As I continue further into therapy and attempt to get to the point where I can build a bridge to communication to the other aspects of myself who seem to go by different names and each possess different needs or desires, I begin to find myself in a horrific and strange place. This place is somewhere in my psyche, but it feels like a real location.
Hazy and confused, I emerge from this place often left with only a strong lingering scent in my nostrils and an overwhelming sense of dread. I suppose I am one of those folks who emerge from “switching” with temporary head and leg aches. And, I come back feeling so very tired.
I am trying to piece it all together and hold on to the memory of this place. This room. This appears to be the place where “everyone” stays. “Everyone” must be waiting for his chance to come out. And, “everyone” seems to be competing to get out and gain control over the shared body. And, “everyone” seems to feel entitled to this one body as if it is his own.
Currently it is a battle of sorts. A fight for control. The goal is to get “us” all together. To get “us” all on the “same page” — working together toward integration. A shared psyche that will allow me — or “us” to function in life as one. There is a block coming from “me” which is keeping this from happening. So, the exploration continues as my therapist and I work to break down the block (or blocks) and bridge a way toward communication.
But, for now, I’m left with my thoughts, nightmares, and odd discordant memories from that place “we” go when “one of us” breaks out and takes over the real-time action of life. …disconnected from each other and rather lost. A scary exploration of the mind. A mind damaged by years of child abuse. A mind splintered off into odd emotional segments designed to protect. Trying to figure it all out and remember…
first i notice the smells
the scent of vomit, sperm, blood and wet grass
i notice the damp feeling
the repugnant odor of what must be rotting flesh
the grimly lit room
i can see
or is it “sense” the beds lining down against the cracked wall
how many beds?
but, there are more than a couple.
my eyes can only make out the feet
the uncovered dirty feet hanging at the end of each bed.
like from some european film?
are those feet blue?
are those the feet of a dead person?
is that a child in the back of the room?
he is trying to hide from me.
is that child me?
he looks like me.
who is speaking?
it sounds a bit like me
in a disguised voice or dialect.
“come in here. take your place.”
i touch behind me.
started to gag from the scents
that permeate this place.
i want to leave.
where is the door?
“you can’t leave. why don’t you lay down and rest with us?”
It has been close to a year since three doctors sat down and told me that I have D.I.D. or Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I guess the best definition comes close to the following: DID is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. In the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems the name for this diagnosis was Multiple Personality Disorder. In both systems of terminology, the diagnosis requires that at least two (but usually more “personalities” or “aspects of a personality” routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness.
The terms are always changing it seems. It’s not like SYBIL or anything you might have seen displayed in movies or on TV — tho, The United States of Tara comes close to being realistic in the goofiest and silliest way possible. I think only 2% of those diagnosed with DID display the level of personality shifts as shown in that program.
I’ve hinted about this on my blog from time to time, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually written directly about it. I’ve decided to own it. And, I miss blogging. The problem is that the vast amount of my time is spent working through this disorder to over come it. To get my life back.
Of course this always begs the question – have I ever had my life in full or in parts? Over the course of this hardcore therapy which now includes hypno-therapy I’ve discovered that I’ve been losing time (or switching) most of my life. This explains a lot. For years and years I’ve wondered why, with my exceptional memory, I am often “cloudy” on certain spans of time or actions I’ve taken. And, all those torn out pages from my journals over the years. Or things I did at work but couldn’t recall except through the covert gathering of information from others. The funny thing is that I never once questioned these losses of time. I simply plowed forward with little or no thought.
A sort of fuzzy “re-boot” of my mind without owning it.
This all started at the time I was abused as a child. What the psyche can’t handle the brain tries to find ways to distill it so that the psyche survives. Survival is the name of the game. And, oddly, that has always been my motto. …”I am a survivor!” …I can deal. …I can wing it. …I will succeed no matter what. …And, I always have. But, with great costs.
Like most men with DID it wasn’t until my 30’s that things started going haywire and I couldn’t fully deal or hide the confusion. The stress of a big career, relationships, the issue of the abuse I suffered — all of which I do remember–, and the changes of hormones in the body resulted in everything coming to a thudding crash in late 2008.
