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.

 

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

Feeling flat and unsettled

Last week I felt excited, I had had a day of little me’s playing and having fun and I had a whole new week to look forward to. Fast forward 7 days and I’m sitting here feeling flat and unsettled and I’m not really sure of why, it seems so unfair to suddenly find myself overawed by everything once again. I realise that I have had a busy week it’s been full of builders coming and going as they work on creating a safe space for me. There hasn’t been a spare moment really and at times I’ve felt like I’m juggling way too much and I’ve just wanted the world to stop so I could get off.

 

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But like I always do I’ve tried to push on, put on my fake smile and just keep going, but then that doesn’t seem to be as effective these days. My family seem able to see through this and my fake smile seems to wear off quicker these days too. My body starts to let me know when I’m struggling whether it’s aches and pains, upset stomach or painful headaches, it finds a way to communicate it’s unhappy.

Yesterday my plans to be at a training event were thrown into chaos as a headache overwhelmed and I just wasn’t able to keep going. Physically I felt drained but emotionally I was gone, I had nothing in reserve all I seemed able to do was cry. I conceded defeat, well more my family made me concede defeat and accept I needed to rest, I needed me time. I slept for most of the day struggling to stay awake and yet I was stunned by just how drained I really was.

In between the sleep I was thinking, thinking about why I felt so rough and why my mood was lower than usual. Having workmen in the house as been hard, it’s meant really early mornings and lots of intrusion, it’s been harder to just sit and relax. I haven’t found it easy to just sit and watch cartoons or do art, or many of the things that I’d normally do, I have been constantly aware of switching and worried more when I lost time.

On one day I couldn’t get out, I had to be in for the workmen and for a delivery, I found myself feeling restricted and couldn’t help feeling uneasy. All I could think about was not being able to go out, no fresh air or space either, I guess looking back I probably had ‘cabin fever’. It reminded me of days in hospital when there was no space, no place to hide from anyone and of being confined to the ward. I spent nearly six weeks at one point locked inside my secure unit, no fresh air or space or escape I hated those days and I realise that just one day of being stuck inside my own home made me feel back in that time.

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I also realised that I haven’t had time as much for me or my alters; the different parts of me and that I think has played a part. I have tried to give parts time, but if I’m honest I haven’t been as effective at doing so this last week. So today I have tried a little harder, I’ve watched cartoons, done a few hours of art and I’ve taken time out from home. Just knowing I can go out even if it is for a cup of tea at the local coffee shop somehow seems to lift my cabin fever feeling.

I’ve sat and worked through my diary, it’s still too busy whilst the building work continues but I have marked out a couple of days for me. Time when I can be just me, a person living with alters, a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, no fake smile, no hidden emotions. I’ve also restructured the next few weeks so they are less chaotic and more self caring, after all I hate this feeling of numbness, of emptiness, that I have currently hanging over me.

I do currently feel flat and unsettled, I know that won’t shift overnight but I can try and help myself to make this period less distressing. I can be honest and say sometimes life’s tough, sometimes it feels just too much and that at times I want the world to stop so I can get off. I am conscious there maybe an underlying issue that I need to resolve, some of which I can’t  post in a blog, but I am aware of it and that is a start. I have therapy this week and I hope I can try and discuss some of the issues that I’m aware of in the hope it helps. I need to be truthful about how I feel and truthful about my fears, I need to be honest about the reasons deep down that I think might be exacerbating my current mood.

Years ago when I felt like this, I’d give up and I mean give up, I’d succumb to harming and worse, but not now. Now it’s different, now I’m able to rationalise things a little better, understand why I feel like I do and I have the skills to at least attempt to help put things back on a even keel. I’m able to know that this is just a phase in my life, a period of time which might be a struggle but which will pass eventually. I also have access to services that can help sustain me through this period, people I can talk to and people who can help me help myself.

