Accepting the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder

image

Trying to come to terms with my Dissociative Identity Disorder is not always so easy, the harsh reality is of course I am more distressed about the ‘why’, than the alters. The ‘why’ being what caused me to have D.I.D, the fact is it’s not very easy to accept that I was abused and hurt nor is it easy to accept that I switch between alters, lose time, find myself in places when I don’t really remember how I got there.

Feeling confused, anxious and overwhelmed by my emotions and the complexities of D.I.D is all a part of my life now and I am slowly getting used to this diagnosis and who we are.
I realise that the past has shaped who I am, it’s led to negative thinking patterns and patterns of behaviours that are at best unhelpful and at worst self destructive. It’s also left a huge amount of pain, hurt and anguish which is not so easy to come to terms with.

Today I am having to face up to some harsh realities, the dawning realisation that I am somewhat different from many people who I might pass in the street. I have a condition that isn’t my fault, but which currently governs my life and impacts us in so many ways.

The diagnosis of D.I.D came just over five years ago, it wasn’t a label I understood or knew much about and yet by the time it came I had all the symptoms and yet I refused to admit I recognised any. I was switching but I didn’t see it, I didn’t understand that I was this person who suddenly became totally different. I can recall being in hospital and having arguments verbally with the staff as they told me I was angry and yet I didn’t feel angry, or I had done x,y or z and yet had no recollection of it so would deny it. Of course I wasn’t really aware that I was switching and if I was I guess I had an in built defence to be blind to the fact.

I would find myself in unusual places and couldn’t work out how I got there, I’d think I was losing my mind for not remembering. I would often see things suddenly get bigger, the people around me, furniture, other objects and I would feel unusual, more timid and afraid. I never thought I was switching alters or losing time, it didn’t figure in my thought process at that time if anything I really believed people were lying to me and that I was going mad.

I was asked once by a psychologist to sit and think with her about the different me’s others were seeing, and we used magazines to help us formulate a picture of the various parts that people around me were recognising. At that time she didn’t refer to them as parts or alters, just what did I think others were seeing, she steered me a little into thinking about what others had been saying but not in a way that made me feel I was being pushed into a new label.

image

I had no concept of Dissociative Identity Disorder I hadn’t heard of it, though by this time I now know I had completed at least 3 dissociative screening tools and scored rather highly.
The professionals had already made up their minds but I was just refusing to accept that I switched, or was anything other than mad, bad or different.

The original list of parts were a little toddler, a young child, a teen who got angry, and 2 adults, I think I still have the collage we made somewhere hidden in my loft. Then she left me with the task of thinking about who it was others were referring to when they pointed out I had switched or had done something I didn’t recall. It was a strange eye opening concept over the next few weeks as I began to realise that I had lost time, that I found myself in positions only a child would sit in, or when things felt big I felt small. But even then I still tried hard to deny any of this notion that I was actually the one being small, angry, confused and a multitude of other things too.

By the time they suggested I was formally assessed and the psychology professionals said they thought I had D.I.D, many months had gone by, staff and patients had seen different parts of me which I still didn’t see. I was confused, I felt perplexed and I felt as if I really didn’t know where time has gone and yet for the most part I was just blind to this chaos going on in my life. It was impacting me and yet I couldn’t accept I was unaware of what I was doing for chunks of each day, I wasn’t willing to accept that I became little and child-like, or angry and moody like a teen.

Yet in the wait for that assessment with still no understanding of dissociation or dissociative disorders I had started to recognise some things, but I didn’t want to tell anyone. I mean the fact I a grown women wanted to skip outside, or play on a swing was silly wasn’t it? I had caught myself colouring one day, well I came too and there were the crayons and the picture. I had found myself aware that I was doing some odd behaviours for an adult women, I didn’t have feelings as such but I experienced odd little snippets of emotion, so I could tell I had been angry by what I’d written and yet had no concept of writing it. It was strange, confusing and complex and I wasn’t willing to share these experiences with people, I really felt I was mad, truly truly mad. I imagined they’d lock me up forever if I admitted what I thought was happening, and yet here I was in a locked secure ward scared and afraid already.

