I’ve turned the corner and am happily moving ahead. Katy was my psychotherapist for six+ years. She was a tremendous help to me and I will forever be grateful.
Katy taught me to trust myself. She showed me that I am loveable, valuable and smart. I thought my intelligence was average, or less. Katy kept telling me I am very smart. I began to believe her and decided I wanted to know if that’s really true. I took an IQ test. 130. That means I am smarter than 98% of the population. Wow. I had no idea. Now I trust my thinking, my reasoning, my conclusions. Plus, I’m not afraid of disagreement and criticism. Thank you for all that Katy.
Katy and I have done as much together as we can. I’ll continue working with Kat from the same agency through September. Then I’m moving to Oregon.
I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to attain such valuable knowledge and truly priceless wisdom these past 7 years. I feel that I have earned and received such a blessing. I can never repay the givers, except by living the very best life I can.
Thank you Linda, Kathy, Dwight, Jen, Katy, and so many others, more than I can count. Then there are all my friends too. Ahhh.
A full heart is a good feeling manifested in warmth and a smile.
I hate depression. It’s one of my struggles. And I hate it deeply.
Yep, I’m feeling depressed right now. In part it’s this %!&!;!$!#!@ weather. So cold so long. Cloudy, dim, grim, dark. Piles of clothing on. Awkwardness of gloves, hats, boots. Shivering, struggling with colds, flu. I hate that too.
I lost my very best friend in November. She’s not dead, but our relationship had to end. Although she ended it, I understand why and accept this end. But it is breaking my heart. This is a great loss to me. I feel bereft and unmoored. It is so hard. I don’t hate this, because that would be like hating her, and I don’t.
I need to know that there is someone who loves me deeply, trusts me, respects me, believes in me, is delighted with me. I need to be treasured when I am at my worst and at my best.
I am hurting. I have endured a great and heartbreaking loss.
This is the first occurrence I am aware of. I’m fairly certain there were earlier episodes, b what they were at the time.
It must have been 2010. I had just dropped off a client at her home in Mound. That’s about 25 miles from my home, and the distance had to be negotiated through Minneapolis rush hour traffic. Ugh.
I had only gone a few blocks when an aura appeared in my right eye. It was a glittery arc, like fireworks sparklers. In my 20s-30s the aura had proceeded debilitating migraine headaches. Since then, my aura has been followed by a minor headache and a graying of vision in my right eye. After 15-20 minutes all vestiges of my aura disappear and my vision is fully restored.
So I pulled into a parking lot, stopped in a shady spot, rolled my windows part way down because it was a hot day, reclined my seat, laid my head back, and closed my eyes. I would wait it out, as usual.
After 30 minutes I decided I had waited long enough. My vision was 90% restored, though I’d had more headache than I normally did. I drove onto the well known route.
Traffic sucked, I went slowly. I became aware that I felt very young and small. I didn’t know where I was or why I was there. I made a phone call on my cell as I sat in traffic on a four lane, two-way street.
Someone answered the phone. “This is Katy.”
“Katy? What? I don’t know what to do.”
The conversation proceeded from there. Katy was my psychotherapist but I couldn’t recognize the voice I heard weekly. She quickly perceived that I was in trouble. She used another phone to call an ambulance for me while speaking to me on the first phone. She worked to help me with a phone to each ear. The dispatcher patched Katy directly through to the EMTs. They told Katy that they needed to know where I was.
She asked, “What street are you on?”
I looked hard at street signs. I felt sure I should know what they said, but I just couldn’t quite tell. If I looked at it long enough, I thought I’d remember. It was on the tip of my tongue. Quickly Katy asked me other questions as she was prompted by the EMTs. She asked about landmarks, but I couldn’t identify any.
I told Katy that I felt very small in a real big car. (Honda Civic, compact car.) I had the sensation of peeking over the sill of my open window.
As that was happening, I became focused on a big blue street sign ahead of me. There was a long name on it, and it looked very familiar. As I sat there in the creeping traffic, the street sign looked more and more familiar. Suddenly it came to me!
“Hennepin! I shouted. “It says Hennepin! And Lake! The other one is Lake! I’m in Uptown!” I was very excited to make that identification. I knew where I was!
