Sunday, 31 July 2011

Coping while my therapist goes on holiday

Hello you. I hope your Sunday evening has been more fun than mine (or will be depending on where you are)
I have just spent the last three hours studying. I checked over my clinic list on Friday before I left work to find I had a lovely set of conditions I don't have a fricking clue about coming in to see me tomorrow morning, so I have been desperately cluing myself in. I do feel somewhat more competent now, if a little bit pissed off about having studied for so long.

This week brings the return of my T from her jolly holidays. It has been interesting to observe how I coped with her absence. At first I missed her like mad, which was silly because it was only a few days after our last session and I wouldn't have normally seen her in that time anyway. Then, after not too many days, I just stopped caring. I stopped thinking about her as much and when I did think about her, I felt unsure as to whether she really even ever existed. I felt very separate from her and without emotion. I also noticed my general awareness of myself and my parts dramatically decreased at about the same time and I have even found myself wondering if I have 'parts' at all. Then I start to think I don't have DID at all and I wonder what on earth I must have been thinking for the last three years of therapy! I understand that this is another part of myself who doesn't believe in the existence of the others, but it is very convincing when it's in charge.

I feel this is my way of coping with things that would otherwise be difficult. In this instance, it was the psychological distance from my therapist and possibly the potential feeling of abandonment due to all of that transference crap. In another sense though, I think I wanted to be sure I wasn't going to have any DID crises that would cause me to need her while she wasn't available and being aware of how fragile my stability can be, I sort of unconsciously (maybe slightly consciously) decided to take a mental break from myself and my parts and let the non believing part take over for the most part. It has been rather effective, I have to say, although I am going to have to make a conscious effort over the next few days to get out of that zone or going to therapy this week is going to be a nightmare.

The other problem is, she has given me homework to do and I tried to do it yesterday but felt completely overwhelmed by the task. I want to just not do it and explain that I needed a mental break but I don't know if she would be annoyed about that.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Going to the doctors

A week ago I went to the hospital for an Ultrasound scan as my doctor thinks I may have polycystic ovaries (PCOS). I was so nervous going to the hospital appointment (which wasn't helped by the fact that it was in the cancer centre: it was like an insight I never wanted to gain into how scary it would be to be undergoing investigations for cancer). I get SO nervous going to any kind of medical appointment. I usually have the squits at least three times before any doctors appointment and this day was no exception: except that I was required to drink 6 glasses of water and not pee for an hour before the appointment so I couldn't risk going to the loo to relieve my cramps. So instead I was doubled over in agony desperately trying to internally remind us that it was going to be OK and there was nothing to worry about while hoping I wouldn't actually shit myself (which I very nearly did).

From the moment I stepped out of my car to walk to the hospital, I knew it was someone else in charge. I was not myself but I couldn't figure out who I actually was. Whoever it was, was scared. My appointment was for 2.30pm and I arrived at 2pm, already busting for a pee and dissociating like mad. Thankfully the radiographer lady came to call me early. When she called my name in the waiting room, I was far away inside myself. There was a moment when the name seemed like someone else's; a few seconds passed before it registered that the name being called belonged to me and my mouth opened to say: “that's me” while my arm lifted itself in a sort of wave.

I lay on the bed while radiographer lady prodded at me with some kind of contraption and I looked at the wall. I felt like I was in a different time and a different person. It was all strange yet like a memory and I felt unsafe. I wasn't sure what was going to happen to me. 

Radiographer lady did the bladder area part of the scan first before letting me run out to the toilet. The rest of the scan was of my liver, which my doctor had also requested I get scanned. It took quite a long time to do and there were a lot of 'deep breath inn... hold it... and breath out' requests. As if I wasn't already spaced out enough, I was nearly hyperventilating by half way through the session. She had me turn onto my left while she prodded at my liver with the machine, then onto my right while she prodded at the other side of my abdomen. I wondered what the organs she could have been scanning on my left side could have been as I'm pretty sure the liver is on the right and I wondered if she could see my ugly broken rib sticking out. I was half expecting her to ask me what the heck had happened to me and I really hoped she wasn't going to start prodding at it with the contraption. Thankfully she didn't do that and after quite some time she told me it was over and handed me a fistful of tissues to wipe the goo off my stomach, which seemed strangely like a memory.
She then announced that my liver appeared to be fine and that I could go. I managed to muster up the courage to ask about the rest of me and she rather evasively told me that I did appear to have some cysts on my ovaries but that it would be up to the doctor to diagnose anything in conjunction with blood results.
I trotted off back to work with a pain in my head and spent the rest of the day feeling ill and confused about why the experience had been so much an ordeal and why I had switched to someone else for the most of it.

On Monday, I dragged myself to the doctors with Adam in tow this time. Normally when I go to the doctors I switch to a very anxious alter and as this is the part of me my doctor is used to seeing, she probably wonders how on earth I manage to hold down a full time job as a 'health professional'. Adam is used to seeing this part of me at times too but he's not used to seeing this part out in front of other people. I think he was a bit taken aback. I took him along this time for moral support because I wanted to talk to her about my dermatillomania and the excessive exhaustion I have been experiencing. 

My doctor is lovely, I've rarely had negative experiences with her. She is however, a doctor, which means her tendency is to prescribe, prescribe, prescribe... and today was no exception. She wants me to go back on SSRIs for my anxiety. I really don't want to do that, although I do admit, I really should be on some sort of medication. I asked if there was something I could take 'as and when' to relieve the compulsive skin picking episodes and she questioned me about what I thought she could give me, I got the feeling she was trying to test me to see if I would ask for diazepam. I've asked for it before and she refused me because of the addiction risks. I then got it from another doctor at the practice for going on my big trip but I was ironically, so anxious about getting addicted that I was too scared to take them when I needed them. 

I asked her if there was anything she could recommend and she launched into the diazepam lecture again, while I sat there scratching at myself and trying to remember to breathe normally and agreeing and then before I knew it she was prescribing diazepam with strict instructions as to how often I can take them. I was grateful but to be honest, I probably won't take them at all because of the aforementioned fears. It's comforting to know I have something in an emergency anyway. Part of me feels curious about whether she has given me enough to kill myself with... but just to emphasize, that is just one part, we don't all want to die and I don't think suicide is on the cards just at the moment.

