#WeekendCoffeeShare (November 10, 2019)

As with Ten Things of Thankful, I haven’t joined in with #WeekendCoffeeShare in a long while. It’s late Sunday evening here, so my week-end is almost over. Then again, there’s still time to join in, so let me. I just had a drink of Crystal Clear, which is a type of non-carbonated soft drink. I hate carbonated soft drinks except for the very slightly carbonated drink called Dubbelfrisss. I haven’t had coffee since one o’clock in the afternoon, but if those who are in a different timezone (or even those in my timezone, cause who cares?) want a coffee, that’s fine by me.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that this past week has been filled with appointments. On Tuesday, I had a review at the care facility and on Thursday, I had the intake interview for mental health.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that the review went okay’ish. Honestly, I don’t remember that much about it, as the day activities staff seemed to be rattling off a list of changes they want to implement. That had me go “Whatever” only to melt down later in the afternoon when I saw what these changes were doing.

For one thing, the staff got shuffled around a bit so that my group has less staff available. That was a big change that caused me to go into panic.

Fortunately, the staff called for the behavior specialist to talk to me and they together were able to calm me down a bit. I still feel uncomfortable particularly with this specific staff. She’s leaving next week anyway, so oh well.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that my intake interview with the mental health team went pretty well. A staff from my living place went with me. This was comforting. At one point, a little came out, who reached for her hand. This felt good and the staff said that she was totally okay with it.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that tomorrow I have yet another appointment. I will be having an introductory appointment with the intellectual disability physician for my facility. I’m not sure what I expect out of it.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I went home to my husband this week-end again. We had Chinese takeout this evening, which was good. Since my husband moved to Lobith six weeks ago, we haven’t had Chinese takeaway. It was much better, in my opinion, than the Chinese takeaway in Doesburg (near our old village). There, I’d pick it as a choice sometimes over other food vendors because you got loads of food, so it was essentially a huge binge I’d later pay for with bowel cramps.

If we were having coffee, I’d share that I had a nice walk with my mother-in-law and her dog Bloke this afternoon. We walked for nearly an hour, which was really good. After all, though I manage 30 minutes of activity most days, I’ve not had long walks in a while.

If we were having coffee, lastly I’d share that I’m now enjoying some of the liquorice my husband bought me at my request this afternoon. I’m being careful not to eat it all and trying to be mindful of my wish to actually enjoy the candy rather than stuff it all in at once.

What have you been up to lately?

Validating Jane?

On Saturday, it’s the twelfth anniversary of the mental crisis that landed us in a psych hospital. As those who’ve checked my “About” page or those who’ve known me long-term know, this hospital stay took 9 1/2 years. Then we were kicked out for allegedly being too dependent.

We fought a long battle for the right care. In a way, it started that very day, November 2, 2007, or even before. It hopefully ended when we moved into the long-term care facility we now live in on September 23, 2019.

Most of us are relatively happy here. Content, at least. At least one of us though isn’t. Jane is still telling us to get a real life. To give ourselves a good kick in the behind and go to university, find a jjob and above all, live fully independently. She doesn’t even want us living with our husband, as we could be manipulating him into getting us care.

Today, I’ve been thinking. I recently joined a Facebook group for DID that subscribes to the philosophy of managing dissociative symptoms by thinking of each of your system members as their own individual. We need to work for the betterment of the entire system.

In this light, I’ve been thinking of how to validate Jane. She’s been saying “No” to our every attempt at getting care ever since, well, since she emerged in 2001. I wonder whether she’s “just” an introject, as our parents hold similar views to hers, or there’s more to it.

I remember once, when we’d only been diagnosed with DID for a few months or maybe a year, so in 2011 I think, our then therapist saying that Jane represents our healthy side. Another therapist called her a punitive parent. That never sat well with any of us, but neither does seeing her as the healthy adult. After all, why then does she minimize our every struggle? Isn’t vulnerability part of being an adult, too?

I’m wondering whether we’re doing more than just her a disservice by being in the care facility. I don’t mean we need to leave, but I realize most of us, including me, would like a more enriching life. Many of us feel bored at day activities.

Of course, our recent (and not-so-recent) attempts at doing something to enrich our life, have usually failed. I mean, we could be committing to a class at college, but that hasn’t been a success in ten years. I’ve been looking at writing courses, but they are pretty expensive and I don’t know they’ll actually make me a better writer. I want to go to the gym or horseback riding again, but don’t know whether I could commit to that on a weekly basis considering even just the limits of the ParaTransit system here. Ugh, I’m not sure how to get out of the boringness of lying in the sensory room for over an hour each day, walking for maybe half an hour, and sitting on our ass the rest of the time. I don’t know whether that’s an entirely accurate picture of our day, but it feels like it is.

