Archive for the 'Triggers' Category

Once upon a time…

Note: This post was going to be submitted for the Carnival Against Child Abuse, but it became more about trying to peel off another layer of scar material that was caused by the marriage.  It could be triggering, please read with care.

There was once a little girl who got hurt by the people who should have taken care of her.  This experience taught her about keeping secrets, packing the bad things into containers inside her head and to forget about most of the bad things altogether.  She became good at playing the parts and emotions that were acceptable to those around her.  Compartmentalisation and dissociation became her way of life.

As this girl grew, the dissociative walls became higher and more entrenched.  Her core beliefs were that she was a nuisance, stupid and ugly.  But she wasn’t a victim.  Oh no, she knew that bad stuff had happened, but she believed that it happened to every little girl, and no one else seemed to be complaining.  So when the girl became a woman and met a nice man, she didn’t tell him about the bad stuff; instead she listened to his stories of being abused by his sister when he was a boy.  She didn’t understand how that could have happened to this seemingly big, strong man.  It made him cry and she comforted him.

So began, what would become 8 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse for that woman – us.

In many ways, the man came into the relationship more honest and open than we did.  He said he’d been abused, we didn’t. We got so caught up in his past that we didn’t say anything about ours – we didn’t really consider it that bad or worthy of talking about anyway.  Abuse was what we had come to expect.  So when he raped us for the first time, we dissociated it away and considered it normal.  Besides, he was good to us – he gave us flowers, cooked for us and treated us with a form of delicate care (when in front of other people) we’d never experienced before.

A pattern developed over time, he would have a crisis of some sort and we would save him.  He needed us to be strong, so we were.  We were hardly innocent within this scenario.  The woman at work used to feel sorry for him as we appeared to pick on him and order him around.  I can understand why they would get this impression – he needed to be saved and we needed to be a saviour.  The weaker he became within his work and mental health, the stronger we had to be, and the more he would abuse us when no one was looking.  The strength we showed to the world was one of us organising our world to gain some control.  When we got behind closed doors there would be a dissociative switch to one who enjoyed the pain that he inflicted sexually and physically.  He became good at triggering our switches, so we built the walls inside our internal house higher and stronger.

About four years into the relationship, we were in a side impact car accident.  We sustained a mild concussion.  In that one instant, our lives changed forever. Our coping mechanisms fell apart.  Suddenly we were weak.  Suddenly he had to be strong, but he wasn’t able.

He had been intermittently seeing different therapists over the years, but had never seen one for more than three sessions.  They were always useless or changing their fees or playing games…   We realised we were in trouble and started counselling again.  He began to self-injure, often in front of us or because of us.  He was fired from his job for assaulting a supervisor.  We tried to be strong, but were slowly falling apart.

He got a job as a security officer – a job where he could “get some respect”.  We also changed jobs.  But nothing fixed the things that were happening in each of our heads or in that house.  We were two people who had serious mental health issues crashing into each other.  We became suicidal and were regularly assessed for danger, always to be released back into the care of the strong man who was now our husband.

On the 9th of February 2008, we attempted suicide.  It wasn’t our most serious attempt, but it landed us in A&E and then the secure psychiatric ward.  On the 10th of February 2008, the strong man took us home.  What followed is blurry, but I know M made a smart arse remark to him about how he needed to grow up.  He then showed us how strong he was by trying to kill us.  His level of violence scared him and he called our mother, screaming that he’d done it this time and it was all over.  The mother thought he’d killed us.  When she talked to us, she asked if we wanted someone to come up to be with us.  Sophie said “yes”.  With our family there, he couldn’t cope with what had happened, so left the house on the 14th of February 2008.

Looking back, I can see how our different issues collided to cause what happened.  If he’d married someone who wasn’t dissociative, this probably wouldn’t have happened.  We were so conditioned for abuse, if it hadn’t been him, it would’ve been someone very similar.  Could we have ever made it work?  I doubt it.  He was not interested in healing.  He paid lip-service to therapy, but wasn’t prepared to invest the time and energy.  I was too defensive and in deep denial.  I wasn’t prepared to heal myself, instead I was so caught up in his problems that he was all I could see.  My life became about fixing him.  He has refused to attend the court ordered counselling as part of the Protection Order, so I don’t think he’ll ever heal.  I hope he does and proves me wrong…

The following clip is one we did a year ago to try to work through the events surrounding the marriage.  It may trigger.