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Most of all I have a whole army of alters who hate me feeling like this and I know that they can in their own way help me too. Watching cartoons earlier with my little me’s gave me light hearted relief for a brief period, taking time to do art with my teen alter helped give me a sense of accomplishment. I guess I’m learning collaboration with my parts is beneficial for all of us, that we each have unique gifts and qualities that we bring to the mix. Yes it’s hard living with D.I.D but if I’m honest I can’t imagine being without my alters, they are all a part of me and together we make up the whole person called Carol.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 envelopes 8 years apart – from suicidal to survivor mum 

Trigger warning : please exercise self care. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

 

 

My Battle With ‘Self Harm’

TRIGGER WARNING

 

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The feelings come suddenly swooping down and descending upon me, the darkness hits me when I least expect it. I’m use to my mood changing, it fluctuates quite often as I switch from one alter to another but this is different. A part of me is clearly struggling and her mood is more lower than usual, she feels despondent and so negative and I am finding it difficult to know what to do.

This alter, this part of me has never been so evident until now and yet suddenly the emotions and feelings overwhelm. She loathes herself and it’s seeping slowly into me and whilst I try to not feel so negative it’s in built in some weird kind of way. I was never good enough as a child and it’s clearly influenced my thinking and now I’m more aware of just how self critical and self loathing I am prone to be. So it’s no wonder my feelings this week have been far more negative than in recent months and it’s impacting upon life.

I wrote earlier this week about the desire to self harm being strong, I thought it might be helpful to explain what that’s like for me. The urges come from nowhere suddenly appearing and so powerful and strong, they start often without any warning and they catch me by surprise.

The other night I couldn’t sleep, no matter how hard I try it just wasn’t happening and I felt on edge and agitated. I couldn’t explain why I was so anxious or agitated I really didn’t understand, however I did know I felt a dark cloud hanging over me. I tried distraction, relaxation techniques and even the hot drink that I knew my crisis worker would suggest yet nothing worked. As the time ticked by once again and I felt exhausted but still couldn’t sleep my feelings towards myself sank lower and lower. I guess I get illogical at these times in some kind of way and soon everything bad that ever happened in my childhood was my fault, I was bad, I was to blame. Then began the urges, I found myself searching for objects that I could use, I haven’t done that in a while. A few years ago I wouldn’t have had to search, the blades were close by and all I had to do was take a few paces to find one.

Now I have a somewhat different tactic I try not to have any blades in the house, yes there are knives in my kitchen but they are usually not great ones more blunt than anything. So I had begun looking at things and deciding what to use, I was logically working out where I would cut to avoid it being seen by others. My children are far more sharp eyed these days and I can’t just hide a scar like I use to, as all these thoughts raced through my mind the urge to cut was growing stronger by the minute. My head was a whirlwind, voices raced away in conversation some clearly urging me on whilst others condemned me. Meanwhile others mainly my protector alter were stating quite clearly that harming wouldn’t help and telling me I didn’t want to do this.

The feelings of confusion kept growing and tears were streaming down my face, in truth when I’m strong and coping with life I don’t want to harm, but I know I might and that is something I have to accept. You see harming is my default position when emotions become too strong too much to bear and when I feel I’m bad it’s even harder. I looked at my arms and I saw my veins and began thinking of the her DNA, her blood running through me. I can never escape the reality that my Mother made up half of my genetic code and without her I wouldn’t be here. Years ago I wanted to just cut her out of me, but of course that isn’t possible and I found out that after years of cutting and harming it didn’t eradicate her from me. So today I know that deep down I can’t take her away by hurting me, maybe that’s why I worked harder than ever the other night at trying to stop myself from giving in to the urges to harm and eventually resorted to extra medication yet again to help numb my pain.

The desire to harm has continued at a pace this week often linked to feelings of anguish and turmoil and the pain of years ago suddenly overwhelming me clearly demonstrates that healing hurts. I think feeling such self loathing and negativity; it’s been stronger than ever recently, hasn’t helped either as I feel I need to be hurting physically not just emotionally.

