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

Processing the emotions of my past

Processing the emotions of my past

Please note some people may find this blog difficult, please exercise self care. 

Life’s been a bit tough this past week, tough because I’m in the process of trying to understand my past and the anguish that seems to come from the legacy of my abuse. I’ve found myself crying with real pain, but this is not physical pain, no it’s deep within and it consumes all of me. It’s a pain like no other, a pain of deep scars and ingrained thoughts knocked into me years ago. This hurt is the dawning realisation and acceptance that the abuse I recall actually happened to me.
You see it is often easier to just acknowledge the memory, to think it through but not get emotionally involved, to remember but not accept these events happened to me. Yet once you start acknowledging these memories, the hurt and anguish that goes with them it hurts so much more. Acknowledging the emotions that co-exist alongside the actual memory itself is far far harder and I’m slowly realising that this hurt is something I have to go through if I want to recover.
For years I’ve had memories, fragments of time that suddenly appeared into my subconscious taking over my mind and plaguing me with horror. I’ve been inflicted with flashbacks and body memories which do so easily catapult me back in time, to when the events were actually happening. But for years I lived under the premise of these events happened to this alter or that alter, I never thought about the emotional impact that I as a child felt when the events were actually happening to this body of mine.
I’ve tried hard the past year to accept these events, this abuse well it happened to me I may have dissociated during the actual event but I was still there. I may have shut the memories, the pain and hurt away but I can’t deny this didn’t happen to me. I can’t deny I was scared, I was afraid or that I felt anger or guilt because back then I did. I can’t deny any longer that I as a child suffered horrendously, that I felt terrified, that I wished I could stop them because I did. Looking back now I realise that I boxed my emotions from this time away, I wasn’t allowed to feel, to express an opinion I had to just lie there and endure, that was my role.
But today decades later I can feel, I can express the pain and anguish of those times and the inner child in me needs to do that. I need to be able to let go of the hurt, the fears and the anger locked deep within. You see parts of me have carried these feelings and these memories for so long and now it’s right that we express them, it’s time for them and me to let go of our emotions, to feel.
So this past week I’ve found myself crying, consumed with anguish and hurt because for the first time in my life I’m feeling the hurt from decades ago, I’m actually allowing it to have an outlet, to stop it from being locked in. I’m giving the emotional hurt from that time an opportunity to be expressed, the feelings I have well they are those carried by me as a child when the abuse was a daily event.
Today I maybe an adult, but deep within lies the emotional scars of a child who has endured so much and yet thankfully survived. Those scars need to break free and the emotions contained within need processing, they need processing by me. I’m slowly realising that it’s ok to grieve, to feel, to cry, in fact it’s ok to be angry, to feel fear and a thousand other feelings I’ve carried over the years. I do feel dirty, I feel used, I feel rejection and I feel angry, I’m angry that this happened to me. I’m angry these people felt they had a right to abuse me when they had none.
I’m slowly coming to realise just how much this impacted upon me, not just the physical scars but the emotional too. You see being unable to express emotions over the years has taken a real toll on me. I’m scared of anger, I’m uncomfortable when I cry or feel overwhelmed and I find my emotional reactions to events quite alarming at times, because emotions feel alien to me.
I know that feeling and processing those emotions, my emotions is a huge part of my healing journey. It’s so critical to feel and to understand why I think and feel the way I do about many things. To acknowledge my grief, my hurt and to accept that these feelings are ok, they are safe and I’m ok to express them. So right now I’m accepting I need to take care of me, that I need to let my tears flow and that its safe. I used to think they’d overwhelm me and never stop but I know now that if I needed to stop crying to answer the phone or deal with an emergency I could stop them. I know that if they consume me and it becomes too much I can take a break from the pain they hold, I can say that’s enough for now I’ll feel some more tomorrow.
I know that this hurt and pain will take time to pass, indeed processing the emotions from the past will take sometime. But I know it’s better to start processing than leave them unworked through and full of their deadly sting which they hold. In time processing will lessen that sting and it will mean these memories and the emotional baggage they contain will not be able to come bite me again, they will not have the same hold over me.
Right now I’m slowly learning to manage my emotions, I’m coming to terms with the past and all the scars it contains. I’m taking time out in order to allow those emotions to be safely expressed and I’m ensuring all the parts of me have time too. Time to cry, to laugh, to shout and to feel but most of all to have time to heal, for that’s what this journey is all about. So I’ve structured my diary to give me some space, some free time and I’m ensuring I have space to think, to communicate internally and to work through these emotions, this legacy from my past one teeny tiny step at a time.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

How Safe Are Your Medical Records?