I lost my newly found and beloved job here in San Francisco as I attempted to understand exactly what was wrong with me. As my partner helped me cope and we went from one doctor to another — the first great therapist I found recognized the problem almost immediately. However, my condition was a little beyond her experience as a doctor. She slyly referred me to another doctor who had served as her mentor. As it turns out this doctor is a god send for me. She has been working with DID relating to men for over 25 years.
I guess it took me well over six months to fully accept that I was dealing with DID, but I accept it now.
I’ve taken a series of tests and it looks like I have a very good chance of defeating DID and coming to what they call a form of “integration” in which these fragments of my psyche can merge back into one. You see they are not “personalities” — there is only one mind and one personality. These are ways the mind found to deal with the pain and horrors that were too much for me to fully accept on certain levels. They are aspects of me that take over to protect me. As one gets older it catches up with you because these aspects are forever stuck in a limited emotional state the trauma created. They are irrational and unable to react in logical ways to every day challenges of stress. But, the mind is so wired at this point that when certain situations trigger panic — the “appropriate” aspect takes over and I involuntarily take a back seat as the aspect gets through the situation.
Of course I face no danger now. In fact, I haven’t faced any real danger since I was about 9 years old. But, the aspects do not get that. So, now, I spend three to four hours a week with a doctor trying to understand what each aspect is worried about — in addition to my own worries.
Confusion has become my operative mode of conduct.
When B and I went to Manhattan last week I was terrified I would “switch” and do God Knows What — however, luckily, I only “switched” twice. Of course this resulted in a couple of odd situations. Monday, I found myself on a concrete pier of the Hudson River somewhere near W67th Street. And, I had only $10 in my wallet. Guess who got to walk all the way back to W23th and 7th Ave! Fun! My legs are still sore.
But, I try to think of it as a sort of an twist of adventure in my life. And, I like to remind myself that I have not failed in my one quest — which has always been to never lead an ordinary or dull life. Tho, the time away from working is deflating and being dependent upon Social Security Disability and Medicare is so devastating to me — I am quite blessed that the support was so quickly approved. I have a home, a love who cares for me, a family and great friends who support me and I will get through this.
However, that doesn’t make it any less scary when I might be at my computer one minute and then find myself in a place I do not know around people who appear to know me the next. And, then realize that it has been several hours since I was actually at the computer.
I keep coming back to one thought. Once I do beat this — and no one is willing to put a time line to it — but it sounds like I’m looking at a couple years of tough mental work — I figure there must be a book in this some way some how. I’m not the only one dealing with this disorder and there are so many dealing with it who probably do not even realize it or are too afraid to face it.
Maybe in some way I can help them. Maybe. Fingers crossed.
We drive out to the burbs of northern california to a Target Super Store. I’m following B down one of the many isles. I notice a nut full mixes and exclaim: “B! Nut mixes!” …I mistakenly think he is going to follow me as I study the various mixtures of nuts and dried fruits. I find two that look particularly good and healthy, turn and realize that he has left me long behind.
I panic. As I am panicking I try to calm myself down by repeating “This is no big deal. You will find B.”
But, I circle the store twice with no luck. I am sweating like a pig and feel ill. My legs and head are starting to ache. I decide to have him paged, but by the time I get to customer service the oddest thing happens. I forget my own fucking name. Complete blank.
I really go into hyper-panic.
What is my name? I just do not know.
And, then, the next thing I know. I’m standing in front of our parked car, cig in hand, crying, a car alarm is going off and I can tell I’ve just thrown up.
I walk slowly back to the Target Super Store from Hell and there is Byron standing with his cart full of stuff looking at me as if to say, “Where have you been?”
Suffice to say, the day just went downhill from there. But, here I am now — safe and sound at home. Welcome to the wonderful fun world of DID… Ugh!
“The other day” could mean last month. “About a month ago” could end up translating to last year.
And, even further to the point, I seem to forget the order of the days and events that happened on them. Sometimes I can remember every detail of something that happened, but can’t pinpoint either when the “thing” happened. Just that it did.
And, other times, I know something happened on Monday around Noon but the memory of whatever happened is too cloudy to fully recall.
