Sunday, 10 April 2016

Therapy, dissociation, progress, lack of progress

Hi everyone,
so I just thought I would talk a bit about therapy and how it's going. I've been seeing the same clinical psychologist for a long time now. It's been up and down I suppose but I think we generally have a good relationship. Always the aim has been for me to do EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing) to process trauma. We have tried starting it in the past; I can't really remember at the moment what happened but I know it wasn't able to continue because of how I coped, probably because of dissociation and decreased stability in my life.

For a good while and because I was in a really bad place a few years ago, we weren't doing any structured work but therapy mainly involved helping me cope with whatever I was dealing with in my daily life which was about the most realistic thing to expect at that time. I don't really have a lot of coping capacity in general and talking to T is a huge support for me. I really notice the difference when I don't see her, like if she is off on holidays for a week. I start to get headaches and feel ill and if anything stressful happens I find it a lot more difficult to carry the stress. Usually I can carry it because I know I'll be able to talk about it with her and that helps me process things. I don't like that I need this support at all. Wouldn't it be much better if I had the capacity to hold my own stress and process things that come up in daily life without needing a therapist to talk about it with? Of course. It also frustrates me because I realise it's not exactly helping me with the big picture things that are holding me back.

I have a problem of dissociating during our therapy sessions if things get too stressful and sometimes I think it happens if another 'part' is putting pressure to try to show something or themselves, then I am trying to hold it in and I get so so stressed and can start to panic or shut down or zone out or I think maybe start feeling what they are trying to express. It takes a long time to get myself back to normal when this happens so it really fucks up the session or if it happens at the end, really makes it run late and then I get in a vicious circle because I'm zoned out or something; whatever is happening when dissociation happens. Sometimes I just can't move or communicate but I'm still kind of aware, but I lose awareness of some things and I can't tell that time has gone past. So then if I am hearing what's going on and settling myself and she tells me what time it is or reminds me I need to be able to leave, I get more stressed again because I'm frustrated with myself about how long I'm taking or that I can't control myself and then being more stressed makes me worse because then it's harder not to zone out again. She has been very patient with me. I worry that her patience will run out.

I really don't know what can help me to be able to stop doing this. It feels like a catch 22. I need EMDR to help me get better, but I need to be better in order to be able to do EMDR. Or you could replace 'EMDR' with 'therapy' in that sentence. And I don't have any ideas about how I can prevent myself from dissociating like this. As well, I am often too detached from my emotions in general, in that I can't really connect to what I should be able to talk about. I have drifted through my weeks thinking I'm not feeling or thinking anything, although I know that's not true, I just don't access it well. My T has been as helpful as she can be. She moved to a different office a while ago but she still makes a trip over to her old work place to see me each week because of the fact that I have trouble with dissociation so often after the sessions. Sometimes I can't drive home and need to leave my car and it would be very difficult to manage this if I had to travel to where she is working now.

When I'm getting dissociated I start to get really scared and irrational. Well, it's like I forget exactly where I am or that the reality is that I'm safe. I start to think someone is going to come in and hurt me. If I hear people walking about outside the room we're in I feel convinced they're coming in to attack me. T now locks the door and she puts signs up outside the room to tell people to keep quiet. It's funny because for the whole time I've been seeing her, I've always thought it would help so much if the door could be locked, but I never had the courage to ask because I thought she wouldn't want to do it and I'd feel bad for asking (seems silly when I write that now, what's the harm in asking?) but then she suggested it one day recently after we'd been talking about my fear. It does help, although sometimes if I'm getting scared I start to wonder if the door is really locked, but usually by that stage I can't speak to ask and then I don't feel safe anyway. Sometimes she'll remind me when I'm in a bad place, that the door is locked. It really helps me feel safer.