This evening I had been doing ok and then it swooped out from above and descended like a thick heavy cloud squishing me. I felt like my heart was being ripped in two and tears began to stream once more down my face. The feelings of self loathing grew instantly like a huge crescendoing wave battering me as if I’m being tossed in a storm. I realised I was scratching my arm, desperate to self inflict harm, desperate to hurt me for being so pathetic and so definitely to blame for my past. I want to somehow express in a physical sense the emotional hurt I am feeling, but I know self harming isn’t going to stop this pain well not for long anyway.

I am surrounded in lots of ways by a loving family and tonight my daughter and eldest son have been a big help. They have phoned me often, made me cups of tea, distracted me, reassured me and generally badgered me. Telling me how good I am, how it’s not my fault and reminding me of the words my psychologist has said about not being to blame. It hasn’t stopped the urges far from it, but it’s helped me reach into my tool box of resources and work at trying to stay safe.

Earlier this week my psychologist kindly emailed me and I have re-read his email over and over, slowly the words are sinking in. Slowly all the stabilisation work we have done in the last year of therapy is coming to the forefront of my mind and I’m able to use it to good effect. Internally parts of me are hurting, others though are rallying to help and yes my protector has been telling me I deserve better and reminding me who was to blame in the past. My teen alter has also been present and using her way of communicating to reassure me, I know my distress impacts upon her and I don’t want to hurt her. It’s strange how getting to know my parts, my alters has meant I care about them more and as such I don’t want to cause them more distress.

I’m still here and I’m still trying to not self harm, but if I do please don’t look down at me or think I’m attention seeking or bad. If you only knew how hard it was, the anguish and the pain we go through, then maybe you’d understand why it’s difficult to not self harm. Why I’m in the midst of a battle and I’m not sure if I’ll win.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Facing the Shame and Guilt of being Groomed

TRIGGER WARNING !!!!

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Over the past few weeks it’s been very hard to write a blog, so my apologies for not posting very much recently. The holidays have caused me to face some memories from my past which have been extremely difficult and that I have found very painful and challenging.

It all started with a new alter who emerged one day as I tried to give my little alters time, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion I felt scared and a sadness that was blacker than black. It felt dire and it really was difficult to feel, I tried to find out who these feelings belonged to and so I asked inside. Suddenly the new alter appeared, she’s aged I guess about 8 or 9, I’m basing that on two things one this is definitely a little alter and two the memories that have surfaced revolve around a very specific time period in my life. Her only questions to me were quite specific, ‘was she bad’ and ‘why did her mummy not love her’.

Trying to find answers to these questions was difficult, I know she is not bad but were does one start with the question regarding my Mother. My Mother clearly didn’t love me, not even for a minute and she was intent on making sure I knew that especially as a child. Yet even now I find it impossible to explain why, some tell me she was mad, others bad, I just see her as someone whose actions and reactions were incomprehensible to any sane person.

I was able the first time to sit with these feelings and reassure my alter who settled after a while and disappeared from my radar again. Over the next few days she kept appearing and mainly it was her feelings I felt, alongside the voice in my head which joins the cacophony of voices that I live with most days as a result of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Over time my head was filled with memories of specific incidents and people, times in my past that I really wish I could leave behind. I found myself sitting and thinking, remembering what I did know yet had chosen to block away and yet at the same time dealing with memories of things I had not fully recalled before. Alongside these came the emotions that I guess stem from this time but which I have never really felt before, it’s as if I am reliving the events of decades ago.

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It’s not time travel but it’s the nearest thing to it, I’ve been catapulted back to 1974 yet I’m living in 2015. I’ve travelled back to a small rented house on the edge of a mill town in Yorkshire, relived in my mind the horrors of a man who skilfully played me. I say skilfully play because that is what he did, he spent months grooming me in full knowledge my Mother wouldn’t object. My Mother introduced him to me when he was on bail for offences against children, she knew his bail terms and she allowed him to break them in our home; until he was sent to prison for his crimes against other youngsters.

