Posts Tagged 'Diagnosis'

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.

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?

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Now playing: Audioslave – Cochise
via FoxyTunes

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.

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Now playing: Dixie Chicks – Wide open spaces
via FoxyTunes

Safety of intellectualisation

Please note: This entry may trigger due to talk of sexual abuse.  When reading this, also consider that our point in the healing journey is still firmly in the intellectual, and it is one of our more unemotional ones writing this.

Reflecting upon my abuse, I can see how such an ‘‘unpopular topic’’ as child sex abuse can be influenced by the discourse of scholars and ‘‘experts’’ who attempt to categorize sexual abuse in terms of severity, based on levels of intrusion, duration, trauma, and the relationship between the victim and the offender (Kemp, 1984). From this ‘‘abuse degree perspective,’’ one can rationalize that my abuse wasn’t all that bad. After all, look at how horrible other people had it compared to you. In fact, you should be thankful, for the trauma could have been a great deal worse. In the words of Rambo-Ronai (1995), I begrudge this clinical analysis and, as many of my friends and acquaintances would attest, ‘‘resent the idea that my situation was in any way fortunate.’’ Indeed, the problem with this quantification of abuse is that it sounds strangely like my mother’s denial of these events. I wonder if any abuse-crisis counselor would rationalize physical abuse by stating ‘‘It’s really not all that bad, you can’t see the bruise, and you can still walk, and you didn’t get a broken neck. I wouldn’t worry about it. It will be gone in a week.’’

(Harvey Lemelin, 2006, pp. 342-343)

This quote  speaks volumes to me.  I’m so caught up in trying to learn the mental health system and how it operates that it’s easy to get lost in the labels, diagnoses, degrees of severity etc.  I know I do this to try and gain a sense of control over something that has a huge influence on my life.  Because of this desire for control (and therefore a layer of safety), I learn the language they use and what questions they ask in the assessments.  But what does this do apart from perpetuate the intellectualisation of my experiences?

I do find that some of the language has helped to describe my experiences and demystified many things that feel incredibly crazy.  But I also buy into that intellectualisation because of the barrier it provides to the horror it describes.  As an example, we regularly experience derealisation.  That sentence is easy for many mental health professionals to understand.  But it only touches the surface of that experience.  It is much harder to describe the feeling where your perception of the world shifts so that you are now looking at three movie screens; where the world suddenly appears brighter or more blurred; that feeling as if nothing is real or here and you are not part of anything.  We’ve spent over 5 minutes explaining our derealisation experiences to assessing psychiatrists, it’s much easier to just say that one line.  It makes it feel plausible, acceptable and real.

I constantly struggle with understanding our abuse.  We constantly play mind games with ourselves in an attempt to deny, minimise or prove that it didn’t occur.  Then we’re caught in a flashback or a memory “leaks” into our common awareness and we’re thrown into chaos.  We learned very early that emotions didn’t do you any favours – they were met with hostility, scorn or ignored.  Because of this, we’ve relied on the intellectual.  This is not to say that we’re incredibly intelligent, but rather there are very few of us who feel emotions.  We realise that we need to move beyond that façade of intellectualisation in order to be able to heal, but that also means moving into the abyss of emotions.

I’m not sure when we’ll be ready to take this step.  It will mean altering the way we look at the world and how we cope within it.  It will mean breaking down or modifying all of our coping mechanisms.  What is become obvious over the last few months is that we’re slowly starting to move back to the place we were about 6 years ago – incredibly high-functioning, high achieving and in the depths of denial.  We’re torn between wanting to find a therapist who can help us heal, and continuing down the road of denial and suppression.  While the mother was here she mentioned that we’re very withdrawn from everything, it’s a very easy and comfortable place to be in.  Realistically, I’m not sure we can stay there for long.

Reference:

Harvey Lemelin, R. (2006). Running to stand still: The story of a victim, a survivor, a wounded healer, a narrative of male sexual abuse from the inside. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 11(4), 337-350. Retrieved June 9, 2009, doi:10.1080/15325020600663128

Unfortunately, the article is only available through subscription or purchase.

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Now playing: Lost and running by Powderfinger
via FoxyTunes
watch via YouTube

Gender, victimisation, healing and society

Please note: This entry may trigger due to talk of sexual abuse.  When reading this, also consider that our point in the healing journey is still firmly in the intellectual, and it is one of our more unemotional ones writing this.

About a year ago, Matthew (our American friend) asked us if we considered that it was different for males to be sexually abused.  My immediate reaction was to say “of course”.  I said this purely from what male survivors have told me about the reactions of those they have made disclosures to.  The ex-husband was told that he should count himself lucky that he learned about it early, or that he was lucky he “got some” regularly.  To put this into context, he was sexually abused by his sister and her friend from the ages of 7-13.  Matthew has been accused of being homosexual because his abusers included males – his abuse started at the age of 3.