Part of this could be attributed to the boredom of my days and inability to work right now. But, the bigger piece probably relates to the phase of the “process” I am in as I try to get to the core of me.
Yes, I am living in a really lower than usual budget LifeTime Movie of the Week which has been rated TV-21. …a new rating devised by the network to allow it to air after 10pm.
Well, one just pushes forward. …and pushes. …and pushes.
Tricky. …this life of mine.
And, I feel that I even have a fourth: limbo/lost consciousness.
It seems, for now, I spend a good deal of time stuck in the limbo/lost state wherein I am left wondering what I’ve just done, where I am and why I am ‘there’ — a bit different from all of the other three because in recent weeks there are bits of foggy/dream-like memory creeping all around me.
At some point, probably around the age of four, my sub-conscious created ways of coping or dealing with trauma or experiences that were both too painful and too scary to deal with on a fully conscious level. These resulted in a fragmenting of the mind — or a fragmenting of myself. Looking back now, I can see and am starting to recall times throughout my life when I do not have a clear memory of a certain time or — and this is particularly new to me — times/experiences which I simply did not remember but now suddenly do remember in fairly strong context.
For almost two years I’ve been aware of losing the state of consciousness — and then “waking up” to discover that I had been functioning perfectly well and fine. This, upon deep reflection, has been going on all my life. Looking back at my journals and thinking about it — most of the time (in my youth) I shrug’d it all off as effects of drugs or being just goofy. Later, I would shrug it off as a panic attack of some sort and most other times in my adult life I simply refused on some level to even acknowledge it for fear that I was going insane or that I had some sort of brain tumor I did not want to know about. I would actually manage to not think about it. …to the point that pages in my journal were either ripped out or scratched over to the point that I could not read what I had written. At one point in my adult life (my mid twenties) I was actually convinced that a pal of mine who was mentally unstable and who sometimes slept on my futon with a teddy bear (?) was sneaking into my journal and screwing around with it.
But, close to a couple of years ago this losing time business was really taking a toll. It could not and would not be ignored.
This had sort of happened before in the early 00’s when it was thought that I had suffered some form of nervous breakdown related to work stress. Every test was done on me from the physio standpoint and then the mental standpoint — and it was determined that I was suffering with PTSD.
Medication, therapy and lame attempts at reducing stress pushed forward with a vengeance.
It took losing a major career and a daring move cross country, falling in true love and finding a truly satisfying job and life before my brain’s clever fragments started to crumble as “defense mechanisms” and morphed into “self destruction” — not that these fragments/aspects/alters ever intend to cause destruction — the fact is that they all appear to be stuck in both their own specific time and state of emotion. …developed to react and protect me from things which have not been a part of my reality since I was 9 years old. …they have no emotional maturity or true logic. They are simply fragments of me from various times and experience that have “sort of” grown with my real self. …Or, Conscious Self.
Now, when something upsets me or I suffer some form of life/adult setback — these aspects/alters take over from my Conscious State and operate/react in totally inappropriate ways to my current life.
So, now the real hard part begins: Somehow removing myself as the block to understanding the needs of my sub-conscious self. My therapist has suggested that we work toward creating a sort of conference table where negotiations begin between my conscious self and my aspects/alters to understand what they feel they need and to eventually work toward the dream result of anyone battling DID: Co-consciousness. …At which point I get my life back.
It has been hell getting to this point. But the really frustrating — no, horrifying thing — is that this is only the beginning and it is only going to become more challenging, scary and difficult. Welcome to my mind.
At the moment, my life is consumed by confusion, fear and therapy. It’s an old and over-used metaphor, but sometimes one must look at his/her life as onion. In therapy — especially the type of three days a week’s worth which I am in — one must rely upon metaphor to grasp an understanding so that the mind can get a grasp around the core problem. At the core is the key to the way toward integration.
So, I sit with my therapist and think of a conference table at which to negotiate and make peace with parts of myself unknown to me. Fragments of me that have long ago split away from the person I know as myself. We are unpeeling the layers of my life — my onion. Some of the layers I know. Oddly, the most soured/bitter layers I already know. But, other skins are layers that have been long hidden somewhere in my psyche.