When I was assessed I tried really hard to stay me, to not lose time, to give nothing away, but of course I did lose time and I switched. The specialist Doctors knew what to look for I guess and despite my best efforts they got the real me, the me that has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

image

One specialist well he called me ahead of our appointment a number of times and by the time he came he’d apparently spoken to at least two parts of me, I had no idea that this had happened but it helped him in his decision. He completed the SCID-D apparently and yet I didn’t realise that at the time I just knew he seemed to ask lots of questions that seemed odd and times very irrelevant, or just plain nosey.

The other a forensic psychologist spent hours with me, over two full days he saw me for about 18-20 hours. There weren’t breaks other than me walking to and from the medication room and bathroom stops, it was persistent, draining and demanding work. He tested me with a plethora of psychological assessments the SCID-D included, he asked me questions and tested my memory which all felt very odd and at times annoying. I guess because of the lack of breaks and the pressure of all the tests I switched, lost time, and he saw the real me. I can recall him telling me my answers had changed since we had done this particular test before, yet I had never seen or done this particular test before and I argued with him.

Looking back it all makes sense but then it made absolutely none, I can recall being given the diagnosis and thinking these professionals are stupid, they are mad, they don’t know what they are talking about. I rang my daughter expecting her to understand how stupid these Doctors were, instead when I told her she just said ‘That makes so much sense mum’, ‘ now I understand why my childhood was so chaotic’ I recall hanging up on her in anger and frustration and crying.

Just over five years on and I think I am now accepting of the diagnosis, yes I have D.I.D, I have parts, I’m fragmented and I have had a difficult past. But accepting doesn’t mean that I have fully dealt with the ‘why’, It’s full of grief and hurt and pain and so in my current psychology sessions I am slowly coming to terms with this ‘why’. I believe it’s a work in progress and all of me has a long way to go to fully comprehending the harsh realities of my life. I am in the first phase of therapy ‘stabilisation’ and I have a long road ahead of me. It has taken me a very long time to get to this place, to the point were I now at least accept in an non-emotional way the past but I think the journey to fully accepting and dealing with the grief is still ahead of me.

I’m no longer ashamed of my diagnosis, but I’m still learning about D.I.D, I’m still getting used to switching, losing time and often not really knowing who I am. Most of all I’m still getting used to my alters the various parts of me, I’m learning who they are, getting to know them one by one and accepting the alters are parts of me.

 image

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

 

Making my journey with D.I.D bear-able

Making my journey with D.I.D bear-able

 image

My Little parts are keen for us to introduce our special friend

Ever since my melt down point a decade ago I have had the company of a cuddly creature to keep me feeling safe. Initially this was a rather large creature who filled my arms and to be fair wasn’t so easy to carry. After 2 years my children and I chose a new creature whose size made it easier for me to carry and to discretely transport around.

Now my cuddly creatures are not live animals, no there are teddy bears called Cuddles and Ted, between the they have been with me throughout my journey through the mental health system. Now cuddles was rather cumbersome due to her size, it made it difficult to carry her around and so she is now retired to safe storage but Ted she has been with me for 8 years now and is a daily part of my life.

I’m not afraid to admit I have her, in fact until a couple of years ago I couldn’t leave her at any point in the day. Ted was carried in my arms daily, at home and when we went out she has been a source of comfort and in many ways has given my little alters a sense of grounding and security which has been significantly helpful.

Ted has been with me in all bar two of my acute hospitalisations, she’s been locked in a forensic secure unit and a non-forensic one too, she’s endured being detained by the police when we were repatriated to hospital in the cage of a police van. She’s been with me when I have tried to end my suffering and when I have self harmed, in fact Ted has been through every step of the journey since 2006. She has spent some 130 plus weeks in hospital, her predecessor cuddles spent approximately 65 weeks in hospital.

I guess when I carried her everywhere I stood out, she and I were a partnership and yes she was my security blanket if you like and some patients and certainly some staff found it difficult to deal with this women and her bear. I was unable to cope with life, with the memories and the flashbacks which filled me with dread and fear, with the confusion and anxiety I felt I just wanted the ground to swallow me whole to stop my anguish and my pain.

