Thursday, 31 March 2011

Winnie goes on an adventure

My child parts and the rest of us had a terrible dilemma as to whether Winnie should come on our big trip or not. Initially it was a big NO (he's just so big!) but in the end, I gave in a took him because the children were too upset at the thought of leaving him behind.
Anyway, he proved to be a great friend to Little C and Pan and also made a useful pillow for my head on a few occasions... here are some photos from his adventure...

A stowaway goes through the xray machine

Winnie is all ready for take off

Winnie's view from the plane

Winnie drives the campervan

Winnie meets some new friends in Australia

The working day

Some days I do my work so efficiently and everything seems straightforward; just a logical series of simple steps that should be completed in order to do my job well. The hours fly by and I may even find myself wanting the day to slow down because I'm so keen to achieve more before I go home. Usually on days like this I tend to stay at work an hour or two late because I know I need to make the most of days like this.

Then there are the other days where it's a huge effort to drag myself out of bed and pull myself together enough to get into the office late and I can't focus on anything so that I end up sitting at my desk trying to look busy but praying for a miracle that will make the time speed up so I can go home and lie down. I achieve very little on these days, except for gaining a nagging guilty feeling that proceeds to follow me around and remind me that I'm a bad person who doesn't deserve to have a good job because she doesn't put the work in.

Today was like the latter. I didn't make it into work until ten; I can't even think what I managed to do while I was there except for fill in a few tables with some data that I'd collected after faffing about on my emails for an hour. I then ended up coming home at 2.30 with a pile of work because I just couldn't bear to sit at my desk for one more minute. It's after eight now and I haven't started the work. I've just been flaked out on the sofa all afternoon and evening. So by my calculations I have three and a half hours left of the working day to make up.

Why does it have to be so complicated? Why can't I be the former way all of the time? It seems that I'm just lazy. I can't think of a better excuse for it. But why am I not lazy on the other days? What is it like for other people? Is everyone like this? Are most people like the hard working part? Or are most people somewhere in between? If so does that mean that on average I work at the same level as a normal person?

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Dissociating by falling asleep

I got booted out of uni for not being able to do the work properly after having my confidence completely destroyed by a couple of bullies in authority (like I didn't already have issues with authority, growing up with a cult leader for a father). I was dissociating like mad, zoning out and losing time when I should have been seeing patients on my clinical placements. Anyway, the course director sent me off to a counsellor and told me not to come back until I was better and had a letter to prove it.

It was good to talk to someone who was understanding of the difficulties I'd had but I felt I needed more than a kind listening ear. I needed answers. I needed to know what was wrong with me and why I was having the strange problems I was having: memory problems, concentration problems, strange episodes of being 'upset'...etc. And most of all I needed to know how to fix it so I could get back to uni and finish my degree. I had worked so hard for four years, I was sitting on a first class honours, I just needed to get through my placements. I didn't need to talk. I needed ANSWERS!

But I do remember my counsellor asking me about my periods of 'upset'. I am glad now that she did because I probably wouldn't remember this ever happening otherwise...

As a teenager; moreso in my late teens and into my early twenties, I would periodically become upset, usually as a result of my father being verbally abusive and shouting at me. I'd go to my room and cry and feel like I was trapped in a nightmare.

All the pain of everything would overwhelm me and I would sob my heart out until my head ached and my chest hurt. I was a good girl and tried my best to be a good daughter but my dad only ever saw me as wrong/evil/despicable. I felt his hatred for me and all I wanted was to be loved like a daughter should be loved by her dad. I wanted to escape from the nightmare of living with an angry, aggresive, scary and unloving man like my dad but there was no escape.

It would become too much. The sobs felt like they would break me in half. I would never be able to stop.

The university counsellor asked me what would happen at this point. How did I get over the 'upset'? I hadn't stopped to think about this before but I remember reflecting on this and telling her that usually it would get to a point where I felt I could die of the emotional pain and then all of a sudden I would fall asleep. I'd just conk out on my bed and wake up a few hours later feeling calm.

I guess I didn't really think about it much because it happened so quickly; it wasn't like I really had time register that it was odd.

