Now what?

That was my question for the shrink this morning.  I thought she was adding to my list, but she is changing the diagnosis from bipolar I to depersonalisation disorder.  My reaction to this is confusion.  It’s good that she is acknowledging the trauma and the dissociation, but acknowledging the trauma reinforces the fact that it did, indeed, happen.  Having a medical professional acknowledge it is scary.  It makes it more official, for lack of better terms.  I told her I felt like I was to blame for this behaviour.  Bipolar disorder is chemical; depersonalisation is a response.  She said it was simply a logical response at the time to overwhelming trauma.  It made me want to cry to hear her say I’m not to blame.

Depersonalisation is that feeling like you’re watching your life pass before you.  I describe it as sitting in the audience watching a play in which you are an actor.  Even when I’m situated firmly in my personality– no switching involved– I often feel like that.  The shrink said she was in a meeting with the therapists and one happened to mention reading about depersonalisation disorder.  After a bit, she said it was like a light bulb went on, and she knew, right away that my disorder belonged in the dissociative category.  Interesting.

So my question was about how to treat this nifty little bugger.  We all know the DID bit has to be involved, but, since neither the shrink nor the therapist believe in that, I need to know how they’ll work with the dissociative disorder they *do* believe in.  She just said we’re in this together, as she hasn’t diagnosed a dissociative disorder in 20 years.  Medication wise, we’re not changing anything.  She said the techniques in therapy might change, which worries me.  The therapist flat told me she does not want to work on trauma, so I’m confused about how we’ll work on the trauma response.  It’s where my dissatisfaction with the use of straight CBT pops up.  I think CBT is a great method, but I also think it needs to be augmented with others.  On the other hand, I do feel like this therapist isn’t particularly compassionate.

I have a feeling this long, strange trip is just beginning.

Learning Emotions

It’s not unusual for survivors of childhood trauma to have very little concept of emotion as adults.  For survivors of SRA, this is magnified even further.  Recognising that SRA is a very controversial topic, I can only speak from my own experiences.  However, I’m hoping this post might be helpful to other SRA survivors out there.

‘Act, don’t think’ is a popular adage among cult leaders and programmers.  Especially for higher-ranking members, the idea is to completely eradicate any sense of emotion.  Among the top, that includes even any concept of right or wrong.  Life becomes solely about action.  I’m very fortunate to have made it out of the cult system without losing my sense of right or wrong, and I’ve always been able to feel emotions, even if only slightly.  My problem has been identifying them, and then learning to express them.  Inherent abilities for most people, even though we sometimes muddle up that process along the way to adulthood.

My process of learning emotions went from simply conceptualising them as dictionary definitions to assigning them to physical responses to now, when I’m actually trying to name whatever it is I’m feeling.  I quite literally thumbed through a dictionary reading the definitions of words like ’emotion,’ ‘anger,’ and ‘sadness.’  I needed an understanding of the terms, which seemed quite like a foreign language at that point.  In case it hasn’t become completely obvious yet, I am incredibly analytical.  Everything has to make sense and follow logic or at least be open to having a system of logic applied to it.  I *make* my world logical, even in a spiritual sense.  When things happen outside that system of logic, as they have lately, I haven’t got a clue how to deal with them.  That’s partially what this rambling post is– my attempt at analysing why I can’t analyse some of the situations I’m facing at the moment.  I’m also known to be a bit stubborn.

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend explained one of the most perplexing concepts of emotion to me.  His family went through a very difficult and unexpected situation recently, and it’s still not over.  His mother is grappling with that situation, which shook her faith and made her question the very things on which she bases her identity.  I’ve sat with her many, many times as she’s cried or spoken in anger, voicing her concerns and questions over and over again.  I’d do it again any time– she’s like a mother to me, and I’ll always be right there for her and anyone else I love.  Compassion is something on which I pride myself.  However, I didn’t understand *why* she needed to express those feelings over and over again.  I could relate– my grief issues wash over me on a relatively regular basis, and even if I can’t follow through with it, the need to express my emotions is there– but I didn’t understand *why* that basic instinct of human nature existed.  It seemed maladaptive.  Feeling and expressing something once, and then being able to move on indefinitely seems like the better option.  And I’m almost laughing as I say that.  It’s the robotic response I was taught, but it’s also something I’ve broken through now.