Mrs Dr then asked me again about clinical psychology (she always asks) and if I have spoken to my psychologist about the skin picking issue. I tried to explain that we don't really get to talk about day to day things at the sessions because there is so much else to cover and she seemed rather sympathetic at this point. I couldn't help wondering what my psychologist has told her when they've talked (my T chatted with her about DID and diagnosis in the past as my doctor is not familiar with it). She recommended that I speak to T about the skin problem. Is it silly that the prospect of talking to T about my dermatillomania is really nerve wracking? What does that say about our relationship?

Adam then prompted me to talk about the exhaustion and Mrs Dr after listening and 'umm'ing and 'ahh'ing she came to the conclusion that I probably have chronic fatigue syndrome and that there's not really anything that can be done for me. This may sound like a negative diagnosis. For me, it was like a big burden being lifted off my shoulders: I'm NOT just lazy! There's a name for it! Names for things make everything easier. Five years ago I was pretty much exactly the same as I am now: frequently ill, depressed or numb or acting in strange ways, having weird experiences which to me felt more supernatural than psychological and often exhausted... definitely not normal, but with no real name to put on it to explain to myself or anyone else what was wrong. Now, it's so much easier: I have names for the ailments... I make sense, somehow. 

Mrs Dr sent me off to the nurse with two sheets of blood requests and I braced myself for the blood sucking ordeal. I though it best to remind her there were two sheets for the bloods (and managed to get anxious alter to tell her that) and she duly arrived at my arm with four tubes and efficiently sapped the red stuff out. Anxious alter was not quite brave enough to tell her I am allergic to latex so compliantly held out my arm for the nice latex plaster and off I trotted back to work where I was later called by Mrs Nurse to tell me she hadn't realised there were two sheets and I'd need to go back for the rest of the bloods (wasn't four tubes enough? Can't they just pour some into the other tubes?). So I dragged myself back yesterday with my post latex exposure rashed arm for the rest and Mrs Nurse sucked another six tubes from my arm. While she was doing this I got a good read of my medical notes on her computer and reflected on how succinct they were: ''anxioussness (skin picking and scratching). Not keen on medication. Attends psychology (name of T). Discussed pros and cons of diazepam. Chronic fatigue Syndrome.'' I could take a leaf out of Mrs Drs book when writing patient notes (although is 'anxiousness' a word?!). Indeed I could take a leaf, when writing this blog!

Today I checked my blood results and although they are not all back yet I was shocked to see that my liver function tests are abnormal. I had been monitored for this when I was on medication as they had been high but had just assumed it would be better now that I'm not on any. What's wrong with me? OK it's probably nothing but part of me can't help wondering if I've been taking way more pain killers than I realise. I'm also afraid that it could be something worse, like hepatitis. What if I've picked up hepatitis from some of my more negative experiences of being exposed to blood/urine/saliva/semen/mucus/raw flesh (don't ask) in the past and one day am going to get really sick and die? Maybe that's why I feel ill so much. I'm sure I'm just being paranoid.

Friday, 29 July 2011

i burnt my face

i dont like that hot donut. it burned me and made me cry and now im sad. i need a hug. it scare me and hurted me. i dont like it. i got tears in my face now and i crid and made adam sad

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Manipulation and deceipt: you don't expect it from your brother

Hello virtual friends, I have just paused to say hello as I have been a bit distant lately from my blog (might not be reflected in the number of posts by us). I've had another really busy week. I'm starting to realise my work is never actually going to ease off; there is always going to be more to do than I have time to fit in. It stresses me out. I feel it may build up to a great big mountain of jobs not done and then I'll get fired. I need to draw up a timetable of what I have been doing each day over the last few months and a list of all the things I still need to do that haven't been done and take it to management to show that it's not my fault deadlines aren't being met, before they come to me. The problem is: I don't have the time to do that! Ptssh!

I've had a lot to do in the evenings too which is not good because usually I am fit for nothing in the evenings at the best of times. On Thursday, my brother in law asked me and Adam if we would babysit in the evening. I was already knackered after a full day of seeing patients and was just about ready to drive home from work and get into my jammies, but I agreed as babysitting just involves watching TV while the baby sleeps, so I thought it wouldn't be too bad. WRONG! 

It turned out that he obviously just blatantly lied to us to get us to come over as when we arrived we realised he actually wanted us to help them move house! I was so angry. I was really physically exhausted and the last thing I had the energy for was packing and moving furniture. He started delegating jobs as soon as we got there. I hadn't even eaten any dinner yet and we weren't offered anything. Eventually I had to just bite the bullet and say that I needed to get some food immediately, so Adam went off to the Chinese to get us some food which his brother managed to subtly express was inconvenient for him because there was so much to do. What added to my fury was that I had made it clear that I needed to leave at 9pm as I had my own things to do (the things included a whole lot of shaving for a hospital appointment the next day and getting an early night). 

At 10pm we were still helping (well by this stage I was lying on the floor because I was too physically exhausted to help anymore and 'on the floor' because the sofa had been moved out) when Adams brother came up to me to acknowledge that I'd said I needed to get away but to ask if I minded if they continue to move furniture. I said: “well I have things I need to do” and he just re-emphasized that he wanted to get the furniture moved. I felt so awkward. I hate confrontations and I had already made it clear at the start that I needed to get home no later than nine. If it wasn't bad enough that he had completely manipulated us into helping them move, he was now completely disrespecting my wishes. I didn't know what to say. Obviously he wanted me to say that I didn't mind, but I did mind. So I said: “I'll leave it up to Adam” hoping that Adam would have more balls than I did to tell him we needed to go, but he came back with: “Well Adam doesn't mind staying but he said you wanted to get away to do some things.” He then had the cheek to ask me outright exactly what it was I needed to do! 

