Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Stupid Teenagers

I am the teller. i do not like those stupid teenagers and i wish we didnt have to share a body cause they are dumb and super bad and i dont like them. they want to run away and they will make me hafta go with them and i dont like them i dont want to run away not one bit cause i like it here and i want THEM to just go away.

they are stupid and mean and they are NOT GOOD. they are not my friends. not one bit. not AT ALL. all they do is be mean and be bad and w---- doesnt like me when they are there she says she does but i know she doesnt cause they just be mean to her and then she wont like me anymore cause they are just mean and bad and i dont like them

they will not eat and im sposed to eat three times every day and they dont eat not one time and they make me forget to eat and the grown ups too they go in to get food and then they just forget and its cause of the teenagers and they are super bad and i dont like them. thats all.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Flashbacks

The angle of a shadow, the brief touch against my body, the quality of light, a smell.

And all of a sudden, I want to run away, hide, lock doors, sob, throw up, lash out.

I don't remember anything, in the sense where "remember" means "know of specific events that cause me to feel like that when something happens." I hear the voices of parts, chiming in to say, "This happened to me, that happened, it was bad, it was hard." But it's so separate from my self, the me that is writing. I don't remember these things, I have no conscious knowledge. I know of some things that happened, and I can use reason and logic to determine that it's likely other things happened. But it's separate from me.

I tell myself, "You wouldn't have flashbacks if nothing happened." "You wouldn't feel like this, if there were no reason." But it's so hard to believe. My mind leaps and contorts, trying to figure out a way that I could just be imagining, could just be misinterpreting the past. Because it seems so unbelievable that it could have happened to me. It's so hard to accept that my family could contain such a large secret as that. Things that happened over and over, year after year.

There was no predicting what would make it happen. When I was little, I thought that saying my prayers every night would keep away the nightmares--the breathing, the weight, the feeling of pressure, the sense that everything was out of control.

Often, after flashbacks, my mind shows me image after image of violated locks. Locks that were broken and destroyed, over and over as I was growing up. There was no way I could consistently keep a door locked, keep a space where I was the only one on my side of a door. I can understand this, because I remember those locks, and I remember the despair I felt when they were broken. But the lingering echoes of why those locks were so very important, that's harder to accept.

But what advantage would I gain, from making this up? Nightmares? Wanting to throw up when I'm touched? Distance from my partner? Inability to just get on with my life and do the things I really want to do? I can't see any reason for making it up, but it's so hard to accept that it's real.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

One of the hard things

One of the difficult things about DID is maintaining a consistent belief that that's what's going on. This makes sense, of course, if not all of my parts are willing to accept it.

The hardest part of this is that, so often, I have these nagging fears that I'm just making it all up, for reasons that I can't discern. No matter how often I tell myself, or other people tell me, that it's really happening, I worry about this.

I think some of this comes from a simple fact. DID, more than anything else, is designed to let me cope with my life, despite anything that might be going on. And it worked surprisingly well for years. There have been times when my ability to cope has stumbled, but it's really only been over the past year that my coping skills have fractured so badly that I can't maintain a convincing fa├žade of being all right.

And it's also hard, because I remember, fairly clearly, making a decision after I was in the hospital last February. I decided to stop blocking out all of the things that have been making it difficult to cope for the past months. I can't say it was a bad decision. I made it because the alternative was to know that I would definitely go through other periods of feeling suicidal, and doing so without the resources to break away. And the parts of me that watched that particular suicidal depression, doing everything it could to keep it from happening... they pretty much decided it was time to stop blocking everything out.

I spend a lot of time trying to sort out whether my perceptions of the world come through the lens of DID, or whether I'm just exaggerating things that happen to everyone. And even though I'm mostly confident that this isn't caused by my therapist (for instance, I was thinking this was what was going on even before I first saw her), I do worry that the way I present myself misled her into thinking I have DID.

I can rationally say, "There's absolutely nothing I gain from faking." This is true. But I still have those voices in my head that accuse me of lying, of making things up, of just being too lazy to maintain the ability to keep all of the voices and impulses under sufficient control to do the things that have to be done, to be the person I need to be at any given moment.

=======

In a related note: sometimes, I wish I were able to trust members of my family if I were to talk about all of this. I came very close to saying something to my next-older sister the other day. She's the one who, ten years ago, told me her therapist had diagnosed her with DID. I doubted her at the time, but the further I move through my own process, the more I'm starting to wonder.

Anyhow, she was mentioning headaches, and said something about getting bad migraines several times a week. I know that my own headaches, which have been diagnosed as migraines, are closely related to doing a lot of switching. And I've found that as I establish better internal communication, the headaches have reduced in frequency and severity. So I nearly mentioned this to her... but I stopped myself, and I think it's for the best.

Despite the fact that, clearly, my family has taken the philosophy of not talking about things to a high art, somehow, none of my family seems able to keep a secret. And I know my sister would inevitably talk about me saying anything about DID, and all that implies. And it would be unsafe. If I were at a point in my life when I was willing to give up contact with my family, I might go ahead and talk about it. But I'm not.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book Group

I went to a book group tonight, held at my favorite coffee shop. It was interesting for a couple of reasons. The first part was simple: it was my first independent social interaction in quite a long time. Even my friends from college, I've mostly seen with W. as an intermediary. I have gotten into the habit of relying on her to begin conversations, and to smooth over all of the awkwardness of that kind of interactions. So it was a big step for me to go out all by myself and be in a social situation with no one who already knew me.

Walking home from the coffee shop after the book group, I was thinking about something else, though. I realized during the discussion that I, in the sense of the part of me writing this post, hadn't really thought much about the book. It's not the kind of thing I'd usually choose to read, and I didn't find it especially interesting. And yet, during the discussion, I realized that I have parts that experienced it really differently. They had been thinking about a lot of things in the book, analyzing it, paying attention to nuance and detail that I hadn't particularly noticed.

