To discuss trauma or not?

Over the years I have encountered many therapists, I have seen people of varying levels of expertise and the way they work has been very different. Most of those who I saw in the past had a keen focus on the trauma itself, desperately wanting me to regurgitate the events of my childhood. But is that the best approach for recovery, does it help to go over and over the bad things that happened.

 

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Due to my dissociation I have many gaps in my memory of my childhood, my brain has been good at protecting me and locked many horrors away. I have found over the years those memories spilling out into the here and now, snap shots of trauma which often haven’t been the full details of an incident. The memories have often been just enough to give me a clear idea of the event, what happened without all the terrifying finer details. Sometimes they have been drip fed to me, so a snippet of the event one day and then a week later another piece of the event. Weeks pass and eventually the whole horror of an abusive event has been revealed. Other times the memories come flooding back in an instant, with a flashback or body memory overwhelming me and sending me into a bit of a frenzy.

 

There are times when I really can’t cope with what I’ve remembered, it becomes too overwhelming, too consuming, and yet I have learnt to process in a better way too. So I can say I can’t deal with this particular trauma memory now I need to wait till therapy to think about this in any detail, it’s my way of protecting me. I can now accept sometimes that I’m not at risk right now, but it’s not easy and any trauma memory holds feelings of terror and pain.

 

Trauma and abuse have been a significant part of my life, it started when I was small and continued for years, in fact all through my childhood. I can’t name all my abusers but I can at times see their faces, I can tell you much of what happened because my memory has now revealed many of the horrors I endured. But I still have gaps in time and I still have periods of abuse were I only have part of the memory.

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In therapy for much of the early years of treatment, the professionals who treated me wanted me to share that trauma with them. They felt that me and in turn my alters revealing the past trauma was important to recovery. I would be encouraged to share the past, to regurgitate the horrors in all their gory detail, often through tears and great pain. Yet I never had the ability to process those memories, I never felt attached to them.

 

For much of my early years of treatment I felt irritated at the thought these people wanted me to share my inner most secrets. I recall one therapist and I falling out over the fact she would push for more graphic detail, when I felt it wasn’t needed. I didn’t feel able to share my secrets and I knew I didn’t have them all, my memory had stored them well away, locked out of even my reach.

 

 

One would push for information which I didn’t have, causing me to dissociate in session and thus losing time. She would expect me to spill the beans as she put it, yet I didn’t know what the fragments I had meant and I just wanted to understand. Throughout this time I wanted to know what had happened in my past, why I lost time and why I would dissociate. It just led to more and more confusion and concern, which at the time didn’t help me or my recovery.

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One therapist insisted on naming my parts and seemed to want to give them identities, I felt that my alters were totally different people and their memories were not mine but theirs. I now realise of course my alters are parts of me and the memories they carry are mine, locked away from me to ensure my safety and sanity at the time. I also now understand we all dissociate every single one of us, you and me, when we drive a familiar route and suddenly realise we are further on than we thought – that’s dissociation.

 

Of course I dissociated in a bit more of an extreme way, I switched off as a child to avoid the horrors of my abuse and it probably kept me alive. I know now that my alters are just parts of me, not separate people as such but fragmented parts of me, they formed when I dissociated as a child. Unlike most people who grow up in a seamless way, my 5 year old me wasn’t able to become 6 year old me she stayed locked inside of me – held by the terror of that time. Hence why I have lots of parts, lots of different bits of me who today are my alters, they carry memories of my past that I didn’t know. They need time, nurture, parenting if you like and they have skills and talents which I so value today, but until recently didn’t realise I had. Some have a function, like my protector whose job was to carry the frustration of not being able to protect myself as a child. I couldn’t protect me back then, but today she ensures we are safe and protected especially when threats similar to the past come to the fore.

 

So the idea of giving them separate lives and detailed identities wasn’t in reality so helpful, the memories they hold are my memories. I need to process those memories as my own not someone else’s. But do I really need to regurgitate my past in all its gory detail, do I need to try and reassemble each trauma memory in order to recover from my abuse.

 

My current therapy does involve trauma work, but not in all its minute detail, the aim isn’t to regurgitate the past as such, it’s to process the emotions that are attached to those memories. I don’t need to divulge every moment of a trauma event, but I do need to explore how that trauma impacts in my today. So I am having to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma itself, but I don’t have to start going through incidents in the way I was forced to years ago.