“Good. Okay. Now find a place to pull over and park.”
Even though I had regained my ability to read, I wasn’t very good at it. I wasn’t very good at finding a place to park either. I drove another couple of miles before I pulled off Lake Street on a residential block and parked.
Katy asked me to read the street signs so I could tell her where I was. I did so. She told me not to move. It was easy to agree because I wanted someone to help me cope with these things that felt too big for me to manage. I sat very still in my car waiting for the EMT people Katy had told me about. She said they were nice people coming to help me.
In my rear view mirror an ambulance appeared. It came up behind and beside my car and stopped. A lady emerged and approached. A man got out and stayed back. The woman came to my door and asked me my name.
To my surprise, I couldn’t recall. The answer was there, but I couldn’t quite access it.
“Are you Deb?” It was the man on the other side of my car. He had reached through the open window where my purse was on the seat. He held my billfold and Minnesota driver’s license.
“Yes! That’s it! That’s who I am.”
They asked me to come with them to the hospital. I agree to go.
The ambulance ride was uneventful. They took me to Hennepin County Medical Center. I was on a gurney. I told them I could walk, but they asked me to stay down. I agreed.
I rolled into the hospital. I remember the lights in the ceiling flashing by. Next I was in a hospital bed in a room. I had IVs in my arm. I felt it was important to clutch my purse tight to myself or everything in it would be stolen. I dozed, I woke. Every waking was accompanied by a frantic search for my purse and pulling it close again.
There was a time or two when they told me they were drawing blood for a test. They thought I might have had a minor stroke.
Some time later I awoke again. I couldn’t see any reason for staying there. They said they had not found any evidence of a stroke or other physical ailment. I told them I wanted to leave. They agreed. I called a housie to pick me up. I took myself and my purse out to the sidewalk and waited.
About five hours had passed. I can only account for an hour or so. I have no knowledge of the other four hours.
It was dark, around 10:00pm according to my phone. I felt irritable, inconvenienced and angry. Housie arrived, took me home, and I went almost directly to bed. The next day housie gave me a ride to my car.
I wasn’t completely back to feeling like myself yet. I felt disoriented, disjointed, ill-fitting in my own skin. It was several days before a sense of wholeness returned.
In the meantime I had my head examined more than once in more than one way. The last was a stress EEG. I was to stay awake all night prior to the 7:00am test. All the lead wires were glued to my head, then I watched a light show while data was recorded.
I had been frightened that something terrible was happening to my brain. I horribilized that I had a tumor, that I had a degenerative brain disease, that I’d have ‘attacks’ on a regular basis and need round the clock care, that I’d have to move into a group home where people would control my life. It was a very stressful time.
As visits with Katy, my psychotherapist, piled up, I became calmer about it. My brain was fine. Katy believed it had been a dissociative episode, and all evidence supported that. I was able to accept her diagnosis and understand that it didn’t mean I am crazy. In fact, dissociating had been a sane way to cope with an insanely abusive father.
I was okay.
In October, 2013, I was reading in a park in St. Paul when a visual aura suddenly appeared in my right eye. I groaned because the areas precede a graying out of part of my vision, a minor headache, and 15-30 minutes lost to sitting back, eyes closed, hoping that it doesn’t become a migraine like I used to get in my 20s. Those were completely debilitating for two days.
Again there was no migraine and my vision cleared up. I felt sort of disconcerted, which is not unusual. I drove home immediately.
It was a 10 minute drive. The last 8 blocks were difficult. I felt foreign and strange to myself. I struggled to string together a long sentence. I felt very young, little. I kept a conversation going with myself. “You know who you are and where you are going. You know that in just a few blocks you’ll come to . . . a corner you know. You’ll turn there, go just a little way, turn in the alley and drive into your garage.” I couldn’t come up with the names of the streets I was crossing, the number of blocks to go, or my street address.
It was critical that I not panic and lose hold on the things I did know. I kept repeating what I knew, maintaining a calm voice.
I got to my garage without a problem, but I couldn’t figure out how to get the door to open. I thought there should be some device in my car to do that, but I didn’t see anything. I did know that I could open the side door and push a button there to make the big door open. I did so and parked my car. I went into the house and to my rooms. I changed and sat, watching tv.
