Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dissociative struggles during a therapy session and coping strategies

While stirring the teabag in my cup today in the kitchen, I thought back to my clinical psychology session last Friday morning and wondered to myself what in the world I have been doing going to therapy for the last three years and nine months. Three years and nine months of my life attending sessions first every other week and then in recent times weekly and there is nothing wrong with me in the slightest. I thought through the phone call I planned to make to New Psychologist and what I would say: "I won't be coming to therapy this Friday, or any other, because I have been making up that there is anything wrong with me. I was never abused. I don't have alters or depression or anxiety or anything else wrong with me. I was just acting. I'm sorry for wasting time."

I realised that my psychologist would more than likely ask me if this was the 'non believing' part of my system and that she would suggest that my view may be temporary and that I keep the appointment. Then I imagined her suggesting that it's a lot of energy for someone to put into a lie for what benefit? Then I thought to myself that someone who would go to so much trouble to lie about having dissociative identity disorder should surely be in therapy anyway because clearly that is not healthy behaviour, so I dismissed the notion of making that phone call and with the intention of 'coming clean' at the next session and settled on the sofa with my tea to catch up on Big Brother.

This kind of thinking happens to me from time to time and New Psychologist has pointed out to me that it occurs clearly in relation to certain triggers. She feels that spending time with my mother is highly likely to trigger a switch to this non believing part, mainly because my mother puts a lot of energy into trying to convince me that any problems anyone in our family has are genetic and not because of anything that could have happened to us.

I believe that I am more likely to switch to this part when I am working, mainly because it's much easier for me to function if I am in denial about any of my issues. Today though, I feel the disbelief was a reaction to what happened last Friday in my therapy session. I felt strange right from the start of the session. I didn't want to talk and struggled to engage in the conversation. I don't know if something NP said eventually triggered what happened but about half way through the session I began to have strong physical sensations of something in my throat that was making me gag or cough or something. My heart was racing and my breathing went weird and I was scared, really scared. It's hard to describe. I knew where I was still but I couldn't focus on what NP was saying and I couldn't bring myself out of what was happening. I didn't understand what was happening either.

New Psychologist was helpful. I could hear her calling my name and reminding me that I was safe and that I might be having a memory of something but that it wasn't happening now. She also asked if I could look at her so that I could connect with her and know that I wasn't alone with it. I wasn't able to look at her though. She moved nearer to me and clapped her hands and called my name. I normally get really anxious when either her or T move near me but I was so involved in what was happening and scared about the feeling that it didn't matter to me that she was close. In fact it might even have helped a bit because I did feel less alone. She got me something from my bag: some smelling salts that she gave me a few weeks ago (MacKenzies Smelling Salts: they're for sinus relief actually and contain ammonia and some kind of menthol and sniffing it is like someone squirting a mixture of old style hair dye and toothpaste directly into the inside of your head. It really gives a shock. She thought they could help me if I was having flashbacks and I've been using them to help ground myself) and held them under my nose. I could smell them but even though they're strong it seemed faint and far away. I think they did help a bit though and after a while I felt my body calming and the sensations becoming less frequent. New Psychologist asked me to look around the room. She pointed out things on the walls, colours etc and then when I was more with it, asked me the date and where I was etc. Sometimes things like that really haven't helped but this time they did.

It helped that she continued to talk to me while it was happening. T (my usual psychologist) tended not to say much during times when I was having these awful episodes of dissociation and often I was screaming to her inside my head for her to help me, but not able to speak to ask. I think I'll tell New Psychologist that actually. Maybe she can pass on her wisdom of how to help to T for when she comes back.

Later in the session Little C came out to speak to New Psychologist. This is the second time she has spoken to her now. I don't know what age she is but I am guessing between three and five. She's very cute and I am lucky enough to be able to observe a lot of the time when Little C is out. She wanted to show NP a picture she had drawn and her special box of things that she had brought (it has things like stickers, postcards and pens in it). I guess Little C could feel the sensations in her throat as well because she got quite upset and told NP something about a 'thing' being 'put in there'. NP asked Little C a bit about it but LC didn't want to say too much, except that it wasn't nice. NP asked if Little C knew who it was that put it in and LC got upset and couldn't answer. She told NP she shouldn't ask that. She said that Adam does it sometimes. NP told LC that she was glad to hear her say she shouldn't ask and that it was good that she said that because... something to do with her not knowing NP well enough yet or something, and that it was OK. Then LC changed the subject and started talking about more fun things.

It's hard to write about this guys. On one hand I feel detached from it and thinking over it just makes me feel more confused about why I would have 'acted' this way. On the other hand part of me knows how real it all is and was and that is an extremely difficult thing to acknowledge. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the sensations in my throat were a memory of when combined with the information that Little C shared about it. It's too hard to accept that something like that could have happened to me and it raises painful questions like the ones NP asked... and that's why I end up in the 'non believing' state that I was in today.

After my session on Friday I was in a lot of pain, all day. My neck, back, hips, legs and head were aching and sore. The headache lasted all weekend. Today was the first day it was mostly better and maybe that was because of the switch to not believing it anymore. Maybe it's just a way of coping sometimes. I guess there is progress in that sometimes now, when I'm in that state, I can acknowledge to myself that there are other times when I definitely know I haven't made this up and I am more content to 'sit with' the feelings and not get too dramatic about anything.


Ruth said...

I recognize your description. My counselor shared with me that my body remembers things that my mind refuses to accept. I believe you. I also believe you when you say that not believing yourself helps you to cope. I use the same coping skill. I need it less and less often. Accepting that bad things happened is difficult. I like how your new counselor asked you about your environment. My new counselor did something similar for me when I totally dissociated while talking to him. The body is sending messages that your brain isn't ready to hear. Cyber hugs to you. In my experience, it gets better. I don't like when it happens but now I try to listen to what my body is trying to say. Take care.

Ellen said...

I laughed actually Candy when you described the phone call you were thinking of making. I've been there also. That's the joy of dissociated memories - you can always keep pretending they're not 'real'.

I've had similar flashback type experiences in therapy. My T believes they are healing though, so he never tries to bring me out of them. At least he hasn't so far. He does keep talking in a reassuring way though for grounding, as yours did also. I think for me with flashbacks, I'm always in a part actually, it's not separate.

Those are very scary experiences and I think you're right to cope any way you can, including denial when you need it.

Thanks a lot for your many comments on my blog Candy. I'll get to responding eventually - I've read them all.

take care

Candycan said...

Thanks Ruth, it's helpful to know other people in the world experience these things and understand. I wish no one had to though.

Ellen, don't worry about replying to my comments. It's probably annoying that I've put a load of comments on old posts so i wouldnt expect you to go to the trouble of reading back that far and thinking through old stuff. I just couldn't help myself at the time!

Stationary Runner said...

I just want to say that I have been finding your blog immensely helpful. I appreciate how candid you are. Even though I don't have the exact same diagnosis, I have some of the same experiences (especially the dissociative ones), and it is comforting to know that I am not alone in them.

Candycan said...

Hi stationary Runner, thank you for your comment. I haven't been out much lately so just catching up a bit today. It's always great to hear that other people find my blog helpful and can relate. I am sure my experiences are similar to many 'diagnoses' especially any involving dissociation. I think a lot of my concerns at times are just through being human and so they are probably shared by many. I hope you are getting somewhere with your running now!