 

Processing trauma is an integral part of therapy but how that’s done can vary greatly from one professional to another, I know for me the key hasn’t been to regurgitate the past, it’s been to process the emotions that go alongside the trauma, those emotions that co-exist with the trauma. Emotions matter more than the actual trauma itself and learning to understand that and deal with them is so important on the road to recovery. I do not see myself ever regurgitating the past trauma again, it will be discussed in a more generalised way. Instead I will be focusing upon the feelings and how it impacts me now, rather than trying to remember every little detail of my past.

 

 

Copyright DID dispatches 2015

Processing the emotions of my past

Processing the emotions of my past

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

Life’s been a bit tough this past week, tough because I’m in the process of trying to understand my past and the anguish that seems to come from the legacy of my abuse. I’ve found myself crying with real pain, but this is not physical pain, no it’s deep within and it consumes all of me. It’s a pain like no other, a pain of deep scars and ingrained thoughts knocked into me years ago. This hurt is the dawning realisation and acceptance that the abuse I recall actually happened to me.
You see it is often easier to just acknowledge the memory, to think it through but not get emotionally involved, to remember but not accept these events happened to me. Yet once you start acknowledging these memories, the hurt and anguish that goes with them it hurts so much more. Acknowledging the emotions that co-exist alongside the actual memory itself is far far harder and I’m slowly realising that this hurt is something I have to go through if I want to recover.
For years I’ve had memories, fragments of time that suddenly appeared into my subconscious taking over my mind and plaguing me with horror. I’ve been inflicted with flashbacks and body memories which do so easily catapult me back in time, to when the events were actually happening. But for years I lived under the premise of these events happened to this alter or that alter, I never thought about the emotional impact that I as a child felt when the events were actually happening to this body of mine.
I’ve tried hard the past year to accept these events, this abuse well it happened to me I may have dissociated during the actual event but I was still there. I may have shut the memories, the pain and hurt away but I can’t deny this didn’t happen to me. I can’t deny I was scared, I was afraid or that I felt anger or guilt because back then I did. I can’t deny any longer that I as a child suffered horrendously, that I felt terrified, that I wished I could stop them because I did. Looking back now I realise that I boxed my emotions from this time away, I wasn’t allowed to feel, to express an opinion I had to just lie there and endure, that was my role.
But today decades later I can feel, I can express the pain and anguish of those times and the inner child in me needs to do that. I need to be able to let go of the hurt, the fears and the anger locked deep within. You see parts of me have carried these feelings and these memories for so long and now it’s right that we express them, it’s time for them and me to let go of our emotions, to feel.
So this past week I’ve found myself crying, consumed with anguish and hurt because for the first time in my life I’m feeling the hurt from decades ago, I’m actually allowing it to have an outlet, to stop it from being locked in. I’m giving the emotional hurt from that time an opportunity to be expressed, the feelings I have well they are those carried by me as a child when the abuse was a daily event.
Today I maybe an adult, but deep within lies the emotional scars of a child who has endured so much and yet thankfully survived. Those scars need to break free and the emotions contained within need processing, they need processing by me. I’m slowly realising that it’s ok to grieve, to feel, to cry, in fact it’s ok to be angry, to feel fear and a thousand other feelings I’ve carried over the years. I do feel dirty, I feel used, I feel rejection and I feel angry, I’m angry that this happened to me. I’m angry these people felt they had a right to abuse me when they had none.
I’m slowly coming to realise just how much this impacted upon me, not just the physical scars but the emotional too. You see being unable to express emotions over the years has taken a real toll on me. I’m scared of anger, I’m uncomfortable when I cry or feel overwhelmed and I find my emotional reactions to events quite alarming at times, because emotions feel alien to me.
I know that feeling and processing those emotions, my emotions is a huge part of my healing journey. It’s so critical to feel and to understand why I think and feel the way I do about many things. To acknowledge my grief, my hurt and to accept that these feelings are ok, they are safe and I’m ok to express them. So right now I’m accepting I need to take care of me, that I need to let my tears flow and that its safe. I used to think they’d overwhelm me and never stop but I know now that if I needed to stop crying to answer the phone or deal with an emergency I could stop them. I know that if they consume me and it becomes too much I can take a break from the pain they hold, I can say that’s enough for now I’ll feel some more tomorrow.
I know that this hurt and pain will take time to pass, indeed processing the emotions from the past will take sometime. But I know it’s better to start processing than leave them unworked through and full of their deadly sting which they hold. In time processing will lessen that sting and it will mean these memories and the emotional baggage they contain will not be able to come bite me again, they will not have the same hold over me.
Right now I’m slowly learning to manage my emotions, I’m coming to terms with the past and all the scars it contains. I’m taking time out in order to allow those emotions to be safely expressed and I’m ensuring all the parts of me have time too. Time to cry, to laugh, to shout and to feel but most of all to have time to heal, for that’s what this journey is all about. So I’ve structured my diary to give me some space, some free time and I’m ensuring I have space to think, to communicate internally and to work through these emotions, this legacy from my past one teeny tiny step at a time.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Communication breakthrough – building trust 