The next thing I recalled was still sitting in the chair but feeling certain there was something I should be doing. I didn’t know what that thing was. I put flip flops on, grabbed my purse, and went to find someone who could direct me. I found a housie and said to her, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
I felt calm; I just required some direction. However, there was apparently something about my visage that alerted housie that something was up. After she briefly spoke with my psychologist on the phone, Mary took me to the ER at my hospital.
She asked if I was willing to ride there with her so the medical people could help me. Of course I was willing. I’d been searching for someone to tell me what to do.
The ride to the hospital was fine. Housie walked me in.
Later I woke up in a semiprivate room. It was dark by then. I thought I might have been given something so I could rest. I felt unsettled. Things didn’t feel just right. I didn’t feel just right. I was kind of disoriented. I fell back to sleep.
After dozing off and on, I began to feel more coherent and asked questions of the nurses. Sunlight shone in the window. I learned that I had been there all night. Everything they’d wanted to do – tests, diagnostics – was done. I told them, “Then I might as well go home.” They agreed.
Housie gave me a ride home. I was very anxious waiting for her to come. It seemed like a very long wait, though I don’t really know how long it was.
I got home, went straight to bed, and slept most of the day. I was exhausted, especially mentally. I’d had more than I could manage. It wasn’t until another day later that I learned all that I’d missed.
Mary said she stayed there in the hospital for three hours. Medical people had asked her to come to me twice.
The first time I was sitting on the floor in the corner talking coherently, but to no one. The doctor asked me a question: “What is your name?” My response: “Then we left.” The doctor asked Mary if I was always like that. She told him that I am normally lucid and intelligent. In short, a normal adult person.
The second time Mary came in I was sitting upright on a table or bed, staring straight ahead, rigid, oblivious to the world.
That information shook me to my core! I didn’t know I was capable of such things and I had absolutely zero recall of it. I was frightened. The new information was very disorienting. What else had happened, or might happen in the future?!
After a few days I began to accept my new self-knowledge and accept that I have full dissociative episodes, that my Dissociative Identity Disorder is an accurate diagnosis. I came to feel that this knowledge does not diminish me. It is another step on the trail of knowing myself more fully. Such knowledge is a good thing and I welcome it. I am okay.
(The actual number is higher.)
I was at the coffee shop at 4:30 reading a blog. I got up for the bathroom and there were odd sensations or something visual when I close my eyes. I’m thinking Fuck! Not the aura. Not a dissociative episode. Then there it was, just a tiny flash, but I knew the whole, big, curvy glitter ball was on its way. Fuck.
So I knew that I wanted was to get home ASAP. It’s only 5 blocks. I packed my stuff up and got in the car. I noticed that some vision was blocked, but I was going while I could. I was buying myself time. Otherwise I lose too much vision and have to wait many minutes for it to go away. The dissociation follows close after my sight clears up. Then I really struggle to get home and manage it.
As I was driving I continued reminding myself that I knew what’s happening and I knew how to manage it. “I can do this without an overnight hospital stay this time.”
I got home and in the house okay, hustling myself to my rooms.
I hadn’t been there long at all when my phone rang. It was someone trusted and dear whom I really wanted to talk with. I was still present for the conversation and enjoyed it.
I had to come back down to the kitchen and the housies were there. I just wanted to make a quick grab and run back up. Housie asked me a question. I looked at her and didn’t recognize her or understand her. I asked her to repeat, realized it was something about laundry and said yeah. I fled.
I ate a little of a dish for supper, but I felt somewhat nauseous and headachy and couldn’t finish it. The only thing I could consume was water, in small sips.
I sat still in my recliner, keeping my eyes closed and sound minimal. Usually after the glitter disappears a gray area moves in like a fog to blot out 1/3 to 1/4 of my field of vision. It eases away after 15-30 minutes.
The gray was gone, though I was focused on staying present.
“Okay, I’m still here. I know what is happening. I know how to cope. I have a big, smart brain that works and I/We can get through this.”
I frowned hard, squinted my eyes and strained to focus. It took a great deal of energy to figuratively keep my feet under me.
