A Profound Psychiatrist’s Appointment

So we had a psychiatrist’s appointment today. Originally, our psychiatrist had asked to see our husband too, but he didn’t want to come. I was a little late due to transportation issues, but we still covered many profound topics.

First, we went into why our husband didn’t want to come to the appointment with us. The psychiatrist was careful not to let me speak through her for my husband or vice versa. I liked this.

Then we went into our treatment goals and why we’re going extremely slowly with the dialectical behavior therapy program we’re following. Our nurse practitioner had already explained that he’d like us to fully understand the concepts before moving on to the next chapter, so that’s why in three months we’ve not gotten beyond the second chapter, which covers core mindfulness skills. There are 24 chapters in the course. Normally, BPD clients in group therapy do one chapter for each session and so they can finish the course within six months.

I started to explain how I find it incredibly hard to apply the skills into my daily life. Like, there’s one skill called observe, which is intended for taking a little distance (without dissociating) from an overwhelming emotion. For example, you can start by observing what you feel or think without describing it. I thought an example of this distance-taking was to do arithmetic in your head. My psychiatrist says that’s a step too far, as we first need to observe that we’re experiencing an overwhelming emotion (or physical sensation). Then we can take a step back and decide what to do with it. I mentioned the physical sensation of needing to use the toilet, which commonly overwhelms me to the point where I can no longer act fully functionally. (Because I am blind, in most places, going to the loo requires me to ask someone to show me where it is, which requires communication we don’t have access to when overwhelmed.) The psychiatrist told me that, if I do observe this feeling on time, I can still decide what to do with it out of my Wise Mind (DBT jargon for the right combo of feeling and thinking).

Then we went on to discuss the “pieces”, as we call the alters qwhen our mental health team are around (as to avoid self-diagnosing). Our psychiatrist asked us to describe some experiences relating to them, like how many are there (around 25) and what happens when we switch. She then asked whether all of us could agree that there is just one body, whether we like it or not. This was a truly profound question. First, she had us clap our hands and asked whether any of us are still convinced they could use those hands to cover their ears and not listen to what she had to say. That didn’t work, as we still dissociated a little. Then, she held our right hand and asked the same, repeatedly. This brought on a ton of emotional reactions, mostly wonder. We couldn’t say much, but later, when in the taxi back home, some of us were like: “I may not be able to cover my ears w ith those hands, but I can still run from that psychiatrist. Oh no, I can’t, as she’s holding my hand.”

We also went into how to do treatment from here on. We sort of sarcastically said maybe it’s going to take us five years. Our psychiatrist said that, if we truly want to make this work, to count on it that it’ll take that long indeed. I’m not sure how we feel about this. I mean, when we first started DBT a year ago, we were told by this same psychiatrist to do one chapter every two weeks and finish in a year. Of course, we found out pretty soon that this wasn’t working and a lot of other issues got in the way, so we restarted about three months ago.

We’ll meet with our psychiatrist and nurse practitioner together someday in September. Our psychiatrist will then explain a little about how to go from here and then we can hopefully decide whether we want this or not.

At the end, the psychiatrist shook our hand and said: “Now I’m giving you (plural) a hand and say goodbye.” That was such a validating experience. It was good to be validated like we’re multiple minds but also contained in that we only have this one body. As a side note, neither of us ever mentioned DID or dissociation. We think that’s a good thing, in that we don’t need to conform (yet) to any diagnostic box. After all, we don’t “want” to be DID, but we are multiple whether we want it or not.

How to Proceed in Our Mental Health Treatment

So we met with our nurse practitioner for dialectical behavior therapy again. This was our first session since I started considering dropping out. I am still unsure as to what I want, but I’m pretty sure that just working the manual in a very structured way isn’t working for me. I also wondered out loud how long this treatment is going to take and whether I think it’s worth it. With regards to this, my nurse practitioner explained that behavor change takes a long time because we learned our patterns from babyhood on.

We started discussing the “pieces”, as we call the alters when talking with our treatment team. My nurse practitioner said he wants to discuss this with the psychiatrist. I doubt much will come out of that, as the psychiatrist keeps the status quo as to whether we’re dissociative or not. She most likely believes we’re not, but wants to bring it diplomatically.

We went some into our original trauma, which involves my parents not having been given a choice as to whether I should be actively treated after my premature birth. They weren’t sure themselves and were told the doctors were keeping me alive and not to interfere or they’d lose parental rights.

My nurse practitioner also mentioned a book and movie about a person with multiple personalities (possibly Sybil). I am pretty sure my psychiatrist is going to stomp that association right out of him, as like I said, she probably doesn’t believe I’m dissociative.

After leaving the session, we were pretty unquiet. Katinka tried taking over from Clarissa, who usually does DBT, to get back into daily functioning mode. That was only partly successful. Our support coordinator arrived ten minutes after we got home and we were still pretty unquiet. We were able to calm down eventually and enjoy a walk.

In the evening, when our husband got home, we discussed the session with him and asked him to come to our next psychiatrist’s appointment on Tuesday. The original reason the psychiatrist had asked him to come is that she’d gotten the impression that we have relationship struggles. That upset my husband, of course. I finally managed to say that I want to discuss where to go from here regarding treatment.

There are several options. I could proceed as I have until now, which seems like the least productive option. I could stop going to therapy altogether or just stay with the team for med management and the ability to call someone when not feeling well. Or I could do more supportive therapy focusing on my emotional pain. This then could again be focused on several aspects of my life and it could or could not involve the “pieces”. I think that last option sounds best to me, but since it wouldn’t likely be based on a protocol such as DBT, I don’t think my psychiatrist would accept this. A fourth option, which I just realized when talking to someone on Facebook, is staying with my current team for med management and crisis support and going to another therapist for formal psychotherapy. I don’t think that’s a realistic otpion though.