This week I have found myself being challenged not to explode, not to get angry or annoyed when deep down I feel violated and betrayed. Over the past few months I have been trying to access old medical records relating to my time in various mental health units, some mainly NHS operated ones and my old CCG have been very helpful others sadly not so. The private sector operated Partnerships in Care have to put it bluntly been unhelpful, and they haven’t forwarded all the information I requested within the time period set by the data protection.

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Yet their letter this last week threw me into chaos and in a bit of a spin, as I wasn’t expecting them to tell me they couldn’t find my notes. But that’s exactly what these people are now saying, they appear to be unable to locate the notes for a 16month admission including daily nursing records, clinical team meeting notes and most important of all my therapy notes.

The half hearted apology they have sent me doesn’t even begin to do justice to the harm they have caused, in fact I don’t think anything will ever repair the damage fully. I feel violated I feel hurt and why, well in the 16 months I was under their care I divulged some of the most sensitive data to my then therapist and other staff. In therapy I was forced to be explicit, forced to dig into the finer details of my abuse even when I didn’t want to.
My then therapist was trained to focus on making me feel vulnerable and dependent upon her, the three sessions a week were heavy going and hard work. Due to all the internal physical security of locks and swipe cards that epitomise a forensic unit, once I was at a session I had to stay the course. There were many times I sat in silence refusing to divulge details of the abuse or of my feelings, I didn’t trust her but in the end I talked often in frustration and fear. I would find myself having an outburst demanding to go back to the ward, demanding she stop playing the control game she seemed to enjoy. Often in these moments of sheer frustration there were tears and that’s when broken and distressed my abuse history began to pour out. I gave explicit details and I even named my abusers, I talked about them and their actions in as much detail as I did when I gave evidence to the police.
So in our therapy session the discussions; which were always awkward, were detailed and graphic and I hated it, I hated myself and I hated the people who hurt me. But looking back over the years I have felt able to take comfort from the fact those sessions were confidential, well at least in part as I know often what I said was shared with my then clinical team. Yet I felt reassured thinking the hospital had a duty to keep my sensitive information safe, how wrong could I be.

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It has taken the company over four months to write to me and admit they can’t locate my notes, now I could understand his if it was one small file, a few pieces of paper but it’s not! It’s case notes for a 16 month period, that’s roughly 485 days of nursing entries, it’s approximately 150 therapy sessions, 34 clinical team meeting reports and 3 CPA’s, 2 renewals of sections and 2 mental health act tribunal cases and all the necessary reports that they entail. So I imagine it’s more than one little folder of medical notes, after all a 6 month admission without therapy or section paperwork led to 2 folders of case notes.
So I estimate Partnerships in Care have lost about 5 lever arch folders, containing my medical notes in which are some of my most intimate data. Yet all they could send me was a solitary letter saying ‘I apologise we can’t locate your notes’. When I spoke to their registered manager she knew very little in fact she couldn’t even tell me when they last had my notes, where they were or where they are now likely to be. I mean it could be London, Leicester or Leeds perhaps or as I now fear in some public site somewhere accessible to all or possibly dumped in some country lane.
The fact is sorry just doesn’t cut it as I know this is a flagrant breach of data protection and if this were the NHS or the police, people would be jumping through hoops to try and locate my notes. They’d certainly be aware of the data protection act legislation and they’d realise this was a serious issue.

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Now unfortunately for Partnerships in Care I’m not going away quietly I had already contacted the information commissioners office and they do now know my data has been misplaced. They also know it’s contains important data relating not just to myself but other third party individuals, namely my abusers, my family even my children. They are aware my therapy notes are in my opinion as important as my police video interviews, in that they contain the same level of sensitive personal information. I hope they are able to swiftly take action to ensure this private company improves its data management procedures.
I hope too that Partnerships in Care will respond to the letter they are to get next week from myself, copies of which are being sent to the various governmental departments; who pay this company vast sums of money to provide forensic and secure services. These include the local CCG and secure services sector who sent me to their establishments and yet failed to ensure they had adequate data storage processes in place.
My main questions to the company right now is what are they going to do to put this right for me, after all I’m the one whose records it appears you’ve recklessly disregarded and inappropriately handled. I’m the one who feels violated, who has worried over what ifs, like what if my notes are picked up by a random stranger. I’m the one who has felt terribly distressed by the loss of these records, after all I thought my therapy notes, my sensitive data was safe, sadly Partnerships in Care you’ve proved me wrong. They weren’t safe at all from the minute they were written, your companies sloppy data handling processes meant they were lost from the outset.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

