To discuss trauma or not?

Over the years I have encountered many therapists, I have seen people of varying levels of expertise and the way they work has been very different. Most of those who I saw in the past had a keen focus on the trauma itself, desperately wanting me to regurgitate the events of my childhood. But is that the best approach for recovery, does it help to go over and over the bad things that happened.

 

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Due to my dissociation I have many gaps in my memory of my childhood, my brain has been good at protecting me and locked many horrors away. I have found over the years those memories spilling out into the here and now, snap shots of trauma which often haven’t been the full details of an incident. The memories have often been just enough to give me a clear idea of the event, what happened without all the terrifying finer details. Sometimes they have been drip fed to me, so a snippet of the event one day and then a week later another piece of the event. Weeks pass and eventually the whole horror of an abusive event has been revealed. Other times the memories come flooding back in an instant, with a flashback or body memory overwhelming me and sending me into a bit of a frenzy.

 

There are times when I really can’t cope with what I’ve remembered, it becomes too overwhelming, too consuming, and yet I have learnt to process in a better way too. So I can say I can’t deal with this particular trauma memory now I need to wait till therapy to think about this in any detail, it’s my way of protecting me. I can now accept sometimes that I’m not at risk right now, but it’s not easy and any trauma memory holds feelings of terror and pain.

 

Trauma and abuse have been a significant part of my life, it started when I was small and continued for years, in fact all through my childhood. I can’t name all my abusers but I can at times see their faces, I can tell you much of what happened because my memory has now revealed many of the horrors I endured. But I still have gaps in time and I still have periods of abuse were I only have part of the memory.

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In therapy for much of the early years of treatment, the professionals who treated me wanted me to share that trauma with them. They felt that me and in turn my alters revealing the past trauma was important to recovery. I would be encouraged to share the past, to regurgitate the horrors in all their gory detail, often through tears and great pain. Yet I never had the ability to process those memories, I never felt attached to them.

 

For much of my early years of treatment I felt irritated at the thought these people wanted me to share my inner most secrets. I recall one therapist and I falling out over the fact she would push for more graphic detail, when I felt it wasn’t needed. I didn’t feel able to share my secrets and I knew I didn’t have them all, my memory had stored them well away, locked out of even my reach.

 

 

One would push for information which I didn’t have, causing me to dissociate in session and thus losing time. She would expect me to spill the beans as she put it, yet I didn’t know what the fragments I had meant and I just wanted to understand. Throughout this time I wanted to know what had happened in my past, why I lost time and why I would dissociate. It just led to more and more confusion and concern, which at the time didn’t help me or my recovery.

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One therapist insisted on naming my parts and seemed to want to give them identities, I felt that my alters were totally different people and their memories were not mine but theirs. I now realise of course my alters are parts of me and the memories they carry are mine, locked away from me to ensure my safety and sanity at the time. I also now understand we all dissociate every single one of us, you and me, when we drive a familiar route and suddenly realise we are further on than we thought – that’s dissociation.

 

Of course I dissociated in a bit more of an extreme way, I switched off as a child to avoid the horrors of my abuse and it probably kept me alive. I know now that my alters are just parts of me, not separate people as such but fragmented parts of me, they formed when I dissociated as a child. Unlike most people who grow up in a seamless way, my 5 year old me wasn’t able to become 6 year old me she stayed locked inside of me – held by the terror of that time. Hence why I have lots of parts, lots of different bits of me who today are my alters, they carry memories of my past that I didn’t know. They need time, nurture, parenting if you like and they have skills and talents which I so value today, but until recently didn’t realise I had. Some have a function, like my protector whose job was to carry the frustration of not being able to protect myself as a child. I couldn’t protect me back then, but today she ensures we are safe and protected especially when threats similar to the past come to the fore.

 

So the idea of giving them separate lives and detailed identities wasn’t in reality so helpful, the memories they hold are my memories. I need to process those memories as my own not someone else’s. But do I really need to regurgitate my past in all its gory detail, do I need to try and reassemble each trauma memory in order to recover from my abuse.