Looking back on it now and having read a bit about symptoms of dissociative disorders, it seems clear to me that this was my body's way of taking over so I didn't have to deal with these unbearable emotions anymore.

It hadn't really even occured to me that this might be unusual at the time that I recounted it to my counsellor. I wonder if it occured to the counsellor at the time that it was odd? I wonder if she knew then that this was probably a way of dissociating? I wonder if she saw that I had more complicated problems than depression caused by bullying on placement? Did she see the shifts in me that my therapist now has told me she sees? Have I always been transparent to others when I've felt no one could possibly understand me if I couldn't understand myself?

I surprise myself here by feeling that I would be relieved to know that I have always been that transparent. It would be confirmation to me that the diagnosis fits. Yes, I still have days where I doubt that I have dissociative identity disorder, despite what goes on in my head. Sometimes I feel I will never truly believe it until I wake up in a different city having lost two weeks. But I know that is never likely to happen and even if it did, would the doubting part of me find some kind of explanation as to why that wasn't dissociative identity disorder too? It would probably go for the old 'I must have a physical brain problem' reasoning.

I find it fascinating though to think about how the mind can control the body in such a dramatic way without any conscious awareness of what's going on. Fascinating! And it certainly helped me out a lot. I am interested to know if anyone else has experienced this kind of dissociation and do you think it's something that everyone does, or just certain people, or is it a DID thing?

On reflection I've begun to remember this falling asleep technique working for me in many difficult situations over the years. Hopefully one day I will learn the skills to not need to rely on such an alternative method of coping. Perhaps one day emotions won't overwhelm me so much as to feel it's too much. But for now, dissociating by falling asleep gets a thumbs up from me!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

How a brain should process difficult events

Yesterday in my therapy session T and I talked about reactions to negative events. The conversation started because I was briefly talking about some memories I have of 'bad things' and how I avoid thinking about them because they make me feel like they are happening again.

T said that the memory had never really been processed so that it always produced a reaction similar to the reaction you might have if the thing was happening here and now.

She said that for something else like a pet dying, you might feel sad at the time and might get really upset when you think about it, but in time, you would be able to think about it without feeling all of the sadness you felt at the time because you have processed the memory.

I could see where she was coming from with this and I could see that this is probably how it is for most people, but when she said that, I thought about how I still can't think of the time when my cat died without becoming really sad and tearful, even though it was fifteen years ago. I was then thinking about other things that one might think I would have processed by now and I came to realise about myself that I don't seem to have the ability to process ANYTHING properly, big or small.

On reflection I see that there are two ways it can go with me. The first way is that something bad happens and I can't seem to deal with the emotions and years later I am avoiding thinking of the thing because I know I will still feel the pain of it. An example of this would be the cat dying thing. I think with things like this I have a marvellous ability to accidentally on purpose forget events too.

The other way it can go is that the bad thing happens and I don't have any emotional response to it. I don't react badly at all and don't 'feel' anything when I think about it. The event is just a factual piece of historical information in my mind.

With the second scenario, it can occur that the emotional response will then arrive a LONG time after the event. An example of this is the experience of being crushed by a man as a teenager. I remember vividly it happening, the long seconds of being on the ground, squeezed by his huge weight, hearing and feeling his breath on my ear, his cheek pressed on mine; the sound of my ribs popping and breaking. I still remember lying on the floor unable to get up afterwards. But there was no emotion. I remember pain, but I wasn't angry or offended. I didn't get a sense of having been violated and the emotions you'd expect to go with it.

But ten years later and I'm starting to feel those things: anger...other feelings that I can't put a name on yet.

I'm only starting to wonder now, why did he do it? And I'm coming up with the theory that it was to feel power over someone. And even now, the anger is just a glimmer that sparks and then fizzles out again.

My T said that she thinks that I must have learnt not to have any response to events like this somewhere previous to that. She also said that she hypothesises that I have gone through my entire life not allowing myself to acknowledge any negative feelings anytime anything has happened and that it's all been shoved away somewhere.