I wish I didn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder

 

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Hating my past

There are times when I just wish I didn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder, that I was just a ‘normal’ average person who wasn’t as fragmented as I am. So there are times when I try desperately to be your average well adjusted functioning person, someone who in my own case is able to do everything and anything. Sadly of course that isn’t the case I am someone who is fragmented, who has alters; the different parts of me, and who has a past.

A past that I know I so wish I didn’t hold, a past that I wish more than anything wasn’t true, but a past that I can’t change. I wasn’t the average girl next door growing up, I was the child suffering in silence, the child who was being abused.

That’s the hardest part I believe of having this thing called Dissociative Identity Disorder is my past, the reasons why I have D.I.D. For me at least it’s the coming to terms with the reasons why I dissociated in the first place that’s the hardest thing, why I now am fragmented and why I live in this chaos of triggers, switching and losing time.

Whenever I visit my birth place I am always somehow more aware of the past, I can’t help thinking of times when I was hurt and abused as we pass by places. The fear of seeing certain people is always there as is the harsh reality that this place holds many triggers for me. The accents of people and the little things that for many wouldn’t be significant suddenly seem so very important to me.

I visit because I want to and I have friends and family still there, but I also have a mass of memories which I so wish were not mine. Those memories of a past that I would rather not own and I’d rather hadn’t happened at all. The reality is of course I can’t change my past, and I can’t change the fact I have Dissociative Identity Disorder either.

I face this difficulty in two very different geographical locations because I spent part of my childhood in two counties. I moved approximately once every year, well I know I lived in at least different 15 houses by the time I was 17. I went to so many schools that I lost count of the number of teachers I encountered, but I know it was far more than your average child.

The fact my past is full of chaotic memories, moving and removing, anger, abuse and control meant that I dissociated, I dissociated to survive I guess, I doubt that I would have survived without dissociating. So I have a lot to be thankful for, in that dissociation probably saved my life and allows me to be here today the mum of three children who is determined to put my past behind me.

Yet dissociating so much to avoid the pain and the hurt is the very reason I now live with this disorder, it’s the very reason I live in chaos at times and it’s the very reason I have my alters. Now I don’t hate or dislike my alters how can I, they are parts of me fragmented as a result of my past trauma. I just hate having to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder and in turn having to accept ownership of my past.

The truth is it’s my past I hate the most, it’s my past that I so wish I could just walk away from but I know I can’t. I was talking about my past in my therapy session and doing as all victims do I’m sure that thing of self condemnation, I was angry at myself for not stopping it, for not telling, for not somehow being different, for not making my past better. Now normally when I see therapists or doctors they do that thing of telling me it wasn’t my fault and I brow beat them with my skewed logic, the logic that for years as allowed me to take this anger and hatred of my past out on me.

My skewed logic has been that given I was told by many abusers it was my fault and there were plenty of them, they can’t all be wrong. One of me, lots of them and so they must be right it was my fault. But my psychologist asked me questions back and for the very first time he didn’t accept my skewed logic he challenged it, not just with ‘your wrong’ but in a way that got me to think. Now he’s very good at analogies, and he uses them every now and again and that’s what he did in this case. His analogy made me think and I realised that I couldn’t deny that maybe my logic was skewed.

 
So now I guess I have to start living with acceptance, acceptance my logic was skewed and therefore I have a right to apportion anger and blame in the right direction. My past wasn’t my fault and the fact I have Dissociative identity Disorder isn’t my fault either, I don’t have to like my past or the fact I have D.I.D but that doesn’t mean I can’t like me. I can and need to learn to admit to people when I’m struggling and I’m not quite your average normal person and it’s ok not to be superwoman, to not be able to do everything.

Most of all I think I am learning that it’s ok to hate my past, but that I need to accept it as mine in order to move forward. I’m learning too that my self condemnation is flawed, I couldn’t have changed any of my past. I guess I’m learning it wasn’t my fault, the abuse wasn’t my fault.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

 

Challenging the past – life after trauma and abuse

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FIGHTING TO ADAPT MY AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHT PROCESSES:

This week it was pointed out to me that now when I say self critical comments I sometimes smile, as if in recognition of the fact I realise I have just said those words that epitomise my past; I’m stupid, or I’m pathetic seem to be regular terms which I use. Yet until a few months ago I didn’t even realise I did this negativity and critical thinking now I not only know that I do, but I am starting to recognise those times too, hence the smile of recognition as it dawns on me that I have done it again, put myself down when I know I don’t need to.

