It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I started low-dose ketamine nasal spray as part of my treatment regimen for CPTSD, DID and suicidality. I have had phenomenal, life-changing results that seem entirely impossible to be true. The stability I feel just doesn’t seem believable to me, and I am still waiting for the bottom to fall out.
You can read about my initial experience here if you are interested.
At 3 weeks in, I have been able to decrease the ketamine doses. The first two weeks I did one nasal spray on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Since I responded so positively with the first dose, and the stability seemed so solid, I decided to push it out to one spray a week for the 3rd week. I’ll keep you posted how this goes, but so far, it is holding me in a good place of stability and mental clarity.
As a side note, I am not taking the commonly recommended antidepressant to go with it as I am not a fan of of them for me, and I wonder do people really need to take the antidepressant since it wasn’t necessary for me. Anyway, I know someone else may need something different, so I recognize it may be necessary for other people. I do take a sleeping pill at night, which is the only medication I take besides the generic ketamine.
As someone who experienced severe developmental trauma, I have been living a lifetime of PTSD flashbacks, debilitating depression and anxiety, frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm, and the unsteadiness that comes with having dissociative identity disorder. Oh, and the most difficult consequence of my awful childhood has been trying to live a decent life after being raised by a family that didn’t love me.
The traumatic patterns I learned as a kid have been extremely difficult to change as an adult.
With my new ketamine-induced stability, I have honestly been a little confused about what to do with myself. I don’t feel like myself because I am not used to this ability to regulate my emotions, deal with stressors, and not think about killing myself on-and-off throughout my days.
For me, ketamine actually accomplishes what DBT is supposed to accomplish for those of us with CPTSD.
I can’t completely say, oh, I tried ketamine and now everything in my life is perfect. It’s not. But it is 1000% better and more manageable. The difficulty with the issues I was struggling with have gone from a 10 to a 3, which has made a very significant difference in my ability to cope and live my life.
Since the ketamine also enables me to think more clearly, I have had the opportunity to think about what is still causing my life to be messy, or less than good. By no surprise to me, it’s my attachment issues. Turns out ketamine can help a lot, but it doesn’t help with the aftermath of growing up in a family that didn’t love you.
My earliest messages from my family were: you don’t deserve love; you are unlovable; you are too much so make yourself small; there is something wrong with you; everyone hates you, so shut up and stay quiet; you don’t deserve happy; you are trash and don’t deserve anything good; you should do us all a favor and kill yourself; the only thing you are good for is sex.
So, sadly, the ketamine doesn’t take away my belief that I am a terrible, no-good person who doesn’t deserve love.
Since the ketamine did take away the nonstop flashbacks of childhood abuse, I can now actually focus on these horrible beliefs that I have about myself. For once, I will be stable enough to stay focused and safe while I deal with the real pain of my childhood. I am done talking about the horrific abuse I suffered as a child because that is in my past, and I need to live in the present.
Talking about my abuse did not help me recover from my traumatic childhood. I did a lot of therapy, and it just didn’t give me the results I needed to recover from all the trauma. I do believe there is value in therapy, but I honestly do not see it alone giving most people the results they need to recover from CPTSD.
Unfortunately, in the present, I hold these really horrible beliefs about myself that I can’t seem to distance myself from like I can the memories of abuse.
Maybe this is the real work of therapy I have been waiting for. It’s so extremely painful for me that I am probably going to drive my therapist crazy with the slow pace and resistance I am going to put up to defend myself. I really can’t help it no matter how hard I try not to do it.
Ugh. I have no idea how to even begin to tackle this horrible belief system I have about myself. At this moment, even with my new found mental clarity, I can’t even intellectually believe that those things aren’t true about me. I know usually starting in an intellectual place is easiest for me, but at this point, that seems like that might be a far off accomplishment. But, I will push like hell to get there because I will not waste the miracle of what the ketamine has done for me.