 

My current therapy does involve trauma work, but not in all its minute detail, the aim isn’t to regurgitate the past as such, it’s to process the emotions that are attached to those memories. I don’t need to divulge every moment of a trauma event, but I do need to explore how that trauma impacts in my today. So I am having to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma itself, but I don’t have to start going through incidents in the way I was forced to years ago.

 

Processing trauma is an integral part of therapy but how that’s done can vary greatly from one professional to another, I know for me the key hasn’t been to regurgitate the past, it’s been to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma, those emotions that co-exist with the trauma. Emotions matter more than the actual trauma itself and learning to understand that and deal with them is so important on the road to recovery. I do not see myself ever regurgitating the past trauma again, it will be discussed in a more generalised way. Instead I will be focusing upon the feelings and how it impacts me now, rather than trying to remember every little detail of my past.

 

 

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

Having Dissociative Identity Disorder Doesn’t Mean Life Is Over. 

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Just a few years ago at my lowest point I felt my life was over, I felt as if I would never be any good at contributing to society anymore. I didn’t feel like a great mum or wife or friend in fact I felt worthless and pathetic, I used to think about what my life could have been and how I’d failed. Of course the failure I felt back then was not really justified at all and yet I couldn’t shake of those feelings of worthlessness or of guilt.

I blamed myself for that breakdown point when life became too overwhelming and I could no longer hide the truth of my past. I blamed myself for that point when suddenly people were noticing I wasn’t ok and that I kept losing time and forgetting things. Of course now I know that really I was dissociating and as the wall of amnesia began to leak and my past hit me head on, well it all became too overwhelming.

That led to my self harm and my suicidal attempts, attempts I don’t regret but am glad we’re not successful. You see I don’t regret falling apart for by doing so I learnt what was wrong and I learnt the truth of my past.  I’ve learnt who I really was and the childhood I endured and I understand now just how strong I really am. The self harm and suicide attempts are just moments in my life, visual scars of the past I hid for too long and today they allow me to see how far I’ve come. There markers in the sand that show me where I was and where I am now and that is important.

Before I started that meltdown I had been productive, I held a job that I enjoyed and I contributed to helping others too. I found myself being a person who ran at 100mph, working, running a home, volunteering and being actively involved in community life. I had some physical issues that slowed me down at times and my mental health was never fully ok, yet I still felt I contributed to life and that was important for me.

So when I became really unwell and my mental health deteriorated it wasn’t easy, in fact being hospitalised felt as if my world had come crashing down. Suddenly I couldn’t participate in the things that gave me an identity and a purpose, rather than helping others I became a burden. I couldn’t sustain work and so was made redundant, that didn’t help me especially as it happened whilst I was in hospital. I was hoping to leave hospital pick up my life and carry on like before and then I didn’t have work to return too, I was deemed too mentally unwell or so it felt.

Ever since then I’ve either drifted from one crisis to another, one hospital stay to another, or care package to another. I haven’t really been able to move forwards, well not until about 18 months ago because then life began to change. It’s continued to change at such a pace that at times its felt surreal and I often pinch myself to ensure I’m not dreaming this. 18 months ago I felt desolate and confused and I had full time care, it felt like I just couldn’t understand D.I.D and I never would.

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Fast forward 18 months until today and life is beginning to change again, I now feel far more assured of my skills and of who I am and I have less support. It’s not easy having D.I.D but I now know enough skills to understand that it’s not impossible to live with either, it’s just slightly more complex but that’s ok. Yes I have to do far more than many will do just to ensure I function each day and to ensure that the day goes well, I doubt most people need to give so much time to the things I need to. Mornings are a crucial part of that daily process of stabilising me and that means all of me, including my alters the other parts of me.

I now have a fairly structured approach to my days, well mornings at least and I know that I need to pace myself, take time to do art and other activities. I’m learning each day and I can now deal more successfully with some things that used to send me into disarray, I cope more often than not with body memories and flashbacks these days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t  times when they overwhelm and cause chaos, it’s just it happens less frequently than it used to.  Instead of being an unbearable part of every day it’s once every few days now, for I have the skills to rationalise and cope better with them.

