Goodbye Allison

Last week I had my final session with Allison. The person who has listened to my secrets, encouraged me to talk, tried to understand my experience, and connected with me on many levels; is no longer in my life. I’m not sure how to deal with that reality… or, if it’s even possible to deal with at the moment.

We departed on amicable terms, in that I’ve moved from the area; but, that leaving was oh so difficult. I’m not sure that I fully comprehend what it meant to work with Allison. We formed a therapeutic relationship that allowed me to explore my experience in a safe environment. There were times when we got frustrated with, or misunderstood each other; but there was a desire to keep working on that relationship and find out why things were difficult. This gave me a valuable framework for my relationships outside of her office. I came to understand that people could be frustrated with me, but not want to hurt me… I learned that people were affected and effected by my actions and my past… That realisation was incredibly difficult, and I’m still not sure that I fully accept or understand it.

Allison walked with me as I tried to heal. At times I lamented that I hadn’t made any significant changes in my healing or reactions… but, then we would discuss seemingly little things like now being able to identify and talk about things that are causing me anxiety. I say this is “seemingly little”, but it isn’t. To put it into context, a few years ago when Allison would ask me what issues were affecting me, I’d say “everything… work, neighbours, family, relationships, healing… everything”. I meant it… everything seemed so overwhelming and beyond me, that I wanted to give up… it was all too big to deal with… But, more recently, I’ve been able to break down that overwhelming “everything” statement into more manageable and accurate descriptions of the problems. I’d be able to name the issues associated with that stress; rather than bundle it all into this huge “everything” statement that wouldn’t be able to be addressed until much later – if at all.

Addressing the issues within a therapeutic framework is difficult. I’m not used to being the focus of a safe person’s attention… I’m not used to the empathetic responses that Allison exhibited… I often railed against her attention and response; but, that was about my inability to cope with my emotions. I’m still learning how to cope with that safety… I hope that one day I’ll be able to understand what safety is, and what it feels like to exist within a safe environment…

During my last session with Allison, I began to get an understanding of some of the fears about no longer seeing her, or going to her office… There was a young and vulnerable fear that everything I shared in her office would disappear… At the time, I thought that meant that there was a fear that the secrets that I shared with her would be forgotten. On one level this forgetting was considered an advantage, as it would mean that the pain the secrets held would no longer have an impact on Allison. Another advantage of the loss of the secrets, was that Allison wouldn’t be hurt or bothered by the people who hurt me – I was told that the people who knew the secrets would be hurt, or killed. Then, there is the flip-side to the secrets disappearance/being forgetten… Does that mean that the telling didn’t happen?? Does it mean that the events described within the secrets, didn’t happen?? Does it mean that we don’t exist??

The question “Does it mean that we don’t exist” is still the hardest one to contemplate. Allison bore witness to many of my secrets, and has reassured me that she won’t forget me or my secrets… A part of me doesn’t believe her reassurances, and another part is hopeful she will remember… But the fear that my time with Allison was all a fabrication and didn’t really happen is very present. I have a dissociative coping mechanism where I quickly forget people and places… especially if they mean a great deal to me. This dissociative coping, means that I’ve already lost most of my memories of being in Allison’s office. I can see glimpses of it, but nothing lasting or meaningful. It’s crazy-making… How can I so quickly lose something that was important to me?

This brings me to another of my huge regrets during my time with Allison… I can only remember looking at her face once in all my time with her. I know that may sound silly, or even impossible, but it’s true. I have so much shame, that I can’t bring myself to look people in the eye… especially someone, like Allison, who knows some of my secrets. I can usually look people in the eye at work, but rarely in any other setting. I tried to talk myself into looking Allison in the eye during our last session; but couldn’t do it. I wish I had…

So now, I find myself in a strange city without a therapist. I initially rejected the idea of finding a therapist soon after arriving here, as I wanted time to grieve my relationship with Allison. But now, I’m not so sure… I seem to be coming apart at the seams… Denial and dysfunction are high on my list of coping behaviours… So I’m struggling to look for ways to move forward within my new life…

Please let me find a way…

Now playing: Enya – Only time


My Truth

When Paul announced that the topic for both the Carnival Against Child Abuse, and Expressive Arts Carnival would be “your truth”, I was excited. I struggle with what my truth is, almost on a daily basis; so saw this as a great way to explore my reactions and issues around the concept.  Then the reality of writing about the topic hit me… literally.  I published a post about my truth last week, which received some negative feedback, and all my insecurities came out and had a party.  It became a fight about whether I would look more foolish keeping it up, or taking it down.  I decided to take it down.