I can recall being verbally attacked by a stranger who took offence to me and my bear, he said ‘people like you should be locked away’ and I guess that was easy for him to say but I wasn’t always this wreck. I am a mum and I was once a wife, I worked hard and contributed to society I never expected to find myself in a mental hospital nor carrying a bear and yet it happened. I knew I had a tough start in life but I hoped I’d managed to leave it all behind, I thought I had, but then the reality was that it was just hidden away. You see in truth much pain and anguish from my past was hidden deep inside of me waiting to reveal itself when I was least expecting it. I didn’t need a random stranger attacking me for carrying a bear I felt bad enough about myself who I was and the fact I couldn’t cope.

image

Ted has been a comfort that I needed through the darkest of days she has been there and I am not ashamed that I needed her. She has kept me grounded at times especially when I have suffered flashbacks and memories. I could keep telling myself & all my alters, all the parts of me that when bad happened we didn’t have Ted and yet now we did and that meant we were safe.

As a child I only recall one teddy bear he came from a bad person as a reward for being ‘a good girl’ for not telling when the person hurt me and yet I loved that bear. I remember coming home from school and my bear being gone, my mother had decided I had to be punished for something and taking that bear away was my punishment. I didn’t have another bear, unlike most children for me toys were rare and they came and they went as a form of control.

When my children bought me Cuddles I was elated and so grateful and yes she served me well when I first hit melt down, but her size made her harder to carry. But like Ted she took so many of my tears as I could hold her and let out the pain that ripped deep into me at that time, I find emotions so hard that it’s impossible for me to explain them to others easily, to express them and yet I needed to.

My cuddly friends have been a part of each day now for a decade and I doubt I could have managed without them, it felt like they were attached to me, it probably looked like that to the world. We were this person who went everywhere with her bear and people became used to that, some became so accustomed to her they no longer saw her.

About two years ago I made the decision to put Ted inside my bag when I went out, she was still with me 24/7 but she was no longer a visual constant in my day to day life. I remember the first time I placed her in my bag I felt bereft, but I knew it was the right time to stop carrying her in my arms all the time. Part of my decision was based upon the fact that my constantly carrying this bear had caused me significant muscular issues which required physiotherapy treatment. For years I had held her in my arm so had held my arm in a bent position this had caused muscle weakness and tension and when I realised that all this pain and discomfort was a result of my needing Ted I knew I had to take action.

image

For a further year Ted was still a constant, she was carried around everywhere I went, the doctors, the shops, even for a McDonalds. Then one day I forgot her she was left sat at home on my bed and I ventured off to an appointment, by the time I realised we didn’t have time to return to get her. I had to face the fact that we would have to survive without her for these few hours and of course we did, we managed and it led to more and more organised opportunities where Ted stayed home. I had some control over this so if I was struggling or facing a difficult time Ted came along, but if I felt we could manage well then she stayed home.

Now Ted lives on my bed and there are times she comes with us, so every time we attend psychology she comes along too. When I face Care plan meetings Ted comes too, holidays and other times away from home involving overnight stays she is part of my luggage. But I can now manage without her when I am shopping, or attending the GP’s, visiting friends or going for a coffee. Ted probably spends 50% of her time on my bed and 50% of her time in my bag or on the sofa, it’s a far cry from my carrying her 24/7.

This week I’m attending an event which means I’m away from home, so Ted comes too she will stay part of her time on my hotel bed but I know she’ll be with me when I need her. There will be times when I do need her, times when I feel vulnerable or I am switching more and I need to try and ground myself.

Now it maybe hard for people to understand why I a grown women need a bear but of course parts of me are little and need the comfort a bear gives. She also allows me to know that the past is over and that is so important to me. I am fortunate that my family accept her as a necessary part of my life currently, they don’t nor have they ever judged us. In fact my children who are adults themselves will often say hello to her and they occasionally buy a new outfit for her. It’s as if they understand the role she has and continues to play in our life.

I never expected this small bear Ted would become so important to me and obviously carrying her everywhere day in and day out she has weathered quite a lot, but I can’t imagine replacing her she will just age and become more loved as time progresses. She may not come out with me as often and one day she may just live on my bed, but for now Ted will keep playing whatever role I and all my parts need her too. Be that grounder, comforter or as a sign of reassurance Ted is a significant part of my healing journey and I’m glad she is part of our life.

 image

Copyright: DID Dispatches 2014

Its time to learn about Dissociative Identity Disorder

image

I am often faced with stories from others with Dissociative Identity Disorder who have encountered medical professionals who don’t understand or have any knowledge of D.I.D. I myself have had to deal with both ill informed and often sceptical professionals who to be honest have done more harm than good.

