Drudging Thru Conflict

K. and I went over the painting I mentioned in our last therapy post. I explained to K. how I felt drawn in to the painting. She demonstrated an optical illusion in my painting. Apparently the farther and father you walk away from the painting, the girl in the middle disappears.

We also talked about the tinnitus. She challenged me when I tried to relate it to the NICU. I sat with the question and a memory fell into my consciousness. Needless to say, K. was right.

I’m worried about my DID friend group. Going through some tough things, and I hope no matter what happens, we still have one another.

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Abusive Internal Messages

I’ve been doing a lot of care-taking lately. I fix people’s problems at work, I’m supporting my partner as he is dealing with his own personal issues, trying to support family through their stuff, and modding the /r/DID subreddit.

Phew.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s my own mental health.

One of my responses to the abuse, particularly as an adolescent, was to busy myself with as much extracurricular activities I could get my hands on, so as to be out of the house/neighborhood. My happiness became dependent on achieving tasks and receiving praise for all the hard work.

Today, I recognize I’m still stuck in the same pattern. Yet, I know I can do things that actually take care of my mind and body, like mindfulness and meditation. Why don’t I? I feel strange doing it. I’m not used to feeling calm and serene. It actually makes me more anxious!

Then, part of me comes forward, being judgmental. Telling me I should be able to do this by now. I should be able to manage my anxiety and my chores and my friends and my family and my work. “What is wrong with you?!”

And I realize that quote is not really this parts’ words. I’ve heard this before from my abuser, always trying to make me feel like I, a small child, was the problem. Which, of course, all small children tend to think when there is a problem.

My abuser reinforced that, and I learned to not trust my own instincts.

One of the things I forget is that I don’t need to argue with my selves anymore. I may not agree with this judgmental part, but I’m sure whatever she took on for me, it would likely help me realize, “oh, that’s why she is that way.”

I can discuss with them today. I can hold internal meetings where I can hear her thoughts and feelings. I can give her empathy.

I can do guided meditation or mindfulness, to even just give me a minute of serenity.

I don’t need to push away or avoid my parts.

And I recognize I am human. If I do slip back into avoidance, I can be brave enough to genuinely say, “I’m sorry.”

By doing this, I finally allow my mind its freedom.

Tinnitus and DID

Trigger Warning: Mention some medical procedure from when I was in the NICU as a baby.

I’ve had a high pitched ringing in my ears for as long as I can remember. I remember being very little and having it.

I’m fairly certain that the originating cause was my very low weight, premature birth. They say the NICU is quite traumatic for infants because babies (especially preterm/newborn) cannot distinguish between good/bad stimuli. It’s all overwhelming. And now here’s a baby getting stuck with IVs all over her body, heel sticks, and spinal tap with no sedation. Lots of noise, pain, and stimuli.

For most of my life, I have dealt with it well. I mean, it’s always been there, so what difference does it make?

But for one of my parts, the ringing gets louder for her and it drives her nuts. She gets so distracted by it and angry because she feels helpless because you can’t get away from it.

That helpless feeling triggers fear in another part who is ridiculously terrified all the time. So she’s easily switching forward and I can feel the terror.

Sigh. I went to an audiologist 5 years ago and he basically said there’s nothing you can do but play music or a sound machine to try to distract you from the noise. Sounds great except when (for work) I have to go to a meeting, or the prison, or the courthouse, I can’t bring anything like that around.

Well I’m not sure what to do about this one. I’ll have to explain this to K. on Monday.

Do parts really need to talk to our therapist?

This was originally posted to my blog November 12, 2012.

Note that all posts from 2011-2017 are no longer public.

I thought I would pull this one out of retirement, because it’s still such a great musing.

I’m taking a break from writing personal blog entries again.  This is not usually a good sign.  My blog is the least difficult thing I write.  Journaling is more difficult for me because it can involve switching and stir things up internally (That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen online, but it is less likely as we are looking at uniform typed font).  So — not a good sign, because it means I’m isolating and avoiding.

I really do want to make this blog post, but it is more important for my healing to also post what is going on with our therapist, K. and the trauma anniversary.  I’m promising myself right now that my next post will focus more on my own healing.

That being said, here’s the question that has been bouncing around in my head:  Do our parts REALLY need to talk to our therapist?

Is it necessary that each one of them build a relationship with her? Does each one need to process their emotions and experiences related to the traumas?

I’ve been thinking about this because the trauma anniversary involves a set of child parts who I have zero communication with, and who K. has never met.  I started wondering if it was a typical part of the therapy process that they go through what we’ve been through with parts like Alex, M., and MD.

K. has commented before that this is how this type of therapy works.  That in the therapeutic relationship, the parts get to know her, build some level of trust, and talk about what they need to talk about.  All the while, K. supports internal communication and cooperation with the rest of the System, including me.  She does this by encouraging parts to help one another.  She may ask Alex how she can help M.  She may encourage M. to share her thoughts in our journal so I can get to know her better.

Now, I need to give you a little back story as to why this question popped up.  The specific trauma anniversary we are living through involves M., our angry, teen protector, and her age regression around what she calls her “birthday” (which I discussed last year around this time).

M. was forward in our last therapy session, because K. was asking questions that were stirring up some child parts.

“Who are you protecting?” K. asked.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” M. scowled. “I ain’t tellin’ you. I ain’t sayin’ nothin.’ I know how this game works.  You ain’t talkin’ to nobody.”

“I don’t have to.” K responded, calmly. “You can talk to them.  You can help them.  You’re trying to help them right now, that’s why you’re here.”

There have been times when K. has commented that based on my facial expression or posture, that I’m about to switch.  She tries to get me to recognize this and communicate internally by myself.

Once, I was extremely dissociated (foggy state, zoning constantly, unable to be present), and I softly drawled out, “I don’t want to switch…this is my therapy…I don’t want…to miss it.”

K. supported me and helped me ground.  But she didn’t forget to help me ask internally who wanted to talk and what did they want to say.  I had lost it by then, and I became frustrated.

“It’s okay.” K. reassured us. “You don’t have to switch if you don’t want to.  We can work on you building the internal communication yourself.  But – and this goes out to anyone listening – I want everyone to know that just because we grounded you to the present doesn’t mean we are ignoring you.  You can write, draw, or paint how you are feeling.  It is safe to do that today.”

I’m not really sure how to answer my own question.  K. has answered it both ways.  On one occasion, she explained that severe dissociation is normally handled with each part building that therapeutic alliance.  On the other hand, she has supported me, or my parts, when they have not wanted to switch.

I feel like it is very important for those parts, especially with attachment issues, to build a positive relationship with an external adult female.  Is it necessary, though?  That’s where I get stuck.  I do have internal adult females, like MD, who are helpers and are very willing to role model that positive relationship.

There is something different.  Something unpredictable and risky about these parts reaching out to K.  We could just tell her that.  But is it enough?

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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