Ketamine still allows me to feel the awful feelings that go along with severe trauma. The big difference is that ketamine makes it so I can mentally get myself out of a suicidal spiral as my knee-jerk response to these feelings. Instead of going right into a suicide plan, I seem to have the wherewithal to recognize my suicidality and to talk to someone about what is going on with me. It’s not alway easy to find someone to talk to about what I am feeling and thinking because I only have a few people in my life that understand it without freaking out.
Once I find someone to talk to, to just get it out, the suicidal thoughts melt away. This was definitely not possible pre-ketamine.
I am excited to see if the ketamine continues to hold me in a place of stability, and whether it quite possibly might allow me to do a level of talk-therapy that I had never done before. A level that may actually bring me healing?
But make no mistake, I do not believe talk-therapy without the ketamine would bringme closer to healing. The ketamine has been the missing ingredient to my healing, and I just wish I could get others to understand this may be the missing ingredient for a lot of other people like me.
I have become super-annoyed by any mention of the 3 phase approach to treating Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As put forth in the DID treatment guidelines by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), these are considered the gold-standard recommended steps for therapists who are treating someone with DID:
1. Establishing safety, stabilization, and symptom reduction.
2. Confronting, working through, and integrating traumatic memories; and
3. Identity integration and rehabilitation.
It sounds like an easy formula for assisting those with DID, but like previous treatment recommendations for DID, this 3-step phased approach is seriously flawed and needs updating (it’s been 10 years of minimal success).
Unfortunately, the vast majority of DID patients get stuck in stage 1, or if they manage to get out of stage 1, it is too easy for them to get knocked back into the stage 1 need for safety and stabilization by triggers in life and therapy.
Talk therapy and learning new skills is not effective enough in helping people with DID to successfully master the phase 1 goal of safety and stability because it is too easy for them to fall back into deeply rooted familiar neural pathways that make them unstable again.
The deeply-rooted neural pathways of someone who has DID is what keeps them stuck in a dissociative reaction to stress, which is why it is critical to address rewiring the brain of a DID person in stage 1.
Instead of therapists challenging themselves to figure out how to successfully help their clients master phase 1, they are actually told by these same guidelines that some people just don’t have the capacity to get out of stage 1, and so they can therefore feel ok when their clients stay stuck in phase 1 and a life of misery. This is completely wrong and cruel to those suffering with DID.
It is quite frustrating that the majority of trauma therapists will identify Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score” as the book that has most influenced them, but strangely, almost every trauma therapist has little to no expertise in helping with the neurobiological effects of trauma, which is kind of the point of this book.
I believe there is a small percentage of people who can successfully manage this 3-phase approach as it is, but what I see from the vast majority of people I know who have DID, people get stuck in the phase 1 need for safety and stabilization. They may get stabilized, but either by working on trauma or some other life trigger, they slide right back into the need for safety and stabilization, which leads the person with DID to feel like they are failing therapy because it seems impossible to maintain enough forward momentum to make progress in therapy.
When your brain is wired for dissociation and PTSD, you can’t simply rewrite the way the brain functions through talk therapy and skills.
What if the very first step is impossibly flawed because therapists have been giving their clients the wrong advice on how to reach stabilization (DBT skills, mindfulness, CBT therapy, corrective therapeutic relationship, blah, blah). These methods can be helpful, but they don’t help the client achieve a strong enough mastery of safety and stability.
The type of stabilization achieved by talk-therapy and skill building is too weak to endure the triggers faced by the highly traumatized person.
Is it possible the answer to phase one stabilization is outside the traditional therapist’s wheelhouse, and involves neurobiology instead? Something that will rewrite the neural pathways?
Is it also possible that stabilization can occur in days-to-weeks instead of the years therapists typically spend on this with desperate clients?
I believe it is possible there is a much more effective and efficient way for traumatized individuals to get stabilized quickly.
An open mind and a belief in miracles is required at this point.
As the pandemic was nearing an end, I found myself loosening up on my fight-or-flight mode of survival that served me extremely well during those stressful months. As good as that might sound, what followed for me was a quick dump into the gutter of mental health hell. Apparently, my mind needed to do something with the build up of 14 months of limited parts activity I experienced to hold it together. If you are confused by this, try to understand that I was in the trauma of the pandemic, and to survive, I could only have around parts who were strong and didn’t feel, just like most of my childhood. The emotional and vulnerable parts were tucked away. The parts of me that had been frozen during the pandemic crisis were starting to rapidly thaw. Their emotions were overwhelming.