I can't argue with this theory. The scary part is thinking that all of the feelings are still in me somewhere, or in some person within me. Where did I shove them? Into one angry alter who feels like her rage could make the whole world explode. It makes sense now when I think about how I can become so angry I feel like I am going to burst and the cause could be something minute like a look from a stranger or a clumsy stubbing of my toe. Sometimes I can't even put my finger on what could have caused the sudden surge of rage at everything. It does scare me. A lot.

These reflections are all very well but it leaves me with questions. One, the old never ending question that I fear will never be answered while at the same time dreading that it will: what happened to start all of this off? And two, what about all of this hidden emotion? Should I try to let it out in little bursts and will that eventually be enough to get rid of it all or is it like a dam that once let go will burst forth and destroy everything in its path? And how do I find where these emotions are all hiding if I decide that I do want to have a look at them? It's all very well saying they are there but what if I am the 'me' that feels all of this stuff is a million miles from anything I can relate to?

Friday, 25 March 2011

When we were children

I was never one to really notice negatives as a child. I don't really remember having feelings about much except about how much I hated my sister and how much my father seemed to hate me. But other things didn't usually bother me that much.

It's only recently that I've begun to reflect on some of the few things that I can remember from my childhood and have started to feel anger. The anger is for things that happened as well as things that didn't happen which should have.

I guess when you're little you don't know what a childhood should be like. You don't get handed a manual when you arrive on earth explaining what you should expect so you tend to accept what you have as being normal, unless you compare yourself to others and find that what you have is different.

Although I could clearly see some differences between myself and other kids (I didn't know I was in a cult but I knew I was in a very different kind of church than anyone else) in many ways I didn't realise that my childhood was lacking in some important ingredients such as affection, stimulation, security, supervision, encouragement, routine... I was probably too busy worrying about my impending damnation to a place where I was going to burn for eternity, to really notice. Also, being in a cult itself meant that I wasn't regularly around other families to be able to compare myself to what they had and the families that I did associate with were usually ones within the cult anyway.

But was it as simple as that I was too stupid to realise I was unhappy or was it more than that? Could it be that I was already dissociating and that the happy-go-lucky child that I heard people talk about at times was an already functioning alter who didn't have to deal with any of the crap stuff?

As I am writing this I feel like I'm seeing for the first time that there were two alters of me as a child. I need to get my head around this. I don't know how to explain what I'm seeing.

Half an hour later...
On reflection I don't know why it is a surprise to realise that there was more than one of me even way back then. The books I've read about dissociative identity disorder explain that alters form as a child when there are things that are too difficult for a child to understand or deal with so they split them off into another personality who can deal with the things. This means the child doesn't have to think about the bad things. OK so I knew the theory, but as I don't have a very good memory of my childhood I didn't really consider that it would have been obvious to me if I did remember. But while I was writing this and thinking about what I do remember I realised that there were two parts of me as a child. I still don't really know how to explain that.

I'm getting on the polyvore wagon

Little princess loves...

Little princess loves... by Candycan

Well, I have been curious about what this 'polyvore' thing is that everyone seems to be talking about so after doing a bit of research I decided to give it a go for myself! This is my first attempt, which I'm sure isn't very good compared to everything I've seen on the blogs I read but I am kind of proud of it anyway!

I felt one of my child parts was doing the picking and got a strong sense of her feeling that these are some of the things she likes. Our childhood was barren of anything pretty or girly and although I don't remember really wishing for these things at the time (I do remember wishing I had been born a boy) I do feel now that we missed out on something.

So now I am an adult with dissociative identity disorder. Sometimes I feel I have a clear picture of who I am sharing my body with, at other times I feel more separate from it and still struggle with the concept of me having DID at all. But most times, my child parts are the easiest for me to be aware of and it's easy for me to let the child parts take over because, well, they are easy to like (most of the time) and it's fun to be around them. Nowadays I make more of an effort to provide my child parts with the opportunity to have fun. I guess I kinda feel like I want them to enjoy being a kid in a way I never got to. They get to draw pictures and make things and play with teddies and express themselves in a way I couldn't. They also have the ability to enjoy life in a way some of my parts (including myself) can't yet do. I hope one day this will be different but for now, I am happy to allow the children to have fun because I get to feel it when they do. I think this must be a sort of co-consciousness?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

DID crisis!

