When the tears won’t come 

 

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This week I had a tough therapy session focused on processing some baggage from my past, yet despite trying to face up to the difficulties of my past the tears were not that evident. Now I did get a little emotional, but the full force of the anguish evoked by the grieving process as I recalled memories from the past just didn’t come through. I really felt the tears were just on the edge and so as I left my session I did expect them to start flowing, but they didn’t come.

I had a couple of jobs I needed to do and well tears at that time would have been an inconvenience and a little awkward. I think I was trying to stem the tide and so focused on the tasks in hand and blocked any emotions, by the time I was nearly home still no tears had come. I felt awful I was deeply saddened by the mis-mash of feelings whizzing around inside, feelings of sadness, hurt and a deep anguish that was wrenching at my heart. Yet for whatever reason when I had time the tears still didn’t come and so at home with a PA in place I couldn’t just hide and let go.

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At home instead I tried to keep busy, I tried to push on and well I couldn’t cry in front of my new PA after all what would she think. I longed for her to leave, I longed for time to grieve and oh did I want to grieve. In fact I knew that grieving was exactly what I needed to do, you see remembering the horrors of the past, knowing it’s true, yet again seals in my mind that I can’t deny I was abused. I so wish my abuse hadn’t happened and I so wish I could deny that it did, but the more I recall the more I realise I can no longer pretend this didn’t happen to me.

I spent the majority of the day trying to carry on, being stoical if you like and putting on a brave face, yet inside there was a deep hurting that so needed to be expressed. When I was alone I truly thought the tears would flow and yet they didn’t come, I talked internally, I tried hard to reassure all of me that we could grieve and it was ok to do so, yet tears remained absent. It wasn’t like I didn’t need to cry in fact I felt as if they were just there on the edge waiting to flow at any second, except they didn’t flow, they didn’t come.

That night I went to bed early snuggled up under my pillow fort, my hope was the tears would come finally and at last they’d flow, but in the end I fell asleep and still I hadn’t cried.  The days since then have taken a similar path I have felt like they are just there on the edge but then they disappear. I have let out the odd few tears, just a few seconds here and there but not enough to really let go of the feelings deep within. The feelings of anguish and grief that so need to burst forth seem to be having trouble being expressed, it’s often as if the dam is about to burst and I think I will cry uncontrollably, that it then simply dissipates away.

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Last night I thought it’s coming, at last I can rid myself of the desperate anguish trapped inside, but somehow I stopped those tears once again. When I feel like it’s ok to cry something happens and I need to stop myself, be it a phone call or a person walking into the room. I know I need to cry, I know part of me is worried about doing that and I know they are scared they have upset me. I’ve tried to reassure them and myself that crying is actually ok, that crying is an acceptable and appropriate response to have. Yet somehow the message isn’t getting through loudly enough and so I’m grieving in silence and I’m grieving without tears.

I know I need to grieve, it hurts to think this abuse happened to me, to know it wasn’t my fault and that I did all I could to stay safe. I know for a long time I used to think this wasn’t me, the abuse it happened to an alter not me. You see I truly felt no emotion, I had so limited a recall of that time, that in my mind the abuse didn’t happen to me. But as the amnesic barriers come down the emotions of that time are making themselves known to me, and now I realise that this, this abuse it happened to me. To come to terms with that is so hard, it’s so hard to grasp and so hard to take in fully after all I’d so rather it wasn’t the case.

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Accepting the past isn’t easy, accepting I can challenge those ingrained beliefs that crying isn’t something I’m allowed to do is equally as hard. Yet I know I need to do both and I know I so need to cry, to grieve, to let go of the emotions of the past and the anguish it evokes. But knowing and doing are two very different things and right now it seems doing is something I’m finding difficulty with.

Now I know at some point the tears will come, probably when I’m least expecting them and most likely at an inconvenient time. Yet I know they will flow it’s just right now that seems an impossibility  and so I’m left trying to find a way forward that allows me to accept and deal with these feelings inside. I’m left trying to accept that I need to not block my feelings or my tears anymore because when I do I end up in this predicament, when I so wish I could cry but the tears won’t come.

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

 

 

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

‘Dear Mother’ – a daughters hurt and anguish

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This blog post may be difficult to read please exercise self care at this time.

