Tag: dissociative identity disorder

Jealous of the Angels tonight…

These past two months several good people at my former church have passed. This week, I heard that the mother of one of the Priests had passed. She had suffered with MS for many years and in the end she had pancreatic cancer as well. I would not say I knew her well but she made a great impression on me the times I met her. She was kind and had a lot of selfless energy. She was an artist and prayed through her painting too.

Today, I learnt that an elderly Priest with whom I was at one time in close contact, is right at the end of his life. He is in a coma and it is likely to be a matter of a day or hours now. I’m asking that I may be able to go to pray with him and say goodbye tomorrow morning, if he is still with us. He is a dear friend though circumstances have meant that we have not so often spoken in the last year or so. I am very upset with myself that a lot of these circumstances I should have changed and didn’t and in my illness and fear I allowed or even set distance from this dear friend. I really care for him and he has been so kind to me and led me on in my faith. I have been useless and I don’t know if he knows how much he means and did for me. But soon he will, in heaven.

These two people both particularly affected me through their calm hope and the way they truly lived, really present and  experiencing the joys, costs, pains, losses, weaknesses, hopes and needs of every day. The experience was raw and awful and scary sometimes, especially in their illness. They didn’t stop being present or deny the feeling. They didn’t deny or worry about their imperfections or give up because of them.  They accepted their need for help, mercy and love. They gave it abundantly to others around them. Their feelings and their reality, and others’, was all part of what I’d describe as their constant prayer and thanksgiving. They didn’t deny or push down others’ feelings or tell them to think positive or that they should feel another way instead or that certain feelings are sinful or have to be overcome. They showed me that God is right here, right now. Not when we’re pure or perfect or when we’ve mastered and suppressed everything we fear about ourselves or when we’ve assured ourselves we’ve punished ourselves enough or atoned enough. God is here, with us and within us, in this scary, hurting, angry, overwhelming feeling, in our error, even in our failing and sin, just as much as in our joy, success and delight. I still get scared very often and still take the instinctive way of running, hiding, hurting myself. I still spiral down in very dark places. But what these two friends taught me is one of the very few things I can cling onto.

I miss them very much already. Part of it It feels like this.

Losing them has hit hard. Also, some conversations I’ve had this week, have hit me with some things I have to change. I can’t stop crying tonight. Therapy tomorrow will be…unstable I think. The very vulnerable child part of me is integrating with me and her emotions are coming out as mine, not just in the escape world. This will be scary in therapy group but I know it needs to be.

Ginny xxx

“Jealous of the Angels”, by Jenn Bostic. With thanks to Lite Brite for the video.

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“Are you one person or two?”

“Are you one person or two?”

I’m writing this in a coffee shop. I was just thinking about therapy on Friday when a lady came up to me. “Are you one person or two?” she asked straight away. I had to smile – nope, I’m not currently in a dissociative episode but thanks for asking! (It turns out that what she meant was “is this seat taken?”)

It does feel like having to be two (or more) people sometimes. The socially acceptable me that has to cope at work and pretend to be fine, and the emotional mess underneath. The me that is vulnerable, scared and crying and still re-experiencing the traumatic events of my childhood and desperately wants a hug. The me that is angry and bitter and has lost all compassion or patience.  The me who is hypervigilant and whose thoughts are spiralling, and bound to the voices and obsessional thoughts, and the me that is out of it, numb and disconnected, only watching the world outside, losing huge chunks of time.

Sometimes it isn’t a question of having to be two separate people because part of me is so unacceptable (for example, having to hide what’s really going on in order to function at work, or in social situations). To some extent I suppose having the other “me” that goes to work is some kind of a coping strategy. Otherwise I might be hidden at home under my blankets crying all the time. The problem is, sometimes it’s a question of flicking, uncontrolled, unstable and without wanting it, between the different “mes”, and being taken over by the different emotions and reactions to the emotions the different personalities experience. I think maybe, because my emotions are so all-consuming and take me over so much that I don’t seem to exist outside them, when I have such a surge of different emotions, going through them feels like being split into different people, all dissociated from each other. Another problem is losing memory around the time that I experience the strongest emotions, so feeling I have not been present at all. And whether switching people / personalities is wanted or not, it is shattering. When it’s unwanted, perhaps because it’s frightening. When it’s wanted, it is completely draining constantly trying to conceal what you’re really feeling and act against it, and it can make me feel that I am being very false,  and that I am so bad really on the inside even if nobody else sees it yet. I guess because I think the emotions I label or experience as “bad” make me bad. That’s something I probably need to try to examine.