Sorry, but is it just me that finds all of this really rude, inappropriate, disrespectful and manipulative? Am I overreacting? You don't ask someone if they can babysit when you actually mean 'can you help us move house?'! The only reason I can think of as to why he did that is because he knew that we wouldn't have come if we'd known what we were in for. 

It was so embarrassing for me to have to eventually refuse to help because I was so tired. Generally I just try to get on with things but with the way I have been feeling in recent months, often I don't actually have any physical energy left to move. I am actually going to the doctors on Monday about the problem as I've been starting to realise how bad it really is. I'm worried I might have a bit of chronic fatigue. 

I can't stop feeling really annoyed with Adam's brother and I wish I had had the confidence to say so to his face on Thursday. I'm wondering now if I should contact him by email to explain how difficult it was for me and that he can't do things like that in future. I know that he WILL do things like that again. I know why he does it; his mother (my mother in law) is exactly the same. She deceives people and manipulates them in the nicest ways possible in order to get what she wants. It pisses me off because Adam's brother gets angry with her for doing it to him yet he is exactly the same. 

So I don't know if I'll confront (or email, less confrontational) Adam's brother or not. I know Adam won't want me to, but yet I feel in not doing anything, it's letting others take advantage and giving them permission to do it again. People who want to control, need to know their boundaries. 

Any opinions welcome...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Alters taking over during therapy sessions

This is the second half of the last post so you may have read it before. I decided to split it up into more bitesized chunks!

Recently in therapy, my psychologist and I ('I' being the part that attends therapy most of the time) have been talking a lot about the issue of switching in therapy and parts talking to her. For the most part, T's communication with my alters has been via me telling her what they think or are saying from the level two section. Quite often she will ask what the parts think about this or that, or if any parts have any views on x or y. Normally then I will go quite for a bit while I listen to what parts inside may or may not be saying and will then express these views to her. 

This works well in theory but has two limitations: one, is that I tend not so much to narrate but to edit what others are saying to make it fit in with my expectations as to what T will be OK with hearing; sometimes I might ignore a view completely if I don't feel the expression of that view is something I have the confidence to put out. The second problem is that it's not always straight forward. I can't always hear everyone well and make sense of things. There may be so many people are speaking at once that I can't make sense of it at all. Or, there can be a sort of whirlwind that starts up in my head and then I get overwhelmed and feel completely clueless altogether (this may be a way of parts protecting themselves from me being able to give away their secrets: I'm not sure). Sometimes, the parts are all at level three and I don't have a hope of being able to know what they think. So this way of communicating has it's drawbacks.

I think T and I both agree that if some of the parts were able to speak to her themselves it would be useful for them and for 'us' as a system (group of alters). Now, this has happened at times. I know that some of my alters have come out to speak with T in the sessions. Most times it has happened, I have been aware of what was happening. There may have been times I'm not aware about, I like to think not, but then maybe that's naïvety again. Most of the time, when my alters want to get out to speak to her during therapy it isn't just a simple switch because of the main person who attends the sessions. This is because it can be difficult to give up control and let others out, mainly because I am afraid of what will happen if I am not in control i.e. what will they say or do and how would T react to that? This can result in a huge struggle of parts against me (or the person who attends the sessions) which can lead to a static state of anxiety and dissociation which doesn't result in anyone getting the floor. 
Some of my alters have also communicated with T in the form of letters or pictures. This has been useful in a way, but not enough for them. I know they all feel they have a right to be at the sessions and meet T and speak with her themselves and I agree, they do deserve that. It frustrates me that I haven't been able to let them speak to T more often because it would make my time at therapy sessions a hell of a lot easier if I didn't need to be the one talking all of the time! My alters get angry with me for not being able to let them out. I get angry with myself! But at the end of the day, it has been an instinct my entire life to protect myself from hurt by hiding things from others and even myself. I spend my life keeping alters in in order to maintain normality and sanity and it's hard just to go the opposite way, against my instincts. The other thing is, if I do let alters out and something goes wrong (we get hurt in some way), it will be me who gets the blame for this. So you may understand the apprehensions.

The issue came up again a couple of sessions ago as a result of the letter I sent to T. The discussions headed along the lines of 'what can be done to help us get unstuck and allow others to feel safe to speak and me to feel safe to let them speak?'. This has been a frustrating question for me as I truly don't know the answer, or have any ideas of possible suggestions! I have felt it is something I can't get by. After expressing my 'stuckness' and discussing things more, T told me that she wanted me to leave the issue with her as she could see it was a big burden on me at the moment. When T said this, I had one of those moments in life where I truly felt cared for and understood. I felt such a relief that I could have leapt up and hugged her at that moment. Sometimes it can be frustrating when therapists don't feel they are there to provide any kind of suggestions or ideas in the way of practical help. I have sensed that the idea is for me to come up with the answers myself. This has always angered me a bit. I'm not a stupid person (on average) and if I had the ideas of how to get better in myself, I would have been trying them out before now! So T giving me a real answer to a problem (if only that she would hold on to the issue and think about what could help over the next few weeks) is like another breath of fresh air. She has given me a few of those lately.

Part of me says she won't come up with any answers, but partly I doubt that negativity. T has surprised me more and more with her ability to find answers to seemingly impossible situations. And even if she doesn't come up with anything, it has been such a relief to not have to think about the issue and try to solve it on my own over the last week or two. She has given me other homework though, which I will tell you about some other time. So for now, the issue of how I will be able to let parts out when they want to speak is just 'sitting'...but not with me.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Dissociative Identity Disorder: what are alters and what is switching?

I decided to split this post in two as it made more sense and let's face it; was a bit long...

A person with dissociative identity disorder has inside them, separate parts of their inner self which to them may be experienced as separate people (alters). I like to think of the condition in terms of a bus with lots of passengers. The bus is the body; the driver is the particular alter who is in control at that time. Someone with DID may have a 'main driver' who they might identify themselves as being for the most part and then other parts/alters who may be like them in many ways; or very different from them. 

