A Twelfth Grade Memory

Last Monday, I already shared some memories from the year 2003. Today, one of the prompts over at Mama’s Losin’ It’s Writer’s Workshop is to share a twelfth grade memory.

My senior year of high school was the year I was supposedly planning on going to university after graduation. I knew this was going to be hard, but my aversion to going to college straight out of high school, didn’t really form. Besides, I had no idea what else I was going to do. I remember one day, August 31, 2004, one of the first few days of the school year. I had already come out as dissociative (multiple personality) on my blog in March, but had only been aware of three alters at the time. That day, Carol, who was up to that moment my assertive helper part, gave up and a new one, who called herself Clarissa, emerged.

I wasn’t aware at the time that what I was experiencing was an actual mental health diagnosis, mind you. A friend of mine had told me about dissociative identity disorder after I first came out in March of 2004, but I was still in denial. Part of the reason is that one criterion of DID is amnesia, which we rarely experience.

In March of 2005, my high school tutor had arranged for me to see a blindness rehabilitation center psychologist. The high school tutor, I must say, read my blog, so he knew about the parts, including Clarissa. He had told the psychologist, who obviously immediately thought of DID. She started to ask me all sorts of questions, all of which I either circumvened or answered negatively to. I knew, after all, that, if I’d gotten the psychologist to think I had DID, I wouldn’t be accepted into the rehabilitation program.

In hindsight, of course, I wish I would’ve been more honest. I knew I didn’t have amnesia or time loss, but I did have most other symptoms of DID, some of which I hadn’t become aware of being abnormal. It took over five more years before I was diagnosed with DID.

In the end, I was accepted into the rehabilitation program. I started on August 22, 2005.

Full disclosure: after being diagnosed with DID in 2010, I lost my diagnosis again in 2013. I am pretty sure I don’t have full-blown DID, but probably do have some dissociative disorder.

Mama’s Losin’ It

I Think We Found a Relatively New Alter

So last Friday we for whatever reason landed in a bit of a crisis. Our husband would be visiting us on Saturday and for some reason, we convinced ourselves he was coming to say he wanted to break up with us. Like I said yesterday, it turned out he wasn’t. He’s such a great hubby!

The night staff checked on us at around 10:45PM. This had been agreed on after our crisis last week, because we were scared to press the call button at night. We told the night staff that we were anxious. She tried to tell us to try to get some sleep. Obviously that didn’t work out.

After we’d been going on the computer for a bit, we decided to E-mail our husband. Then, for some reason, we eloped and wandered around outside of the care facility for a bit. We after about half an hour tried to find our way back, but the doors to our home and to all other homes were locked. We started to scream out for help and finally, the sleepover staff heard us. She and the night staff came to our rescue. Of course, we were asked why we hadn’t pressed the call button. So far, I have no idea.

Then yesterday evening, we were watching a video on the Dutch Center for Consultation and Expertise website. It was about a young woman with severe attachment disorder. In the midst of it, our staff came into our room for something, I can’t remember what. We got really agitated and that’s when I realized this might be a relatively new alter. The girl in the video was called Deborah, so that’s the name this new one chose.

What is so unique about her, is her tendency to “test” the staff’s willingness to help us. Some of us, and this may include her, get triggered when we perceive we’re getting less help than we think we need. Some of us express this appropriately, but Deborah doesn’t. She, rather, gets really agitated and self-destructive. Unlike the Deborah in the video, she hasn’t been aggressive towards others as of yet, though inside she definitely feels like it.

We discussed Deborah’s needs with our assigned support worker just yet. She tried to reassure us that we don’t need to leave the care home. Deborah is lucky that she had me (Clarissa) nearby to explain.

Our staff will have a meeting with the behavior specialist and physician tomorrow to discuss our care. We may get a door sensor, which alerts the night staff when we leave our room. After last week’s crisis, we also gave some of the things we were thinking of using as self-harm tools to the staff. This should hopefully be enough, though Deborah’s behavior is in some ways getting worse. We hope it doesn’t get so bad that we need more support than our home can provide.

Clarissa

Carol and Jane

This week’s Reena’s Exploration Challenge is all about describing the interactions between (your) thinking brain and feeling brain as if they’re characters, perspectives or mindsets. In the theory of dissociative identity disorder, alters are divided into two categories: apparently normal parts (ANPs) and emotional parts (EPs). Some theorists refer to them as Daily Living and Trauma Fixated parts instead. Additionally, I have experience with dialectical behavior therapy, which has the concepts of rational and emotional mind and Wise Mind as the goal to integrate the two.

I don’t believe in the rigid ANP/EP divide and the alters I’m going to describe in the piece below, would most likely both be seen as EPs, even though they’re on opposite ends of a spectrum. You see, one of the main triggers for identity confusion for me is the inability to integrate my low functioning level with regards to my social and emotional development with my at least somewhat above-average verbal IQ. In this sense, Carol and Jane do represent thinking brain and feeling brain.

