Flashbacks and Body Memories

TRIGGER WARNING : this blog post contains very sensitive information and may be difficult for some people to read. Please exercise self care.

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They come like a sudden storm that catches you unaware, the impact of a flashback or body memory is huge. You’d think after all this time I would be used to them, somehow better able to cope and yet each time they hit I’m still left reeling. Ask any trauma survivor and they will say that they encounter flashbacks, it is a part I believe of the trauma impact. I have faced this nightmare for so long now and yet despite thinking I should be able to cope with them, sadly flashbacks still hurt.

It’s hard to explain to someone who has never encountered one the feelings that I have, or how I feel as a result and yet deep down I think it would help for others to understand. The other night was disrupted by my worst type of flashback one that contained a body memory, my body holding the feelings, senses and fears that it faced sometime in the past.

Imagine if you can the horror, I am recounting possibly for the very first time a memory, it seeps out from behind the amnesic barrier erected inside my mind. Suddenly the memory feels real, not only that, my body is remembering the physical parts of the memory, so physical touches, my bodies reactions, smells and odours. The best way to describe this is to say that at times it feels like we are being assaulted or raped all over again, except to me this maybe the very first time I have been aware of this memory locked deep within. So it feels like I’m being attacked right at that moment and I cannot stop the memory from spewing out it’s contents.

I feel real fear, I feel anguish and distress, the other night my body memory left me feeling like I was dirty and so desperately unclean, that’s not uncommon. Yet in reality I was safe in my own home in the middle of the night, the doors were locked and my son slept nearby in another room. But I felt like he (my abuser) was there, attacking me and yet I had no idea who he was. I could feel him in my bodies memory, I could feel his touch and his force and I couldn’t escape.

Afterwards I was left sitting in my darkened room shaking and desperately sad and I thought he (my abuser) was still able to come back and attack me again. I felt soiled and tarnished, my first thoughts were fearful ones followed by lots of what ifs? What if he is still here, what if he strikes again, what if it was my fault, could it be my fault? I thought about the physical parts of the memory, my body memory and how I reacted. Was it normal to react the way I had when I hated it so much, when I was fearful and yet my body reacted in the way it did. Was this right?

After the initial horror and shock had subsided slightly, I tried to logically tell myself this was a memory, that I was safe, it wasn’t happening now. I tried to tell my mind that I wasn’t being attacked at that very moment but that this was a memory seeping back into my consciousness. Shaking and agitated I sat on my sofa, telling myself and my alters; the other parts of me, that it was ok, we were ok.

Then I tried to tell myself it wasn’t my fault how could it be, this person who had attacked me was far stronger than me. Then I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t unclean, that all the feelings both emotionally and physical were from the past, I was just recounting something that happened to us in the past. It took a while for these thoughts to enter my head and start to resonate, it took a while for me to calm down after my body memory.

I tried to talk to my alters, well to the alter who has carried this memory for me and I tried hard to compassionately reassure them. I want them to know I’m glad to be finally unearthing the truth of my past, that I’m finally breaking down the amnesic barrier. That doesn’t mean it’s easy far from it, but it does mean I’m trying super hard to not freak out each time this happen.

In the beginning when I first began encountering flashbacks I use to freak out big style, I’d scream, I’d self harm and I hated, I hated me, I hated my alters. I can recall so many times when I have sat following a flashback and wondered how on earth I would cope, cope with the memory, I didn’t feel like I could survive. But over time though the flashbacks haven’t lessened or the feelings subside I have become stronger and better equipped to survive them. I’ve learnt to rationalise them and accept they are just memories and that it’s not really happening right now. I’ve learnt to find strength in the knowledge I have already coped with this incident, whatever it maybe, when it happened back in my past.

The horror, the shame and the impact of flashbacks may not have changed over the years, but I have and I’m slowly learning I’m a survivor and I can cope with such horrors. I’m learning it’s ok to feel and to cry, I’m learning that though I may have dissociated in the past when these events happened to us, I’m now ready to face them, slowly and with care.

The other night was difficult, each time I have a flashback or body memory it’s difficult and I doubt it will ever stop being so. I’m realising that these events which happened so long ago have a huge impact upon me today. One day I’ll be able to lessen that impact until then I will keep on trying to cope with them and to survive the repercussions that they contain. Through therapy and trauma work I will learn to lessen their grip on me, I will lessen the intensity of the emotions linked to each one. Well that’s my hope anyway, it’s what helps me to keep going to face another day.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

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

Blaming Myself For The Abuse I Endured

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

Therapy has given me many different experiences so far, this week I’ve encountered a whole new approach to dealing with the trauma that plagues my mind. I spent time not going into the fine detail of an event but instead processed the emotions that lie behind the flashbacks which disrupt my nights. Whenever I have begun working on these traumatic events before previous therapists have appeared intent on digging and digging into the inner recesses of my mind wanting to know everything about an event. Thus when my current psychologist discussed trauma work I’ve been very nervous and very apprehensive. However time has led me to feel able to take that leap of faith and move along this journey of recovery by stepping into trauma work. I was assured that I would be in a safe environment inside the therapy room and that this was the place to finally be me, to feel and to process the past.