This blog post is written to someone who will not read it, it is a heartfelt letter to the person who caused me so much pain. This outpouring of feelings is I believe a necessary part of my moving forwards, in this time of grieve and hurt as I come to terms with the past. As a victim I was robbed of so much and slowly realising just how much, is both hard and gut wrenchingly painful. This letter to the person who in life was known as my mother is my way of processing some of that pain.

 

Dear Mother

I’m unsure if you deserve that title anymore you never earned it, in truth I can think of a million other names I’d like to use but none of them are polite.

You see you never seemed to realise the damage that you did to me, the pain and scars you left behind or the suffering you inflicted. You didn’t comprehend just how each moment of my childhood was robbed by you and the damage has lasted all of my life. Not only did you take away my innocence, you and the people you allowed to hurt me destroyed my very being.

I never realised until this week just how much damage you did to me, I knew you’d hurt me, abused me, but well what you did was more than that. You took away my self believe, destroyed my right to have fun, even ruined my ability to enjoy simple pleasures and you left me fragmented and scared physically and emotionally.

You twisted my thinking patterns to such an extent that even today I can’t stop those automatic negative thought processes and I probably never will. You made me feel worthless and you left me wanting to die, such was my pain and anguish. The sad fact is I still feel judged and there are times when I feel nothing more than worthless, someone who is only fit to be used, hurt, betrayed and abused.

I guess I will always feel like the commodity I was to you, I still see the things I was worth to you when I close my eyes some nights, do you remember that Hoover, the washing matching, even the cash your friends gave you in return for time with me. I wake up at night sometimes, sweating and in terror as if it’s all happening again and yet I know it’s 2014 and these things are in the past yet they feel very real to me in that moment.

Do you really comprehend the feelings I hold, the lack of self worth I hold, I am always putting myself down just like you did to me on a daily basis. It’s as if I’m doing your work for you now, I’m the one who inflicts pain when I self harm, the one who punishes myself for mistakes and the one who starves herself because I don’t feel worthy to eat.

The damage you and your friends did wasn’t just skin deep, it didn’t just last that few moments of an incident, it’s lasted nearly half a century and I didn’t deserve that, I didn’t deserve any of these things. I wanted a childhood like everyone else, I wanted a mum who loved me and didn’t hate me and I wanted to laugh and play, to have fun. I wanted to feel safe and secure and I desperately wanted stability in my life but you didn’t give that to me.

Instead you betrayed me, sold me and abused me, you hurt me in every way you could and you left me bruised and emotionally scarred. I didn’t have a childhood to draw on when I raised my children and so I wasn’t the best mum in the world but I tried and they learnt to laugh and play, to feel loved and accepted, they were secure and safe. It wasn’t easy and we were blessed with help from others to fill in the gaps were I fell down, people who played with them instinctively, who took then on a beach and paddling. People who I am Indebted to for giving my children the things I couldn’t give them, because of what you did to me.

The hard things I’m facing aren’t just the memories or the hurt it’s the basic rudiments of life like how to have fun and accept that I can enjoy myself, that it’s allowed. It’s the constant challenge of refuting my own self critical comments, telling myself I have a worth and I am good. You see I’m trying to learn that I’m not silly or stupid or a thousand other things I label myself on a daily basis.

It’s the reality of what I have lost out on, missed out on, I paddled this week at the seaside and it’s the first time and I’m over 48, I should have done that as a child not now. I did it with a smile and laughing, it felt odd but boy was is good too. Yet it hurt also because I have avoided ever doing it with my children, I didn’t think I was allowed….that is your doing! You made me this person who can’t have fun, can’t participate in fun, doesn’t feel worthy of fun, who finds play and larking about strangely odd and awkward.

I’ve been making a list of the things you robbed from me in the hope I can at least do it now, things like having a picnic sat on the grass, throwing a frisbee, paddling a bit more, playing in the sea, going crabbing, and making snow angels. I hope that in time I can achieve all of these and so much more, but right now I’m hurting and I guess I’m grieving for what I’ve lost.

If I’m honest life feels so unfair and it hurts so much, I want to heal and move forward but progress is going to hurt and that seems so damn unfair too. I am angry that I missed out on so much and I’m angry that you screwed my head up so much. I’m angry because I just wanted a mum and instead I got you and you didn’t deserve to be a mum.

I’m angry with myself too, that I allowed you to ruin so much of my life and I’m angry that when you were still alive I just wrote to you and I didn’t have the guts to knock on your door, face you and demand answers. I know I told you what I thought and felt about you in my letter but I had so much more I could and wanted to say, I had so many questions the biggest being Why?
Why did you hate me, do this to me, what did I do wrong, why did you betray me and rob me of my innocence, my childhood and damage all these years since.

