Archive for the 'Therapy' Category

Our journey with therapists

I’ve seen 4 therapists in the last 5 years.  That seems a high number.  M was told by Liz that we have very high expectations of therapists, maybe they are too high?  Here’s a brief run-down of what happened with each –

Debra seen for 6-8 months.
Worked part-time from home.  Her methods were based on Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  She was intelligent and studying towards her masters.  Reason why we stopped seeing her was because of boundary issues and she was stopping therapy work to concentrate on her masters.

Carol seen for 2.5 years.
Worked part-time from offices.  Her methods were based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with some influence from other methodologies including Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Reason why we stopped seeing her was because of boundary issues and her fascination with our dissociation. She loved playing with Aimee. She wasn’t helping us move forward in any meaningful way and we’d started to become convinced that she had planted the whole idea of DID in our head.

Bob seen for 6-8 months.
Worked full-time from her extremely busy offices. She came highly recommended and we saw her to try and find out if we were making this dissociation thing up. She had extensive experience with abused teens and children. Things went a bit haywire with Bob when she was trying to force an integration of personality states to counter what she described as a “fragile personality structure”. We stopped seeing her when the short term contract was up with ACC.

Liz seen for about 6 months.
Works part-time from offices. She was the only therapist willing to take on a client that came with warnings about dissociative issues. She has other dissociative clients and came recommended from another therapist. We don’t know if we can go back to see her.

Earlier this week we posted a rant that was fairly quickly deleted.  It covered the issues we’d had when seeing Liz on Monday and problems we’d seen throughout the time we’d been seeing her.  Some of these include:

  • Turning her cell phone volume down during sessions.  It has rung during session, so you get the noise of a vibrating cell phone dancing across the desk as you’re trying to talk about something important.  She has also looked at the cell phone to see who is calling while in session.
  • She has a habit of clearing her throat when being asked something difficult or is faced with challenging ones within the system.  Mickie is generally silent during sessions when fronting, which prompted much throat clearing and a conversation about us living alone meaning that we don’t know how to socialise and make conversation.
  • On Monday there was a discussion about our night-time photography trips and the reason why we’re doing them – to get hurt.  Liz suggested that the reason why we hadn’t been hurt was because of someone or something looking out for us.  She was meaning a higher power of some sort.  Any talk of religion is a huge trigger for us.  It felt more like the focus of the discussion had moved from helping us, to preaching to us.
  • She is unable to remember our basic biographical information – we’re the youngest of four, get on alright with the oldest brother and have minimal contact with the entire family.  This is the sort of information that she has asked several times, including constructing a sociogram with us.  If the information was important enough to ask several times, it’s important enough for her to remember or to write on the front page of our file for easy reference.

Monday’s session was particularly bad.  The religion trigger set off a negative reaction with W.  M came forward to protect W when she realised what was going on, but it was too late.  This meant that M came forward annoyed that Liz was talking religion without checking out who was present and their beliefs about the subject.

It was after Liz again asked M about our basic biographical information that things got particularly tense.  M asked why Liz had to keep asking about this information, Liz responded that she might get a different answer one day.  M pointed out that we would always be the youngest of four children and unless something major happened, we’d still feel the same about the family as we do now.  Liz said our expectation that she would manage this information was too high, M asked what a reasonable expectation would be…

To be fair, M was defensive as Liz had challenged one of the young ones she protects.  But Liz was helpless to find us all a way through that defensive mechanism.  We left without making a further appointment.  If this has been a one off bad session we would have had a cool-off period and made another appointment.  But it isn’t, it’s the latest in a series of unusual sessions.

Now we’re stuck.  We don’t trust Liz and don’t know if we can go back to see her.  But if we don’t, are we doing so because our expectations are too high?  Are we being unreasonable with our expectations that a therapist will manage basic information, silence their cell phone and not talk about sensitive issues without checking who is present?  Maybe our reaction is off the scale because of our dysfunctional thinking and reactions?

Now playing: Audioslave – Cochise
via FoxyTunes


Were you missed while growing up?

