Dear diary

Cat and I are on reduced contact now for a fortnight.  Even though we are still going to be seeing her once a week (as opposed to the three times a week we usually see her) we are still prepared as much as we are when she went away fully for a fortnight last year.

We are looking after her thirty year old stuffed animal that means a LOT to her.  She has given us a journal to write in and written us some kind words in the front.  She has recorded us a message to listen to at bed time.  Unfortunately just because her personal life has taken her away from us a little bit, it doesn’t mean our dependence/attachment/need is going to miraculously be less.  Thankfully we have a therapist/support person who is very sensitive to that.  She literally couldn’t do more to help us through this fortnight.  I am very grateful.

It isn’t usual for Cat to express love and warmth verbally, at least not face to face.  I told her a long time ago that I find it very hard to express affection to someones face to which she agreed that she does too.  I guess being brought up by an emotionally cold parent will do that to you.

So today, when she offered such kind words as “the more I get to know you, the more real you are to me, the more I love you” and “I will miss you more, I truly mean that, please be nice to yourself, you’re so precious to me, so precious” I know that I have to allow myself to breathe it all in, and treasure it.  I also know that it is genuine, heart-felt, and meaningful.

And that is the best grounding gift that she could ever have given me.

Book review: The Myth of Sanity

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The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout

I was really impressed with this book for the majority of the 12 days it took me to read it.  Despite it being published in 2001 and some bits of it being quite obviously out-dated, I was willing to overlook those flaws. It was only in the last two days that my opinion of it dropped quite severely.  In this post I am going to discuss the bits of the book that I found good, even fascinating.  I am then going to discuss the bits I found incredibly disappointing at the end, which is where they were placed in the book.

What I like about the whole concept behind the book is that it doesn’t make you feel, as a DID’er, like you have two heads.  You could be mistaken when reading other books focusing on DID that dissociation is a concept that is really ‘out-there’ and ‘hippy-esque’. Actually, what this book helps you to realise is that mild to moderate dissociation is NORMAL in EVERYONE when faced with stressful situations. Severe dissociation, like DID when faced with severe psychological trauma, therefore isn’t that bizarre a concept.  There are “switchers” (her word) everywhere, is what Martha Stout is stating.   Some diagnosed, some not.

I really appreciated the neuropsychology portions of the book.  For example, the extremely clear explanation as to how trauma memories get stored in the brain and just exactly how trauma can change the brain forever.  I have read countless books with countless explanations of this and each and every time I find it fascinating and really validating – because you know, between books I forget it all! The way this book presented it was really effective to me.  In particular where it states that Broca’s area (part of the brain in the left hemisphere that deals with language) can be shut down in traumatic situations.  After reading this, the denial that creeps around me on a daily basis completely and utterly lifted.  The “excuse” that my adult “observing ego” carries around to deny there is any truth behind the traumatic flashbacks within the system was obliterated in one single statement.  It is through language that we as humans make sense of things, and without this, well it’s understandable that I’m being bombarded with things from the past in my senses with no understanding or meaning of where they have come from.

Quite courageously the author doesn’t shy away at all from the concept of ‘false memory syndrome’.  In fact she introduces us to the concept of historical truth (actual facts) versus narrative truth (may include representations, metaphors, gaps). The argument is that realistically, no one who has been through trauma is ever going to be able to recollect historical truth alone.  But this does not mean we should abandon our quest to process what happened to us altogether because memory work is still vital in trauma recovery EVEN IF the memories are perhaps tainted by imagination (ours or someone elses).  I spent years putting a LOT of pressure on myself to find out ‘the truth’ because the thought of mentally incriminating someone for something that they didn’t do was crippling.  I couldn’t escape from the fact that perhaps some of the things my alters were remembering didn’t actually happen in the way they were expressing.  (Here I feel I need to intrude on my own thinking and state that none of my parts have EVER told a story of an abusive experience.  Their “expressing” comes from more raw arenas of body memories, flashbacks, and emotions.) What I am realising is that I am never going to have a narrative to my childhood.  Ever.  At least not in the way you read in books.  My amnesia has shown itself to be far too strong, for starters, and I am far too aware of mixing up representations with facts, to the point where none of it is factual in my eyes.