When the person in the driver's seat swaps with someone else, this is called 'switching'. For some with DID, the driver might be very separate from the others on the bus: you could imagine there is a curtain behind the driver so they don't know what the others are doing at the back of the bus. When someone with DID switches and another alter (or driver) takes over, the original person may not know anything about what is going on during the time that someone else is driving. This is why some people with DID experience time losses, where they don't know where the time has gone or what they have been doing.

Not everyone with DID experiences switching between alters in this way. For some it can be less separate, where the drivers seat may not be screened off so others are still able to communicate with the one driving. For someone else, it could be that the bus has dual controls where more than one person can be in charge and influence actions at one time. My experience of switching between alters can vary. The most separate kind of switching, where I wouldn't know who has been out or what has happened, doesn't happen to me a lot (I think). Up until recently, I didn't think it happened to me at all. I liked to think I always knew what was going on at any one time. My therapist has helped me to realise that this thinking is naïve, as she gently reminds me that I do lose time and find evidence of having done things I don't remember doing: all sure signs that I might not be as omnipresent as I think I am.

For the most part though, my experience of alters is more of a shared awareness. Switching takes place frequently, sometimes an alter will 'come out' for just a few seconds and then go back in and this might happen many times in a few hours, sometimes a part will come out for an hour or two. Sometimes one part might be dominant for several weeks at a time. Most of the time though, no matter if switches are short or long in duration, I know what's going on. It's like I step into the background but am still there and able to influence or control things if need be. It also means, I know what is going on, so I won't experience time losses the way I might if it were more separate. 

Sometimes, I stay in control but others influence me. So I might express views of others because I can hear them in the background. This is how I manage to function relatively normally in the world: because I have the ability to edit and make sure what I say is appropriate. It means I can manage what's going on inside in order to be able to still maintain a job. So, if one part wants to spend the day colouring in and doing crafts, I know about this and can express to that part why it is important that they don't do that until we get home from work in the evening. I guess it makes life easier than it might otherwise be. Sometimes though, I'm not that tuned in to the parts that are at the back of the bus, and this has been more so the case lately. I don't know if it's me that puts the screen up or them, but I can sense them there without being able to communicate with them.

It's like there are three levels at which alters can be: one is right at the front, with me or instead of me. The second level is not out front, but near me (in the passenger section of the bus but near the front): where I can sense their presence and sometimes hear them or communicate internally with them. The third level is more far away and separate (right at the back of the bus, or maybe even upstairs on a double decker) and I may not be aware of the parts at all when they are here. Sometimes I can sense them stirring even back there though.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Dermatillomania (compulsive skin picking)

It is probably fair to say that my dermatillomania problem is more an issue for one of my alters than me as a whole, but it certainly affects me as a human being.

Dermatillomania, as defined by Wikipedia (the answer to all of life's definition dilemmas) is 'an impulse control disorder characterized by the repeated urge to pick at one's own skin, often to the extent that damage is caused'. The way in which a person may suffer, depends on the person: for some it might be picking at bits of rough skin, spots, any blemishes or imperfections. For others it might be peeling off cuticles or scratching at skin.

It is also known as 'Complusive skin picking' but on this blog we will stick to using the more obscure title of dermatillomania simply because the thought of  'compulsive skin picking' incites nauseating mental images that result in the feeling of impending hurling.

Dermatillomania tends to be caused or worsened by anxiety and stress. It is certainly the case for me and my anxious alters. In my experience, the problem tends to lead into a spiral where it gets worse and worse: the more you scratch and pick, the more damaged and scabbed the skin becomes, so the more there is to scratch and pick at and so on...

When my dermatillomania takes off (as it is not consistently a problem, but if I switch to a specific alter or if I am very stressed it will become problematic) I find myself picking and scratching at my skin: mainly my face, head, behind my ears, my upper back, arms and chest but it could be anywhere. I don't consciously do it, but I will run my hands over my skin looking for any rough or loose skin, any blemishes or lumps and will then pick, squeeze and scratch at said parts uncontrollably.

At the moment, I am a sight. I've got several really ugly sores on my face where I perceived there to be a spot developing and squeezed and picked it to death. I am sure if I hadn't, the blemish/spot would be long gone by now (if it even was one at all) but instead I have ugly scabs which I can't leave alone. Every time they scab over again I pick them off again. It sounds rather disgusting when you think about it.

Today in work I was scratching away behind my ears (OK that makes me sound like a dog... just to clarify, I wasn't using my foot) for so long that it started bleeding quite a bit and then I had to mop it up with tissues whilst hoping no one would see.

So what helps dermatillomania? Well, since it's often induced by stress and anxiety, it follows that reducing these symptoms will help reduce dermatillomanic tendencies (easier said than done, we all cry). For me, when it is at it's worst, the problem in itself adds to my anxiety, because I want to stop but feel out of control. At times like this, it is often my husband who is the help. He notices it more than I do (because I'm not consciously doing it but it upsets him to see me damaging myself) so will keep telling me off and may even resort to holding my hands so I can't use them anymore. This can actually be really helpful in the middle of an uncontrollable scratching session (woof woof) and can give time for the urges to pass.

Something else that can help is to find tasks to keep your hands busy and your mind distracted. This is one I haven't really tried, because as I said, it tends to be unconscious, but it seems like a good idea. You might want to try wearing soft gloves (you could also do a mime act with these...that might distract you).

This next suggestion may seem a little odd but really works. I have found myself in the past, pasting PVA glue onto my skin, letting it dry and then peeling it off. It gives the satisfaction of the action but without the damage. I guess it doesn't really help to break the habit, but it is fun!

Anyway, I'm not going to try to advise any more than that, because I am hardly one to talk, with a face currently resembling a map of the Northwestern Passages but if you are a fellow dermatillomaniac feel free to give me some suggestions!


Wednesday, 13 July 2011

I just want to be alone

I'm drained; so physically and mentally drained. I don't know what has done it.Yesterday I had some energy for the first time in a while, so I made the most of it by digging out weeds in our garden. I really enjoyed myself. That's huge. I don't normally enjoy anything much, especially if it involves any kind of exertion. It was just so nice to be on my own doing something simple.