And realizing that made me think about how often I have taken this tendency for granted in my life. Mostly, this was connected with school. I would read things without particularly taking them in, not especially thinking about them. And then, when the time came to discuss the book, all of a sudden, I had thoughtful things to say about it. I wouldn't remember anything afterwards except that feeling of wondering where on earth I'd found the things to say. And it does explain why, while I don't consider myself an intellectual, other people have been surprised to hear me say that. Because, I guess, there is a part of me that really is an intellectual, just as there are parts who don't have the painful shyness I, myself, experience.

It's still very strange to me, this recognizing the switching between parts. Even though it explains so much, it also makes me wonder where I fit in. And in some ways, it's a silly distinction, because, obviously, these are all aspects of one person, and I should be able to act as though it's just parts of myself, or different moods or mind-states.

But it doesn't quite work like that. I've found that I can significantly reduce the anxiety and just plain noise in my head if I behave as though there are different people, with different needs and desires, living inside my head. And I've found that I can do a great deal more of the things I need or want to get done if I behave as though there are discrete parts inside of me with different jobs to accomplish. What's more, I know that while not all of the parts agree that I've got DID, there are parts who feel far more validated when I admit it, and who are more willing to cooperate and help if I act as though they are real. So, on a practical level, whether or not it's true, I gain a great deal from behaving as though it is.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Thanksgiving, part two

So there's another thing I'm grateful for. It's something I'm a little bit ambivalent about it, but I can also be thankful for it.

I have dissociative identity disorder.

I can see the ways that it's created problems for me, I can see the ways that it's a difficult thing to cope with, and how it makes many aspects of my life more difficult.

But, looking back, I can also see how it's made me able to survive, and left me capable of forming relationships, of coping with the world around me, and of being able to maintain just a level of normalcy that I wouldn't necessarily have managed without it.

Because of DID, I can continue a relationship with my family, and not have all of the bad stuff there in my mind while I am with them.

Because of DID, I was able to have parts who had a happy childhood, without the constant dread and fear that I might otherwise have experienced.

DID is most likely the reason I was able to do well in school, and be able to use going to college as a path to escape. Because of DID, I didn't feel like I had no good options, and I wasn't inclined to do more self-harmful things like running away, using drugs, acting promiscuously, or whatever. And because of DID, I didn't commit suicide, because I did have at least a few parts that were sufficiently committed to staying alive that suicide wasn't an option.

DID is how I managed to keep the ability to accept parts of myself I might otherwise have come to despise (my race, my body, my gender, my sexuality). DID is why I am able to have healthy relationships as an adult.

For all of the things I hate about this, for all of the things that I find difficult or challenging or unfair... I can also see, at least at the moment, how dissociation is most likely the only way I was able to survive long enough to have a chance to heal. Because no matter how much I look back, I can see that I really had no other options, and no one was going to come along and rescue me. And DID really is the most healthy way I could possibly have rescued myself.

So here's a big thank you to my child selves, for figuring out the best way they could to keep myself (myselves) safe until I was able to do something in order to heal.

Hanging on my wall is a cast picture from a play I did about domestic violence and self-defense. One of the lines we repeated in the final scenes was "We keep ourselves alive, every day." And my parts did that for me, and they do that for me. And even if the struggle to keep myselves alive every day may not always seem worthwhile, and while it may be a lot of work, and while the struggles in the current moment are more a result of the choices my child selves made, well... we keep ourselves alive, every day. And for that, I am truly grateful.

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Thanksgiving, part one

There are a lot of things I'm thankful for, and Thanksgiving is really the official time to write about them. Right now, I'm thinking of two big ones.

First, there's the fact that, despite all of the chaos and confusion and dysfunction in my family growing up, or perhaps because that chaos, confusion, and dysfunction was so absolutely constant, holidays are something I can really enjoy. Many people who grew up in dysfunctional homes find the holidays hard to deal with because things got worse. I suppose things might have gotten worse at the holidays, but that's not how I remember them. Were there bad holidays? Yes, definitely. There were a few really horrible ones, if it comes to that.

But here's the thing: because they weren't more horrible than a whole heck of a lot of non-holidays, the horrible didn't stand out. And instead, what stands out are the moments of peace and happiness that show up, even in a problematic home.

Now, Thanksgiving wasn't a big holiday for us, growing up. We celebrated it, to the extent of having the meal, and generally, of making some effort to think of things we were thankful for. Mostly, it was about the meal. As the kids in our family have grown up, it's become a bigger deal, because it's a different holiday if you have to actually pick up and go to someone's house, rather than just having a slightly special dinner with the same people, at the same table, where you have dinner every night.

But my connection with my family's Thanksgiving is somewhat tenuous. Since leaving for college, I've spent just one Thanksgiving with my family. For me, it's a holiday where I can celebrate my adult life, spend time with friends, and have a much more relaxed approach to things. It's a holiday where I discovered that I can be okay with celebrating it two days late (that is, if we feel like making a turkey dinner tomorrow!).

Back to my point. Thanksgiving was always a more "minor" holiday for us. Christmas was the big one, and it's a holiday that I absolutely love. And my childhood didn't spoil that for me, not in the least. I don't deny that there were problems, nor that they had an impact on my experience. But in many ways, I took a strengths-based approach. Okay, so I was likely to be disappointed by presents. So I learned to be okay with not getting things that I wanted, either because of the fact that my family couldn't afford them, or because of the fact that I was the least squeaky wheel (by the time I was a teenager, my mother would confide in me that, due to limited resources, my siblings--particularly my older sister--would be getting more or better presents, because they would make everything unpleasant if they didn't, but I was sufficiently mature to behave whether or not I got something I wanted).

I learned to love the entirety of the holiday--the food, the lights, the tree, the music, thinking of things to give to other people. All of these were things that I could take part in, could enjoy, without worrying about whether other people would remember to think of me.

And I am grateful that I was able to find ways of being able to enjoy the holidays, to have fun with them, to take the best of what was offered, and to still have that delight in the world around me.