Trust is a key issue for me and it appears to be as important to my alters; the various parts of me. Over the last year I have been slowly trying to build a rapport with a particular part of me, a part who is clearly very fragile and who carries memories of a specific period of my abuse. Initially I spent time communicating using my one way dialogue, I talked and she I hoped listened, then with much uncertainty I began using Ideomotor signals and the dialogue between us began to build.

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Using the ideomotor signals she and I have been able to work together at having fun, so when I first went paddling in the sea I knew she was there. This part of me has tended to get overwhelmed with emotions and she was at the start much more likely to suddenly overwhelm me with tears and sadness. But the more I talked and the more we communicated using ideomotor signals the more these episodes have dissipated.
For the past year that dialogue with me speaking and her communicating using hand signals has progressed, I’ve got better at asking yes and no questions and she has begun to build up a rapport.  A  few weeks ago as I strolled on a beach I felt her around and suddenly realised that the thoughts in my head might well be hers. She was at least trying her very hardest to communicate with me in a different way. I thanked her and though she soon resorted to ideomotor signals I realised this was an important step for her and for me. But yes and no responses whilst great don’t allow much opportunity to mend the damage of the past, to rectify and heal the scars of abuse.
During my time away last week I sensed her presence a lot more and when I took some time to visit a spa and just relax she was right there with me. I felt a chance to allow her yet another opportunity to communicate with me so I acknowledged she was there and I told her that I wanted her to feel safe and trust me. I said her memories were important to me, I wanted to know them when she was ready to share.
There followed dialogue in a rather odd way about the fact she didn’t feel I could cope with the things she holds, I explained that I wanted to and that its vitally important for her and me to work together. I set out some pointers so if for instance I told her that if couldn’t cope with whatever she reveals I will tell her I can’t process that right now. I will acknowledge it though and we will together take it to therapy. Of course I had no idea if this would help her trust me enough after all trust is so hard for me, so hard for her too given my past.

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But as I sat in a relaxing spa room which smelt of fragrant flowers suddenly all that hard work began to pay off, for the first time she communicated verbally with me. Not just a thought not just a hand signal but out loud and clear and audible. I was a little shocked but also so excited and happy because I realise this alter now trusts me enough to start to talk. I now know why she finds talking so difficult, why I think emotions become too overwhelming for her and I know a little of the past she holds.
I don’t know major graphic details and I may never know all the finite detail but that is really not important what matters is that I have a general idea of what happened, how it made us feel back then and how it makes me feel today. The emotional impact is what counts not the graphic detail of abuse, but how she felt, why she felt and how I feel today. It’s about coming to terms with the abuse and the feelings more than the actual detail of what happened.
I am slowly learning a little of what she endured though when I dissociated and went away whilst bad things were happening to me. Strangely I’m not anxious about the possibility of her memories pouring out or that they may overwhelm me, I know I have put things in place to help keep me safe. I know I’m stronger and more able to deal with whatever this alter carries, more importantly whatever she holds has already happened to me long ago. I know this body of mine managed to survive the horrors that she holds so in theory I can survive the memories now.
I realise it may not be so simple or easy, life never really is and yet I know I’m not alone in this journey I walk it with my alters and in particular I walk it with a part who is slowly opening up to me. A part who is slowly building a rapport with me and building up trust too, she is for the first time in her life communicating without fear or repercussions.