I’m still fragmented and I’m still not there at the end of the journey of recovery, but I’m moving forward and making progress. My attitude to life has changed dramatically and now I’m far more focused on my recovery and on my treatment than ever before. I’m able to have fun, to laugh, to feel and I don’t feel bad about giving myself time, or saying no to people. I’m learning that I’m an ok person and I’ve gained some ability to be more patient and less of a perfectionist. I don’t take things for granted though and know I have to work hard to sustain the progress I’ve made and want to continue to make.

I certainly don’t feel like my life is over or that I can’t contribute to society anymore, I don’t feel like life isn’t worth living in fact far from it. Even when my moods dip and I’m low I know life is still there for the taking, it is worth living and it’s worth fighting for. I’m starting to see and accept that I’m a good parent and a good friend and I’m starting to believe I can once again contribute to society.

Whilst I am getting involved in village life and doing things, I clear in my mind what is most important and that’s my recovery and my treatment they do come first, I’m also clear that any involvement I have is to be non-detrimental to me and that for every meeting I attend or project I’m involved in, there is me time afterwards. Art, fun, feeling, these are key parts of this and my approach to life now is so different from the past, it’s so much more healthy. I realise now healing is possible it’s not however a simple task, it’s an ongoing mission, a daily mission of recovery.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Alters names

People often ask me how do I name my alters; the various parts of me, do I choose their names or do they. I know in the beginning names seemed to just come but in an odd way, mostly I had no idea I was switching but others would tell me I had and that they’d spoken to x or y. As therapy began a few years ago every time a new alter would appear there seemed to be a pressure from my then Therapist to name the parts. So it wasn’t uncommon for me to go to a session talk about events, about a certain memory or situation and then be challenged to name the part whose memory it was. This at the time didn’t seem wrong or too unhelpful, but then as the number of parts grew and names seemed to add to the complexity of the situation.

I had some alters who named themselves, often randomly and without warning I find they’d give me a name of their choice, but many didn’t and so they were given names by me. But then I stopped naming them, I think it was a culmination of events that brought me to the point were I stopped giving alters names, one of which was the breakdown in my therapy at that time. I no longer felt able to trust what had been apparently brought up in my sessions, I felt an unease and I wasn’t moving forwards.

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When I began the process of internal dialogue shortly after starting with my psychologist last year I had a whole wealth of feelings that stemmed from different parts. I would know certain alters were around by the feelings I had, so my teen overwhelmed me but I didn’t know her name. Internal dialogue gave me an opportunity to understand the parts better and to work at getting to know them. I recall the discussion my psychologist and I had about names, I said I didn’t understand why the parts didn’t talk to me, didn’t listen or respond. I made reference to their names and he asked me whose names are they, yours or theirs.

I realised quite soon that the alters wouldn’t respond to me when I called them by the name I had given them, simply because it wasn’t their name. I realised how frustrating I have felt when people have referred to me by the wrong name and I wondered if the alters felt the same way. Then began a whole new turning point for us, I stopped trying to control these alters with names I chose and instead listened to them.

Now I’m not the most patient person in the world, so I still kind of expected them to give me the name instantaneously, which of course they don’t. I have parts who when I’ve communicated have simply said their name, but then I’ve had parts who haven’t told me. Instead of naming them I wait these days and if needs be I keep on waiting until they are ready to share with me their name. Now some have no name, but many I know do they just haven’t felt able to share yet. It is in truth a great deal to do with trust, trust between them and me.

A few weeks ago I had encountered a young alter, who had begun to communicate and I asked if she had a name. In my head suddenly came a name but instead of accepting it I tried to amend it. The name given was a name from my past, of another child I once knew and as a result I didn’t want a part called that, well that’s what I thought at the time. I responded to the part with a slight variation on the name I had first heard, but then she just went quiet. Perplexed I wondered if I was trying to name her and if so was this so wrong, so in my next session I explained things and said how do I know for certain if it is X or Y . I was told to be patient and told to use post it notes with the names written on so she could tell me.

