The End

of my time with DID.  After eight years and a great deal of work– both internal and external– I am one.  And I’m okay with that.  It’s a choice I/we made a long time ago, and it is what’s best for me.

I know DID itself is not a choice, but the issue of integration is a huge choice to be made by individuals (collectively).  This is what works for me.  Your mileage may vary.

Oddities

I’m having an odd experience, for want of better words.  As it turns out, I’m a mobile phone hoarder.  Hadn’t really thought of it as such, but I realised a few days back that there are seven mobiles in my desk drawer.  Seven.  Swimming through the cell phone graveyard, I noticed one relatively old T-Mobile model.  Immediately, my mind started whirring.  I have a memory attached to this little clamshell phone, and it’s just beyond my grasp.  I see myself sitting in a park, wearing a denim jacket, and opening the text message screen.  Then, I see myself start to text.  And that’s it.  There are strong emotions attached to this almost memory.  Very strong.  I just can’t quite access it.

Fast forward to yesterday, and I have switched cell carriers after much ado.  The phone is very, very simple.  It’s seven years old and no longer supported by T-Mobile’s servers, so it has no Internet access.  The dialpad looks like a traditional telephone, so there is no keyboard.  No camera, no apps, et c.  I had been using a Samsung Android smartphone with a very large touchscreen, loads of apps, and all sorts of online capabilities.  However, I feel better with this tiny, incredibly generic clamshell mobile phone, simply because it runs on T-Mobile.

The overarching, maddening and incredibly daft thought was that, if only I switched back to T-Mobile, everything would be ok again.  Everything would be the same.  I have absolutely no idea what’s driving this feeling or what ‘the same’ actually means.  All I know is my bill increased by $10, my phone became incredibly basic and I feel a bit better, more settled, with no idea of why.

Admit It

Sometimes admitting the things we think we’ll make us ‘look bad’ is the best thing to do.  At my last therapy appointment, the therapist actually apologised for what she termed an unprofessional reaction to my present-tense issues (see previous post).  I’m sure that was difficult for her; admitting issues with one’s profession is never easy.  However, it immediately restored my faith and trust in her.  I needed to know that her response related to her feelings, rather than my experience.  It changed nothing about my view of her as a therapist.  In fact, it made me appreciate and respect our relationship even more.  I admit when I bung up therapy exercises, and I appreciate her willingness to admit when things don’t quite go as she would like on her part.

In the reverse, admitting to my shrink that he frightened me was one of the best things *I* did in terms of my psychiatric care.  It was difficult, and I shook as a spoke.  However, his very gentle voice assuring me he would not harm me in any way plays through my mind when I am frightened about/during appointments.  I was afraid he would see me as weak and unstable, but he thanked me for telling him about that and said it would just take time for him to gain my trust.  The fact that he understood made seeing him easier.

Extrapolating these experiences is easy in a logical sense: sometimes admitting the things that make us feel unsure of ourselves is the best way to reconcile the issues.  If only we as survivors could reach that point on an emotional level and admit the horrors we have survived, healing would be much simpler.  For now, though, I’m happy to be learning about admitting something less than perfection safely.  I’ve never thought of myself as perfect, but my past demands that one appear infallible.  Weak spots are dangerous.  As I’ve gained some ability to trust, I’ve learnt that appearing human is infinitely better.

Frustrating Therapy

Ever leave therapy more frustrated than when you got there?  That was my session yesterday.  I’ve had a great deal of frustration lately, and the therapy session was more like a rant session for both the therapist and me.  Simply talking about frustration is never helpful to me.  I have to actually *work* in order to feel satisfied with the session.  Nothing got done, and thinking about frustrating events only brought back the anger I was feeling at the time.  Lovely.

So what’s the point of this post?  I’m glad you asked.  The point is to decipher the whole therapy process.  It is, after all, important work.  My concept is going in, stating a problem or maladaptive thought/behaviour, and deciding on a plan.  The next step is activating that plan.  I get very annoyed when life gets in the way of therapy, though.  I couldn’t work on the drawing  because my thoughts were all caught up in the minor annoyances.  My brain was almost manic.  I flitted from topic to topic so quickly that nothing got resolved.