Liz asked us this a few weeks ago.  At the time we answered that we wanted to be, but too many people saw us.  The implication for us was that people saw us and hurt us.  But for Liz this question had a totally different meaning.  She wasn’t asking if people physically saw us, but rather she meant that people didn’t notice us.  We were overlooked, ignored and treated as a chattel.  We weren’t listened to.  Nobody got down to our eye level, ask us how we were and waited for a response.  Part of me is grieving that fact, part of me thinks it’s more melodrama and we just need to get over it.

We were rarely treated with hate.  We were annoying for those around us, but we never generated hatred in anyone except the sister and to a lesser degree the other siblings.  I wonder if we had generated open hatred whether our life would have been different?  Would open hatred have led someone to noticing that we were being hurt?  The mother would often forget us when we were out shopping and we ended up having to wear a harness because we were constantly wandering off or being forgotten.  It’s odd reading these words, I don’t feel any sympathy towards that little girl; but I’d be the first to call the authorities if I saw similar behaviour towards another child.

So we were missed, as Liz calls it.  No one noticed us and this made us an ideal target for abuse.  The teachers missed the signs, the mother never saw a thing and the abusers saw an opportunity – this was one group of people that didn’t overlook us.  I’m sure that this became part of our self-defeating cycle of needing to be invisible.  We need to be invisible because no one can hurt you if you aren’t there.  This need also meant that we actively deflected any worry people may have had, away from ourselves.  Mickie remembers going into 6th form Biology one day and just sitting on our stool with our bag on our desk for the whole lesson.  To put that into context, we were usually a very attentive student – you had to be in order to keep under the teachers radar.  But that day Mickie was fronting and he didn’t want to even pretend to do Biology.  Something really bad had happened the day before and he’d had enough.  The teacher who had known us for over two years came up and asked us if we were alright at the end of the lesson, Mickie grunted that we were fine.  The teacher replied “Poor Michelle” and went back to preparing for the next class.  This was the teacher who was the closest to actually seeing us, and we deflected him.  Life is filled with these “what if” moments.  But there is no use holding onto them and questioning our motives.  The only option is to learn from them.

I know that many of the people who read this would have been subjected to hatred by various people, including those who should have cared and protected them.  I don’t want to in any way minimise the damage that hatred can do.  But I think abusers know when to show that hatred, which is why I state that open hatred might have changed our life, just as it might have changed those who were subjected to hidden hatred.  The sister knew when she could be open in her hatred for us, and who would go along with that hatred.  To her and a group of her friends we were a play thing.  This hatred did immense damage to us physically and psychologically, but it was always hidden from someone who would question it.

It’s time to go take some calming photos… Take care…

Now playing: Hollie Smith – Bathe in the river
via FoxyTunes

Time to take a deep breath

The last few weeks have been difficult. The prospect of ACC mediation on Tuesday (21st) had us going off on all sorts of tangents. Then last Thursday (16th), ACC made a decision which meant that the mediation was no longer needed, although they have yet to look at our corrections which will odds are require another round of negotiation.  Despite this apparent cancellation of the meeting, the potential sat within the system.  Some of us considered it to be like the tricks played on us when younger. At any moment we were going to get a phone call on Tuesday telling us to get to the meeting. Thankfully that phone call never happened, instead we got to spend the two days we had arranged to have off to recover from the meeting as time to breathe.

On Monday night we chatted with a friend who’d been on holiday for what seemed like a very long time.  He helped us smile, laugh and shed a tear.  Through a photo slide show he took us on a tour of where he lived – it was fascinating.  I’m always awed by the historic nature of where most of the people I talk to live.  To put this into context, New Zealand has had only been a British colony since 1840.  We don’t have the old buildings that are present elsewhere around the world.  To show him a little of where we live, we went out taking photos (at midnight)…


This mural is in a car-parking area in the middle of town.

This was the only photo that turned out viewable – we have an essential tremor which doesn’t mix well with night photography and the long exposure times needed.  We might have another go at doing a tour of where we live on a fine day.