 

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Communication plays such a vital role in my journey, in my recovery and communication doesn’t need to be audible or written. Communication can be in a variety of ways and there are different techniques that each of my alters prefer. Lucy one of my littles is shy and nervous but she is giggly at times too, her way of communicating is a far cry from that of my teen alter. Some parts communicate by being a voice in my head audible and clear, whilst others may use drawings, thoughts or feelings.
I know some people with Dissociative Identity Disorder find using a journal helps, it doesn’t work for me but that is ok we all find our owns ways of working with the parts who make up who we are. Right now for me knowing my teen alters finally feels able to communicate verbally with me is a break through, it’s a sign of trust and of progress. It’s a sign that all the effort we have put into dialogue and communication is worth it, yes it’s definitely worth it. Trust isn’t easy it may never be, but I’m aware not only are my alters trusting me more but I’m trusting them too, that’s a breakthrough for all of us, all the different parts of me.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Breaking free from medication

As many of you who read my blog regularly will know I have been engaged in therapy now for just over 18months and if I’m honest my life is being transformed as a result. There have been many milestones along the way, from my adventures at the seaside to those in the kitchen and it’s certainly been an experience. This week I celebrated another milestone though that for me personally means so much, I have finally stopped my anti-depressant medication.

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Now this may not seem like a huge achievement to many people but believe me when I say that it is, after all I have been taking these pills for such a long time. I never thought I’d get to this point and it’s not been without its challenges after all my psychiatrist wasn’t on board with the changes. But there is nothing worse than a determined woman, a woman on a mission and I guess that was me.
Back in the 1970’s I was prescribed my first set of anti depressants I was a little short of my tenth birthday at the time I didn’t know what the pills were for, I just knew I had to take them. I knew they numbed my pain I guess and even if they didn’t I was made to take them by my mother anyway, my teachers were so concerned at the sedation they caused they wrote to my doctor explaining their concerns and fears, but little was changed. Sedated and numbed from life I entered my teens and twenties in a daze a drug infused daze not of my own making.

I stayed on medication for the majority of the next decade and by then they became my crutch. Joined by Benzodiazepines this cocktail of pills was my lifeline and right through my twenties and thirties these pills remained a present force in my life. Yes they’d be stopped and started by the doctors depending upon how my life was, but I spent more time on them than off and rarely had any time without either of them.

 

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I have lost track of the various varieties of pills I have been prescribed but recall Prozac featured highly in my thirties, there was propranolol and Sertraline, whilst Valium and Diazepam well they were my benzo friends. By the time I reached hospital in the early 2000’s I was stuck on anti depressants and then the medical profession placed me on a list of other medication. It became a regular cycle of tablets, the good old medical model of care and each time my medication was reviewed it would be added to rather than re-evaluated fully. Suddenly in 2007 it was decided that the new type of anti depressants didn’t suit me and so I was forced back onto old style drugs like lofepramine which I’ve taken for the past 8 years. I can’t recall a time I didn’t take some form of prescribed medication and that, well that became scary.
In hospital the drugs lists just got longer and longer as more and more drugs were added to the list, seroquel was stuck in there, despite me not having any symptoms that would warrant such a drug. It came to a head about three years ago when I realised I couldn’t think or feel in any way, I slept more than I was awake as a result of the cocktail of legally prescribed medication I was made to take. It was a feeling I remembered from my childhood and those early days of being medicated, I told my then GP I needed to try and sort out the sedation it was impacting upon my life and thankfully she listened. Slowly we reduced and then stopped the Seroquel but it did take many many months and when I suggested further reductions she said not unless your team approved, they didn’t.

 

So for the past couple of years I have complied with this guidance despite believing the drugs made absolutely no difference to my well being at all. I did manage to persuade the team to allow me to reduce the diazepam down from over the legal limit to an average amount, yet they didn’t want to go any further than a partial reduction. But that changed a few months ago when sick of the side effects of the lofepramine I spoke to my current GP, who was willing to help without seeking the teams input first, so we began a slow reduction of both the lofepramine and the diazepam.

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Each reduction had to run at least a month before we reduce further and every reduction was tiny in order to avoid massive withdrawals. Previously I encountered horrific withdrawals when refusing medication in hospital, my refusals back then were more about me trying to gain some control in the chaos of my life at that time. Of course serious withdrawals just led to forced medication and even more control, being exerted over me. This time around this was a serious decision made with a great deal of thought and self belief and to ensure my safety I read all the literature I could find on the impact of withdrawals and became quite hyper vigilant at looking for signs.

Twice we had to stall the reductions and let my body catch up with coping with suddenly not having as much of these drugs inside us. I have been quite persistent at getting further reductions and my GP and I have often laughed at the irony of a patient who is actually not asking for pills but wanting to stop them, it’s apparently rare. My diazepam reduction is still ongoing we have three more weeks to go before I hope we can finally say goodbye to the drug I’ve taken for the majority of my life.

