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Archive for September, 2013

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I had an experience today that was deeply distressing at the time and has left me feeling off balance and trying to make sense of what happened, so I’m afraid that this is going to be a meandering attempt to make sense of it. And maybe some of you will have some nuggets of wisdom to share.

I had a session with Mama Bear this morning and during it we discussed some of what I wrote about in the last two posts. Towards the end of the active working portion of the session (Mama Bear always reserves 10-15 minutes at the end for me to reorient and ground myself), Mama Bear introduced the idea that a part of me had been heroic which was too much for that part to take in. I became more deeply dissociated just at the point when I needed to start to reorient. We then spent the next 15 minutes trying to ground and orient me to the present. I would start to and then something that normally would have been innocuous would set me off again and each time I ended up more deeply in a dissociative state. I felt a strong urge to flee, but I knew that it wasn’t a good idea for me to leave in that state, so I stayed and continued to work with Mama Bear.

Things are blurry except for snatches of clarity. I remember looking up and seeing that it was 11:00 and thinking that I had to get out because there was someone else outside waiting to see her. When I started to get up, she stopped me and said that we needed a plan. But I couldn’t think and I couldn’t plan. She came around and had me stand up in front of her and tried all sorts of techniques that have worked in the past to at least start to break through and I simply couldn’t. It was as if I was sort of aware of what was going on and knew that I needed to work with her, but I was incapable of engaging. Through all of this, I was incapable of talking at all.

Eventually, I grabbed my things and started to go out the door. Mama Bear stopped me, put a hand on the door, and said, “I can’t let you leave like this.” And then this is where I felt even more as though someone else was in control. Everything is a jumble as I try to piece it together. I remember her saying something about not wanting to keep me there against my will, but she didn’t want for me to be that distressed outside of her office. She asked me to sit down again and I cowered against the door. In fact I did that a few times for other reasons that I can’t remember. I remember that at one point she asked me to give her a call in 10 minutes, when I got to my car and leave a message. My thought was that I couldn’t commit to that because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to talk in 10 minutes.

I believe that Mama Bear tried telling me to go and sit on the love seat at that point. When I wouldn’t, she asked why and I found myself whispering something about how I had already used too much of her time. She paused for a second and then said that it was her decision to make and she needed for me to not leave while I was in that state. Somehow she got me back over to the love seat, and somehow I ended up huddled against her, with her arms around me, while I let myself release how very, very upset I was. Eventually, I felt my perceptions shift and I started to be more present again.

I did pull myself together and fortunately the next clients were OK with starting 20 minutes late. Mama Bear offered to meet with me over her lunch break and I eventually decided that it would be best for me to do so. I needed to talk with her about what had happened.

As we spoke, it became clear that she was not troubled by what had happened, other than the fact that it had been deeply distressing for me. She asked about her not letting me leave and told me that it was a very difficult decision for her to make, because she was afraid that I would feel trapped. But she knew that if she had let me leave in that state, it would have been a reenactment of my being left all alone to deal with being overwhelmed and very distressed. She asked which I thought would have been better and I agreed that her keeping me there was what I actually needed in that situation.

I also became aware that there was a benefit to what had happened. As miserable as everything around it was, the part of me who was held and who just poured out her overwhelmingly intense feelings (that I can’t identify) has been in desperate need of just that. But I have never been able to let my guard down enough to accept contact with this part. I don’t know why it happened today, but it is a good thing that she has finally made contact with Mama Bear and allowed someone to hold her safe.

I don’t know if what I have written is going to make sense to anyone, because I’m well aware that the pronouns are all messed up. In some ways, it’s as if there were two “I”‘s involved. In other ways, it’s as if there was another self that was making all of the decisions and feeling a set of feelings, but it was on the other side of a wall and I couldn’t hear the thoughts or feel the feelings, I could only observe what was happening. And in yet another way, it’s as if I’m aware of there being an upset child there through all of this. I can even logically see how all of those perceptions create a picture that makes sense, but I can’t put them together in a way that I feel.

I’m still a bit freaked out about that period of time when all I could do was to observe and some other part of me what making the decisions. Similar things have happened, but always for shorter periods of time, in situations where there wasn’t as much conflict, or I had more influence over what was going on. This time, I felt powerless. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I couldn’t decide what I was going to do. Now, I feel as though I should have been able to, if I just had tried hard enough, but I had no sense of any connection at all to the decision making. Even though it feels like a cop out, I really don’t think that I had any control over that situation.

I know that Mama Bear will be keeping an eye out to try to prevent recurrences of this- she says that I seem to have an effective therapeutic zone for dissociation and this is much deeper than that zone. I most certainly hope to not have a repeat and will try to say something if I feel myself being pushed toward it.

