Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I am here and you are here and we are here and we are altogether... or are we?

I haven't been blogging much this year at all have I? I'm really not sure why that is because I really enjoyed doing it. I think for the first half of the year it was probably difficult because I was going through a really tough time mentally and sometimes when you're right in the middle of a trial it's hard to want to sit and reflect and think over things. For the second half of the year I've been so busy focusing on managing in my new job that I suppose in a way I have distanced myself from my internal goings on. Things are still going on but more separately from me. I am less in touch with alters than in the past, although they appear to be moving on ahead anyway. A few of them have met my T recently. That's progress. The problem now is that she wants it to be all planned out ie she wants to know who is going to talk to her on which week etc. This requires me to be able to discuss the plan with her which I feel incapable of doing as I feel I am as in the dark about what's going on in my head as she is (possibly more than she is). So recently my therapy sessions have felt rather frustrating as she waits for me to come up with a plan and I sit wondering why I am there in the first place because in my own head I feel completely singular. This often then turns to my being overwhelmed when she starts asking questions about the parts and I become less separate. I start to hear snippets and sense them stirring and become so anxious and then it's a struggle not to switch. It's difficult.

A few of my sessions recently were really, really hard. I can't exactly remember what happened but they involved a lot of dissociation and re-experiencing of painful things in a physical way. One week I was so dissociated and ill after the session that my T had to drive me home in her car. I felt mortified by this although have to admit the younger ones thought this was very exciting and were really happy to see a hand cream in her car that we gave her as a gift last year. In more recent weeks the sessions have been difficult because there has seemed to be a bit of tension between me and my beloved T which has been very difficult to cope with and has left me feeling I have lost my positive sense of security and attachment. I have sensed she is frustrated with me (I would be if I were her) and I have talked to her about this and she has refused to say anything about it really. Sigh.

I feel so detached from all of this while I'm writing it. I'm typing 'we' thinking there is no 'we' and what on earth am I thinking. It's hard when these periods of detachment and denial come round. It's hard to progress with therapy but I know that they happen to allow me to function in work. It will hopefully become a little bit easier this month because I should be getting a day off work each week in which I hope to attend my psychology sessions. Well that's the plan anyway. If it works out I might find it a bit easier to get connected to my internal system for the sessions.

In other news, my health issues are ongoing. I fear I may become an expert by experience in each field of NHS care. So far this year I have been seen by psychiatry, psychology, social work, haematology, hepatology, nephrology, urology, radiology, dermatology, gynaecology, general surgery, general medicine, psychiatry again and physiotherapy (two different departments of this for two different problems). I feel like I'm falling apart. I am literally falling apart actually as one of my physiotherapy referrals is because my bladder, cervix and bowel have fallen out of place and are heading down my vagina towards freedom. Thankfully it is mild at the moment (nothing's actually made it to freedom yet) but it causes a lot of problems and not to mention the psychological impact of having to deal with these issues. On the positive side of things, I feel I am hopefully getting closer to a diagnosis of something that's not Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ie you're really tired but we don't know why) or fibromyalgia and at least I am getting seen to. I've worked in the NHS long enough to realise that not everyone is as lucky as I am when it comes to getting the treatments and investigations needed. Another positive is that my fatigue levels aren't as bad as they were this time last year or earlier in the year. I still don't know if it's because of being on an antidepressant or perhaps that I am getting treatment for the blood disorder or something else entirely but long may it last. This time last year I was dreading the prospect of a busy Christmas where now I am looking forward to the festivities and the hullabaloo of planning involved in them.

I hope you are keeping well in your own life. I haven't really been keeping up with blog reading very well lately. I just hope this is a phase that I will come through soon enough, but I do still think about the people who read my blog and leave messages and those of you whose blogs I have read myself and hope to catch up with too. Bye for now, C

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I didn't feel alone

I'm still enjoying having T back: my old psychologist who was off for just over half a year. She has been so supportive and understanding since she returned. Well, she always was but the contrast between the way I felt with her stand in (New Psychologist) and T's style has just made me so much more aware of and grateful for T's ways. I feel like I am properly starting to trust her on a new level. It may still be fragile but it's more real now. It's like her time away and return has strengthened our relationship somehow.

From a young age I started to believe that people won't care: humans can't be trusted; they will hurt you and leave you. T did leave and although she said she was coming back some parts didn't believe she would and it hurt so much. But, T has come back like she said she would and she has cared for me and it seems to have been a huge thing internally. It's been somewhat 'healing' in a way (I don't like using that word but have to admit that it is the right one in this circumstance). It has helped to begin to challenge my beliefs and now parts are starting to believe that maybe you can rely on other people to help. Maybe humans can be trusted sometimes.

Since she came back we have done a bit of catching up. She was very good about my rants about new psychologist and some of my more negative experiences I had in the early months of the year, which I needed to get off my chest when T came back. If you've read some of my posts from during that time you'll know the gist of what I was ranting about. She's very skilled at being supportive without taking sides but I imagine that secretly she did agree with my concerns some of the time.

T has now also met Little C a couple of times. I guess this is a pretty big thing as LC and a lot of us have wanted T to be able to talk to more parts for a long time but couldn't get past the barriers of fear and trusting that it would be OK. I'm not sure how I feel about it since it has happened. I mean, I know it's a good thing and in one way I'm happy but it's also something that I feel a lot of ambivalence about. But maybe that's for another post. I know it's progress, whether my feelings about it are always good or not.

I rang her recently whilst in the middle of a 'crisis' for support and she talked to me on the phone for ages. She was so supportive. I can't remember most of anything that I said to her: I was having a meltdown due to being in a very difficult situation with a lot of triggers. I remember that she talked me through how I was feeling and reassured me that it wasn't going to last forever. She said that it was a good thing that I was feeling emotions and she understood that it was so difficult because I've not had much experience of really 'feeling' emotions before. Dissociative disorders are all about not having to be aware of or experience painful feelings, so where in the past I have often been able to block things out by dissociation, it is progress that I found myself experiencing these feelings, although obviously it didn't feel like a good thing at the time.

I remember she said she wanted to reassure me that I hadn't done anything inappropriate in contacting her. I wondered afterwards if she had said that because of the situation where the stand in psychologist had told me off for contacting her between sessions saying it was inappropriate and a boundary issue. I wondered if T was trying to reassure me because of what had happened. Well, whether that was in her mind or not, it was important for me to hear that because I did worry that I shouldn't have been contacting her. I always fear being rebuked for it. I suppose that's nothing new. I am rebuked internally by someone every time I reach out too. I take a step in trusting and talking to her and then that person rages up with anger and fear, shouting at me curses for breaking the rules and prophecies imminent devastating consequences for us all because of my actions.

She said a few things that really impacted on me and stayed in my mind for a long time after we'd talked. While we were talking on the phone, someone who has caused me a lot of pain was walking towards me. I told her that this was happening and her response was that she was still here talking to me and she wasn't going anywhere. It doesn't sound like a big statement but she could not have said anything more perfect or reassuring to me at that moment.

Some of the time she didn't say anything and I didn't say anything. She just sat with me on the other end of the line while I 'felt' and while I dealt with how I was feeling and started to calm down. She told me she wasn't going to hang up the phone until I felt OK and that she was here for as long as I needed to talk to her. I didn't feel alone. I didn't feel alone. That was the amazing and wonderful new experience in the middle of this crisis: I didn't feel alone.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Magic Carpet

I can't articulate what this evokes for me when I watch it. What do you feel?

Monday, 30 July 2012

Never Grow Up

It's hard to know how to feel about the prospect of integration: alters becoming one more unified person. Although it would surely make for an easier life, the thought of the little ones growing up can be very hard and sadness is only natural. It's no wonder some people choose not to integrate.

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Out with the new and in with the old

We here at the Candycan company are delighted to announce that the lovely, wonderful, marvellous, amazing T is back and we are reunited! That's my old clinical psychologist for any newbies reading (welcome!). She has been off since December and it has been, to put it mildly, fucking awful.

I don't remember the last time I felt this happy. Maybe my wedding day or when I got my GCSE results and discovered I'd got all As and A*s? OK I feel a bit pathetic now, but it's true... seeing T again has just made me feel great (and so did doing well in my GCSEs. Bear in mind that I grew up being told I was all kinds of stupid and hopeless. No one expected such things from me, never mind me.).