My best friend put it in the simple terms I need to understand emotion.  The situation hasn’t changed, so why would the response change?  *That* makes sense to me.  That’s logical.  Even though the initial sting of his family’s situation has passed, the situation and its aftermath still exists.  His mother needs to keep talking about her feelings on the subject because the situation is still there.  She still feels it because that initial break can’t be mended.  And even though my losses didn’t happen in the past year, the people I lost will never be back.  The initial shock and acute pain of my grief has passed, but the situation remains as it was and the feelings surrounding those losses remain in me.

It’s an important lesson that has taken me years, literally, to understand.  I’m hoping this post might help someone get there a bit quicker.  We feel emotions because we are alive.  In fact, some might argue that the ability to understand and express emotion is what *makes* us alive.  We all have those passing issues that are more like annoyances.  When we face the really difficult situations, though, we come out of them changed.  They stay with us, if only by taking a piece of who we are with them as they pass.  The emotions they inspire stay with us as well.  Why, then, wouldn’t we need to express them more than once?  It’s our attempt to process the concepts introduced in our new lives and our new concepts of self.  In expressing the emotions of the situations that change us, we’re merely telling the story of who we have become through what we have experienced.  Very little in life is more important than that.

Panic

Today is the last day of June.  The end of the first half of the year.  And I am panicked.  Very.  I feel like time is going too fast and we’re headed too quickly towards a fiery end.  I believe in reincarnation, have had some experiences that can only be described as past life memories, and know someone I trust and consider family who can help people through past-life regressions.  But I’m panicked about a silly little calendar page.

I also believe in Wicca and the beauty of the year’s cycle.  This year, I wasn’t even dreading the winter solstice with the absolute passion I typically feel.  Now, though, I’m caught up in that fear again.  I feel like my life is being lived all around me, but not within me.  Actually, because I’m a bit stagnant at the moment, I feel like I’m not living a life at all.  It’s possible to be stuck between lives, I know, but until very recently I didn’t have that feeling.  I need to be involved in something outside of my current surroundings.

And now I’m panicked.  Everything feels scary and spinning, and I’ve been caught in flashbacks for two days.  If anything, I hope this calendar change brings peace.

Lost in Myself

Sometimes I feel like a twisted version of Narcissus, staring at my own reflection until it takes over and drowns me.  The difference is I’m not ever sure who is staring back at me.  I’m getting rather tired of constantly having to reassess my life.  At one point, things actually felt stable.  Maybe I’m in the crisis stage of DID at the moment, maybe new people are on their way or memories are about to be reclaimed, maybe it’s just that my mood disorder meds aren’t working.

Some days I *hate* multiplicity.  I want a stable sense of identity.  It’s taken so long just for me to feel remotely human.  Now, I’ve found that my identity is fragmented, and it gets cheapened somehow.  I’m not me, but rather a collective ‘us.’  There is no one true identity.  Yes, I realise the alters are all part of me and not truly separate people.  Still, they all hold pieces of who I am.  I want those pieces back.  Most of the non cult-created alters have given up their memories, but they still hold the emotions.  I want those emotions back.  If I’m ever to feel whole, I need *all* of the facets of me to unify.  Otherwise, it’s always a constant shift of opinions, preferences, and strands of time that I have to tack together in an attempt to appear stable externally.

From Del Amitri’s ‘When You Were Young’–  ‘Sometimes your lack of sympathy gets hard to explain, so on your mask of makeup you just paint a little parody of pain.’

Functioning as one when there are so many others whose identities show up internally feels like a parody sometimes.

Trust

This is such an important issue for trauma survivors, and it is *so* difficult. We have trouble trusting even those we love most. When we do form trust, it’s precarious. It can be jilted so easily, and sometimes not at all by the person in question. Sometimes (usually, in my case) it’s our perception of a simple circumstance as indicative of a need to protect ourselves from further damage or to protect those we love from us. We often see ourselves as forces of destruction. It’s much easier to assume that all those bad things done to you were done because *you* are this evil person who doesn’t deserve to breathe. As odd as that probably sounds to people who did not grow up in trauma situations, taking the blame on yourself is easier than letting yourself believe those people you loved and trusted so much did things to you because of a fault in *them,* not something you did.