Yet in all honesty there is little reason for psychiatrists, psychologists, GP’s and other healthcare professionals to be aware of Dissociative Identity Disorder,the usual channels of guidance available to them have little if any information of Dissociative Disorders. Which is both unjust and alarming as estimates of the prevalence of complex Dissociative conditions is around the same as that of Schizophrenia for which quite a lot of information exists.

This lack of information doesn’t mean that healthcare professionals can be excused though for their lack of knowledge, as in today’s technological world information on both Dissociative Disorders and how to treat those with a condition like Dissociative Identity Disorder is readily available. You just have to search a little harder perhaps than other conditions, but the information is there and from reputable sources too.

Treatment guidance is available from the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. This detailed guidance paper for professionals and can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15299732.2011.537247  Whilst the site also contains a wealth of other relevant facts and information and it’s definitely worth exploring to find out more  http://www.isst-d.org

Furthermore other useful easy to access educational tools are available, one that I recently had the privilege of watching was a preview of the latest DVD ‘NoTwo Paths The Same’ from First Person Plural, this DVD is designed to explore the phase orientated treatment described by the ISST-D.

 image

The DVD was well received by both professionals and those with D.I.D. In fact it’s a great tool for educating yourself about D.I.D and understanding how to work therapeutically with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is in my opinion a must for all healthcare professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists and GP’s. It is useful also to survivors, partners and others too who wish to have a better understanding of the therapeutic process and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The DVD features seven people, including 3 experts by experience, 3 clinicians and a partner of someone with D.I.D.
The clinicians include a Clinical Psychologist based in the NHS, and 2 Psychotherapists, all of whom use the three stage model in their practice with D.I.D clients. These aren’t just any clinicians but people with decades of experience of working in this field and between them they have a wealth of knowledge. The 3 experts by experience are people who live with and are receiving appropriate long term therapy for their D.I.D. This really is produced by people with a wealth of knowledge of Dissociative Identity Disorder in other words they know what they are talking about.

The film focuses upon the different stages of treatment including Stabilisation, Working through Trauma, Consolidation and Integrated Living, Hope and finally a Partners Perspective. It’s been interesting to view the whole DVD at home and understand more about the therapeutic journey of healing that I and my alters are on.

I am so impressed by the DVD, it is useful on so many fronts I have asked my family to watch it as I feel they need to comprehend the journey I am on. I will be asking my community mental health team to watch it too alongside First Person Plurals first DVD ‘A Logical Way of Being’ which compliments this latest training and educational tool.

The DVD is available  to purchase at http://www.firstpersonplural.org.uk/sales and  more information can be found at the first person plural website, whose address is on my resources page.

Educating yourself about Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t hard it just takes a little initiative to search for the information that’s out there. Be that through the sites I have mentioned in this blog or by watching this DVD, or utilising the wealth of knowledge that exists on many other sites too. I will be updating my resources page in the next few days as it’s important people know where to look for guidance, accurate information and advice.

I truly believe that it is important people understand the impact trauma has upon people’s lives and the issues of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. That’s one reason I started this blog, I was aware from my own experience that a lack of knowledge existed and I live with Dissociative Identity Disorder on a daily basis and face the impact of that lack of knowledge. Sadly I have to deal with the aftermath that is often caused by well meaning professionals and individuals who don’t comprehend my condition.

In the future any well meaning professional who demonstrates a lack of knowledge or understanding that I encounter will be being given a copy of this blog alongside a copy of my updated resources page in the hope we can educate them and help others along the way.

 

Disclaimer: I am a member of First Person Plural alongside other relevant organisations, I have personally chosen to highlight this information and have not been asked to do so by any organisation. 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

My life as a parent with D.I.D

family blog

Having D.I.D. has many challenges for me and for my family, long before I was diagnosed as a multiple I married and had three children, as a young parent I was never sure of the things I was meant to do in order to be a good mum yet I did know what I wasn’t meant to do. It wasn’t easy being a parent even back then, but with help from the children’s Dad and other relatives we managed to raise our children.  Some of my parenting difficulties resulted from a lack of parenting experience, and from the lack of nurture I had encountered as a child, alongside I guess the impact of the abuse I had hidden away in my mind as a young child.  Its hard to parent when you have no real experience or role model upon which to base your actions, and I had no role model on how to be a mum, so the whole concept was alien to me.