I know it’s too late for answers, and I know that this week I have had to stop myself from getting too angry with you. If you were still here and alive I know I’d have hit you, and you would have deserved it. I have had thoughts of standing in a very public place and shouting your name and saying what you were like, reading out a list of charges and declaring you guilty. But I know that would not solve anything and it wouldn’t help me move forwards either.

So instead you get this letter in my blog which you won’t ever read, but I feel better for writing. Yes I’m crying and I have right to cry and to grieve for all that happened, for all that I was robbed of, and for all that I have lost out on. I have a right to hurt and I have a right to have a future too, it may take me some time but one day I will leave my past behind and I will be the person who you tried so desperately to prevent me from being. Someone who laughs, has fun, self belief and self worth, someone who can achieve so much more in this life and who one day will look back and see just how far they have come.

Carol

Confronting the past

 

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Please be aware that the content of this blog maybe triggering for some people.

Seven weeks ago a dear friend left hospital and moved to the town where I spent six years of my childhood. I so wanted to see her in her new home and yet it meant facing some demons of my own and I knew that would be difficult.

I had lived in this place for six years back in the 1970’s and they were not happy years, they were sadly filled with incidents of abuse and trauma. Going back would mean facing those memories head on and trying to cope with the plethora of triggers that are there. After many weeks of procrastinating I made the difficult decision to go and so earlier this week I ventured to this place full of memories and triggers.

I didn’t make this decision alone, I had discussed this with my family and briefly talked the matter over with my psychologist. It was his words that resonated the most, he had said that going would allow me to replace the negative memories of the past with positive memories of today. That seemed to make sense to me, I realised that I could let my past control me forever or I could attempt to reclaim my life.

I arranged with my friend to visit her and made plans with my daughter J, who agreed to drive me and be my supporter for the day. She knows a little about my past, but understands Dissociative Identity Disorder and so she is more than able to deal with any trigger reactions.

We travelled on bank holiday Monday and set off quite early, the journey was going to take us between 2 and 3 hours so plenty of time for me to talk internally with my alters, the other parts of me. I felt slightly anxious in the morning as we set off, but also very determined to do this and confront the past. As we got nearer to the small former mill town in the heart of Yorkshire my stress levels were rising, but I had kind of expected this so we pushed on through. I felt I was doing alright until I realised that our sat-nav was directing us on a route that past a key trigger point, there really was no other route there and my decision began to feel like a disaster waiting to happen.

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Suddenly I could feel one of my alters, the fear and anxiety began to mount as I tried to communicate internally with this part of me. I did the usual talking in my head to them, then out loud, in the hope I could calm them and reduce their fears. I totally understood their fear I was taking them past a place where they had been abused, this wasn’t just going to trigger them but potentially destabilise the whole system, the whole of me.

It wasn’t easy and J suggested we pull over, but I didn’t feel that would help I knew we had to do this, we had to confront the past it was important. It was also important for my friendship as my friend isn’t going to move anytime soon and I hope to be able to be visiting her quite often. She cannot help living in a place which is full of triggers for me, and I am certain my past will not hinder this friendship that was formed in the darkest of times in hospital.

My emotions as we neared her home and the trigger house were all over the place, I was tearful, sad, afraid and much more too. My daughter kept trying to focus me on the here and now and how safe we were today, it helped to be grounded and to be reminded of why we were doing this journey. We made the decision to look away when we passed the house, but in the end I felt drawn to look at the driveway entrance which hasn’t changed in over forty years. I can recall shuddering and feeling a chill run down my spine, yet we managed to keep talking internally and keep safe. J tells me that I switched on and off throughout the journey, but I just kept feeling distance and surprised at intervals at how far we had travelled already.

Throughout the day wherever we went I passed places or buildings that triggered me, I felt as if it didn’t matter where I looked it took me straight back to the 70’s. The flats were I once lived, a school I had attended and the council estate that I lived on before I left this dull and dreary place and where I can recall being hurt. So many moments during the day, it was hard to not panic especially when I could feel the fear of those days. Everywhere I looked I saw something that reminded me of those awful days when as a young child I was robbed of my innocence and defiled by those who really didn’t care about me, my feelings or my anguish and pain.