That initial person– the small child who has no knowledge of how things work Out There– can only base her perceptions on her world. The parents (or parental figures) she sees in her earliest existence form her thoughts on trust. Because she is so small and defenceless, this child must depend on her parents to survive. Even though she is still too young to conceptualise it, she places all of her trust on those parents. She assumes inherently that they will take care of her. When that trust is broken through trauma, the child’s concept of trust centres only on its ability to be broken. Every relationship thereafter is affected by this initial trauma.

More than anything else, this is the aspect of being a trauma survivor that bothers me most.

Swept in to My Memory

I have been completely neglecting this blog for I don’t how long.  Literally.  Time has been optional lately, and even as I type this, I’m not at all sure what’s been going on in my life.

The major DID-related development has been this bizarre way of looking at memories.  I’m interacting with the person in those memories.  Yes, I realise I *am* the person in those memories, but this is odd.  The feelings still don’t belong to me.  I’m merely a spectator.  I enter in to this alternate dimension and am led about by the central character in this black and white biography.  She lays on a table, hides in a corner, waits silently in profound darkness.  She is beaten, burned, touched in private places.  Hurt in ways I knew about but never truly felt.

And now I feel it.  I’m still not her, but she describes her pain to me.  She tells me physically what she’s going through, and here, in my present life, my body aches.  She describes the way it feels mentally, how scared she is or sad or angry.  Sometimes she’s so full of disgust she wishes they would go ahead and kill her.  She doesn’t feel worthy of living.  Here, in my present life, I feel those things too, and I want to hide my head in shame.  Time moves in and out of time, and I end up living in this present-past, afraid of where she might take me next.

I know that she will eventually become me, but right now that thought is too much to dwell on.  Right now, I still need her to be somebody else.

Empty

Something’s wrong.  That’s the refrain that keeps running through my mind.  I’ve at least got a small clue of which internal person is broadcasting this message, but if I’ve learned anything about my systems in the past two years, it’s that things frequently take me by surprise.

I’m not moving forward, even though I truly thought I was.  It’s odd.  The days *seem* full, but nothing gets done.  I do work in small bursts that are productive in the moment, but they don’t add up to enough to make a real difference over all.  Thinking over this equation for a bit this afternoon, I came to the stark realisation that I am working on absolutely nothing.  I can’t focus, because if I stop for one minute to actually focus on things that will push me forward, that constant refrain of ‘something’s wrong’ starts pounding through my head.  School work goes undone, job applications and sent out resumes go without follow-ups, opportunities are passed up, and some projects remain mere ideas.

I feel like time is frozen.  Like it isn’t moving at all, and the world over all has stopped.  When it hits me that time really *is* passing, I panic.  Maybe *I’m* stuck.  Maybe I’ve put a big black X over myself, as my therapist suggested I’d done, and have decided there isn’t a future for me at all.

While making the relatively long drive back from my FOC’s area recently, I got the feeling of ‘this is all there is.’  Something in me resigned at that point, and I just want that feeling to lift.  I just don’t know how to help it lift.  Everything feels chaotic, and I’m walking around in a sort of dream-state where the edges of reality are blurred.  It’s like I’m watching my life and the lives of those around me from outside.  Extreme dissociation or something.  I feel like I don’t exist any more, like my life really *did* end some time recently.

And then, in those brief moments when I step back in to time and see how much of it has passed by, I panic.  It’s like I’m running some never-ending race, but at the end I’ll find that it was over before it started.  Even as I write this, the voice in my head is whispering ‘I’m scared.  Something’s wrong.  I’m scared.’  I am so tired of hearing this stupid refrain and so tired of feeling as though I’ve stepped outside of existence.

Maybe forcing myself in to a routine will help.  I’m relatively certain finding a therapist who at least *believes* in DID would help, too.  What I need is to get to a point where I can have my own space and build my own life.  Sort of like reclaiming my autonomy or something.  All I know for now is that this feeling is incredibly scary, and that I’m not at all sure how to even begin diffusing it.