Clarissa

Shark!

Stuffed Shark

So my husband came over today. I had originally planned on visiting him for the week-end, but then I’d have to go home to the care facility by ParaTransit taxi again. You get only 700 km at a reduced rate each year and the one-way drive from my husband to here is 72 km. This means that I can’t go each week for the rest of the year. So my husband proposed to come over for a visit.

We went to IKEA in the nearby city of Zwolle. I was looking for an office chair to use in my corner of our house. The way IKEA is constructed, you need to walk past a lot of other stuff before you can get to the desks and office chairs. This meant we could also check out the lounge chairs. I took my lounge chair (well it was originally my husband’s family’s but I used to sit in it all the time) to the care facility with me and would like a lounge chair at my husband’s house too. We couldn’t buy one right away, but we did see some good, some bad and some really rubbish ones.

At one point, we came across the soft toy aisle. My husband showed me a giant stuffed elephant and then an equally large stuffed shark. The littles were totally in awe! He asked us whether we wanted to buy the shark and we shouted “Yes!”. So we now have a stuffed shark. We took most of our stuffies to the care facility with us, so we’re very happy to have a soft toy at home with our husband too. We joked that of course we have our husband, but well, that’s different.

We also got some nice candy. Some of us were upset because we couldn’t have Swedish meatballs. Not that our husband said so – he didn’t explicitly say they were on offer, but he knew we knew about them -, but we had already had pancakes for lunch and figured it wasn’t healthy to have two meals. Everyone was content again when we got the candy.

We also ate out at a nice Indian restaurant. The food was delicious!

Co-Consciousness #SoCS

Today’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) is “Co-“. I immediately thought of co-consciousness. This is a term in the DID (dissociative identity disorder) / multiple personality community referring to more than one personality sharing memories or other information. It is often desired as a goal in treatment. Another one is cooperation, in which alters are able to work together for the betterment of the entire system of personalities and the body.

Co-consciousness is often implied to mean a system has less severe dissociation. I mean, since amnesia (inability to recall important information) is a criterion for DID, technicallyy those who are fully co-conscious cannot be diagnosed with DID. Then again, there are a lot of degrees of amnesia. For example, one is time loss, where someone “wakes up” to discover their alter has done something they have no recollection of. However, identity amnesia also counts, where a person forgets their name, age, etc. Loss of skills also counts, where a person cannot for example ride a bicycle or car when a young alter is out in the body.

There is also this phenomenon called emotional amnesia. I have yet to find out more about it, as it seems to be very common in our experience. For example, last Wednesday, we were aggressive. Though I do know that we kicked a wall, I do not actually remember it or the feeling attached to it. That belongs to one of the other personalities.

We do aim to share information amongst ourselves. However, usually we cannot all be present at the same time. That is, of course we can, in that we’re all in this body and when for example I give someone my hands, another alter cannot be simultaneously holding our hands over our ears. That’s what our psychiatrist explained last year and it was so fundamentally new to us!

Co-consciousness and cooperation can be an end goal in DID treatment, but some systems choose to merge or integrate. There are also different degrees of integration or so I understand. I recently joined a support group on Facebook specifically for DID systems looking to integrate, even though that’s always been a very scary idea to most of us. It feels as though we’re getting rid of some of us, when really all of us are part of this system, inhabit this body.

As a side note, I can totally understand most regular #SoCS readers cannot fathom the concepts I just wrote about. I was even once told by people in a Dutch DID community that I knew too much for someone who’d only been diagnosed for a few months, when I mentioned the term “co-consciousness”. Clearly those people had never ventured out into the English-speaking DID community.

Multiplicity: Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 13 in the #AtoZChallenge. I had today’s theme in mind for a while, but then I realized I already shared about my experience of being multiple in early March for DID Awareness Day and Plural Pride Day. Several other possible topics floated through my mind, but none felt right. So instead of choosing a topic I don’t know what to write about anyway, I”m choosing multiplicity again. I will try not to repeat myself in this post. As such, I recommend those unfamiliar with dissociative identity disorder read the post I wrote last March first.

We are a system of, last time I counted, 26 alters. Most are female, ranging in age from one month to 42-years-old. Each has a different role in our system (the whole of me). We don’t subscribe to rigid categories of alters. Like, the currently most scientifically proven theory of dissociation distinguishes between apparently normal parts (ANPs) who do the daily living and emotional parts (EPs), who are stuck in trauma time. Though most of us can be put into one of these two categories, we prefer to refer to them by different terms. We for a while tried dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), in which the different states of mind are called rational, emotional and wise mind. We see the ANPs as rational mind, the EPs as emotional mind and wise mind would be if all these parts can constructively cooperate.