So that's the first thing I'm grateful for.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Multiple parts review Happy Feet

W and I saw a tech of Happy Feet last night, and several of my parts wanted to comment on it. And since the reactions were pretty different (particularly between the kid parts and the older parts), I couldn't come to a single conclusion, so I figured I'd just let them each comment.


This is Mandy I'm 6 and we saw Happy Feet last night. It is not for kids, it is for big kids or grown ups. It is SCARY and kinda boring cause its all about love and stuff. I liked the baby penguins but they grew up fast and then it was about love and stuff and there were too many scary parts and it was sad it made W cry one part. Too many scary parts and not enough funny parts. But we had popcorn, and that was yummy.


This is the Hip Chyck, I'll comment for the adults. I liked the movie pretty well. There was a lot of dancing, and the musical references were great on a lot of levels. It had absolutely GORGEOUS scenery, too. It did have some scary parts but since it's meant to be a kid's movie, I knew all the way through that none of the important characters were going to die (and, inconsequential spoiler--NONE of the characters dies).

My only gripe with the movie was that it left you feeling really bad about how humans are messing up the environment, but they don't suggest anything you can do to make the situation better. And it would have been really useful if they had put information about things people could actually DO, then all of the energy they generated with the movie might have had some good purpose.

I did like the themes of accepting people who are different, and I have to say, I think that using accents to make it clear that different characters were from different cultures worked pretty well, at least for me (W's mother was quite offended at the racial stereotypes she saw, but she's more easily irritated by these things. And since the accents were to indicate different cultures, I think it worked out pretty well.)


This is Jill. I'll comment for the teenagers. I liked this movie--the dancing was really good, and it was pretty much all dancing and singing. The scary parts weren't too bad. (minor spoiler) It was kind of sad how the other penguins rejected Mumble because he couldn't sing, and they acted JUST like so many teenagers do, going along with the crowd, and so when one person doesn't like you, they make everyone else not like you too, and just because you're different, they push you away, just cause you don't act like them. But in the end, he does manage to get people to accept him, but I won't say who, because maybe that would be too much of a spoiler. (I figure that you already know SOMEONE accepts him cause it's a comedy, and people mostly end up happy by the end of comedies.)

The dance scenes were GREAT, especially the ones with all of the penguins dancing and singing together. And they used different types of music for the parents generation and the kids generation.

I don't think penguins are really that sexy-looking, like the girl penguins looked like they had breasts, and they all had pink lips and stuff like that.


It was interesting to see the scary characters (like seals or predator birds) from a penguin's perspective. Those characters were SCARY, but in a good way, and it made you sympathize with the penguins.



I think that's all.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

How I first noticed it

I was writing out some stuff which I might or might not manage to give to my therapist tomorrow (oh, for a therapist who reads email, because right now, I'm okay with giving it to her, but I'm not convinced I'll be able to tomorrow).

Anyhow, it made me start thinking about when I first noticed that something was awry with myself. And I'm thinking it was when I was fourteen and fifteen.

The first part was observing my stepfather doing something to my younger brother, and I'm thinking it probably triggered my first flashback. I walked out of the apartment immediately (I'd been heading out for church youth group anyways), and distinctly thought, "As soon as I'm living on my own, I NEED to get therapy. Things are not okay." And then that thought went into the way, way back of my head, and didn't emerge again until college.

The second part was noticing all of the little parlor tricks my brain could do that other people couldn't seem to manage to the same degree (thinking two or three distinct threads of thought simultaneously; writing two different things at the same time; letting the parts of my brain that wanted to nap go curl up somewhere, and just having the necessary parts out to cope with stuff around me).

The third part was in 10th grade English, when the teacher wanted us to write about a childhood memory that we could clearly visualize. I was shocked to discover that most people have clear memories starting when they're around five or six. I had figured up till then that it was perfectly normal to be really vague about things that had happened longer than a year or two previously. The teacher thought I was just being a pain when I insisted that I couldn't remember anything at all before I was about twelve.

The fourth part was just me coming up with ways of either coping with or taking advantage of the way my brain worked. I created a "computer" to keep track of things I needed to remember and otherwise keep track of. (Potentially, this was because otherwise, I'd find out, for instance, that a research paper was due the next day; a research paper I could have sworn I'd never heard anything about.)

And I learned that the inside of my brain is an infinite space, and created all kinds of places for what I now think are different parts to live. I thought about that in the context of creating mental "shields" for myself... but all of them involved moving whatever part of me was vulnerable waaaaay far away from whatever was threatening, rather than anything that was based around having immediate contact with my body.

So I guess, on a lot of levels, I was aware that something was up, but I didn't really engage with it, or take a lot of time to think about why it was that I seemed to be different.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fairy Tales

So often, I find myself thinking about myself with fairy tale imagery. One of the biggest images is the deep, dark woods. More specifically, it's about the way, in the older versions of lots of the stories, the heroine finds herself back in the woods after she is rescued the first time around. And then she has to save herself, rather than having someone else save her.

Other images run strong--Characters who can't speak, either because they're not able to (the little mermaid) or because if they do, their quest will fail (the girl in the Seven Swans). Characters in quests they don't know the meaning of, where they don't know the rules, where everything hangs on actions they've forgotten by the time things come to a head. Not knowing the rules, and not knowing which actions will ultimately save them.

As often as not, I find myself identifying with the "villains" in the stories. Not so much because I think I'm bad, but just wondering about how they ended up the way they were. One of the big ones is the ogre (troll, whatever) with no heart in its body. And I find myself wondering: why take your heart out of your body? what makes these characters necessarily evil? Another one is the Sphinx--asking riddles, where people's lives hang in the balance.

Not sure where I was going with this.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Poems

Okay, let me start by saying that I generally hate it when people post their poetry, because most poetry related to healing kind of annoys me and seems... I don't know, just annoying.

People who talk about DID often talk about what they see in their journals from when they were younger. I mostly didn't write things down that I was thinking about, not in a clear way, because I knew for certain that if someone in my family found something written, they'd then read it and tell everyone, and just... for other reasons, too, writing wasn't safe. It was dangerous. But I felt like poetry could sometimes work, because I could deny that it was anything but making up words, you know?

