Doing Memory Work with No Memory

After my last post, I lost about 36 hours of time.  The good thing is, whoever was fronting didn’t jet off or go anywhere.  During this blank period of time, I apparently self-harmed, forgot how a cell phone works, and even talked to my therapist on said forgotten-how-this-works cell phone.

I had a 2nd session with our therapist, K. after coming out of this dissociative episode on Thursday evening.  I don’t remember much of this session   It’s really vague.  I just remember going back and forth with her on intense feelings of suicide and depression.  She kept trying to remind me that these thoughts are from a time in the past when I was being hurt, and I am safe today.

Yesterday (Friday), I stayed home from work.  I was exhausted, probably from all the switching.  Around 2pm my cell phone rang, and it woke me up.  K’s name is on the caller ID, so I answer.

“Good Afternoon, Nel, it’s K.” She cheerily says.  “Where are you?”

“Ah…hi, K.  At home.”  I groggily answer.

“And you were sleeping.” She states.

“Yah.” It doesn’t surprise me by now that she can read me through the phone.

“Then, I’m glad I called.  I was thinking you could have your regular Monday session early tomorrow (Saturday).” She says.

“What? Why?” Now I’m confused. Why is she calling me?  Why does she want me to come in early?

“Well, because now you’re missing work.  I think we should meet before Monday, so we can work a little on what’s going on, to increase the probability you won’t call out sick on Monday, too.” She responds.

“Oh.” I say, flatly.  “I guess, ok.”

“We could meet on Sunday, if you prefer.” She waits but I don’t respond, “Or if you’d rather keep your Monday session, that’s fine, too.  I just thought I’d offer.”

“No, it’s ok.  I’ll come in tomorrow.”  I say.  “I trust your opinion, so if you think coming in before Monday is important, I’ll do it.”

“Great! Since I know you’ve been sleeping so much, how about we meet in the morning tomorrow?”

I sigh, “Ok.”

“And you’ll bring your homework.” She adds.

“My homework? What homework?” I’m totally confused.  Not even a vague, ohhh yeah, she assigned homework.

“Mm-hm.” K. says. “You were going to invite Clara to do some collaging.”

“I don’t remember.”

“I know.” K. says seriously.

“This is what I hate about dissociation.  It makes me scared when I can’t remember what I’ve done.  Like, it’s not there at all.  Not even a vague recollection.”  My stomach is now curled up in knots due to the anxiety.

“Nel, I’m sorry you’re so scared.  I can only imagine how frightening it must be to not remember things you’ve done.”  She says empathetically.

As always, I’m uncomfortable receiving kind words, so I move to end the phone call.  Surprisingly, she allows me to direct the conversation this way.  But not without repeating she will see me tomorrow with homework in hand.

After the phone call, I dig up an envelope full of magazine cut-outs that I brought home from Sheppard Pratt.  I internally ask Clara if she would like to help choose some things for the collage.  I don’t get any verbal response.  I don’t even feel like she’s there.  But it’s not hard to start picking out things.

I go through 2 more magazines and pull out some more things.

Then, someone pulls out our acrylic paints.  Pink, blue, and purple gets dropped on a blank canvas page, and we go to town.  Someone makes an imaginary landscape of brightly colored trees alongside some water.  The cutouts are purposely placed above or below the water.

When we’re done, Mina and I come back forward.  I’m floored.  I have no idea who has done it, but the artwork is both beautiful and frightening.  It draws you in with its beauty and then floods you with fear.  It’s like a deception.

As if to purposely trigger.

I know I should put it away, but I want to keep looking at it.  Eventually, after a couple hours, I do place it aside.

We went to therapy this morning at 10am as promised.  We brought in the painting/collage, hugging it to our chest.  Switching is all over the place.  I switch to Clara, which I believe is in System 3, but a different layer of the system.  I switch to an O—- part in System 5, or maybe a T—- part in System 4, I’m not sure.  There’s so much deception and flooding going on, and it’s all vague to me at best.

I’m not sure what work got done, if any, and now I’m co-conscious with Mina and Meg (Meg is one of our teen protector parts).  We were so tired when we came home from the session, we managed to each a bit of rice and passed out.

I wonder if she gave me any homework.

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Thoughts on Plural Positivity World Conference & ISSTD’s viewpoints on DID

Sometimes, I think, even among survivors, I’m lost.  Even among the DID community, I just don’t get it. Here are some of our latest thoughts sparked by the Plural Positivity World Conference. 

I’m not sure how I feel about this conference.  I’m not overwhelmingly supportive of it, but I’m not writing it off as unimportant, either.  I’m wondering, though:  Is this REALLY what my fellow DIDers are thinking about healing and the professionals who treat DID?  They clearly begin with: we organized this against the ISSTD conference but we’re not against them BUT…here’s a litany of things we demand change and the ISSTD has wrong!  Yet…my experience working with the specialists at Sheppard Pratt, including past-ISSTD president, Dr. Loewenstein, is totally different.

The following quotes are from the Opening Remarks.

This is what led us to organize this counter-conference, intentionally timing it simultaneously with the ISSTD conference happening this weekend in New York.  Let me clear. We are not protesting that conference, nor we arguing against the ISSTD.
…using other language such as “metabolizing” experiences (Lynne Harris) rather than “integrating” them, now that integration has such a negative connotation that it’s actually become triggering verbiage in and of itself.