Another way of distinguishing alters is by categories such as protector, persecutor (often a perpetrator introject), inner self helper, etc. We do have an inner self helper of sorts. Other than that, our roles are more complex than these. I mean, some of our protectors can be highly destructive relationally.

As you may know, dissociation stems from severe, repeated trauma in early childhood. This used to be thought to only encompass sexual and ritual abuse, but more and more people are realizing that physical and emotional abuse and neglect can also cause DID. There is no evidence that the severity of one’s trauma can predict the extent of dissociation. For example, we didn’t endure major sexual violation at all, but still have a pretty large system. DID is largely seen as an attachment-based disorder now, so insecure attachment early on could predispose one to further dissociation even in the event of relatively “minor” trauma. I, for one, was at a disadvantage already due to being born premature.

I also think that people on the autistic spectrum are more likely to develop DID than neurotypicals, because living in a neurotypical world predisposes us to a lot of trauma. I remember once, when in a Dutch DID community, being told that autism is so pervasive a disorder that it keeps us from developing multiple personalities. There is absolutely zero evidence for this.

I had a nurse practitioner’s appointment last Thursday. At the end of it, we got to debate the end goal of treatment (even though I haven’t even been formally diagnosed with DID yet). The three phases in treatment are stabilization (learning coping skills and internal cooperation), trauma processing and finally integration. There are some DID therapists who believe merging of all alters is a requirement for completing DID treatment. Others mean rehabilitation into society when they say integration. We prefer cooperation to a full-on merger. We wouldn’t mind if alters merged spontaneously, but we have zero interest in forcing it.

Dealing with Some High School Memories

We are struggling quite a bit. We hardly know why, but yesterday, a memory appeared. It’s not like we weren’t aware of this having happened before, so it’s not a repressed memory. However, it still feels as though only certain insiders can “own” the memory, if this makes sense.

This is hard, because we got told last Thursday by our nurse practitioner that it’s good people aren’t validating our experience of dissociation. For example, they’re reminding us that the body is 32 and we’re all Astrid. That may be so, but it’s only getting us to further disconnect from ourselves.

He told us that being a child at heart is not wrong, but claiming to be a child is. Or something like that. He more or less told us to look beyond the emotional parts’ words to what was actually troubling us. For example, Jace saying she has to move out by age eighteen meant we’re afraid we won’t get long-term care funding. Fine by me but I think it’s not that simple. I think this may be an actual memory bothering Jace and it was just triggered by the long-term care stuff.

Anyway, yesterday evening we started experiencing high school memories. Our high school tutor was our safe person at the time. We trusted him more than we did our parents. Our parents weren’t okay with this. When in ninth grade, we had been struggling and our schoolwork was suffering. Our tutor asked us to tell him what was going on. We wrote it down. Then our tutor told our father, who worked at our school. He refused to disclose what we’d written though. I understand this, but it got our parents angry and led to an incident of bad mental abuse.

Anyway, like I said, this tutor was our safe person. He was the first one to know about our being multiple other than a handful of readers of my online diary at the time. He wasn’t impressed by it as much. In fact, he told us we’re just manipulative. This got us to go in denial and not tell anyone else.

It still upsets us that we could’ve had a chance for real help if we hadn’t been in denial at the time. I mean, the tutor told our first psychologist about our experience. This psychologist suspected DID, but we denied everything. It’s understandable, because we were still in somewhat of an unsafe situation at the time.

We trusted our high school tutor, but he betrayed our trust in some rather overt ways. He told our parents that we suspected we were on the autism spectrum. Not that there was no other way for them to find out, as we wrote about it in our public online diary. However, he told them that we’re a hypochondriac for it. In this sense, he was on our parents’ side. And yet, we didn’t see it.

Then again, is it okay for me to think in terms of being on someone’s side or not? I mean, our parents were supportive in some ways. Our mother was at least. Our father was and still is too self-absorbed to actually care about anything other than his intersts and opinions. It’s not black-or-white. People can be good and still do bad things. Or something like it.

DID Awareness Day and Plural Pride Day 2019

Today is DID Awareness Day and Plural Pride Day. I really want to share something for it, but I struggle with knowing what to share. I haven’t written about our experience of being plural in a long while, so maybe today I should jump at the opportunity. For today’s post, I am just going to introduce the subject of DID and our system to people who may not be aware.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a trauma-based mental health condition in which the sufferer experiences two or more distinct identities or personality states, each with their own unique way of perceiving and relating to the world. People with DID also have amnesia for important information either in the present or past that is too extensive to be due to ordinary forgetfulness. People who do not have this type of amnesia, or whose identities are not fully formed, may be diagnosed with other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD) type 1A or 1B.