My phone rang again. It was my favorite sister-in-law, Cheryl in Denver. She’s been struggling with some serious health issues, including MS, for quite some time. She and I were college friends and share an athletic background. That gives us a simplicity of language and an additional closeness due to our shared experiences.
It was not the time I wanted to have a long and intimate conversation with her, but that only happens a couple of times annually. I did pretty well. I was coherent, a good listener, empathetic, understanding.
I did well for the first 20 minutes of the conversation. Suddenly, in mid sentence, my vocabulary deserted me. I could find and speak the first short and simple words of the sentence, but the closing was not anywhere I looked. I tried the sort of mumble/jumble until the correct word flashed, or anything close to it. It never came. I’m certain I uttered a few of the most discombobulated sentences ever. So I got off the phone fast.
I wondered if I Katy and Cheryl really had called. Beginning with the onset of the aura, everything was very confusing. What was real? I didn’t know. I realized that the information was recorded on my phone and I could check Recent Calls. I didn’t have the energy to do so.
I stayed in the chair the rest of the night, with only a couple of trips to the bathroom interspersed. I did not interact with anyone else for the rest of the night.
About 10:30 the nausea had subsided and I felt hungry. I ate the rest of the dish I’d started earlier. It was good and I felt better. I began to feel a little more confident that I was going to be okay.
I still felt odd: Not completely real, not completely present, not fitting in my space, feeling foreign. I knew that I was in my private rooms of the past 3 1/ 2 years, but I also had the sense of an impostor. I believed it would pass.
I checked the Recent Calls and was relieved to find that my recall of the phone conversations was accurate.
I went to bed at midnight, 1 1/2 hours earlier than usual.
I woke after 9 hours sound sleep and felt very good! In previous Diss Episodes, I’ve been wiped out for the entire following day. I did it.
I DID IT!!!!!! I did it. I managed my Diss Epi. No hospitals. No days lost. It was a 10 hour effort. And I Did It.
The fact is that not every D E is the same. I am so lucky that I have had a glimmer of consciousness during most of my DEs. That’s what has enabled me to learn how to manage them. That and marvelous help – therapists, medical people, friends, loved ones, groups, support, and even people who have no idea they made a difference in my life.
I want to be cognizant that there will likely be future DEs. Those DEs may be more or less severe and hospitalization may be required. Nonetheless, I am
CELEBRATING THE RESULTS of THIS EPISODE!!!
I Did It!!! Woo-hooooooo!!!!
I do my best thinking by writing. Slows me down, puts it in black and white, gets my thoughts organized. Or something. So I wrote this letter and I learned some things:
Do you read Nicholas Sparks? I haven’t. His books have sounded too sweet for my taste, rife with happily ever after. I could be wrong about that.
Nonetheless, I ran across this quote from one of his books and I like it a lot:
“Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it can. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it can.”
― Nicholas Sparks, At First Sight
What do you think? Does that fit your experiences?
December has been probably the worst health experience I’ve had thus far. I’m getting through it and feeling better and stronger every day. The flu was the unforecast dart in my recovery.
I’m thinking that what Sparks says must be true. My time with my wonderful old church ladies and the old boys at Ft. Meade tells me it is true. There they were in their 80s and 90s, and continued to find daily pleasures and optimism.
I think it’s part of the rhythm of life. My past gets longer and longer, but the future keeps coming relentlessly. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’d say it’s very good.
Yeah, so, there’s what is rumbling around in my head. Saw my shrink today. She suggested that because I’ve had these physical and depressing issues doesn’t mean my entire 60s decade is going to suck! Haha! It’s always good for me to have a little balance sneak in when my thinking gets too lopsided. Made me laugh.
There comes a time when something breaks inside and neither the individual nor the world is the same.
Dad was a bastard, using me to cope with his own demons. So I erected the most impenetrable defenses I could. Mom didn’t protect me. Dad was dangerous. Clearly, I had to protect myself. Over the years I continued to hone and refine my defenses to an impermeable degree. Long after dad died. Long after danger had passed. Long after there was any need. Long after I wanted them. Long after I forgot any other way to live. Long after those imposing defenses served any purpose other than isolating me.
