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.
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.