My plan was to go in and keep working on the drawing.  The therapist did ask me about that, but she picked up immediately on the idea that I was completely avoiding the topic.  And that’s the problem– I wasn’t *intentionally* avoiding the topic.  I just couldn’t get my mind centred enough to discuss anything of value.  Rant sessions are fine from time to time, but I expect even those to serve a purpose.  I left therapy frustrated, annoyed, and attempting not to let any of that cross over in my demeanour.

Here’s to next session.  😐

Alive

As I transition from the manic part of this episode to the depression part, cutting has become a problem again.  It’s not a way to self-soothe or express intense feelings.  It’s a way to *feel.*  Full stop.  Thursday afternoon, I felt like I’d stepped outside my life and was merely in the audience of a play.  One might think this is a good reaction to what had been the chaos of mania, but it’s too much of a change.  To go from feeling everything to feeling completely numb in a few hours’ time produces an odd sort of panic, at least in my experience.

I tried everything I could think of, but the numbness just got worse.  I went outside and concentrated on the feel of the wind and the sun.  When that didn’t help, I turned to the more physical activities.  I worked with clay, forcing myself to notice the temperature, texture, and even the scent of it.  I coloured intricate geometric-patterned pictures.  I even tried holding ice just to feel the sting of that.  Nothing.

When I finally did give in and cut my arm, it took a minute before I even trusted the cascade of blood as proof of my existence.    The razor was sharp and cut immediately, but I didn’t feel it.  I just cut deeper and deeper until my arm looked angry and the blood flowed steadily.  This has become daily, and both of my arms now look angry.  No one will ever see these cuts, and no one is meant to.  They are simply reminders to me.  I feel my shirt scratch them or feel them burn slightly, and I know that I am capable of feeling something, at least.  As those sensations lessen, though, more are needed.  More cuts, more blood, more proof that I am alive.

Active Denial

This post is aimed at helping others who have an SRA background.  By its very nature, though, any information about SRA can be triggering to survivors.  If you are a survivor, please take care whilst reading.

There are *things* going on in the world right now.  Triggering things about wars, possible wars, and all sorts of lovely potential disasters.  We’re bombarded with information about society’s failings, and everyone seems to have a story of death or destruction.  I’d like to propose a strategy: active denial.  Hear me out.  Therapy is excellent for dealing with programming when it gets set off, as well as for identifying and defusing triggers.  When *life* becomes a trigger, though, sometimes ignoring bits really is the best way to go.

I need to remain functional.  Therefore, I am allowing certain bits to pass through undetected.  I’m avoiding news programmes at all costs and being very careful about conversations.  If something feels like it could lead in to a trigger subject, I’m quick to ask the person if we could please choose another subject.  It’s not rude– it’s self-preservation.  Even last year, I would never have been able to take that perspective.

This morning, I told my therapist about this active denial, and she’s fine with it.  When and if things *do* get triggering, I’ll bring it up to her.  If I should happen to hear or see something that gets me quite upset, I’ll simply phone the therapist, and she will calm me down.  With that safeguard in place, I’m able to push aside triggering news bits that I can’t change and carry on with my life.  I won’t ignore past triggers, nor will I ignore SRA memories as they come.  I’m simply avoiding things that can create new reactions.

If you are a survivor of SRA, my message to you is *please* keep going.  Please know you are so much more than what you were put through, and you will be OK, no matter what they’ve told you.  Healing is possible, and the best part is you have all the tools you need for healing inside yourself!

Raw

That’s exactly what this post is going to be.  Please take care if you’re not up for a graphic discussion of bulimia.  This is going to be one.