The past month or so those post it notes have been stuck in my lounge, the names with different variants of spelling visible for all to see. The post it notes gradually disappeared and so there was  just two left, hard as it was I knew I had to keep hanging on waiting for the time when she was ready to tell me. I kept talking to her whenever I sensed her around, but I didn’t put any pressure on her to come up with her name. It was and still is important for the parts of me to feel safe, to trust me implicitly and to feel comfortable talking to me.

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Yesterday I was in town looking at furniture in the shop I suddenly realised I was competing for control, as this little part of me was transfixed by a rag doll on a display stand. I used the opportunity for dialogue and I made every effort to try and share time, this is never easy especially when you are out in the big wide world. However my little me was clearly vulnerable, the world to her was frightening. She so wanted a dolly and she so wanted to talk to me too, I made an agreement about the dolly and I told her she deserved one, that she was an important part of me. As she appeared to gain in confidence, she said she didn’t mind if I wanted her to be called Y she could do that. I realised she was trying to please so I responded with the phrase ‘I want you to be called by the name you choose’. Then she shouted out loudly the name X, I had heard all those weeks ago but tried to ignore. This is her name, the one she has chosen and It is a name that I know I will grow to like, in fact I already do and yes it does reflect her personality.

I’ve learnt over time that for me at least names are important, I really don’t want my parts to have no names ,they deserve to have names and yet I want them to be their names. I want the alters to have the chance to identify themselves, to name themselves and not have my choices forced upon them. So currently there are parts who I had previously given names to who now have renamed themselves, parts who currently don’t feel able to share their name and parts who have told me their name. The reality for us now is that names come from them not me, and I am continuing to exercise patience when I need to. My little part yesterday finally trusted me, she now has a name and she is continuing to communicate with me. You could say my patience has finally paid off.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

 

A year of psychology -what a difference a year makes

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Exactly one year ago today I sat down for the first session with my new psychologist, I can recall the feelings of nervousness and anticipation as I travelled to the appointment. My head was filled with questions, would this work? would it be ok? what if he felt after the settling in period that he couldn’t work with me or vice versa? Its funny how despite meeting him for an assessment a few months earlier I really had no idea what to expect as I walked up to the door. I prayed before that first session and every session since as for me my faith is an integral part of my healing and my life.

That first session was more a general discussion, he told me that I would have 1 hour a week in therapy and so the rest of the week I’d have to implement the techniques we would discuss. He made it clear that he couldn’t make me better, he didn’t had a magic wand and that moving forwards was basically down to me, supported of course by him. He also told me that there would be times when I might find myself not liking him or his advice, but that if I ever felt like that I needed to tell him and we could discuss it.

I came home realising that I had a big task ahead of me, after all there are 168 hours in a week and it’s me and my alters without therapy for 167 of them. Suddenly realising there wasn’t a magic wand wasn’t easy, I guess a part of me had always hoped that therapists like doctors make you well, now I knew that wasn’t the case. But I also felt a sense of optimism in that he treated me like an equal, respected my contribution, saw me as a person and he didn’t seem to judge me.
It certainly wasn’t a me and them scenario that I had come to know so well in mental health services, that was a huge difference.

I came to realise that he uses analogies a lot and over the last year I have learnt quite a few, I also understand; that as uncomfortable as it can sometimes seem, he understands me better than I do at times. Over the past year I’ve kept a diary and looking back through the pages is a visible reminder of just how far I have come.

A year ago the thought of self talk or internal dialogue was alien, I think I thought it was all a bit bonkers back then, today it’s a natural part of my everyday. In fact I wasn’t very good at first it all felt odd, but in the last year I have learnt so much and I now communicate with some of my parts. From what started as a one way stifled conversation as become a huge world changer for me, I now use both verbal and non verbal communication techniques and I have two way conversations with certain alters.

