Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Personal Story and Diagnosis of Dissociative Disorders

Sometimes, it takes a major triggering event for dissociative disorders to present themselves. For me, my triggering event was a cancer scare in December 2006. After two follow-ups, that included ultrasounds, barium imaging, MRIs, etc. - I was given a clean bill of health. But you see, during the wait time between me seeing the doctor and getting the clean bill of health, I was faced with my own mortality, and my life flashed before my eyes - such as it was.

I began having horrible nightmares and flashbacks of images of abuse and molestation that I'd already known about to some degree, but now was seeing in detail. I had frequent anxiety attacks and had migraines everyday - all day for weeks on end. My concentration and memory decreased significantly. Yes, sometimes I spaced out, showed little or showed no emotion, had bouts of insomnia - but who doesn't, right? I often found myself in places and didn't remember how I'd gotten there, and I began to lose time...sometimes only a few minutes, sometimes whole days at a time. I mentioned several times to my husband that I suspected I had Alzheimer's, and I even mentioned it to my family doctor, who ruled it out because of my age.

In the past, I'd already been diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (c-PTSD) and had undergone behavioral and drug therapy for it. THIS was something all together different. One voice that I heard internally pretty often I'd nicknamed 'Chatterbox' because of her incessant talking had suddenly become several voices, some male - some female - some childlike. At first, I thought that it was all just my subconscious, especially one female voice that constantly berated me; but I noticed that these voices spoke even when I wasn't intentionally trying to get them to do so. I had my own thoughts, and apparently they had theirs.

In the midst of all this internal chaos, my marriage was falling apart. How could I explain to my husband what I was hearing, seeing in flashback, and remembering? What would he think of me and my family if he were told. I didn't want him to look at me with disdain. I was ashamed...scared and ashamed. I asked him for time for me to sort through all this new chaos, these new and horrible thoughts, the voices. I needed time. In the end, I waited too long. He moved out and although we tried to work things out - it just wasn't possible.

Things were progressing and severely impacting my employment. I suffered from migraines so severe, they were giving me small seizures. When I'd turn my lights off in my office, my superiors were told I presented an image of being unavailable. All I was trying to do was remain at work. I was eventually prescribed a medication that served the dual purpose of helping minimize the occurrence of migraines and stopping seizures. Fun stuff boys and girls!
Confusing Times

Months had gone past, there I was trying to hold down a top management position while not remembering what I'd said or committed to the day before or finding myself in a meeting without a clue as to what the meeting was about. I'd find stick-it notes on my computer screen with a name of a colleague or superior, and a time and sometimes the date. So, I had to gleam from this half-written note what I was suppose to do 'with', 'for', - whatever this person. Ultimately, I'd either completely miss the missing (in cases where the stick-it stopped sticking and fell under my desk) or I'd show up completely unprepared. My job performance plummeted. I lost the minute respect I'd earned from my peers, superiors, and staff. Hell, if they had bothered to point and laugh, I don't think I would have remembered why they were doing it. I was eventually asked to resign from my position still without knowing what was truly going on with me.

The voices were non-stop now since I was no longer employed and they had plenty to say. I was blamed for allowing the molestation occur. I was shamed for knowing that at times - what was being done to me my body responded to positively. I'd never been so suicidal in all my life. But god help me - I didn't want to seek professional counseling because I just knew - knew the person would want to put me away in a 'nut house', so I endured...day after day, week after week - panic attacks, heart palpitations, nightmares, daymares, and internal criticism the likes of which I had never experienced before. I hit rock bottom one evening when I picked up a razor blade and starting cutting. Each cut felt like a small scream - a shout to god, a plea for relief and I cried and cried deeply - finally for myself, my kids, my husband, my childhood.

The next day, I was able to get in to see a clinical psychologist who specialized in trauma. I played games with her, but can't tell you why. I'd arrive late to every session, sometimes as much as 20 minutes late. After a few sessions though she diagnosed me with severe depression, depersonalization disorder, c-PTSD, and Dissociative Disorder, not otherwised specified (DDNOS). After a series of particularly bad sessions where we'd started talking about my mother, I flipped out on her and she refused to continue our therapy sessions. I never did tell her about the voices.

It was more than 4 months later when I finally tried to reach out again. I found a therapist who specialized in dissociative disorders and trauma. She was very cool in her manner, not falling for my 'usual' bag of tricks. I told her of a particularly horrible memory, that with past therapists - would have their mouths gapping open. Not this gal. She called me a survivor and asked me how she could be of service to me. I started answering her question and the next thing I know, she was handing me tissue and directing me to try to re-ground myself in the present. She gave me some exercises that I still use today to help with re-focusing my consciousness, quieting the voices. In her diagnoses, she agreed with the previous therapist on everything except one - she diagnosed me with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

So that's my story in a nutshell. Currently, I know of at least 10 others all living inside us. We've survived because we had each other. Now we have to Live.

Check in with me daily - I'll be posting some useful tips that I learned from my therapist, as well as other helpful websites and information specific to dissociative disorders.

Together - we can LIVE.

5 comments:

  1. Very interesting. Dissociative disorder makes people suffer even without knowing. Really good to know that you are able to overcome that. Hope you will continue sharing your experience with other people, which will definitely help many others to help themselves.

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  2. Be hopeful forever..

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story - wonderfully written. I would like to see your daily tips on dealing with dissociation, particularly how you ground yourself.

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  4. hi,
    I came across your site because i am dealing with things very similar and i don't know how to talk to my therapist about it. he brought it up at the very end of our last session but not in a good way. it was like he was making fun of me which just made me angry and ashamed and embarrassed. I am so tired of looking for help. I have all the symptoms of DID and yet I am so afraid to talk about it because I'm afraid I won't be believed. What do I do?

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  5. I am so incredibly apologetic for responding to your comment so so late. Have you gotten around to speaking with your therapist about things? How have you been doing? Have the symptoms changed? I know it is scary to talk about it, but if you suspect you are indeed DID, you need to try to get on the road to stabilization or you will have melt down after melt down after melt down. DID is a disruptive disorder for every aspect of the person(s) life. Please let me know how you're doing?

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