I have to say that I have even more respect for people with DID than I did before (and I already had a lot), because I now have a better sense of just how disruptive it is to deal with switching into an alter. My mushy sliding in and out of being more or less influenced by my parts has its own difficulties, but at least I can pretend that I have some control and it’s what I am familiar with. Others have written about making a decision to purposefully hand over control in a session and I now have a deeper appreciation of how much courage it would take to do that.

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Caryl Bryer Fallert, Flying Free #2

Caryl Bryer Fallert, Flying Free #2

I think that I am starting to understand at least part of the reason that I have had such a hard time writing off and on over the last few months. I have been experiencing a tug of war inside between needing to be heard and feel understood and needing to hide away everything that is unusual or “challenging” about me.

Yesterday in session, Mama Bear said something to me that demonstrated that she has been listening and she understands a lot more about how I function internally than I would have guessed. I have been aware of desperately wanting and not believing that I would ever get that level of understanding but while she was talking, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I feel happier and more relieved to hear her saying these things?” Instead, when she asked me what my response was, I realized that I was very frightened at the idea that she might actually understand me that well. I was so frightened that I couldn’t even begin to figure out why I was frightened or what might help me to feel less frightened. In fact, I was frightened enough that I can’t even remember exactly what it was that she said.

This afternoon, I was thinking about the fact that all of my life I have been afraid to make any waves. I have had an extreme need to be a “good girl”. If I have something that I need to say that might be difficult for someone, it won’t be said. I have a very difficult time standing up for myself when I am wronged and will go to great lengths to deal with it in some manner that does not involve a direct confrontation. I very much need for the people that I like to like me back and their disapproval is not just uncomfortable, but frightening to me. For a long time, I have assumed that these dynamics derive from my interactions with my mom and my fears of being abandoned by her if I put too many demands on her. I’m sure that is a big part of it, but there is more there. Today I realized that I have a young part who believes that if only she can manage to be “good” enough, “likable” enough, or otherwise acceptable, then finally someone will step in and want her enough to take her away to someplace safe. This part of me still has no understanding that the threat of being abused is long gone, but still believes that I am in danger. And one of the rules that this part lives by is that I cannot ask for help or let anyone see what has happened, because if I do, they will be disgusted and I will never be acceptable enough for anyone to want for me to be near them. The only possible way to safety is for no one to know what happened and what a disgusting child I was. If they knew who I really was, the only people who would let me near would be people who “knew how to deal with someone like me.”

What a bind. “No one safe will ever want to touch you, if they know what you did” and at the same time “I desperately need for someone to hear me, believe me, hold me.”

I don’t think that there is any quick or easy way to work through the fears and lies that through revealing what happened and all of myself, I will make myself unacceptable to everyone who I would want to be loved by. My guess is that it is one of those things that is going to take slow and steady work, with me working to support this part through looking at, trying out, and taking in different possibilities. Thankfully, the world isn’t as bleak and threatening as this hurt part believes it is; there are people in my life who are willing to love me despite what happened. But right now, I can really feel the fears of this part.

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I have just finished reading The Wandering Mind: Understanding Dissociation From Daydreams to Disorders by Biever and Karinch and I would like to recommend it. I originally meant to write a review, but just couldn’t do it, for some reason, but I did want to make sure that I had mentioned the book to you all.

I see it as being a worthwhile read for a number of groups of people, but it might actually be most useful for those of you who have loved ones or friends who would like to gain a greater understanding of dissociation. Not only is dissociation explained in an accessible manner, but the authors also make some great arguments for keeping an open mind in the face of how odd dissociation may seem from the outside. I also see the book as being quite useful for people who live with dissociation and want to broaden their understanding of the phenomenon, clinicians, and people who are simply curious and would like to understand more about dissociation. In addition, while the authors give enough information about the background of the case examples to allow the reader to understand the seriousness of the trauma, they did a good job of stating things in ways that were unlikely to be triggering to readers who have been traumatized themselves.

My main problem with the book is that they actually didn’t even mention those of us who don’t actually have fully formed parts that satisfy the criteria of DID, but who do still have a complex dissociative disorder. In the past, I would have found this to be frustrating and invalidating, however now I am able to recognize that the authors did this in order to keep the content of the book manageable and it’s best for me to focus on getting out of the book what I can.

I highly recommend that you go to check it out. Amazon has a pretty substantial sample that you can try out. http://www.amazon.com/The-Wandering-Mind-Understanding-Dissociation/dp/1442216158/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1379465241&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wandering+mind

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