell is not unmanageable,  yes it felt it at first but once I’d accepted the situation and got used to the fact I will be in continuous pain, things were more bearable. 

Having DID makes feeling unwell harder to manage, but it is manageable once you get your head round it. Maybe once this is over and my back fully healed I will be able to look back on this time and see the positives and not just the pain.  I hope so. For now I’m taking it one day at a time and managing my pain as best I can and I’m going to keep smiling and remember that there are people who are far worse off than me.  I will heal in time and my pain will eventually disappear, till then I plod on, me and my parts together. 
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

Time To Let Go Of My Past

This week I have been trying really hard not to look back, not to keep focusing on my past but instead look towards my future as well as the here and now. I’m consciously aware that it is so easy to keep finding myself ruminating about the past, the abuse and those who abused me. Yet I realise that is not going to help me recover, in fact if anything it’s actually adding to the torment of my past.

 

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You see I know that I often tend to do my own self interests no good, I persecute myself with negative thoughts and self critical thinking. I am forever finding that I am having to contradict myself and those thoughts that put me down, thoughts that tell me I useless or worse. I know I’m not the worthless person that I tend to automatically think I am, but its so easy to keep falling into old bad habits formed over years of abuse and neglect. I was forever told I was useless, blamed for everything and anything and continually berated and belittled.
But I need to remind myself that my abusers are no more, they are not here and they can’t continue to harm me. But surprisingly the person who often berates me these days, or belittles me is myself and it’s a hard habit to break. Yet I’m working on trying to stop the negativity and self persecution that I find myself slipping into so easily.
Last week in therapy I was told I needed to realise just how amazing I am, how I need to focus on the now and not the past. You see in truth I am far stronger than I ever believed I was and the fact I am here today is testament to that fact. I could so easily have become like my abusers, I could so easily have crossed the line from abuse victim to abuser, a route I imagine many of my abusers took at some point in their lives. Yet thankfully I didn’t chose that route instead I fought tooth and nail to overcome the legacy of abuse and not become one of them.
Focusing on the present and not looking back is harder than it seems, this week for the first time in ages I was plagued by seeing my main abusers face when I closed my eyes. I found myself having to stabilise myself and deal with the fear that rose up as a result of her image in my mind. It took me a while to come to terms with seeing her face and I found myself having to reassure us that she wasn’t here and most of all we were safe.

 

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I worried over why this had happened, why her face suddenly plagued me and then it hit me, six years ago this week I was informed she had died. I haven’t really mourned for her in fact I felt relief at the time and I haven’t really thought of her death at all in recent times.

But subconsciously I must have been remembering the date this week, hence why her face popped into my head with such force. Knowing why I thought of her helped me to process it and then box it away, I don’t need to mourn her or acknowledge this date. She is in my past not my future and certainly not my present, I can take comfort from the fact I’m not like her, that I have many skills that she didn’t. I can safely leave her behind in my past and refuse to give her any air time at all.

I think I have often plagued myself with regurgitating the past, reliving the horrors of my yesterday’s and mourning the things I never had in my childhood. When in fact what I ought to be doing is focusing upon my strengths, not my weaknesses. Focusing instead upon the pleasures of today and thinking of the many blessings I have. Knowing that I had the bravery to break free from the horror of abuse, to chose not to be one of them, is something to celebrate. I know I have been a far better mum to my children, than I could have ever hoped for and I do have lots of things to be grateful for and pleased about. The past doesn’t have to drag me down instead I can leave it behind and focus on my recovery and my future. For now though I’m just happy to focus on the ‘here and now’ and to keep challenging those negative affirmations, that stem from my lack of positive parenting in my childhood.

 

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As a new month dawns I intend to keep challenging myself and make the most of each and every new day. I so want to focus in on the positives and acknowledge the things I can be rightly proud of, there is much to be grateful for, the fact I can laugh and have fun now, the fact I can cook, the fact I can wake with a smile and rise above the nightmares. Most of all though I’m slowly realising I can leave her well and truly in my distance memory, I don’t need to let her legacy carry on anymore, she is well and truly in my past. She has no right and doesn’t deserve a place in my future or in my present.

