CHANGE

CHANGE

 

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Facing a period of change & uncertainty – I am slowly realising why I find change so hard

This week I have faced some changes in my daily life, for the past 21months I have had a regular Personal Assistant one who all parts of me had become used to. This was a person who we felt comfortable being ourselves with, a person who wasn’t going to run a mile if we suddenly switched alters, and who seemed to understand D.I.D. This week that person has moved on to pastures new and thus the search now begins for a new person to help support me.

This of course is not so straight forward, finding people who want to support someone like me is never easy and I need someone who is doing this as a vocation and not just for a wage. I have had my fair share of support staff since I left hospital and we have had seen both good and bad examples of support staff.

Given I am trying to lead as normal a life as is possible with Dissociative Identity Disorder I don’t need people to treat me as if I’m incapable or some sort of invalid, I need people who empower, encourage and support me. I guess I need them to help me redevelop skills that I lost during my lengthy stays in hospital when I did become institutionalised and to learn skills which because of my past have never really fully developed yet.

My PA’s are the lifeline that helps particularly when I switch alters to ensure we keep safe, that help us when we struggle and find ourselves ruminating or with thoughts of desperation and self harm. They are if I’m honest a crucial element of my being able to stay out of hospital, I don’t think that I could have stopped that revolving door of admissions without them.

When I first came out of hospital I hadn’t made a meal or a drink in more than 2 years, I had literally done no activities of daily living unsupervised for over 30 months it was so deskilling. I remember at the start asking for permission to make a simple cup of tea, I felt intimidated by the kettle, I hadn’t used one in what felt like forever and I certainly hadn’t been allowed to just get a drink at anytime of the day or night.

Hospitalisation was dehumanising in so many ways, imagine having to ask for every single drink being forced to drink from a plastic beaker and knowing the staff control everything and could and did quite often say No to a drink. Well that was what life was like for me in the secure units, it was simply controlling, demeaning and soul destroying. Acute wards were slightly better there was a drinks machine that operated set hours and as long as it worked offered some choice, but still the staff or the hospital managers dictated the times we could drink, often 8am till 11pm. One ward I was on allowed 6 drinks per patient per day which worked as long as no one used your allowance as well as their own, thus robbing you of a drink. The staff seemed unable to see the injustice if a patient managed to use all their allowance and other patients too. It was just simply impossible for extra drinks to be provided it felt like a form of control and one I never quite settled with.

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So when I came home it did take a while to get use to the fact I didn’t need to seek permission anymore, that I had freedom and choice. It was the same with food, I’d lived in a regime of set meal times, set food and often not that tasty either. If I’m honest the control I endured was similar to that I faced as a child, my main abuser was a primary care giver and she controlled most of what went into my mouth. Food wasn’t fun very often in fact it was a form control and punishment, thus to this day I have a problem with eating. Being in a controlling hospital environment didn’t help me deal with my eating issues it just exacerbated them and recreated traumatic situations and triggered past memories.

Because of the control in hospital and the deskilling it caused my support staff are important and they help me in so many ways, I am certain that currently they are a necessary part of my life and so finding a new one is a challenge. I need to replace my PA as quickly as possible in order to maintain progress, this is an important issue I am so determined to maintain the progress  I have made thus far. The departure of a PA is  always going to result in a period of change and uncertainty, it’s simply impossible for such events to not cause change and uncertainty, but this is something we have to deal with.

So now as one chapter ends my family and I face a bit of a challenge as we search for a new PA, and belief me that isn’t easy especially for someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder. As one of the difficulties that I have is that I find trusting people really tough and of course it’s not only me who has to trust but all the alters too. Now yes I understand my alters are parts of me but all those parts need to learn to trust individuals and because of the past we all have issues with uncertainty, new relationships and having to basically learn to trust a stranger.

Then of course there is the issue of change, having a new PA is a change which won’t be straight forward or easy. I find change really tough to cope with be that a new person, new place or new situation change is fraught with anxiety and leads me to feel really unsettled and destabilised. I’m already having to do work internally about the changes we face in preparation of a us finding a new PA. I have spent the past couple of weeks preparing myself and my alters; the other parts of me, for the departure of the PA who had become part of our regular routine.

Change is tough for many reasons, but I guess I lived in chaos for years, my childhood was filled with change, be that different homes, schools or abusers. Change usually meant something bad in those days and I believe it has shaped how I view change to this day.

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In the past year I have faced many changes, I have lost one therapist and gained my psychologist, a significant friendship has ended, a relative has died, my care plan has changed and now this current change. Yet if I’m realistic we have coped with all the other changes this past year we have dealt with them and survived so there is a chance, a good chance that we will deal this latest change.