I loved the portion of the book that discussed what sanity is to society, and how dissociation, especially DID, can be so far removed from what society feels is “sanity” (consistency, predictability…) that we can’t help but compartmentalise those who “aren’t sane” in that way and give it a label.  It’s a matter of protection to ourselves.  A way of decreasing our fear around difference.  This all seemed somewhat fitting given the discussions I have been having online, and offline, with regards to compartmentalising DID into even more separate labels depending on its presentation present day and make-up in the past.  It helps me to understand why there is this fever around putting people into categories and why even the most intelligent/professional of people can get caught up in it.

Now we are getting close to the bits of the book that started to make my face muscles crinkle.  Firstly, the treading of dangerous waters in introducing the concept that perhaps individuals with a more dramatic/acting type personality will unconsciously develop flamboyant alters rife with differences between them.  Martha believes very much that covert DID is the base state of the disorder – alters without severe differences in postures, voices, ways of being.  The more overt DID presentations are simply the acting talents of the individual shining through, UNCONSCIOUSLY.  Like I said, dangerous waters and something I am willing to discuss in the therapy room and nowhere else!

And finally, the great let down of the entire book.  Martha, presumably because she doesn’t have DID, seems to be able to relate very well to people who are partners or children to someone with DID.  She was ever so quick to state how difficult it must be to be around, and rely on someone with DID on a daily basis.  How it is understandable we get called pathological liars, manipulative, purposefully regressing.  How violent crime can be understood down to our levels of changeability.  To add further insult to injury, how easy it would be to see how someone with DID can go on to abuse their own children, without the adult observing ego being aware.  I felt this was particularly distasteful considering she didn’t seem to counter it at all with any POSITIVES around being in partnership with someone with DID, or even just a recognition that we aren’t that different from your average partner.  In that segment of the book I felt she was talking very low of people with DID and I leave the book feeling judged, and even misunderstood, despite everything else I have said above.  It is a shame it has left such a nasty taste in my mouth because up until then I was open to recommending it to anyone and everyone living in society today.  Now, with that bit that comes across as scare-mongering, I am full of hesitancy.

An anorexic high?

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**TW: ED talk -obviously**

When I was in eating disordered therapy, the second time, my therapist seemed obsessed with telling me “you’re in an anorexic high” every time I felt remotely OK, or even good.  I guess I began to start believing it and recognising those ‘highs’ myself.  The anorexia seemed to take charge of every single emotion and thought I had.  I did always seem to feel okay when I’d lost weight – it boosted me, gave me a lift, nothing else mattered but the number on that scale that sat in my head making me smile.

I heard myself mutter that phrase to Cat today, I’m probably just in an anorexic high, and it took me right back.  It scared me that stepping on the scales this morning has significantly boosted my mood.  It scared me that the number on the scales is in my head, and is making me smile.  Yet I do not want to just do what that ex-therapist did and put it all down to the toxic eating disordered place in my head.  There are other things that are boosting my mood at the moment that have nothing to do with my weight.  I feel I need to bring them out into the light a bit tonight.

  • It used to be that when I moved around I would feel as if I was trapped inside a metal outfit.  Just by doing a dose of exercise nearly everyday my body has loosened significantly which is making me feel much better in myself- more human, and less robot.
  • (this is actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be…)
  • It feels like I worked through something quite significant today in therapy.  I feel as if I reached a level of acceptance of something that may mean that “something” stops coming into my dreams.
  • This week we had a massive achievement with regards to the progress of our traumatised rescue dog.
  • This week I had a significant achievement with regards to my canine care course.
  • This week we were able to (very obviously) let Cat know that we were fuming with her, twice.  The release of being able to be SO ANGRY and be able to express it right as we were feeling it is pretty significant. Her response was also of great importance.
  • This week I had the privilege of meeting with someone who I have wanted to meet for a long time.

If I really thought hard there would probably be more but all of that is enough in itself.  It just makes me think that even back then there WAS probably more to it than just an anorexic high, if I’d really thought about it.  Yet eating disorder therapists I think can sometimes zone in too much on the eating disorder that is manifesting and not the actual person behind all that.  Yes I was happy I was losing weight, or maintaining the low weight, but what else was I happy about at the time? I guess I will never know.  And that saddens me.  But something was keeping me going.  Something that wasn’t tangled up in the anorexia.  These ‘somethings’ feel so important to recognise and hold onto this time round.