Maybe it was that I made a bit too much of making the most of it. I was digging for five hours non stop. I didn't want to stop because I was enjoying so much feeling 'into' something for once and I feared if I stopped I'd never start again. Maybe that's what did it.

Today I am made of lead again. My muscles ache and I haven't got one ounce of energy. Lifting my fingers to type: I can feel the muscles all the way from my fingers up to my shoulders hurting. This is not normal. Adam picked me up from work and I was so exhausted I didn't even have the energy to open the car door to get out when we got home, so I just sat there, hoping he'd come back out of the house to get me... which he did... eventually.

I've been in a bad mood for days now.

Adam is really driving me crazy lately. I feel guilty for feeling as I do about someone I'm supposed to be spending the rest of my life with but I have heard someone inside me shouting: "I hate you!" at him more than once recently. Everything he does and doesn't do just makes my blood boil. I can't stand sleeping in the same bed as him. I can't stand listening to him singing. I can't stand it when he looks at me. I want to scream at him to leave me alone. Everything he does is wrong. He says it's me. I say it's him. I don't trust myself enough to know what is the truth but I could hazard a guess as to say it's both of us; or a vicious circle. I blame him though because it seems if he would just leave me alone I'd be fine.

In reality I know it's the alter that is at the forefront. That person is not an easy person to like. She hates herself too. She's an angry angry person. But really, she just wants to be loved and doesn't feel loved. She's really hurting. Really hurting.

Christina Perri - Jar of Hearts


No, I can't take one more step towards you
‘Cause all that's waiting is regret
Don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore
You lost the love I loved the most

I learned to live, half alive
And now you want me one more time

Who do you think you are?
Runnin' 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don't come back for me
Who do you think you are?

I hear you're asking all around
If I am anywhere to be found
But I have grown too strong
To ever fall back in your arms

I've learned to live, half alive
And now you want me one more time


It took so long just to feel alright
Remember how to put back the light in my eyes
I wish I had missed the first time that we kissed
‘Cause you broke all your promises
And now you're back
You don't get to get me back

Who do you think you are?
Runnin' 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
Don't come back for me
Don't come back at all

Who do you think you are?
Runnin' 'round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You're gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
Don't come back for me
Don't come back at all

Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Sibling abuse by a sister (What Katie did)

I'm still working on my impending post about what happened at therapy this week... I feel I need to get this off my chest though...

A few days ago I asked my sister, Katie how to sharpen knives: just one of the many useful things I never got round to learning despite being a straight A (or A* to be precise) student. I was scraping the knife on the sharpener but not really getting the hang of it so she put her hands over mine to show me the sweeping movement as it should be. 

That's the end of the story about what happened. 

The knife didn't slip and cut me. I didn't accidentally stab anyone. Nobody got hurt. 

But that moment when she put her hands on mine was the reason my hands felt like they were burning for what seemed like hours afterwards and caused me to want to furiously scrub them clean with soap and hot water. That moment is the reason I have been having horrible, horrible nightmares and flashbacks for two days since.

Growing up with Katie as a sister was not a lot of fun. As she was the closest in age to me, we were together all of the time. We were both on the receiving end of my father's anger and issues, we also both had two other older sisters who received the brunt of my father's anger and issues and in turn took their anger and issues out on us. You'd think having those two things in common might have meant we would be closer and look out for each other; but my sister Katie, had one thing I didn't have. She had a younger sister who she could in turn take out her anger and issues on (and she had a lot to get rid of). 

Given that we were together all of the time and our other sister's were a little bit older, it meant I was the handy target for all of her abuse. We shared a bedroom and went to school together; there was never a minutes rest from her. My sister psychologically abused me. Every word she spoke to me from I was five years old onwards was full of spite, hatred, bitterness... designed to cut me and make me feel bad. It's hard to imagine how a child could successfully psychologically affect another child; you'd think a child would not be affected by hurtful words from another child... but I was and still am. 

What is harder still to understand is the other way in which my sister abused me. I can't say it in words but you will know what I mean as you read. I have struggled for a long time with thinking that this couldn't have been abuse if it was done by a child and by another girl at that. I still struggle with this concept. I've felt guilty for feeling so affected by the things that happened. The fact is though, it was not just child's play or healthy developmental exploratory play; I remember what those times felt like... kissing my cousin... it was innocent. What happened with my sister was different. It is so hard to think about this and even harder to put into in words. 

I still don't know if I was affected so much by it because of things that had already happened to me at the hands of others. I feel sure that my sister must have already been through some things herself to have had awareness and desires strong enough as to lead her to coerce me into fulfilling them for her (it's killing me to write this!). 

I have never read about anyone else being abused in this way by a sister. I've heard of big brothers doing things to little girls... but sisters? I hate that it happened but I also hate that it was her. I feel that because of who it was, I shouldn't have been affected. I should just feel it was child's play. But at the same time, I know it wasn't. I hate her for it. I am disgusted by it. I feel sick when I think about it.

Needless to say, I have been pretty angry with my sister throughout my whole life. She continued to psychologically abuse me throughout our teens and even after she left home, when I would see her, she would still cut strips off me with her tongue. It only recently occurred to me that she probably felt reminded of what she had done to me by my very being and this provoked her to hate me. I certainly hated her. I wished so many times for her to be dead. 

I stopped seeing her for a good few years after she left the cult (while I was still in it: you weren't allowed to have much to do with people who left) and in that time she seemed to mellow out a lot. Nowadays, I probably find her the easiest of my three sisters to get along with. I push all of this stuff to the edge of my mind and try not to remember her as she was. I try to think of her now as a different person. She seems like a different person for the most part.

Last year Katie got married and asked me to be her bridesmaid. Despite her being so different now, I still found the process of being her bridesmaid very trying. I guess I do keep myself at a distance. I think I got through the occasion by dissociating myself from the awareness or emotions. That was the only way. I guess it wasn't surprising that I went and got all my hair cut short the week after the wedding (symbolic 'getting rid of' something), crashed into a deep depression and started self harming again, which I hadn't done in a year and a half. I also stopped contacting my sister and actively avoided spending any time with her as much as possible. I just didn't want to think about her.