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But this week heralded that moment when I stopped the last of my lofepramine, I’m keen to ensure that there will be no more anti depressant tablets in my medication cabinet. My poor team didn’t know a thing so imagine my joy at sitting in my CPA and announcing to the old team worker and my newly appointed care coordinator from the new team that I’ve reduced and come off this medication. The look on their faces was priceless and I’m glad I did this reduction the way I did, in my control and without their support.

 
You see I knew these meds were not helping me, I knew I wasn’t depressed, I knew my anxiety levels were significantly lower than its ever been. In fact I know that I feel so so much better as a result of stopping this medication, I know I’ve been proved right I didn’t need these drugs, they didn’t help me.

 
What has been the impact of all of these medication reductions, well for the first time in my life I am feeling real feelings, my feelings. I can cry tears that I know are mine, not falsely suppressed or brought on by a drug. I’m actually waking earlier than before and I’m coping really well with any changes in anxiety levels, I’m utilising alternative techniques to cope with life. Mindfulness is really helping me as is being able to talk about things with my psychologist, understanding why I cry and why I have low days is helping me to grow and develop.
I no longer sleep in the daytime and I’m managing to pace my life to make it safe and manageable, I felt able on Monday to tell the medical professionals that I know my body, my moods my emotions and if I need help I’ll ask, until then I don’t want them to force medication onto me. For the first time in my life I feel empowered and I feel alive.

 

Forty years of mental health sedation is quite enough and now I’d like to move forwards free from all the impact of chemical stimulants and suppressants, I want to fly I want to soar high and live the life I’ve never been able to do. This is a turning point and yes today I’m wearing a big broad smile on my face.

 

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Disclaimer : Please be advised never stop taking any medication without first seeking medical advise. Any prescribed medication should be taken in accordance with prescribing guidelines.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Therapy – what a difference 18 months makes

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This week marks the half way point for my therapy, well it’s half way through the agreed three years of funding. I sat in therapy on Monday and thought about how I feel at being at this point, after all when I first started therapy I had so many ideas of what it would be like. In fact I had ideas of what I wanted to achieve and it’s been weird really to see were I am now.
My concept of successful therapy has been changed and the possibilities that have been opened up have grown as we have progressed. When I first began treatment with my psychologist I had previously seen a psychotherapist, she had basically helped me to regurgitate my trauma. She did understand D.I.D. which made a change from other professionals I had encountered. However we had not really moved forward, we still had 24 hour care and I had no internal communication of any kind.
So when I started with my psychologist what I really wanted was to move forward, to just be less chaotic in my life. I thought I had to work through all my trauma in order to progress and to remember absolutely everything that has been hidden for so long. Well 18 months make a huge difference to attitudes, to beliefs and it’s made a huge difference to me as a person.

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I can so recall that first session when my psychologist told me that he had no magic cure, that he only saw me for 1 hour a week and that meant I had to work hard on my own the other 167 hours. I thought he was a bit forward and well I sat and thought I didn’t expect a magic cure, I knew I wanted to make it work so of course I knew that I would work hard.
I spent a few months trying desperately to check that I was working hard, that professionals knew I was trying my hardest – I guess that was my insecurity playing out. I didn’t believe that talking to myself, my alters, would make any difference and it sounded stupid and yet it’s being transforming. I soon began to realise the psychologist didn’t treat me like I was unequal, I didn’t feel like a patient in fact it’s often felt like I’m visiting someone who is an acquaintance or maybe a friend as we sit and have a brew and chat away as equals – I like that.
I think the first six months I was basically building up trust, that’s been hard for me and yet I did find myself being able to do the things suggested without much difficulty. I could say if it wasn’t going well and we rarely went into trauma, well not in any depth and that felt ok at the time. In fact I was afraid to discuss trauma and I was quite bothered about venturing onto that stage of therapy.

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Six months in and I realised I knew more about myself than ever, I realised I had low self esteem, a lot of negativity and lots of issues with my own self confidence and self belief. In fact I realised that because of my childhood I had so much learning and developing to do and I began to see that there were many things I had never done. When paddling was suggested I thought it was daft and I can so recall how it felt as we spoke about it, but I began to consider it and thought maybe just maybe I can do this. That’s why exactly a year ago I ventured to the beach and splashed around like a child, self talk however weird it felt was helping me establish links with my alters and so one of them helped me on that day.