I rather quickly became depressed, suicidal, anxious, dissociative, and unable to deal with the stress of my children. Each day, I was becoming more unstable. I had reached a point where I had decided I was going to kill myself or go into a hospital (note, there are no hospitals that treat or believe in DID within my state, or even several states away, which makes this option less likely).
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst), I was a 10 on the suicide scale. I couldn’t even hold onto the love for my children and what my suicide would do to them to prevent me from doing it. I was too far gone, and my suicide was becoming imminent.
How I stumbled upon Ketamine, stopped a serious suicide attempt, and saved my insurance company $30,000
In a complete fluke, a holistic doctor I work with for health issues had just prescribed generic ketamine nasal spray for depression and anxiety, and had no idea of the severity of what I was suffering because I hid it from them like I do most people outside a therapist’s office. I made the decision that I was going to try it as my last ditch effort before I checked out. The imminent risk and permanency of suicide outweighed any reservations I might have had.
The Ketamine Experience
I simply took one small spray of the ketamine in one nostril. I could immediately feel it coming down my throat as there was a slight burning feeling that lasted for a few minutes. After the burning sensation, I could quickly notice I was starting to feel what I would call a manufactured dissociation as it didn’t feel how I normally feel when I dissociate.
The dissociation lasted for 30-45 minutes, and then I felt kind of high. I was feeling emotions like funny, happy, and curious —funny and happy are definitely not normal feelings for me. I knew not to drive my car or make any big decisions. Though I did shoot off one very wordy email I kind of later regretted 😎.
The dissociation and high were gone within 2 hours of the nasal spray. I was left with a sense that my mind had been cleared of cobwebs I didn’t even know were there. I very dramatically had a mental clarity I wasn’t used to. I was much more aware of everything happening in my environment.
By the 3rd hour, I began to evaluate my thoughts and feelings because I knew this was a test to help me figure out what to do with my suicidality and depression. I scanned my brain for thoughts, emotions, or voices of parts, and to my amazement, my suicidal feelings were completely gone, and I had no sense of any depression, anxiety, or even dissociation. I was completely grounded in the present with a strangely crystal clear mind. I was actually worried I was going to have a manic episode because I was feeling so oddly good.
My suicidality went from 10 to 0 in just a few hours.
Later, when my kids each did their behaviors that had been over-stressing me these past few weeks, I felt like a super-parent who was not the least bit phased by their antics.
As it was approaching bedtime, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep because: 1. I always struggle with insomnia (and sleep meds don’t always work for me), and 2. I was worried the feeling good and crystal-clear thinking was going to make me want to stay up all night being productive at some random thing. Surprisingly, I took my normal low-dose sleeping pill and easily fell asleep. Even more surprising, I was able to sleep-in the next morning, something my anxiety hadn’t allowed me to do for years.
When the day of my first ketamine dose began, I was looking at either a $30,000+ psychiatric hospitalization, or ending my life and traumatizing my family and friends.
Instead, one spray from a $45 bottle of compounded generic ketamine completely removed me from that suicidal crisis and stabilized me.
My mind has stayed clear, like really sharp, and my emotions have been extremely easy to regulate.
My ability to emotionally regulate was put to the test almost immediately. The day following my first ketamine dose, I was scheduled for a therapy session with my therapist who I was having some serious attachment conflict. The session was indeed volatile, and one that would have normally sent me into a suicidal tailspin. Instead, I noticed I had a few fleeting suicidal feelings during the session, and I moved on, and they didn’t stick with me post session. A highly stressful situation was completely manageable, which is unheard of when it comes to me having attachment conflict in therapy.
Maybe some of you don’t see how big of a deal this is. Before ketamine, I was emotionally wobbly every day. I never knew what little thing might send me off into depression, suicidality, overwhelming anxiety, or into my constant dissociative response pattern that creates quite a bit of amnesia in my life.