So I was thinking about some poems I wrote when I was 11, and I found them... and what was in them seems pretty telling of a lot of what I was going through.

Day-Dreams

Scudding, Floating, Drifting,
Thinking,
Day-Dreams, Night-Mares,
A world all my own,
where I live,
all by myself.
Imaginary friends,
real ones,
stories, reality,
jumbled together
in one big mess
Jumbled thoughts,
fact and fiction,
crazy Day-Dreams,
awful Night-Mares,
Wonderful, soaring,
Flying, floating,
All mixed up in
my head.


This one isn't dated, so it might have been written when I was 10. Unfortunately, I wrote kind of randomly in the blank book I was using, with some system I can no longer understand for where things went. But I know I stopped writing in that book when I was 11 1/2, so it was definitely before then. And I'm pretty sure the next poem in that section was written at the beginning of 6th grade, right after I turned 11.

Anyhow. The main thing is... that sense I have of the world not being real or comprehensible, of being in my head with all of these different things going on. That was there. I don't mention anything specific going on, but looking back at it, I get a sense that there was definitely stuff going on that I couldn't quite express.


Okay, about to be interrupted, so more on this later.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

potentially positive

Made some progress in therapy. I guess last week, when I kept saying that I need more ability to communicate internally, she finally got it. So even though I don't know that things are specifically better as of today, at least we spent some time discussing how I'm experiencing things, and I think I was able to articulate why therapy's been feeling so unhelpful. And she seemed to understand, too.

So we discussed having more than one session a week, because one of the problems is I need a larger "container" for the stuff that gets dredged up, and an hour a week isn't really sufficient (and she often does really give me a whole hour, and not that 50 minutes one can usually expect from a therapist).

She was concerned that multiple sessions wouldn't be covered. I called insurance, and they cover 60 sessions in a calendar year, and don't care how many I use in a single week, so long as I don't go over 60 per year. And the good thing about this? I've got 29 sessions left between now and the end of the year. I could concievably even see her daily (not that I plan on doing this, or think I need it, but if it were necessary, I could). So I left a message telling her this, and she called back, and we made plans for an extra session next week. We'll see how it goes.




There's still a lot of internal resistance, and I'm kind of getting a sense of why that is. One part is that my ability to just get through the day is helped by not having to actually believe what's happening; if I don't believe it, then it's easier to not be experiencing the panic attacks that my body is going through.

Another part is guilt and fear. I feel incredibly guilty for thinking that things I remember might have actually happened. I feel disloyal to my mother. And afraid that my family will somehow find out that I believe these things and... it's not really clear what the consequences will be. That all of a sudden no one will believe a word I say? That they won't love me any more? That I will be locked up? Hurt? Punished somehow, for thinking those kinds of things....

Intellectually, I know this won't happen. But emotionally... it's incredibly real. I'm absolutely terrified of admitting what's going on, of allowing myself to believe I have multiple parts inside of me, of acknowledging that those parts exist for a reason, and of confronting what those reasons are. There are moments when I can face it, but more often, I just can't.

I guess, in many ways, even though I'm pretty much completely shut down, it's easier to live with the dissociation than to think about why it exists. But I've also got parts who are desperate to get the problem fixed.

It's like they're battling it out, and what gets lost in the process is my ability to live a normal life. Because either I'm stuck in this whole process of coping with the past, or I'm pretty much paralyzed from the effort of trying to hold off the past. And it really sucks that there isn't some quick, predictable, straightforward way of getting through all of it. I mean, it seems like it should be something where I can say, "Oh, okay, bad things happened. I acknowledge that. Now I can get on with my life and do the things I actually want to do." But I guess it doesn't work like that.

Anyhow, I'm feeling kind of hopeful, right now, in the middle of also being extremely spaced out.

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Maybe not

So I called the Lesbian Therapist Referral Network, to see if there were any therapists who both work with dissociative disorders *and* take my insurance. Nope. They have a grand total of two therapists who take my insurance--I'm seeing one of them, W. is seeing the other.

Then I asked about therapists who take my alternate insurance (the one I pay lots of money for because I'm required to carry it through my university, but which I never use because the deductibles and copays are too high). They have zero therapists that take that.

So I have a couple of options. One is to just sit down and call every therapist in my health plan's list, and find out if any of them deal with dissociative disorders. And the other is to try to make do with a therapist who isn't being very helpful.

Every week for months now, my main topic in therapy sessions has been how I need something different, I need to figure out how to feel less unsafe internally, I need to reduce the chaos, I need to get more balanced. And every week, she's been saying, pretty much, "Oh, this is fine, it's all right to not be getting things done. Somewhere inside, you knew that you could let go, so it's safe to do this now."

She just isn't hearing me when I say that I really need things to change. I get the feeling that she thinks I'm just trying to rush healing... I don't think that's what I'm doing. I just desperately need something to improve. And, really, I don't think that prolonged inability to do things like eat or bathe or clean the house or work at a job is something that will work out.

I've started to suspect that the problem is my therapist doesn't have a ton of experience with dissociation, and so she isn't using the right approach. But I'm not entirely clear on what the right approach is. I've read books about DID, and people definitely got help from their therapists; but as for specific steps to building safety... they mostly seem to rely on having a therapist who can guide you effectively through negotiating those. It's hard not to have that, since I get such a strong sense that I'm going to stay stuck where I am until I can get some help figuring out how to be somewhere different.

I also wonder about whether the problem is that I'm "high functioning," in the sense that I'm mostly not actively suicidal, and I'm not wandering the streets looking crazy. On the surface, people don't look at me and say, "Oh, she's definitely mentally ill." And because I'm not going out and hurting people or drinking or doing drugs or stealing things... then they kind of assume I can take care of myself. And it goes back to that thing of having to be bad in order to get attention. It's like the child abuse trainings for teachers, where what you're trained to look for is the kids who obviously have problems, who are acting out; and they kind of assume that the kids who behave don't have the same kind of problems going on. I never got noticed as a kid, and it sometimes feels like I'm never going to get noticed as an adult, either.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Starting Over

I finally decided this week it was time to get a new therapist. It's hard, because I think, were my situation different, she'd be just fine. I've worked with therapists who were less helpful before, and I did all right with them. But right now, I really need someone to help with the issues around DID.