In recent months however, I have felt guilty for doing this (because after all, she is a different person now isn't she?) and have seen a bit more of her. I do well to keep all of the feelings of the past separate from the here and now when I'm with her. She's someone else... I keep reminding myself. 
But I am obviously not dealing with anything by doing my best to leave the past in the past. How something so simple can bring it all so vividly back to the present. I feel sickened by the images and nightmares. I want to forget it all. I want it all to never have happened. How can I ever move on when the tiniest thing takes me back to square one?

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Discussing the letter to my therapist

Warning: this post contains some very long sentences which some readers may find mentally exhausting. Do not read unless you are a glutton for punishment... cup of tea and comfy chair might also help.

Phew, I've been way too busy! I survived the horrible talk on the complicated health condition complicated by another complicated health condition, however I've been dreaming about it the condition for two nights since so I think I am still getting over the stress of it. The talk itself went OK I think

So I want to tell you about why I left therapy with a smile on my face this week. I will try to break it up into two posts as I don't want to overwhelm you with all of the details at once (I'm grateful that anyone reads this blog so I do try to make it easier to follow. I'm sure reading some of my posts is like trying to eat a leather sandwich). Besides, I'm still figuring it all out in my own head...

OK so obviously, T wanted to talk about the letter I wrote her (I want to post it on my blog but I don't know if that's OK to do yet). She had read it, which was a bit of a surprise. Her initial comments were that it was very well written and quite insightful and she wanted to know which part had written it (hard question to answer). She asked if it was the part that writes on the blog. I felt like it was me but then, I also felt like it was me in the session too; but obviously the me that writes letters and on this blog comes across very differently to the me that she speaks to in therapy as it seemed rather clear to her that the person sitting in front of her was not the one who wrote the letter. Indeed, she gave me a copy of the letter for me to reference as she wanted to discuss it, and looking at what I had written and contemplating trying to discuss it with her, I felt as though it had been written by someone else. Needless to say, I didn't do a very good job at 'discussing' it with her. It was more her telling me her thoughts on what I had said and me giving the odd nod or agreement. But then maybe that was just because I felt I had already said everything I had to say in the letter. I don't know. I did feel like I had come to therapy without my brain though, which is never helpful. I feel sometimes that I must be one of the hardest people to work with in therapy, because I can be so quiet and unobliging with my reflections.
Despite the disadvantage of me having left my brain at home, the session progressed and T laid out the points that she wanted to talk about from the letter. Firstly, she said that when she was reading the letter she felt like she was reading a letter from another therapist giving insights and reflections about someone else. I was quite taken aback by this comment and my initial thoughts were that she was about to give me a lecture about her being the therapist and that it's not my place to be trying to do her job or that I shouldn't be 'intellectualising'. However, she surprised me further by saying that she would like to view this part as a 'co-therapist' who could help do some work on some of the issues in the therapeutic process. 

Huh? Well, it was hard to conceive of myself being any help in the process at all at that moment, having as aforementioned: no brain. But I was open to the notion that perhaps at other times, I do have a brain so I agreed that this could be considered.

She didn't really go into 'how' this part could help but she did say we would talk about that. I think this could be a great idea, dependent on what exactly it is that she requires me to do, however, I just hope she doesn't expect some kind of presence in therapy sessions, because it seems to be mainly 'Stupid C'. Stupid C can certainly act as a messenger though to relay the tasks back to someone more intelligent for them to work on between sessions.

In my letter, as an aside, I had gotten talking about how I hate having two weeks between our sessions. T already knew this as I have raised it before. I was simply raising it in the letter as a detail in my explanation as to why our sessions run on too late (IE it's a long time until the next one so I need to make the most of it). 

Well, T surprised me again by announcing that she would be willing to give me weekly appointments from now on! (Cue celebratory marching band of alters with acrobatics, drummers, pipes, whistles...). She said they would need to be only 50 minute sessions though (band crashes to halt causing pile up... legs and drum sticks everywhere). OK so that's fair enough really. I wasn't expecting her to offer anything as a response to my comment (I had actually stated that I wasn't telling her this to try to get it changed because she already told me in the past it wasn't an option) but I'm not sure about shorter sessions, even if it does mean a session every week. I also HATED how short the sessions were when I had weekly sessions with my first therapist. At least with having sessions every other week, they last an hour and a half which gives me time to not be panicking about how fast time is going. There are pros and cons of each. I can't have my cake and eat it.
So I was ambivalent. I'm sure she probably thought I was an ungrateful bitch for not being more excited about her offer. She reminded me that she was only offering it to help reduce the stress that I had talked about with having the sessions every other week. I asked if we could give it a try with the option of going back to the old way if I don't like it, which she agreed to.

So, I'm overall quite excited about this development, meaning I now have a therapy session this coming week. The bad news is she's pissing off on holiday for two weeks after that so I will have an even longer break than usual. I'd probably be more upset about this long break if I wasn't still feeling the after effects of her recent let downs. I'm still feeling defensive so part of me couldn't care less about her at the moment. It makes a pleasant change from being obsessed with her. Maybe we should have a big fall out before she leaves for good and then I will be too angry to mourn her abandonment.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Positivity and procrastination

I have two things to say.

Firstly, I left my clinical psychology session yesterday with a.... wait for it... drumroll please...... smile on my face!!!!!!!!!!!! Ta da! That does not happen often and certainly hasn't happened this year. I still spent the evening feeling ill and went to bed and woke up this morning with a splitting headache BUT the body pains and psychological exhaustion did not plague me to the same extent and I had a general feeling of positivity about the session.

More on that later.

The other thing that I have to say is that if I continue procrastinating about work in this manner I won't have a job for much longer and then... well I guess that wouldn't be a good thing.