Yesterday I struggled. I got an official reminder from local taxes from when my husband and I still lived together in the tiny village. An official reminder means they’d previously sent out another type of reminder that doesn’t come with extra costs. This one did come with extra costs and the next step, if I don’t pay, would be a debt collector’s visit. I don’t know why the reminder was only sent to my My Government inbox and not to my husband’s and I didn’t understand the reminder. I texted my husband to ask him for help. By this time, Carol, the alter who is very emotionally immature and vulnerable, was already getting upset. Why don’t I just go under financial management and never bother with money again?

My husband was a little annoyed that I shoved this task onto his plate. For this reason, Jane, who wants to be the intelligent, successful, self-reliant one, said: “Okay, I’ll solve it.” Carol was still prominently present in my mind and she has difficulty thinking clearly. In the end, I paid off the tax debt, but put the wrong identification number in the Comments field. This means the tax agency won’t be able to identify me as the debtor, so it may mean I lost the money. It was €160.

From there on, Carol took full control of my mind. I cried my eyes out and really wished I could crawl under the covers, get a guardian, be supported in the care facility and never worry about difficult decisions again. I didn’t even feel like seeing my husband, as Carol feels too inadequate for marriage.

Ultimately, the situation got sorted (hopefully). My husband sent out an E-mail to the tax agency asking them to either process my payment with the wrong number or return it to me so I can submit it again. Still, this whole situation has us (as in, me with all my parts) truly triggered. It’s a sad reality that each time, I am confronted with the disconnect between my good intellectual functioning and my poor emotional functioning.

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

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.

#IWSG: Writing About Myself

Yay, it’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to come together and share our writing journey. This past month has been better than the month of May. I wrote twice as many blog posts and have generally been feeling more motivated to write.

I still want to be more courageous and creative with my writing. I have been able to venture somewhat out of my comfort zone with a few stream of consciousness writings. I would still love to try my hand at poetry and flash fiction again, but am too insecure right now.

The optional question for this month’s #IWSG day is about incorporating aspects of yourself into your characters. Since I no longer write fiction and almost all my writings are about myself, this question may seem off.

However, when I still wrote fiction regularly, this question was very applicable. Not only did I incorporate a lot of aspects of myself into my characters, but the other way around too. Let me explain.

As regular readers of my blog might know, I have (currently undiagnosed) dissociative identity disorder (DID). This used to be known as multiple personality disorder. People with DID have at least two separate identities or personality states, each with their own unique way of perceiving and relating to the world.

DID usually first develops in early childhood as a result of prolonged trauma, but people who dissociated early on, often continue to do so during times of stress into adolescence and adulthood. For me, the time of my most serious dissociation was adolescence. This was also the time I wrote fiction the most. I incorporated a lot of aspects of myself into my characters. Often, my characters were blind or, if they weren’t, they faced some other challenge that set them apart. Most characters had difficulty making friends like myself. The main character in the story I got the farthest with, didn’t have a disability, but her mother had multiple sclerosis.

I often used writing as an escape from reality. As such, with my dissociative tendencies, some of my characters developed into alters. These are called fictives. One of them is now one of the main fronters (personalities presenting themselves to the outside world). She was in a way deliberately created. At least, the character was. I had difficulty explaining myself and my struggles to my parents and teachers, so my high school tutor allowed me to express myself through fiction. That’s how Kirsten came about. Kirsten is blind and has many of the struggles I do. Currently, we present as her when we can’t show the world that we have DID but we’re feeling very much split anyway.

Socially Awkward #SoCS

I am socially awkward. Before I was diagnosed with autism, this was how I saw myself. I even had an E-mail group on Yahoo! Groups titled socially_awkward. This was for adults and teens with social issues of any kind.

Indeed, the main symptom of autism is still seen as social communicative difficulties. I do have them, mind you, but I don’t see them as my main symptom of autism. My main symptom is overload, both cognitive and sensory.

Then again, like I said, I do have issues with social interaction. I haven’t had a friend other than my husband since special education junior high in 1999. I tended often to be too clingy. In this sense, I guess I exhibited the “acctive but odd” style of social interaction that is often exhibited by males on the autism spectrum and is seen as the least impaired style, common in those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Yet I do experience severe impairments in other areas.

When I was older, I tended to exhibit a more passive interaction style. Then again, when at meetings, I can still be dominating. This is probably why the people in the Dutch DID group decided I wasn’t safe. They kicked me out, officially because they believed I didn’t have DID or had imagined it, but they cited as reasons for this that I talked bookish about my issues. Well duh, that’s typical of autistic active-but-odd interaction.

But back to how mild or severe my autism is in terms of social interaction or other symptoms. I was diagnosed as ASD level 1 under DSM-5, so the mildest severity level. The reason is probably that I can hold down relatively normal-sounding conversations in structured settings and with people of my intelligence level. At least if they’re focused on me, which diagnostic interviews usually are. I cannot keep up a conversation about someone else for long. This may be why some people, including my parents, used to see me as selfish. I tend to want to dominate or talk about myself. That is, I don’t really want to, but it is the most natural.

In the second symptom category of autism, which is restricted and repetitive behaviors, I was also diagnosed as level 1. I disagree, particularly because sensory issues have been added to the criteria and I’m severely impaired with regard to that. I stim all the freakin’ time, for example. I feel I should definitely be level 2 on this symptom category.