Sitting on a beautiful beach this morning with my toes pushing through sand, sun pouring down upon my head, cold ocean breeze messing my hair, cigarette in one hand and a coffee in the other. I watch the waves as the surfers head to catch some magic waves. I begin to think of this onion that is my life and all these layers I’ve never really known that are slowly returning to my memory. Suddenly odd choices I’ve made in my life start to take on a sense I had long since tried to understand.
The sting or stench of the smell can be unbearable as we peel. Bringing tears of regret and fear to my eyes. I do my best to toughen up and get a grip to face the truth that is my life. I am tough. I can roll with the toughest of them and, if required, can usually take them down if they push me against the wall. But, I grow so very weary.
Pull back this layer and I suddenly remember experiences and misadventures that seem so alien that it doesn’t seem possible that these memories are mine. Here is a layer that reveals a long lost trip to New York with a black dude who was into things far twisted from my own interest that I was in way over my head. Another very thin layer and parts of a debauched night spent in a hot apartment in Harlem. Another layer and I discover a trip with a doctor to Fire Island. Is that me auditioning for a career in porn? Another several layers and prostitution reveals itself. $50 for this and that. Closeted lawyers, law students, MIT professor, an old man, a married “straight” doctor from New Hampshire, some sad sack editor and some guy named Julio who gives the smell of meth on his breath. Here is another layer. I’m walking down an alley with some big scary looking guy. I think we’re behind some educational institute annex on Newbury Street. I’m thinking to myself, “Is the money worth it? Is he a cop? Am I going to get killed? Arrested” …As I try to push this slice of skin to the side I find myself wondering if maybe that is what “I” wanted.
As I think about my first physical in San Francisco I remember being so very relieved that I was totally STD free. And, yet I can remember wondering why I was worried about these tests. As I move the bits of onion to a tuberware container for further examination at a later date, I realize that there must have been some “aspect” of “me” urging me to be tested just to be sure I was OK.
She leans forward and tells me we are doing hard work. …unpeeling such a complex onion. She encourages me by letting me know that we are moving forward at a very good pace and she feels quite positive that I will come through this fine. That this is the hardest part of my journey and that it will be quite difficult as we work it all out and try to understand “me” and the things that “me” wants that “I” don’t understand or know. In the meantime, life gets turned upside down for me and my significant other (the most important “aspect” of my life) — I try to get a grip and be tough. I try to find reasons to laugh and smile.
I escape into movies and music quite a bit. I lean on FaceBook and sometimes to find the level of concentration required to read a book — but that can be a stretch. I find it hard and almost impossible to be reliable. …to be on time. …to be in a place where there might be more than one or two people. Some people who are strangers to “me” at the beach seem to know “me” — I go along with it best I can. I pretend and act like I know them. I try to approach it like I’m some private investigator in disguise trying to resolve the unraveling mystery of the onion that is my life. I’m trying so hard, but sometimes I really have to fight not to give it up.
This onion stinks. This life is a hard one. But, then, who ever said it would be easy? Like PE coaches love to tell their students, “Look kid, life isn’t fair. Give me ten.”
…I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly..
Joni Mitchell …I find myself leaning heavily on the likes of Ms. Mitchell, Tori Amos, Barbra Streisand, Tom Waits, Jennifer Warnes and Leonard Cohen lately. Then again, I always have. When you’re feeling down and out who can resist a defiant cover of “Cry Me A River” or Captain Tom Waits invitation to the blues and a drive in an ol’ 55? Let me tell you – no one can.
And, I wait til 3pm to pick up my peeling knife to work closer to the core of Me.
I spend a great deal of time dithering on to myself about how honest I want to be on my blog and, also, how self-absorbed my writing might seem or even be. But, it is my blog. And, I figure that anyone who might be reading it can always just stop reading if so inclined. I “blog” for me. Of course, one can’t help but think of a possible audience. Still. This blog is my record of me — but it is not a journal in that there are things about myself, my life and those in it which are too personal to publish on the world wide web.
That said, I find it somehow therapeutic to write some of what I am going through down — and, quite often, a reader contacts me with helpful ideas or opinions that give me a sort of strength which was lacking prior to my writing. Self-induced pop psychology.