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Building sand castles soon followed, painting and art became more regular, cartoons became a regular daily feature of my life and we even managed to have a barbecue picnic. I realised fun was a great way to get in touch with the alters; the other parts of me and I learnt giving them time was helpful to all of me. But with the fun times came the grief, that grief of knowing what I had missed and of starting to accept the trauma and the emotions that my alters carry.
We then began to do more stabilisation, so more progress with internal dialogue and understanding the alters better. I started to challenge myself when I was critical of myself and in sessions were before my psychologist would counter my negativity, now I was doing it myself. I think there was a period were I was dreading discussing trauma, dreading if I couldn’t cope and feeling afraid of it. But I guess my psychologist realised that and I was helped to feel assured and less bothered by it. In fact letting my tears flow in the sessions was hard back then, I have always find it hard to express my feelings. It has over time though got easier and now there are times I feel like a tearful wreck.
In the past six months I have continued to learn things about myself and I have continued to grow and develop, when I felt bothered by a session I was slightly surprised I felt comfortable to actually say – but I did. It was more than ok though, my psychologist was truly helpful at reassuring me. I realise that were as before I might have reacted very differently to such situations I am now able to think more rationally about things as I’m less impulsive, well except when it comes to booking treats which I do far more often – that’s because I now believe I’m worth it.
My ability to interact with other medical professionals has improved as I no longer see myself as insecure and lesser somehow, I feel I have a right to be an equal and to be treated as such. I can sit through a CPA without storming out in frustration and my adolescent part is now able to respond in a far better way. I am losing less time which is amazing and I’m learning so much more about myself and my skills and abilities.

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Half way through and I’m totally amazed by how different I am, in fact others now see that difference too and practically I need less care. I am able to understand myself far more, understand the complexities of D.I.D and the things I need to do to make life less of a challenge. This week I even realised that I have skills and abilities I never realised were there, I cooked Sunday lunch last weekend for my family and yet a few months ago I couldn’t poach an egg without dissociating and losing time. That marks progress in a practical way, but there has also been progress on another level too in that I can cope far more with things that life throws at me, I cope better with flashbacks, thoughts of self harming, attacks of negativity and self doubt and I know I can cope better with the trauma too.

I realise that I don’t need to recall or process all the trauma, just enough and I can work with and accept these memories are mine- they are just carried by the alters. I also see that progress is possible in fact it’s evident already. I can see that life is moving forward, there is less chaos, I am growing as a person and that is far more than I ever imagined would be possible.
I still have much work to do and yes there are times when it’s hard and that it feels way too much, there are times when I feel I can’t cope but somehow I do. Most of all I now realise having D.I.D whilst it is a challenge each day is manageable, it is possible to live with this condition and the impact of my abuse – to have a life – now I never thought that I would be saying that, especially at the half way point.

 

copyright DID Disptaches 2015

When physical health and mental health collide – stigma ensues. 

Earlier this week I felt unwell and ended up calling my out of hours doctor, who decided I needed to attend my local emergency room. There followed a bit of a mad panic as the first responder medic arrived who duly began taking down my details and telling me an ambulance was on the way. My daughter ran around trying to get some things together to take with us as the medic began to do basic observations like blood pressure. A short time later the first of three paramedics arrived at our home and they began to do more tests, I live in a remote rural area so the hospital and ambulance station are miles away.

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The paramedic did some heart tracings and sugar levels and things and I tried to stay calm, except deep inside I felt anything but calm. My chest hurt like hell and I was starting to panic a little, all this attention was unsettling and when more paramedics arrived I felt well overwhelmed. Inside I was trying to communicate telling all my alters; the different parts of me, that we were going to be ok. I kept trying to reassure them and explain what was happening and what was likely to happen next.

A few heart tracings later and I was being whisked to the emergency room in an ambulance, the ECG monitor still connected to my heart. I was given medication to help with the symptoms and that in turn helped calm me down thankfully. On my way to hospital I remember telling inside that it was ok we’d probably be home later and all would be well, except I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The paramedic was great he asked me about any other health conditions and I’d said I have Dissociative Identity Disorder and he wanted to know more about it, he’d never come across it before.

The hospital staff were at first quite helpful, they did more tests and then we just had to wait for results. But then I noticed a change in attitude, it was odd but after I’d been put in a hospital gown and my arms and their scars were visible it seemed to change things. I’d like to think they were just busy but I realise actually it was more than that, there is and I guess always will be a stigma attached to self harmers and I was a prolific self harmer not that many moons ago.