Now, particularly for fans of The Big Bang Theory, this could of course turn into a particular skill, a la Sheldon Cooper 😉 :

[Raj wants Sheldon to sign up to an online dating website.]

Sheldon: “Are you sure? I’ve heard that on those sites, often when you think you’re corresponding with someone, it’s actually a computer program pretending to be a real person.”
Raj: “And you’re afraid it’ll do a better job than you?”
Sheldon: “Excuse me. No one does a better job pretending to be a person than I do. Siri comes close, but I know more jokes.”

Certainly it can feel like pretending to be a person. Or pretending to be an “okay” person, at any rate! I’m trying to focus on the fact that even when we are in pain or turmoil or angry or whatever it may be inside that we feel is not okay, it’s what we do and how we act that is important in terms of good or bad. I’m not saying that I think it’s bad to express these difficult emotions, to get upset, sad, angry and so on. I’m learning that we need to do that. I mean that whatever we feel, and indeed whether we think it’s a bad feeling or not, we can still do good. Even if I’m angry and upset inside, I can still choose to be dedicated at work or to do some little thing to show kindness to a friend. Having the difficult feelings inside doesn’t mean we are worthless, or can’t do any good. Everything is harder, for sure. It costs us much more to smile, go out of the door, talk to people, go to work, etc etc, when we are having an awful day. If anything this increases the value of the good and the kindness we do because it is done with all the more effort and love.

Keep drinking the coffee 😉 and keep going!

Ginny xxx

[Photo from Gilmore Girls episode “Luke can see her face” (season 4 I think) …..The Big Bang Theory – directed by Mark Cendrowski, produced by Faye Oshima Belyeu ; Gilmore Girls directed by Amy Sherman Palladino. All rights belong to the respective artists.]

 

The fear of what lies within

It was my MBT therapy group this morning.

I was very sad at the end and the frightened abandoned child part of me was crying.

I do not want to risk breaking any confidences so I will just say that we shared our feelings and thoughts around abuse suffered, memories, trauma, and times of finding out that a loved or trusted person has done something very very wrong, perhaps the most terrible wrong of violating the most delicate and intimate part of another person’s physical being and emotional soul.

I wish I could write more freely but I am very afraid to break or betray confidences, even though I do not give personal information or write under my real name. Too much rides on that to ever risk it and it would cause too much pain to everyone else in the group.

[Note – at this point I know that my writing that follows has not become very coherent. This post is a lot of things I had to get written down for me and it may not make any sense whatsoever to readers. I am sorry for that. I am not sure that any good can be gained from reading it, actually. I feel I have to write it to start to unravel some of the terror I’m feeling right now about the experiences we explored and to start to pick out some of the emotions. I don’t know well what they are right now. This comes with a warning about painful and scary themes in the writing that follows although because I don’t know if it makes any sense at all, I’m not quite sure what exactly to warn for. It does mention a memory of someone threatening and abusing and physical violence. Just…. warning…. xxx]

I am sad and cold now and desperately wish someone were with me to hold me; to hold me here and tell me what’s real, what’s not real, what’s no longer real, and maybe the hurting child part of me would be protected. She knows only she is wrong and she has harmed and she could drive someone to death – and the flashes come of the terror of finding her, there, like that – and she must be alone and she must know the bad that she has done and if she just watches hard enough perhaps she can get away before it all happens again. But still she’s crying and hurting and nobody comes. Nobody held her, nobody told her it was alright, nobody told her being loved and being able to love didn’t mean being able to get it right enough, disappear enough and fill everything she needed without fail. She cried on her own and she wished alone would stay forever then, in the little room and her make believe world with the “children” she cared for and made real in her mind and for her eyes only, where she didn’t do harm, and later where she was even allowed to cry and someone would hold her and tell her she was good and it would be alright. She could even save people in that world, be brave and strong and rescue and save, suffer hurt herself to protect and save the others. She could slip into that world.