He wasn’t like other abusers who bullied me, threatened me or were violent and aggressive towards me, no he was different he befriended me. He made me feel like I was safe, he provided stability in the utter chaos that was my existence back then and he cleverly orchestrated to break down my barriers and then psychologically played me. He spent months helping me with my school work, stepped in and protected me from my Mothers chaotic random behaviours and he gave me time and attention. In fact for years I thought this man was my friend, a friend who cared, who was a calming influence in my childhood. Then the memories began and about 10 years ago I started to realise things were not as idyllic as I had convinced myself they were. I began to remember his actions, the things that really happened that I had blocked out for so long. I realised it was at those times I had dissociated away to avoid the pain, but a part of me still lay there took the abuse and carried those memories that for years stay hidden from me.

It is this part I’m now engaging with, this child that is me who was betrayed and conned by a man who groomed me to such an extent that I didn’t need physical coercion in order to fulfil his requests, he psychologically had full control of me. This man had played with my head so much that looking back if he had told me to jump off a bridge into a deep river whilst weighed down with a heavy weight, I would have.

This man was a career paedophile who knew from the moment he first met me what he wanted to achieve. Then he skilfully worked at getting what he wanted, whilst at the same time making me carry all the shame and the guilt. This week that shame and guilt carried by my alter has for the first time really hit home with me, I have felt it and I am now trying to deal with it and survive.

To say shame and guilt is overwhelming would be an understatement, the feelings of disgust with myself is so bad that my skin feels like it’s crawling. I feel dirty, I feel soiled and I feel like I am bad.
I know logically none of the abuse was my fault, but what my head knows my heart doesn’t and so the emotions are intense as are the feelings they evoke. I have had such a strong desire to self harm this week that at one point I sat looking at tools to use, trying to decide which one was best. I haven’t planned in such a way for ages and it felt like a huge battle just to stay safe, thankfully with the help of additional medication I have been able to do so thus far.

My abuser will be old and wrinkly now I don’t think he is dead, I doubt he ever thinks of me but this past few weeks he is at the forefront of my mind. What happened over 40 years ago is being played out all over again.

My job now isn’t to dissociate it’s to keep talking with my alter, keep building a rapport and trust with her and it’s to feel my feelings that she’s held for so long. My job now is to learn to feel these emotions, and deal with them so that they no longer hold such a stronghold over me. As my psychologist told me this week this won’t be easy and it will take time and work. I know right now its a challenge and it hurts, it’s the first big test of the skills I have learnt in the past year of therapy. I can only hope I manage to survive this without too much damage or harm to myself.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Healing Hurts!

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They say that time is a healer, and maybe just maybe that will prove to be true, but I have realised this week that sometimes that to heal from the past means hurting too. For years now I have been plagued with memories and flashbacks from my childhood and I’ve spent decades blocking out the past. Whilst my mind is allowing me to slowly break down this amnesic wall I erected as a child it also means confronting the emotions I have blocked out.

As a child I dissociated when things were too overwhelming, it was my sane reaction to the insane circumstances that were my life. But I also switched off my feelings of that time too, they weren’t forgotten but stored away deep inside far enough away that I could cope with the nightmare that was my reality.

It’s hard to face the past, it’s hard to process the painful memories that I can no longer deny, that I can no longer block out. Because to face the past, to process the trauma I need to feel the emotions of the past, that means dealing today with the anguish I should have faced as a child but wasn’t able to.

Today I have spent the majority of time feeling awful, feeling such turmoil and anguish because I am dealing with the feelings that I carry from an event that happened some 34 years ago. 34 years ago the trauma that happened I couldn’t cope with so I dissociated, I disappeared and another part of me took the trauma, the pain and the memory. 34 years ago that part of me dealt with the horror but I didn’t and I have never faced up to the horror of that incident. In fact it’s only in recent years I have been aware of the whole incident, of what happened to me as a child. I was a vulnerable child who couldn’t prevent what happened to her, who sadly was abused by someone far older, far stronger and intent on hurting me.