I was sat alone in the hospital as relatives were not able to stay with the patient, something to do with space apparently. Yet for the little parts of me that meant fear and doubt creeping in, there we  were alone in a busy environment and so much chaos going on around us. There were people being sick, people shouting, people clearly more unwell than me and it wasn’t easy for any of me to be there. I tried to keep reassuring my alters and settling them down, but I was still suffering pain and I felt woozy so it wasn’t ideal at all.

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At one point I felt on the verge of tears, but I daren’t cry for fear of being judged which in hindsight was a bit silly, after all I was already being judged by my scars. I tried to block the emotions pummelling through and at one point I texted my daughter who was sat in a nearby waiting room and said ‘I want to go home’.  I knew the pain was subsiding yet I felt tired even unwell, but I just wanted to feel safe and I didn’t there. Staff didn’t speak to me for quite a long time, in fact I think I sat waiting for the results for over 2 hours with no staff interaction at all. If I’m honest I felt quite abandoned and that was quite hard to deal with. Now I know most adults would find no interaction ok, some would maybe find it hard but they’d cope and yet I was there with chaos going on inside my head and I didn’t feel able to cope. I felt vulnerable, I felt exposed and I felt unsafe it was so hard to just sit there with a hospital gown on, things stuck on me and a cannula in my arm.

When I eventually had a chest X-ray that felt worse, my radiographer was a male staff member and for me that felt too scary. I didn’t have the courage to say I can’t do this, to say I have a trauma history that makes this too hard, so instead I retreated inward and felt as if I was no longer in control of me. Whoever came out did an ok job they kept us safe and they began to deal with the doctor too, when I came back the doctor was asking me more questions about my health history and of course my mental health came up.

I tried to explain I’m in the process of a medication reduction and as such I’m reducing my anti depressant, but of course that gave them something to hang a label on me. The conversation revolved around who was supervising the reduction, was I no longer depressed and why such a gradual reduction. The logistics of reducing meds is a whole other blog, but I tried to explain to the doctor and yet I knew I wasn’t making many inroads into the stigma she clearly held.

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When eventually they said I could go home I was utterly relieved, and so were the other parts of me after all none of us were enjoying this time. My daughter helped me get changed back into my own clothes and that felt a huge relief and then together we left the hospital. On the drive home I sat and talked inside reassuring everyone and thanking them too, for they had been helpful and stayed  as calm as they could. By the time I got home it was the early hours of the morning and I was truly ready for bed, I felt exhausted.

But perhaps because I have alters, because I have D.I.D going to sleep wasn’t a straightforward  option. Little parts of me had missed out on their cartoons and they felt agitated and unsettled by our visit to hospital, the chest pain which had now gone had frightened all of me. I knew trying to sleep wasn’t going to work, I also had at least one part who was steaming mad at the stigma we had encountered. I decided to acknowledge the frustration being felt, I said I understood how it made us feel and I reminded us of just how good we are. I told myself that they had no right to judge me and it was their problem not mine, after all I don’t mind my scars or my mental health history it’s just part of who we are. I can’t help my past but I can help how I let it influence today and as such I can chose to not let the stigma and archaic views of a few medical staff hurt me.

I did settled down eventually to sleep, watching cartoons in bed as I tried to relax and calm down different parts of me. Since then well we have had more tests and more pain, but we are working through it as a team my alters and me. I guess that’s what I’ve learnt this week that if I face situations that freak me out or unsettle me I can deal with them if I do so as a team. A few years ago I would have just dissociated not for a short period but for days, I wouldn’t have coped with the stigma either I’d have reacted to it.

Perhaps the last few days have shown me just how far we have progressed in terms of working collaboratively.  I realise now that I need to accept stigma exists and whilst I don’t like it I can’t change other people’s ignorance. That doesn’t mean I won’t fight to end stigma, of course I will and I’ll continue to challenge where I can attitudes that need changing. Having D.I.D is a challenge especially when you are physically unwell, people don’t understand  it and they don’t want to either. Guess I have to work at educating people about this condition after all that can only help people like me in the future.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Having Dissociative Identity Disorder Doesn’t Mean Life Is Over. 