If only the alone time always lasted. If he didn’t come home, didn’t open her door, and know instantly from her frightened watching and sometimes her attempts to block the door, and her mother in her own bedroom in the dark in bed (sleeping? Silent and still, certainly.) If he didn’t come and Mother didn’t get up (one day would she not get up? would it have happened that she’d gone away as she threatened, or even that she was dead?) then alone would last. It was frightening and panicky and hollow but it was safe and she could slip back into the other world, with her “children”. But he always came home. He knew straight away – without a shadow of a doubt she thought this – what had happened that day and what she had “done” to her mother and what had happened and what her mother was going to do because of her. He’d go in to her mother and her mother would tell him what she’d done. Then down they’d come, and he’d be cooking dinner, and the evening and night “session” would start, of Mother crying and screaming and threatening and asking her over and over why she had done it, until Mother came up with the explanation for the evil thing she had done, to punish Mother and get her own back in some twisted way. And the child wouldn’t even understand what the initial deception was supposed to have been, sometimes, let alone how that was punishing. The wrong, you see, was only a wrong if she had intended the evil and the punishment in her action. The action wouldn’t have been wrong without it because it had not any value, it just was. But there was the evil motive and intention and Mother always knew it exactly. And all the time she’d be asking, watching, shouting, accusing. And the child would be crying. Nobody came to her. Nobody helped her. Father comforted Mother, hugged her, sat beside her, stroked her feet and legs, sat with her when she went up to bed when she’d made her so sick she couldn’t cope. He brought Mother the wine and coffee she drank and the cigarettes she chain smoked. (Did he know she threw the glass jars at her? With practised precision to smash into thousands of shards directly at her feet, I know now.) Nobody brought the child anything to comfort her and nobody held her when she cried at the threats and shouting or being left alone when Mother went away and she wondered if that would be the time Mother didn’t come back – look what you’re doing to your Mother… stop crying like that, that’s what people do when they’ve had something really serious happen to them, stop sitting there dripping like a blood machine – and nobody went to her when she cried at night and nobody was there when she got up and was terrified to move and terrified of the stairs. She couldn’t tell anyone when she wet herself because she was too frightened to open the door of her bedroom to go to the bathroom in the night because she thought Mother would be dead outside and that would be the night she would find her – but if she didn’t go out it wouldn’t be real in that child’s mind – she tried to hide the wet things and when Mother found them stuffed into the back of the wardrobe, smelling, she didn’t answer why she had done it. Mother was always there. Father took completely her side and the totality of everything she claimed was the entire truth in his eyes. But nobody was there for that child.

She’s still there and scared and she wants a hug and in the flashbacks she’s all I am and I’m frozen and terrified. She needs someone to take her and not let go and never let go and she really really wants to be real and not be bad, just be the real little girl she is and not the terrible other evil things that Mother said she was doing. Is she a little girl or is she manipulation and evil and danger and damage? Is she real? Is the world she prefers to escape into real? Because it’s so much better and so much safer and it’s there that somebody wants and needs her. Please could she be real.

It really really hurt when Mother did the things she did with her body, in front of the mirror and on the bed and in the bathroom and……. inside…… it really hurt and Mother told her how to breathe so she could do it.

Why didn’t she know it was wrong?

Why was it her normal?

Why didn’t she tell? Why didn’t she stop it?

Especially in the bathroom. Because she was older then. Why did she just let her. Why even when the problems started later did she still not connect it.

Why.

Why is she so dirty and disgusting.

And most terrifying of all what if all this is a lie. What if she’s a foul ugly silly little thing and she’s repeatedly punishing Mother and that’s all this is and it’s all a lie.

Voices. Voices. And crying. Crying tired. Crying for it to stop. Cold.

And was there anything that was good?

****

And what if someone so bad – as what Rev. F. did with the young men… what about me? I thought he was kind to me. I thought he encouraged me. I thought he was kind and he always remembered my name, said hello and said he’d pray for me, and told me hope when I was in the grip of bulimia and losing the plot. I held on to the peace in the evening services as we prayed. But then he did – was doing? – that with the young men. And that was pure hurt and wrong and never never can in any way be alright and so so much harm has been caused to them. What does it mean that I thought something he did was good? What was his thinking when he did the things I thought were good? Would I have become complicit? Why did I think he was kind – someone who could do things like that? Am I so so bad too if I could think he was kind? Am I somehow open to being taken? Taken and used and used to hurt even without knowing?

Yet again. There it is. Used to hurt, doing bad, doing bad without knowing.

Can good be done without good being the intention?

Does that just reinforce that bad can be done without knowing too? Does that mean you can be bad without knowing?

Ginny – – – but not Ginny, really, tonight. Ginny’s got a bit lost right now. Tonight I’m still the frightened child. (Dissociating again.)

I’ve called her Lily – the child. I’ve called her Lily. She’s always there.

Lullaby (5) – Makes my heart smile, to know that you give love so freely

I met my friend and her new baby B. today. She is perfect, beautiful, adorable, cuddly, with inquisitive eyes (when she woke up!), rosy little cheeks and already crowned with lots of soft black hair that loves to stick straight up and you can tell will soon make cute little bunches on top of her head.