Somehow though for many years we muddled through, I had support in daily living from either family or social services, the more natural parental nurture came mainly from seeing how others parented their children. But many things seemed hard for me to grasp, I couldn’t somehow just be a mum and enjoy the little things in life such as playing in the sand with my children. So I buried myself in work and community activities anything to fill my time and my days, and which allowed me  to feel like I was coping even when we weren’t.

Deep down I knew that I was struggling, when we began losing time, forgetting things, realising we had said or done things without any recollection of doing so, my moods were fluctuating so much I realise now I was probably switching alters at this time. I just didn’t realise it back then, in fact I thought I managed to keep most of my difficulties well hidden from everyone, including the children.

When I became an in-patient in a psychiatric unit my children were all teenagers, the day I was admitted my daughter drove me to the hospital for an assessment and she returned home alone. In the weeks that followed the children all realised I had been harming and wanted to die, and yet they came regularly to visit, never judged me and showed real care and compassion. As time progressed and one hospital stay led to another the children learnt to deal with my absence from home.

judged blog

Because of the decline in my mental health there was a time I was judged by some to not be able to live with my children, people felt that I wasn’t safe enough as a self-harmer to be around them unsupervised. It split our family apart, it meant I couldn’t live at home, it also meant I was judged and watched at every turn by people who knew nothing more about me than the fact I was unwell and had tried to end my life. I was deemed unfit to be a parent, yet the fact was I would never have hurt the children, they meant more to be than words can ever say and I would have died trying to protect them. But mental health carries a stigma, and that is at times used to judge those of us who are ill and to deny us the right to family life, the right to be a  mother to our  own children. I was only allowed to be with my children alone once each of them turned 18, despite the fact they felt safe with me, that their Dad was happy for me to be with them and I was capable of being safe around them.  It caused huge damage to our relationships which were strained , by 2007 I felt more useless and a burden to them than I had ever felt.

Looking back I realise that I was a good parent, even in the dark days and no one should have ever used my mental health to attack my fitness to parent. It wasn’t as if they had done assessments to make such horrendous decisions they were based on stigma influenced judgement’s and yet still I know parents with D.I.D fear people finding out the diagnosis in case it leads to similar issues regarding fitness. Shouldn’t we be able to treat people with compassion and care and help families to remain as families, now don’t get me wrong if there is any suspicion of abuse I would want the services to protect children, but in the cases involving mental health we need to be cautious that its not stigma based decisions that are being taken. I know the cost of those ill informed decisions as do my children sadly as I wasn’t really able to be mum properly from 2005.

So by the time I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 2008, I had spent  a total of over 2 years in hospital, I had been away from our home area  in the secure units  for nearly a year and out of their day to day lives as a result. But I had contact with my daughter nearly every day via telephone and letter, she’d visit every month travelling for 10 hours to spend just a couple with me. My sons would come to visit less frequently, but we would speak  a couple of times a week if not more and they did keep me up to date with their lives and what was going on for them.

So when I was diagnosed I remember thinking how would I tell these very special people in my life the people who I loved and cherish and I worried frantically about it. In the end I recall telling the diagnosis to my daughter first, her words were simply “that makes sense”. I was initially annoyed and alarmed at this response; I thought  the diagnosis would shock and surprise her but it didn’t, and that meant that I had not hidden all the struggles with dissociation as well as I thought. that was a hard pill to swallow.

But I soon realised that in my children I had three allies who all cared, understood and accepted me for who I was, their mum first and foremost and the fact I just happened to be a multiple was a secondary issue for them.

Today sometimes I am aware that our roles are reversed, if my young alters are present my children will ensure our safety and well-being,  its at these times they provide care for me.  It is in every way a full on role reversal, but it isn’t an all day situation, my daily life is one that is very fluid as we switch from alter to alter this means my children’s  lives are fluid too and they have become very adaptable to this changing situation.