My use of ketamine is like someone handed me a brand new life. A life that has been missing for over 30 years. I was finally free of the debilitating existence I had known almost my entire life.
I am finding the experience of my new brain extremely foreign. I don’t feel emotionally overwhelmed. I don’t feel depressed, suicidal, or even dependent on a therapist at this point (I have struggled with severe disorganized attachment, so this is kind of a big deal for me). My mind just feels clear and calm, which I really am not used to.
I waited a couple of days and did a second nasal spray of the ketamine. I was still feeling completely stable before this dose, but I wanted to do what was recommended by the doctor who prescribed it. With the second dose, it was barely noticeable and I didn’t experience the dissociative and feeling high side effects.
I have researched ketamine a lot since then, and I know others typically don’t respond for a week. There are several ways to take in ketamine, and an array of different dosing strategies. The doctor that prescribed the ketamine I used was a believer that low-dose and through the nose to get closest to the brain was the best method.
Ketamine seems to be a miracle for me. Although I live near a big research center that has all sorts of clinical trials going on for ketamine, I know I would be excluded from those studies because of my dissociative disorder (a familiar narrative for those of us with DID). We are just too much with our diagnosis for a lot of things..
Alternatively, there are many ketamine clinics that have set up shop in my state so that they can make a lot of money off this new treatment. Typical treatment prices seem to be around $400 a session, and insurance rarely covers it according to their websites.
For once, the compounding pharmacies seem to be the most economical place to get it, but finding a doctor who will prescribe it this way may be the challenge.
If you are a long-time sufferer who has given up on treatment for DID/CPTSD, or someone who suffers from chronic depression and/or anxiety, I would give ketamine a try if you can get your hands on a legitimate form of the medication. I am not recommending the street drug that is a higher dose of ketamine and will do who knows what to you. Try Googling ketamine near you and see what comes up. There’s lots of research, books, and articles about the way it works and what it has been used for.
There is a fascinating article about using ketamine with complex PTSD trauma survivors here.
I have to believe an angel dropped ketamine in my lap when I was at one of my lowest points. It clearly saved my life, and it just may be offering me the chance at living with a non-traumatized brain. As each day ticks by, I am still amazed at the calm and clarity I feel.
As a takeaway, I hope that each of you who reads this will consider that maybe people with DID aren’t succeeding not because they aren’t working hard-enough, committed enough, smart enough, or don’t have the ego strength or attachment stability to succeed in therapy. Maybe it really has more to do with how their brain is wired, and maybe there are easy fixes such a ketamine that will address the neurobiological effects of developmental trauma.
Just maybe, the most difficult repair is easier than everyone thinks.
My system of parts has been in a state of perpetual trigger these past few weeks. I can verbalize I am in the present moment, where I am at, and what is happening, but my body and mind is adamant that I am in the same danger as my childhood.
I have become afraid of my spouse, therapists, and all sorts of other things in my life.
Usually when this happens I am not able to verbalize that I am safe, an adult, and in 2019. So, it’s new and scary to experience both realities at the same time.
When I am overwhelmed like this, my knee-jerk reaction is to convince myself I need to commit suicide. I know I don’t want to do this to my kids, but how to figure out how to stop the pain, the fear, the confusion.
My therapist was gracious enough to do an extra-long session with me yesterday to try to help me. We both want to get me through this time of year without a psychiatric hospitalization, which has been inching closer.
My therapist wants me to dig deep.
My mind is programmed to look for similarities to my child abuse so as to protect me from more abuse. Guess what. It is easy to find a lot of similarities in my life right now.
My therapist says I need to focus on what is different (and some other things that I can’t remember), so I am trying to talk my way through the day asking myself what is different. I do this because too many parts of me do not understand that my life as an adult is different than when I was abused as a child.
I must remind myself I have power I didn’t have as a child. I have choices I didn’t have as a child. My environment is different than when I was a child. My body is stronger and my brain is smarter than when I was a child.
I am hoping and praying that by digging deep into what is different for me today that the many system insiders who are stuck in a triggered state can come out and be free to experience life as a person who doesn’t get perpetually abused.