The thing is, I just don't get the feeling that she gets it. I was trying to explain that I need help in creating internal safety--finding ways of getting more secure inside my head. And she kept responding with ways that I can cope with things outside... I'm not really making this clear. Basically, she was focused on things that I already know how to do, when I am able to recognize that they're needed.

She kept saying, "Why don't we talk about some self-soothing techniques for when you feel frustrated," and I kept saying, "Those would be great, if I were able to recognize that I feel frustrated before I switch."

I guess the main thing is, the tools she has available are based on there only being one person inside the head, and on the "parts" being just... aspects of a single personality. And it's hard to describe or explain how they're really different from each other. I tried to explain it in her terms--I've got incredibly state-dependent memory. When I'm in one part, it's incredibly difficult to remember something that happened to a different part. And I guess the other thing is, it's not really emotional states, since many of my parts experience a whole range of feelings--they can be happy, sad, angry, scared, whatever. Some to different degrees than others, but for the most part, there is variation and overlap in the specific emotions they feel.

So I have till next week to think of how to discuss breaking up with her. Rationally, this should be easy--I can calmly explain that I think I need something different in therapy--something a little more directive from the therapist, something very specifically focused on coping with DID, a therapist who might be available for a phone check-in between sessions (not that I expect to need this, but it's something that might be a weight off my mind), a therapist who is able to work with my various parts, and to recognize them for the semi-separate entities they are.

Also, many of my internal parts don't trust her. The kids don't think she wants them around, because she doesn't suggest books that kids could understand, she doesn't ever ask how they are doing, she doesn't have toys or things kids would be interested in in her office.

But I feel guilty, since a motivating factor on my part is my belief that I can't do all of this by myself. I feel like I ought to be okay with figuring out my problems on my own and solving them myself, and I'm finding I really can't work out how to do that. And then I go to therapy, and the only things she says are things I've already worked out myself, which kind of feels like a waste of time, since if she's not adding something new to the mix, why should I be bothering with going to therapy?

And I worry that it's going to look like I'm bad. I can't quite articulate this, but ever since February and the hospital, I've been especially worried about people thinking I'm just lazy and bad and narcissistic and histrionic and Borderline... all of those things. And so I'm reluctant to be at all assertive, because then, I don't know, but it just feels really scary and like if I give up seeing this therapist, then I'm giving up the chance to get better at all.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Accepting without knowing

Or, "How Fantasy Novels Improved My Life"

I've thought in the past that reading lots of fantasy novels smoothed the path when I realized that fundamentalist Christianity didn't really work for me, as a religion that I practiced. By the time I realized my beliefs weren't strictly Christian, I had been reading fantasy for years, and the message, over and over, is that "God" is not the same thing as religion. Some of the authors were/are devoutly religious, in the traditional sense. Some weren't. But the notion that you will find that holiness regardless of whether or not you're in a relgious institution, and that following that, rather than stated rules, is the right thing to do... that was everywhere.

So I connected to God through nature, through music, through the moon, for years before I realized that this was probably not Christianity (perhaps someday I'll tell the story of how I realized, when reading the Bible for a Western Civ class in college, that I definitely wasn't a follower of Christ).

What does this have to do with DID?

Well, fantasy novels also taught me that my mind is limitless. That if I can imagine something, somewhere, in some world, it can happen. So it didn't seem odd to make places in my head for different... people, I guess. I made space inside me for the people I felt, so they could get away from things they didn't want to experience. I kept all my vulnerabilities safe, far away at the other end of the universe; what interacted with people, day-to-day, was a shell, something that might get injured, but couldn't get hurt.

And I could meet the needs of my parts without thinking it was strange. I can remember dealing with the part of me that wanted nothing more than to spend the day curled up somewhere dark and filled with cushions, sleeping all the time. This wasn't a practical notion, obviously, since my single escape strategy was to do well in school and get away to college. Going to school, and being successful, was the only viable option. So I made a space in my head for the part that wanted to sleep, and the rest of me went to school. It was around then that I also realized I could think several unrelated things at the same time--memorize different strings of numbers and facts simultaneously; write two different things, one with each hand, at the same time; that kind of thing. I figured it was just about being smart enough. Maybe that's all it was.

Fantasy novels also taught me about "shielding." There are parts of me that are intensely shielded--one part is in the middle of a vast moor, surrounded by stone walls that are probably 20 or 30 feet tall, with no way of getting in or out. Others create shielding around specific places--my bedroom in high school was one of those places. In my head, I made that room invisible, impermeable, and took it as far away from the rest of the apartment as I could. It kind of worked, but, well, not as well as I might have hoped. But the belief in those shields gave me the strength to stick it out, those last four years at home.

Many of my parts believe fervently in magic, or the supernatural; whether it's pathways where, if we just keep our eyes open, we'll be transported to a magical land, or picking up a magical talisman from the street, or reading other people's thoughts, or doing tricks to be safer, or just praying to some kind of higher power when there's an obstacle that would be one thing too many....

But either my basic nature, or my early training, also left me with deep spiritual beliefs. I do believe in a power that is outside of me, knows more, is stronger, created the universe. You know, the reason that rainbows occur, or that bread smells good, or that butterflies are colorful. But fantasy novels, with their references to imperfect gods, gods who can't control everything in the world, gods who can make mistakes... those gave me the ability to maintain my faith, even when things that shouldn't have happened were happening. Because I can believe (well, I can conceive of the notion) that people aren't perfect; that they will do things that they shouldn't do. And I can believe that, even though it's painful, and even though it doesn't, in fact, all work to a greater plan, there is still something/someone out there who is concerned, and doing their best. And I've had enough little moments when that force came through in ways that seemed solely for my benefit, when I'd been stretched to my limits and needed something to get just a little less bad.