The children have also gained their own expertise in dissociative disorders, and they deal with our D.I.D in their own individual unique ways. The switching which is unpredictable can be draining on the family, especially for my son who lives with me, it isn’t easy being a multiple but it isn’t easy on the family either. My trauma, my past, my dissociative disorder impacts all of our lives and yet it also makes us stronger people.

2011-06-05_16.16.14

My children have come to terms with the fact that I their mum have a teddy as a best friend, who has to come on holiday with us and at one point was carried every minute of every day. They have learnt to have a mum who is forgetful, loses things, buys things and doesn’t remember, at times gets very distressed and whose mood will fluctuate depending upon which alter is present.

My youngest son once told me after he and I had been away for a week that he felt like he had been on a coach trip as he had in reality taken a whole group of people on our trip, one mum, one body but a whole host of identities. My son who lives with me is honest and has recently asked for  a couple of days a week rest and so he know spends a couple of nights each week with his Dad, now it would be easy to take offence but  I don’t I know its not easy for me or them.  My daughter is often the person who reins me in if younger alters want to go toy shopping and if I get overwhelmed she helps me to rationalise life again, she also attends all my Care plan meetings and is good at fighting my corner now if its needed.

I realise today that as a mum I have missed out on so much, but that despite everything I am blessed with three truly awesome children who I love so much and who I know love me no matter what. I see each of them as unique individuals who bring me immense pride and enjoyment, they all have their own talents and I can see some of me in each of them. Yes we may have been through a lot as a family, but our honesty with each other, our openness and understanding has allowed us to move forward with hope. We are able to accept each other for who we are, accept each others strengths and weaknesses and accept and acknowledge each others differences.

I may not have been able to be the best mum in the world, but my children are secure and happy, they know I am there for them no matter what, that my love is unconditional. We have rebuilt our relationships, we have shared laughter and a few tears but most of all we have created our own memories of life post diagnosis, holidays together, days out enjoying shared interests and fun at home be that baking or just having a simple family meal.  Most of all we are building a future full of happiness, hope and opportunity one that involves all of us, the children and me their mum their multiple mum.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Out of the darkest of times comes hope – the hardest blog to write.

Today has been a significant day, 6 years ago I was driven by my local NHS trust 200 plus miles from home to a privately run secure service. I had been on my first ever section 3 for less than 2 months and was in an open acute ward; no lock on the door and a fair degree of freedom.

The professionals decided I needed trauma therapy and to get that therapy, they needed to separate me from my children and relocate me to the south west coast of the UK. Suddenly for the very first time I felt like a third class citizen, I was deprived of all my clothes bar the ones I was wearing, all my possessions except my teddy were taken away and locked in a room to be searched. I had to eat with a spoon, drink from a plastic cup and worst of all be watched on a 1-1 observation when I used the bathroom, even when I showered. I was on constant observations, both day and night and had NO PRIVACY.  My first night men sat feet from my bed as they expected me to sleep!

To say I was terrified would be an understatement, I remember begging my family for help on the phone but they had been told I would do this, so at first were not quite so sure of how I was being treated. Just like they were told that only a few patients would have committed crimes and be held under ministry of justice sections, when the reality was over 70% of the patients were being held by the ministry of Justice.

I sat petrified as people told me they were in for murder and other offences, I had no criminal history, I used to work for the government, I had served on boards focussed on policing and probation so I had to lie when asked what work I used to do because basically it was the only safe thing to do.

It was 12 days before Christmas and I felt so alone, so unhappy and so desperate, this was an unfamiliar environment. I was locked out of my bedroom for most of the day, in fact from about 8am till gone 10pm. I had to sit in a room crowded with women and staff, the noise levels were frightening and there was a lot of conflict, violence and anger.

I didn’t get to go outside for a few days and the window of my room was screwed shut. My things were not searched for days so I remember being in the same clothes for days, though they did give me access to nightwear and my toothbrush after I kicked up a fuss, but that’s all. I didn’t even have a photo of my children to look at, nor the small keepsakes they had chosen to ensure I could remind myself of them. Things they had given me on my last night in hospital close to home.

To say this was a nightmare would be an understatement, it was worse than a nightmare because I couldn’t wake up from this. This was now my reality!