This post is part of #SoCS, for which the prompt this week is “social”.

A Timeline of My Mental Health

And yet again, I did not write for almost an entire week. My cold is gone, but now I’m fighting the strong pull of depression. I’m having really dark images in my mind, particularly at night. During the day, I can manage, but often feel too unmotivated and/or uninspired to write.

For this reason, I dug up one of my many collections of journaling prompts. A prompt that spoke to me is to draw a timeline of my life. I’m pretty sure I did this already, but can’t remember whether it was here or on one of my old blogs. I searched this blog for “timeline” and nothing came up, so if this is a duplicate post, I’m sorry. I think I wrote a timeline of my mental health on my previous blog in 2015 or 2016, but I’m just going to write one again.

2006: This was when I entered mental health services for the first time. I had my first appointment with a psychiatry resident on December 12. I was very nervous and could hardly speak a word.

2007: The most eventful year. First, in March, I got diagnosed with autism. I started treatment with a community psychiatric nurse. In July, I started my first psychiatric medication (other than sleeping pills for a while in 2006), an antipsychotic called Risperdal. This was a week before I moved out of independence training to go live on my own. In October, I stopped my antipsychotic again. In November, I landed in a suicidal crisis and was hospitalized.

2008: I remained on the locked acute unit for this entire year. Various follow-up placements were discussed, but none wanted me.

2009: I moved to the resocialization unit.

2010: I got diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and PTSD in addition to my autism. I started medication again. First, just Abilify (an antipsychotic), but then, Celexa (an antidepressant) was added. I also was put on the waiting list for a workhome for autistic people.

2011: The workhome didn’t work out (no pun intended). Other options were unsuitable for various reasons.

2012: I started to think that maybe I could live with my husband. This wasn’t because I really wanted it (or thought I could do it), but because every other option seemed to have been exhausted and at least my husband wasn’t going to refuse to be with me for needing too much care.

2013: I moved to the hospital closest to where my husband and I had rented an apartment. This was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in life. First, my diagnosis of DID and PTSD got changed to borderline personality disorder. This should’ve been a warning sign.

2014: I had to change psychologists. My new one said at our first appt that she didn’t believe I’m autistic.

2015: My husband moved to our cuurrent house. I tried to arrange to be transferred again, but this was refused by my social worker and psychologist. I tried to make arrangements to be placed in supported housing in my new area, but got told that the train has to move on and I had to live with my husband.

2016: My autism diagnosis got removed and replaced by dependent personality disorder, BPD traits and depression not otherwise specified. The process by which this diagnosis came to be, was the weirdest I’ve ever seen.

2017: I got kicked out of the hospital with almost no after care. In my final week, I got some day activities arranged, but that was it. Thankfully, I did get my autism diagnosis back after seeking a second opinion. My current treatment team agree with this diagnosis.

2018: I had a mental crisis at day activities and was told I had to leave that place. Thankfully, I found another place. I started dialectical behavior therapy and movement therapy, but quit again too because I couldn’t really apply what I’d learned. I finally got put on an effective dose of my antidepressant.

2019: I currently get only suppportive counseling with my nurse practitioner. I still take the high dose of both Abilify and Celexa. Would someday like to lower my Abilify dose, but that’s something for the future.

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.

Healing From Childhood Trauma: Progress I’ve Made #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the #AtoZChallenge, day eight. It’s already nearly 9PM as I start writing this post. I wasn’t home from day activities till 5PM, then had dinner and then drove 50 minutes one way with my husband to pick something up he had bought. On our way back, we stopped by McDonald’s, which was fun.

Anyway, today’s theme is healing. I was inspired to choose this theme by yesterday’s post, in which my final goal was to heal from my childhood trauma. Let me share today how far I’ve come on my journey.

My trauma-based symptoms first became fully apparent in 2009 or 2010. I had moved from a locked acute psych unit to a resocialization unit in early 2009. Once I developed trust in my staff, I apparently felt more ready to uncover the trauma-based conditions I’ve been living with all my life. You see, my trauma started early on and is in some respects ongoing.

When I started to open up about my symptoms, it still took a long time for them to be diagnosed as first dissociative identity disorder and PTSD and later borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder shares a ton of symptoms with complex PTSD and I think that’s what I have.

I have never been in formal trauma therapy. The reason is that, first, it was hard to find a therapist with expertise on DID. Once I’d found one, my diagnosis had been changed and I was assumed to be making it up.

As a result, I’ve done most healing on my own. I got the book Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation as soon as it came out in 2011. I worked through some of it on my own, but that wasn’t helping much. Talking a lot about my experiences was.

After I’d been talking through my experiences for a long while with my resocialization unit staff, my classic PTSD symptoms started to fade. Unfortunately, they’ve been back to an extent lately. However, my emotion regulation issues are a lot less pronounced.

I still have dissociative symptoms. Accepting them and validating my alters has helped me manage these symptoms.

Since I experience ongoing stress that reminds me of my trauma, I don’t expect to find the peace to fully heal anytime soon. However, I really hope I can continue to make progress.