On Tuesday we needed to get out of the house – possibly the fear that they’d call and we’d have to go to the meeting.  So we went around the gardens and took more photos.  Photography is fast becoming our main means of distracting, focusing and self-soothing.  Part of the soothing, is to take photos of plants.  I know that many people consider this type of photography boring, but for us it’s about finding peace for a short time.  It’s something that each one of us can enjoy on some level – I’ll get a message to take a photo of the purple flowers…

Lilac viola

Lilac viola

Purple viola

Purple viola

Sometimes, the camera feels very cumbersome in my hands and I’ve taken to wrapping the strap around my right hand several times, I’m not sure if this is a switching issue, or me being a klutz. I also know that not all of us are happy with this new interest – I’ve been told that the camera is going to be thrown into the lake or smashed into the pavement.  I know that these threats are about us not being entitled to any form of enjoyment.  It’s awful to hear, let alone realise that part of this brain is wired to ensuring that we don’t enjoy life.

On Tuesday night we ended up talking to another friend.  I mention this because it was the first time in over a week where S didn’t come forward to self-injure, which had become more severe as the week went on.  Again, there was laughter and a sharing of knowledge.  It always amazes me that those who are going through difficult times can put that aside to help someone else.  To those friends, I say thank you.  I hope we can reciprocate what you both did for us one day.

This reminds me of Faith Allen’s entry over at Blooming Lotus about how we can Make a difference.  You don’t have to be rich, pretty or popular to make a difference, it’s all about being willing to learn and share that knowledge for the social good.  I stumble badly with this sometimes, the fear and anxieties put up barriers to my learning.  But I can’t use this as an excuse to give up.  When teaching information literacy to cynical and usually technophobic students, I tell them it takes practice.  Information literacy is all about lifelong learning – being curious about new things.  It would be hypocritical of me not to gently work on those barriers in the same way that I get my students to question every scrap of information they find.

Needs, wants and bunny rabbits

Liz  is trained in art therapy.  We stink at art.  We knew one day those two facts would collide and today was that day – yippee!

Liz asked us to imagine ourselves as an animal and draw that animal with crayons.  We drew a bunny standing upright with very long ears – she didn’t ask for any embellishment, just the animal.  Then she asked if the bunny was all alone – she dwelled on this question for quite awhile (the second hint that this was not just fun drawing time with Liz).  She also wanted to know about whether the bunny was a male or female, only to find out that our bunny didn’t have a sex as such, it was just “a bunny”.  We then had to describe our bunny – she picked up on the words alone and alert.  These words were added to the picture with a new crayon colour for each word.  Then we had to draw and label what the bunny needed – house, food and water.  Our bunny masterpiece was finished…

We hate looking at anything we’ve drawn or written with crayon, we know we switch during the time and it shows in our writing – we go from block capitals to the flowing hand of Sophie.  We’ve yet to find a generic writing with crayon – we can with pen because the younger ones can’t hold a pen.  So Liz asked us to look at this picture and ensure that it had everything on it that the bunny needed.  Once we agreed that was it, we dated it and handed it back to her.  Usually she asks if we want anything we draw destroyed, but today she didn’t.

It was only when we were driving away that Ellie casually mentioned that this one silly drawing we didn’t really think about told Liz bucket loads about us – we were loners, considered ourselves sexless for safety reasons, didn’t want anyone else around us and only needed a house food and water.  She pointed out that if we were “normal” we’d at least want another bunny there for company, some toys, activities etc.  We would have moved from the basic needs into the wants – I want friends, I want to go out and so on.  Why in the world didn’t she tell us that while we were drawing the picture!  We only picked a bunny cos we thought of Thumper from Bambi.  We only thought of the basics because we thought of a rabbit breeding farm we went to when we were young.

Was very tempted to email Liz and tell her we were onto her and knew the bunny wanted more things, we just couldn’t draw them.  Would that be too obvious?  Yup, it would. Stink!

Hospitals – the psychiatric type

In the town where we grew up, there was a psychiatric hospital.  It was spoken about in hushed whispers as a scary place where crazy people were fenced in and tortured.  In reality, the hospital catered predominantly for those who were institutionalised during a time in our history when those with even minor problems were often hidden away.  We were told as part of our abuse, that if we told the secrets we would be sent to prison or this hospital forever.  So our early contact with psychiatric hospitals was negative.

If you place these experiences within the context of our rather traumatic experiences with the medical profession, you get a picture of someone who has deep seeded issues and fears about all things medical.  The young ones especially react with terror even when driving by a hospital.  We avoid dentists, doctors and nurses where at all possible.  In many ways this fear enabled us to appear high functioning for many years – if there was a threat of having to ask for help through therapy or medication, well that just wasn’t acceptable.  Time to stamp it all back down into The Basement and carry on being invisible.