My first encounter at trauma work this week with my current psychologist did feel safe and contained, I felt able to express myself and my feelings honestly. Most of all though I didn’t need to go into the inner depths of regurgitating the memory instead I was able to think about my feelings and my emotions, what a difference such an approach made. Don’t get me wrong we did discuss the memory but only in so far as I felt able and was needed, I didn’t need to recount every single moment of the incident, much to my relief. By the end of the session I wondered why I had been so apprehensive as this approach felt right, it seemed much more contained and far less chaotic than previous experiences.

Today looking back and beginning the work I need to carry on doing of getting to know that part of me who endured this particular nightmare, I can see some key issues that stand out. One of those is my feelings towards that alter as sadly I felt angry at her, I blamed her for not stopping the incident. Yes there is anger at the people involved who caused me such pain and anguish, who betrayed me and belittled me but I also blamed her. It’s hard to realise I blamed a part of me for something they had absolutely no control over, I’m not excusing myself but I am aware I grew up with negative comments that apportioned blame upon me. I lived in an environment where everything that ever went wrong was my fault and my many abusers gave constant reminders to me that the abuse was all I was good for.

But my blaming her is so not helpful to me, because she is a part of me and so I was blaming myself for the incident. I was taking responsibility for the acts of others who were far stronger and far older than I was, people who many would regard has having a duty of care towards me. I’m slowly realising the reality of that time and that when she stopped fighting she was making an intolerable decision to take the abuse in order to protect my life. I’m not sure if today I’d be courageous enough to make such a brave decision to take their punishment, their depraved acts of abuse because to carry on fighting you know would most likely cost you your my life. It’s really a difficult decision for anyone, but even more so for a young teenager who hated the consequences of no longer fighting this particular abuser.

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I’m also aware that this abuser was both determined and dangerous, I believe he would truly have carried on hurting me physically, he wouldn’t have stopped until I stopped fighting back. If I’m honest I think I realise now his actions may well have ended my life such was his rage, if I’d fought on, so this parts bravery and her decisions saved me. The sad thing is that I have sensed time and again with each flashback of this incident the absolute terror she felt at that point, when she had to chose. It’s a terror I cannot explain fully in words, but one I wouldn’t wish on any living creature. The other night I sat frozen in this terror unable to even move from my sofa where I’d been sleeping, I knew I was in my house I knew this was a memory of a time long ago and yet the terror I felt gripped me like a vice.

For too long I’ve blamed her, blamed me and that as to change, I can’t keep doing this it’s not right or fair. Instead I need to nurture this part of me, reassure them and offer comfort, I need to give them the love and care they so rightly deserved as a teenager. This maybe the first time this part of me has ever experienced such love and care and so I need to ensure I do this right. I also need to try hard to communicate with her and build a rapport, find out how this part of me feels. But I need to do this slowly and not rush things, I need to be careful and take care of all of me at this time.

This part of me has feelings too and I sensed those this morning for the first time. I know the terror of that incident is the key here, it’s more significant than the abuse itself and I truly think she hated that terror. She has been able to allow me access to that terror as if to show me the reason why she stopped fighting to prevent the abuse. She wanted me to know why, to know she wasn’t to blame and I’m thankful that I now know the truth. I realise that this part of me hated the feelings of helplessness and of knowing there was no way out, I also believe she felt as if she’d failed. Failed when she knew she couldn’t get free that she couldn’t stop what was happening. Today feelings of being belittled, misunderstood and of not having a voice are all issues I struggle with and I’m sure these stem from this particular time as a young teen. They are a legacy of the past and so often my encounters with health, institutions and professionals have evoked the same feelings this part of me feared and hated.

I know there is still more work to be done to really process this incident, to deal with all the feelings and emotions that stem from it. I don’t doubt I will need to talk this over in other sessions, for I realise I still need to unpack the feelings, the pain, the anguish and the grief of this particular time. In the meantime this week I’m going to do lots of looking after me, giving time and space to deal with my feelings and this parts feelings. Trauma work is going to be a learning process, it’s most definitely going to hurt at times and it won’t always be an easy road but I’m certain I am strong enough to come through this. I survived the actual abuse and I will survive the trauma phase of therapy, one day I’ll look back on this time and realise how far all of me have come thanks to the help of a patient and dedicated psychologist. One day I will no longer be plagued by flashbacks, or memories that occupy my every waking moment, one day I will truly be able to say I was abused but now I’m a survivor.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

One Gigantic Leap of Faith

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I have been seeing my current psychologist for approximately 10 months now and over that time we have done quite a lot of work regarding stabilisation. I’m learning to understand me and my alters, the other parts of me and how best to communicate and work as a team.