I know that women are also subjected to this sort of minimisation, denial and warped thinking.  But because of the perception of gender roles, many societies do not look at male sexual abuse victims in the same way as female victims.  This inequity can be seen in the stoning of a female rape victim in Somalia and the need for articles about the problems male rape survivors experience in America (e.g. Male disclosure of sexual abuse and rape).  This also makes sense within my culture – I crave secrecy about my abuse because I am an educated middle class woman of European descent, and “they” aren’t victims.  In New Zealand men are expected to play sport, hunt and do all things masculine, they are not expected to be victims.  Victims are that group of people whom no one ever sees, hears or knows.  The perpetrators are unknown “creepy” men in long overcoats whom drive slowly past schools.  Yes, stereotypes are alive and well around the world.

Maybe Rambo-Ronai (1995) and Blair (2002) were right when they compared society … to an abusive patriarch who demands the silence of his children. The groundbreaking work of the feminist movement did much to decode the complexities of violence and abuse, and new service delivery models for trauma have emerged (Goodwin, 2005); however, despite their titles, many agencies that identify themselves as sexual assault centers only serve women. This preclusion of male victimization is no doubt due to the primary mission to address the impact of male perpetration. However, through its inadvertent sole-gender mandate, these centers deny the reality of sexual victimization of men. Thus, male victims are provided with no avenue of reporting or addressing sexual abuse. What occurs is that social stereotypes are indirectly reinforced, and male survivors of sexual abuse remain social enigmas (Goodwin, 2005; Pelka, 1997).

(Lemelin, 2006, pp. 345-346)

We live in New Zealand where as a female survivor of abuse, we can access woman’s support programmes and specialised domestic violence courses for female survivors.  If I was a male survivor, my options for accessing those free programmes would be limited.  Many of the programmes receive funding on the proviso that the programme be targeted to a particular population (predominantly females, youth or a cultural minority).  I can see how this may assist the participants, but I can also see how this may create a barrier as well.  I’m not advocating for the gender specific programmes be disbanded, but rather there be a balance.

It has been interesting writing this entry.  There has been much angst about it internally due to the fear of offending any readers.  I apologise if I have caused offense by what I have written – especially to the male readers of this blog whom I know B and Sophie care about.  I also realise that this may offend woman readers, but I hope you can see that I’m not trying to minimise the woman’s experiences, but rather draw attention to a perceived inequity regarding an access to services and an attitude towards male survivors.

Reference:

Lemelin, R. (2006). Running to stand still: The story of a victim, a survivor, a wounded healer, a narrative of male sexual abuse from the inside. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 11(4), 337-350. Retrieved June 9, 2009, doi:10.1080/15325020600663128

Unfortunately, the article is only available through subscription or purchase.

Wading through molasses

Ever get that feeling like your wading through molasses?  Like your trying to reach the other side of the river, but half way across the water has turned to sticky molasses that is trying to suck you under?  That’s what the last few weeks have felt like.  We’ve had little clues as to what has been causing this, but we’re at the point where we need to write them down in order to try and work them through.

1. We’re incredibly threatened by Liz
A healthy amount of challenging is appropriate from a therapist, but we’ve interpreted Liz’ experience in the dissociative disorders as a threat.  This is for many reasons, pretty much all of them could be assigned to our insecurities and negative experiences with previous mental health professionals.  We know that we can work on this by trying to communicate with Liz as much as we can – we’re starting to do this by giving her a copy of all of our YouTube work.  If nothing else, these clips give a different view-point into our experiences and interpretation of what is occurring.

2. We are increasingly aware of how anger effects us.
Several blogs we’ve read have lately have looked at the issue of anger, predominantly how it is expressed by the abuse survivor.  We do have this as an issue – some of us do feel anger which is not expressed appropriately.  Yes, some of us self-injure; but this is rare and those that do self-injure don’t seem to do it out of anger – or else the anger is off the scale to the point where they appear to be operating on auto-pilot.  But our main issue at the moment is being able to understand how anger is expressed by those around us.  When Kriss doesn’t contact us regularly, we interpret this as the brooding anger that the father exhibited while we were growing up.  Today the team leader was getting angry about a decision that the library manager had made, but was questioning and raising her voice at us instead of the library manager.  This triggered a young one to the point where we nearly crawled under the desk – not a good look for a supposedly mature librarian.