My insiders believe our purpose in life is to fulfill the fantasies and needs of the sick and twisted on earth.
I am trying my best to imagine a life where my system doesn’t expect to be abused at every turn throughout our days. What I have learned for myself is that the abuse is such a part of my system insiders that my perpetrators get to continue the abuse even when it has actually stopped.
I am not saying that abuse doesn’t happen to adults, especially those of us who have been abused as children. It does. And it has happened to me more times than I like to think about.
Still, the brutality I experience in my mind everyday is not really happening, so I must learn to turn it off. Separate reality from distorted reality.
My system of insiders deserves peace. We deserve to live at a restful state of not feeling like we are being attacked constantly.
So, I must scan my environment and my mind and remind myself of what is different today.
I have hated my mom for as long as I can remember. For me, this memory starts around 3 years old, but when I try to think about what it must have been like as a baby, I am consumed with fear, and the “freeze response.”
I do understand that my mom was an unusually cruel mom, and probably comes from a very abusive upbringing by her own family.
I want so badly to just leave it at my mom was a horrible, sick person who abused me in more ways than imaginable, and lay the blame and everything at her feet.
I want to accept this and move on.
I am still stuck with the feeling that I was born as “garbage” and that somehow this makes it my fault.
My therapist wants me to accept that I did not have any control over the abuse that happened to me. I do accept that. I have no illusion that I had any control over what happened to me.
Though, I have to wonder if I made things worse for myself because I didn’t hide my hatred for my mother from her. I don’t mean I outright told her what an awful person I thought she was. No, I mean, I didn’t hide it in my eyes.
My eyes. They looked at her with bewilderment and sometimes disgust, though I knew to not let her really see the disgust part.
I never understood why this woman chose to have a baby girl who she would choose to hate, torture, and wreck in every way possible. Boy babies were not treated this way.
Then I think to my parenting, and I realize you never know what parenting is going to be like for you until you do it.
Maybe there is a tiny bit of decency in her that had she known what a girl baby would mean to her, she wouldn’t have done it. Probably giving her too much credit there.
As you can see, part of trying to understand what I have been through is involving what has my mother been through. Though honestly, she doesn’t deserve that kind of compassion from me. Only God can decide whether she deserves any compassion.
When you grow up with severe trauma mostly orchestrated by a mom you hate, life would probably seem chaotic to the outside world, but it is actually very quiet to experience. The noise of the terror is boxed away as the knowledge of the terror is all that can be held at this point.
Why does a mom start off hating her baby? The easy answer is mental illness, but that doesn’t really do it justice in trying to understand it. Besides, it is not like she has a diagnosis like schizophrenia or bipolar that would make it more understandable.
What is true about this woman? She is an extreme narcissist. She is an alcoholic. She is sadistic. She is grandiose. She comes from a bizarrely religious family –meaning not your ordinary religious beliefs. I believe she was the chosen daughter in her family to be sexually abused by her father and maybe others. Others consider her very attractive. To the world, she is powerful, although I have seen her when she is weak.
Growing up with her, strangely I can’t think of a single kind thing she has ever done for me. Not one.
My father, who was completely controlled by my mother, had moments of kindness toward me and my siblings. Though, he is no saint in the choices he made in our family. I remember one Christmas when I was 4 or 5, my dad actually shocked us because when we woke Christmas morning, he had bought presents for us. Our mother was furious with him. I don’t remember what happened after receiving those presents, but I know it happened as there is a picture of me opening a present on that morning (a rare photograph of me).
We had normalcy for one moment. A brief happy moment for me.
But back to the woman I hated. When I was 3 years old, I can remember how my mom would pull me next to her in front of her large bathroom mirror, both of us naked, and she would tell me how fat and disgusting I was. In case there was any doubt, she would spend a great deal of time showing me how ugly I was, and how beautiful she was. She explained that I needed to become like her or I would be nothing. Yet, no matter how emaciated I became, I was still fat and ugly in her eyes.