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Just a few years ago at my lowest point I felt my life was over, I felt as if I would never be any good at contributing to society anymore. I didn’t feel like a great mum or wife or friend in fact I felt worthless and pathetic, I used to think about what my life could have been and how I’d failed. Of course the failure I felt back then was not really justified at all and yet I couldn’t shake of those feelings of worthlessness or of guilt.

I blamed myself for that breakdown point when life became too overwhelming and I could no longer hide the truth of my past. I blamed myself for that point when suddenly people were noticing I wasn’t ok and that I kept losing time and forgetting things. Of course now I know that really I was dissociating and as the wall of amnesia began to leak and my past hit me head on, well it all became too overwhelming.

That led to my self harm and my suicidal attempts, attempts I don’t regret but am glad we’re not successful. You see I don’t regret falling apart for by doing so I learnt what was wrong and I learnt the truth of my past.  I’ve learnt who I really was and the childhood I endured and I understand now just how strong I really am. The self harm and suicide attempts are just moments in my life, visual scars of the past I hid for too long and today they allow me to see how far I’ve come. There markers in the sand that show me where I was and where I am now and that is important.

Before I started that meltdown I had been productive, I held a job that I enjoyed and I contributed to helping others too. I found myself being a person who ran at 100mph, working, running a home, volunteering and being actively involved in community life. I had some physical issues that slowed me down at times and my mental health was never fully ok, yet I still felt I contributed to life and that was important for me.

So when I became really unwell and my mental health deteriorated it wasn’t easy, in fact being hospitalised felt as if my world had come crashing down. Suddenly I couldn’t participate in the things that gave me an identity and a purpose, rather than helping others I became a burden. I couldn’t sustain work and so was made redundant, that didn’t help me especially as it happened whilst I was in hospital. I was hoping to leave hospital pick up my life and carry on like before and then I didn’t have work to return too, I was deemed too mentally unwell or so it felt.

Ever since then I’ve either drifted from one crisis to another, one hospital stay to another, or care package to another. I haven’t really been able to move forwards, well not until about 18 months ago because then life began to change. It’s continued to change at such a pace that at times its felt surreal and I often pinch myself to ensure I’m not dreaming this. 18 months ago I felt desolate and confused and I had full time care, it felt like I just couldn’t understand D.I.D and I never would.

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Fast forward 18 months until today and life is beginning to change again, I now feel far more assured of my skills and of who I am and I have less support. It’s not easy having D.I.D but I now know enough skills to understand that it’s not impossible to live with either, it’s just slightly more complex but that’s ok. Yes I have to do far more than many will do just to ensure I function each day and to ensure that the day goes well, I doubt most people need to give so much time to the things I need to. Mornings are a crucial part of that daily process of stabilising me and that means all of me, including my alters the other parts of me.

I now have a fairly structured approach to my days, well mornings at least and I know that I need to pace myself, take time to do art and other activities. I’m learning each day and I can now deal more successfully with some things that used to send me into disarray, I cope more often than not with body memories and flashbacks these days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t  times when they overwhelm and cause chaos, it’s just it happens less frequently than it used to.  Instead of being an unbearable part of every day it’s once every few days now, for I have the skills to rationalise and cope better with them.

I’m still fragmented and I’m still not there at the end of the journey of recovery, but I’m moving forward and making progress. My attitude to life has changed dramatically and now I’m far more focused on my recovery and on my treatment than ever before. I’m able to have fun, to laugh, to feel and I don’t feel bad about giving myself time, or saying no to people. I’m learning that I’m an ok person and I’ve gained some ability to be more patient and less of a perfectionist. I don’t take things for granted though and know I have to work hard to sustain the progress I’ve made and want to continue to make.

I certainly don’t feel like my life is over or that I can’t contribute to society anymore, I don’t feel like life isn’t worth living in fact far from it. Even when my moods dip and I’m low I know life is still there for the taking, it is worth living and it’s worth fighting for. I’m starting to see and accept that I’m a good parent and a good friend and I’m starting to believe I can once again contribute to society.

Whilst I am getting involved in village life and doing things, I clear in my mind what is most important and that’s my recovery and my treatment they do come first, I’m also clear that any involvement I have is to be non-detrimental to me and that for every meeting I attend or project I’m involved in, there is me time afterwards. Art, fun, feeling, these are key parts of this and my approach to life now is so different from the past, it’s so much more healthy. I realise now healing is possible it’s not however a simple task, it’s an ongoing mission, a daily mission of recovery.

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Copyright DID Dispatches 2015