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


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.


Scudding, Floating, Drifting,
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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