Today, my expression of my hatred for her doing this is to be extremely asexual, unattractive, and to wear boy clothing as much as possible. This really makes her angry.
Maybe it as simple as this. Maybe babies are like animals, and they can sense danger. Though I can’t remember my life as a baby, my body remembers the terror I felt. My mind wants to die as I think back to being a baby so helpless and terrorized at the same time.
I couldn’t fight her, I couldn’t run from her, so my mind froze, wishing I could not exist. And there goes the chronic suicidal feelings I experience.
Stuck with a woman who hated me, and the only power I had was to hate her back.
A message from the Universe, I suppose. Everywhere I turn I am seeing videos and stories about repressed memories.
To some, using the words “repressed memories” brings up the idea they are not true memories.
I have to admit, I don’t even use the words “repressed memories” when I often think about or fight to remember all that has been forgotten from my childhood.
For me, I have always known I was the victim of a lot of child abuse. I just did my best to not think about it, and to try to move on with my life as if that didn’t happen.
There have been moments in my life when I was able to get away with not feeling like an abused person. It isn’t hard to pull off looking normal when people really don’t look that closely at you.
For instance, when I was in high school, my behavior was full of contradictions, but nobody really cared enough to pay attention or say anything to me.
In high school, I was the nerd who excelled in ROTC. I also skipped school and hung out with the druggies. I was a nervous wreck when it came to dating boys, and I was also spending a lot of time having sex with boys and men in dangerous situations. I was both super responsible, and super reckless.
I later learned this was my Dissociative Identity Disorder playing out without me realizing it was doing so.
Even with all those contradictions in my behavior, I didn’t try to figure it out. I was hell-bent on repressing my past and trying to pretend I was alright.
I could remember plenty of abuse if I wanted to. When I was in college and got raped, that stirred the pot for sure. After that, I fell in love with a man, which I later learned didn’t work so well with the idea of keeping my past repressed.
I had plenty of meaningless sex in high school, but now in college, having fallen in love for the first time, sex was extremely difficult, and becoming more difficult with each day that passed. My past was really coming back to haunt me as I experienced flash backs and younger parts while trying to have sex with a man I loved.
Being the martyr most CSA survivors are, I told this man to leave me enough times that he finally did. I was heart broken, which is probably what led to my first psychiatric demise and hospitalization.
Fast forward 30 years, and I can still remember countless episodes of me being sexually abused as a young child. What’s missing is that I often don’t remember right before, some of the during, and definitely not afterward. It’s like I don’t have complete memories of anything, but I know with certainty these incidents I do remember are true.
Nowadays, I am finally working to try to process these memories, and for me, I honestly have no idea when new pieces of the memories are coming.
Yesterday, I was sitting in my car after therapy thinking about a specific abuse situation I had mentioned to my therapist, and I described it in session as a random occurrence that happened to me. Not 45 seconds in my car I was consumed with flashbacks and voices of my mom telling me to get out of the car right before I walked toward the man in the parking garage. I must have been refusing which is a little surprising to me as I normally did what my mom said, but she wanted me to get out into a darkened parking garage by myself when I was around 5. I was terrified and knew no good was coming from me getting out of the car. But the flood of memories could feel her anger and her demands and her pushing me out of the car.
This little piece of repressed memory has left me intensely suicidal for days. Somehow it was better to think I randomly encountered the creepy man in the parking garage than to know this was yet another man my mom had set me up for.
It is not like this is news to me that my mom was a disgusting, narcissistic, psychopath. I have known that for a long time.
But, this little piece of the memory still hurts so much. I guess it is hard to come to terms with someone’s evilness when you keep getting new pieces of evilness tossed your way.
It is not that I forgive, I don’t. It is not that I love her, I don’t. She deserves my hatred and worse, but I am limp with weakness when it comes to having any appropriate or real feelings toward her.
Incidentally, I ask my parts to tell me more, and I am often frustrated when they don’t. I feel like I can handle it, but now I realize each new fact brings new pain.
So what is it like to receive repressed memories. It is fucking awful, and there is nothing you can do to prepare for it. The best I can hope to do is to ride it out without killing myself.