I was dreading seeing T again for a while as I had the attachment theories in my head and had hypothesised that given that I appear to have the disorganised attachment history and have clearly developed some kind of attachment to T, that her return would trigger some kind of adult sized strange situation re-enactment. I was half expecting myself to freeze on the spot and get stuck in a mixture of relief and despair or perhaps run up to her and grab her in my arms and then fall about crying or goodness knows what. Well, there's always next week's session but at least for this one it was just happy, happy, happy Candycan.

Although I did feel extremely nervous and my hands were shaking like a leaf during the session and now that I come to think about it... I remember thinking I was going to throw up a few times and I wondered about running out of the door. But those are just normal 'therapy' feelings for me, so I didn't really put it down to the reunion. Anyway, it was good. She is amazing. No one gets me like she does. And I'm not just saying that because I have rose tinted glasses on; the past six months without her have been all the proof I need.

Today we were just catching up a bit on what's been happening with me since she's been gone. It was kind of a whistle stop tour of the year so far and really, I only got to give her the headlines. I feel like I need to say much, much more to her. Hopefully next week we can go over some more stuff. I don't feel ready to move on yet.

Saying goodbye to New Psychologist last week was unremarkable. We didn't talk about the argument we'd had at the end of the previous session. I suppose what would the point have been? But I did notice she wasn't interrupting me and she only annoyed me once when I found out she has rang my GP for updates and to give updates three times without even mentioning it to me. I said I felt like I had a right to be told these things. I can understand why she wouldn't think I need to but that's my view. I don't have any more to say about her for now. Most of the time I didn't know whether to strangle her or award her with a medal for being a flipping genius. I am grateful for her help though; I could see she was trying and she did bring some really good things to the therapy. But, I wouldn't swap her for T. I can't handle that kind of variation in a therapist. I need someone consistent and stable and grounded, which I don't think NP was.

I've just been feeling all warm and fuzzy today since seeing T. She must think I'm a right dick, with my silly feelings for her. I told her I was really happy she's back and that I really missed her and she said she was 'glad to be back' and 'happy to see all of' her patients again. So diplomatic. Sigh. I'm really feeling like a dick myself now so I'm off to pretend I didn't just have a sudden moment of realisation that I have these stupid feelings about someone in an artificial relationship that is one sided and inevitably going to end in a painful and final separation.

And this post started so positively...

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Last session with New Psychologist tomorrow!

I'm on my way to bed but just felt like writing a blog post so should make the most of it because as you can see, inspiration has been lacking this year so far. I don't know why that is.
Anyway, I have to announce that after almost seven long, painful months, I am finally saying goodbye to New Psychologist tomorrow... well that's what I've been told anyway. T was due to come back a few months ago and you may remember my triumphant announcement indicating the same. That was before she had an unfortunate incident and had to go off sick like the week after she had returned (in which time I didn't yet get to see her... possibly a good thing).
I would need to write an essay to describe the goods and bads of my time with New Psychologist but to sum it up she has been brilliantly insightful, helpful and amazing however equally as horrifyingly unprofessional, judgemental, clueless and argumentative. I can't figure out if I like her or hate her.
I think it's fair to say I can appreciate that a different perspective has been helpful and her practical techniques have been useful but at the same time I don't think I'll be shedding any tears after saying goodbye to her. It's clear to me that she has her own personal issues which unfortunately cloud her judgement as a therapist and that's going to be difficult for her if she doesn't address them. It did however give me plenty of opportunity to practise confronting people about difficult issues, which is something I've never been good at.
I'm looking forward to seeing T again soon but also dreading it. I know enough about myself now to know that any transition seems to be difficult and I guess we will have to readjust to each other. I will also have to get used to the realisation that T is human too and my coping method this year has been keeping a vision of her in my mind as a perfect being. I'm not fooling myself though when I say she understood me a thousand times better than New Psychologist and being understood is crucial isn't it?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Getting stuck in the toilet at therapy

Last week I dissociated badly at the end of my clinical psychology session. I had been pretty detached during the session. Not much insight and little enthusiasm for talking about myself. I think I was struggling with this part of myself who doesn't think I have DID or any history of abused and the part that wants to move forward and get everything out in the open. So I felt anxious. I must have started to come round by the end of the session because I remember asking New Psychologist what she thinks happened to me given everything she knows about me now. I remember her talking in the way psychologists do (you know, how they tend to avoid answering questions directly?) about how in time, through processing it will become more clear to me and that it is perhaps a combination of things. She talked about what some of these things were. I remember her saying she is sure my childhood was difficult, or something and I remember she used the words 'must have been awful... pretty awful'.

I started feeling like I was spinning round, like I was sitting on a tiny roundabout... or maybe I was the roundabout. I closed my eyes and tried to hold onto the chair. NP asked me what happened if I opened my eyes... I tried it and found that I could see that I was in fact, sitting still in a chair and not spinning. But then the room started to move instead. I remember the boxes behind her going left, right, left, right, left, right.... everything going left, right... fast; not slowly. Fast. It was weird. I felt tears in my eyes. I felt far away, everything muffled... the need to close my eyes was strong. The need to disappear was strong. Fighting it is hard.

I remember that I could hear her calling my name over and over. I think she was clapping in my ears and clicking her fingers... but it seemed far away, not strong enough to help. This must have gone on for a while because I remember her going out of the room and coming back to tell me someone else was waiting to come in but I was stuck. I was half there and half gone. After a while she asked if Grace could come out to help. Grace hasn't been around in a long time. I tried to ask Grace to come but I couldn't find her. Then after some time I just suddenly found myself back, like someone flicked a switch and the light went on.

I grabbed my bag and headed for the door, apologising. NP was telling me about my next appointment but I didn't want to wait around in case I dissociated again. She called after me: "Candy, can you go into the toilet because you have some black mascara on your face?" I nodded and went into the toilet to find my face looking like someone had drawn stripes on me with black paint. I cleaned myself up and stood at the sink. My breath was coming too fast. I felt... I don't know what you call it. Grief? Pain? I needed to be present but I needed to go away. I must have spent a long time in the bathroom. I remember leaning over the toilet with my fingers down my throat and not being able to vomit because I had no food in my stomach. I remember vomiting up acid and it covering my hand and it felt smooth and slimy and smelt like having the flu as a child and vomiting up bile. I remember thinking how it felt smooth like semen and maybe I was vomiting up all the badness that's been put inside me ever. I wished.

It must have been a long time because then NP was knocking on the bathroom door asking if I was OK. I croaked that I was. Then she was asking me to come out and I said I was. Then she was knocking again and saying in a loud and put out voice that I needed to come out because the toilet was for use by everyone in the department and I couldn't stay in there. I felt afraid and mortified and wondered if I could climb out the window and never come back. I knew everyone in the department would have heard that because it's small. She used my name. I don't know how I'll show my face there again.

I wiped my face and washed my hands and got myself together and headed out the door as quickly as I could. I heard her saying: "See you next week" as I rushed out but I didn't look round or answer her. I got to my car and sat with my head in my hands for a long time. By the time I was together enough to drive home it was after midday. My session had started at nine thirty so I must have been dissociated for a long time, in the session, in the bathroom or in my car.

At home I sat staring at the TV for a while but by about 2pm I was exhausted. I rang the psychology department and left a message for NP to ring me as I realised I needed to check my next appointment time with her... I also wanted to apologise. Then I got into bed and slept for four hours solid.

That was last Thursday and I guess I've been a bit of a zombie ever since. I have been dithering about what to do this week. I really don't feel like going back for more. I just want to curl up and let it all disappear and never have to think about pain or the past or New Psychologist or T again. I don't have the energy for it. I want to just not go to my session this week but I feel it is wrong to just not turn up when she has to drive to get to my appointment in T's old office. She could be helping someone else. But I don't want to have to ring her either. Either she'll encourage me to come or she'll say that is fine and I think either way I won't be happy.

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.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

A tale of two therapists

Things are winding up with New Psychologist as T's return is imminent. When I first heard she was returning I was over the moon, as you'd imagine. T had been my psychologist for three years before she left at the end of last year and if you have read some of my blog posts this year you may have picked up that New Psychologist and I didn't exactly get on like a house on fire. Although in recent weeks we seem to have managed to reach some kind of stability in our relationship... well we haven't had any more arguments and she has stopped constantly interrupting me; it didn't mean I wasn't still very happy about the prospect of going back to work with 'my T'. I've been thinking about the differences between the two in their approaches and that is what I am going to ramble about today...