Feeling Disconnected

Ever feel like you truly have stepped outside of time and are existing in some sort of bizarre dimension?  That’s how I feel today.  I feel very disconnected from myself and my life overall.  This sense of isolation is happening more and more lately, and that can’t be a good sign.  It’s not a feeling of abandonment or anything like that– more like I feel as though *I* have abandoned the important people in my life by travelling in to this sort of void the prevents me interacting with them.

The best strategy I’ve found in helping myself with this is to surround myself as much as possible with reminders.  I text message my best friend constantly and email some in my out-of-town FOC.  I go back and read old journal entries describing the fun times I’ve had with the people I’m closest to.  Anything to remind me that they really are out there and that the safe places I’ve found do exist outside of my mind.  Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll eventually learn the external safe places are merely creations of my mind as well.  It’s not a pleasant thought, nor is it a pleasant feeling.

The Roundabout Week So Far

What a crazy week this has been!  At some point, Sunday maybe?  Monday? my best friend met with someone who at least looked like me.  Several hours after they/we got together, I became present and absolutely confused.  We were in a park where we frequently hang out, but I didn’t remember being there.  No problem– we’d only been there a few hours.  Anyway, my best friend tells me he spoke first with Lily, a really odd alter called Somebody, then Mairead popped up and L also made an appearance before I joined the evening’s activities.  I have almost no idea of what went on between my best friend and my internal folk, so it’s a good thing I trust him and have learned to give way some control to them.

And speaking of internal folk, it’s been a bit of a week in there as well.  *Something* is going on, and I’m not quite sure what.  I just know it feels incredibly unsettling, and my paranoia is ridiculous.  Maybe it has something to do with realising that control does slip away from me from time to time.  Not pretty.  Also, I feel like there’s been competing personalities.  People are rather alot more active externally these days, and that’s led to a sort of struggle for ‘outside’ time.  My best friend, bless him, takes everything in stride.

Have any of you ever dealt with what I’m calling competing personalities?  Have you ever felt stuck between personalities or like you don’t even exist at all?  Only slightly unsettling.

What’s really got up my nose about this is how it affected the time I spent with my FOC recently.  A few posts back I mentioned feeling safe and happy for the first time in quite a while.  That lasted only until I got back to where I’m living.  Now I feel sort of floating and unsure of where I should land.  At least *I* feel like that.  Who knows what other people think.

There are so many decisions to be made at this point, and getting an internal concensus, even among the main group, seems a bit impossible.  Turns out I’m not quite as accustomed to this multiplicity bit as I thought.  Growing up around it is nothing compared to actually dealing with it yourself.

And I Don’t Believe in Time…

…as the cheesy pop song lyric goes.

Sometimes I feel like I step outside of time, and when I step back in again I’m almost panicked at how much time has actually passed. One of the *things* about multiplicity is time loss or just general disturbances of time. Losing time is when days, weeks, sometimes years, simply go away in your mind. You ‘wake up’ for lack of better terms, and realise it’s a week later than you last remembered. It’s difficult to catch up. I’ve learned a few tricks, and it’s especially helpful when one of my internal people writes in my journal during the time I’m not present. 🙂

This is different, though. This is like time no longer exists. Outside of time is the best way I can phrase it. I’m aware of what’s going on around me and I don’t have memory gaps, but it just feels like time has frozen. It feels like I’m slipping in and out of different years or something. Maybe it’s just memories going in and out of focus. Who knows.

This afternoon I must have travelled back a few years in my mind. It didn’t *seem* like anything had changed. I didn’t feel like I’d gone through the time warp. Then I saw a calendar and it was dated six years ahead of where I thought I was. I thought about how old that made me and what was actually going on in my life now. I don’t even live in the same place I lived back then, but somehow it seemed like I pushed back time so that my current life existed back then, too. How’s that for science fiction?

It was strange. I had no memory loss. Everything *seemed* normal. It’s just that the date on the calendar was wrong. It *is* 2002, right? (Only joking– I’m reoriented to time now).

For those of you out there who are multiple or have dealt with DID in other ways, have you ever heard of this sort of experience? It’s not time loss. Maybe we can call it time lack or something. I’m very familiar with DID, but this has thrown me just a bit.

Thanks.