 

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That dialogue has enabled me to begin accepting the reality that I have D.I.D, the reasons behind that namely the trauma and at least starting to understand that it wasn’t me who was responsible. It has enabled me to face the world and begin exploring life in a way I never thought possible. Using dialogue with my alters has enabled me to grow as a person, I will never forget the feelings I felt when I went paddling for the very first time. This wouldn’t have happened without internal dialogue, without support and encouragement from my psychologist who allowed me to believe it was ok to have fun.

Fun is a concept that for me was hard yet now I enjoy my fun days, be that throwing a frisbee, building a sandcastle, doing art or feeding the ducks. I recall that first time I went paddling the one person I wanted to tell was my psychologist, I wanted him to know how euphoric I felt, it’s a feeling I will never forget. Of course my psychologist had also prepared me for the grief and sorrow that would engulf me after the euphoria had dropped away and boy did it hit me like a tidal wave.
I can recall messaging my psychologist and saying it hurt, his response was to remind that no one said healing didn’t hurt. Yet he also encouraged me to really feel and to accept it was ok to cry, to grieve and to hurt it’s all part of the recovery process.

Over the last year I have been allowed to accept and acknowledge my feelings, what they mean and why they happen. I now know I block certain feelings especially sadness and anger and that my childhood dictates today how I think and react to life’s situations. I’m learning I’m a really self critical person and in the words of my psychologist “I need to stop being so hard on myself”. My latest favourite phrase that I’m trying to remember is that I don’t have to be perfect just ‘Good Enough’, I’m sure it sounds easy enough to remember but actually in reality it’s hard to not fall back to my default position of I’m not good enough. Yet my psychologist has persevered and still even this week reminded me again that I’m doing ok.

A year on and I feel like I have been on a journey, one which has at times hurt like never before, recovery from trauma isn’t easy. I’ve learnt so much about me, my thought processes and thinking patterns, as well as much more and I also understand Dissociative Identity Disorder better now. But most of all I now understand more about the other parts of me; my alters and I understand that working with them makes it easier for me. Dissociating and losing time still happens but the aim is that the frequency of losing time will lessen the more I progress.

Progress can be measured in so many ways, for me the past years therapy has equipped me far better to deal with the trauma. It’s allowed me to laugh, to play, to feel bold enough to spend time on my own and to cook tea without dissociating, all things that seemed impossible before. It’s meant learning to feel, to cry, to grieve and to take bold brave steps such as relinquishing control of this body to the alters at safe and appropriate times. This isn’t a monetary target, like those that health service commissioners would understand, for me progress is measured by the improvements in my quality of life. I can see these changes they are tangible and it feels amazing to realise I’m making progress and I’m able to do more now than I ever dared dream a year ago.

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I owe my psychologist so much, because in the last year he has allowed me to begin to reclaim my life, a life stolen from me in childhood. He has enabled me throughout the highs and the lows to feel supported and most of all understood. Knowing there is someone who is skilled enough to help me help myself as I begin to rebuild my life is invaluable. The reality of the past year is I have felt understood, accepted and supported and I feel safe enough in therapy to express my emotions. For the first time I feel safe enough to start to unpack the trauma and I know that I am more able today to deal with that trauma than ever before.

One year on I want people to understand that with the right help, a skilled therapist and appropriate support people like me, people with D.I.D, people with a trauma background can make progress, they can move forwards.

To my psychologist I want to say Thank You, for enabling me to smile, to laugh, to cry, to grow as a person, but most of for encouraging me to believe in myself and make progress, I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Is My Care Plan Written About A Stranger?

When your care plan doesn’t reflect you and your needs

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There are times when I feel Mental Health professionals just do not understand Dissociative Identity Disorder and what it’s like to live with it. There are times when I feel that I am judged by my time in hospital and it appears assumptions rather than facts about me rule the day. Unfortunately the arrival of my much awaited care plan signalled it was one of those times. It’s clear from reading the document which outlines my care needs, the interventions put in place and potential signs of relapse, people still need educating about D.I.D.