The two therapists are very different in their approaches but I like aspects of both. They both have ways of working that I find really helpful. If I could take what I like from each of them and combine them into one therapist I would be flying. T is an extremely good listener. She really listens. I mean, there's listening and then there's really listening. She doesn't just try to look like she's listening, she really takes in what I'm saying to understand it and reflects it back to me in a way that makes it seem so much clearer. What goes on in the head of someone with DID is likely to be complex, so I generally don't understand it myself or if I do, don't feel capable of putting it articulately into words.  I mumble and stumble my way through attempts at trying to express what's going on in my head and T listens and gets inside there with me and we figure it out together and then she puts it into lovely words that make me look at her in awe and wonder how she 'gets' me so well. I feel understood and well, if you have DID you will know how rare and special it would be to feel understood. If you don't have DID, you may be able to appreciate how it might feel for someone who lives their life with stuff going on in it that would make the average person back away in dismay and avoid you for fear of what a crazy person like you might do to them if you told them about it all (I have learnt that lesson: some people just can't handle that kind of information).

So yeah, T understands and it's great... and that is really important for me. I can't emphasise how important that is for me. I wouldn't swap it. But at the same time, as well as being understood, I need help to change. I need actual techniques and tools used with me. I'm not saying T doesn't implement these: she does. She's been helping me move towards EMDR and I could write a list of the ways in which she has helped me (I keep meaning to do that actually). I don't really mean 'but' when I say I need techniques. I just mean, I 'also' need techniques and this is where I like New Psychologist's approach. She is all about techniques, tools and evidence based practise.

New Psychologist is not such a great listener. She certainly can be a good listener when she wants to be. Sometimes I have felt she is listening attentively, but she is also extremely analytical and sometimes I can almost hear the cogs in her brain going as she tries to analyse what I am saying before I have even gotten to the point of what I'm trying to say. That's not bad in itself except that I do feel it sometimes gets in the way of her actually hearing what it is that I'm saying. She has at times been so quick to want to tell me the meaning behind things that she hasn't actually let me finish. It's like I start to tell her something and she thinks "Ah yes, I know this one" and wants to give me the answer, but she doesn't always get it right. At best this is off putting and makes me lose my train of thought. At worst, it is infuriating. I do really, really, really like hearing insights though and being invited to hear what her analyses of things are.

T is not so open about what she's thinking. She listens, reflects and asks questions but she doesn't often give her own views. I had thought this was how all psychologists work actually, but New Psychologist doesn't work that way at all. She informs me. She says things like 'what you're saying would tend to match with what people who have experienced x, y and z tend to report'. Then she will back that up by telling me about this or that research study and how so many percent of people with this or that experience that or this and so on. I like that. It helps me to understand things better and it gives me confidence that she knows her stuff. I can also ask NP questions. I don't tend to ask T questions, mainly because she doesn't offer views really so I don't like to ask for them. NP is very keen to give her views so it's easy for me to ask her for information or views.

She also does A LOT of background reading and comes with tools and techniques that she has read about which are used for people with trauma histories, dissociation etc. She gives me practical advice on things to try. At the start this was not helpful. Remember how I was devastated about losing T and I really just needed someone to listen and tell me that they understood that I must be feeling rough? New Psychologist's approach was to do none of that but to tell me I needed to find internal resources to cope and then to suggest I try things like 'having a bath', 'watching some TV' or 'painting my nails'. I was feeling frustrated because I just wanted a listening ear and some support and besides, I felt I had been doing those things to try to cope already and found it patronising. Now that I am in a better place emotionally than I was at the start of the year, the practical techniques and things I can do myself at home to help me cope with difficulties are really helpful.

New psychologist and I have also been discussing attachment disorders and how my history and descriptions suggest that I have an attachment disorder of the disorganised variety. This is something I have been sure about for a while myself after reading a small amount about these but it's been interesting and helpful to be able to talk about it with a psychologist who can hear my descriptions and feedback her views about it. I might talk about this more in another post because I think it's also relevant in relation to my feelings about T.

Other things I have noticed about T compared to New Psychologist and vice versa are: T has an excellent memory. It amazes me how she remembers such details about me. NP's memory is not poor, she seems to have an ability to remember facts and statistics and can quote these with ease but her memory for details about me is more average. Probably still better than many but not as great as T's.

I like NP's approach to talking to alters. She directly asks if I can get a certain part to come out and I have found this helpful. T doesn't do that. Although she's made it clear that she is happy to talk to any parts, she doesn't ask for them and although I know that's probably more the advised way of doing things, it doesn't help me to let them out, given that my natural tendency is to try to hold them back and appear 'normal'.

Lastly, and I think this is a big one: T sees the best in people. You kind of learn that from talking to her. She respects me in her way of talking and relating to me without questioning what I am saying ie, if I describe a situation or incident, she goes on the basis of what I am saying being what actually happened. With NP, she hears what I'm saying but shows that she is thinking that what I am saying is only my judgement on what happened. She questions my statements and says that maybe it wasn't that way but that's just how I perceive it. This really pisses me off because I am not the kind of person to just see everything from my own perspective and I try extremely hard to always be objective and if I'm describing situations to stick with the facts or at least say that I am guessing it might be this but I could be wrong. I don't need that kind of intervention to help me be reasonable and I find this disrespectful because it seems she just assumes that I would have unrealistic perceptions or biased views. T believes whatever I say, or if she doesn't she doesn't confront me in that way. She also shows that she believes there is good in everyone. I get a sense from NP that she is more suspicious of everyone. It's like you have to earn NP's trust, whereas T is more of the view that she will trust you until you give her reason not to. I really like T's positive outlook on things.

Although I will miss NP's very intellectual approach, her shared analysis and her use of various tools and techniques which have greatly helped me manage some of the troublesome day to day aspects of DID such as flashbacks and unhealthy grounding behaviours as well as the chronic fatigue symptoms, I am looking forward to getting back together with T and the sense of a trusting relationship and respect.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Tired of being tired

Am I taking three steps forward and two steps back, two steps forward and three steps back or am I actually not going anywhere at all? I'd like to think I am gradually seeing progress but at times I feel so shit it's hard to believe it.

The good news is, I have had some treatment for the genetic disorder I was diagnosed with in January and now my tests are showing that my blood is normal at the moment. I'll be getting more treatment in the summer but for now things are OK. The bad news is, I'm still having a lot of symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome. I knew that fatigue is a symptom of the genetic disorder but I was told that my symptoms were likely to be due also to CFS. I had just hoped the doctors were wrong and that once my blood was back to normal I would feel great. I don't think my doctor could quite understand why I was so disappointed when she felt she was giving me the good news that my blood is now OK.

No, it's not all bad. There has been overall progress. In general, I have more physical energy. I am learning, with the help of New Psychologist (Yes, I'm as surprised as you are: she has actually helped me), the importance of pacing myself and not overdoing things on days where I feel good. I don't always succeed with this. Recently I went to a wedding and Shan came out. She's one of the other parts and is pretty much the polar opposite of me: extroverted, energetic and carefree. The switch lead to three hours solid of dancing... and I'm not talking about swaying from foot to foot to pass yourself. Shan loves the feeling of knowing that people are watching her. She likes the eyes and the expressions of admiration and the comments about her being a real party animal. She knows how to move in a way that looks good, unlike me. She likes the attention. I can't imagine anything worse to be honest. My ideal day at a wedding party would be to be completely invisible. It does amaze me how there can be someone in me who feels so differently than I do.

I was back in control a few times during the evening and while out getting a pint of water to try and replace the gallons I had sweat out on the dance floor, people I didn't even know where making comments. Some guy walked past while I was talking to a girl and said "Now there's a girl who can dance". I'm sure he wondered why I look at him so quizzically, but I was thinking to myself that he must need his eyes tested because I would never put dancing on a list of things I can do. People who know me but obviously only know 'me' were surprised at that side of me. Adam, who was not so much into dancing said that a lot of people were commenting to him how surprised they were at me and some people said it to me: things like "You're crazy Candy" (don't I know it!), ''You're a party animal" and "Are you running on batteries?" Someone also suggested that they thought I might be on drugs. I'm not, by the way. I don't even drink alcohol.

Anyway, I digress. I knew I would pay for Shan's fun the next day and boy did I pay. By seven am I was up puking my guts out and every muscle in my body was aching. I spent the next day alternating between puking and lying on the sofa moaning. It's not fair to suffer for a night out in this way when I don't even drink. I know not one sip of alcohol crossed my lips, even as Shan (Goodness, imagine what she'd be like if she did drink).