Poem

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Watching the curtains on the wall
I’m not scared of shadows anymore
Instead my fears lie deeper within
Embedded in people who found their way in

I fear relationships and their many leeches
That suck you as dry as black sand beaches
An empty heart breeds loneliness
And pain, emotions suppressed

The insidiousness creeps on through
Until your entire self feels deadly blue
Suffocated, the truth around your neck
Pulling tightly, you neglect to protect

For you learnt a very long time ago
Self protection has no warming echo
Your cries are ghostly, a monotonous wheel
For all you know, you can’t be real

I don’t fear the external anymore
It’s the people internalised creating this war.

“Types of DID”

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The DID world is always changing; professionally too.  There are beginning to be stirrings of a recognised difference between ‘DID where alters can be purposefully made and inner worlds can be purposefully changed’, and ‘DID where alters cannot be made and inner worlds cannot be changed’.  (And these types are ALSO different from those who have been programmed).  (Also important to add that I have checked this out with ‘The Professionals’ and haven’t just gone off hear-say on the internet).

I worry about these compartmentalisations.  Already the ‘DID where alters can be purposefully made and inner worlds can be purposefully changed’ has picked up a derogatory slur on the internet.  Already it is a matter of them vs us/real vs not/wrong vs right.  These compartmentalisations will have massive ramifications in terms of stigma, cyber bullying, access to treatment, treatment plans etc.  To be honest, even though I am in the category of ‘alters cannot be created and inner worlds cannot be changed’, I do worry about those who don’t neatly fit there.

After all, what is it that enables some of us to be able to produce alters and places to live internally, that others of us don’t have? Is it an imaginative and creative brain? Right hemisphere dominated rather than left? Or is it more than that? Is it more of a reliance on a coping mechanism to get away from reality? It has even been proposed that perhaps the first DID is more C-PTSD than dissociative identity disorder.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Perhaps I’m just hysterical

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*Trigger warning- just about everything under the sun*

The eating disorder is beating me up at the moment. Plates of food are bringing tears to my eyes however small I can see they are. Post-feeding is leading me to fall apart with guilt and pressure and confusion- my brain both wants and is petrified of ending up where I was before. I am so scared, I blubbered to Cat, I got so ill, I can’t go there again. But just the feeling of food in my stomach is like being poisoned. There’s a need to get rid of it as soon as possible but how can I when I am petrified of being sick? The emetophobia will always win. I could never let myself get ill.

So instead it sits there like a brick, taunting me. Haha you don’t want me to be here inside you but here I am and there’s nothing you can do about it. It sounds like a ghost from my past come back to haunt me. The very thing that is physiologically keeping me alive is the thing that has the power to kill me. Life and death are so close, so close. Abusers trail that line perfectly.

Still, just like last time I was trapped behind the anorexia doors, my eyes will glean with tears but otherwise my face will portray contentment, perhaps even happiness. Nobody will see the destruction going on internally as each bite is a forced swallow. Nobody will see that I want to run, run somewhere I will never ever be found, not even by my own stomach. Nobody will see how cold my inners are as I try desperately hard to contain the terror from within- please don’t make me eat the soap, I begged, is this poisoned, I would wonder, is she trying to kill me?

I can cross the past out, out here. But in my mind it never gets ignored like that. How can it when the emotions are automatic. The terror has become my middle name, AND my first name. Truth be told declining to an anorexic weight is the least of my troubles. But I don’t want to die. I don’t want to be that walking dead skeleton again. Yet, if my brain can hold onto that as a focus, instead of this trauma I am drowning in, maybe I can stay alive? Maybe spiritual death via anorexia is the only way I can live? But maybe physical death by anorexia is the only way I can die.

Like I said, my internal world is torn. Bits of womb lying all over, discarded like the worthless muscle it has always been.