Tomorrow I have to give a talk on a complicated health condition which has been complicated by another complicated health condition, to a group of carers and between you and me, I have done about 5% of the preparation I need to do, but I have this really annoying trait of not being able to focus and do good work until the work is almost due and then I am only able to be motivated by the impending crisis. I could have done all of this preparation last week. Yet, the morning of the day before still seems to be too much time for me to be able to work on it. Hence, I know what I'll be doing this evening... and possibly all night. I will never learn.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Dissociating by getting stuck: is it under my control?... and what happened next...

Alright, enough procrastination! I will now tell you what happened in the clinical psychology session of last week. Ironically... (or is it ironic? My husband gets on his high horse about people using the term 'ironic' when the situation isn't actually ironic, which makes me nervous about using the word incorrectly and being scoffed at by all the intelligent people in the world... anyway, ironically or not....) this ending of the procrastination is in itself a way of procrastinating from some study I should be doing for work. Best to do this though before this week's psychology session.

Just to give you a recap in brief of what had been happening previous to the session to set the scene... I'd had a difficult few weeks because of:
  1. becoming aware of an apparent wish of some part of me to be dead (the 'becoming aware' part involving me being an observer of the act of preparing for a hanging on numerous occasions)
  2. Some general internal chaos and a feeling of 'me' being dragged along behind while the other alters were on some kind of mission to break free.
  3. having dissociated badly in the previous psychology session (which I talked about here) and feeling generally crap as a result of that
  4. My T emailing me to see how I was after the dissociating badly in the session and then failing to respond to me at all when I told her I was not good; on the edge and really scared because of my thoughts and actions, hence leaving me feeling angry with myself for having thought she cared and trusting someone against other parts' better judgements and also leaving me no better off in the current crisis that I was in (which I also wrote about in this post).
  5. work being really, really, really stressful (that has now eased off a bit, thank goodness)
So, I went along to therapy last week with all my parts in tow and all of these things hanging over my head. I always look forward to going to therapy but once I get there become really scared and anxious as my alters stir up inside and because of the potential threat of what terrible thing T could do to me or make me talk about. Sometimes she has an agenda for the session, sometimes she asks me what I want to talk about. I usually prefer it when she has an agenda as it takes the pressure off me a lot, but this week I did not like her agenda. 

She started off by stating, in a manner that seemed to me to be quite short, that the last session had run very late over time (because of me being stuck to my chair) and that we needed to sort out the 'dilemma'. She said that it's stressful for her and unfair on the caretaker who was waiting to close up the building. She said we could consider moving the time of the sessions to a different time of day but that it doesn't negate the fact that over two hours is much too long for a session (it should be an hour and a half) and that if she saw me earlier she'd probably see other patients afterwards and that she 'certainly wouldn't keep them waiting'. She said that she understands that it's a struggle for me when I am in that state but that it is in my control on some level because it is another part that's stopping me from leaving.

Now, these are all fair points and she had a right to raise the issue. But it seemed to me by her tone that she was quite annoyed with me and that despite acknowledging that it is another part that is causing the difficulty, that she feels maybe I could just try a bit harder if I really wanted to not be a nuisance. As a result, I instantly went into 'defensive mode'. If I am accused or confronted in a negative way I have an immediate reaction of a sort of closing off. It's like we are all living in a fortress. I try to keep the doors open and one or two people hanging around outside, but at any sign of attack, everyone runs inside, the doors go up, some parts go into hiding while others take up position in their stations ready to defend. I think she picked up on this pretty quickly as I went silent and probably didn't look too happy. My heart was hammering in my chest, my vision blurred, my head spinning. Someone inside was saying: “Lift your bag and make a run for it!”

T was repeating the aforementioned points and saying she hoped we could discuss it together and I was hearing: “I hate you! You are a horrible patient! You are trying to manipulate me by staying longer in the sessions. You are selfish and just want more time and you can't have it because I only get paid to see you for x amount of time. I don't care about you any more than that. In fact, there's probably not even anything wrong with you, you're just looking for attention!” Of course, that is not what she said. That is just me being over-sensitive. 
My silence continued. She asked how my parts were feeling about her having raised the issue. I told her I felt she was angry with me and she agreed that she got the sense that I thought she was and that I was annoyed in return. Well observed T (I probably had it written all over my face though)! She told me to stick to the facts of the case so I told her, that the fact was that she seemed annoyed. She didn't say she wasn't but she wanted to know what it would mean to me if she was angry (typical psychologist!).

Well, I don't plan to dictate to you my entire memories of the conversation (I'm sure you will be relieved to know) but it kind of went on that way. Me in silence, feeling like I was going to die off and seething with anger that she thought it was in my control to be able to get up and leave during those horrible episodes of whatever is going on and her going over the same statements about how she wanted to understand why some part of me doesn't want to leave the sessions and what I thought could be done to fix this problem. 
Her statements pissed me off for a number of reasons: one, is that they assume that some part of me doesn't want to leave and that I as the 'host' or whatever, would know if and why this was the case and also what would change it. Secondly, I felt angry that it was me who was being 'told off' when it's not 'me' who is causing me to be in that state. During those times, I feel so separate from myself. I am like an outsider, willing the other parts to let me back in or get up and leave. I was angry with her for holding 'me' responsible and angry with the rest of me for getting me in trouble when I spend my whole fucking life trying to be 'good' and 'normal' and blend in despite being full of a whole rainbow of nutters who are all bursting to get out and live in a way which would be conducive to losing my job and any relationships I currently could claim to have a feeble grasp on. 
I wasn't so much aware of the next reason for my anger at the time, but on reflection I know that am angry about it: I had been feeling like my alters were moving forward without me. They were learning or I was learning to let them be independent of me in communicating with T. The perceived attack of last session sent them scampering away back into hiding. Then she wanted to hear what their thoughts and feelings about the issue were. By this stage they were so far away, there was no chance of anyone communicating with them. I think Little C had already had her confidence knocked a few weeks before and given that I think it could be a part that is in great distress who has been trying to communicate with C during times that I am dissociating, they then felt castigated for having caused so much trouble. I feel this could be a big setback in the already possibly hopeless task of trying to learn to trust that people aren't going to hurt us.