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Last night, I made plans.  I knew I’d have the house alone all day and spent a great deal of time planning what foods to take in based on how easy they would be to bring back up.  This morning, as I sat in my typical spot in the bathroom, a thought occurred to me: I don’t want to do this anymore.  Physically, the problems were evident.  There was blood in the toilet from irritation of my throat.  My stomach felt like someone had set fire to it on the inside.  My heart was beating so hard that you could literally see the pulse of  it through my shirt.  I was freezing and confused as the room dimmed and my consciousness slipped.  When I awoke, I was still in that bathroom and happy I wasn’t covered in my own bodily fluids.  My first thought?  Guilt that I’d got the last of the food I’d eaten out of my body but had been unable to get out the cup of cereal I had for breakfast.  Guilt that there was still food in my stomach no matter how hard I’d tried to get it up.  This wasn’t after a binge– I’d had roughly 200 calories.  Just the thought of *any* food in my stomach made me feel guilty, though.

I found out recently that some people aspire to have eating disorders.  They see it as a quick fix for weight loss.  What they don’t see or don’t think of, at least, is this side of it.  The vomit in the hair, blood in the toilet, stomach acid eating your insides part of it.  These girls (and some guys) look at the societal concept of ‘glamour’ and ‘beauty,’ and they are willing to do anything they have to do to get that body.  I hope, if nothing else, that my posts will help people see the dark reality of bulimia.  Nothing is worth this.

I hope, as well, that people can consider alternative causes.  I don’t want to look like a glamour girl or be twiggy thin.  I just want my outside to mask any sense of chaos on the inside.  My past brings with it loads of reasons to feel disgusting, and, in an ironic way, bulimia is my attempt to purge out the disgustingness.  It’s my attempt to make my outside body look ‘normal’ so people don’t question the state of the inside.

It’s a way to purge memories, as well.  Whilst we were still underground, I never knew when or if food would come.  When I was fed, sometimes it felt like a binge.  I was told I looked like a pig and shown other kids who were not getting fed because I *was* being fed that day.  Those children had to watch my group eat, and I knew the kind of hunger they were feeling.  What I didn’t realise is that our roles reversed; sometimes those children were fed when I was starved.  The fact is, neither group of children could hurt or help the other group.  The lasting impression is a feeling that I don’t deserve to eat, which leads to the restricting, which leads to ravenous hunger, which leads to the binge, guilt for eating so much, and purge as reparation.  Eating disorders are not always about looking beautiful.

I’m still not sure what the next step will be from here or whether I’ll be able to keep things under control.  The psychiatrist is quite right in pointing out the high rate of recidivism among bulimics.  For now, though, I at least have the *desire* to stop, and that is overriding (somewhat) the fear of gaining weight.  I’ll take all of this to my therapist next week and see where we go from here.

Penance

Therapy has become very difficult.  We’re starting to work through memories of sexual abuse and assault, which is causing so many reactions in my mind.  This came about as the therapist and I searched for the root of my eating disorder.  She kept saying there had to be a trauma root, and I was completely unaware of it.  My therapy homework was to write out the negative thoughts that popped up in my mind when I did anything related to food.  One idea came up time and again: I don’t deserve to eat.  That’s when the trauma connection was made clear.

As a child, my relationship with food was disturbed, to say the least.  Sometimes, it was used for ‘reward.’  I got taken out for ice cream when I did sexual things that were required of me.  It was my ‘reward’ for being a ‘good girl.’  To this day, eating ice cream requires heavy dissociation for me.  We’re working slowly through those memories now, but that’s for another post.

Food was also a punishment sometimes.  My mother would choose which child got to eat on any given night and make that child eat whilst the others watched.  We were told that our behaviour determined whether our siblings could eat.  The chosen child felt horrible, because he or she had to eat whilst the other hungry children watched, knowing they wouldn’t get food that day.  The children who were not fed felt horrible, because they were filled with both hunger and anger.  We were pitted against each other like that.

There was a twisted middle ground, as well.  My mother would buy junk food, allow both my sister and me to eat, and then berate us because all we ever wanted was junk.  If we refused to eat the junk food, we were punished for being ungrateful; if we did eat it, we were taunted for being slovenly.  Not that that would cause food issues in the future, right?  It was the catch-22 we often found ourselves in.  Regardless of the choice, you would be punished.  The real choice was to decide what action would yield the least punishment or the easiest to take.