I come back to my body and everything is still there. Stomach and womb including. I am that food, lying low, taunting myself at the impossibility of the situation I’m in. I don’t want me, yet I can’t reach me to force out. How can I die when I don’t even know what I’m killing off? Don’t even know who I am killing? Is it a me I’m killing or all those people who have put things inside of me? And not just in a physical sense either. Is it an option to kill yourself, sacrifice yourself, just so the abuse will stop?

Dear diary

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Therapy on Monday was as raw as trauma therapy can ever get. Acknowledging truths about my trauma that I have never been able to acknowledge before. Coming to realise that my two year old part has the absolute hardest job of us all. Hard because it means replaying the trauma against himself in order to self soothe. What an impossibly horrible situation to be stuck in for years on end.

Last night’s sleep was awful. Probably a by product of getting in touch with so many very deeply hidden parts of the trauma and resulting parts of self, we were terrified to sleep. Waking up every 5 minutes to “feel better” despite having taken sedatives.  Which triggers the emetophobia which means sleep cannot even be attempted. It was truly awful but what made it even more so is I could feel it building up over the evening but there was nothing I could do to stop it. These trauma reactions just have to be felt at the pre verbal level they were experienced. There’s no getting away from it, I believe, if I want to truly heal.

Still, I think tonight will be better. I have done everything in my power to get us as grounded and at peace as possible. I hope I will be rewarded with a good nights sleep :)

therapy

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As a “mum”, Cat says, please stay away from the online eating disorder world, please.  It is dangerous, it is toxic, it is competitive, please don’t go on there.  

**trigger warning for eating disorder talk**

This morning whilst driving to therapy I had a really upsetting image in my head.  Anyone who has been part of the “online eating disorder world” for any length of time may know the image that I mean – the girl with bulimia who died slumped over a toilet because her stomach ruptured.  Tears were forming in my stomach as I thought about that girl this morning and how desperate she probably was to do something that made her feel better – and that something was bingeing and purging.  How if she knew it was going to be her last hours of her life what she would have done differently.  How at least she is at peace now from the awful obsessions and compulsions that plague your mind when in the grips of an eating disorder that severe.  Without even knowing her, or anything about her, I felt I was mourning her loss.

I will keep myself from the “eating disorder world” online because Cat, as a “mum”, asked me to.  But the reason that image is stuck in my mind at the moment is I think I am relating to the desperation, the loneliness, the pain and desolation that her last picture portrays so so vividly.  Tears streamed down my face in session today, even when I wasn’t actually crying my eyes still silently wept.  I had no idea just how low I have been feeling.  I had no idea just how destructive my mind has suddenly got – how, like Cat said, the only way for me to stay living at the moment is by living in a life-threatening way i.e. allowing myself to fall back into the whirlwind of anorexia that could have killed me once already.

Whilst everything around me feels so painful, so uncontained, so pressurising, falling into the anorexia has become my container.  I need to do this, I said to Cat, I can’t not.  Yet if that was 100% the case then I wouldn’t still be eating would I? I haven’t got to the point where I am starving myself but I have got to the point where I am restricting what I eat, when I eat, exercising to burn off calories, working towards a goal which Cat believes would make me very sick, and unable to see a way out of this whirlwind.

Again, a respite centre has been brought into conversation as an option, like it was over 6 months ago.  Cat said she could feel my pain so strongly that it was making her weep.  Whilst I can’t look at her eyes I could hear it in her voice and it made me cry harder.  If all I had to deal with in the world was her and my dogs then I think living would feel more bearable.  But it is all the other stuff that goes with living – friends, sexual intimacy, families, careers, money, REALITY.. and the list goes on.  All these other things I am finding are pressing down on my head in one way or another and it is these things I want to starve away, it is these things I want to die from.

It is the reality of things that is the most painful.  The realities of where I have come from.  The realities of what my childhood was, and always will be.  The realities of what my near future looks like and how far away it is from what I imagined.  The reality that it was an accident in Cats life that keeps her from fostering, and taking me home (which she feels pain about).  The reality of living with so much mental/invisible illness.  The reality that the one thing I want in life is merely used as a joke in my everyday life because I KNOW it is so far away from me it would be too painful to admit otherwise.   Reality sucks and no wonder I want to get sucked into a parallel world again where all that matters is what you weigh.

