Living life successfully – what does progress look like

Progress comes in many guises, but long term talking therapy can make huge differences to a persons life. During the past eighteen months I have felt myself shift and change, as I began to learn more about myself and the different parts of me. I’ve come to realise that hope is possible, and those with a dissociative disorder can live life successfully.

If someone had told me ten years ago when I was stuck on a psychiatric ward that there was hope I wouldn’t have believed them, but I can honestly say that with the right help and support things can work out okay. I have now had 3 1/2 years of therapy with my psychologist during which time he has helped empower me to rebuild my life and find the real me.

As many of you who follow my blog regularly will know my initial funding was for 3 years, yet last year my psychologist and myself decided that there was still work to be done and so a further funding request; supported by my local mental health trust, was submitted to my Clincal commissioning group for an additional year, thankfully they agreed and hence I have benefited from this additional time.

Now in the last few months of my therapy, I’m moving forwards and rebuilding my once shattered life, I have learnt to understand that I have the tool kit within me to live life successfully.
I have learnt to say no to external pressures, placing myself at the forefront of decisions and taking into account my needs. I established the level of self care I need to ensure all of me is content, I ensure I take time out to reflect, to talk internally, to meet my needs and that includes the needs of all the differing parts of me. Internal dialogue has been key to this and I’ve developed an awareness of my parts, enabling me to be more responsive to my needs, to be aware of triggers and how to respond to them effectively. Building a rapport with the various parts of me has enabled us to work together, to become more integrated and more as we really are one human being with various configurations of self, who just happens to have a dissociative disorder.

I’ve learnt to understand why I react the way I do to certain things, to accept emotions and process these feelings rather than run a mile from them, which was my previous default setting, I feel as if I’ve rewired myself internally, my negativity being replaced by an open minded ability to be more positive. I’ve eradicated negative destructive thinking, conditions imposed upon me by my past and learnt to see them for what they are….lies and bullying. So I no longer view myself as worthless, instead accepting this was a value placed upon me by bullying abusers. I now accept I can make decisions, no longer thinking I am useless and at the mercy of others – as my abusers told me. The previous desire to be ‘perfect’ has long gone as I now see that this is both unattainable and draining, a construct forced upon me by my female biological parent who told me I was never good enough to  be loved. Instead I now accept that being ‘good enough’ is okay, that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. My valuing system has gone from being very external to an internal one, where my views about me matter most, not the demands or judgements of others. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to please others, or conform, I can quite simply be myself.

All of these changes I now accept as progress, as learning how to live with DID has had a dramatic impact upon my life, it’s changed how I view myself and the world, but it’s also enabled me to stay up front and not lose time. The best way to explain this is as if I’m at a bus queue, me first and the parts in the line behind me, where previously they would jump in front and I’d lose time, now instead we are more in tune, we talk, we take account of our needs and as a result they don’t jump ahead taking over and I don’t lose time. I haven’t eradicated the parts of me, far from it, instead I’ve learnt to embrace them, accept them and take them into myself. I view myself as a team of parts, who all work together so we can live life with DID, rather than letting the dissociation control us.

None of this progress would have been possible without the right support and talking therapy is integral to this growth, but I am also aware of how much effort I have put into this journey too.
I attend each session ready to learn and to grow, ready to take on board what is being said, to undertake the homework set and acknowledge that I won’t learn or grow if I don’t put the effort in. Quite simply therapy is a collaboration between a therapist and a client, one offering the other the compassion, empathy and understanding that allows growth to occur and the other bringing an openness to trust and a desire to grow. It’s a process that requires both parties to be in tune with each other and to be willing to work hard. I’ve realised how vital the therapeutic relationship is in this process there needs to be respect and acceptance and a level of equality between both parties.

At my first session my psychologist told me that he had no magic wand and that I would see him for one hour a week and the other 167 hours were down to me, he emphasised that I needed to be ready to work hard. At the time I really thought why is he challenging me, I want to get better doesn’t he realise this, but looking back I see his words are so true. There were times on my journey preceding this therapy when I had given up hope, when I expected a magic wand from a medical professional, when I really didn’t understand that recovery comes not from a doctor or a pill, but from within yourself. I had become entrenched in a battle with medical professionals seeing them as someone to fear and dread, not accept them as someone who wanted to help me. I know this was because of how I was treated along the way by misguided and misinformed professionals who sadly didn’t see me as a person, the medicalised model has a lot to answer for. Yet I soon realised my psychologist treated me as an equal, he respected me and was genuinely interested in my views, my thoughts.

I have no doubt recovery wouldn’t have happened without my psychologist, but no matter how good he is, recovery wouldn’t have happened without me the client being open to learn, to grow and put in the effort. At times on the journey it’s been painful, I’ve doubted what he has said, but I’ve stuck with it trusting that he knows what he’s doing. Internal dialogue is such a case in point and yet I worked at it, likewise I jumped into the sea and paddled because he told me to go have some fun, I ventured into the kitchen and worked at collaboration because he gave me the tools to do so without dissociating. I’ve trusted his judgement and learnt to trust myself along the way, I’ve trusted enough to share my deepest pain, to cry and to grieve for my past. I’ve trusted enough to stop blaming myself for the abuse and instead process the anger, and acknowledge it’s my abusers I’m allowed to be angry with. I’ve learnt a myriad of emotions and how wonderful these emotions really are, so instead of running from them I can now embrace them.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey and it’s not at the end yet, I have six months to go during which time I’ve no doubt I will grow even more. But right now I can safely say hope is possible, no matter how dark it gets, and everyone can with the right help and support learn to live life successfully with DID.

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Its time to learn about Dissociative Identity Disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014