I had some close calls. When I tried to tell my first shrink about when our neighbor and dad’s buddy, Bill, raped me. (I babysat their children many times.) I was 19, a college freshman, he was a 45-year-old farmer. I told about his wife pushing me to go with him to get pizza. About how he brutalized me in the backseat. I was managing, then I came to the word “penis.”
I couldn’t say it. I was truly terrified that I would cry. If I cried I knew I would disintegrate. I’d simply crumble to dust in a mound on the floor. There would be nothing left of me.
I became stone. All my attention focused on my face. I monitored each twitch of the smallest muscle fiber. If any bit of my face began to collapse into tears, I’d be done for.
So every iota of my focus was on my face, like a microscopic detective hurrying across my cheeks, around my mouth, over my chin, and past my forehead, alert for even the most minute weakness. Every sense was on the highest alert. Every muscle was tensely poised. When I felt any vulnerability, all my senses, all my thought, all my energy lasered there, using all my will to force that muscle to relax. It didn’t matter how long it took. I refused to allow myself that vulnerability. It was too terrifying.
I survived. I did not cry. I remained safe.
In the 25 years since then I have discovered that tears are survivable, that there are people with whom vulnerability is safe and even desirable. But it wasn’t easy.
In 2007 I was in a residential facility receiving treatment for an eating disorder. I’d been there since October, 2006, and was learning a great deal. I had chosen to be there because I wanted a better life. I paid attention, was honest, and believed what my therapists, nurses, doctors told me. And I wasn’t quite getting where I wanted to and needed to be.
I knew that I wanted to give everything I had, and I couldn’t quite get there. It was frustrating. What was the barrier, what was the problem?!
One Saturday night I went to a movie, a comedy. The audience was roaring with laughter. I wasn’t even smiling. Suddenly tears began to fall. They soundlessly poured down my face for 90 minutes. The hilarity around me had no effect. I still don’t recall the name of the movie or any part of it.
Something inside me had broken and nothing was the same.
At the end of the movie I walked out, trying to hide my tears from the other patrons. I fell into my car and sobbed uncontrollably, big, shuddering, tearing sobs. I wailed until my stomach was sore and my face hurt. I didn’t slow down until I was so weak I had to stop.
Something in me had broken and nothing was the same, not the world and not me.
I had an oversize, very soft, square blue pillow. I carried it clutched in front of me throughout the following day. I felt bewildered, frightened and entirely vulnerable. Tears slid from my eyes as I dressed, walked the halls, sat in groups, ate meals, and watched television in the evening. It wasn’t till late that night that my tears eased and I slept like an exhausted child.
My well-crafted and excessively strong defenses had crumbled all the way down to the foundation. I survived it. Tears were not my demise. Everyone was not a menacing threat.
Those Breaking Times are very frightening and extremely difficult. It seems, for me at least, that they are also a necessity. Wish it wasn’t so.Wish there was an easier way. There isn’t. So I’ll continue to have Breaking Times and pay attention to them, adding those insights to my arsenal.
Superballs were very big toys in the 60s. They were golf ball size, but even bouncier. Regardless of how beat up they might be, how misshapen, how scarred – they always bounced like crazy! They were absolutely indestructible. They did bounce oddly if there was a chunk out of them.
So I am a Superball. I am a fucking superball. It’s news to me, but I must be. (I do indeed bounce very oddly sometimes.)
Truly, completely fucking insane, brutal, sadistic father.
Raped by dad’s buddy at age 19.
Rejected and blamed by family.
Posttraumatic stress disorder.
Dissociative identity disorder.
And other assorted shit.
But I’m still here, and I won’t stop. It came to me in the past month. I had a major dissociative episode, my pet hamster died, and my shrink of 7 years decided I needed a different psychologist.
That list of 8 traumas above led me to feel worthless and strongly consider suicide.
The struggles of the past month have resulted in an even greater determination to devise ways to cope. So now I feel fierce. I feel indomitable. I feel like a fucking SUPERBALL!!!!
Damn. I may have become a whole and real person. Really? I’m hurt by my recent losses. I know that I’m going to allow myself to continue to feel the pain for as long as it takes. I know that a time will come when gratitude for all I’ve gained will sweeten the pain into a fond remembrance. I know that I will continue to be brave and trust in myself that I can take risks and profit from the experience.