So yeah, pacing is important. Thanks New Psychologist for enlightening me about that. It seems so obvious to me now but her analysis of my charts where I recorded fatigue, stress dissociation, pain and what I was doing each hour for two weeks really did show me how badly I have been going wrong with my boom and bust tactics. She has now set me daily goals for maximum amount of time I can do activity for and I am to break things up and take regular breaks. I am not always succeeding, as you can see, but I am seeing that it really does help. It doesn't take away the chronic fatigue but it is helping me manage it. Sometimes there is a benefit to being told what seems obvious.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Ideas for therapists: how to prepare us for your leaving

Ahh my precious! (I'm talking to my laptop which is now all fixed up as good as new) It's good to be back on the Internet and I've missed blogging however now that it comes to it I'm feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to catch up my blog with everything I wanted to talk to you about. It's kind of all a blur. In fact, is it actually almost May? It's hard to take in. So I don't know if I'm going to try to systematically relay everything in order. I'll just get started and see where things go...

I guess when people talk about having a breakdown they are talking about the sort of thing I have gone through since the start of the year. I guess, you could say that I had a breakdown. I tend to refer to it as a 'crash'. It has been on the cards for a good while. Like I told the psychiatrist who gently pointed out that I have coped with plenty of stuff in recent years like my parents breaking up, leaving the controlling 'church' I grew up in, being bullied at uni, moving house lots, getting married etc... and asked "what's happened now to make it all go tits up?".. I have been holding on by my finger nails for the past year or so and was using all of my resources just to keep going with a 'normal' life. My psychologist, T's departure in December after being with her for three years was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It feels silly to me that I should be so affected by someone who's only role in my life is as a health professional treating me, the patient. But the relationship between a therapist and client is not like the one you might have with your optician or dentist. It can be allowed to grow to a deeper understanding and can feel like a strong and important bond has developed. I used to think that the way I felt about T was pure and simple transference, where the feelings you have are simply unconscious re-enactments of your feelings about relationships with important people from your childhood. I don't say transference doesn't come into the equation here, however in the months since she has been gone and through the ups and downs of being treated by a new psychologist I have come to realise that it wasn't 'just' that. T is a person and has a personality. I got to know some aspects of her personality, at least and she some of mine/ours. I had grown to be fond of her way and we had developed a way of communicating with each other. I feel we had a respect for each other that was based on our shared time together. I feel we had a real relationship, whether or not it was confined to her office for an hour a week. I believe no one could ever replace the bond we have built and that she will always hold an important place in my heart for the rest of my life.

Perhaps for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder especially, it cannot be underestimated how big an impact the departure of a therapist can be for the patient. I'm sure all good therapists know that it could be difficult, but do they really know? To be hurt as an infant or young child by people who are closest to you can feel like an abandonment so overwhelming that you must split the hurt from your consciousness into another functioning part of your personality. You soon learn that the people who love you, hurt you. You learn to be wary and not get too attached to people. You may grow up with motto's in your mind like 'trust no one' and 'people will always hurt you if you let them get too close'. The you go along to therapy and go through a painful and slow process of learning to trust someone with small things, then bigger things, all the while waiting for the 'inevitable' hurt that will come with it. Maybe you might even get through that hang up and start to believe that this person won't hurt you after all... and then they tell you they are leaving you. This abandonment is huge and not only painful in itself but brings back the pain of all the other hurts ever experienced.

Is it a coincidence that since T left at the end of December I have struggled so much more than I have in years with flashbacks, intrusive images and nightmares? I doubt it.

I am lucky though; my T should be coming back. God help me if things change and she doesn't because I have been counting down the months until she returns. What I would like to tell you therapists out there is that you may think you understand that your departure is difficult for your patient, but you quite possibly have no idea how hard it will be for them. One thing that didn't happen for me was preparation. Even though I knew that my therapist was going to be going away at some point for over a year before she did, I actually only got a couple of weeks notice when she found out when she was going for sure. This didn't leave much time to do any preparatory work. If you have to leave your clients, for their sake, please prepare them properly. If I can prevent one person from having to go through something like the last four months of my life have been I will be a happy Candy. It's not pretty. I am a high functioning person. I usually hold down a full time job as a health professional and I feel I have determination to more than survive the things that have held me back in life. But I almost didn't make it through January. Please don't take any chances that your patient might just be alright because even if they seem strong and stable, it's going to be really hard.

I would like to think that as a therapist you know much better than I do how to prepare a client for your leaving but just in case you'd like a patient perspective, here are some things that I thought of that might have helped me:

  • As much notice as possible of your departure. This time will be really important to discuss and plan for your departure.
  • Tell your patient the reason you're going. You might think it's none of their business but this was really hard for me: I feel so attached to my T and gain a sense of stability in my everyday life from knowing that she was at work etc. Sometimes it helped me to get out of bed when things were really hard. I'd think 'T will be getting ready for work now too' and that would help inspire me. Some people with DID might also struggle with what's 'real' and not. I know T is real when I know she's at work. Her leaving and not giving me any idea what she'd be doing, not only meant I lost that sense of stability, but also meant I couldn't believe she was real anymore. I had no template for what she might be doing. I also worried that she was really ill and going to die. If you've built up a good relationship, surely they deserve to know at least something.
  • Let them talk to you about how they feel about you going. As much as I love my T, we couldn't really discuss my feelings about her going without her getting defensive. This was extremely difficult for us as we were already hurting and to not be able to talk about it added to that. I guess she may have been having her own struggles with guilt about leaving and this was reflected in her responses. Just try to keep that for your own therapy. Your client needs to be able to talk about their feelings as many times as they want to and your job is to listen and understand, not argue or become defensive.
  • Arrange more support for them to help them cope in the initial weeks after you go. I cope fine usually and therapy once a week is OK for me but after my therapist left I needed more support and this wasn't readily available. My new psychologist did not know or understand me and did not take my requests for support seriously. She couldn't comprehend how badly I was coping. She had no context of what I am usually like. I was having overwhelming thoughts of suicide and another part was trying to follow through with plans to kill my body. This could have been prevented or helped so much better. I also lacerated my wrist and will now have that scar forever. I know I did this (part of me) and I don't blame anyone else for that, but I do believe if things had been better planned and help had been available I wouldn't have gotten to the stage where I felt doing that was my only option. 
  • Be really nice to your patient before you go. OK there's probably a better way of wording that but let me explain: I'm sure I'm not the only person with DID who expects that the person they have become attached to is going to hate them and be angry with them. I was able to leave a psychology session feeling OK but have convinced myself by the next one that my therapist despises me and can't wait to see the back of me. I don't know if she did this on purpose but I felt she showed me more warmth and made me feel more secure about her feelings for me in the last few meetings before she left. This helped me to feel secure that she doesn't hate me and I took a positive image of her with me. This just made things a tiny bit easier at times. It's not crossing boundaries to let your clients know that they are cared for.
  • Phase out and phase in. This is just my opinion: but I certainly would have liked to meet my new psychologist before my old one left. This could have helped me to know what to expect. Maybe phasing out with T could have softened the blow as well.
  • Deal with issues about the patient's information. I found it hard moving to a new therapist who had a tree's worth of paper in my file with information that I don't even know about myself (ie things other parts might have said to my therapist etc). I was now faced with someone I didn't know or trust who immediately knew more about me than I know about myself. I think one simple solution to this would have been to give me a copy of my notes so I'd know exactly what my new psychologist was getting and then I wouldn't have felt so paranoid. There may be reasons why that might not be a good idea though. I never asked for this to happen but I still find the 'not knowing how much new psychologist knows' thing an issue.
  • Make sure the therapist taking over knows important things like what your client's triggers are. The last thing we want is to go to meet a new therapist who says something that is too triggering and causes severe dissociation. I felt it was important that any new person taking over would know what words they can't say and little things that are important to me like 'Candy doesn't like you to walk round behind her' etc.
  • If you are coming back try to give them a good idea as to when. This can be tricky as you might not be sure but I think it's important to give some idea of when you'll be back. 
  • Tell your client that it is going to be difficult. I have had two therapists leave me now. The first time I had no idea that I was going to crash the way I did. I had some naive ideas that his departure was going to be cathartic and that he would somehow take all my problems with him. I didn't know what was coming to me and it was a huge shock to react the way I did. This time round my therapist wisely said that we should take it for granted that it is going to be very difficult. She was right to say this and I think back on that and it helps me to feel less like 'why am I feeling this way?'.
I'm sure there are other things that could help but those are some of my ideas anyway. Maybe I'll write a post about what could help if you're taking over care from another therapist, although if you read my posts from the last few months you'll get a fair idea of the hazards that can come with that job. I hope this has been helpful. I'm not one for exaggerating things but I truly believe that the past four months since my psychologist left have been some of the hardest months I've lived through in my adulthood and I believe that although it was inevitably going to be painful, it could have been made easier.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Still here! Still arguing with my psychologist!

