This morning’s session also went pretty well. Since it had been a mere 14 hours since I last saw the therapist, I opened with the obligatory “this is awkward” ice-breaker by saying, “Hmm, seems like I was just here!” which, predictably, made her laugh.
I told her that I’ve been feeling very torn between either leaning into therapy or forgoing the process altogether. I explained that for about five years (from 2009-2014) I was neither seeing a therapist nor taking any prescription medications. She followed that up by asking if that was a stable time in my life.
Tricky question. Yes, it was….sorta.
There were no major crises happening (i.e. no cutting, drug use, eating disorders, or suicide attempts), but I literally never left my apartment. My wife was my primary form of human interaction. I had no job, no friends, no hobbies. I was terrified to do simple tasks like grocery shopping, getting a haircut, or talking to people in general.
It was mostly a time of transition. I had just pushed through some major therapeutic work and ended the two+ decades of abuse I’d endured from my parents. I was initially focusing on just surviving each day. Then, gradually, I started to make changes to my lifestyle. I became a much healthier person in virtually every way.
I eventually started to branch out and do some volunteer work. Then I felt brave enough to apply for work again. I worked for a brief period of time, but that job was ridiculous and awful, so I resigned and found myself at a stand-still. That’s when I decided to go back to school and change careers. That’s also around the time that I started to recommit to the relationships in my life and begin building new ones.
Which, ultimately, is what led me to seek out therapy again in the first place. And from there, I made the journey through treatment with Zooey that landed me in this woman’s office four months ago.
So, I mean, my life was not great during the time I was out of treatment. But it wasn’t worse than it is right now. At least, I don’t think it was? It’s hard to tell sometimes. My life almost unrecognizable from five years ago.
I also gave her the system map I mentioned last post. She loved it (of course). She was very intrigued by the way parts are grouped together and asked some important questions about relationships and such. She was also quite fascinated with the role Rain plays in the system, as the part who controls the barriers between the others.
I’d explained that there was more cutting last night. I remember losing some time. Then I came back. Then …nothing after about 10pm or so. I woke up at 1:30 in the morning to find my wife curled up on the couch doing work on her computer. And then I realized I was in pain and quickly made the connection to self-injury.
The therapist asked if I had a sense of what led to the cutting. I told her that actually I can’t really feel the system right now. This happens sometimes when crisis begins to reach a critical mass. It usually means that we are in danger of spiraling into a scary place, so Rain throws up barriers between parts to mitigate some of the chaos. I don’t know how or why she makes the decisions she makes, but it seems to work fairly well. However, it is incredibly uncomfortable to suddenly feel nothingness when I’m used to sharing my time and headspace with so many Others.
I also gave her a copy of two drawings that Julia had made of the “inner world”. Last year when we were facing a similar internal battle, Julia received sound advice from a similar teenaged protector alter in another DID system. She suggested creating a safe space for child parts within the inner world that they could escape to when things get scary. Julia created a magical space for Anna and Lucy to play in and the perfect macabre nook for River to hide away in. The therapist thought it was amazing.
Once we’d discussed the items I brought in, I suddenly felt really overwhelmed. I started talking about how insane this all feels to me and how hard it is to talk about (yet I really want to talk about it!). I explained that I still struggle a lot with the DID diagnosis and, in general, I struggle with believing myself.
She responded by letting me know that feeling like one is unable to trust their own perception of reality is fairly common among children of narcissists. She pointed out that my biological mother likely projected a lot of herself onto me, making it difficult for me to understand and process the world through my own autonomous experience.
Then I explained that it’s further exacerbated by the fact that when it was revealed that I’d begun telling people about the abuse I suffered at home, my siblings basically just ignored it and my bio parents not only denied the abuse, but went one step further by acting completely shocked, disappointed, and utterly exasperated by my apparent persistent need to lie. As much as my past seems to be completely real and true to (the collective) me, it is so incredibly hard to wrap my brain around the fact that the other four people I lived with in that house completely deny that truth.
The therapist said, “I know I’m doing that ‘normalizing’ thing again, but I do want to say that it is VERY common for these types of patterns to play out in families like yours.”
Still. It makes me feel insane.
I know that when we (whoever was fronting at the time) told our therapists and doctors about the internal world and hearing voices, etc. they immediately assumed schizophrenia or some kind of psychosis. They put us on an anti-psychotic medication and proceeded as such. DID was not on anyone’s radar.
So now, I suppose I do often wonder if they weren’t right. I know that this all feels very real to me…to us. But perhaps I am psychotic. Perhaps I have invented this history of trauma and this inner world with all of these characters to keep me company. Perhaps none of this exists outside of my imagination?
Probably not. But…I’m always afraid of that small chance that I’m in fact not severely traumatized, but genuinely psychotic. I don’t think this therapist thinks I’m psychotic. I think she believes me 100%. Maybe that’s what scares me. If she believes me and she’s willing to hold this for me, what happens when it gets taken away?
Gah! Always so much to lose!
Either way, I think it was good for her to learn more about the system and I think we’re making some good progress, even if it is causing a system upheaval.