I consider truth to be an amorphous concept.  What I wrote last week, was my truth at that time.  What I write today, will be different because I’ve learned from last week’s experience, and gained more understanding about the situation.  If I write another post on this topic in a week, month or year, it will be different again.  Truth isn’t set in stone.  Truth is derived from the understanding of our experiences… but that understanding comes from our perspective, bias, values, etc.

Truth also has political, economic and cultural importance.  This is where I start to get confused – not because I think I’m of any great importance, but rather because so many people seem to have a vested interest in my truth…

  • The False Memory Syndrome Foundation and DID deniers are vocal in their opinion and research that they say proves you cannot repress traumatic memory in the way that many DID cases are presenting.
  • Extreme supporters of DID tell you to seek out each memory and believe it as the truth.
  • My family don’t know what to believe, but they are tired of having a daughter who is unwell.
  • Work doesn’t care as long as they get more than my contracted hours of work, and I don’t inconvenience them with my phobias.
  • ACC accepts that I have issues related to sexual abuse, but would prefer this to have been “resolved” long ago so that they didn’t need to keep funding my therapy.

I find it impossible to ignore all of these conflicting messages and theories.  In some ways, I think it’s dangerous to do so.  Each group has something to teach us… FMS helped to place a check of poor therapeutic practice; our family show us how confusing our experience can appear to the outside world; and so on.  But, I don’t think that it’s up to us as individuals, to get caught up in the debates and arguments.  I think that we owe it to ourselves to be an informed consumer; to gain power over our own healing, and to play an active part in that healing process.  But we shouldn’t hurt ourselves in the process.

I’ve read much of the FMS material.  I’ve debated with the DID deniers.  I’ve questioned the beliefs of the extreme supporters.  Each of those interactions has come at a personal cost.  I begin to doubt my truth.  I become conflicted and destabilised.  Opponents to DID, would argue that this destabilisation was due to the house of cards that I have built my life on, being threatened.  The thing is, the intellectual part of me likes this reasoning.  At times I embrace denial for all it’s worth.  Events which I know occurred are minimised, or I detach emotionally from them.

But, this doesn’t explain how I continue to react to things.  Even in the midst of my denial, I still avoid the smell of tyres on a hot summer day, I must have my back to the wall… the list goes on.  I can appear bright, happy and be super-functional; yet internally I’ve compartmentalised the turmoil, and can dangerously self injure within the hour.  This is where my intellectual/autobiographical truth, and the truth of my sensory memory collide.  For me, healing comes, not from trying to uncover every single memory, but rather in coping with what I am facing in the present – it’s about symptom management, not chasing memories.

It’s my intellectual part that needs to know what happened to me; but this has never been where my healing has occurred.  My greatest leaps in healing have always come from working through a trigger in the present.  It’s shown the wounded parts of me that it is possible to be safe.  Ironically, this safety has often led to more sharing of emotions, and yes, sometimes memories.  But these were shared from a place of strength, not chaos.  They didn’t have the power to sweep me along on an emotional tidal wave.  That’s not to say that I don’t get swept away, I do.  But I’m learning how to cope in the present in a more proactive way… a more emotional way.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s scary, but the benefits are showing.

So what is my truth?  I was hurt in the past by people who should have protected me.  That betrayal of trust now influences my life in significant ways.  I get confused, distracted and hurt by the controversy that is associated with the diagnostic label that a psychiatrist assigned me.  I am trying my best to heal from the wounds of the past, understand the controversy, and (more importantly) live a life.  Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do?


What is the truth… or are they both the truth seen from different perspectives?

Now playing: Collective Soul – December
via FoxyTunes

Sinking… no, sunk

Ever notice how easy it is to lose track of the days, weeks, months… years?  At times it scares me.  I know that the mother visited for three weeks.  I know that when she was here, we had several lunches at The Coffee Club; went to two 3D movies (I think Tangled was one of them); I brought her a new camera; and we went to a nearby town where I purchased a small gift for a friend.  The only reason I know all of that, is I have the bank statements to follow my trail.  I’ve no idea what happened on the days when I might have used cash – that’s one of the reasons I never carry cash on me.

According to my computer, it’s now 10.22am on Wednesday, 12th of January.  Isn’t that strange?  What happened to December and the previous 11 days of January?  I really don’t remember – I have some vague, disjointed images of that time, but not many.