Fairy tales come somewhere in this, as well. The metaphors that come most strongly to me, as I'm going through this healing process, are from fairy tales: spells to keep girls from sleeping; girls who are apparently rescued, but then have to re-enter the woods and save themselves; ogres with no hearts in their bodies; monsters who speak only in riddles... powerful stories, intertwined with the fantasy novels.

There really isn't an end to this post, but I'm tired of writing, so I'll stop.

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Pondering

I talked to my mother yesterday. We generally talk on Sundays. I talked just like we always do, chatting about this and that, with me seeming to be open, but just not mentioning what's going on in my life. Because, of course, this is the kind of thing I just don't mention with my family.

I know it's the wise thing to do, because even if there are moments of empathy, my family is not the sort to talk about the things that happened. Or else it's just that... it wasn't worth it to go there. I don't trust my family; I don't trust them to be safe if they know about things that actually matter to me; I don't trust them not to react with anger and denial if I bring up childhood stuff. Plus, my capacity to forget the bad things is one of the ways that I was able to be "good" growing up, and that really hasn't changed.

But a part of me wonders about this.

About 10 years ago, my next-older sister talked to me a little bit about being diagnosed with multiple personalities. At the time, I was skeptical. In interacting with her, I took her at her word, but it seemed a bit dodgy. Now, well, perhaps it makes sense. She's never mentioned it again.

Going on 5 years ago, my younger sister asked me if I thought I'd been sexually abused. Her timing was horrible: I was walking out the door on my way to my first class of the semester, our youngest brother (who is even less able to keep a secret than she is) was in the next room, and it just wasn't a good time to talk. I suggested we talk about it later, but we never did.

And so, when I interact with my family, I act like everything is normal, fine, all right, nothing bad. Even when things are falling apart all around me.

Part of me is baffled by this, that I can talk to my mother as though nothing were wrong. It's what I've always done. It's just strange, sometimes. My (ex)stepfather came into her apartment while we were on the phone; he said hi (via my mother) and I said hi back.

How is it that I'm able to talk to my mother, just a couple of days after particular memories surfaced, and I am so awkward with him? I've lived with memories about him for years. But with my mother... the memories were so present last week. They had faded by the weekend, but I remember they were there. Parts of me are still remembering, or so I assume from the sick feeling in my stomach, and my reluctance to go to bed and try to sleep.

And part of me really wonders about my sisters. My next-older sister is so close with both of them--they live near each other, they see each other every day; she calls him dad, for heaven's sake. As though nothing happened. As though his influence on us was all for the good. And of course my younger sister does, since he is her father. I doubt that either of them talks about anything that personal with our mother, even though they're often hanging out with her, too. And, somehow, maybe because I do the same thing, I can kind of understand why they are so close with her. Perhaps it's because of my relationship with my own father (mostly nonexistent) that I have so much trouble understanding their relationship with him. And perhaps it's because I'm still so much in the middle of my own healing process that I have trouble understanding how they can act as though nothing happened. Because even though I know he's changed, even though I know neither he nor my mother has the power to continue doing the things that happened when we were little... even though I know they might not choose to do those things even if we were little... it's still hard to understand our relationship.

Or maybe it's just that I never much had a relationship with my stepfather, separate from the bad things. At least, not that I really remember. And not after I was old enough to remember.

Part of my mind is still focused on trying to figure out whether things "really" happened. I know that between the four of us girls, we have virtually all of the symptoms of being sexual abuse survivors. (To my knowledge, none of us currently shoplifts or sets fires, but that's about the only one we don't have.) I know this. I know that the brain is more likely to take the effort to block out bad things than good ones. I know this. And I know that silence is a natural response.

And there's so much arguing inside of me. I know that there was physical abuse. It was constant. I know there was emotional abuse, which was also constant, and which still goes on to a lesser degree. But there's the part of me that looks to how much worse things could have been, and that insists that because there were worse things that could have happened, I should be able to overcome things that seem mild by comparison. I think a part of it is simply that I have trouble grappling with the enormity of what did happen; I have so much trouble acknowledging that people I love, who were supposed to love me, who said they loved me... could do things that, on the face of them, seem so unloving.

And since I'm not able to be completely sure, because I'm unwilling to give up the possibility that I can be loved by my family, I act as though nothing is wrong. And the volume of the lies increases, because to talk about why I'm not making progress with my dissertation requires talking about how I've spent the last year falling apart. And to talk about why I've spent the last year falling apart requires admitting that bad things happened... and that my family are the ones who caused those bad things to happen.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Memory/Unmemory

Memory is a strange thing. I had a whole set of memories come in on Wednesday night. Things that, when I consider it, I'd suspected and discarded before. It was sharp, intense, incredibly painful.

They lingered on Thursday, but my internal censors stopped me from talking about them in therapy, mostly because too much time had passed, the denial had gotten a firmer hold, and... I just couldn't talk.

Now, four days later, it's like the memories are completely unreal. I can kind of remember them, but I no longer believe them. They couldn't possibly be true.

I can kind of remember the argument in my head, Wednesday night and Thursday day. The different parts arguing about whether or not it was real. One side stacking up all of the reasons to believe, the other side saying, "It's not true, it's not real, you'd have remembered all along if it had really happened, the people you know wouldn't do that."

And it's the second side that seems to have won.

Maybe my inability to do the things I need to do would be easier to bear if I could at least hold on to the reality of there being a reason I'm like this. If I could just consistently believe that things happened, and that they were bad; that they were bad enough that the only way for me to survive was to completely split off the parts that were coping with the bad stuff from the parts that coped with getting through the day.

Rationally, I can see what's happening. I can't cope with the memories, even though they are in the past. I can't cope with the reality of what it's done to me, because it's something I've spent my whole life pretending didn't happen; pretending everything was normal; accepting that when people I trusted said I shouldn't be upset that I shouldn't be upset.