Is integration a bad term, though?  This is what I taught by ISSTD therapists, as recent as 10 months ago:  Integration refers to an integrated understanding of the current day, present, healed self.  Trauma becomes part of your life story, but not the main focus anymore.  This does not refer to integration of alters or parts.

I don’t think anyone associated with the Plural Positivity World Conference is lying.  I’m just confused where the disconnect is coming into place.  I would expect such a glaring misconception from our classic experience with therapists not trained in dissociation.  Why are these DIDers under the mistaken belief the ISSTD would support such an outdated view?

The general attitude regarding survivors having contact with each other needs to change, especially in regards to the online community. For years we have been isolated from each other and it was recommended we not have contact with one another. 

Again, this is a completely opposite view than that which the professional community supports.  In fact, at Sheppard Pratt, the therapeutic milieu is recognized as a core piece of healing.  Part of self-care, we learned, was talking to people who understand DID and are capable of having compassion for us.

 

We know, in differing degrees, but especially once we have been in therapy, that we are “parts of a whole”. Please interact with us as we present, just like you would for any other client. There is a reason why we function that way as a system, and listening to us will help you understand us more, and help us trust you more quickly.

This is where I’m going to end my post.  Because being “parts of a whole” was a statement I heard repeated to me on a daily basis by ISSTD therapists at Sheppard Pratt.  I felt like the therapists there understood even better than myself, exactly this statement.  That there was a reason we function as a system, and they were willing to listen to us for as long as we needed.

I was surprised to see this was the attitude in the Keynote.  I believe we do have a healthy, strong supportive network of DID survivors online.  I believe the dissociation professionals have come a long way in their understanding of treating severe dissociation, and we’re on the verge of seeing growth in the professional community as a whole with better understanding of trauma and dissociation.

Good wishes and healing thoughts to you all.

Endogenic Systems, Tulpas, and their place in DID Communities

Endogenic Systems is a non-clinical term which seems to have originated on Tumblr.  It refers to people without trauma-based dissociation who claim to have alternate personalities that were consciously created.  These individuals acknowledge their personalities were willfully created, and describe them as having their own likes, dislikes, personality, and lives.  The key difference is there there is no amnesia between parts, since there is no clinical dissociation happening.

Tulpas are also included when discussing Endogenic Systems, but they are somewhat different.  The creation of a Tulpa is a spiritual experience, and the relationship the person has with his/her Tulpa can be quite impactful.

As you can imagine, this concept ruffles the feathers of many with trauma-based dissociation.  Many of us have faced a lifetime of invalidation of our abuse, and similarly our diagnosis.  The mental health community is woefully undereducated on trauma disorders, and sometimes our initial experiences with therapists does even more harm.  Our diagnosis is further vilified in media and fiction movies like Identity (2003) and Split (2016). This makes it difficult for us to fully trust in our interpersonal relationships, because other people’s only awareness of the diagnosis are from these extreme fiction examples.

And then, there’s those of us with DID and Ritual Abuse.  It’s not uncommon for us to have parts that aren’t fully formed identities.  We may have a part “in control” of creating fake or temporary parts for a programming purpose.  These temporary parts are sometimes referred to as spirits, demons, shadows, etc.

Our system refers to them as shadows.  Shadows exist to fulfill an order, and when that is completed, they collapse back into the elements they were created from.  The part who controls their development and demise, then collects these elements and stores them away the next time they are needed to create.

I often witness discussions in online DID communities, and I see the vitriol and hatred towards Endogenics and Tulpas.  I understand where this is coming from, but at the same time, my heart hurts because I know I surely would be attacked for siding with the less-than-popular opinion that parts can consciously be created, destroyed, etc. at will in some systems.   Attacks by the survivors we would be able to relate to.

This can trigger other programming as well.  Programming designed to make us believe that we will never be believed if we try to tell about the ritual abuse.  And when we witness such hurtful responses from the DID community, it only reinforces our abusers’ messages.

It can get destabilized and confusing in our head very quickly with multiple programs being fired off like this.  I only wish the DID community could be more open-minded and accepting, instead of impulsively reacting and unknowingly hurting others.

 

Internal Communication

K. (our therapist) has been working consistently with us on building internal communication with a newly discovered part named Clara.  This has been difficult for a variety of reasons.  During sessions, we become flooded with intense emotions.  Because Clara is in “trauma time” they are feelings like panic, terror, and despair.  Tough stuff.

In addition to that, she’s been very patient with us only committing to Internal Communication one time per week.  That’s totally not enough.  Especially when trying to get to know a new part and ground her to the present.

This weekend, we’ve decided to commit to working on Internal Communication.  Below is a copy of a basic IC worksheet from Sheppard Pratt.  I feel a little silly going back to the basics, but I also know this is needed.  Clara is young, so she also needs concrete questions to answer.  Because we get swept up, influenced by her intense emotions, it’s hard or us to remember what questions to ask, let along insure they are concrete.

So, here’s the worksheet.  I don’t think I’m going to post her responses to the blog, but I thought it would be helpful to share the resource.

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Be safe!

-Nel