I don’t for one minute think I can just change the habits of a lifetime yet it’s progress to start acknowledging the times when I am in the words of my family, my own worst enemy. I think less of me than most people and why, because I was groomed into believing I wasn’t good enough, that everything was my fault.  I can’t say when all this began because it has in truth been all I ever known, even as an adult the contact I still kept with my abusers meant I was subject to a regular dose of criticism and negativity which just reinforced the work they did when they had access to me every day.

But I guess I am slowly coming to realise just how much I need to do to in order to leave my past behind,  the past which plagues my every day and influences and affects each decision and thought I have. As a child and even as an adult I have for many years existed in this world of negative connotations,  the automatic thoughts of negativity, self doubt and in many cases skewed thinking.

This has led me to think about why, why did the people involved do this to me and no I haven’t been self pitying here it’s more a logical question. Why do some people feel the need to put other people down, to make them feel inferior and worthless?

As I put away my suitcases this week in the loft and frantically  searched for something I had lost, one of my favourite pastimes – losing things. I came across a photograph of some of those abusers and it was hard at first not to react in a fearful way, in an angry way, but then I looked at it, at them and thought of the people they once were. my reaction and my thoughts even surprised me, there would have been a time I couldn’t even look at their photo without being sent into a frenzied panic.

Today I see them and in a way I feel pity for them, that doesn’t mean I forget but it does me I am taking control a bit, you see for someone to treat another human being in such a negative way speaks volumes about that person, the one committing the abuse. You can’t have much self respect if all you do is put others down, or hurt them in one way or another, you can’t look at yourself in a mirror and see any good if your life is about being so controlling of others.

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My mother was a controlling person of that there is no doubt, yet she didn’t portray that outside of our home in a bad way, she wasn’t angry outside, she lived her life putting on a pretence , a show if you like. She tried desperately to be this person everyone liked, the so called pillar of the community, yet nothing could have been further from the truth in reality.

I realise now that she and many of my abusers lived a life built on lies, built on image and falsehoods, pretending to be some thing they weren’t. I pity them because they never changed, well as far as I know and that’s kind of sad really, they didn’t learn to change their negative behaviours  or adapt their belief patterns from their skewed thoughts of control and abuse. I have no idea what caused their behaviours nor do I want to, but it seems sad these individuals who had such a huge negative impact upon my life had issues which they never addressed.

You see I may have the negative thoughts of myself but I know what causes them and most of all I am with help changing my automatic thinking patterns and thankfully for the better. I intend to keep working on challenging myself when I put myself down, think critically of myself and demean myself. That doesn’t mean I will stop my automatic thought processes  but it does mean I will notice when they come into play and I will be able to internally at least think that wasn’t good, or more importantly still, that’s not true.

Now this is a journey of trial and error and so I am not setting huge targets, for me I’m quite happy that right now I’m just aware of  the self critical thinking I have. I know I also have issues with food, self image, anxiety, confidence, decision making, the list goes on and on.  My past has shaped me and whilst it won’t be easy and whilst I may know I don’t have to let it define me and that I can shape my  future, I also know that’s my logical head talking and not the emotional parts of me who don’t seem to be able to stop letting the past influence today, tomorrow and the future.

Now logically I know that my future doesn’t have to be shaped by my past, it is harder to accept emotionally, and so it’s hard to not let the past influence who I am, it’s hard to not allow myself to continue the negativity, It’s hard to change these habits, to amend how I think. I am making progress but it is teeny tiny steps of progress, accompanied by the familiar one step forward and two steps back every now and again.

But unlike the abusers I am not alone, I have a team of people willing me on, helping me change how my past impacts my tomorrow, my family and my psychologist they are helping me, they are supporting me.

I am being helped to recognise, to think and I hope in time to adapt the damage of my past, it’s a hope I once never thought I’d have, and it’s worth fighting to cling onto. It will be worth all the hard work even if I manage to change just one negative thought process, thats what makes me so different from those who hurt me, I am addressing the past, maybe that’s why today I can look at her picture and not immediately fear her; well not quite so much anyway.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014