I don’t want control over food

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((I know, I am lucky to have access to food, to have choice.  I know this.  I carry this guilt too, please don’t judge)).

I wish I was a dog.

All of the talk in my last post about needing that control of my life – there is one area where I wish I could completely relinquish that control to someone else, but someone else with my best interests at heart, someone who knows their dietetics and knows what my particular body needs.

My dogs have no food worries.  Our rescue dog came home with definite food worries that meant she was initially really possessive and aggressive when it came to food.  That has mostly gone now.  She doesn’t seem to feel anymore that she needs to guard food, and eat and eat in case this is her last meal.  The fact that she can trust that twice a day she will be given the food that she needs to be as healthy as possible and that if she gets an extra chew on top of that she doesn’t have to demolish it all THAT MINUTE because there is no shortage of chews, are big improvements.

I wish I had that.  I wish I had someone giving me the food that I need and would thrive off to take away all these choices.  Choices of whether I eat what I want, or my body wants, or the anorexia wants, or someone else wants, or another part of me would want…

For example, last time I was at my parents I didn’t eat a sandwich like everyone else was having because I knew my mother didn’t want me to.  Like I was saying, being in contact with the parents is exacerbating the anorexia a LOT.  It isn’t about what I want with them, it’s about what they would want of me.

It took me a stupidly long time to decide on what to eat for lunch today.  It was 2.45pm by the time I got round to finally deciding.  So much goes through my head- calories, protein, carbohydrates, bad, fat, good, healthy, vitamins, meat… so many decisions about one tiny little meal that in the grand scheme of life means nothing.  And those things haven’t gone out my head now that I have eaten lunch and can get on with my day.  The sad fact is I can’t get on with my afternoon because those things are STILL there.  I have to think about how this will affect my dinner later, whether I need to do more exercise than what I did this morning, whether I am full enough to not trigger myself into a binge…

Even if I had to eat the same things day after day after day I would.. knowing that it eliminates choice out of my life and it is given lovingly by someone who knows and cares.

That is why I wish I was a dog.

OCD & ME

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During the first year of this bodies life that I remember (age 11) I had significant symptoms of OCD. Whilst this was never diagnosed as I didn’t go near a Dr until in my later teens when it had significantly calmed down, I still feel the remnants of it sometimes even today.

Its that maddening pull between knowing that your head isn’t right in its assertions of “if you don’t do this, its all wrong, bad things will happen” but knowing that you HAVE to follow what its saying anyway, because something bad MIGHT happen.

I have a thought pattern in my head that I have to follow every time I think of something bad happening. If I don’t, then said thing WILL happen. The only way to stop it from happening is to follow this thought pattern. Its anxiety provoking because part of it is noticing the bad thing is there in your head when sometimes I’m so oblivious to them given that they are so very frequent. I just want to ignore them but can’t. If this isn’t perpetuating the OCD anxiety cycle I don’t know what is.

More physically I can fall very quickly into obsessing about things being a certain way. A certain climbing stairs pattern going up to the therapy room that must be ‘felt’ and followed. A rug not being straight. A certain number on the exercise bike. Touching certain things when I’m “told” to. Saying certain things when I’m “told” to. Typically its okay because these don’t affect anybody else. Neither are they in the control of anyone but myself.

I was worried that Cat and ours routine of saying goodnight most nights a week would become an obsession like it did in the past with my father. I had to say goodnight to him multiple times, always after using the bathroom. I couldn’t use the bathroom at bed time (which was also an obsessive compulsive action in itself), without knowing I would be saying goodnight even if it meant 5 or more rounds of it.

I didn’t want to get to the point where I would feel something bad will happen if Cat and I don’t say goodnight. I think I have kept that at bay, mostly, except today there was an internal battle as Cat didn’t say it the RIGHT way and I had to ask her to say it the RIGHT way. This shames me because Cat should be free to say goodnight how she wants to. Not be dictated by my silly thoughts that I know are completely illogical. It frustrates me because I should be ‘better’ than this but tonight, for some reason, the anxiety about life is heightened and everything feels unsafe and uncertain. I needed the safety and containment in having it said the right way. I needed it. I should just perhaps hold on to the fact I got it, rather than beat myself up, yet again.

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