Another thing I use to try and help sometimes is smelling salts. It sounds awfully Victorian but because the smell of whatever is in it (ammonia?) is so strong, sometimes it jerks me back to reality. Sometimes it doesn't help. Sometimes I want to ask her why she can't do more to help me get out of dissociation. I don't know if that's a fair question. Maybe she thinks it should be up to me to work my way out. I don't know. I just have frustration of it happening and I think, she's the expert, surely she could come up with some more tools to help me. Maybe there is nothing more that can help me. I do feel pretty trapped in this cycle. It's strange though because when I'm not in that state, I find it very hard to imagine that it really happens. Often I've convinced myself that it will never happen again and that I obviously wasn't trying hard enough to stop it or didn't 'want' enough to get out of it, even though I remember how it feels when I start to get the whooshing feeling and my vision starts going and my head starts feeling fuzzy and confused. My heart sinks; I'm trying so hard to focus on the room, on being present, on what she's saying. I tell myself, it's OK, there's nothing to be afraid of. I'm fine. Keep breathing. Relax. You're here, you're an adult, you're safe. Stay here.

Another suggestion T made some months ago was that I could start recording the sessions on my phone. Funnily enough, this was another thing I'd wanted to ask about doing for a long time but was also nervous to ask. I don't know why I fear so much asking for something and being told 'no'. It would seem like a hard thing to take from her. I don't know why. Even though I have learnt to trust her in a way more than I can trust anyone else, in another way I'm more afraid of her than anyone else. I think it's probably something to do with her as a therapist, me as a patient thing. It's like I'm aware of how vulnerable I am. I've given her a lot of myself and in some ways that makes me so much more afraid of how she might hurt me than of anyone else to whom I give nothing of my true self. She has a lot of power to hurt me. I fear doing something to annoy her in case she rejects me. It's probably to do with how my relationship with my parents was, of course. Isn't everything? God knows, you had to be careful where you trod with mine. I'm probably projecting that.

Anyway, recording the sessions has been interesting and good for me for a few reasons but I may tell you about that another day because this is getting far too long as it as.

Therapy has helped me a lot though I think, despite the above complaints. I have no alternative to compare myself to you know, like I can't see how I'd be if I hadn't had it. Sometimes I wish I'd never started it because I feel trapped, not progressing the way I want but knowing I'm so reliant on it to cope. But I think that's over simplifying it. There were significant problems in my life that lead me to get started in therapy and I'd probably be worse off without it. Sometimes I don't believe that though, when I feel stuck like this. My relationship with T has helped me to look at people differently too. I think I have observed her attitudes and adopted some of them. Like, I'm a pessimist but I've learnt to be a bit more open minded about the outcome of things. Maybe not optimistic, but open minded to what may come and this helps. I can see that she has a generally positive view of people too and tends to think people do the best they can in their situation. I think this has helped me too. Other things, but not for reflecting on now.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Life after giving up on life

Dear Ether and you,

Hi! Here I am, I'm still alive. I would like to be blogging but I worry about my privacy. Technology seems to be so good at recognising and linking up accounts these days and I've noticed, my Candycan identity getting linked to my real name at times. I have fixed this but I still worry that by now, family members might know of my blog and read it and I really don't want that.

In general I am much more open with my friends and family about my mental health even though I don't want them reading my blog. Until a few years ago I put a lot of energy into hiding my struggles from people and trying to appear as normal as possible. It's very hard work though and being off work long term because of my health made it much harder to hide it. Now, I'll tell people I have mental health issues and that tends to be more than enough information for the average person. It's a lot easier being myself and it also means my family can try to be a bit more patient with me when I'm stressed or not communicating well.

So to sum up the last few years, I stopped working because I couldn't manage it anymore; had what I suppose people might call a breakdown. I might prefer to call it a disintegration of my capabilities, or losing my shit on a major scale. I wanted to die for a while and couldn't see the point in life, then after I while I decided that suicide was not a good option for the sake of those I love and since then have been trying to make the best of my choice to stay alive, which varies in intention from:
'I'm here so I may do my best to enjoy life and make those around me happy and maybe even contribute something to the world'
'Life is a pointless ordeal; don't ask me to do anything more than just keep breathing because I fucking resent it'
and other views on the spectrum.