There is something very special about the rush of love that fills me when I hold a little child. Much as I fear having my own children and fear I would not know what to do, would not know how to be gentle enough or how to keep my patience when they cry and cry or do not sleep the night for months, or how to know what they need, holding B. today the perfect trust she showed as she cooed and nestled in to me and went to sleep soundly, as though she had found a “safe place” of her own, pulled at my heart with protective love.  As she laid on my chest I knew it was a privilege to be loved by her unconditionally and to protect and adore her and wish to give her everything good.

And B. is not my child – how much more must those feelings be as a mother!

B’s mother, who has encountered with varying degrees of proximity many distressing family and childhood situations, including ill treatment and abuse, said that she has asked herself how inconceivable it is that anyone could ever do a child harm.

Part of me would long for my own family and I have been touched by love for and delight in my friends’ children, including my godchildren. Equally I am stunned that my friends did choose me as a godmother, being so sure myself that I do not have anything good to give and if only they knew how very bad inside and dangerous I really am. I even won’t go to spend time with my friend if her boys will be there, sometimes, because I am so afraid I might do something that hurt them – either unconsciously, in a dissociative state, or because I’m just bad really – or that I would only upset them. If I were a mother I’d be afraid I had no idea how to raise a child, what to give them, how to teach them, and that my patience would run out.

My fears intensified when I was babysitting years ago and the child I was caring for was in the midst of a tantrum and the voices in my head started telling me that I was going to hit her. I was terrified. So terrified that I shut the child in her room and myself into another room and left her alone crying because I thought that was safer than what I was going to do. I was very disturbed afterwards and starved myself in the following days as punishment. I have never babysat since. It was all the proof I needed how the evil was going to erupt from me.

Today B. slept in my arms. Today she just wanted cuddles and love. Today the love cast out some of the fear, whilst I held her. It really touched me that I had been open with my friend about some of the awful things going on in my head – my BPD, my hallucinations and obsessional thoughts – and still she wanted to come to see me and let me hold her child and trusted me.

“For perfect love casts out fear,” the Gospels say. In the moments that little baby melted the fear in my heart, I began to understand.

There’s a fight in my heart and my head right now because as soon as I left my friend and baby B., the anxiety grabbed at me and I’m terrified again; something cold and horrible is clutching at my chest. It’s as though all the knowledge that I’m bad and fears of the evil in me are redoubling their efforts to break me, so as to punish me for loving and trusting and being happy with B. Tonight’s going to be a very hard and scary night. I’m going to try to keep loving.

Ginny xx

This song by Vienna Teng, “Anna Rose”, speaks very much to me of the tender love between a parent and child and the delight children’s non-judgemental acceptance and trust gives us.

Regretting

I fought with a friend today. She is one of my two closest friends and the person I see the most. She probably does more practical to support me than anyone else.

I feel so so stupid, selfish and cruel right now and like I’ve demanded the forbidden. I’ve asked too much and am too much for anyone to cope with.

I got angry and exploded at her really mad and upset because of something we were discussing that a CPN at my service had said to her about carer support. Suddenly and irrationally I felt they wanted me alone and I was never allowed any help or to have a friend and was so harmful to everyone I had to stay on my own and no matter how much it hurt, never show it and never have any help and at that time I felt I couldn’t trust them anymore.

I was hurting and screaming out for someone to hold me but at the same time knew I was so bad I just had to be away from everyone.

My friend does so, so much for me and is the last person I’d be angry with. She was the last person I wanted to hurt or make feel she’d hurt me. I absolutely do not want her to feel responsible for me, that she has to help me or save me, or that she should do more.

I felt like I knew she didn’t want me and I was too bad really. But the frightened child part of me was still screaming for comfort.

I don’t know why I made the leaps of judgement I did. I wish it had never happened.

She told me she is okay. She told me I have not hurt her. She told me she does want to be my friend and does want to meet and she would not do things she does not want or feel able to do, and that she would tell me if she cannot do something. I do believe her. I do.

It was one of those periods where the anger I can’t really explain and the hurt of what felt (irrationally) like confirmation I was never allowed anything but to be on my own blacked everything else out.

Perhaps it is better that we could both speak honestly.

Does the childish part of me want and need too much and is that why I find it so hard to be on my own? Do I ask too much in friendship? Do I become too close in both what I want to give and how I need to be able to count on someone? She was right today – I trust completely or I am completely hurt and closed.

