She walked through fire but was not burned by it. Her body did not show a sign of the path she’d been traveling through the burning forest or her life. She did not feel pain. She had all feeling neatly folded away in the dirty laundry drawer in her mind. Over the years, walking through a little too many fires, she’d grown accustomed to not showing their effects. She was not burned – at least, not visibly so.
A few months ago, I read up on somatoform dissociation. It is where there’s a disconnect between your body and your mind and it shows itself physically, as opposed to psychologically. Psychological dissociation is a distortion in memory, sense of self or identity. Somatoform dissociation manifests itself in distortions to your physical experience. For example, you may not feel sensation in a particular body part for a while (not explained by the body part just having “fallen asleep”). Or you may have a strong aversion to a food or smell you normally like. You may even react differently to medications depending on your state of mind.
While it is unlikely that someone would not have physical burns from walking through an actual fire, the psychological equivalent describes perfectly what it is like to dissociate. In dissociation, you lock away the feelings or memories associated with a trauma into the unconscious. You walk through a psychological fire (experience a trauma) but don’t get burned – at least, not visibly so.
I once read in a women’s magazine about a person with dissociative identity disorder (DID). This woman’s doctor explained that everyone has a breaking point in life and this may be why people with DID may be able to hold it together for years after their early childhood trauma, but fall apart eventually. In other words, they lock away the pain and burns from walking through fire until a minor injury – hurting their index finger – tears open the horrible burn wounds. In my own case, I was fifteen when I first realized I dissociate, but 23 when I experienced this breaking point. I think the breaking point happened after I was attacked by a fellow patient on the resocialization unit of the psychiatric hospital. I wasn’t diagnosed with DID till more than a year later and that diagnosis has since been taken away, but the psychological burn wounds never disappeared.
This post is part of Reena’s Exploration Challenge #48.
It’s incredibly hot (yes, it’s *still* incredibly hot) and I’m not too motivated to write. However, we had movement therapy again today and I feel pretty much obligated to share about it, since our last session didn’t go well.
I was feeling somewhat stressed but also capable of communicating my feelings at the start. I explained about having fought with the therapist about her asking for Astrid to come back. I just realized yesterday how unhelpful this can be on several levels. It’s not just that it creates a fight between us and the therapist. If the one who thinks she’s truly Astrid truly appears, she’s often quite disoriented. Yesterday she did after Marieke tried to be open about herself. I don’t know whether she’s truly the core or just a part who denies our existence. I like to view us as a system as altogether Astrid, but this Astrid part is clearly not us as a whole and can still feel quite dissociated. But I digress.
I told the movement therapist that I’d prefer her asking us to get back into an adult state if we seem to dissociate. This was fine by her, so when this had been cleared up, we could proceed with the session.
I disclosed that our mind was quite full of thoughts. Actually, it was several others chattering but I didn’t say so as to not start another argument. We then did a concentration exercise. We had to move a one-meter-long stick that was standing up from one hand to the other without dropping it. Then from one finger to the same or next finger on the other hand. This was quite a challenging activity and we liked it.
After that, we did a sensory activity with a spiky ball. I was out in the body but Marieke and Suzanne were close by. I chatted to the therapist while they felt and enjoyed the ball. After this, we did a ball-throwing activity. This was definitely calming and enjoyable. It helped that the others had already had their time close by the front, I think.
I just got my prescription phone call service re-approved last Thursday. The prescription phone call service is where I can call a mental health nurse at the psychiatric hospital for support when I’m not feeling well but not yet in full-blown crisis. This is for out of office hours, as I can call my mental health treatment team within office hours.
The thing is though, like I said before, I may need to be able to call someone in such cases for a long while to come. The call service got approved for six months and my nurse said we’d really need to look at whether I’d still need it after those six months. I believe I would, but maybe by that time, we’ve found another agency to fill this gap. Such as the disability service agency I get my home support and day activities from now.
I really hope that I can someday do without mental health treatment. People in FB groups were saying that I may confuse not having a mental illness with not wanting the stigma of a mental illness, when I said that maybe I’m just autistic and not borderline at all. I do obviously believe we’re multiple (ie. some form of dissociative identity disorder), but the mental health team doesn’t believe this. Fine by me. Then we don’t get treatment for that. We’re relatively functional anyway and we’d rather not have any treatment than a treatment that doesn’t validate us.
This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.
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.
I’ve had this blog for over seven years and have started and restarted it at least a dozen times. I keep being unsure of how open to be about my experience, but to be very honest, I need a place to write about my healing journey. I hope this time we’ll be successful. I don’t primarily write this blog for my readers, although I hope it’ll help some of you too. I don’t intend on going social with this blog too much, but if I make it altogether private, I’ve noticed that I miss the opportunity to interact and still feel restrained by this being WordPress. And yes, I’ve tried truly secure diary apps and sites, but none have satisfied me so far.
In case you stumble across this blog and don’t know me, I’m Astrid. That is, we’re Astrid et al, since the core of us, the “real” Astrid, is rarely if ever out. We are multiple. No, we don’t have a formal diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, but we don’t care (or try not to care). We don’t experience amnesia much if at all, but that doesn’t make us any less real. We are a trauma-based system, but we’re fine with natural/endogenic multiples interacting too.
Here’s where we’ll share our daily struggles as well as our travels along the healing path. We’ll also post some random bits and pieces here. I hope you’ll feel welcome here.