My expectations of myself have had to change a lot. My goal was always to have a life like everyone else's, working a full time; stressful job, keep healthy, have friends, family. Since having to stop work because of my health, I really haven't been able to do much at all. I've had to dramatically shift my perspective to trying to achieve what I can in a day. Some days that might just be feeding myself and keeping hydrated, other days it might include leaving the house to go to the shops or doing various tasks. I can get very down very quickly if I start comparing myself to the average person or to how I would like to be or even how I was in the past. I realise that there is no benefit to me in thinking this way. I try to remind myself that I am doing the best I can do for me and that it is enough. I also have to avoid thinking about the future and wondering about progress because both of those things also make me feel very bad.

I always believed I could get better. I mean, not have depression, not have DID anymore, have a normal, productive and happy life. Now I don't know. I still hope to get better from depression and anxiety but I don't know if I believe it. I believed one day I would remember or know clearly what happened to make me the way I am. In reality, I probably will never know why I am so. I also don't know that it is realistic to think that I can become a whole, undamaged person. I am damaged (for whatever reason) and maybe learning to live in contentment with my mental scars is something I should hope to achieve. I have scars on my legs that I've learned to live with. They are a reminder of my past and I know they'll always be there, but they are just part of me now and don't bother me, even though I sometimes feel sad when I think about them. I would like to feel the same about the mental scars.

Yesterday I picked up some daffodils in the park that had been trampled and had snapped stems.  I brought them home, rinsed off the muck and smoothed out the petals as best I could and put them in water. I could see that they would never look perfect again, there were stains that water wouldn't wash and creases and bruises in the petals that would remain. Perhaps I need to realise that I will never be a perfectly unblemished flower.

I suspect that as well as DID, I have some form of mood disorder that might always cause me to have episodes of worsening depression and then times where I'm OK. It has been happening for a long time. Generally, I can always identify something that could have triggered it but perhaps that's because life can always be hard for anyone and its the fact that it happens that is the problem, not the events of life.

It's not all bad. For a good while I was not able to do anything much at all and my brain just did not work. I couldn't get from the beginning of a sentence to the end without forgetting what I started to say or struggling to come up with the words I need. This has improved a lot. It's still noticeable in conversation at times but I don't think it's just as bad. I'm doing the cooking at home, where hubby had to do it all. I don't feel like self harming generally and haven't done this in a long time now. That's good.

My three main problems at the moment are feeling unreal, being disconnected from what's going on in my head and lack of motivation. Feeling unreal, or derealisation and depersonalisation as I think the technical terms are, means I very rarely feel like what is happening is actually real. The best way to describe it is as though I am dreaming all of the time. It's a lack of connectedness to the present and to my body. It's not exactly a terrible way to feel, like despair might be but it's frustrating to notice that the months and years are going past and I don't feel like I'm really living.

Being disconnected means I struggle to participate in the work I'm supposed to be doing in therapy. I'm so used to dissociating from my internal world that tuning into it seems impossible or overwhelming. I feel at a loss as to how to change this. It is an unconscious process, I'm not aware that I'm doing it, when I'm doing it. I know it happens more when I'm stressed. I always felt that the more numb and disconnected from my emotions I felt, the more I was actually dealing with on some deeper level. I think I wrote a post about this 'smoke screen' once.

The other problem is lack of motivation but that's a topic for another day.

Understanding myself isn't really helping me to be better. My therapist said last week that she noticed I tend to overthink things and look at every permutation and that I'm looking for a perfect answer but the overthinking saps my energy and then I do nothing. I've been thinking about that. Ha! So I need to think less, but somehow be more connected to what's going on in my head. If anyone knows how to do this, please enlighten me!

Not a lot else has been happening for me (us). On and off medication, various other physical problems. Have been making some progress with managing having a sex life with hubby (varying degrees of success and not currently at its best), other parts are more separate than they used to be (one part more active with bisexual exploration that in past, might talk about that sometime, or might not) and I've developed a few hobbies which are a great thing for me as they are things I can really enjoy.

Feel free to leave me a comment if you like. I'm not really expecting that this post will be read by anyone seeing as I haven't been blogging for years so if you did happen to read it and feel like saying hi, it will be an added bonus and I always love it when people interact with me. Oh and, I'm on Twitter occasionally if you want to get in touch... @Candycanandco