Then arrives the dissociative train wreck we experienced when about 34.  Our coping mechanisms fell apart.  Then there was the final straw – we were teaching a group of 40 students when something about the interactive whiteboard markers caused Angel to come forward.  So there you have a 5 year old drawing pictures of flowers on the whiteboard while a group of adult students look on.  M comes back to find half the board covered…

So back to therapy we went.  We were in the throes of an abusive marriage and suddenly facing a childhood that wasn’t as perfect as we’d convinced ourselves it was.  These factors led to constant suicidal ideation and intent, which in turn resulted in us needing to find some support to keep safe.

In New Zealand there are a few support lines for suicide help – Lifeline, Samaritans, Youthline, the emergency number or the local mental health hotline.  Lifeline, Samaritans and Youthline are confidential – unless they feel you are in danger, in which case they will try to get your details and send around the Police.  Emergency services transfer you through to the mental health hotline, unless you are already need emergency care.  Once you’re in the mental health system, you are told to call the mental health hotline.  Usually you wait for 5-10 minutes on hold before the phone is answered – ever been suicidal during the Christmas season and had to listen to Christmas carols for 20 minutes while waiting to see if someone can help you stop killing yourself?  You can at least double the waiting time if you call after midnight, as that’s when they go down to one or two operators.

If you do manage to get through to a human, you’re asked for your details – name, phone, address, caseworker and then why you’ve called.  If they consider you to be at risk, they will send around the local mental health workers to assess you.  If they consider that you aren’t at risk, they will discuss grounding skills you can use before sending you on your way.  The problem with this is that at any one time we can have up to 5 suicide plans – apparently that means we don’t really mean to die as we’re not focused on one plan (we consider it covering our bases in case one doesn’t work).  We can also begin the phone call with one who wants to reach out for help; but by the time we get to actually talk to someone, we’ve switched to one who either won’t talk or says that everything is fine.  So in many ways the service doesn’t suit us (and a majority of the population).

If you are considered at risk, you get the joyful experience of being escorted up to the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.  Where you begin the wait for some poor registrar who has been working for at least 10 hours and is surviving on a combination of adrenaline, coffee and sugar.  This person then has to assess your level of danger.  Most registrars haven’t dealt with anyone with a dissociative disorder, let alone tried to understand if there really is a risk.  They have a thankless job of walking a tightrope – is the patient telling the truth?  To make this job more complicated, during our experiences with registrars they’ve encountered –

  • Aimee (9 yrs old and carefree) who smilingly told the nice young registrar that she was too young to drink.  Quite forgetting that the body she shares is in it’s mid 30’s and sitting cross-legged on a hospital bed while drips are hanging from each arm to pump us full of drugs to counter the drugs we’d OD’d on.
  • Sophie (16 yrs old) who is our safest bet for these assessments – no one would section Sophie.  The main problem is getting close enough to hear her as she talks very quietly when scared or worried.
  • M who is the other safe bet.  She’s confident and knows how to work the mental health system to ensure that we are released.  Release is always her goal as the young ones she protects are violently triggered by hospitals.
  • Ellie who won’t be sectioned as long as she can keep her swearing and scorn for the medical profession under control.
  • Frank who is the worst one to front for an assessment.  He doesn’t get suicidal, but doesn’t understand what constitutes aggressive behaviour as seen in the eyes of a psychiatrist.  He doesn’t actually get aggressive, but his anger at being in a hospital is seen as aggression.

It’s at this point where we’ve usually been sent home.  But on two occasions we’ve been admitted or sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Event 1:  Sectioning with two nights in hospital.