We were diagnosed with DID in 2010. At the time, we could be pretty in your face about ourselves, because we were in an environment where we felt relatively safe to be ourselves. This, however, also opened us up to suggestion, as our therapist concluded pretty early in the process that we have DID. Normally, a diagnosis of full-fledged DID is not made after initial assessment, but requires at least six months of therapy with a DID therapist.

Anyway, we probably do experience some level of amnesia, but didn’t know how to explain it to our therapist. For this reason, we would report we didn’t remember something, even though we showed in our actions that we did. This got people to assume we were faking our amnesia and by extension the whole dissociative experience.

When we moved from one psychiatric institution into another in 2013, we no longer felt safe. We actively denied the alters and started to explain ourselves away as bad moods. That’s probably one reason our diagnosis was changed from DID to borderline personality disorder (BPD). My next psychologist, some years later still, went so far as to say we invented our DID because we felt it’d be an interesting diagnosis. Well, no.

We first became aware of ourselves in the summer of 2001, when the body was fifteen. At the time, the host didn’t see the alters as part of herself. In fact, if I reread my diary from back then, it felt as though I was bordering on psychosis. I wasn’t though.

In early 2004, the alters started to appear more and claim their own names. We denied having “multiple personalities”, but only on the grounds that we didn’t lose time. Like I said above, while this could rule out full-fledged DID, it doesn’t necessarily do so (identity amnesia and amnesia for past events also counts), and it still means we’re multiple, ie. diagnosable with OSDD.

Currently, we don’t have a diagnosis of a dissociative disorder. We’re not ready to undergo the assessment process for it, as psychological assessments are a huge trigger for us. However, here we are, all 26 or so of us.

2018: The Year in Review

The year is nearly over. I have been debating whether to post a review of the year for a while, since I didn’t start this blog till late July. As such, most of the people who read it, may not be aware of what’s been going on for the first half of the year and I might need to explain too much. HOwever, I want to do this review for myself if for no-one else. Here goes.

The year started off rather bad, with me having a major meltdown at day activities on January 3. I didn’t know at the time how significant that event would be, but it was the one event that defined me for the rest of the year and probably into 2019.

I looked back at my old blog’s posts from January 2018, and I can’t believe how blissfully ignorant I was. In the second week, I chose “Be” as my word for the year, for I inteded 2018 to be a year for rest and staying present. A week later, it was decided that my day activities hours would be cut and I would eventually have to find a new place.

In late January, when I had more meltdowns at day activities, I started thinking of involving the Center for Consultation and Expertise (CCE) on my case. They had been involved with me in 2010 and 2013 previously and I’d hoped they could help me find some perspective. For those who don’t know, the CCE is an agency that helps people who fall through the cracks in the care system due to complex care needs and severe problem behavior. I didn’t really know whether my situation was bad enough, but I was desperate.

I was first told by my community psychiatric nurse, who called the CCE on my behalf and minimized my problems, that I’d have to go to the blindness agency for support. My need for sensory activities, after all, was due to blindness and I couldn’t possibly have severe problem behavior, as that would mean I couldn’t be married or live independently. This assertion caused huge internal turmoil. Some parts of me thought we must be too good for day activities and that’s why we’re being kicked out. After all, aren’t we oh so intelligent? Most of the partsin me felt desperate though and didn’t care about my IQ or our marriage in this sense for that matter.

With the help of my support coordinator, I finally was able to get an orientation meeting with the CCE in May. I apparently expressed my despair well enough that they took me seriously and found a consultant.

In the meantime, my support team and I didn’t sit still. This was why we had already found new day activities by the time we’d start the consultation at the end of July. At the time, I was feeling a bit conflicted about my living situation. My husband was trying to warm me up to the idea of buying a house in the city where he works. I didn’t feel like it, but I pushed those feelings aside. Until late September, that is.

Thankfully, the consultation hadn’t been completely closed by this time. I finally gave in to my feelings and admitted that I want to go into supported housing. I initially felt a lot of shame about this. I didn’t know whether my husband would be supportive and I knew my family wouldn’t be. Particulalry when creating my care plan and reading the application for long-term care funding, I felt embarrassed. There is this voice inside my head. It’s my mother telling me, shortly after my admission to the psychiatric hospital in 2007, that I can’t even wipe my butt without a support worker’s assistance. I can, but so what if I can’t?