I haven't quit blogging! I still haven't managed to get my laptop fixed though so it's difficult to write and read as much as I'd like to at the moment. Sad me. Sad, sad me. I miss my blogging friends and the support this blog provides me. Writing here and reading about other people who share similar experiences to me has been one of the greatest things the Internet has offered me and has helped me over the last few years to know that I am not alone in the things I experience in my life with dissociative identity disorder and dissociation in general.

Living in Northern Ireland it's easy to get to thinking there is no one else like me out there. I am reminded of this every week with my new psychologist as I can almost see her internal panic rising each time I visit her and she struggles with something that's so new to her. I'm sure there are others around me with this condition. The Internet brings me in touch with people across the world who have similar issues and this is reassuring. I hope also that in some small way other people might get something from my blog. I know it's not for everyone... maybe not for many at all actually, but even if someone feels it's helpful to them then that makes me feel really happy.

Things are ticking along for me. I've been off work sick now for three months. The plan is that I will start a phased return to work in May. This week is the first I have been able to think about the prospect of returning to work without feeling completely overwhelmed, so that's progress. I have been on some medication now for a few months too and I guess that may be helping, although I still have days where I wonder if it is doing anything at all. But at least I'm not thinking about killing myself all the time and I haven't self harmed in... gosh, it must be nearly six weeks? Over a month anyway. I'm pleased about that. I wouldn't say things are great, but I do think things have settled down a good deal.

NP is still both delighting and infuriating me. I will catch you up on that hopefully soon because there have been a few sessions I haven't told you about now. One week it goes great and the next it's a disaster. We had another fall out last week because we got to talking about an argument I'd had with Adam and she made a huge assumption and accused me of thinking that Adam is a bad person because of something small that is consistently unreliable about him. She was trying to BPD pigeonhole me again... which confuses me because I outright asked her a few weeks ago if she thought I had BPD because of her frequent references to it and she said she didn't. Anyway, I told her she was making assumptions and we argued about it a bit.

I stewed over this all weekend and thought over the conversation and got to realising she had misunderstood me. At my next session we talked about it again and I explained that I felt she had misunderstood me. I also confronted her about the way she interrupts me a lot and I told her that sometimes it seems like she's not listening. I said that I felt she was perhaps anxious about working with me because of my condition and that sometimes I sense she is nervous. I said I felt she has a very intellectual approach and that sometimes I can almost see her brain working over things while I'm talking: like she's trying to figure out what to do, but it means she's not really hearing what I'm saying. I said that if this was the case she would be better off just relaxing and trying to get to know me better. Phwew! I give her a run for her money don't I?!

Well, I said all of that in a gentle way and it was a really useful conversation in the end actually. She seemed to really be listening and wasn't defensive. She then told me that she does feel a bit anxious about my condition because it's new to her and she's learning as she goes and finding her way through it. She thanked me for being patient with her and she said she was aware that I have already forgiven her for a few things. I guess she was referring to all the other times she has pissed me off since January.

We talked a little bit about the differences between her and T (my usual psychologist who is off for a while) and she admitted that she feels a bit of pressure because T is her boss. She didn't explain very well exactly what that pressure is. She said that it impacts on what she can and can't do. I'm guessing though that the pressure she feels is that she will be judged by T and so she's anxious about doing a 'good job' with me. You know, maybe that's why she coped SO badly when I had that huge crisis in January. Maybe she felt it would suggest to T that she hadn't done her job properly if T came back and I'd fallen apart completely, or worse: if I wasn't here anymore. I really don't think T will make any judgements like that on NP.

We moved on to other things anyway but then at the end she said: "I feel like I have to say: I am really interested  in your welfare. I do care about what happens to your mental health and your well being. I empathise with your position; I think it sounds like you've been through a lot and I think it must be difficult and confusing. I am trying to help. I'm not always going to get it right."

I felt a bit sorry for her after that! I offered that in a way I feel perhaps that I want to be angry with her because it's easier for me if I am because I don't want to risk having positive feelings for someone else and then lose them again. After all, this is temporary. T is coming back in the summer. Hopefully.

I will tell you more about what else has been occuring in my sessions and in life in general. Tomorrow I have to go to see a psychiatrist (Arrrgh!). I've been referred by my work's occupational health. I've been told it's just to see if there are any medications that could help me better than the one I'm currently on so hopefully I'm not going to get interrogated and it would be good to know if there was anything better I could take.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Switching to alter part during therapy session: Pan

Pan is a child part in the system of parts that make up me as a person. Pan wants to be neither boy nor girl but if he had to chose would be a boy so that's why we call Pan a 'he'. Just so you know. Last week Pan got to talk to the new psychologist in my session and that was pretty huge for all of us because it's always been a struggle for me to give up control and let one of the other parts take over like that in therapy. At home, it's not a big deal at all. In fact, sometimes I feel like I hardly get a look in! But that's because I trust Adam a lot and there's no danger or risk involved in him communicating with other parts.

The conversation with New Psychologist went something like this:

NP: Are you shy, Pan?

Pan nods

NP: thank you for your letter last week. It was very good. It was interesting about the milk and cats. (Pan laughs). Did you do any writing this week?

Pan: No

NP: Do you write letters to other people?

Pan: Sometimes to T

NP: OK. Do you miss T? Pan nods

NP: Aww. You're fond of her:? You've got to know her?

Pan: Yes... is she gonna come back?

NP: Yes. Yes... Did T help you?

Pan: Nods. She's nice.

NP: She's a nice lady. And what about Adam?

Pan: He's my friend.

NP: Is he your best friend? (Pan nods). That's good. It's nice to have a best friend. Do you ever make anything for Adam? (Pan nods) What things?

Pan: Like... pictures

NP: Is he pleased when he sees them?

Pan: Yeah... but he doesn't... he doesn't think I'm a boy.

NP: Doesn't he? What does he think you are?

Pan: He thinks I'm a girl.

NP: Oh... can you think of a way of letting him know that you're a boy?

Pan: I tell him but he says I don't have a willy.

NP: So he doesn't see it the way you see it. Can you disagree and still be friends?

Pan: Yeah... I get cross... He says 'it's ok'.

NP: So Adam doesn't mind if sometimes you're cross?

Pan: No. I shout at him.

NP: He doesn't get upset? He understands (Pan nods). What type of things upset you?

Pan: Emm... I don't like people bossing me around!

NP: You don't like being told what to do? Does Adam try that?

Pan: Sometimes he tells me "You can't have sweets! You won't eat your dinner!" and I say: "I can do what I want to do!"

NP: Do you know why he might say that? (Pan shakes head) Did you know sweets are bad for your teeth? And maybe Adam worries about your teeth?

Pan: I only eat them sometimes!

NP: Mm. Sometimes is OK but Adam doesn't like it before dinner? Does he let you have some after dinner?

Pan: Yep. He can't tell me what to do!

NP: Do you listen to any grown ups? Some grown ups are angry and bossy and that's not nice but some can keep you safe.

Pan: Shakes head. I can look after myself

NP: Do you know Candy? (Pan nods) Do you listen to Candy? (shrugs) So Candy's not bossy?

Pan: Sometimes.

NP: So is Candy your friend? How old is Candy?

Pan: She's a lady. She's 28.

NP: OK. And she's not too bossy? She's a nice lady to have around and know about? And does she ever tell you to take care or be careful? (Pan nods). And you can see that she's being nice?

Pan: Sometimes she says "You can't come out now because it's not your time and you have to wait" and I have to wait then.

NP asked about this a bit. If Pan gets upset about waiting etc.

Pan: I like to just do what I wanna do.

NP: Yeah. And what do you like to do?

Pan: Emmmm.... I like... emmm.... playing?

NP: Yes. Can you tell me with what?

Pan: I like drawing pictures. I like my teddies. I got two (holds two fingers up). One is Winnie and one is Cherry and they sleep with me all the time and Winnie went to New Zealand with me and when we went, Winnie drove the caravan (laughs)

NP: Ooh!

Pan: And when we went to Australia, he got kidnapped.

NP: Oh. and did you get him back?