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J and I had planned to take my friend out away from the town to the rural landscape that is less than half an hour away. We did this and I felt at ease for the first time that day, I was treated to the glorious sight of bluebells; my favourite flowers and the sound of water flowing gently down the river. I felt at peace for the first time that day and my friend and I had chance to catch up on each other’s news and enjoy each other’s company. It was good to see her free from the confines of hospital, she is doing so well and I am so glad she is rebuilding her life.

The sun was shining and so we decided to have an ice cream, my friend and J queued as I sat in the sun waiting, when I suddenly realised I had lost a brief amount of time. I panicked, I felt vulnerable and thus began my internal dialogue with the alters once again. Now the dialogue is still one sided I talk in my head to them, a bit like most non DID people do self talk, and I just hope they hear, listen and respond. There is no dialogue back but I feel some emotions from some of the other parts of me, and that enables me to focus on trying to ally their fears, desperation, sadness or anxieties. I was trying desperately to establish what had caused me to switch; it really bothers me when I lose time, I realised that all around us were people speaking in a Yorkshire accent and that was really bothering parts of me. I did lots of positive reinforcement, reassuring all of me that these people were not going to harm us and that many of the people who did are no longer here.
I was able to reduce some of the anxiety and fear by the time my friend returned and I did enjoy the ice-cream.

By the time we ventured back dropping my friend of en-route I felt exhausted, I also felt proud of me, all of me for beginning to rebuild memories of this place for replacing bad ones with good.
Yes it wasn’t easy and yes I couldn’t have done it without support but I managed it, I haven’t beaten the triggers yet, there is a long way to go. However I have begun a process of challenging the past and not allowing it to ruin my present or my future.

Once home I did struggle with sleep, my alters were finding it hard not to be afraid or anxious of the past. I felt desperately sad as I began to think that I had caused all the distress that I now knew the other parts of me were feeling, I guess I felt guilty. I found myself ruminating over my past, I have so many questions that I know I may never be able to get answered. As a victim I truly believe that the impact of abuse isn’t just something that impacts you at the point of the incident or as in my case sadly incidents, the damage has lasted over forty years. The impact of that time is me being fragmented, of having Dissociative Identity Disorder and so much more, the pain hasn’t gone away no it’s damaged and invaded my very being right up until today.

The impact of confronting my past this time was that It was gone 5am by the time we managed to sleep and the impact of that poor sleep lasted into Tuesday. Yet I know that I did the right thing by going and I would do it again, for it is only by challenging the past that I can build a better future for me, all of me.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

The Roller-Coaster Journey of Discovering my Emotions

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The past week has felt particularly difficult, I have found sleep hard to come by and I have found myself doubting my own abilities to stay safe. The fact is like many survivors of abuse I struggle on a daily basis to cope with the damage my past has caused. It’s often like a roller-coaster ride sometimes it feels as if we are making progress then suddenly we get hit by what feels like a downward spiral.

In the last few weeks it’s felt a bit like we are on a downward spiral, the flashbacks I wrote about the other week have really hit me. It has made my sleep more difficult and it’s also led to me thinking and ruminating about my past and myself. I have found myself struggling to not resort to self harm, or laden myself with guilt and shame, one of my negative default positions. The reality is of course it isn’t easy when your struggling and yet I am trying to take from this any positives I can and there are positives, let me explain.

Over the past year I have been slowly reducing my benzodiazepines and in the last few weeks with the reduction in that medication and helpful techniques from psychology – I am feeling. Feeling for what feels like the first time, I now sense some of the feelings that other parts of me carry. Those feelings are currently mostly negative, so I sense deep sorrow, hurt and pain leading to me crying without warning. Crying that is often uncontrollable and for which I still have limited understanding as to why. I sense the hurt of a part of me whom until recently I didn’t even know and I know that is progress on my healing journey yet it is still hard to deal with.

I have also found that my vulnerable part has been more evident too and her default is to cry, be anxious and stressed, so I am currently going through plenty of tissues. Feelings are strange things they seem to have more strength than I ever realised. Perhaps that’s because I am feeling for the first time instead of being an automated, robotic person where I box all emotions away.

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The flashbacks have led to me having difficulty sleeping so the past few nights my sleep has not been great part or parts of me have tried to keep us awake, I don’t know why they just have and they are quite good at doing that. I haven’t slept before 2am at the earliest and the worst night was a 5.15am bedtime!