I know friends have been struggling.  I know there have been bereavements, Christenings, excited moments over hope for new life, humour in odd things… yes, I remember more about the lives of the people I consider friends, than I do my own.  I don’t know if that is a dissociative feature, or just some weird thing that happens just to me; but sometimes it does my head in.  Sometimes, it acts as an anchor in my own life.  I use the theory that I can’t be insane, or totally stupid, if I can remember a conversation that was important to someone else.

This time loss, is one of the reasons why I have the next four days off work.  I’m sinking.  Well actually, I sunk a little while ago, and I’ve only just realised it…  I always was a bit slow on the uptake.

On Monday I went to work and said that I needed the rest of the week off.  My team leader and manager were supportive; so here I am, in the kiddie pool of life, getting my balance back.

I spent Tuesday sleeping… I went from getting 1-3 hours of sleep per night, to sleeping 8 hours straight, and then sleeping on and off for the rest of the day.

Today, I’m going to go take photos.  My aim… to reconnect with the moment.  I’ve lost too many moments lately.

Now playing: Missy Higgins – Where I Stood
via FoxyTunes

Beaches and memories

I’m writing this entry from a hotel by the beach… Out one window is the view of a bay, out the other is a glimpse of the ocean…  It’s beautiful.

I wish my state of mind matched the beauty surrounding me, but it doesn’t.  Instead it’s a floating mess of past and present memories…  It’s a harsh reminder that no matter how far I run, the problems will follow me until I work them through.

I hate that.

I knew it was risky coming to the beach, but I didn’t realise the memories and issues it would throw at me.  A combination of being in a hotel; by a beach similar to the one where I grew up; and the psychiatric assessment on Tuesday, has opened old wounds.  To top it off, the free cable channels in the hotel are the Rugby ones… just typical!  Why couldn’t they be the kids, movies or arts channels… why????

The fall-out from the psychiatric assessment on Tuesday has been severe.  I made many mistakes, thereby giving ACC lots of ammunition to use as a way of apportioning away responsibility to other issues.  In fairly typical fashion, I’m beating myself up for it.

I won’t know the results of the assessment for several months.  The psychiatrist assured me that he would recommend that I continue to get ACC funded therapy.  But, I was honest about my level of dysfunction and self-injury, so ACC might decide in peer review that I need to be in the hospital system or forced into DBT.  Then there’s the issue of determining my level of impairment… this is a brutal system, and one that has been harsh for me in the past.  I’m expecting it to be just as harsh this time around…  This will have little to do with the assessing psychiatrist, and more to do with the peer reviewers at ACC.

The assessing psychiatrist understood DID, he really “got” it… One of the last questions he asked was how long we’d been talking, B had just come forward again, so thought it had just been a few minutes… it had been over an hour.  B then noticed that the sunlight had moved across the floor… she forgot to check the agreed upon marker of time before answering him…

One of the things we did to try and ease the stress of the assessment, was to produce a summary of our life.  It was harsh to see our SA experiences summarised in a dozen bullet points on half a page.  That summary was difficult to write… one line alone took 4 hours… we finally admitted in writing that the father abused us.  It is now on our ACC records.  That makes it official… scary… overwhelming… disgusting… shameful… ugly…

Sorry, I know this is disjointed…

Now playing: Blindspott – Phlex
via FoxyTunes

You shall not pass!

You shall not pass!
You shall not know.
You will never know.
It will destroy you to know.
I will destroy you, before the secrets are told.

This message has been driving my existence for the last week (month?). D. One from my internal Basement has drawn, what can only be described as, battle lines. There’s no give, little communication and no trust. She’s said several times that she hates the rest of us, and has apparently sworn at Allison – not something that I would do.

The problem… We’re getting closer to her secrets, or the secrets in The Basement. This has been deemed as too dangerous for the system by D. One. This is a Polyvore set done last night to prove the point.

You shall not pass!

What surprises me, is that it looks rather tame in comparison to some of the other works that have involved her (for example D. One). But, it more clearly shows the dissociative wall she is protecting.

As an aside, she was associated with fire and a serpent in the last set, but now it’s birds and trees?

Last week, it became obvious what she will do to protect that wall. It wasn’t pleasant.

As a result, the mother is now staying with us. Those of you familiar with this blog, will know that the mother has a tendency to grate, annoy and trigger different parts of the system. She was psychologically abusive and neglectful during my childhood, and parts felt betrayed and hurt by her. Saying that, there are parts of the system who love, cherish and want to have a relationship with her. At the moment, for our safety, she is being tolerated by us all.