Over the past years I have been plagued by the recurring flashbacks of that time, it’s one of many incidents from my chaotic childhood. Those flashbacks render me frozen in terror, it has felt at times like it’s all happening to me all over again. The first time I had the flashback it felt like I was being raped by this particular man for the very first time. I had no memory of the event at the start, another part of me held that memory. As the flashbacks came and went I would struggle to accept, to believe and I felt shame and guilt on a scale you never think humanly possible. I have felt guilty and I felt angry too, but not at him, but at me for not stopping it.

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I’ve learnt recently that in order to prevent these memories, this flashback from gripping me in fear every time I relive the nightmare that I need to process my emotions from the past. That means today I have grieved, I’ve cried, I’ve screamed and shouted just as perhaps I ought to have done 34 years ago. I am processing my feelings from this time, I’m slowly learning that it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I could have done to prevent it happening to me. I’m feeling the emptiness and sorrow that comes I guess from knowing I was violated, I was abused. I’m grieving for what I never had, I only ever wanted to be safe, to be like all the other kids in my class. I wasn’t after an idyllic childhood but one where I was safe, loved and respected.

At times today I have just wanted to hide, to bounce off into the wilderness and never return, today I have wanted to escape this pain and I have had thoughts of self harming. Harming in order to express the pain I feel inside in an outward way, because at points today that internal pain has overwhelmed me. Yet I so desperately do not want to resort back to old habits, I know I am stronger than that even when it all feels too much to bear.

I’m also coming to terms with the fact this happened to me, I can’t deny the truth anymore nor can I pretend it was an alter he abused, because my alters are still parts of me. 34 years ago I should have felt bereft instead I feel like that tonight, 34 years ago I should have felt anguish and in turmoil instead I have felt like that today. Yet all the while I know this isn’t a current threat or risk, I am processing a memory from the past.

My psychologist tells me that over time I will lessen the hold these memories have on me, that time will heal. Other survivors tell me that too and their words of support and understanding have been a lifeline today, knowing others comprehend these feelings I have really does help. Healing hurts I can’t deny that fact, it simply does and I need to slowly learn to accept that. In time I can only hope that I will process enough of the past to stop it having the hold over me it currently does. In time I can only hope that I will gain strength and move forwards on this journey that I find myself currently on.

I’ve spent a lifetime blocking out the horrors of my past, I’m not prepared to let it destroy me anymore, I’m not prepared to let it rule me or my life. I want the future I deserve, to be able to fulfil my potential in life, I don’t, I won’t let the legacy of my past control me, control my future. That’s something I can achieve,  to have control of the future.

Someone posted today on social media that ‘ there is healing in tears and strength In facing anger, there is so much hope no matter how confusing or chaotic it maybe right now’.  I can only hope that I find my tears healing, for I know I deserve a future, a chance at life beyond the memories, beyond the legacy of my past.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Dissociative Identity Disorder Before Diagnosis

This is the first of a series of posts about life pre and post diagnosis -the early years.

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When I first began to realise I lost time I had no idea I had alters, or that I had Dissociative Identity Disorder. In the early days before my diagnosis I would often be told that I had said or done something I had no knowledge of and of course I would deny this emphatically. I’d be told I’d been seen here or there and missed appointments and being places I should not have been, life was chaotic to say the least.

As a young mum I had caring responsibilities that required me to be stable and consistent, I realise now I was far from either. At the time I used to just feel frustrated, over whelmed and often very perplexed, I’d be accused of changing my mind frequently without any realisation I had.

My children tell me that it wasn’t uncommon for me to tell them to wear one thing, only to question ten minutes later why they were wearing the said clothes. They’d try and tell me that they were doing so because I’d told them to and yet I would say no I didn’t, I wasn’t being awkward I really had no idea. Now I know different parts of me where giving different and often conflicting instructions causing untold chaos and confusion to them and to me their mum.

It wasn’t just clothes, it could be anything and everything about each day, whether we were walking to school or taking the car, doing this activity or that. Looking back I’m surprised they are not angry at me, after all their childhood was anything but settled and stable. Yet in their eyes it was stable and settled after all they lived with their mum and their dad who both gave them time and attention and my behaviours didn’t feel odd to them, it was all they knew.