  1. Night of admission, put into art therapy room with triggering artwork around the walls.
  2. Given a single room across from an alcoholic man in his 40’s (the father is an alcoholic).
  3. As punishment for being admitted W used all of her strength to try and break the arms by bashing them against the storage unit in the room.
  4. A miracle was there in the form of a part-time night nurse.  She realised we wouldn’t sleep so asked if we wanted art supplies and then she sat and talked to us.  She didn’t care who she talked to, she just sat on the floor and let us talk and draw.  She got us Arnica cream for the bruised, swollen mess that was now our arms without a fuss.
  5. Then there was the daytime registrar.  We had asked to be released as the hospital was too triggering.  He went through the whole assessment again.  He asked why our symptoms made us special.  We tried to explain that we weren’t special, just sometimes experienced dissociation.  He dismissed the dissociation saying it wasn’t important.  Then when returning after talking to the consultant, said that the dissociation made us too unpredictable to release.  Yes, the one symptom that he totally dismissed, became the thing he used to keep us in.
  6. That night the same part-time nurse told us how to get out – say the words “I have no intent”.
  7. The following day a different registrar got the consultant to come in and talk to us.  He was going to let us out for the day, but M came forward and dazzled him with a veil of sanity.  We were outta there.

Event 2:  Admitted to the secure unit with one night stay.

  1. Saturday afternoon attempted suicide through an overdose and was taken to ER by the husband.
  2. Put on a drip and was overwhelmed by the dissociation.
  3. Overheard the nurses say that we hadn’t really overdosed, but were just attention seeking – our bed was right beside the nurses station and strangely enough the curtains aren’t sound proof.
  4. As soon as we were coherant, we asked to leave.
  5. After a 5 hour wait, we were assessed by the same psychiatrist who once picked up the phone while we were in the room and told the DBT specialist that “the borderline actually turned up, do you want to come meet her?”
  6. Because of all the triggers, Ellie and Frank weren’t able to control the anger very well.  We were escorted to the secure unit by the Police.  We didn’t threaten anyone or even raise our voice, but we were considered to be irrational and dangerous because of the barely contained rage.
  7. We were released the next morning.

If we are ever sectioned again, we’ll request to go to the secure unit.  It was comparatively peaceful and safe.  If any of the half a dozen patients even raise their voice, they are immediately surrounded by about four staff and taken away to be calmed down.  The only downside was that the cups of tea were lukewarm – hot water being a dangerous weapon.

This is a very light hearted look at our experiences.  In reality, during the sectioning Sophie was nearly destroyed when her twin came from The Basement to tell her why they were created.  The day after we were released from the secure unit, the ex-husband tried to kill us.  Other incidents have occurred while we’ve been waiting to be assessed, including one I’d like to forget where a patient masturbated while looking through the window at us.

We sit in wonder when people say that they voluntarily go to hospital.  It’s a concept that we don’t understand – why would you volunteer for torture, ridicule and scorn?  We know our perception is warped and that hospitals help people every day.  But it’s not something we identify with.  It was once recommended that we go to Ashburn Hospital for a minimum of six months to try and break our cycle of destructive thinking.  Just the thought of that was terrifying.  I wonder if part of the reason is that in New Zealand the focus within the psychiatric ward seems to be on holding you in a safe place until the suicidal intent goes, rather than helping you in a long term way.  It’s reactive rather than proactive.

Now playing: Dixie Chicks – Wide open spaces
via FoxyTunes

Therapy, talking and switching

On Monday we had our usual weekly appointment with Liz.  Because we’ve been having such a rough week, we were expecting it to be a chaotic session.  In many ways it was with first Aimee, Sophie and then M talking to Liz.  But it also brought a sense of calmness for the first time.  On Monday Liz said that she didn’t have all the answers and that she was very aware of the possibility that she could do further damage by saying the wrong thing to us.  Not in the sense of we had her walking on egg-shells, but more that she was aware of the possibility.  In some perverse way, this actually was comforting to hear.  She was admitting to not having all the answers – thereby denting her status as an authority.  I’d rather have someone helping me who is aware of their shortcomings and willing to work on them, than someone who is incompetent and unaware of that fact.

Then on Tuesday we went to the woman’s program to see Jo – they do one-on-one work at the program.  Again we were all over the place and finding it very hard to stay present.  It got to the point where Jo suggested we try drawing.  As always when it comes to drawing, we totally drew a blank as to what we want or need to draw.  M started off with a black swirling circle – something she regularly doodles.  Then we switched and  I’m not sure who came forward.  But what followed was about half an hour of drawing and talking with Jo.  M came back to find that the piece of paper now had a child’s drawing of a house and a rather interesting pattern of circles in different colours radiating out from a green base.  To put this into context, we’ve not disclosed our diagnoses with Jo.  M was stunned.  Always the questions – what have we done… what have we said… were we rude… did we speak at all… HOW MUCH TROUBLE ARE WE IN???