Pan: Yeah. He was in a bag and he couldn't breathe.

NP: Aww. Oh dear. He's a very well travelled bear isn't he?

Pan: Yep. He has to go everywhere.

NP: OK. So he gets to see a lot of things.

Pan: Yeah. And I put goggles on him and a hair band and he looked funny (giggles) and he wears a T shirt cos he needs to have a bath...

NP: So you pretend sometimes that he's doing human things?

Pan: He's like my friend...

Pan: I've only got one shoe on (points at foot).

NP: I know.

Pan: I don't like having shoes on. (takes other one off)

NP: Yes they can get sweaty and tight can't they? So you like to draw and write...

Pan: Ice cream! And I like cinema. I didn't get to do that before... a long time ago. And I like... Picnics! I like go out to where the sea is.

NP: Very nice. it's lovely to like the fresh air. And do you choose somewhere nice?

Pan: (Nods) I like Bangor.

NP: Very nice. That's by the sea? That's lovely

Pan: (nods) And one time we went to the one... Crawfordsburn? and we took my teddy and we had a picnic and it was really cold and I had a big blanket on and a hat and a coat and umbrella (giggles).

NP: Mmm! So I've heard this about you Pan. I've heard sometimes you put clothes on and Candy doesn't like them. Is that right?

Pan: She wears like... girly things!

NP: You don't like what she wears either? (Pan shakes head) But you wear things that are warm and keep you covered and that's all you're bothered by?

Pan: Comfortable. I like my clothes today (looks down at track bottoms and hoody)

NP: Mmm. So you like to feel relaxed? That's a good feeling, yeah?

Pan: Yep. I like pyjamas... even though most of them are Little C's but I don't mind that.

NP: OK and does Little C mind you wearing them? (Pan shakes head) And is little C your friend?

Pan: Yeah (smiles) She's cute

NP: And I've heard that you look after her and you're good to her as well (Pan nods). That's a nice thing. Do you worry about her a little bit?

Pan: (sounding sad) Mmm. Sometimes she gets.. em... scared and things.

NP: Aww. And can you help her?

Pan: I don't know

NP: What do you try?

Pan: I get frustrated

NP: Would you ever tell her a story or sing her a song

Pan: Erm... one time I drew her a picture with lots of hearts cos she likes hearts and blue and pink... she likes pink. But Candy helped.

NP: That's OK. That's nice. And did Little C like it? Did it help?

Pan: Yeah... and Candy wrote on the back that she didn't have to be scared and nice things.

NP: So did you make that because she was scared?

Pan: Yeah. She doesn't like monsters.

NP: Mmm. Monsters can be scary... or do you not find them scary.

Pan (shrugs): maybe

NP: Have you seen any monsters in the cinema (Pan nods). Do you know they're not real?

Pan: I just cover my eyes. I try and go and see only... I don't go if it's a... big film.

NP: Mmm. So if it's scary just, 'yuck, no... they're for older boys'. (Pan nods)


NP: So did you see Candy's mum when she stayed in the house? (Pan nods) Was that OK for her to stay in the house?

Pan: (shrugs) I don't know!

NP: Was it nice to have her stay?

Pan: She's... she's nice sometimes....


Pan: She doesn't know about me.

NP: So you have to stay hidden sometimes... but sometimes you were around when Candy was in bed and Candy's mum was in bed as well. I just wondered if you knew she was there?

Pan: (nods and mumbles about someone putting things against the door: part had tried to block my bedroom door when my mum stayed recently and Adam was away. This is what NP is asking about)

NP: So sometimes she OK, sometimes she's alright? And the other times?

Pan: She's like two.... two people... two! (holds up two fingers)

NP: She's different?

Pan: Two! Yeah

NP: Mmm. That's confusing. Isn't it?

Pan: You have to figure it out and then you know... she's like that one...

NP: Mmm and can you work it out?

Pan: Candy does it

NP: And does she tell you?

Pan: I just listen to Candy when she's in charge and I can hear... she says "Ugh she's like two different people!"

NP: OK. That's very tricky. Very tricky Pan... for you.

Pan: (shrugs) Well I don't have a mum so...

NP: You don't see Candy's mum much? Do you think it's good not to have a mum? (Pan nods) Why is it good?

Pan: No bossies!

NP: No bossies... I could see why you wouldn't want to have a dad because of the bossing... but you don't want a mum either? (Pan shakes head) Would you like one that was two people? (Pan shakes head) No. That would give you a headache, wouldn't it? (Pan laughs) Mmm. That would make your head sore (Pan laughs more).

NP: OK Pan I'm going to ask you to go inside and get Candy and ask her to come back out again

Pan: Will I be able to come back again?

NP: You can come back again of course. I'd be happy for that. We'll both make sure that happens. I promise.

Pan: Do you not like me?

NP: I do like you. I do. I've only just met you but I like you. I think you're a clever child and interesting... and funny. A little bit fun and a little bit funny.

Pan giggles

NP: Yes. And interested in interesting things... but I realise some of that's only new. It's a shame you didn't know about it earlier.

Pan: About what?

NP: About the cinema.

Pan: Yeah

NP: It's good to have things you can do to switch off and it seems like you chose things which are good for children as well and that's a good thing.

Pan: Candy lets me.

NP: That's a good idea.

Pan: And... well... (pauses)... maybe I'll tell you next time

NP: OK. Will you remember? OK. Well you can see how you feel next time and maybe you can tell me then.

Pan: OK. And... (giggles) she's probably gonna be embarrassed (points at feet and my psychedelic socks) cos I got funny socks.

NP: That's alright. It's only a small thing. Even if Candy had come in here today and taken her shoes I wouldn't have been surprised because it's sweaty and warm and this room is too hot. So I'll see you again Pan but now will you go and get Candy and I'll see you again.

Pan: OK

NP: Bye

long silence

Pan: I'm still here (giggles)

NP: Are you?! (Laughs) Can you get Candy back?

Pan: I'm trying!

NP: You're trying. If you can tell Candy that once she comes back I'll get us both a glass of water...

Then I came back to the front and Pan went back and that was that. It must be visibly obvious when I switch because NP knew as soon as Pan came out and as soon as I came back. I wonder what she sees? Anyway, I don't know how interesting all of the above has been to you but there we have it. It was a great relief for me to see other parts talking rather than the old way of feeling them trying to speak but me being too scared to let them out.

Bye for now!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Arguing with my new psychologist... again

I have missed blogging. Unfortunately my laptop screen has broken. I can still link it up to the TV and use the laptop via the TV screen but there is little opportunity to do that with Adam about all the time and him wanting to watch the TV or play his PS3. He's gone away a couple of times this year for trips and although I didn't like him being away, I have to admit, I did enjoy feeling like the living room was mine. We don't really share the same interests when it comes to TV. Generally we end up watching 'compromise' programmes, which are ones we both enjoy but neither of us love. When he's away I can watch my sad programmes like 'Home and Away' and 'Supernnanny' to my heart's content without feeling guilty. I also really liked having a bed to myself. It's funny because when Adam's at home, I can't sleep if he's not in bed, which means if I want to have a good sleeping routine, it relies on him getting to be on time as well. Yet, when he went away, I realised that the quality of my sleep once I do actually fall asleep is so much better. No one pulling the covers off me or breathing in my face. Sometimes I get tired of him being around the house all the time. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Anyway, I digress. I didn't come here to complain about Adam.

You have missed out on two of my therapy sessions with New Psychologist, both of which have been ones worth talking about. Last week, I was just starting to relax after the rocky start we got off to and then we fell out again. Sigh. Remember before when I had emailed her and she didn't bother to reply and then lectured me about how I should 'bring things to the session' if I wanted her to look at them because she didn't have time to read things in between sessions? Well, I took on board what she had said and that was fine. She had asked me briefly three weeks ago about the stuff that has been going on with my dad lately. I haven't really talked to you about all of that; it's on the long finger. Anyway, she suggested that we would talk about it at the next session (two weeks ago). So between that session and the next I emailed her the emails that had been exchanged between my dad and I. I remembered what she said about 'bringing things to the session' so I just asked her in the email if she could print them off so that we could look at them during the session, as I don't have  a printer. I didn't think that would be a huge problem. I used to email stuff to T all the time and she had no problem with it at all.

Of course I was wrong. She confronted me at the next session by saying that I shouldn't be emailing her between sessions. I tried to explain that it was just so that she could print the things... but she talked to me about how it's a 'boundary issue' and that I should not have any contact with her between sessions other than in an emergency and that should be via telephone to the receptionists.