They thought most mums changed their minds lots, were forgetful and did odd things, it wasn’t until years later they began to realise the were brought up by a multitude of different parts of me, their mum. I can recall losing track of time so often I’d have to cover myself, make excuses and feebly attempt to make things look normal.

I spent a lot of time out of the house and engrossed myself in work and other activities, it was easier than admitting I was struggling and couldn’t keep track of my actions in the home. Family members helped me to look after the children and so I was able to just about cope when they were young.

At work I realise looking back I often lost time, appeared to change my mind frequently and would forget I had done tasks and repeat them again. I can recall leaving work and wondering why it took me so long to get home, realising time had gone by and I couldn’t explain what had happened. I used to find things I had bought but had no recollection of buying and wasn’t averse to buying the same thing over and over again.

When I was self harming, there would be times I knew I had self harmed and then others were I would find a wound that needed medical attention. I often had no idea where these wounds came from, how they happened or what with, try explaining that to your family or the medical profession. You can imagine the confusion and fear I felt, I use to think maybe someone was doing this to me, it didn’t make sense.

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I was often accused in hospital of being angry and yet have no recollection of any anger and I knew I didn’t feel angry. No matter how I tried people couldn’t understand and I would get frustrated and annoyed, staff couldn’t comprehend that I really found this difficult.

I’d telephone the crisis team or my care co-ordinator and then later on call them again, without realising I had already called. They would get frustrated and I just felt more and more confused and perplexed.

I’d find bank account details and credit agreements that I had no knowledge of, I had apparently gone shopping without any awareness of doing so. I know at one point I’d realise I’d spent money in a certain place and yet I thought I had stayed home that day.

If I am honest by the time I was in hospital and being assessed for this thing called dissociation I had no idea who I was anymore. I certainly didn’t feel normal and I felt on a constant roller coaster of emotions, they’d flit from one to another without warning. I could be euphoric and the next minute desperation would grip me and I feel suicidal. My head was in utter confusion and I was drugged up on medication it was hard to remember the real me anymore.

I was plagued with memories and flashbacks that filled my days and my nights, I was aware at times I felt small and wanted to skip, I’d catch myself in a mirror and wonder just who was staring back at me. Yet in this chaos I found it hard to accept who I was and when I asked by the psychology team to undertake work to try and decipher who I was, it was hard. Hard to explain I felt little, felt moody like a teen or just different from me and hard to confess I had found toys in my room.

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By the time I was diagnosed I could no longer deny what I clearly knew deep down, I had alters, I lost time, I was a we. Yet my diagnosis wasn’t something I found easy to accept, it wasn’t something I wanted to have and so yes like most people I guess I denied it. I tried hard to say they were wrong, it didn’t make sense and yet deep down it did.

Looking back I can see it was just me and my alters fighting for space in this body that we share, fighting to have control. When my feelings changed, when I lost time, when I did or said something I couldn’t recall doing, that was when another part me had taken over control and I had dissociated and gone away.

To the world it was just this person they all knew as Carol, except I now know Carol is made up of many parts, many alters with differing views and experiences. My alters have their own likes and dislikes and they have their own skills and talents too, they also have their own feelings and emotional states.

Whilst I found the diagnosis hard it made sense to my family, the children told me it made sense of their childhood and my daughter emphatically told me she had realised I had D.I.D before the final diagnosis came. Though it wasn’t until after my diagnosis she shared that information with me when I argued down the phone line that the professionals were all wrong. Yet this diagnosis that I chose to deny was right, it explained so much and yet it felt so confusing in many ways too.

 

copyright DID Dispatches 2014

The Life Sentence of Being Sectioned

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The other day I read a comment on social media which asked approved mental health professionals to think before they section someone in order to get them a hospital bed. It was stated that being detained under the Mental Health Act remains on a persons file for life, and suddenly it got me thinking about the impact of my time in mental health services.