I am a damn SUPERBALL!!
I really am strong, resilient, smart, creative, kind, compassionate . . . simply a damn good person.
Wow. Who knew?
Once upon a time that quick line was a well-known punch line. Not so much for me now. I have Dissociative Disorder.
On rare occasions I have trouble being present. When I was younger, living in near proximity to my abuser/torturer, I had these experiences with greater frequency and intensity. I didn’t know what they were then. I just knew I ‘went away,’ away from the nightmare I lived, thanks to dear old dad. Kept me from going screaming crazy! Thank god.
Those episodes have become rare. I had one in 2011. I was driving alone on a Minneapolis street in very slow rush hour traffic. I realized I didn’t know where I was. I was sure I should be able to read the street signs, but I just couldn’t quite decipher them. I felt very small, like a little girl peeking over the car’s window sill at the big and strange world. I looked around me. Cars, traffic signs, landmarks, people. It seemed to me that I ought to be able to make sense of the tumult, but I simply could not sort it out. “Who are all these people? What are they doing here? Where are they going? Do I know any of them?”
I called a friend, a name I found in my phone. She quickly understood that I was in trouble and called an ambulance. I pulled over to wait for it to take me to the hospital. I couldn’t remember my name by then.
They suspected a stroke. After some tests, and several hours in the hospital, all results were negative. I felt a little more “back to myself”, and got a ride home.
To make certain that it wasn’t a stroke, I underwent several different brain tests over the next couple of weeks. They found nothing. (Joke intended.) There were no physical aftereffects.
I talked with my shrink about the experience extensively. It was frightening for me. It took some time for me to feel comfortable and safe again.
Yesterday I had another episode. This one, beginning about six in the evening, was shorter and less intense. I was able to remember my name. I knew where I was and the way home. I couldn’t remember my address, but I knew how to find it. (Thankfully I was very near home when the episode intensified.)
I spoke my name aloud. There were other words I wanted to use, but I was unable to say them. I didn’t take time to worry about that. I knew what was happening and that it had happened before. I needed to concentrate solely on the information I did have – My Name and the Way Home.
I made it. I was not well-grounded in any sense. I felt overwhelmed and confused, unsure of what I ought to do next. I ate something, then laid down on my bed. I was exhausted and shaky. I slept for an hour, regaining some of my strength. I knew I was home, knew what had occurred, that it was past, and not likely to return soon.
As it got later I recognized that there had been significant differences from the previous dissociative episode. I knew who I was, what was happening, how to respond and get home safely. That is very good news.
I think it would be best for me to recognize that these episodes may be an irregular and rare facet of my life. My goal is to improve my coping skills, both mental and emotional.
This experience has been nearly as exhausting as the first. I was lacking resilient energy yet today. I was unable to work. I’ve spent a very modest day. I am confident, however, that I will feel stronger tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, until I am back to my baseline.
I will discuss this dissociative episode with my highly skilled shrink again, gain more understanding, and greater skills to manage the next one.
I can do this.
I am doing this.
I have a good life.
When mom arrived home from town she always had a trunk load of groceries. It was 20 miles to town and we didn’t go every day, so when we did, it was a stock up opportunity.
Mom pulled up into the yard and little sis Jill and I carried in bags and boxes, piling them on the kitchen table. From the table to the grocery cupboards was about seven feet. Jill threw and I caught.
What I mean is that Jill stood at the table, taking various items out of the bag. She tossed them to me at the cupboard. Canned vegetables and fruits, pasta, sugar, flour. Then we branched into breakables.
The first time we threw the mayonnaise in its glass jar, mom panicked. “Don’t throw . . . it’s expensive . . . it’ll break!!!” We laughed and kept going. “I have to leave . . . can’t watch this . . “
We thought it was hilarious. Mom never watched us stow groceries again.
As we became more confident we threw everything, cartons of milk, jars of olives, eggs – whoa! – We never threw eggs, except in the carton. Really! We did!!
We never broke one single item. Not one.
Then Jill and I watched “The Muppet Show” and sang along with everything, laughing uproariously!
Little things make fond memories.