Staying alive has been really hard with this stupid new piece of a memory. The worst part of a memory is not always what seems like the obvious worst part.
I do believe it is important work to work through memories to move toward recovery. I disagree with those who avoid it and say it is not necessary.
For me, I may not heal, or integrate, or even find happiness, but I will at least know who I really am before I die. And that has to be enough.
I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) in my early twenties. I was in my Senior year of college when I suddenly started having significant psychiatric problems I hadn’t experienced before. Even though my life was actually going very well in the world, my internal experience was crumbling as I had my first Major Depressive episode, panic attacks, and suicidal ideation seemingly coming from nowhere.
I didn’t know what was happening, so I quietly went to the campus mental health center, where the psychiatrist gave me a bottle of Xanax to help me deal with whatever was happening.
It completely consumed my life rather quickly. The pills helped a little, but I was seriously suicidal for unknown reasons.
By some miracle, I had the wherewithal to find a therapist off campus. And then a psychiatrist, and quite quickly, I ended up inpatient at the local psychiatric facility for about six months.
During my time in the hospital, I was trying really hard to understand what was happening to me. I was a mystery to my treatment team, too, as I had so much going for me, why was I doing so poorly?
I started having outrageous transference with my therapist. I felt as though I couldn’t live without her. I would start to get better and approach discharge, and then my therapist would go out of town and I would find myself plotting to kill myself at the hospital. I never had feelings like this about anyone before.
I can remember sitting in a chair thinking in my head that I didn’t understand what was happening. And then I realized there were voices in my head commenting on things or expressing their despair about the therapist. I had always had these voices commenting in my head, but I realized for the first time it was like they were different people with different thoughts. I knew I was going crazy.
I started feeling like I wasn’t in control of my thoughts or behaviors sometimes. I tried to speak about it some to my primary treatment team members, but they didn’t take it too seriously as they knew I was not psychotic.
Back then, I didn’t have the words to properly express my experience of what I now know to be Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
When I finally discharged from the hospital, I had a crazy sexually abusive relationship with a counselor from the hospital, and then abruptly decided to get a job at another psychiatric hospital as I was suddenly interested in helping people (and ignored the fact that another part of me had already accepted a job offer from a big corporation).
While I was working at the hospital, I was still trying to figure out me, and would read every patient history, study the DSM, talk to clinicians, sit in on clinical meetings. During my research, I discovered a therapist who specialized in dissociative disorders and trauma therapy.
While still seeing my old therapist back in my college town, I decided to go see the therapist who specialized in dissociation and trauma, and asked her to help me figure out if I had DID.
In case you are wondering, my therapist who I adored and my psychiatrist did not believe in DID.
It is still common today, you have the believers and nonbelievers in the mental health community. It sucks for those of us afflicted.
But I knew I had these strange forces acting within me that I could not explain. I didn’t know anyone with DID back then, so I was really just doing research and grasping at straws to understand what was happening.
It is a blur, but my consultation with the dissociative disorder psychologist led me to a fairly quick diagnosis of DID, and I transferred to her to help me with therapy.
It was a balancing act. I would be in terrible shape during my therapy sessions talking about childhood trauma, and she would also see me as a high functioning successful person at the local hospital when she would come in to see her patients.
What I have found for myself is that if I am around someone who knows I have DID, my parts are more likely to show themselves. My parts found a safe place for them to be “out” and to express their feelings and traumas with the psychologist.
It was a lot. Coming to terms with the truth about my childhood, and learning about all these parts of me.
I managed for a few years to work at the hospital and do intensive outpatient therapy three times a week. Then, the train started coming off the track, and I began a journey of hospital-hopping and instability for the next decade. Sadly, I was so dissociative during this period that I have very little memory of it, so it saddens me to know I lost an entire decade of my life to this illness.
Quite honestly, this was in the 1990s, when there were treatment centers that specialized in DID, but in retrospect, they did not know what they were doing in their attempts to help people with DID. Still, they were important because they were places that understood who we were and what was happening to us, which is not an understanding we could find anywhere else in the world.