I’ve been trying to process some rather disturbing information shared with me and my Life Love, Mr. B — by my therapist with back-up support of my previous therapist. The information was overpowering to me. It still is.
I don’t know that I believe it.
Can this really be true?
Can this really be me?
What sort of new world of crazy just fell into my lap?
Shit. This can’t be true?
I think I am still processing the information. Accessing wether or not this is a concept I even believe to exist. Accessing what it really means and, should it be true, does it really apply to me? And, if it is true and does apply to me how do I move forward?
Right now, I am trying to let go of the whole “label” thing. Why must the name of something matter? And, does being labeled something really mean anything other that what it is? A label does not define us. I am gay. …But, in human terms, it is not the most important aspect of who I am. Tho, it most definitely has formed who I am and how I respond to the world — and to the unfairness of the world. …and the absurdity that the country to which I was born is supposedly a place where all people are created equally and have the same opportunities and rights. This is absurd because it simply IS NOT TRUE. No. To have full equal rights and equal opportunity you better hope that you are a white, fully hair headed, male who was lucky enough to be born into money. Oh, and your chances of having the best opportunities will be increased if you are 6 foot or over and gifted at sport. If you are a woman, a person of color, not hetrosexual or of the middle or lower classes — forget it. If you fall into one or more of those categories — your chance at equal rights, opportunities and respect in general are more than cut in half. Welcome to the world — specifically in this case — to the United States of America.
Anyway, I digress. Labels do not define us. And, in my case right now — I’m not sure a name/label for the psychological issues I’m fighting really matter. What matters — I think — is the drive to fight through it. Find a way to first live with and through it and get to a place where it is no longer an issue in my life. …To a place where I can march back into the den of inequality and lack of opportunity vs. just sitting at the beach feeling afraid. Yes. That is what and where I should apply focus.
I’ve an exceptional and caring therapist, a loving husband, loving friends and family — all of whom are pushing and supporting me as I work through this mess. The name of the cause is of no concern. I think. Maybe.
I’ve been told to think of my mind as a file cabinet. An onion analogy was first attempted but I find it more than a little challenging to compare any aspect of my life to a vegetable or fruit. But this concept of my brain as a filing cabinet seems to make a bit of sense to me.
So, for my purposes of processing — the brain is made up of “files” called memories and emotions. When something happens to me it causes an emotion. The problem I have (in its most simple form) is that many of my emotional files are currently mis-filed with certain memories from childhood.
So, let’s say, someone yells at me — my brain should automatically select an appropriate emotion — which is somehow related to one of the memory files but not on a filing conscious level. That emotion is then sent into action in a manner appropriate to the situation. Currently, if someone were to yell at me my mind might scramble to a file filled with the emotion more appropriate to 5 year old and directly tied to something horrible that happened when I was 5 years of age. Because the files have never been sorted correctly — when my brain sends the files into action — the resulting response is not appropriate to my 43 year old situation. The messages are getting received but coming out in a rather fucked way because somewhere in my file cabinet I am still stuck in the 70’s when I was child.
SO – my brain files need to be pulled out, dusted off, re-evaluated and then re-sorted so that the brain can select what is needed and file away the past as just that. …the past. No longer going on, but valid. And, the emotions that I might have needed to express/feel at that time were just too much for a 5 year old filing cabinet to hold. So, the cabinet sorted the files in a way to protect my psyche. Now, years later — that disorganization is causing some very serious and disabling challenges.
It doesn’t matter what my shrink wants to call them. Or if what the issue is called or debated within the psychiatric community. …what matters is how I function and that I get on with my life before I wake up to discover I need a walker to get to the can.
So, taking a deep breath — I am attempting to sort out or through the worrying diagnosis name and just sort out these files in the cabinet I’ve been told is my brain.
It doesn’t really make sense to me yet. I’m still fighting against it. I think. I don’t want to fight against a concept. I really don’t. However, I am struggling not to fight against it. I am struggling to grasp all the meanings and get past a label that horrifies me to the core.
At any rate, I do hope there is sufficient budget to color code my files. I find that much easier when dealing with office work. Perhaps it will also assist in the re-sorting of my life.