Susan Smith from “A Journey” wrote an inspiring guest blog post for me the other day about turning points and emotional healing, and it reminded me of the ways that I learned how to finally get quiet and face the turmoil in my mind so that I could face the turmoil in my life.
Like Susan’s therapist my therapist also taught me to be more aware of what was going on in my mind and in the end this is how I learned to stop dissociating and disconnecting from myself. Instead of examining alter personalities, my therapist concentrated on the behaviors I was presenting with. Recovery from dissociative identity disorder was about learning to stay with myself. I learned to ask myself a series of questions and I learned how to incorporate positive and gentle self talk.
In therapy sessions I would switch subject rapidly and jump all over the place and my therapist picked up on this avoidance technique and pointed it out to me. Much to my horror he wanted to video tape me so that I could see what I do. For some reason the thought of being videotaped while I was spinning out loud and dissociating really scared me and I decided to listen to his directions about how to stop doing it. He taught me to ask myself if the direction I was thinking in was going to help me get where I wanted to go in recovery, OR if it was going to hold me back in recovery. That became a starting place for me.
In asking myself those questions I also became aware of my body reactions. Did I feel tense or anxious and then I turned to my thoughts and considered the following; were there hundreds of thoughts at one time? Was there fear? Was there self judgment? When there was that much noise in there I could never pick out just one thought which is how I came to refer to it as the spin.
After becoming aware of some of this head chatter, I learned to recognize when I was about to dissociate. Often it was so profound that I could “see myself” leaving my body. In my mind’s eye I literally pulled myself back; I reached out my hand and grabbed myself by the back of my shirt and asked myself to “stay with me”… sounds so odd now, but it worked and pretty soon I was staying with myself more and more and becoming more conscious of time, thoughts, and feelings ~ especially fear.
The first step in dealing with fear was in acknowledging that I had them. There were many. I had to admit to myself that yes I had fears. I didn’t identify them all at once, and sometimes just identifying them was cause for dissociating but eventually I was able to acknowledge them; I was afraid that I was going to be molested in the night. I was afraid that I was not lovable, I was afraid that I would be hit. I was afraid that I would never feel good about myself, but I believed it was my own fault. Deep down I was mostly afraid that “they” were right about me, that I was the problem and if I didn’t figure myself out and shape up I would die a lonely and bitter unloved woman. My children would hate me and I had this sense of running out of time… all the time.
One of the problems that I realized I had with this whole train of thought is that I thought the fears were silly; that they were not logical anymore and in regarding them that way, I discounted them. Discounting my fears was the same as discounting myself, and once again, dissociative behavior was the result.
As I became more conscious, I was able to slow myself down, to slow the thoughts down enough that I could actually pay attention to them. This increased my awareness of what the self talk actually was. Instead of telling the “voices” in my head to be quiet, I learned to listen to them for clues. As I became aware of the fears that were some of the root causes that drove me to dissociate as an adult I was able to identify how much control those fears had over my life and as I listened to the head chatter, I realized the depth of the fear.
I learned that those fears were rooted in my childhood. My dissociative behavior was beneficial to my survival because as a child I had no choice. Going back there to those times and realizing where those fears were born and why they existed in the first place, enabled me to understand first, the purpose they served then and purpose of the resulting dissociative behavior. Then I looked at the purpose those fears serve now and began to look at whether or not dissociative identity disorder served me at all anymore. I certainly could comprehend why I needed to dissociate back then, and why the fears served me ~ both were a survival method. The fear was the warning system; dissociating was the coping method. I realized that I was afraid to let go of the fears. They were very closely related to self control and I believed without total control of my life I would be in danger and I would ultimately die.
It was in taking all of this apart from the outside and exploring into the depth of the inside that I found the keys to healing.
How does this post resonate with you? Can you see that dissociative behavior, which once was the only answer, eventually became the problem?