—————-
Now playing: Powderfinger – Sunsets (acoustic)
via FoxyTunes

I’m thick!

Yup, I’m thick.  I might be intelligent, but I’m still as thick as a thick thing on a thick day.  I’ve been a dissociative, anxiety ridden wreck for the last week and had no idea why.  I thought it was just S acting out that was causing me to lose so much time.  It’s only today when I was at the supermarket check-out that it clicked… The check-out operator was asking the usual pleasantries about how my day was etc.  Then she asked the big one “Did you do anything special for Father’s Day?”  How in the world could I not connect today with being Father’s Day?  I brought one of the special Father’s Day lotto tickets last week; I’ve seen the Father’s Day card stands in the shops; I’ve seen the advertisements on television; I even thought of buying a camera tripod in a Father’s Day sale.  But for some reason, the words ‘Father’s Day’ didn’t connect correctly in my brain.  Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t associate it with the father and the past.

I don’t know if this lack of connection is a good or bad thing, but it sure helps to explain why I’ve lost most of the week.  It could also explain why S was acting out so violently and challenging the power dynamics within the system.  We were all oblivious to her pain and memories…  I’m so sorry S, please forgive us.

—————-
Now playing: Mad World – Gary Jules
via FoxyTunes
watch via YouTube

A formal complaint and triggers

Last night we nearly had a formal complaint laid against us by a student.  It wasn’t due to harassment, abuse or even incompetence.  It was purely due to the student not getting what they wanted.  They wanted to renew a book, but it was wanted by another student, so I wasn’t able to renew it for them.  This sparked, what I can only describe as a childlike tantrum.  She yelled, insulted me and said that I couldn’t be trusted.  I was stunned at how quickly she was triggered into acting out.  I’m not saying she has a mental health issue, but that she was severely triggered by not getting her own way.

I’ve lost most of the interaction to the dissociation, but some of the bits that I remember are just bizarre.  Management wanted to make sure that she spelled our name correctly on the complaint – if we’re going to be complained about, she can at least get our name right; Carrie asked her to calm down so we could resolve the situation; One observed, ready to step forward and protect us all.  The whole incident left us shaking and totally dissociated.  It happened during the night shift, so I was the only staff member in the building.  Both of the student assistant shelvers had their headphones on listening to music, so didn’t know anything had happened.

I had to explain the incident to my team leader and circulation supervisor this morning in case she did go ahead with the formal complaint.  Our cynical friend said that we should have called security, but I didn’t even think of it at the time.  Also it would seem silly to call security over someone having a tantrum because they didn’t get their own way.

It’s odd whenever I see anyone totally lose control like this, how little sympathy I have for them.  This woman may have genuine issues that mean that she is unable to cope with life and is trying to work through them.  But all I saw was someone who had no control, pushing their problems onto someone else (me).  I can understand this sort of lack on control under extreme stress, but this was about not being able to read a book!  It was the sort of behaviour that got us sectioned under the Mental Health Act when Frank was angry that we were in a hospital.

I think I find it so hard to identify or understand her behaviour because the dissociation I experience, is all about hiding.  If I’m triggered, I’ll try to escape the situation without causing a fuss.  My first response is to hide.  If I’d been in this woman’s place, I probably would have dissociated, shut-down and walked away.  It’s only when we consider something so overwhelming, and there is no possibility of running away, that we act out in front of others.  It’s only happened when we were being assessed for our level of safety in the psychiatric ward, so it’s very rare.  When it does happen, it usually leads to another round of self-hatred and self-injury.

I suppose what I resent most about this woman’s behaviour, is that most people would pass her off as having “mental problems”.  But this is so unfair and insulting to those of us who genuinely do have mental health issues and are working hard to heal and get help.  She may have mental health problems, but she could just be immature and incapable of handling the world.  That doesn’t necessarily equate to having a mental health issue.  This is what encourages the stereotypes about mental health.  One of the interesting clips I’ve seen to try and challenge the stereotype about a mental health diagnosis is Schizo from Time to Change (as a warning, the start could be triggering).

What annoys me, is that I allowed this incident to trigger me.  I allowed someone throwing a tantrum to get me upset to the point of dissociating.  I had some really nice students during the rest of the night, but that one incident ruined my night and still leaves me shaking when I think about it.