I have a huge DID related problem that I need a magic wand for....

My return to work after my big trip has been made more scary than it would be otherwise by the fact that I am now in a new job role (same work place but different area of work). It's at the level that I am qualified to work at now (up until now I've worked in a job that I didn't need my degree for).

I had such a hard time getting through university. I was bullied by my supervisors and was having a lot of problems with dissociation because of this (I didn't know it was dissociation at the time but looking back now I can see that it was. I couldn't figure out where all of my time was going to amongst other things.) which meant I wasn't able to do the work properly which made the bullying worse, which spiralled down to end with me being failed in what should have been the last month of a four year course.

I was carted off to a counsellor and told not to come back to uni until I was better (I had admitted that I was struggling with depression). I didn't know I had DID yet but I knew enough about myself to know that a few counselling sessions was not going to fix me so in time my high functioning on top of the world self took over and presented a lovely rosy picture of my recovery to my counsellor who then informed my uni that I was 'better'.

This super duper 'part' then went back and finished my uni course some two years after I should have graduated and flew through the repeat section of it as though she had been doing the work daily over the course of a twenty year career. She wowed the supervisors (and me) and passed with first class honours.

I see the person that did this as someone else, not me. I feel like a fraud. It wasn't me who did the work or got the first. I didn't even want to attend my graduation and a part tried to sabotage this by making sure I missed the deadline for booking in to attend. My husband found out and rang the uni to make sure I could go so I went in the end and I did feel proud in that moment but afterwards I felt like a fraud again.

That was two years ago now and I am just starting a job in the field I studied in. I'm more highly qualified than any of my colleagues but I feel completely incompetent. I feel like I don't have the knowledge or skills to do the job properly.
I know there is a part of me that does have the capacity and I was really hoping she would take over and that I'd be able to do the work with no problem but I have now done a couple of days and she isn't here!

What am I going to do? My therapist talks about me communicating internally with parts to ensure co-operation. She said I should ask that part to share the knowledge with other parts, but I don't know how to do this! I can't control my parts like that! I don't choose who comes out and when and I don't know how to get this part to take over now.

What am I going to do? I feel completely overwhelmed and incapable and I feel like it's only a matter of hours before I get discovered for being this fraud. What makes it even scarier is that this is not just my perception of things. The evidence is there from the past, I need that part in order to do well. I was hopeless without her. Today I felt hopeless. My work today was not good enough and I had evidence of that.

What am I going to do? I think the stress is affecting me already. Today I struggled with wanting to purge after my dinner. I haven't thought about doing this in months. I feel like I don't have control over myself.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

What's the point?

Feeling like no one is interested and no one cares. Why would they be interested in someone like me? It's the way it's always been and always will be. Sometimes it doesn't bother me so much but tonight it does. Oh well, I'll be different again tomorrow. I shouldn't care.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Flying away

This is a picture I found in Puzzling World in Queenstown, NZ. Initially I just thought it was a cool optical illusion but now it actually strikes me as a picture that many people with DID might find interesting. Let me know if you have any thoughts about this.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Home and Away

So I am back home. I left at the end of January when the freezing winds were chilling me to the bone and I arrived back in March and the frost was still there to welcome me back. But I am glad to see it. I was happy to leave the winter but now, the frost is welcoming, familiar, comfortable. Needless to say I don't cope well with temperatures of 30 degrees plus. It felt so great to be able to put on pyjamas and get under a duvet, where I had gotten so used to lying in a vest and shorts and barely tolerating a sheet over me to keep the mosquitos off. It was so great to sleep in a quiet room and not have to wear ear plugs to drown out the noise of fans.

My trip was immense. I don't even know how to begin talking about it. It feels as though I have been gone for an age yet I know if I hadnt been away I'd probably be marvelling at how it can be March already and wondering where the last two months went to. Coming home I see all my presents from Christmas and my birthday are still in bags waiting to be appreciated. It reminds me of the amount of time we've been gone.

