Posts Tagged 'Religion'

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.


Losing myself… over and over

The last few months have been interesting ones to reflect on.  I can spot within the blog entries the points at which I’ve been suicidal, trying to reach out and at what point I shut down and went back to the “everything is fine” mindset.  This is the one of the big advantages of blogging – the ability to reflect back on your thinking.

So I sit here, listening to Missy Higgins and wonder how I can keep going and in which direction to go.  I know that I am losing myself again.  I know I do this regularly.  I get lost, confused and overwhelmed.  I then seem to find some sort of plateau that seems safe for awhile – almost like finding a clearing in the forest.  I’m deep in the forest now and I’ve got no idea which direction to turn.

Having the mother here is difficult.  I have issues about the sound of people eating or breathing – yeah, I know it’s weird.  I can’t stand the sound of either, it seems to get amplified in my head and drives me crazy.  Unfortunately the mother does both fairly loudly.  I wish I could say that I love her and this is the only problem, but in all honesty I don’t love her.  I know some of us feel happy when she is around, but there are no tears when she leaves.  We don’t mind her being here for a short time, but we’d prefer it if she was only here for a very short time.  I know this sounds ungrateful, disrespectful and as if it’s breaking some law of nature.  But I don’t feel anything much towards her.  I also don’t feel hatred, I know that much.

Part of the reason is that I have never felt like a person around her.  If I was noticed, it was as a medical condition, an A+ grade at school, thin, fat, loud, silent, the mistake…  I was never “Michelle”.  This de-humanisation has been present throughout my life.  At the wedding, it became more about what the sister-in-law wanted rather than anything to do with me or the now ex-husband.  This feeling of being an object is what I tried to capture in one of the very first Polyvore sets I did…

I was a silhouette that had no soul, no place and no voice.  I can hear some in the background telling me not to be so melodramatic :)  I apologise, I’m in a rather odd mood.

Yesterday while out mowing the lawns, we decided to give Liz another try.  It was interesting reading through the comments to our entry about our journey with therapists (a BIG thank you to those who contributed).  Our reaction to the comments summed up our history – if it was possible to read into any of them that the whole issue was our fault, we would; if it was possible to read into it that it was the fault of the therapist; we would internally defend them.  It was a replica of our attitude towards our abusers…

Anyway, we’ve decided to give seeing Liz another go.  We don’t have any strong objections to her methodologies (although the religion issue is a big red flag).  Many of our issues with her are about her habits, for example turning her cell phone to vibrate mode.  I’m a little stunned that none of her other clients have found this an issue.  One of the major issues is that we are unable to communicate an issue as it occurs.  Because of this, we couldn’t say “Liz, we find it uncomfortable that you look at your cell phone while we are having a session”.  We sent an email to her to explain some of the issues and to see if she thought therapy was what we needed right now.  She responded that maybe the relationship issues with therapists is something that needs to be part of my healing (or words to that effect).  I agree with this, but also know that I’ve let bad therapeutic relationships go on for too long when they’ve hurt and been destructive.  I don’t trust my own judgement on what to do at a very basic level.  I, as the object doesn’t have a direction…

Now playing: Missy Higgins – Stuff and nonsense
via FoxyTunes

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

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Religion and Karma

Disclaimer note: Please don’t take our confusion about this subject as an insult on you or your beliefs.  It is purely an indication of how we struggle with the concept of a higher power.

I’m probably WAY to tired to tackle this subject at the moment, but we’ve encountered these concepts again recently and they have always bothered us for various reasons.

As a system, we all agree with the concept of “do unto others”. To us, this makes sense. You shouldn’t go around hurting others, and it makes sense that if you treat someone nicely they are more likely to treat you nicely. If they don’t, well at least you’ve tried your best to make it a positive exchange. This is not to say that you shouldn’t stand-up for yourself or be assertive.  It’s about having respect for the people and things around you.