The confusion was so obvious that M admitted to having DID.  Jo was really good about it.  She tried to comfort us by saying that nothing bad had happened and that she’d been speaking to someone about keeping secrets.  Apparently whomever came forward had a rather impressive concept of the hierarchy of secrets – none of which could be trusted to the little girl that bears the name given at birth.  Her own name was also a secret, so Jo couldn’t tell us who she’d been talking to.  Jo wasn’t even sure if whomever was present, was aware of Jo being there at all – it sounded very much like they weren’t aware of the difference between the internal and external world.

So all in all, a great way to feel like a crazy arsed, fruit loop, spinner chick.

Now playing: Anika Moa – Dreams In My Head
via FoxyTunes

Triggers and jobs

I could do without triggers and a job at the moment.  Life would be much simpler without them!  So far this week:

1)  30 sq.m. of office space was taken from the office at work.  This meant that the two people we get on with, have moved out of the office.  This is good for them, in that they are further away from the drama and poisonous environment that exists in the library.  But it’s really bad for us.  We’re not going to talk to people unless we’re doing a desk shift now, so our grip on reality is going to lessen.

The new wall is partially up – along with the associated noise, disruption etc.  This has caused the library staff, who were already stressed, to basically turn on each other.  Several of the woman we work with have a tendency to speak before they think.  One in particular will get upset and fly off the handle with very little provocation.  She needs to have tight control over everything and if that control is threatened, then there will be fireworks.  The problem is, that she often moans about it all to our cynical friend, who just doesn’t have the emotional reserves to cope with anything else.

2)  We carried out a major system upgrade this week.  So all week we’ve been testing different aspects of the system and how the new library catalogue will appear.  It was all going OK, until it did a false “live” status on Thursday morning.  That meant that our cynical friend got caught off-guard with an off-line upload which she knew wasn’t meant to happen, but couldn’t stop.  Then today, when we finally went live.  Suddenly it was doing weird things with the images and giving temporary location statuses which were unnecessary.  Everyone came and complained to us individually about it – like we were meant to magically fix the stupid thing.

3)  Because of factors 1 and 2 as well as her husband being told his cancer is now stage IV, our cynical friend has had several melt-downs at work – bursting into tears, having to go for a walk to calm down etc.  She wrote her resignation letter on Thursday morning while still crying her eyes out.  I managed to tell her to wait until next week to hand it in, to give herself the chance to calm down.

4)  Because of factors 1-3, we’ve been self-injuring daily.  When we talked to Liz on Monday, we had to rate the severity and regularity of our self-injury.  We rarely cut, but our self-injury ranges from the subtle to the severe and occurs daily.  That was a scary realisation.  That realisation led to another round of self-injury.  M has stated that one of our goals with Liz is to try and work on hating this body a little less – she’s thinking big picture, as she knows it won’t happen overnight.  Liz gave us a time-frame of 18 months to being better, I hope she’s right.

5)  A friend shared something positive with us, but it caused so much confusion and hurt.  Nothing they did, purely our screwed up responses to a normal situation.  The image they provided of innocence, got so caught up in our past that we couldn’t cope with it.  I got overwhelmed by the young ones screaming that the girl would be hurt.  Sometimes its really easy to believe that we’re making up events from the past, then something like that happens and it stops you in your tracks.  Why would we react that way if we were making it all up?

6)  Matthew (our American friend) has returned to prostitution.  We’re all so worried about him.  It’s his choice, but he’s hurting, is going to get hurt further and there’s nothing we can do about it.

7)  Mother is moving in with us for the month of August.  Yup, the whole month.

I know that Zombie by The Cranberries is a protest song about Northern Ireland, but many of the lyrics also are relevant to what goes on in this head – the bombs and guns are like the triggers which cause the violence, silence and crying…

Now playing: The Cranberries – Zombie
via FoxyTunes
watch via YouTube

February 2019
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