I am aware of the issues, aware of my difficulties with change and trust and I have the support of my family who want so much to ensure we employ the right person to help me keep moving forwards. Perhaps we are slowly over time getting better at dealing with change, it’s just a challenge after all that we have to face and deal with.

Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to write about how I’ve coped with this change to my daily life, hopefully it will be a positive update. I guess I can hope that this change is going to be ok of course I don’t know and that’s what’s scary, but then in all truth nothing in anyone’s life is ever certain. My main task right now is to try and keep all of me settled so that we can deal with this change, so that we can overcome this legacy from my past of fearing change and learn to deal with the issues of trust and change. Wish me luck!

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

 

 

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Adventures in the Kitchen

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Learning to work collaboratively with my alters
Success comes in many forms and for someone like me it comes in ways others might just take for granted or feel are insignificant.

Yet I am slowly beginning to realise with the help of my psychologist that I can attempt these small steps of progress which seem alien and unfamiliar. Now not everyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is the same, but for me I lack many skills which are crucial to everyday life. I switch alters in the kitchen and find cooking a bit of a disaster and I have spent so many years in this fog of dissociation that many developmental stages of life have passed us by.

I can at times be terrified of the phone ringing, overwhelmed beyond belief by paperwork and it’s not uncommon for me to pay a bill twice due to forgetting it’s been dealt with. Many things trigger me, well various alters are impacted by different triggers, sounds, sights, smells and events, the biggest issues being the bathroom which impacts a younger part of me and food which causes huge issues for us too; so having support has enabled me to function a little better.

However with support and guidance I am trying to help build relationships with the differing parts of me, my alters in the hope we can deal with some of these issues and learn the skills we have lacked for so long. A big part of this is about developing trust internally, building self confidence and utilising techniques we are only just learning about.

My psychologist is encouraging me to keep working at internal communication and to use this to try and encourage me and my parts to work collectively. Now of course I don’t have ordinary verbal dialogue with the alters, it is very much a one sided conversation inside my head currently yet that gives us hope.

Yesterday I set myself a challenge which I could only hope would work, my PA was off sick and the family were busy but we needed to eat. I’m terrified of food at times, we certainly feel guilty and bad for eating it’s as if somehow my default position is that we are not worthy of food and it’s bad, dangerous somehow. Eating disorders plagued us in previous years but I have now come to accept that we have to eat even if I don’t want to; otherwise the family and others will force us too anyway. This has led to one alter having a sweet tooth and eating children’s sweeties, but the rest of me eat out of duty with a sense of eating because we have to. Hence today food isn’t fun and the kitchen is frightening and triggering, so we often switch during meals and our skills in the kitchen are poor.

Yet with a sense of we need to eat in my mind I knew we needed to make tea, my worst fears were cooking two things at once as we burn things and switching mid way through leads to disaster. Following advice from my psychologist I broke down tasks and gave the other parts of me the task of telling me when the toast was ready, whilst I would focus on cooking baked beans. The tension was palpable in my kitchen but I kept telling myself and the alters we could do this, we’d be safe and I believed in them. Now I wasn’t alone in the house my son was around but due to his own disability needs he requires care so I gave him the task of if you smell burning tell me and if mum switches turn things off.

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We had no idea if this would work I had visions of burnt toast and burnt beans, really I am normally that bad on my own but I knew we had to try. It was I guess taking a calculated risk but it was a risk worth taking if we want to move forward. I couldn’t of course be certain any other part of me would listen, take notice of what I’d asked I had to trust them and yes that felt scary.

As I felt myself being pulled to look at the toast I began to believe this might work, the outcome was edible beans on toast. Yes we had managed to work together for a few brief moments, not to switch but to collaborate at achieving tea. I felt like I was having the longest internal dialogue with the alters as I ate, praising and thanking them for their help as I had been advised to do. I was in truth giving positive reinforcement to the other parts of me and in some ways to myself Carol, yes I felt pleased and in many ways proud of myself and the alters. I know I was exhausted afterwards it was extremely tiring and I hadn’t expected that strangely.

This simple tea was a huge success for us it was a step forward and it needed recognition, some of my alters had listened to me and acted as I had requested. I am so proud of those parts of me.