3. Terrified of making therapy about “us”
We know we’ve been in therapy for about 4-5 years, but most of that has been aimed at surviving the abusive marriage.  We’re now at the point where we have to go into therapy and concentrate on us and how we can heal.  This is terrifying!  We learnt from an early age that we are worthless and anything that we do to try and draw positive attention is futile.  Now we’re meant to spend at least an hour per week concentrating on what we need.  That concept is so triggering it’s incredible.

4. Memories of the perfect childhood.
Possibly to give us hope, or possibly just a way this brain plays with itself, we’ve been getting more images of the perfect childhood that some of us created in order to cope with what was happening to us.  It’s a beautiful childhood that involves having a dog, a garden etc.  What is interesting, is that even in our perfect childhood there is no real sense of having a family.

5. Terror that we’re going to get much worse before we get better.
When we see the hell that other survivors are going through, we worry that if we lift the lid on the emotions and memories that some of us hold, we’ll go through something similar.  It’s a very irrational fear based on looking for ways to block therapy and go into the unknown area of healing, but it’s something that hits us every now and again.  We know we’re lucky in our current level of functioning and are worried about losing that.  We also know that losing that functioning doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand with healing.

6. Time-frames for healing.
Liz mentioned that it is reasonable to expect someone with Borderline Personality Disorder to have seven years of therapy before healing.  That is a really long time.  We don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for BPD, but it’s still indicative.  It’s still scary.  Management had a time-frame of being “cured” in six months when we first went to therapy, we knew within a couple of weeks that this time-frame wasn’t possible; but we’re scared of a process that could take years and what could happen in that time.  Part of this is because we have so little concept of time – if you’ve ever talked about seven years to a child, you know the sort of reaction that you can get.  We have a similar concept of time.

Trying to remember to take it a moment at a time.

Dangerous territory…

Today we had a very interesting therapy session.  It slipped into the more familiar (and potentially dangerous) territory of playing with words.  Liz (codename for new therapist), is still trying to understand what we mean when we say certain words.  This sort of thing appeals to some of us who are familiar with verbal fencing.  We’re not word-smiths by any means, but our mind can do the mental agility needed for a debate.  This is potentially dangerous, in that it allows us to test Liz’ ability to keep up.  Our previous therapist (Carol) couldn’t keep up, and many of us weren’t able to respect her on an intellectual level because of this – which is pretty ripe considering we’re not a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but anyway…  Today Liz handled it well, she was able to spar back and gently questioned the beliefs behind some of the statements made.

What is interesting is that she’s now starting to realise that we don’t have a support network.  Our American friend was told over the weekend that his wife wants a divorce – naming his dissociative disorder as the main reason.  They were married and had the children before the dissociation became obvious and she has never really understood it – thank you to the partners of dissociatives who do make an effort to learn and understand.  Because of this news and the implications, he became suicidal.  We spent most of yesterday on the phone with him trying to convince him to give it a month before he makes any decisions.  I was pretty sure that we’d failed in convincing him and that we were never going to hear from him again.  He lives in Texas where the gun laws are pretty lenient – you just need to be an adult and have money, no waiting period or anything (what’s with that????).  Thankfully he didn’t have enough money for a gun.  He’s now planning to go to work tomorrow, so the immediate danger is over.  I know it’s just delayed, but he’s safe for now.

Anyway, my point about the support network…  We told her about being on the phone with him to talk him through it and she knew that we’d also been going through a bad patch of thinking, so asked who we talked to about it.  When we talked about people overseas being closer to us than anyone here, I think it finally sunk in that we have no one.

We’ve been struggling for the last two days to not take down all the posts that refer to the suicidal thinking, which we now see as babyish attention seeking.  But as a contrast, we’d be happy to talk to anyone we consider to be our friends if they were struggling with suicidal ideation or self-injury.  Our American friend wanted us to ramble to him today, just so he could be soothed by Sophie’s voice.  We did it for as long as possible, but Sophie isn’t very good at rambling :)

The other testing we did with Liz today was ask her why she considered us to be DID.  She had mentioned something about our dissociation prior to our asking, so it wasn’t out of the blue.  But it made some of us curious and more than a little guarded – in some respects Liz is a greater threat to our system in that she has other DID clients.  What if she looks at us and says we do or don’t have DID?  Which would be worse?  Previous to Liz, the therapists have been well meaning and skilled, but not in the dissociative disorders.  So Liz poses a threat to some – what if she spots the switching?  What if she SEES us?  We can feel the tug of war happening already – some want to move forward and heal, some want to stay hidden so no one can hurt us again.  What is slightly amusing is that W was the main questioner regarding why Liz thought we were DID, and is also one of the ones who wants to stay hidden…

W is so brave and tough, but she had to be…


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