Alone

The mother has gone and we’re alone.  It’s a very odd feeling after her being here for so long.  I knew there would be some reaction after she left, and there was.  It wasn’t tears, grief, or even relief; but rather a sense of wanting to “reclaim our territory”.  The house, body and reactions almost feel as if they belonged to the mother while she is here.  I know that this is our sense of wanting to be the perfect daughter for her, but it’s quite disconcerting to look back on it and realise what had happened.

While she was here, we tried so hard to appear “normal”, and we quite often succeeded.  She was much more accepting of the times when any form of normalcy was impossible.  This gave us hope that she was more accepting of us, but that hope was put under question yesterday when she stated that she is going to come off the anti-depressants that she’s been on for the last year.  Our fear is that this accepting attitude will disappear when the drugs wear off.  I know that the drugs have shown that she can be accepting, but that acceptance was covered up by her inability to cope with what life sent her way.  She hasn’t been in therapy or learned new skills to cope with life, so with the drug leaving her system, will those stressors mean that she will again not be able to cope?

When we got back from dropping the mother off at the airport, S ended up calling Matthew.  It turns out his intentions have changed from talking to his house mate, to something else.  This was the trigger for a night of self-injury.  We’ve just cleaned the house, mowed the lawns and did some gardening to distract and possibly punish ourselves for allowing S to come forward and act out.  Which of course infers that we have some control over the switching, which we don’t *sigh*.

We have a two week break from sessions with Liz as she goes on holiday.  She asked if we wanted to text her while she was away, we said “No, we’ll be fine”.  Liz said that she knew we would be fine because we were survivors and had the skills to ensure that no matter what happened, we will still function.  I think she has more faith in our ability to not self-destruct than we do.

—————-
Now playing: Brooke Fraser – C S Lewis Song’
via FoxyTunes

Perfect daughter – where are you?

While growing up, I tried very hard to be the perfect daughter.  I was polite, quiet, obedient, a good student, tidy, shy and seemingly happy.  This is the daughter my mother knows and loves.  She doesn’t know the daughter she is now faced with.  She doesn’t recognise the woman who can’t go outside unless it’s for work; the woman who will stand in the middle of the kitchen and start scratching her hand while staring into space; the woman who says that she can’t serve up dinner because the food has suddenly become dirty and disgusting; the woman who sits on the Internet until 2am because the idea of sleep is too scary for her and she needs the distraction.

This week, the mother has been faced more and more with the daughter she doesn’t know or recognise.  The session on Monday with Liz stirred up all sorts of issues internally and I’ve been struggling to cope with the reaction.  It got to the point on Tuesday night that there was going to be some fairly serious self-destructive behaviour occur if there wasn’t some intervention.  That intervention came in the form of someone coming forward to take photos.  They realised we were too unsafe to drive anywhere, so the usual routine of driving somewhere to take photos was out.  Instead they decided to use some props from around the house to see what they could do.  The mother could tell we weren’t well, so she ended up helping by having a look for different props to photograph and holding the torch we used as a light source.  This is one of the results…

Apple

Apple

Because the mother helped us with all of this, she could monitor us more closely.  She said that it wasn’t until after the photos had all been taken and we were putting them onto the computer for processing that we sort of “came back”.

Awhile ago, Sophie tried to apologise for the not being that perfect daughter the mother remembered.  The mother said that we were probably never that perfect daughter, but she didn’t see it.  She didn’t see what that perfection was hiding.  I think she really does want to help sometimes.  But her own dysfunctional thinking and lack of healing, mean that she will never really be able to help us.  I don’t resent her inability to help us, but I do wish that she would seriously look at her own need to heal.  She went to therapy for a couple of sessions, but then stopped as she thought it wasn’t going anywhere.

I’m aware this makes us sad or uncomfortable or something.  I’m not good at naming or understand emotions, but I noticed that the body was feeling very cold and I need to do up the jersey we wore to work.

Time to go back to being the perfect working daughter…

—————-
Now playing: U2 – Running to Stand Still
via FoxyTunes

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.

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)…

Mural

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.


April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Categories

I’m feeling…

My Unkymood Punkymood (Unkymoods)

Twitter Updates

del.icio.us

Flickr

Minion pumpkin

Milkweed

Jetty

More Photos