T continued to want me to talk about the issue throughout the session. I don't think she could really understand how impossible it was going to be for me to be able to have the insight or let my guard down enough to talk sensibly about it. I tried going out to the toilet to pull myself together but it didn't help: every time she tried to raise the issue again I felt my heart rate rising and my vision going again. I kept trying to explain how I was feeling and she kept saying: “does that mean we can't have a conversation about it?” So frustrating!

On reflection in the time since the last session, I have been asking myself the question: “Did I have justification to believe she was quite short in her tone and manner of raising the issue or did I just perceive it to be that way?” In honesty, I really don't know. Maybe she was nervous about raising it with me in case I did react badly and this came across to me as blunt. Maybe it was just my wrong perceptions and that's all. It is important to me that she is not angry, because if she is, it suggests she really doesn't understand how out of my own control the problem is. 
I didn't want to leave the issue hanging without any attempt at trying to fix things though, so I sat down and wrote T a letter explaining what was going on for me when she confronted me in that way and then, what I felt we could try to do to help prevent the sessions from running over time in future. I also told her how I had felt about her lack of response to my email a few weeks back. I felt my suggestions for what could help were feeble (because if I had better ones wouldn't I already be trying to use them?). I still feel angry too. I guess I also feel, she should be the one with the answers. Surely I'm not the only person in therapy who experiences dissociation? Well, if there are others then can't she find out from some source what can be done to help? I sent her the letter by email anyway, although part of me feels she cares so little that she probably won't even bother reading it. Another part says, who gives a fuck if she doesn't. She raised the issue so if she doesn't read it, it's her loss. 
I have been feeling numb for the main part since the session. In the glimmers of emotion I have had over the last week or two I have noted 'fear' about going the next session which will be on Wednesday. I know that my anger is still not far from the surface and I also feel the part that thinks 'to fuck with therapy' is not far away either. I have also sensed feelings of 'loss' and a disappointing feeling of reconfirmation that no one could ever see anything good in a person like me and that I should have never hoped for anything different. I haven't seen the kids around much as I mentioned here, but I have a sense that they are feeling pretty bad for getting in trouble. Pan might be angry, but that's just a guess as I haven't seen him. I think they are hiding.

Cat vs Printer

Friday, 1 July 2011

One kind of dissociation: getting stuck

Last week you may remember me telling you that my clinical psychology session didn't go well, but I didn't go into it. I will write about it but first, here is something I wrote a few weeks ago after the previous psychology session. It will set the background for when I tell you about what happened last week...

"Last week I had a tough session at clinical psychology. I did talk about some of it (the discussion about the rope... cringe) on a blog post a day or two afterwards but I haven't reflected on the other parts that made it tough.

I was dissociating during the session again.This for me can involve a sort of shutting down of my ability to do anything. It tends to happen if I get overwhelmed which is always a possibility being in a psychology session. Just the silence is enough to send my insiders into a whirlwind.

It doesn't happen as much at home and I think that's because at home, I am not so likely to feel highly anxious and if something triggering was to happen, I would allow the process of dissociation just to happen for instance: by zoning out or falling asleep suddenly, or just curling up in a ball and shutting down. At home I might also find some way of dealing with the overwhelming emotions, such as hurting myself, which would prevent the emotions from becoming too much.

In a psychology session, none of these coping mechanisms I use at home can be allowed to happen. I am required to stay 'in the room'. I can't just shut down and I wouldn't want to either in front of someone else. It's not safe. Obviously, self harm isn't an option either. Another obvious thing though, is that freezing up and becoming glued to my chair isn't the safest option either. It's like part of me is trying to get me to shut down and another part wants me to get up and run away and both are pulling in opposite directions, so I end up 'stuck' in the middle unable to do anything.
I know that in the past it has been very specific things that have caused the dissociation to happen. Last week though, I felt it was separate from anything I was really aware of. It felt more like a physical process that began of its own accord and was not related directly to how I was feeling. I have no doubt however, that it was related to some other part of me that was feeling overwhelmed in some way by something frightening.
I can feel the fear in my body even if I don't know what it is that's causing it.
Apart from the obvious horribleness of the experience, it can also cause the session to run over time. I am then trying to pull myself together in order to just stand up and walk out to my car but failing to be able to do so. My head is telling my body to get up but my body isn't co-operating. I hear T telling me that we need to leave the building because it's closing (I always see her last thing in the day) but she is far away from me. Or I am far away from the person she is talking to. I am conscious of everything happening in my body and I can hear her, but I'm not in control of my body. I'm not connected enough to be able to move.

I don't know all that the part that is overwhelmed is thinking or what it is they are battling, but I do get a strong sense of fear. I feel it in my body. I sometimes feel other things in my body too at these times.
To add to the horribleness of the situation, I tend to get a really irrational fear that if I don't snap out of it T is going to get fed up (or more fed up) and leave me in the building by myself to get locked in. Sometimes she gets up to get her things together while I am in my frozen state and I feel a panic rising in me that I am going to be left like this on my own. Logically telling you this now, I know she wouldn't do that but in those times it's a different logic. There is someone inside at those times begging (unspoken) for her not to leave them alone there. I (or some part of me) also get scared that she is going to hurt me/them in these times. I fear she will get angry and start shouting at me or physically hurt me. A few times she has gone behind me to shut the window and that part has been waiting in that moment for something terrible to happen from behind the chair, but still... unable to get up and run away. It's a kind of chaos.
And that's just my experience of those times. It's one dimensional, I am just one part of the several people who attend the sessions and I'm sure others are thinking and feeling differently at that time. Sometimes I feel like the only measure I have of what is going on in someone else at those times is what I can feel in my body. It's in those times that I hear a doubting part voicing their confusion; because if I don't have DID, then why are these things happening to my body? Sometimes I can feel the emotions too. Fear, as I mentioned, is a big one.

Related posts:
Dissociating by falling asleep

From other blogs:
Dissociation, Freezing, and Falling Asleep
A recent post by Astridetal, which links in with this one. Astridetal talks about her experiences of this type of dissociation.