Whilst I cannot be certain we will achieve this type of success in the future we will certainly be trying again in the hope that me and my alters can learn to work together as a team.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

Challenging the past – life after trauma and abuse

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FIGHTING TO ADAPT MY AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHT PROCESSES:

This week it was pointed out to me that now when I say self critical comments I sometimes smile, as if in recognition of the fact I realise I have just said those words that epitomise my past; I’m stupid, or I’m pathetic seem to be regular terms which I use. Yet until a few months ago I didn’t even realise I did this negativity and critical thinking now I not only know that I do, but I am starting to recognise those times too, hence the smile of recognition as it dawns on me that I have done it again, put myself down when I know I don’t need to.

I don’t for one minute think I can just change the habits of a lifetime yet it’s progress to start acknowledging the times when I am in the words of my family, my own worst enemy. I think less of me than most people and why, because I was groomed into believing I wasn’t good enough, that everything was my fault.  I can’t say when all this began because it has in truth been all I ever known, even as an adult the contact I still kept with my abusers meant I was subject to a regular dose of criticism and negativity which just reinforced the work they did when they had access to me every day.

But I guess I am slowly coming to realise just how much I need to do to in order to leave my past behind,  the past which plagues my every day and influences and affects each decision and thought I have. As a child and even as an adult I have for many years existed in this world of negative connotations,  the automatic thoughts of negativity, self doubt and in many cases skewed thinking.

This has led me to think about why, why did the people involved do this to me and no I haven’t been self pitying here it’s more a logical question. Why do some people feel the need to put other people down, to make them feel inferior and worthless?

As I put away my suitcases this week in the loft and frantically  searched for something I had lost, one of my favourite pastimes – losing things. I came across a photograph of some of those abusers and it was hard at first not to react in a fearful way, in an angry way, but then I looked at it, at them and thought of the people they once were. my reaction and my thoughts even surprised me, there would have been a time I couldn’t even look at their photo without being sent into a frenzied panic.

Today I see them and in a way I feel pity for them, that doesn’t mean I forget but it does me I am taking control a bit, you see for someone to treat another human being in such a negative way speaks volumes about that person, the one committing the abuse. You can’t have much self respect if all you do is put others down, or hurt them in one way or another, you can’t look at yourself in a mirror and see any good if your life is about being so controlling of others.

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My mother was a controlling person of that there is no doubt, yet she didn’t portray that outside of our home in a bad way, she wasn’t angry outside, she lived her life putting on a pretence , a show if you like. She tried desperately to be this person everyone liked, the so called pillar of the community, yet nothing could have been further from the truth in reality.

I realise now that she and many of my abusers lived a life built on lies, built on image and falsehoods, pretending to be some thing they weren’t. I pity them because they never changed, well as far as I know and that’s kind of sad really, they didn’t learn to change their negative behaviours  or adapt their belief patterns from their skewed thoughts of control and abuse. I have no idea what caused their behaviours nor do I want to, but it seems sad these individuals who had such a huge negative impact upon my life had issues which they never addressed.

You see I may have the negative thoughts of myself but I know what causes them and most of all I am with help changing my automatic thinking patterns and thankfully for the better. I intend to keep working on challenging myself when I put myself down, think critically of myself and demean myself. That doesn’t mean I will stop my automatic thought processes  but it does mean I will notice when they come into play and I will be able to internally at least think that wasn’t good, or more importantly still, that’s not true.

Now this is a journey of trial and error and so I am not setting huge targets, for me I’m quite happy that right now I’m just aware of  the self critical thinking I have. I know I also have issues with food, self image, anxiety, confidence, decision making, the list goes on and on.  My past has shaped me and whilst it won’t be easy and whilst I may know I don’t have to let it define me and that I can shape my  future, I also know that’s my logical head talking and not the emotional parts of me who don’t seem to be able to stop letting the past influence today, tomorrow and the future.

Now logically I know that my future doesn’t have to be shaped by my past, it is harder to accept emotionally, and so it’s hard to not let the past influence who I am, it’s hard to not allow myself to continue the negativity, It’s hard to change these habits, to amend how I think. I am making progress but it is teeny tiny steps of progress, accompanied by the familiar one step forward and two steps back every now and again.

But unlike the abusers I am not alone, I have a team of people willing me on, helping me change how my past impacts my tomorrow, my family and my psychologist they are helping me, they are supporting me.

I am being helped to recognise, to think and I hope in time to adapt the damage of my past, it’s a hope I once never thought I’d have, and it’s worth fighting to cling onto. It will be worth all the hard work even if I manage to change just one negative thought process, thats what makes me so different from those who hurt me, I am addressing the past, maybe that’s why today I can look at her picture and not immediately fear her; well not quite so much anyway.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014