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In order for me to learn how to stop dissociating, I first had to figure out when I was doing it. I had to recognize how it felt and learn to see the difference in how I felt when I wasn’t dissociating.
My psychiatrist gently guided me through this process. He often stopped me whenever he saw that spaced-out look on my face. “How do you feel?” he would ask. I described to him the numbness and fog that had overtaken my thinking, a sensation like having cotton in my head. “That’s what dissociation feels like. Try and remember that feeling,” he instructed me. After several months of stopping and noticing, I eventually got the distinction. It’s like the difference between looking at life from 50 feet up versus living life at ground level, with all its vivid emotions and bumpy reality.
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When I first found out I had Dissociative Identity Disorder I was devastated. I was afraid of people finding out, thought perhaps I would lose my job. I was afraid my husband would leave me. I thought the diagnosis meant I was truly 'crazy'. I suddenly wanted my old life back—the one I had before I started having panic attacks and memories of being sexually abused as a child, adolescent and young adult.
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Over the past 17 years off and on my psychiatrist used a number of tools that helped me learn about the healing process from Dissociative Identity Disorder. In writing my memoir and in preparing for a training with clinicians I was pulling out the top 5 tools I found most helpful.
The first was his use of hypnosis as a way to help me distance from the memories so that I would not dissociate during my recounting of what happened. He did this when he saw the unfocused stare in my eyes and the flat tone in my retelling. It helped me to learn what dissociation felt like and to stop and focus when I felt that way.
Second, he built trust with me. When he said I could call during off hours. He meant it. I called and paged him many times over the years and he always called back, often within the hour.
Third, he used the book "There is a Nightmare in my Closet" to help me see the process of opening the doors within the rooms I created to let the 'nightmare' out. This is a children's book and all parts learned about the process. If you do this work I urge you to use this as a visual aid to help people like me who have DID understand the process. How this book helped me is currently in Chapter Eight of my memoir.
Fourth, he used "A Wizard of Earthsea" to illustrate what I needed to do. I write about how this had a pivotal affect on my healing in what is now Chapter Nine in the draft of my memoir. This book is about a young wizard that unleashes a dark shadow in the world. One that he cannot run away from. Ultimately the Wizard has to deal with the dark shadowy figure. When he finally finds it he sees it is the dark side of himself. He reaches out to shake its hand and he has accepted the darkness of his life and of who he is. When I read that I realized I had to accept that I was sexually abused, prostituted and raped by my family. That was very hard. Then I understood and learned to accept that my DID helped me survive my childhood and helped me function well in society.
Fifth, pacing. My psychiatrist and I struggled over the pace of my work with him. Early on our slogan was slow is good. However, the parts inside weren't very patient and at one point I was flooded by parts and the memories, pain and emotions they held. At that point we picked up the pace and I had 90 minute sessions everyday, Monday through Friday. This was in response to my pleading that I wanted to be hospitalized. I just wanted to go to sleep and not deal with all this. He offered that we try this schedule for six months and if I still felt that way he would consider hospitalizing me. The six months of working with him allowed me to keep working, stay in my home and in contact with my friends. I had support at work and at home and he wanted me to keep that. It worked. I write about this too in Chapter 10.
I'm still working with the editors on my memoir. Its scheduled to be released in November 2011.
I hope this is helpful.Keep Reading »
My psychiatrist and I have worked well together because of the safe and respectful relationship he set up with me. He was strict with boundaries but only with respect to what we talked about and in never doing any work outside the therapy work together. But he was and still is available outside of session times and I've needed it over the years. So if I was having a hard time I could call and page him and he said he would call within an hour - he always did.
That was critical to building trust. That he did what he said.
When I got upset with things I perceived him doing, he never got defensive. He listened and was thoughtful about it. Sometimes I was right and he would admit it and apologize and sometimes I was wrong and I would see my stuff coming up and sometimes we were both right.
For my trust issues what always helped was that he could see and would say that he could see how I might feel the way I would be feeling. That always helped me to refocus and reframe my thinking. I would easily go from not trusting him to realizing who he was in my life, which was and sometimes still is, a lifeline.
Another thing that was important was that he never talked directly to parts without saying to me something acknowledging the presence of parts. So instead of what could feel like reaching right in, he would say something like, it seems that there are some parts or a part present is that true. Or he'd say could you let everyone inside know that this is 2010 and you live in Wisconsin and you are safe. and then if a part wanted to talk to him, there was an opening and the choice stayed mine and my parts...
There's tons more to say. But these were the most important and you'll see when I finish the book I writing that this will be a big focus in there.
Over the past few months, I've had a number of people ask me what I do when I'm not training or working on my book. So I thought this holiday weekend would be the perfect time to let folks know the answer to that.
I live on a small farm, Mirasol Farm, in a small town in Wisconsin. My partner and I have 3 dogs, 3 cats, 13 chickens and 3 bee hives. We organically grow vegetables for ourselves and our friends. The eggs that we and our friends don't eat we sell in St. Paul to our coworkers. We grow organic strawberries, raspberries and blackberries that we use to make gourmet jams and jellies that we sell on our etsy site.
We make soaps, lotions, and healing creams, salves and balms that we also sell on our etsy site http://www.etsy.com/shop/mirasolfarm. We use organic oils to make everything from scratch. My partner, Casey, comes up with healing combinations of botanicals and soothing, relaxing combinations of essential oils.
To me, this is such a departure from the work I do on the road or in town that it is relaxing, rejuvenating and healing. It also feels like an extension of my work. To offer good healing products to folks to help them through their day feels great.
So there it is. This is what I do when I'm not traveling, training, or writing.Keep Reading »
I've conducted trainings lately for law enforcement audiences on Assessing Credibility of Survivor/Victims. In Evansville, Indiana I did the same training two days in a row to get to as many law enforcement officers, advocates, medical professionals and mental health professionals as we could. We spent each day with a little more than 100 participants.
The training delved into how trauma can impact the way survivors/victims may respond. Since we are always assessing credibility, the signs of trauma may be misunderstood and lead responders to think the survivor was not being truthful. We explored how flat affect, dissociation, and other coping skills can appear to conflict with what the survivor is reporting.Keep Reading »
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