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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Copyright: DID Dispatches 2014

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Holiday Planning with Dissociative Identity Disorder – it’s different!

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This week I have been busy preparing for a forthcoming vacation, umlike many people I have to plan and prepare for all the different parts of me, and that makes it more of a challenge. If there is one thing I have learnt as a result of my D.I.D its that nothing is easy and preparation and planning are key, that applies to holidays even more so.

Approximately 15 months ago my daughter and I decided to book a vacation with a difference, we are blessed to be able to save enough to take holidays and I value the chance to have a break from the pressures of daily life. Unlike most people though I travel as a multiple and that means choosing vacations that are suited to a vast array of different ages, I am after all a person who is fragmented and who has different alters of varying age.

However I need to ensure I cater for everyone and that isn’t always easy, I know I will switch alters on holiday and therefore need to take things along with us suited to a variety of ages. I need to accept that it will probably be hard for my daughter as she will at times feel under pressure to make sure we are safe, happy and remember things like taking our medication.

This trip I will have no PA support and that makes it hard for me and those travelling with me,  I never just travel with one other person, I usually go with at least two people so they can each have a break from the intensity of me, all of me. This time my mother in law will be my additional  travelling companion, thankfully she is able to comprehend Dissociative Identity Disorder and isn’t phased by the younger parts of me.

The planning of vacations is always a challenge, where to go, which alters take priority over choosing and who will be comfortable with our choice. I have learnt it is better that I choose the destination and it helps if I try and cater for a wide range of alters both young and old, last time we attended a D.I.D conference in Florida so the adult me was happy and the younger me’s we’re catered for too by the magic of Disney. This time we are going to attempt to see the Northern lights the Aurora Borealis in Norway a more adult destination which could be more of an issue, I am just hoping that with forward planning we are able to entertain all the different parts of me.

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I am consciously aware that I need to pack activities for all ages,  so yesterday as I packed I had to ensure we didn’t just take an adult orientated perspective; that has meant downloading a variety of children’s books suitable for my younger me’s alongside a book my teenage me’s will enjoy.  My art equipment is coming along too as creativity is one way my alters can communicate with me, it’s vitally important to our stability and our day to day routine.

Like many families who are facing a long trip I have packed treats for the journey which both I and my younger parts of me will be happy with so alongside the grown up healthy snack bar are sweets designed for children.

The problem is of course I am only packing for me, one body, yet because we are fragmented we are a collection of parts whose individual needs need to be taken account of, therefore it is quite a lot like taking an entire family on holiday. The downside is of course I have only ever have one persons luggage allowance which can make packing a huge challenge.

So after much careful decision making, planning and preparation I have squashed quite a lot into my cases, it’s amazing how much you can fit into that suitcase especially if you sit on them to fasten. I’m quite surprised that the zips haven’t burst open yet.

Of course I have to hope that together we can enjoy our time away, and that we are able to create memories  that will last us a lifetime. I have to hope that we can enjoy  ourselves and that we are able to have fun, something we find really challenging and perplexing.

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Fun is one of the things my psychologist has challenged me to try, we have together accepted that it’s something I find quite alien and so it’s not a natural concept for me. I am aiming however to try and be at least willing to tackle this new challenge and redress some of the damage my childhood has caused. Fun wasn’t in my childhood that much and so today despite three children it is still quite alien to me.

Alongside trying to have fun, the work of  therapy will continue I have my sessions still booked in for the next few weeks, the wonders of modern technology meaning thankfully I don’t need to have a huge break. I’m grateful really to be able to have that time as it will allow me an opportunity to talk things over with him and hopefully continue to move forwards. All I have to do now of course is remember the time difference and hope for good internet or phone signal.

This evening as I wait to depart I can only hope that all my planning will be a success, that all of my alters all the different fragmented parts of me do enjoy this time away.  I have to hope that we are able to be who we are, a person who lives each and every day dealing with the challenges of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I will subject to internet capabilities be blogging whilst I’m away, writing about the trials and tribulations of holidaying as a multiple, I hope that people find it useful and helpful.  The posts may not be as frequent as usual, so please bear with me and hopefully when I return I will be able to report back more fully  on how things went.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014