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 

  

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

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

Care Plan Meeting – treat me as an equal

In recent days I have begun planning for my CPA early next week and I started to think about the things I need to cover in the meeting. After all this meeting will involve my new care coordinator from the new team my care is transferring to, I haven’t met them yet. It will also involve my existing social worker and my psychologist as well as my daughter, who goes to represent the family and support me.
I know that in the past my interactions with health care professionals haven’t always set off on the right footing, I usually find it hard to trust new people. I certainly have difficulty when professionals treat me like some second class citizen and not the equal that I am. My last experience of the new team dates back some 8years; it wasn’t so great and so I do have some reservations.

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I so want to explain to these people that I am not like many of the people they will have worked with, I have a condition they may never have heard of for starters. I am at times able and capable to do most things and then there are times when I things are too overwhelming and hard, times when I need support and help and times when I need them to step back and let me get on with it. Of course those times fluctuate from one day to another, in fact from one hour to another, depending upon which part of me is up front and driving this body we share.
I want them to know how I find each day, what its really like to be me and yet I’m not sure how I tell them that. The fact is I’m not sure my current team get how complicated and complex life can be for me. I’m certain they don’t understand the juggling I have to go through each day just to stay on an even keel, so how can I really expect my new team too. Yet I’m desperate that they do get me and they get the real me, why, well if they misconstrue me then they will judge me wrongly. They will like many before label me, stigmatise me and make assumptions about me which aren’t true and yes that does bothers me.

 

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I know I need to say things at the meeting about how I’m doing, what’s going on in my life right now and yes I can tell them about therapy and what’s happening. Yet I feel drawn to tell them about the things I’m really struggling with, because I need them to know. Yes I have made huge progress in the past 18 months and I’m really glad that I have, but there is still so much I need to do. For starters I want to be able to understand why I’m crying when I cry and yet there are many times I don’t. I want to be able to stop worrying about being judged but it feels like a mission impossible currently for me.
I want so much to be able to sleep in Bertie bedroom, that’s the name I’ve given the room in order to make it feel less scary, yet right now I’m able to just manage sitting in there for short bursts of time and then I need to leave. I visit the room a couple of times a day to get dressed and undressed but that’s all really, I can’t face sleeping in there and I can’t say when I will. It is as I’m often reminded a work in progress and it’s been months of hard work and effort just to get this far, that’s the joy of fearing a room because of linked memories. My bedroom of course is safe; I know that, but bedrooms and beds weren’t always so safe and that’s the issue. I have to overcome a fear that is ingrained in me from when I was young and sadly it still affects my life.
I want to be able to sleep in a real bed and not face struggles doing that, and yet currently I can’t. In fact I’ve slept on a sofa for 9 months now and that’s not so easy to admit to a random stranger; who I want so desperate to see me as an equal. In fact admitting or discussing most of this to someone who can impact my life in either a positive or negative way isn’t easy at all. So my dilemma is do I tell them at the CPA what’s concerning me or do I sit and pretend everything is perfect just because I have a new team.
How do I really trust these professionals who have the power after all to detain me against my will, give me treatment I don’t want and who can forcible medicate me or lock me in institutions all under the guise of healthcare. The power imbalance that exists between me and the professionals is a bit like having a pink elephant in a room, we all know it’s there but no one talks about it.

 

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That power imbalance though is concerning to me, I don’t like feeling out of control and the fact the new care coordinator and her team can take control away from me is frightening. So as I plan ahead for the meeting that in truth can go one way or another, that could be either a huge success or a terrible failure I need to find ways to stay focused. I need to remember these people are not the enemy, they are professionals whose task is to help me recover and deal with my mental health. In truth they are as at much risk of being sectioned as I am, that power hangs over everyone of us no matter who we are, Doctors, nurses, service users we are all able to be sectioned if we are deemed unwell enough.
This meeting maybe a scary prospect but I realise it also allows me a chance to educate people about Dissociative Identity Disorder and about me. It offers a chance to show them that actually I am working hard, it offers a chance to demonstrate my desire to recover and live an effective life with DID. I know parts of me are frightened by the upcoming meeting, trust is a big issue for us and so getting to know new people is hard. But my job now is to stay calm, reassure my alters and focus on showing these people who I really am and how I expect to be treated as an equal partner in my care.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Crisis services – my experience 

I read about out of hours services today and it led to me to thinking about my experience with crisis services in the past. The first time I encountered a crisis team or out of hours service my experience wasn’t great they seemed to totally misconstrue me and failed to help or support in any way. I can recall one time when they visited me at home and having decided that I was safe leaving me there in a crisis and in chaos. I was suicidal and desperate and so clearly losing time and switching, but they didn’t see that they just me as inadequate, dysfunctional and a nuisance.

