As I mentioned on Saturday, I told my therapist about the whole MRI ordeal.
That incident actually happened on Tuesday, but I didn’t have session until Thursday afternoon. I spent most of that time stumbling through each hour, just holding onto all of that crap until I could unload it in session. I literally kept repeating to myself, “Just get to Thursday. Just get to Thursday…”
We spent a good portion of session talking about her comment from Monday’s session. Then I put my head down and quietly said, “So I got that MRI on Tuesday.”
“Oh? How did it go?”
I immediately started to tear up as I told her how horrible it was. Then I walked her through the whole thing in as much detail as I could remember at the time. She was equally horrified and seemed completely repulsed by the lack of sensitivity from the hospital staff. She also asked me a lot of questions about my injury and my thoughts on why they needed to do the scans a specific way, etc.
Then she asked me how I got through the entire 70 minutes. I told her that I did some serious mental gymnastics: I explained the meditative breathing and the clicks-as-words thing and then I outlined how I started creating stories about people who’d been there before me.
When I finished giving her a character outline of the “Sassy Black Woman”, she laughed (which was appropriate because I was being animated and funny) and said, “You could have used a little of that Sassy Black Woman during that process, huh?”
I laughed and said, “Yeah, actually! I really could have!”
We left it at that because the mood quickly shifted and then I shifted. The rest of the session is super foggy. I don’t love when that happens, but I have a feeling something important needed to be shared, so I’m trying to honor that (and whoever needed to share it). The last thing I remember is her asking me if I could use my breath to release the difficult physical and emotional sensations I was feeling in that moment. I told her that I couldn’t, because I thought the feelings were trying to tell me something. She asked me what that something was and then it all gets fuzzy.
Later, on Thursday night, as I was recapping this particular part of the conversation to my wife, she jumped up and said, “Yes! And that makes so much sense, right? Can you see how this is what you always did? You created these people that were able to tolerate the intolerable!”
It’s as if the entire world stopped for a moment as the enormity of what she was saying sank in. I felt my heart racing. She was absolutely right.
I brought this into the following session. And with a similar sense of excitement and wonder, I explained what Wife had said,
“So then I started thinking about it more and I was like OH MY GOD, I understand how I developed dissociative identity disorder! I realized just how this happened to me! In a way that I could never read in a book or hear from someone else; I experienced it for myself. Because, like you said yesterday, I could have used a bit of that Sassy Black Woman in that moment. And you were right! And so I think that if I had to have that same MRI everyday for a long time, that’s actually exact what would happen. Right?”
She just nodded. At this point, I was talking super fast to try to keep my mouth on pace with my brain.
“Because like…if I was traumatized and then re-traumatized, forced to experience something unbearable time and time again, I would need a way to survive that. So I would create a person; someone who had qualities and characteristics that would enable them to survive this specific trauma. They would be highly capable of getting through similar moments, thus making me able to get through horrible things with my sanity in tact. It would have kept me alive!…”
Watching her listening to me, I could tell she was doing all she could to restrain herself from jumping up and screaming “YES!!!” (because she’s working on letting me get important thoughts all the way out before responding).
“And so I can see it now! I see that I was this little kid who was going through unimaginable trauma. And each time I was presented with a new situation that I couldn’t cope with, I created someone who could weather that pain; I created alters. I created this whole system, complete with all different skills and abilities that allowed us all to survive and adapt and function in my day to day life…”
I finished my thought:
“So I realized that that’s what I was doing in that machine. I was creating this person who I perceived as more capable of handling this awful situation. And if I had to, I would take her on as part of me; a part that could come out to deal with it over and over again. I don’t think I would do that now because my life is less traumatic now and I’m really working on staying grounded, which is why I was able to stay present through this MRI. But I understand on such a deep level how I could easily make this strong, no-nonsense woman a part of my very being!”
This is huge.
This was probably one of the most important epiphanies I have ever had in therapy.
I’ve always struggled with my diagnosis, and the way I experience life, because I felt so removed from it. As a part of the system who did not experience severe trauma, I’ve always had a difficult time relating to, and connecting with, the reasoning behind DID. I could grasp it on an intellectual level, but it was admittedly challenging for me to imagine the circumstances under which something so extreme as splitting could happen.
This MRI was clearly not as traumatic as earlier experiences, but it was activating enough (and similar enough to previous experiences) to give me a glimpse into what it would be like to be trapped in that type of situation and the creative ways my beautiful mind worked to survive them.