Liz and attention seeking

It was an interesting session with Liz today.  I had gone there with a plan of what to talk about – boundaries (especially around religion), our diagnosis, what that diagnosis means and her cell phone.  This agenda probably indicates that a fair amount of M went into the planning – it was a little optimistic that we would be able to get through all of that without dissociating badly and losing the entire session.

We went in prepared… or so we thought.  In our usual fashion we walked into the office, sat down and became unable to look anywhere apart from the floor, her beanbags, stuffed toys and tissues.  Sophie fronted while a major discussion happening internally about how to broach the subjects.  Liz has this habit of waiting for us to talk first; we have this habit of sitting there, unable to talk.  Today she asked how we should start each session – waiting for us to talk, or for her to start asking questions.  We said unless she wants to spend an hour in silence, she’s best to ask a few questions first :)

Sophie started off saying that religion shouldn’t be mentioned unless W raises it first.  W will raise it, but Liz needs to wait for that to occur.  W is consistently curious about why other people believe in whichever religion they follow and has asked all our previous therapists about their beliefs.  Liz just has to be ready for the grilling that she will face when W does ask.  W has heard many of the reasons behind why a God would “allow” abuse to occur, so Liz needs to have some solid arguments to present or else W will dismiss or destroy her logic.

Then things went a little haywire as Liz again brought in issues which really shouldn’t be raised mid session regarding ACC funding further sessions.  As neither of us had been notified of any decision, she called them during the session – she asked if that would be OK with us and we’re incapable of saying “No”.  This then led onto a discussion where ACC are going through new guidelines where clients who haven’t met their goals will be referred to a psychologist.  Liz wasn’t sure if this meant existing clients as well, but it was something to be aware of.  This triggered all our self-hatred for not being “cured” yet, and being a problem client for not being “cured”.  Does it mean we’ll have to go see someone like Bob again?  What will ACC do with us?  We rarely meet our goals as we don’t fit into a definable goal framework – we show gradual change over time rather than a “cured food issues” sort of thing.

All of this triggering brought forward someone I’ve never met before.  They were male and from either Ellie’s floor or The Basement.  They communicated with Liz and asked what had happened to trigger them coming forward.  They were actually pretty polite, but the whole time they talked he continually ran the sharp keys across palm of the left hand.  He didn’t break the skin and kept talking in a non-threatening way, but kept on hurting the body.  Liz tried to distract him with the soft toys that he could squeeze instead, but that idea was rejected.

When Sophie returned, she could tell something had happened with the hand, as it felt hot.  We don’t feel pain very much, but could feel the heat radiating from the hand.  Liz explained what had happened and Sophie tried to explain that it wasn’t attention seeking.  It may look like it as we were sitting in front of someone hurting the body, but it wasn’t for attention.  It was purely to punish.  At this point Liz stunned us, and agreed.  She knew it wasn’t for attention.  I don’t know how she came to this conclusion, as we’ve always been told that any sort of self-injury was for negative, attention seeking purposes.  Also the undeniable fact that, we were sort of doing self-injury in front of her – surely that means we were attention seeking.  But according to Liz we weren’t.  I think the reason she saw it this way was because she was totally irrelevant in the self-injury.  It wasn’t being done to manipulate her or modify her behaviour in any way, it was just what that one needed or wanted to do.  It wasn’t really a big deal in the scheme of things.  But for us, it was another indication that we are crazy and losing our ability to act “normal”.

This then led into the final big issue regarding our diagnosis and what that means.  This has always been a sore issue for us – DID is not widely recognised in New Zealand and is seen in a negative light.  Liz’ experience with other dissociative clients means that she can compare our behaviour to theirs.  This comparison will mean that she can state with some certainty that we do, or don’t have DID.  We’re stuck between the options which could describe our behaviour and thinking:

  • Believe that the childhood was perfect and we’re now attention seeking.
  • Believe that the childhood wasn’t perfect and we have an undiagnosed personality disorder.
  • Believe that the childhood was traumatic and we have a trauma or dissociative disorder of some sort.

The problem is that the parallel truths about the childhood are so vivid.  On one side there is the perfect childhood where we feel loved and safe; on the other side is abuse, pain and fear.  A previous therapist has stated that these two truths don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s hard to see where they would meet or co-exist.  Liz responded that each of us play roles within this life – how we present at work is different from how we present at home, in parties, out shopping etc.  I accept this is true, so it seems to be that Liz is saying that we’re not dissociative, but rather are doing a bit of hysterical attention seeking through exaggerating what is nothing major.  The session ended before we could fully talk through the implications of what she was saying.

Sorry for the rambling waffle, I’m trying to make sense of what happened in the session and failing.  I’m not sure if this is a continuation of my ability to appear higher functioning than I feel, or whether Liz is seeing me accurately and I need to just get over myself.