You see I had assumed that having not been detained under the Mental Health Act for over 5 years, I was free of that part of my life. Indeed I haven’t been in secure services since that time either, so again I had assumed it was behind me. Yet if the comments are true and these things stay on file for life, I am in many ways doomed.

Doomed because no matter how long I keep myself out of a mental health bed when people look at my medical file, my past will jump out and hit them in the face. The professionals will see that I have been sectioned for more than a year and that I have spent time locked in a forensic medium secure unit. Will they then assume that I have a criminal record, because most people think you only get sent to these units if you have committed some type of heinous crime. Furthermore will they wrongly assume I must be dangerous, because believe me that’s what some misguided people think.

When I was studying for my degree I had to challenge the course lecturer on the issue of forensic services, it was stated in course material that these units were for criminals with serious Mental Health issues. It also stated that they had to have demonstrated a high degree of risk to others to be sent to these places. I knew of course this wasn’t always the case, I was living proof of that and yet it took a lot of determination and challenges to prove to them their views, their facts were both flawed and inaccurate.

I doubt that I could change or remove these medical facts about my section from my file, they are truthful and accurate statements, the difficulties lie of course in people’s interpretation of those facts. I have always wondered what people would think of me having being detained, would professionals treat me differently.

I know in the early days post discharge I feared being re-sectioned, I worried that at the sign of any small crisis I’d be locked up and send miles away. I was certain if I needed hospital I would be send back to secure services and yet my then CPN told me I was being silly, no one would judge me. But that fear remained and I think that fear has led me to fight steadfastly to never need a mental hospital bed again. That’s why I find it hard to call for help when I’m struggling, I have self harmed before because I was so desperate and yet I wouldn’t, I couldn’t call crisis services.

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Now it seems that these facts will stay on my file for life and I can’t help wondering if that’s already led to changes in how people deal with me. Do professionals already treat me with more caution, do they pre-judge me when they see my history. Will they pre-determined who they think I am, instead of coming and seeing me as blank canvas and judging me on my merits.

What about if I seek employment will these facts be available to prospective employers and if so how will that impact me, I doubt it’s going to help. What if I want to volunteer and need a DBS check (police check), will these things come up in that. There are so many unanswered questions that I have, so many fears that my past will taint my future. The powers that be need to allow this data to be removed from a persons health file after a certain number of years.

To those Approved Mental Health professionals (AMHP) who now hold the power to take away a persons liberty, I’d ask them to consider their actions. I feel I was sectioned initially to off load cost implications of a specialist bed from one team to another. I know my later sections were done by the very people whose living depended upon me filling their beds, operating in the private sector that was funded by the NHS.

The fact AMHP’s today are placing people on a section because that’s the only way to find a bed is deeply worrying. Do they realise the impact they make on that persons life, not just at that moment of taking away someone’s liberty but the longer term implications. It seems now those implications last a lifetime, and my records are duly marked. As I said before it feels a bit like I’m doomed, this life sentence is hanging over my head forever and there little I can do to change that.

The sad thing is I was sectioned because I was unwell, I didn’t ask to be unwell it wasn’t even of my doing. Yet it seems being unwell is punishable in this country and probably many others too with a life sentence of being labelled, pre-judged, disadvantaged and treated differently.

copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Dissociating and losing time

 

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One of the difficult things about living with Dissociative Identity Disorder is the fact that I lose time, it is irritating, confusing and frustrating. I seem to have lost quite a bit of time so far this week and that has led to certain things not getting done, which Is something I find particularly annoying.

I am fortunate that at times, my family or my support workers can explain to me afterwards what has actually happened in the time I have been away, it can be extremely unsettling and disturbing. Yet somehow it is annoying to find minutes or in the worst cases hours have gone by and I have no recollection of them at all. It certainly makes planning things difficult and I know that I can’t always complete everything I had intended in a day because of the fact I am losing time.