My husband turned out to support me. The CCE consultant is willing to stay on my case until we’ve finalized the process of getting me long-term care funding. The application was finally mailed on the 20th of this month.

Can I say this year that I fulfilled my word of the year? Not really. However, over the past few months, since deciding to apply for long-term care, I’ve felt a certain sense of calm. It seems as though I hit rock bottom this year and I can only go up now.

Besides the day activities and living situation, other things happened too. My paternal grandma died. This, for whatever reason, helped me find the strength to distance myself a bit from my family of origin. Since no longer expecting them to be genuinely interested in my life, I’ve felt a sense of calm in this respect too.

I’ve also learned to accept mysselves, that is, my alters, as they are. I am still not fully at a point of accepting myself without the need for diagnostic labels, but I am getting close.

With regard to blogging, I’ve improved much in the past year. I’ve been able to keep a pretty regular blog for five months now. I am so glad I started this blog, even though sometimes I feel disappointed in my stats. This blog is where I can be myself.

Lucy At Home UK parenting blogger

A Very Validating Experience

As I write this, I deal with a nasty cold that I’ve been feeling come on for a few days but wasn’t willing to accept was coming on. Not that there’s anything I can do about it. Whenever one of us has a cold, my husband always searches the Internet to find out whether they’ve found a cure yet. So far, no luck. I’m not terribly sick as of yet anyway. I think my husband suffers almost more from the weird noises my body makes when I can barely breathe than I do.

A lot has been on my mind lately. I could of course write a gratitude list and devote a sentence or two to each thing. I may do that eventually, but right now, I want to share about a specific experience in more detail.

Last week, we told our staff at day activities about ourselves. We disclosed that we may have dissociative identity disorder (calling it multiple personality) and explained that it’s a trauma-based survival mechanism. The staff member we told was totally fine with it. She actually validated us, saying she’d seen a little come out to her.

Then on Monday this week, we had a flashback while at day activities. A fellow client needs to be given oxygen at times. This reminded one of our littles of the time we needed oxygen as a four-year-old because our trachea had closed up. An adult alter was able to explain this to a staff before the little came out, but then we could no longer keep ourselves from switching and the little popped out.

This little started talking to our staff, the one we’d come out to the week before. She asked to sit on the staff’s lap. We had agreed when we first came out as multiple that this is okay with both the staff and us. It was such a nurturing experience.

Afterwards, an adult did feel the need to check with this staff that it’d been alright with her, but it had been no problem. That’s a good thing about doing day activities at a center for intellectually disabled people. I’m pretty sure that in psychiatric care, we’d not be allowed to express such a “childish” need for affection.

A Letter to the Insiders

I want to write, but I don’t know where this is going. In fact, until I wrote down the title of this blog post just minutes ago, I had no idea I was even going to write a letter to my alters. I was inspired to do it by the recovery-based letters some people write to their mental health conditions.

Another thing that inspired me subconsciously, was a conversation with a dear friend on the need to integrate as part of treatment for dissociative identity disorder. This is often seen as the only possible end goal, and this dear friend was even told so on her first appointment with a therapist. We feel very strongly about this. First of all, integration is the third and last phase of treatment for DID, so it feels very wrong to discuss it at the very start. Second, integration can also mean living a functional life (ie. integration into society). I know many therapists, including I think our psychiatrists, feel a merger of all alters as somehow more healthy than living as a functional multiple. Well, agree to disagree.

The first phase of treatment is stabilization. This includes getting to know your system, learning to deal with feelings, developing inner communication, etc. After this, the second phase is trauma processing. Only once all traumas have been processed can you begin to integrate.

We don’t do DID treatment and aren’t likely to get it ever at all. After all, the diagnosis process scares the crap out of us and we’re unlikely to be believed. As such, it’s all the more important that we validate ourselves.

Dear you,

Welcome. We appreciate you. We are glad that you’re here, for you helped us survive. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we’re now. Thanks for that!

We know you may feel sad, or angry, or confused. that’s all okay. It may not feel okay to you, but that too is okay. Your feelings are valid. They’re there for a reason.

We want you to know there are people out there to support you. Inside, you have an entire system of alters that will help you be the best you you can be. If we work together – and that includes you -, we’ll heal.

Outside of the body, you’ll meet our support staff. Maybe you’ll be able to meet our mental health team too. Most of the people in our current life are supportive. We know this hasn’t always been the case and that’s one reason you’re here. We are here to help you heal from those experiences. You can trust us.

You may not be able to disclose your true identity as an alter to everyone, but there are people in the DID community you can talk to as yourself.

We hope this letter helped you feel a little bit safe. It’s still scary, but things will get better.

Love,

Us