Well, I don't handle confrontation well, but I certainly let her know how I felt. I told her that she had agreed at the start when I asked her if it was OK for me to email her things and that she had then later changed her mind and said I should bring things to the session 'where possible'. I said that I try really hard to do the right things and that I didn't think I had done anything inappropriate in emailing her something to print because I wasn't able to bring it. Obviously, when she said that I should try to bring things to the session and if it was an emergency to contact her by phone, she hadn't been clear that she meant 'don't contact me at all unless it is an emergency'. It's not my problem if she doesn't have the balls to say what she means but expects me to understand anyway, is it?

She then tried to lecture me about it being a 'boundary issue'. She talked a bit about boundaries, which really pushed my buttons because if anyone hasn't been in the right about boundaries it's her: changing the goal posts all the time. I said: "I don't need you to tell me about boundaries! I have no problem keeping boundaries and if anything I worry about them too much!" I then repeated my reasoning about why I sent it. And it went on a bit like that. At one point she decided to also add into her argument that it's also not very easy for her to get things printed and that I should know, working in the health service and all, that resources are finite blah blah blah. I said in a sarcastic tone: "I'm sorry for asking you to print something." She responded kind of nervously: "Are you sorry?.. because you don't sound very sincere." and I replied: "No" and we both laughed: her nervously and me, ironically.

The discussion kind of ran in stops and starts over the course of the session, except that it was interspersed with sections where she tried to move on and I went quiet and refused to talk to her, which then forced her to have to re confront the issue. I was angry and I wasn't about to start confiding in her about my other problems when I felt angry about what had happened. That's just trying to brush things under the carpet and if our rocky start taught me anything it's that avoiding confrontation gets me nowhere.

So eventually, after coming back to the issue for the third or fourth time, or possibly fifth, I talked about how I always try to 'be right' and do the right things and that a lot of times in my life there were rules that you didn't know existed until you broke one and that I didn't think it was wrong what I did. She eventually also apologised and said that she hadn't meant to 'sound harsh' and that she didn't think I did anything unreasonable but that perhaps it's just difficult for her if she sees an email from me and she worries that it's something urgent that she may have missed etc. Sigh.

So I felt OK in the end. I think I stood up for myself and we both saw each others point of view and I was able to move on... again. Afterwards I thought about it and reflected that it was actually a pretty good thing that I was able to firstly even feel angry with someone else; then to be able to identify the emotion, sit with it without dissociating or reflecting it back on myself and telling myself it was me that was wrong and then after all that, to be able to confront the person about how I felt and defend my actions. I think that is pretty fucking monumental in the world of Candy actually! So in a way, it was a good thing for me.

That was two weeks ago. We got to talking about a few other things after that and I noticed she let the session run on for an extra twenty minutes longer than the usual strict hour. I wondered afterwards if that was because she felt the session had been 'tanked' a bit by the confrontation and she wanted to leave time for actual therapy. I refused to talk about my dad with her anyway. Although I was feeling OK that we had resolved things, I was by no means feeling open to confiding in her about anything and like I also told her, I didn't want to talk about it without having the print outs of the emails for her to see. I explained that this was because I wanted her to see that what I was telling her was actually what happened and not just my version of things. I talked with her about my dad once and maybe I was paranoid but I got the feeling that she was trying to decipher what 'actually happened' from what I said. That made me angry, but then that was when things were really bad and she was doing all the interrupting.

This week she asked me again if I'd like to talk about my dad and suggested that she could get the emails printed off if I'd like to talk about them. Perhaps I'm just stubborn, I don't know, but I said I didn't want to anymore. I reached out to her and invited her to share something that's so painful to me that I haven't even been able to tell you about it here on my blog where I can say anything and she slapped me in the face with a chastisement about boundaries. No thanks, I think I'll hold onto that story and share it with T when she comes back. I've survived my dad this far, I can survive a bit longer without someone to confide in. At least I know T will be on my side.

The strange thing about Dissociative Identity Disorder that I am discovering recently is how I can feel so angry and suspicious towards this new psychologist, where I trusted and liked T, yet it's so much easier for my new psychologist to get me to switch and for her to speak to the other parts than it was with T. This is a conundrum. It's also something I feel guilty about. T and I had been struggling through the issue of the parts wanting to come out to talk to her and me not being able to relinquish control for months and months before she left and then, within a few weeks of meeting my new psychologist, she already met Ebony and today she spent a good twenty minutes or so of the session talking to Pan!

I feel like when T comes back she's going to feel hurt that it was so difficult for me to let the others come out with her, even after nearly three years yet so easy with someone else. I think I know the reason for this though: I care so much about what T thinks of me. If she's freaked out by my alters and turns against me because of them it would be the most awful thing in the World... and I'd be stuck with her judgements. With New Psychologist, the risks are a lot lower. She's only going to be working with me until T returns, hopefully in the summer, so if she meets the other parts and that's a bad thing for her, it doesn't really matter does it? The first few months have already given her plenty of reasons not to want to work with me so a few more reasons won't make a difference. I guess what I'm saying is that it doesn't really matter to me what NP thinks of me, whereas with T it did matter to me, a lot. So with NP, I don't mind her meeting other parts so much.

I'll tell you about how it was to observe Pan meeting her next time. For now I will say goodnight as I have kept you long enough. I'm missing blogging and reading all your blogs too but don't forget me because hopefully I'll be back in full swing asap after I manage to get my laptop fixed. Take care. C

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Charting stress, dissociation and fatigue to assess the links

I'm pissed off with Blogger today. Why does it think it's OK to randomly change my blog url without letting me know? And where has the fucking 'edit' button gone at the bottom of the posts so that when I've posted my ramblings I can easily go back and fix it after Blogger has decided to spontaneously delete a chunk of my writing? Love hate.

I mentioned briefly last week that New Psychologist asked me to fill in a chart of everything I was doing every hour for a week and rate on a scale of one to ten: fatigue, stress and dissociation. I think she wanted to do some kind of statistical analysis on the data to see if there's any link between the chronic fatigue syndrome and the psycho brain. I only remembered half way through the week though that she specifically said, I could edit the scale or charts but to make sure I kept the hour by hour ratings going. Oops. For the first three days I was rating the parameters by activity e.g. 1300-1530: sitting on my arse watching TV... Fatigue = 6 Stress = 3 (Home and Away can be pretty nail biting at times), Dissociation = 5 etc.

Once I'd realised that I had fucked it up I had a look through to see how difficult it would be to fix it into an hour by hour chart but it was looking like it would take someone with a fatigue of less than 'two' and I was at about a 'six' at that point so I decided it was something she could do herself if she's that bothered.

Turned out, she was bothered because she has now asked me to do the ENTIRE task again. Sigh. It's quite a consuming task and as a few of you rightly pointed out, it's sometimes very difficult to rate dissociation. I'm just doing my best though. Generally dissociation doesn't really go below a five, because I rarely feel 'real' or 'alive'. Most of the time I feel like I am an observer sitting far back on the edge of my consciousness watching a robot going about my life for me. A six would probably be once I start getting visual disturbances or floaty feelings and a seven is zoning out etc. But even then, if I'm on my own, sometimes I'll zone out without realising it and so it's impossible to rate that. There have been a few hours I haven't been able to account for.

Anyway, NP did have a look at the first weeks charts and at the session last week she proudly announced that after reviewing my charts she felt there is a strong link between stress and dissociation... get that girl a medal! Who would ever have thought that dissociation might happen when I'm stressed? OK so she's new to this maybe. I nodded and let her continue. She said it was very clear that I 'use' dissociation as an avoidance technique when I'm in stressful situations or triggers arise. I know this, but from her explanation of her views, I got the sense that she feels it's something I consciously do. I don't think to myself: "I don't like the way this man is looking at me so I might just zone out now and come back to in a few minutes". It's not conscious like that. It just happens. She says that on some level it is intentional though. I get what she means but it doesn't mean that I can stop it from happening. It just happens.

I had also decided to rate 'pain' as a parameter as I've always felt sure that the recurrant varieties of pains I get are related to stress and dissociation. NP agreed with this theory and talked about somatic symptoms which can occur with dissociative disorders. Sometimes it's easier for the body to express it's reaction to trauma than for the person to feel the emotions. She was preaching to the choir with that one, but it's good that we're singing from the same hymn sheet (huh... she must also be in the choir).