In sheer desperation the other night I plucked up the courage to call the crisis team, normally I avoid them at all costs. Yet I was hurting so much that I knew it was a battle to stay safe and I was really losing that battle. The care plan I have allows me to call them out of hours, so I tried only to find that the number I had on my care plan no longer worked. I couldn’t access crisis support it felt horrendous and I became angry and even more distressed, it was awful. I ended up calling my poor family at nearing 4am begging for some help I felt so confused and distressed. They were great, very understanding and supportive even if I had just disrupted their sleep. With their help we were able to keep me safe till morning when I was able to fall asleep. My family thankfully have ensured I now have the correct number to call the crisis team on so in the future I can hopefully access the planned support from crisis.

Having attempted to call the crisis team once, I now think I will feel more able to call them before we hit the point we did in the last few days, I have said to myself that if I am still awake by 2.30am and feeling how I did the other night I should call them then instead of waiting till 4am. You see I now recognise that on this journey of healing I may well need more help at times and if I do it’s ok to ask. One day I will have the skills to stabilise myself and then I may not need their help but I guess in recent days I’ve seen my own limitations.

The flashbacks opened up a huge wound, before as a non-feeling human I tended to box away the emotions attached to these memories, somehow acknowledging logically the past I have lived and yet not taking the feelings or emotions that go along with that. Yes there were feelings and pain but I’d box it away, dissociate and not take that pain myself. I’m sure now that pain went somewhere possibly to the part of me that I’m now learning to feel or somehow it’s just boxed away deep within. Now I am feeling it’s much harder to box it away and therefore I have had face the raw pain that goes along with being a victim of abuse.

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My psychologist has been really helpful and understanding, he is helping me to accept feelings are ok and that hurting is ok too. He has tried to explain to me how I have boxed these things away and that I need to unpack them but only when I am strong enough. In other words when I have the skills to keep me; all of me, stabilised and safe then and only then can we unpack these boxes and the memories they hold.

He has also helped me to comprehend that this isn’t new knowledge that I have been abused, but my default position before allowed me to detach the human feelings that co-exist with that knowledge. Hence why I have at least one part who is carrying so much hurt and sorrow, that part of me hasn’t been able to share with me before just how much she is hurting. What I mean is I never felt it I just lost time and she took over and showed the rest of the world, yet I never knew what she did I just felt frustrated I had lost time. Now I’m feeling her anguish and though I can’t control her actions, her tears, I don’t dissociate and disappear that’s progress.

Perhaps for the first time in my life I am experiencing the rawness of anguish, the hurt that goes alongside each memory that either I or a part of me holds. It’s a tough realisation and in truth it’s been a wake up call, no one ever said this journey of recovery would hurt in this way. But I have to try and focus on the fact that hurting is a natural response to what we have endured and actually a positive sign we are moving forwards, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

I’m slowly coming to accept that I am most probably grieving, grieving for the past I wanted and didn’t get, grieving because of the hurt and anguish which I now feel. Not just logically thinking I was abused and I happen to have Dissociative Identity Disorder as a result but now feeling all the emotions that come with that abuse. Grieving as a victim who desperately wishes she hadn’t been abused whilst feeling the anger, the hurt, the distress and the fear and so much more too.  People say there is a grieving process and I’ve no idea how far into that process I am, I hope this is progress,  I so need this torturous pain to be for something good.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches. 2014

 

 

Self harm and the attitudes of medical professionals

Self harm and the attitudes of medical professionals

 

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This week I heard from a friend who had to attend her local hospital to receive treatment as a result of self harm and her treatment was unfortunately not very helpful. This led me to thinking about the times I either attended A & E or was taken there by the police for treatment, usually as a result of self harming or being deemed mentally unwell and requiring treatment.

It is nearly ten years since my first ever hospital admission, but for many months before I had hidden the self harm that was taking place. I tried hard to wear long sleeves to hide the cuts and dressings which I needed to stem bleeding etc. I was determined not to require anyone to know that I felt so desperate and confused that I could only survive by self harming. This was in the form of cuts, burns, starvation, restricting my fluid intake or overdoses, by the time I was admitted to hospital my self harm was a daily occurrence such was the turmoil I found myself in.