In a distant, separated from myself way, it's kind of fascinating to watch the denial slowly block out what I remembered. And my approach to the memories is distant, and separated. I can line up all the reasons to believe, and they are good ones. I can hear the voices of different parts of me, lining up with their stories...

But none of it can conquer the spreading unmemory. It is like a fog, slowly re-obscuring things that were briefly visible.

If I were able to cope with my life, if I were able to do the simple, day-to-day things, then I would be able to truly convince myself that nothing ever happened. And yet, I can't cope with life. My body rebels against eating, I panic when I start to clean the house.

I'm furious, but I'm not sure of the target of my anger. Is it myself, for not just doing the things that should seem possible, except that once I start, I just can't do them? Is it my family, for the things they did that made me who I am today (and not in a good way)? Is it the person who cuts in line at the grocery store?

I don't let the anger out, so it roils in my gut, along with the panic, along with the sadness, along with the regrets and the fears. I have so little understanding of safe ways to express anger; I am unwilling to worry people or upset them or make a mess, so I don't scream. And who would I scream at?

I am caught between my inability to allow myself to remember and the fact that the unmemory keeps me from being able to heal.

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Invisibility

It's hard to remember that I don't actually disappear when I'm not in front of people. It's a struggle I've had all my life, this expectation that people just forget I exist when I'm not right there with them.

My analytical part says, "Well, that makes sense, because, from available evidence, during your formative years, people did forget you were there. Important people. People whose job it should have been to always make it clear that they remembered you, and you were important. Your parents seemed to forget your existence. Like forgetting to pick you up after you'd been away; like not writing letters to you or having you for a visit."

I try to explain to people, when I express surprise that they should remember my existence, that it's not that I think they don't like me, just that I kind of... disappear when they're not thinking about me. Like I'm not real, or something.

It's harder, I think, because of the DID. Because there are parts of me that even I forget exist when they're not out. And if I can forget parts of me, then how much further a step is it to believe that all of me can be easily forgotten?

I feel especially invisible lately. Kind of in a grey fog, but the moments of clarity are worse, so I retreat again, just to avoid the reality of... not life, since if I could make it through the thorny maze to where my actual life is, it would be good. I think to avoid the reality of what it takes to get from the grey fog to real life.

I need to do something, but for the life of me, I can't seem to figure that out. And I feel like, if I could figure out what to do, and how to do it, everything would be manageable, but since I can't even figure out where to start, it's all incredibly impossible.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Denial

I've been struggling with the part of myself that is incredibly invested in denial. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this part will insist that nothing happened, and that nothing is wrong in the present moment, either. It works externally, coordinating the one lie that I have been able to tell successfully: that I'm doing just fine.

Internally, it's even louder and more vehement. It makes me doubt that anything bad happened, or if things happened that I remember, it insists that they weren't as bad as it seems like they were, that it's just my interpretation, and nothing was so hard about it. And it also blanks out my memory of things, so that I have to keep working through the internal doubt and denial, every time the effects of childhood stuff start to make my life difficult in the present.

It's a single-minded, and not very strategic part, when it comes down to it. These are the arguments it uses: "You'd remember if anything bad happened, and you don't remember any of your childhood, so nothing bad happened." "Look at your sisters and brothers. They're doing just fine, and they'd have problems if anything bad had happened." (This is a particularly stupid piece of evidence, given my siblings!) "Someone outside of the family would have noticed and intervened if anything bad had happened." (Well, in a perfect world, yes, but that's not a realistic statement.)

But that last part got me thinking. And it's amazing to me how, in the general way with people, they are willing to believe someone so readily if that person says, "Oh, I'm fine. My parents are great. Everything is wonderful with me."

But often, I feel like people in the world are really resistant to hearing that something bad happened. Or else it's just that those are the people I'm most inclined to listen to, because I'm so afraid that it's all lies and that I'm making things up, or blowing things out of proportion.

Because, of course, that was how I was raised, to believe that my perceptions didn't matter and that nothing bad was really happening, and that if I thought it was bad, it was because I was being too sensitive.

You know, like when my family (all of them white) keep using the n-word in reference to me, or telling racist jokes, or say I only got into college and only got scholarships because I'm black, my problem is that I'm too sensitive and can't take a joke.

Or when I'd get hit or punched, and then immediately told, "That didn't hurt. Stop crying."

But I think about the outside people, like teachers and neighbors. I can only think of one time when someone intervened, and my memory is incredibly vague--someone at one of our schools called children's services, who came and investigated, but things were left the same afterwards. Because my parents aren't stupid, and were entirely able to act as though they were perfectly good parents, and it was whichever of us kids who was making something up.

Thinking about it, though, all those years--there are eight kids in my family, spread over 20 years, so that's a LONG time with kids in the school system. Only one teacher noticed something was up?

And I admit that I'm especially infuriated, in a general, not-related-to-me sense, about the fact that the mandated reporter trainings I've had about child abuse NEVER MENTION that not all abused children misbehave, and that, in fact, the kids who are terrified of making mistakes or doing absolutely anything wrong at all... they also might have things going on.

I guess it's the years of being utterly surrounded by people who seemed trained to think nothing was going on that makes it so hard for me to understand that most of the people I know in my adult life are willing to believe that bad things happened back when I was a kid. And it makes me angry on behalf of the kid parts, who even though they did their best to hide things, should not have been even one tenth as successful as they were, because they just weren't that good at hiding things... except no one chose to look for the signs.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Book Recommendation

Getting Through The Day, by Nancy J. Napier.

I have been finding this an immensely helpful book. Much of the literature on abuse is either way too triggering, and talks about things that make me anxious or give me flashbacks, or is focused on the broader aspects of long-term healing. I had been really wanting something simple and direct about how to make it through the day and feel like I was making some progress. This is that book.

It works especially well for me because the author doesn't take a really bossy approach. She suggests exercises, and says why she believes they will work, but also says that (within the bounds of healthy choices) I should do what works for me. She's gentle and spiritual without getting too "woo-woo" for me to be able to feel like it's worth reading (how is it that someone can offer excellent advice, but if it's too woo-woo, I find myself intensely resistant?).