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They left me alone and still suicidal and so intent on dying that in desperation I tried to harm and then I dissociated, during which time I took off only to surface a few hours later some 60 plus miles from my home. I was picked up by the police for my own safety after they saw the distress that I was in and I was taken to a nearby hospital, they assessed me and admitted me to hospital.

Crisis at home had failed me, sadly it is often what happens, for me at least.
There was the occasion when I couldn’t live at home and had no where to go, I had been in hospital and discharged just a few days earlier but I had no place to stay. I had self harmed and the police had taken me for an assessment at the hospital, I sat waiting until the crisis team arrived and then they didn’t even talk to me except to give me a list of hostels. I hadn’t gone to hospital because I wanted a place to stay, I wanted to die, I had gone there by force and against my will and yet I was treated like I was a nuisance.

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Then on one occasion I was at home and struggling, crisis care was put in place and so for a couple of days they visited me. I saw a different person on each day, I never saw the same person twice and after a couple of visits I was put onto telephone calls only. The calls would be brief, wanting to know how I felt and then not really being able to offer any guidance or support really when I said how bad things were. By day four I was discharged from the crisis team to my regular mental health team, I wasn’t any better yet the crisis team support was only meant to be brief. I guess it didn’t matter that it didn’t work, or that discharge to me seemed too soon, too swift. Two days later I was seen by my community team and they admitted to hospital, I spent six months in hospital on that occasion, so crisis clearly couldn’t help prevent my downward spiral.

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The crisis team in recent times has just been telephone support, but if I’m honest I avoid calling them unless it’s absolutely dire. If Samaritans are not able to help and I’ve tried everyone else I can think of, then and only then will I call crisis, it is a last ditch attempt. The last two occasions have been pretty much the same really, I call, I say I’m struggling and they go through a list of techniques to try. ‘Take a warm bath, have a hot milky drink, try a nice walk or have you watched TV, tried to distract yourself?’ these are their usual lines.
They never assume I might have tried these things before, that I might have already thought of them myself. It never occurs to them that I don’t actually ring them when a crisis starts, or that they are usually the last person I try. It’s as if the staff manning these services are reading off a predetermined script and are unable to offer any person centred approach of any kind.

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The last time I called I was desperately trying not to self harm, struggling with grief and the difficulties of accepting my trauma. I needed some help to try and keep me safe, I didn’t want wrapping up in cotton wool I just needed some guidance to help me, help myself. Some advice to point me in the right direction to prevent that slide back into harming. I was desperate not to self harm, desperately busting a gut as I fought to resist the urges growing ever stronger. I had already tried all their suggestions before I even called them. In the end the only advice was have another drink, try some art maybe and call back if your struggling still.

About an hour later I did call back, this time I got a different person who initially went through all the same familiar suggestions. Then I heard another phone ringing and the nurse on the end of the line basically told me she was hanging up on me as there was another call and she couldn’t help me. In the end I stayed safe but only thanks to the support of those on social media and then later my family. The crisis team didn’t even inform my local community mental health team that I’d contacted them and was struggling, how is that joined up care.

The crisis service were and I believe are unable to offer any support or guidance that is of use to me, after all they don’t even know my diagnosis.

In the past decade my encounters with the crisis team of two separate hospital trusts have shown me that their understanding of dissociative disorders is limited. Their ability to assist and offer support is limited, in fact for me they are not there in a crisis because they can’t comprehend me or my diagnosis and without that they appear to be unable to help when I need them most.

In the future when I call, if I call, I will explain what I need which is usually someone to help me mentalize things, someone to just listen, to know my pain. I don’t need pointers like a bath or a drink I just need five minutes of their time and for them to hear me. From now on I aim to take control of my interactions with Crisis services and hopefully that will educate them as we go. Maybe this way they can help me when I need it most, only time will tell.

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