I keep on wondering what all of this activity by D. One means… Reflection is my key to healing and understanding. But yet, I find it almost impossible to reflect on the actions of the past week. I find it difficult to put them into context. If D. One was so stead fast in her rules of no more secrets being shared, why was a young one allowed to talk to Allison on Friday? It doesn’t make sense. Admittedly, there were no secrets shared, it was a very narrow flashback being described, but I’m struggling to make sense of it all.

One good thing about the mother coming up, is that she has again validated some memories, either through mentioning suspicions, or by describing vehicles that were either used, or around during my childhood. I know this is a double edged sword – if she had suspicions, why didn’t she act to protect us? Possibly this goes back to what Paul was discussing when he gave a brief overview of how societies attitude towards CSA has changed over time? Possibly, it’s because we were a white, middle class family? Possibly, it’s because the mother is a nurse who was clinical, rather than emotional and nurturing? All I know, is that it hurts that there were seemingly obvious signs and suspicions, which were ignored. I also know, that this is a similar story for thousands of other survivors.

So where to from here? Well, in just over two weeks, I have an ACC assessment. I’ve been assured by people I trust, that the assessing psychiatrist is good. But, it means describing my dysfunction, past and struggles with someone new. The results of this assessment will determine whether we still will receive ACC funded therapy, or not. We’re expecting to get our funding withdrawn – either because we haven’t shown enough progress, or because ACC will consider us to be better off in the public health system.

This assessment is what is destabilising the system. This is what is ramping up D. One’s activities… The difficult part, is that even once the assessment is over, it could take months for the results to come through. I’m not sure whether the system can cope with that sort of delay.

On a positive note… Two of my favourite blog distractions at the moment are DogHouse Diaries and Message with a bottle. As a warning, the first is a sarcastically funny take on relationships, and the second is a photo diary by a stay at home father of post-it-notes to, and about his son. I add the warning, as I know many of us struggle with fertility issues…

Now playing: P!nk – Trouble
via FoxyTunes

Protected: Denial & shifts

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Facebook friends

I’m on Facebook…  The big thing about Facebook is that it tries to encourage connections – connections with your workplace, interest groups, family, current friends and people from the past.  As a person who is fairly wary of friendships and making connections, I have only a few friends on Facebook – mainly people from the survivor community, a couple of family members and more recently a couple of people from my childhood.  One of the ways in which Facebook encourages connections is by suggesting friends for you based on the friends of your friends.  This means that you get a list of people Facebook suggest that you might like to become friends with, because one of your friends happens to know them.  This was all very innocuous, up until the point where I friended the people from my childhood.  These were safe friends when I was younger, so they weren’t triggering or associated with anything negative.  It just so happens that some of their friends are people who hurt us.  Last night, I logged into Facebook and on the right hand side of my screen were the photos of two of the people who hurt us.  These boys (now men) were part of a gang of boys that hurt us… One of them has a smiling photo of his family, which includes a daughter who would be about the age I was when he was hurting me.  It was such a shock to see these men smiling out at me.  They looked so “normal” and happy, you’d never expect them to have anything untoward in their past.

I have very little memory of my past involving these people.  I have vague images of a wood sheds, boys, smells and the light coming through the window…  Seeing these men and their smiling families triggered switching and internal chaos.  I didn’t even think I remembered their names, but obviously someone inside remembered when it was combined with their photo.  The problem is, what do I do with this?  If asked about the past, these men would probably say that what occurred in the wood shed was natural experimentation amongst consenting children.  There is no way that I could do anything about bringing charges against these men, it was too long ago in a context that could be twisted too easily.

But now, one of my safe escapes has been invaded by their presence.  I could “un-friend” the people from my childhood, but the parts of me that remember the carefree times we had with these people are reluctant to do this.  I’m also not sure that I want these men to have power over me… but sitting here writing this, I’m starting to have memories around the physical pain inflicted by these boys.  I keep thinking that they’re just silly photos, I don’t have to look at them, but, they’re like a car wreck – you don’t want to look, but you end up looking anyway.

I’ve yet to find a way to turn off the “Suggestions” area of Facebook, if anyone knows how, I would appreciate them letting me know.  I could block these men, but that means going into their profile which is something I wasn’t strong enough to do at the time.  Maybe today or tomorrow I will have the strength to block them…  I hope so.