The professionals thought they were helping me, they convinced me that it was for my best interests to go, but this wasn’t helping me it was absolutely without a doubt re-traumatising me.

I am a victim of childhood trauma and I now know have DID, so being in this alien monster of a place so full of power imbalances was horrendous. I had been stripped of my dignity once more and felt the isolated terrified child I had once been before, and yet now this was being done legally and in the name of treatment.

My children insisted on a pre-Christmas visit given we had all had less than 24 hours notice of the move, it was odd to see them with a person watching our every move, listening to every word. They bought me flowers, I couldn’t keep them because vases were a non starter in this place. They gave me gifts for Christmas, that the following month I had to send home because they weren’t allowed. The sad irony is my daughter checked before they came what they could bring me and yet somehow the rules changed and I wasn’t allowed them after all.

There were locks of every door, swipe cards, an massive wire fence ran around the whole place, it must have been 10ft high. This was my world, day in and day out, and I felt trapped. I felt cheated by my mental health team back home, lied to even conned.

I trusted no one, and nothing, I lived in fear and felt fear, I felt alone and truly felt abandoned.

I clung to my bear hoping to find some small crumb of comfort from the touch of her fur I waited in desperation to get access to the phone, my calls home to speak to my children became my lifeline. Once I got some of things; those I was allowed to keep, I looked every day at the children’s photo remembering the good times before my memories had returned and I fell apart mentally because of my past long ago.

I was already dissociative, I had memories, flashbacks,  nightmares, triggered all the time by anything and everything  and yet now I was in an environment where no one understood and I couldn’t escape the triggers.

I learnt to press on and dig deep for survival, to play the game and look ok. It wasn’t easy and I learnt as I went along. I realised that observations would get reduced in the staff’s time and not mine and I couldn’t challenge things it just didn’t work that way. I knew if they wanted to sanction me they could. The whole place operated by sanctions and there really was no rhyme nor reason to them at all. People who kicked off would get grounds access, people who didn’t would lose it.

There were times when the phone didn’t work for days, times when restrictions on the unit as a whole where harsher due to the level of incidents. It didn’t matter if you were involved everyone paid the price for others indiscretions..

My children visited me often, well as much as they could but each visit required 10 hours of travelling for about 2 hours with me. I cherished those times, always trying to smile and be brave for them. We wrote often to each other and I began studying with the Open University to occupy my time.

My children bought me a devotional bible for Christmas that year and it became my constant source of strength. I never fully realised then, just how much that bible gave me but I can honestly say that it was the best gift my Children could have ever given me, because it gave me HOPE.

Hope in the darkest of times, and in the darkest of places to know that I wasn’t alone, I wasn’t in this on my own, I had an awesome God who loved me and cared for me so much. Together we would get through this ordeal, and we did.

It wasn’t easy and yes it did leave a scar, a scar that I think will take some time to heal. I lost my faith in the NHS, I lost my faith in the healthcare system as a whole.

The nightmare did finally end, but not until 2009; by which time I was institutionalised and damaged even more.

But I also learnt what love is, I realised I wanted life not death, I wanted to be a SURVIVOR. I found the beginnings of my faith, and I learnt a lot about myself.

I was finally diagnosed with DID and then everyone realised I needed to be in the community after all. It wasn’t an easy journey and it’s not one I would wish upon anyone, yet because of that time I graduated last year, and I know I earned every ounce of my degree because most of it was completed in hospital; in the darkest of places and in the hardest of times.

Today as I woke this morning and thought about the feelings I held back in 2007 on that first day in the secure unit, I realised I should blog about my experience. This hasn’t been an easy blog to write, I have shed a few tears in the process but it needed to be written all the same.

If one healthcare professional thinks before they make a decision to do to someone else what was done to me, if they reconsidered their decision, then it will have been worth it.

My advice to healthcare professionals based upon my experience is that unless you know what a place is truly like, then no one should send another human being into the unknown.

I don’t doubt some people need such places, nor that other hospitals run differently and are better than the ones I experienced.

But the people who cared for me back then and made the final decision, they failed me. I was vulnerable, defenceless and highly traumatised already, yet they in my honest opinion neglected their duty of care. It nearly destroyed me and it nearly destroyed my family too, we live with the aftermath its etched on our memories forever.

I hope no one else is failed ever again.