One thing we haven’t discussed very much though has been any trauma, that’s because quite simply it hasn’t been the right time. I need to be able to contain myself outside of the one hour a week of therapy, especially if I’m to start discussing sensitive issues such as trauma. At times I’ve realised we have talked about my past but often in a generic sense, my parenting and the skills I’ve never learnt.

Overtime I’ve learnt that I’m inpatient and want to run at 100miles per hour when in truth I really ought to be doing nothing more than a slow walk. I’ve started to communicate with some of my alters and I have begun to have fun, take calculated risks and accept that I have D.I.D instead of the denial that seemed to plague my days.

A couple of sessions ago it was kind of hinted in therapy that maybe it was time to think about my feelings and the trauma that is the cause of my dissociative disorder. At the time I was shocked and it felt as if I did everything I could to block such an idea, ‘what ifs’ flooded my mind as did reasons for this not to be the right time.

Since then I have found myself questioning my doubts and thinking about the issue more and more, I have had so many awkward experiences with feelings and emotions that I am averse to wanting to feel at all. That’s why at times I still find the feelings that I carry can overwhelm me and take control. It’s as if by trying to dampen them down and block them I just store up trouble as they need to come out and they do, just not at the times when it’s safe or suitable.

About a week ago I sat at home and something triggered me causing feelings to erupt and instantly catapult me back in time. I could feel the tears welling in my eyes as a memory suddenly flooded back, I did what I do best I blocked it. I switched off any feelings and refused to deal with the pain, the memory or my feelings. But it really caused me to think, how long was I going to allow this to keep happening especially when I have the opportunity to try and process some of these things.

You see whilst I still have flashbacks, some memories have either never been forgotten at all or have been a part of my conscious for some time. I remember the event or in many cases the flashbacks from a few years ago but it’s as if it happening to another being and not me. Yet I can’t keep on denying the reality that these are my memories, my pain and my feelings and it’s time I processed some of this. It’s not that I need to process or deal with every single memory or event that ever happened to me but I do need to process enough to enable me to deal with the feelings these evoke, to lessen their emotional intensity. I need to work through my grief and the negative effects upon my life, and my trauma. I need to accept this was me and not someone else who they abused and I need to come to terms with it all.

 

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In my last session I found myself raising the issue of trauma work and being honest about my fears and concerns. I seemed to have so many concerns, so many what ifs and so many doubts and fears. The conversation that followed this openness however has really helped me understand more about trauma work and it’s enabled me to think more openly.

If I wasn’t frightened it would I now realise be more concerning, my psychology sessions are a safe environment and the best place to be myself, feelings and all. The fact I won’t be alone with my feelings or the memories and that my psychologist can help me to stay safely contained, makes me realise I will have a virtual safety net. Understanding I will be supported in this process and it will be done at a safe and measured pace, is also reassuring.

That’s why this week I’ve agreed to work internally with the other parts of me at discussing the option of starting trauma work. I going to look at the fears and concerns other parts of me have and then with my psychologist we can work at trying to resolve some of those fears. I now need to make sure I protect all of me in this process, that means taking onboard the real concerns parts of me have, helping to reassure and put safety mechanisms in place ahead of starting the work.

I don’t know yet when that work will begin, but I do know I’m certain that I’m ready to begin trauma work, the second phase of the recovery model. I just need to ensure all of me is able to understand and deal with the journey I want to embark us all on. Yes this won’t be easy, it will hurt and at times it will overwhelm me and feel too much. It’s at these times I will need to utilise the techniques I’ve learnt in the past 10 months and to seek guidance and external help if and when I need it. I know for certain my psychologist won’t let me go too fast and if I need a break from the intensity of this work I can always ask to revert back to stabilisation work until I’m ready to move forwards once again.

I think my motto over the next few months needs to be slow and steady and not marathon runner, this isn’t going to be a fast race but that’s ok, what matters is I do this right – speed or perfection isn’t always everything.

Whilst I’m certain I am stronger now than I’ve ever been and I understand me better than I ever have, I also know this is a single step on a very long road. Yet right now it does feels like I’m standing on the edge of a huge divide ready to jump and take one gigantic leap of faith.

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

 

 

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

It’s good to talk – learning to communicate internally

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Last week was to say the least quite chaotic, we were really busy and we seemed to lose time more than usual and we felt very numb. I felt as if I was a little out of control at points because I felt overwhelmed by everything and it certainly wasn’t an easy week. I realised that since my holiday I had neglected my work on internally communicating with the other parts of me, internal dialogue though still one sided is something my psychologist has encouraged us to do.