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9 Responses to “Liz and attention seeking”


  1. 1 Kerro August 18, 2009 at 1:15 am

    CG, I’m so sorry you got triggered in the session, and you were left puzzled by so many things. I don’t really have any words of wisdom to offer. I am sending you lots of luv and hugs (safe ones only). Take care. xoxo

  2. 2 castorgirl August 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you (((Kerro)))

    I suppose I really need someone to look me in the eye and say “You have x diagnosis, we believe this because of t, r, y and z behaviour”. It does my head in that therapists say that they don’t want to label you, but yet do so to insurers, ACC, on their notes etc. I need to know what I’m fighting, and for them to say “this is your experience” is both true and a cop-out. I need a diagnosis to help combat the denial and avoidance that I do.

    Take care…

  3. 3 castorgirl August 18, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I spose I need Liz to say the diagnosis in order for me to believe it. Psychiatrists have said it, but they only see you for an hour or so as part of an assessment. It’s different seeing someone weekly over time, they can see any inconsistencies in behaviour.

    Wish I could move past this.

  4. 4 Kerro August 18, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I think I understand CG. I have done the denial thing as well, but in my heart of hearts I knew. I always knew. The diagnoses don’t help me with that, they just make me feel more crazy. Still, there is comfort in knowing it’s not all “in your head”, no matter how you get that, if you know what I mean.

    This might be a really dumb idea, but can you ask inside to see what would happen if you just let it sit and try to get past it that way, through your own acceptance? Not meaning to dismiss or anything, just a thought.

    xoxo

  5. 5 castorgirl August 19, 2009 at 12:15 am

    I know what you mean Kerro, but the problem is that we don’t know what to believe internally. There are parts who hold a perfect childhood which is so appealing – there is a sense of being safe and free. But there are parts who hold pain and humiliation. I’ve tried to accept that both could be true, but that didn’t work. So in some respects having an impartial person come in and give their opinion would be beneficial. But, I know that I’ve made excuses for not trusting the psychiatrists who have diagnosed in the past, so even getting an outside opinion isn’t a sure thing :(

    Thank you for making suggestions – another opinion is always good to hear and think through :)

    Take care…

  6. 6 davidrochester August 19, 2009 at 1:30 am

    I just wanted to say how glad I am that Liz recognized the actual motivation for your self-injury in session. I have seen examples of SI that were very obviously attention-seeking, but I think it rarely happens with DID; people with personality disorders are far more likely to self-injure in order to manipulate or get a response from someone, whereas for those of us with trauma histories, it’s completely internally motivated and internally directed.

    I’m sorry that the session was so hard, but glad that Liz got at least one thing right. :-)

    • 7 castorgirl August 19, 2009 at 8:54 am

      Sophie was quite stunned when Liz said that the self-injury wasn’t about attention seeking. Our self-injury has always been seen as a reason why we should be considered as having Borderline Personality Disorder by some mental health professionals. But the motivation for the self-injury isn’t what would be considered typical for someone with BPD. It’s purely about self-hatred and a need to punish. It’s usually hidden, which is why it was such a shock to realise that it had occurred with Liz as a witness.

      Take care :)

  7. 8 Paul from Mind Parts August 19, 2009 at 6:07 am

    I am so sorry your system needed to do what it did in that session. I do not ever experience you as attention seeking. I do experience that you do a fair bit of self-loathing and act that out. I don’t understand the ACC system. But I do know you have DID.

    These two truths, perfect childhood and abuse childhood, can indeed co-exist in how parts of you see things. I don’t think Liz is saying you aren’t dissociative. Did you ask her straight out? Regardless, you clearly are. I do not understand why she cannot be definitive with you. Has she? I’m not clear on this. You say she’s wasn’t in this session, but is her not being definitive having something to do with what ACC requires?

    This is exactly why my going into the hospital was good for me. Because I was surrounded by people who told me that my experiences are true and they believe me. I can tell you that I do NOT doubt your experiences and perceive them as true dissociative experiences.

    Paul

    • 9 castorgirl August 19, 2009 at 9:28 am

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you…

      We ran out of time in the session before I could ask Liz what she meant regarding the “everyone plays different roles in their life” line of thought. We left feeling very disorientated and questioning our experiences. I’m unable to remember what she has said about whether we dissociate or not. I know she has said something, but her words are lost to me at the moment.

      ACC is sort of like your health insurers in America, but is government/tax payer funded. They are used to a CBT and goal orientated form of therapy, so expect all clients to have a firm diagnosis with measurable and achievable goals that they are working towards. So Liz has to write what diagnoses I have within her reports to them, but has not shared these reports with me.

      Instinctively we know that we are a dissociative system. But as our thoughts, instincts and experiences are so dysfunctional at times, it’s hard to hold onto anything being a sense of truth. We also don’t trust ourselves to be able to come up with a safe, rational answer to the questions surrounding our experiences because we have those two opposing truths about the childhood sitting there internally. We know that most of the perfect childhood is made up, for example we never had a puppy in real life.

      I’ll just have to ask Liz about it all next Monday…

      Take care,
      CG


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