I regret today and I am so sorry for what I said. However, I do believe what she said and assured me as well and I do know we will keep meeting up. Perhaps that’s less “black and white” than my obsessional thoughts would have allowed me a while back  – I would never have allowed myself to see her again because of the hurt I might cause again.

I am so very thankful for the very few people who stay with us when we are frightening and repulsive to ourselves.

Ginny xx

Goldilocks and the three bears (with a sore head – or three sore heads I guess)

Goldilocks and the three bears (with a sore head – or three sore heads I guess)

[Artwork is not my own.]

Q “Why are you chasing after a giggling fortune teller with a crystal ball?”

A “Well, my therapist told me that I have to try to reach a happy medium…”

Yeah okay sorry about that one…

In therapy recently we’ve talked about different concepts of an emotional thermometer.

One view could be a bit like a normal thermometer which can read positive and negative temperatures (ie plus and minus zero, not positive and negative in the sense of value). When we reach a very extreme emotional state either side of the middle, it is a bad time for us and we are not able to use coping techniques or mentalise, because of the extreme we are at.

At the high, hot, “red” extreme, where the thermometer has “shot up”, we are experiencing very intense emotions – extreme anxiety, distress, hurt, anger etc. I guess it could also be an extreme of a positive emotion although I wonder if this would make coping as difficult? I probably should think more about that.

At the low, cold, “blue”, frozen extreme, we also aren’t able to manage because we feel so low, cut off from our emotions, maybe as if we are in a numb state.

It might, perhaps, be more possible for us to function in the low extreme than the high extreme – we might be more able to get through the day better than when we are in an extreme of eg distress and crying – but it is not a place we are calm or happy.

In the middle of the two extremes, so a range around the imaginary zero, is a mid-ground where we can have calm and balance and where we are able to mentalise about our thoughts and emotions and be curious and reflective about what we and others are experiencing. So the zero is not a zero in the sense of zero = no emotion, but it represents the mid-ground.

This happy middle ground is the “Goldilocks state”*- where we are not too hot, not too cold but “just right”. (Sadly the term just works with reference to Goldilocks and the porridge part of the story. It is not the emotional state one frequently reaches when finding someone else sitting in your seat on crowded trains and I’m not even going to touch on what happens when you find an unexplained person sleeping in your bed 😉 [joke!]…)**

In order to be able to employ coping strategies, the aim may be to find ways to bring ourselves away from either of the two extremes to this happy “Goldilocks” middle ground. No end of different factors, including our personality, what we have learned about regulating our emotions as children, the role models that we have had, and so on, can affect our ability to return to the middle ground and the extremes we go to in the first place. I guess this something I’m going to find my way through in therapy. Someone said to me that they find the term “emotionally unstable personality disorder” more accurately descriptive than “borderline personality disorder” because it better represents these extremes of emotion.

I think there are lots of ways the thermometer metaphor could be used. Perhaps instead of imagining a plus and minus end of the thermometer, it is more helpful to imagine a thermometer from 0 – 100 degrees and that the happy medium is around the middle of this range, too much is going towards 100, etc.

Personally I can identify with the metaphor that involves the minus temperatures because I definitely feel I slip into a state that’s like sub-zero, when I am so numb and cut off from my emotions (and others’) and can’t engage with anything. Sometimes I can’t even talk to anyone. It is not the heightened emotional arousal of my extreme distress but it is by no means good either. It may allow me to give the impression of functioning for a while, but I feel I am operating in a dream world, not really present. And it is very dangerous because of where it can quickly lead me to, or switch to.

Which brings me on to the thought that for me, as well as the thermometer there is a cyclical path that does not involve going vertically up and down the thermometer, but oscillates straight from one extreme to the other. My “sub-zero” state can very quickly flip straight to the high, hot, red end. My numbness can flick straight to anger, hurt, agitation, even thoughts of violence or fury which I would never normally experience let alone act on. I can flick straight into the compulsive need to self-harm and self-punish to turn the anger and emotional energy on myself. It feels like a frightening loss of control. I can oscillate in the other direction too. Overwhelming sadness and distress can suddenly plunge into numbness and disconnection and dissociation from the world into what feels like one of my other personalities and my memory of what has happened will go very blank. It feels very out of control afterwards.

I don’t know yet how I will start to learn how to some how get off this dangerous oscillating circle to get back to the happy middle ground or how to get control of the extreme emotions, especially managing anger.

Does anyone else switch or spin through emotions like this? I’d be really curious to hear other people’s experiences.

[Note – *and** : as in the children’s story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a famous children’s fairytale in the UK / USA. I know some readers are not from the UK so please ask if this reference is puzzling to you!]

Ginny xx