We’ve tried to connect to a higher power several times during our life and never reached any sort of understanding regarding Christianity.  This could well be because of our early experiences with Roman Catholicism.  We are the youngest of four children, and the Mother nearly died giving birth to the oldest brother and had difficulty giving birth to us.  As she realised that she couldn’t leave us alone with the father, she started to use birth control – meaning she was asked not to return to the church.  However, the older brothers told us that the family was “kicked out of church because … [we] … screamed too much in church”.  Because we believed the brothers, for years we lived with the guilt that we were the reason that the whole family was going to go to Hell when they died.

So we were always a little wary of organised religions.  Despite this, we tried several times to “save our soul” by joining things like Rally (sort of like Girl Guides), which was a religious based organisation that was meant to empower girls.  One of the common memories we have is sitting in the church during a Rally meeting and being told to “let God into your heart”.  We would know this had happened when we felt a warmth and lightness come into us.  We were pretty good at dissociating and feeling separated from the world by that time, so no warmth or lightness got near us.  We considered this as a sign that we were truly evil and beyond saving or consideration by a God.

Another aspect of religion that has bothered us as described by a previous therapist is the concept of “free will”.  In that God gave every person the free will to do good or bad as part of their personal freedom.  W countered this with the rather stark statement “so she had the free will to go into that kindergarten fort and let us all get hurt” … “so we had the free will to leave that party with those men that hurt us badly” … “so we had the free will to say nothing when we were being hurt”.  Our therapist tried to explain that it wasn’t our fault and that the people who hurt us had the ability to exercise their free will to not hurt us, but they didn’t.  It was their evilness being forced onto us.  This didn’t make much sense to us.  How is it acceptable for someone to use the concept of free will to abuse another person?  It’s a bit too late to be accountable for that abuse once they’d died and are being held accountable by any higher power – the damage has already been done.

This is one of the reasons why the concept of karma brings more comfort, if we treat others with respect, over time we will also be treated with respect.  However, it also means that we were so bad in a former life that we deserved to be punished so harshly in this life as that balancing influence of karma.  We must have been someone REALLY nasty!  I think this is why when we think of karma, we prefer to think of it in the short term – even if we have had awful things happen to us, it doesn’t mean that we can take out that hurt on others around us.  We have the option to break that cycle of destruction and move to an attitude that will be more likely bring positive karma.

It’s obvious from this post that we’ve never studied any sort of theology.  We come from an applied science background.  We’re not particularly good at understanding abstract concepts such as faith or higher powers.  When someone points out to us the beauty of the flower, we look at a flower and explain how natural selection has meant that this flower has evolved over the centuries to ensure that it is more likely to be cross-pollinated and continue the species.

That’s not to say we can’t see beauty in things – we do.  We find peace and beauty in nature.  In fact its one of the few places and environments where we do find peace – there’s nothing like standing near the waterfront while a storm comes up from the Antarctic and slams into Wellington harbour; going for a walk through the Abel Tasman Park; or going around the Marlborough Sounds.  But we see those environments and elements as beautiful and having a scientific reason for being in that ecosystem.

What we’ve found interesting is that all three of the therapists we’ve seen recently have followed some sort of religion – the first involving a goddess and the last two Christianity.  How can they hear the horrors that their clients have experienced and still believe in a creator?  Or is the belief in a creator the only way they can hear those things?

I know there are survivors who believe in, or follow, some form of religion.  Some people find a comfort and purpose in that belief, and I respect that.  This piece is just about our confusion with the concept of a higher power.  In some respects I think this is because we learnt very early on that we can’t rely on anyone or anything outside of the system.  Our only avenue for help was to retreat inside rather than reach out.

Awhile ago we were asked via email whether we believed in any form of religion, here are the answers given at that time which probably best describes our confusion around this topic:
Sophie – no I don’t believe in a God as such, but I do believe there is something that is bigger than us.
W – Dear X, there is a God and we are being punished for being evil.  We keep on doing very evil things which mean we won’t ever go to heaven when we die. Yours sincerely, W.
M – Hi X, well not sure really.  On one hand it would be arrogant to consider that we are the only beings out here, however I’m not sure if that other being is what would be described as a “God”.  I have been curious about the afterlife and psychic mediums to the point where I had a reading done that was incredibly accurate and disturbing.
S – nuh no god no matter how much they chucked it down our throat.
SO – But there has to be a God or else how can we be saved when we die?

May 2018
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