She also has sections in every chapter that talk about how people with multiple personalities may be affected differently, or how they can adjust exercises to work better in that context.

All in all, it's a really useful book (I admit I'm only halfway through, but it's been a very good experience going through and reading it, and I can already see ways that it's being useful for me).

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another Introduction

Hey hey, ho ho, the guilt and shame have GOT TO GO!!

I'm the Hip Chyck. I guess I'm just one of the parts, and that's probably okay, but I think everyone would be happier if I were the one in charge all the time, because I'm just more fun to be. And I am happier most of the time.

Okay, so maybe I'm not good at things like really listening to how people feel, or having many of my own feelings, but still, they should let me out more often. I can make friends, and I can get us out of this depressed, over-thinking rut we're in.

I guess some of the other parts are embarrassed by some of the things I do, but I don't think I need to be ashamed of my body, and it's not like I do anything that's really inappropriate. And I like to dance and eat fire and march in protests and do fun activist stuff. When I was in charge more often, our life was better, because we had more friends and we did more fun stuff.

Plus, I have good ideas and I can make them happen. It's annoying that it's been so hard to get the other parts to do things lately, because I know they want the things that I would make happen, especially making friends.

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Introducing the Kids

The inside kids want to introduce themselves, or some of them do, so I'll let them talk in this post.

I am the mean one. I got a name now and it's Mean Mandy. Mandy is for Amanda, and amanda means that you have to love them, so that's what I chose because I want people to love me. I don't feel mean right now, because I like my name and I like to have a name and it makes me happy. But I can also be a big mean monster, or I can make messes and I can stomp around. Now I can stomp and growl GRRRRR!! I'm Mean Mandy the Monster and GRRR you go away. But I really don't want people to go away, I just want them to love me. I am a mean monster GRRRRRR so that other parts can feel safe, because it makes me MAD MAD MAD when someone makes them feel yucky or sad. I can even take care of the grown ups because they feel sad too so sometimes, even if they don't want me to, I take care of them and I make them say GRRRR!! YOU GO AWAY!!! Because no one should hurt people. Sometimes I just want to make a mess and be bad to get the angry feelings out.

I am the good one. I don't know if I like having a name, but it's mine, and I kind of want a name of my own, but I know it's bad and it might get me in trouble, so I think I'll also pay attention when someone says the other names, too. I am good and nice and I don't like to be bad and I don't do bad things. My name is Michelle. I am eight years old and I like to go to school. I want to have a big doll, but it costs too much, so maybe I'll get it some other time.

I am the Teller and I tell things inside and outside. I can talk and tell things. And I can show things if I can't talk. I could draw pictures and stuff like that. Sometimes the others don't like me 'cause I'm a tattletale they say and I say things they don't think I should. And sometimes I tell people about what someone is thinking, even when that part is scared to talk or doesn't know how. And I can tell about the other kid parts, even if they don't want to talk. I talk to the inside grown ups, too, and let them know why the kids are feeling bad.

There is the Baby. The baby is little and it can't talk much and it cries a lot and sometimes it just gets blank and like a rock or a stick or a brick. The baby gets scared sometimes when people try to pick it up and then it's a rock so it can't get hurt. Sometimes the baby gets ANGRY and then it screams but it doesn't make noise when it screams because making noise means it gets hurt.

Then there is Yucky. That one is sad and confused cause it doesn't know WHY it was yucky or how people could see it was yucky when it was just a little baby. That part wishes it could be pretty and good so people would love it, but it doesn't believe people who just SAY they love it because lots of people do that and then they do things to hurt it, or they do things that make it feel yucky and say that those things aren't really yucky but are because they love it. Yucky gets lots of yucky feelings and things hurt or feel yucky. That's all.

And there is the scared one. She hides in the corner or in the closet or sometimes on the ceiling and sometimes she watches things happening. She is afraid and she doesn't like people to know where she is unless she is SURE they are nice safe people who won't be mean. The scared one can be little tiny. Sometimes she can help the rest of us to disappear so no one can hear us or see us even if we're in the same room. She does magic tricks and she keeps us safe by making us disappear and then we're okay. So we can hide.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

So, about me

The whole purpose of this blog is to come to terms with being DID. I commented in my journal the other day that if one of my big issues is denial of having been abused as a kid, then this diagnosis is like a very meta dialogue.

I say, "It didn't happen."
My brain says (by having parts, in big letters): DID
And I then added that this makes my partner's line: DID-SO. Which is funny, because she is often the one who has to face the parts of me who really, really don't want to believe that anything really happened, not something bad enough for there to be parts inside of me.

Over the past day or two, I've been following the advice in the books I've been reading about coping with DID, and getting to know my parts. A lot of them I already knew, because even though I wasn't willing to admit they were parts, I'm often co-conscious (meaning, I often am at least somewhat aware while they're active, although I often can't change what they're doing).

And for a few weeks, I'd go and ask parts that kept pushing to come out, "What's your name?" or "How old are you?" The part would invariably respond with "I'm not allowed to have any name but Julia; I'm not allowed to be any age but yours."

After therapy this week, I decided that one of the things I need to do in order to stop being quite so stuck at a stage of being crazy (in the sense of fragmented, fragile, cracked, which is the first definition in our big dictionary), I needed to create a sense of safety. And to create a sense of safety, I had to get to know my parts. And this requires breaking one of the big rules: not allowing the parts to admit they exist.

So I've been getting to know the parts. I'd think I was making it all up, except... well, one part of me is saying that I definitely AM making it up, and another is explaining why the diagnosis makes sense, and there are several kids in the background jumping and skipping and shouting with joy, "I have a NAME!! Of my OWN!!! Hello, what's your name? MY name, all my very OWN name is...." I think it's the kids who are convincing me. (The kids are good at convincing me of things, which is probably why I own as many toys as I do.)

In theory, I'll let this be a place where my various parts can write for themselves. I don't know if that will happen, but right now we're getting at least some things past the internal censors, so there's a chance it could work.

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