Fast forward to today.  I don’t want to eat, because eating makes me *feel* slovenly.  When I do eat, I feel guilty and like I should purge it all to avoid being selfish.  It goes back to taking food from others.  I can see my siblings’ faces as I ate when they weren’t allowed to.  Even thinking of it makes me want to throw up.

That brought me to an idea I know trauma survivors will understand: penance.  The things I put myself through, be it self-injury, bulimia, or anything along the spectrum are my penance.  People tell me all the time that it wasn’t my fault and that I don’t have to pay for the things done in my past.  Still, I feel the need to do my penance for all the people who were hurt by my actions and all the people who suffered simply from my existence.  I didn’t even realise this is what I had been doing all these years.

Penance, according to the folks at dictionary.com, is ‘a punishment undergone in token of penitence for sin.’  All the sins of my past, regardless of whether they were ordered by the cult or controlled by others, haunt my present life.  I do my penance for things I’ve done and seen.  And I have no idea whether I even *want* to move past this.

PTSD

Since things have calmed down regarding the recent therapy debacle, I apparently decided to entertain myself by letting PTSD symptoms run rampant.  Today has been a running flashback.  I think I’ve spent more time in the past than the present.  The psychological symptoms are obvious, but the physical symptoms get in the way, too.  I get ‘tummy troubles’ as a dear friend calls them.  My muscles ache from being so tense.  I get migraines. My energy level flits about like leaves in the wind.  All of those lovely physical warnings that something is wrong.

A very simple thing the former therapist taught me is to ground myself by sitting straight in my chair and keeping both feet in constant contact with the ground.  When she first mentioned that, I thought she’d gone off her face.  It really does help, though.  The standard looking at a calendar to see the date can be helpful, but if it is near one of the SRA days, it can be tremendously harmful.  I’m careful with that one.

Above all, I’ve found that being outside helps.  I tend to avoid driving unless I’m sure I can keep my focus.  Still, feeling sun, rain, or wind on my skin makes me feel alive.  Again, SRA dictates the sort of places that help.  I can’t do open spaces like fields or car parks.  I need to be walking about in a residential area, surrounded by houses and people who are as alive as me.  It makes me feel a part of this world, so far away from the underground cult world.

I need to keep in my mind that the past is, in fact, over.  The memories and scars survive, but the events are over.  I also need to stop myself worrying about what’s to come.  It bothers me to think that the future could mirror the past in any way.  So here I sit on this August evening, trying to settle in to the present and remind myself of the wonderful people in my life who form the blanket of safety that now surrounds me.

Therapy Resolution

I’m very happy to say my issues with the former therapist cleared up quickly.  Actually, I felt better the next day.  I just waited a bit to post about it because I wanted to be sure it was more settled.  What made the difference is realising the issue was not personal.  My old therapist made a *huge* mistake, and for me, it had terrible ramifications.  However, she did not set out to hurt me.  She actually wanted to be helpful.  When someone damages you by accident, you can’t take it as an attack on who you are; rather, it’s simply a misunderstanding or a misdeed.  That was definitely true in this case.

On Saturday, I bought a thank you card for the former therapist, and I sent it to her on Monday.  I truly do appreciate all of the hard work she did with me and the lessons she taught me.  No doubt she’ll help many people.  She is a very young therapist, and I’m hoping what happened between us will make her more cautious about promising things to future clients.  And let’s face it- she’s already worked with an upper-level SRA survivor this early in her career.  What else could she face? 🙂

I have no regrets about the work the therapist and I did.  I only regret that we can’t move forward with that.  We’ll see what happens with the new therapist.  I still don’t see myself talking about detailed SRA stuff, but that’s OK.  Everything happens in its own time.  I just have to remember that.  Until then, I’ll work with the new therapist on more ‘normal’ issues and feel out whether I should discuss the darker stuff.