I felt quite sad that just because I had a busy week; my CPA had been at the start of it, I had forgotten the one thing that if I am honest has been most helpful recently. I tried to correct this by trying to restart my internal dialogue and within a short time I saw results and then I began to comprehend just how much of an impact not communicating with my other parts was having on me as a whole.

Internal dialogue still feels alien in fact it is odd to me, yet it works, don’t ask me how, I just know it does. My alters the other parts of me don’t speak back, but they do let me sense and feel the feelings they hold which I am told is their way of communicating at the moment. So it feels very one sided to me at present and yet somehow it enables us to be a little less chaotic, and believe me our experience of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder is that it can be very chaotic.

Not wanting to hibernate was a positive and actually feeling was good, yes it’s still an odd concept for us and I find it difficult to understand but it is helpful. I guess I am slowly learning that we are allowed to feel and it’s acceptable and safe to do so, it’s not easy but I know it’s helpful.

I went to therapy and explained how I had allowed my internal dialogue to lapse a bit, now instead of telling me off my psychologist was understanding, it was more about encouraging me to keep trying and less about making me feel guilty, which I really appreciated.

This week I have tried even more to internally communicate and I thought I would share some of this with you, in the hope it can help others who like us live with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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I start each day talking in my head to the other parts of me, we go through our plans for the day and let all the different parts of me know what is happening. I give time to allow them to respond if they want to, of course I don’t hear them but I do get feelings sometimes, which I have learnt are important to acknowledge. I don’t put demands on the other parts of me, just a simple relaxed explanation of our day and the things we need to try and do.

I usually give time over to the little parts of me, so cartoons are quite important, I used to lose time well most of the time at this point previously which isn’t necessarily helpful but felt necessary. The little parts of me need to be acknowledged and understood and by giving them time we felt as if we were trying to avoid so much switching in the day. I do feel a responsibility to them, to nurture them and to enable them to feel safe and secure.

Recently it was suggested that I actually try and watch the cartoons and not dissociate but stay present, it sounded so complex it felt impossible. I tried but in the beginning we just dissociated as normal and lost time, chunks of time that I used to wonder what had we done in, was I ok etc. But we persevered and the other day we actually managed to stay present for part of this time, I do have to watch and internally communicate at the same time which believe me isn’t easy, however it was kind of fun to watch a cartoon it’s not something I am used too. I lost the end of the cartoon, I guess I just couldn’t sustain the effort of watching, internally communicating and trying to stay and not dissociate all at the same time. This felt like a huge step forward though and I knew internal dialogue was the key to this success however small it was in reality.

Whenever I Carol am present I internally communicate with the other parts of me, be that just saying what we are doing, or recognising and acknowledging a feeling. Sometimes I might just self talk about how we are or that even if something feels scary reassure by saying it’s ok and I am going to keep us safe. As I write this blog for instance I am acknowledging a feeling and letting the other parts of me know that after this blog is written we can watch a cartoon. Multi-tasking is a phrase that springs to my mind, because I guess that is what I am doing.

When I sense or am overtaken by a feeling, if I can I acknowledge during the feeling that I sense it, but if it overwhelms me then as soon as I can I acknowledge the feeling and respond accordingly. When I lose time once I return and realise once again I acknowledge I have been away but that I am here now and no one is in trouble for the fact they took control.

This may all sound surreal and I guess to some people it will just seem unusual, perhaps even odd but it works, well for me at least. Yes I do still lose time and plenty of it, I still feel overwhelmed at times and I experience alien feelings which feel frightening and at times confuse me. But there is very slightly less chaos in this world of ours, and for that I am grateful, I am learning to think of myself in a different way and that alone is helpful.

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At one point I just felt out of control, confused, lost and isolated and a body inhabited by a host of very different individuals who I could not see as parts of me, I felt a freak sometimes and I would see us all as separate and the pain of memories and flashbacks were not mine but theirs the alters. Now I see that we are one body, which due to circumstances beyond our control was left fragmented, however all the alters are parts of me. Yes they are different ages, different genders with feelings, thoughts and ways of perceiving the world which at times seem very much separate from myself. But I am learning the alters are parts of me, who happen to carry feelings which in truth are mine, but they carry them for me, they are different because of their experiences yet they are still parts of me.

I am learning that in order to progress we need to learn to work together a bit like a team or a family, and that is I guess what we are trying to encourage by the internal dialogue. We accept we are in the very early stages of utilising internal dialogue which I can only hope will get better the more we practice, perhaps one day it will become a two way process, well that’s one hope I have. In the meantime we will keep on practising as much as we can even though it feels strange, because in truth it is the only hope we have currently of moving forward. It is a glimmer of hope I never dared to imagine was possible, and for that I am truly grateful.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014