I knew it was unlikely to be positive when the boxes which stated I and my carer or significant other had been involved in developing the plan were marked ‘ Yes’ . This is the first time I have seen a care plan in over a year and neither I nor my family have been consulted about it at all. More frustratingly I guess is the fact we have only received a copy because we have asked repeatedly if one still existed.

It seemed strange to see a note attached to the plan which my care coordinator had written saying ‘we can discuss any amendments on my next visit’, amendments I thought, I want to re write the whole darn thing! Yes it’s that bad really, which is sad given I’ve been with this particular team for over 8 years and they know about my diagnosis. It’s even more bewildering given that some though perhaps not my current care coordinator have been given specific training on Dissociative disorders.

I’m more conscious though of the glaring misconceptions that stare at out at me, the plan has a list of skills and support they expect my PA’s to provide none of which mention dealing with my alters; the many parts of me. The person who employs my PA’s hasn’t been consulted about these either so was rather taken aback when I showed them the care plan. My PA’s are now meant to be specialist mental health care providers apparently, of course they aren’t, because to have this would cost far more than the Local Authority will fund. But my PA’s do provide valuable help, support and assistance on a day to day basis and they help deal with and interact with the many parts of me. That’s a skill in itself and one that needs to be recognised…but it is not even mentioned in the plan.

My community mental health team seem to think I can just stop switching, on command! The plan states ‘carol to undertake independent activities where she is required to remain in an adult state’. I liked the word ‘required’ it seems so out of sync with what it is like living with D.I.D, after all I can try and manage my time, juggle the needs of the various parts of me but I can’t just switch off the switching. Yes I try at times to stay focused, it takes a great deal of effort, I know I still switch from one adult me to another and at times will suddenly descend into a child part. I’m working hard to work in cooperation, watch and observe as little parts of me take control of this body we share, but I have no ability to ‘remain’ in an adult state at command. It’s simply not yet a feasible option.

I’m quite good at covering it up and people who don’t know me well may not even notice the switches that take place, but that’s the same for most people I know with D.I.D. The majority of people I interact with don’t notice the internal struggles that go on constantly as I try and remain at least aware of what my parts are doing. But I’m still losing time, I’m still having periods each day when I wonder what the hell I have been doing. I have to balance my time and my days to try and give myself a fighting chance each day and yet they expect me to just on command remain adult. I wanted to laugh because they refer to the time I don’t have care and they assume I stay adult me in this time. This is more than half my week and yet they assume I can just be an adult! I think they might be surprised if they saw me at these times, because their assumptions are so far of reality it’s quite sad.

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Take for instance the other day I had no PA’s I watched cartoons well my little me’s did, and then we had breakfast which was chocolate. (I observed but had no control). Then I lost time, apparently I snoozed and had a mid morning nap before even more cartoons. The rest of the day I switched from one part to another and back again, some were adult parts, some teens and some little parts. I think I failed if they expect me to ‘remain adult’ oh well I live with D.I.D., the professionals clearly don’t understand it.
The plan goes on to talk about how my daughter and I are meant to monitor and report back any risky behaviours and it says ‘ increase periods of stabilisation and reduce the risks of self harm or harm to others’ I have never harmed others, the only person I ever hurt was myself. I find this assumption so offensive, just because I have self harmed, just because I have been in secure hospital settings does not mean I have ever been a risk to others! How dare these people treat me as if I maybe a risk. I’m going to be asking for their proof that I have ever been a risk to others because I know I haven’t and I want the comment removed.

The plan outlines my signs of relapse, well given the signs they suggest are indicative of a relapse I should be in a hospital right now. Well dissociating on a daily basis is deemed a sign of relapse and having flashbacks is too. I’m doomed if these stay on my list, I have D.I.D for goodness sake of course I will dissociate! I also want to know which individual never has arguments with their family, because if I do it’s a sign of relapse. Yes seriously the signs are so silly even my family are dumbfounded by them.