She did have some other interesting insights though: she noticed that I tend to get higher levels of dissociation as well as 'flashbacks' and intrusive thoughts around bedtime and when I'm showering/bathing. She wondered if this might be something to do with the process of undressing and being naked. It's not something I'd consciously thought about. I do struggle with showers at times. Sometimes I find myself becoming overwhelmed with anger for no apparent reason and banging my fists on the walls in the shower, which brings Adam running up to see what I need. Oops. Sometimes I've found myself curling into a ball and crying or most commonly, scrubbing my skin raw like a maniac thinking "I can't get clean! Must wash off the badness!" But bedtime... well there's the theory of getting undressed... or the whole 'bed' thing. But really I think the main reason it happens when I get into bed is because there's nothing left to distract myself with. During the day, no matter if I have the energy of a normal person or of a person with chronic fatigue syndrome, there is ALWAYS something I can do to distract myself and prevent intrusions into my consciousness. I think I just spend my whole life doing that... avoiding. Then, once I get into bed at night, it just all comes flooding back in.

I expressed this view to NP and she must have thought of that herself because she whipped out a pre-copied diagram and gave it to me to look at. It showed a flow chart of a dissociative brain which suggested that there is avoidance, where the individual (so to speak) doesn't allow consciousness of traumatic material, then there is the other extreme, where they become overwhelmed and too immersed in it and then this either leads to dissociation or switching to an alter personality. Sigh... I'll look for it and give you a better explanation. She suggested that we need to learn to be able to tolerate thinking about the difficult things without dissociating, so she wondered if perhaps we might start with thinking about something more current that causes emotions and try to talk about that. She felt this could help me 'learn' how to be present with less painful things and so I could build up a tolerance so that I might get to the stage of being able to think and talk about the really bad stuff.

Something about how she explained that freaked me out and I ended up zoning out and getting dissociated right there in the session. I think in my head, it felt like she meant that this would happen very quickly and I was scared that I'd be asked to talk about things I'm not ready to even think about. She can be quite astute. She reassured me that this was not going to happen any time soon and that she didn't expect that work would be done with her (meaning, T is still due to return after six months) and that I should be reassured that I won't be rushed into anything. It didn't mean a lot to me at the time but I have found those words comforting this week. She's not so bad. She is trying.

I sense that she's anxious about working with me. I wonder if it's the 'label' of dissociative identity disorder. Maybe she feels ill equipped to deal with the condition and so is relying heavily on text book advice and research papers. I do think that those are important, however, I can't help but think if she relaxed a bit and got to know me she'd learn a whole lot more about the condition.

To finish with a final Blogger complaint: the spell checker is not working today (either that or I haven't made any mistakes, which would be a frickin first) so I apologise for any mistakes in this.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012


The Titanic Signature building in the centre and Harland and Wolfe (the yellow crane is one of the two used to make ships. They are called Samson and Goliath)

The Titanic Signature Building. The Titanic sign at the front there weighs the same as one of the anchors on the Titanic.

Normally I write my posts with ease but get stuck on the titles. Anyone else find titles of posts really hard to come up with? It's just not my forte. Today however the title has been written before a word of this post was started and I'm struggling to know what to say. I guess that's because my title says it all. I am detached from my feelings and finding reflection difficult.

I thought things were improving for me a bit physically as I had a few weeks where I had more energy and fewer episodes of exhaustion. Last weekend I had some kind of stomach upset though and it seems to have knocked me back a bit. Last night I slept for thirteen hours! Well, I did need to get up about five times to pee and was awake for a bit during the night feeling anxious, but that's normal with an eight hour night so I must have really needed that sleep. I only woke up when Adam woke me after midday. I have been feeling rough today. Headachey, achey, faint, tired etc. That's how I had gotten used to feeling over the past year or so. I hope things will improve again.

I've been having a lot of urinary symptoms like the getting up to pee all the time in the night and some pain when I pee. I've also had a pain on and off on the right side of my back about half way up, which I was worried was my kidney. My doctor tells me it is unlikely to be my kidney, even though I do have a kidney problem which I am waiting to get seen for at the hospital. I've also been told the problem with getting up to pee all the time is because of anxiety. Who knows? It's annoying though. I find it triggering too. I was told the damage in my kidney could be from recurrent UTIs in childhood. I don't remember having any UTIs and my mum says I didn't either. It's hard to explain why this triggers me. I think I wonder what all was going on in my body as a child that could have caused damage and well, you know...

Moving on. My new psychologist asked me to keep a record for a week of what I was doing each hour with a rating of my stress, dissociation and fatigue on scales of one to ten. She wants to analyse it to see if she can find any association between my fatigue and psychological stress. It was quite a labour intensive task for me and it's surprisingly difficult to rate 'dissociation' especially since it's not just one thing. Dissociation includes alterations in senses in a number of ways and is variable in how it affects me. Feeling detached is a kind of dissociation, but so is visual disturbance, like tunnel vision and it's hard to rate everything on one scale. Sometimes I'm so separate from myself I don't know how dissociated I feel, if that makes ANY sense! I did my best anyway. I gave it to her last week and I guess we might talk over it this week. I wonder what her observations will be.

Today I went to the cinema with Adam and then for a walk around the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. It's starting to look really good with the new Titanic Signature Building which is due to open at the end of March, just in time for the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic, which as we all should know, was built in Belfast at Harland and Wolfe. These are a few pictures I took on my phone.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Time Out

Every cloud (Belfast): I just had to pull over my car to take this picture on my phone. It was so much more beautiful in the moment and it was shining directly onto the hill where I live.
Hi peeps! I'm still alive and I am going to write a blog post if it kills me!

It's been a while and my only excuse is procrastination. When I lived at home, my bedroom was never tidier than when I had exams to study for. Suddenly the need to reorganise every drawer and box was very urgent and pressing. Well, it's been a bit like that lately. My house is by no means clean and tidy but it's looking a hell of a lot better than its usual standards. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of person who'll spend an hour moving all my cups from one kitchen cupboard to another because that seems necessary when behind me there are piles up to my waist of laundry that need to be tended to and junk that needs sent to a charity shop. Ah well. On the bright side, I've had a bit more energy to procrastinate with lately, so I guess one might forgive me for making the most of being able to stand without feeling like I'm going to collapse.

In order to get myself to blog, I told myself it didn't need to be one that described the things I have been trying to avoid, but in short, I think I told you about them in the last post so suffice to say I am not any further forward with tackling those things. I guess in a way, I don't want to set myself back again by introducing changes that are potentially stressful, even though I know that in the long run I'll have more peace of mind if I deal with them.

I will need to stop procrastinating eventually. I still suffer from nightmares and when I get into bed at night I struggle to keep the thoughts at bay... the one's I'm trying to avoid. They are all just sitting there waiting for me to finish my time out. I wonder if some people go through their entire lives avoiding the real issues by keeping busy in whatever way: working, cleaning, sports, running, going out...

I'm still off work on sick leave. I have now been off for seven weeks, would you believe? My sick line is up tomorrow but I don't feel ready to go back yet. Things are by no means all better, even though there has been progress in the last few weeks. In a way, the 'progress' could simply be that now that I've had time to recover from the 'crisis' I went into in January, I simply have the energy back that would have previously been all used up by surviving the working day. The other explanation for the 'progress' could be that it isn't actually progress but just an emotional numbness which has been the result of avoiding thinking about anything other than superficial things like what room in my house I'm going to attempt to clean next. Or maybe the antidepressant I started is helping? I hope so.

Anyway, I want to make sure I'm ready before I go back to work.

Things have settled down over the past three weeks in my psychology sessions too after the unbelievable dramas that took place, thank goodness. I was happy enough to put everything that happened behind me after I had said what I had to say to my new psychologist and it seems that she has taken it on board and decided not to make outward judgements. She's also stopped interrupting me. She was good like that when I first started seeing her and then it all went pear shaped. Now that she seems to be back to her 'old self', I can work with that. I just hope she is going to stay this way now and not go crazy on me again. I doubt if I'll really learn to trust her, but in a way I think the negative experience I had with new psychologist has helped me, because it means I might not feel so bad when she stops working with me after T comes back. I'm not exactly sure why it might help at the moment, but somehow it just makes things easier.

It was also a huge thing for me to stand up to someone like NP and say clearly and assertively how I felt I had been wronged. Confrontation and assertiveness are not my strengths and this was a challenge. I feel like it was an achievement for me to speak out and not just try to pretend nothing happened and I'm proud of myself for doing that.

I still miss T, but I'm glad I miss her.