Yet in other ways it just feels as though the trip wasn't real; maybe just a long dream. The adventures already seem far away and separate. I don't want to forget. I need to finish writing the travel journal so that I will always remember everything we did.

My house seemed unfamiliar to me when we returned. I didn't think much about home while away. I have always had a surprising tendency not to miss things which worries me slightly but can be helpful: the phrase 'out of sight, out of mind' expresses it. Maybe it's a subconscious coping mechanism. Maybe it's a type of dissociation to stop me from feeling the pain of loss. I have felt what it is to miss someone or some place, but it's not usual for me.

Anyway, I had thought about home a bit in the last week, knowing that I would be soon there. I imagined myself enjoying each room: lying on the floor in the library, living room, dressing room. I imagined myself in my kitchen twirling round as I do sometimes when I'm excited.

But it was strange coming home. The house was the same; no one had moved anything or changed the dimensions, but the appearance of my house was unfamiliar, like I was looking at someone elses house. This surprised me. I'm not really sure how to explain how it felt. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad thing, just a curious thing.

I woke up in the night on my first night back and couldn't for the life of me figure out where I was. I was looking at the pictures on my bedroom wall: a forest, a lake but I didn't recognise them. It took me some time before I knew it to be my own bedroom.

So where was I and what did I do? To tell all would take me another two months but to summarise, we travelled to Dubai, New Zealand, Australia and Sri Lanka. NZ was the main stay and was fantastic. I have always wanted to go there and the country was just how I imagined (although very expensive with our currency exchange). We did so much, I barely had a minute to reflect on things while we were there. Some days I coped better than others. On average, I was OK. I enjoyed myself and functioned reasonably well although there were times where I just felt it was all too much and that I was just dragging myself around the world but not really getting the full experience because of my mental health (I always cringe at the term 'mental health').

Our stay in NZ was coming to an end when the Christchurch earthquake struck and we were extremely lucky (or blessed?) that we left Christchurch a few days before it and had our flight booked to return to it the day after. We had very nearly booked to come back earlier so that we could spend more time in the city and had we done that we would have surely been in the middle of the earthquake. It was so shocking to see the images of devastation and to compare them to our photos of the same places that we had taken only a few days before. We were both quite affected by the gravity of this and I think it did have an emotional impact too.

In NZ and Australia we visited some old friends who had been in the cult that I grew up in (people that have also now left the cult). This is something I should probably talk more about but for now I will just say, it was a special thing to spend time with people who can relate to the context of my life in a way that the majority of the world just wouldn't be able to fully understand. Having grown up in an environment so different from the norm, it is hard to feel one really fits in the world. I probably fit in more than I feel I do now, but spending time with others who grew up the same way is special because they already know how it feels to not 'fit in' and they understand all the reasons why and the difficulties that a person has in trying to live a normal life after growing up in a cult like the one I was in.
Having said that, each persons experience of the same cult will differ. I was in a smaller pocket of it which was more sheltered from some extreme rules so in some ways I was better off, however my dad was one of the leaders which brought a whole other set of experiences with it that others may not have had. It's complicated.
I know this is all very vague and I'm sorry for that. It's a big thing for me to even be able to describe it as a cult without feeling a lot of guilt so I am pleased to share this much with you.

This post has been too long and if you've managed to read this far I am very impressed!

For now I have to go, the jet lag is catching up with me and I am starting a new job tomorrow. It's in the same place I already worked before my trip but at a higher level and if I was allowing myself to think about it at all, I would be having panic attacks because I would be scared shitless about it. It is to do with parts, in that I feel the person that trained for this job at uni was a 'part' that is not me and so in myself, I don't feel I have the knowledge or skills to be able to manage. But I'm bordering on allowing myself to think about it now so I will go and just hope for the best.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Honeys I'm home!

It is so great to be back! It was disappointing that I wasn't able to blog while away and I guess it might take me a while to get back into the swing of it now but I hope to be up and running again soon!