I hid my self harm from medical professionals, my family and my friends no one but me; I thought, knew I was living this life. I can recall going out for days with the children carrying implements in my bag ready to harm, and hibernating in bathrooms and cutting during these days out. I would feel myself getting so distressed during the day that I couldn’t survive any longer and so self harm took place. Yet once it was done and I felt a wave of release that I had punished myself which I felt I deserved I could then calmly walk back out and carry on with life.

I was confused to such an extent that I believed I needed to punish myself because that way I would be safe from others hurting me, and I was terrified that past abusers would come and hunt me down and hurt me. I even had a notion that because one of my abusers was my mother that I was bad as I had her blood inside me, thus if I bled enough I would rid myself of her badness.

Now all this time no one knew how much I was struggling, the GP knew I wasn’t too great but all they kept saying was ‘take time out and relax more’, and ‘all women go through these phases’.
They never asked if I felt suicidal or what scale my mood was, they did eventually arrange for me to see a doctor and thereafter just told me I was on a waiting list to see a psychiatrist. Yet in the meantime I was continually told to ‘hang in there’, occasionally they’d tell me things would improve.

Of course things just kept getting worse and when I attended the GP one day and I saw a different doctor who asked to test my blood pressure; because I looked like I was going to faint, he saw the wounds that by now littered my arms. Recent cuts had been deeper and the blood loss alongside starving myself wasn’t helping me feel any better. It was then that he made the call and I was suddenly being sent to the local psychiatric unit for assessment. At this time I realised my eldest child had sensed something was wrong and had suspected I was self injuring, but we had both said nothing until I was en-route to the unit.

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A & E staff from the start were slightly arrogant and mainly uncaring, if I had to attend as a result of cutting I lost count of the times I felt to blame by their attitude towards me. It was as if they weren’t best pleased to be treating me after all in their eyes I had self inflicted this injury upon myself, they never looked beyond the injury to the person. On only one occasion can I recall a doctor being helpful, he was actually concerned for me wanting to know why I hurt and was I getting help for my mental health. He treated me like a human being and not an attention seeking time waster which is what many other medical professionals seemed to treat me as.

The sad fact is the attitudes that I faced ten years ago still exist today, that means the medical profession has failed to learn about or understand self harming behaviours in a decade. That concerns me because I am aware of the efforts of so many different groups including government health organisations whose aim was to educate about self harm and improve outcomes for patients. A decade ago these organisation were trying to produce guidance to end the stigma that exists around those who self harm, if attitudes haven’t changed does that mean their efforts failed?

Self harm is not something we should ignore or take for granted for behind every scar, every injury there is human suffering. I didn’t harm for the fun of it and if I wanted to seek attention believe me I can think of lots of better ways of doing that. I wasn’t time wasting either, I was in acute emotional distress and I needed help. I couldn’t explain the anguish I was going through, the only way I could find to deal with the turmoil that was my life was to inflict injuries upon my own body.

Be that cutting, burning, overdosing or restricting the amount of food or fluids I took in, each act was either an attempt to deal with intense pain and turmoil, or the result of irrational thoughts. I wasn’t doing this because I enjoyed it, truth be known I hated myself for doing it, in fact I loathed my scars. The reality was I tried so desperately to avoid seeking medical attention as the last place I wanted to go to was A & E where I would be made to feel even more ashamed and be stigmatised.

Self harm controlled me a decade ago and at times of crisis it can still take control of my life today, it is sadly my default position when the pain is too much. Now when I lapse back into self harming I tend to injure in other ways in the hope it’s less visual, but it’s still harming all the same. Now I am not proud of the fact I self harm and I don’t want these feelings either, I would like to be free of self harm and yet I now understand it is a symptom of the life I lived as a child. A life which caused untold damage and will take a long time to deal with and heal from, my self harming is a symptom of my mental health not the cause.

The cause is my past and today I am having to face the harsh reality that I was betrayed, abused and psychologically damaged. Currently I am feeling emotions for the first time and I am starting to grieve over the fact I was hurt, I’m starting to come to terms with the dawning realisation that the horrific memories I hold and continue to recall don’t belong to my alters at all. They just carry my memories, and it was this body, it was me as a child and a teenager who the abusers defiled. Believe me that’s tough, it’s a harsh journey survivors walk there is a lot of pain and anguish that has to be processed and dealt with.

Perhaps when dealing with a person who is self harming instead of vilifying them and judging them medical professionals should remember to gently seek out the cause of this symptom. They should in my opinion treat those who self harm with the dignity, care and respect they so badly need, and they should afford them the right treatment to help them move forwards.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014