Finally there is that solutions box to relapse, it’s great even though I have no PRN medication it’s listed as a technique to use. But worst of all 5 years after my last hospital admission the threat of readmission still remains, the plan states ‘if risks continue to escalate to a level above carols ability to cope in the community consider hospital admission’ why? Surely there has to be other solutions first, maybe extra therapy. They assume increased dissociating is a risk, with such signs in the plan I can’t win, if relapse and risk are dissociating, if it’s having arguments with my family how can I win. I have a dissociative disorder of course I will dissociate and when I’m stressed or have increased anxiety I will dissociate more frequently. That doesn’t mean I need to be locked away in a hospital. It means I need help maybe support to deal with the stress and the anxiety, why do mental health professionals still look at the problem they can see and not the cause.

My plan is an absolute joke, it’s so poor it’s insulting and as I maybe changing teams soon it needs more than ever to be right. I don’t need a battle right now I want them to just get it right, to understand me and my D.I.D, is that too much to ask?

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

The Reality Of Living Life With Many Parts

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My adventures today really highlight what it’s like having Dissociative Identity Disorder and the complexities of living as someone with various parts or alters. I ventured to the Lake District National Park and a place called Grizedale Forest, it is an area of dense forest with various woodland walks and country sculpture trails. It’s the perfect place for someone with young alters as they have been able to have time today when I have taken a back seat and let them assume control of this body we share.

This has meant that at one point today I was being the very sensible, capable adult that I assume people see when they look at me, well I do have the body of a mid to late forties woman. Then without so much the blink of an eye I have been the little parts of me, gasping in awe at the colours of autumn leaves and kicking those leaves. My younger parts of me were desperate to do the children’s trail which featured the characters from the ‘Gruffalo’, a children’s book, not that I or they have ever read this book before. However they can read it now as it appears we have purchased a copy of that book today, which is fine except I wasn’t planning on spending the £7 it cost on a children’s book!

My teen parts have had the opportunity to do art, and to be fair they have shared that time with other parts to, so we ended up with a collective piece of artwork. If that collaboration hadn’t occurred I would have probably had to do a number of pieces of art, so I am glad the teen part concerned worked with the other parts of me. All of these changes in one day gets confusing for all concerned, me, the alters and those with us; who I’m sure must wonder at times who I am.

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The reality is of course that everything that has happened today has involved me, it’s just there are different parts of me because basically I am fragmented. Being fragmented means I don’t always have control of this body we share when the other parts of me take over. Sometimes today it’s felt like I am watching them (the alters) but unable to intercede or prevent any actions a bit like being a back seat passenger in a car. At others I have not a clue what has happened unless other people tell me, I not so much a back seat driver at these times but somewhere hiding in the trunk of the car.

It’s quite funny to recall today thinking I have been switching all over the place, internal dialogue has been nearly non stop all day. Be that teen parts or other adult me’s wanting to let me know their views or express their emotions, I know at least one teen alter was pleased she could take photographs of the landscape. Whilst an adult alter was non too pleased at strolling in the rain, and rather put out that little parts thought it funny to keep taking down our hood, so we got wet.

Yes having D.I.D is a constant surprise to me and those who know me, today it’s felt at times like I’m taking an entire family on a day out. Trying to accommodate the wishes and desires of many different alters who have differing likes and dislikes and need vastly different things to satisfy them.

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I find having days like today tiring, but I also find them beneficial too, they allow me to juggle better the fact I have different alters. They allow me a chance to practice in a safe environment sharing my time and giving control to the alters on a pre planned basis. It offers the ideal opportunity to practice using internal dialogue and enhance internal cooperation, which will hopefully lead to me being able to use these techniques to help with day to day life.

Yes it has been a busy day in ways those without D.I.D would not understand, most strangers who walked passed us today wouldn’t have realised what was happening. Yet if the result of such confusing and tiring days is enhanced opportunities to work as a system, that’s positive. If the things we have done today are worthwhile, life enhancing and beneficial in the long term that’s progress, real tangible progress.

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copyright DID Dispatches 2014