Challenge: The Skill of Dialectics

“The best person you can become is yourself.” I once read this in an advert for a personality disorders treatment center. It seems so true, and yet it suggests that people with personality disorders are not being themselves. As if a personality disorder is somehow superimposed upon the otherwise healthy person. That’s probably not how it works.

I was reminded of this as I thought of my meeting with my mental health nurse today. I was very open about my thoughts regarding treatment and its effectiveness and my maybe wanting to stop it. The challenge, in this respect, is figuring out which aspects of myself I still want to improve on and which I want to accept as part of myself.

I clarified that I’m afraid treatment is always focused on making the patient more independent. That’s not a problem, but it is when practical independence comes at a cost to autonomy. I am and will always be multiply-disabled. No amount of mental health treatment will change that. My nurse agreed, but said that she doesn’t feel I’m at a point where I can accept myself and just live yet.

The biggest challenge in my life seems to be and always has been to find the right balance between apparent opposites. Between my intellectual capacity and my social-emotional disability. Between my wish for autonomy or self-determination and my need for support. Between my desire to progress and my desire to just be.

I remember several years ago checking out a dialectical behavior therapy self-help manual that started with the skill of dialectics, of finding the right balance between two opposites. This is such a cool skill. I think I’ll accept the challenge and work this skill again tonight.

I am joining RDP #63: Challenge with this post.

Consultation Meeting Today

This is Clarissa, but a lot of us are near. I just had the meeting with the Center for Consultation and Expertise (CCE) consultant this afternoon. The CCE is an organization that helps in complex care cases where a client with a disability or illness gets stuck due to “severe problem behavior” and their quality of life is at risk. We originally started this consultation last May because we had to leave our current day activities due to our challenging behavior and were stuck in the process of finding a new place.

Now that we’ll start on our new place next week, we decided to go ahead with the consultation anyway because we still lack perspective in many respects. For one thing, we’re struggling to live independently with our husband. For another, we’re unsure as to whether the treatment we receive from the mental heath team is really the best for us. We do dialectical behavior therapy because it was recommended to us, but we really struggle to apply its skills in daily life.

One thing in this respect which the consultant said, was that maybe all this treatment isn’t working because we talk too much and do too little. Or something like that. She didn’t mean that we don’t move our arse. What she said was, our treatment is based on a borderline personality disorder diagnosis while in reality our autism, which can’t be treated, is more relevant. As such, we might do better living our life with enough support rather than constantly needing treatment.

Wow. This had us thinking. Could we really live our life without a psychiatrist and other mental health professionals on board? Sounds really dependent as I write it now, as if we depend on our mental health team, whom we mostly see every other week, to keep us functioning. But the truth is, do we really need them?

Most of us are so excited at the prospect of just being allowed to be ourselves. As it is now, we need some mental health staff for support when we need to talk and our support worker isn’t around. However, it doesn’t really take a mental health degree to help us in most of these cases. Other than that, we go to the obligatory DBT sessions with our nurse practitioner and to movement therapy, neither of which we feel is terribly effective and both of which are temporary.

I will have to give it some thought. We really most likely need support for the rest of our life, and that’s okay. Our need for an on-call support worker (now that’s a psychiatric hospital nurse) will most likely not vanish if we finish DBT. And yet our “prescription phone call” service has to be renewed every six months. If my husband and I move closer to a supported housing facility, and/or we get access to a non-psychiatric support phone line, wouldn’t that be far better? I’ll really have to discuss this with the consultant when she visits our home on August 14.

Movement Therapy Yesterday

Trigger warning: strong language.

So yesterday we had movement therapy. We feel it’s really helping but we also switch a lot during this type of therapy. We’re not formally diagnosed with a dissociative disorder. Were formally diagnosed DID but that got changed to BPD five years ago. Our current mental health team’s opinion is that the “pieces” are allowed to be there but there’s no need for a dissociative disorder diagnosis or any form of specialized treatment. We do DBT individually with our nurse practitioner (not in a group because we’re autistic and would be overwhelmed by a group) and the movement therapist tries to incorporate some DBT too. We really try to fit our “pieces” into the DBT model of emotional/rationa/wise mind (we purposefully avoid the word “alters” as to not suggest we self-diagnose, as our former psychologist believed we made up the DID).

The thing is, Astrid is rarely out. That is, always when we think we’ve found the core or “real” Astrid, we realize it’s yet another alter. We don’t mind as most adults can present as Astrid and act pretty much normally. However, yesterday in movement therapy Katinka was out from the start (she’s one of the main fronters). Then for some reason Suzanne popped out and the therapist called for Astrid to come back. Katinka came back with some difficulty and explained that she’s fine being called Astrid but she isn’t Astrid. The therapist insisted that she may be Katinka now but Astrid was out at the beginning. It was quickly time to end the session and we were still pretty spacey but didn’t say so. To be honest we didn’t feel fully safe to go home yet (one of us was having destructive urges), but we didn’t say anything and managed to go home anyway.

Now some of us are thinking of quitting movement therapy or the whole mental health treatment altogether. We’ve run into just a little too many disagreements with our treatment team. I mean, they’re overall good people, not like our former psychologist who just was one giant bitch. We don’t need a fucking DID diagnosis (we’re not fully DID actually). We’re fine calling ourselves pieces or whatever, but we’re not going away. Now we’re pretty sure we’re going to be taken out of movement therapy for it destabilizing us. Well, whatever. If the goal is to keep us acting apparently normally all the time, then we don’t need nor want no fucking mental health treatment for that.