At the lesser end of losing time I can find myself missing odd parts of conversations, a sentence which is somehow crucial to the conversation and can leave me feeling perplexed. It’s not uncommon for me to stand looking blankly at a person thinking desperately what were we discussing, frantically searching my mind for the last point of conversation that I remember. I often have no idea how much time as gone by at this point and yet the other person may have no idea how confused or disorientated I feel.

I am slowly learning to rescue myself from such situations, but I am told I often make statements or comments that are a little out of place to the conversation thread. I try and laugh these small incidents off but inside I am usually feeling anxious as I always worry people won’t understand or that another part of me has said or done something I would find embarrassing.

Currently the worst extreme of losing time I am experiencing is that of losing hours; not the days I have lost before, it is so difficult to find that in what feels like a few seconds time has moved forwards. Knowing that I have no recollection of what this body of mine has being doing or saying in that lost time is frightening. It can feel extremely scary and I usually frantically try to establish what exactly has happened in those lost hours.

The other day I was sat watching tv at home, in a sort of co-presence state between the little parts of me and me; Carol. The next moment a couple of hours had gone by and though the TV was still on the programmes had moved forward as had the clock, I also had rather grubby hands and there was sticky sweet wrappers by my side too. Feeling disorientated I asked my son who was at home if he knew what had happened in the time I had lost, fortunately I guess on this occasion he could fill in the blanks. Apparently one of my alters; another part of me, had asked for his help to complete a task and they’d even had a conversation with him. Slowly I was able to build up a picture of that time, I had planted some seeds in the garden and chatted on the phone to my daughter too.

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I found myself feeling unsure whether to be pleased for the alter or annoyed, I mean they had taken control of my body. But I began to realise why maybe this had happened and it was as much my fault, I had allowed this alter to choose seeds at the garden centre last week to plant and then actually planted some of them myself. No wonder they took control and seized an opportunity to have their turn at doing the activity I had promised them.

It was reassuring that I hadn’t done anything unsafe or embarrassing, I was glad they had planted the seeds and had handled equipment safely. I’m not sure digging the holes for the seeds with a stone was a good idea, but it worked. They hadn’t hurt us and they had apparently had fun too, they had got anxious afterwards as they were unsure if I would be cross. Hence why they had called my daughter, who thankfully explained everything to me about their concerns. In the end I spent time reassuring them and letting them know that I wasn’t cross and that I was quite pleased they’d had fun. I made it clear it would have helped if we could have done it together, but that I accepted some of that was my fault too.

Life with different alters isn’t easy and I still find myself learning about this condition and living with it on a daily basis. I still make mistakes and that probably causes some of the lost time instances if I’m honest with myself. This week has been rather stressful and so maybe that’s why I am losing time more, it kind of makes sense to me.

When I was first diagnosed and realised that this losing time was for a reason and wasn’t because I was mad; which is what I initially thought right back in the beginning, I felt some kind of relief. But I did also get angry at the alters for robbing me of time, which is how it felt.

Now I take a different approach, I now realise that the alters are different parts of me and so even if I lose the time, another part of me knows exactly what has happened. It is still difficult and it’s not so easy to accept that I am made up of fragmented parts which co-exist often in isolation, separated by a brick wall of amnesia. However it could be so much worse, I now lose no more than a few hours and I’m usually in the safety of my own home at these times surrounded by people who understand.

There was a time when I lived on my own and lost days, I’d find myself in strange places with no idea how or why I was there. I often found myself standing next to a train line, teetering on the edge of a station platform or next to a canal. People failed to understand my distress or my upset and confusion at these times, I couldn’t explain what had happened it was impossible to find the words. In hospital I have found myself covered in self inflicted injuries and yet with no idea why or how they had happened. Staff would say I was attention seeking and fail to understand that I had lost time, to me it felt like someone else had done this and yet no one seemed to comprehend.

For now at least I don’t face this level of dissociating, yes losing time is still a part of my life and yes it impacts every day and it is frustrating and upsetting. But I do know that things could be much worse I could still be losing days and the fact I’m not is something for which I am extremely grateful.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014