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 Self-Harm

Trigger Warning: Self-Harm

Therapy continues…we’re still seeing K. once a week and going to group once per month.  Yesterday, we couldn’t shake some intense feelings.  We did DID symptom management skills like grounding and a couple “past vs. present” ‘s for different parts.  But, we just couldn’t control the intensity and dissociation.  So, we called K., and she had us come in for an emergency session.

We talked about some things I’ve told her before, and we talked about some things I’ve never told her before.

As a result, I’m having a ton of increase in urges to self-harm.  Most of it has been impulses to harm and thoughts/plans, but not actions.

So, let me talk about Alex.  Alex is a teen part, who was mostly present during the body’s ages of 15-18.  During that time, she often engaged in self-harm.  Most she cut the skin but she also sometimes hit/bruised the body.

Why does Alex self harm?  Alex had to do a lot of talking in counseling with our then-counselor, Andrea, but she eventually learned why. This was huge not just for her, but for us as a system to better understand Alex and what she went through.  At the time the body was ages 15-18, we had no escape from the trauma and re-traumatization of not being believed by family, school teachers, and child protective workers.  Feelings of loneliness and and depression were so severe that cutting became one of the few outlets that worked to relieve some of the intensity.

As Alex began to trust Andrea, self-injury took on a new meaning.  It became one of the few ways she could communicate to Andrea tha inner turmoils she was constantly surviving.  It also became a way of communicating she needed help.

I think this is important to note, because although the behavior of cutting remained the same, the why evolved over time.

Next, we have a child part (unsure of who exactly), but this part will sometimes intentionally bang their head, pick/scratch cuticles until they bleed and bite nails until they bleed.

For this child, we are still learning the why.  This seems to have to do with impulsivity and an obsessive need to hurt the body.  There is definitely focus for this part on the creation of physical pain.  Once the pain has been created (or the bleeding started), she then can hyperfocus on that physical response instead of the (unknown) emotion that triggered the impulsivity.

I’m starting to realize that we (several adult parts) also engage in self harm indirectly. What we mean by this is we do things that aren’t intentionally self harming (like Alex and the unnamed child part). Unfortunately the actions do end up causing harm to the body.  For example, Carrie and Beth engage in substance use.  Vickie gets into risky sexual situations with men.  Nel doesn’t eat enough food or sometimes eats too much of a food that is worth little to no nutrition (e.g. chocolate for breakfast–for 5 days straight).

Lastly, I’m beginning to understand that there is programming associated with some of my tendencies of self harm.  This is a very overwhelming and scary thing to realize.  I’m not sure what to make of it.  Every time I seem to realize this (or remember I have realized this before), I blank out, lose the memory, or lose a couple hours.  See, even me trying to put it into words now seems difficult to do.

Until next time…

“Each falling apart eventually brings a coming together.” -Mina (co-fronter part)