As my life was in chaos, and I wasn’t making any progress in therapy, I had a shift in my internal world out of anger toward one of my therapists at the time. This part of me who had enrolled in graduate school to get an MSW had decided that she had enough of the mental health system and the craziness going on in our life.
After ten years of chaos and suicide attempts and more hospitalizations than I can count, with a simple, but determined decision, this part was able to put away the chaos of our lives (the endless number of parts), and we were suddenly living with only 5 parts.
This was manageable.
We had 5 parts who cooperated with one another and didn’t even need therapy or hospitals. The depression, anxiety, and suicidality was suddenly completely gone. We still were not able to sleep without medication, but found doctors to prescribe it for us. Other than that, no mental health care was required.
Our only symptom that we worked to hide every day was our amnesia. We couldn’t remember things that were current (and past important life events), like our neighbor’s first name, or how long it had been since we last spoke to our boss, but we were otherwise doing well.
I don’t want to make light of the amnesia we dealt with during this period as it created enormous anxiety in us everyday that we would be found out that we had a mental illness. But, we knew the skilled clinicians couldn’t help us with this problem, so we did what we do best, we hid our truth.
We lasted about 12-13 years in this fully-functioning (except for the amnesia) period of our life where we were successful in multiple careers, got married, adopted children, bought homes and lived what looked like a “normal” life.
Then my dad got sick with cancer. My family required me to come home to take care of him. It was an extremely messy situation that ended with his death (I am leaving out a tremendous amount of trauma that came with this experience).
While he was dying, voices started showing up again.
About 2 weeks after his death when I returned home, I started experiencing PTSD symptoms. Within weeks of that starting, I went to see a therapist to try to prevent myself from getting really sick again. The therapist had no idea I had DID as it wasn’t something I told people, as I certainly didn’t want to ruin the successful and public career I had at the time.
The therapist was a grief specialist, and was actually really good. Since she didn’t know about my trauma background, she didn’t know that her sitting down beside me on a couch in a therapy session would send me into a mute dissociative state.
It was the first time something like this had happened in over a decade. And the therapist recognized it as something significant, and would only work with me if I went to see a DID specialist and got cleared to see her. I reluctantly agreed, having a sense it was a bad idea for me.
Sure enough, I went to see the therapist in early 2015, and my system of parts exploded open with more parts than I even had before. I struggled mightily to hold onto my life and my career.
By 2017, I wasn’t able to work, and was in and out of hospitals with rageful suicidal ideation, debilitating amnesia, depression, anxiety attacks, and off the charts PTSD. My life was splintered into a zillion pieces again.
Now, it is 2019, and I have been working hard the past 3 years with a therapist who understands severe trauma. I am fortunate to have a therapist who takes clients that other therapists throw away.
I am coming to terms with the abuse I endured. I have just barely made it a full year without being in the hospital. I am still suicidal off and on rather frequently, but manage to get through these times a little better. Working on accepting my truth causes a lot of switching between parts on a daily basis, which in turn means I can’t remember easy things that I should remember.
My brain feels like a jumbled mess just about every day. It is frustrating. I accept my diagnosis and don’t hate or even dislike my parts. I accept my childhood abuse as true, but still, I am mentally incapacitated with amnesia and confusion.
I have come to wonder whether healing is actually possible. Maybe it is for some folks, but not for me? I don’t say that in a derogatory way, but maybe the truth is my mind is just too damaged?
These are the questions I am facing these days. It saddens me to think I might not be able to recover my mind the way it was intended to work.
The wreckage from my childhood may be a permanent part of my life. It doesn’t seem fair, but I for one should know life is not fair. 😔
It’s strange. Every year, I forget how much I hate Halloween until I start experiencing a cascade of shitty stuff until it finally hits me that it is Halloween month, and that never goes well for me.
Despite having inflatable Halloween blow ups in my front yard beginning October 1st (my spouse does this for our kids), I sort of dissociate that it is Halloween and that I don’t like Halloween and that it is usually a dark time for me. It takes me until about the week before Halloween to realize the darkness of Halloween is here.
Even with the constant reminder of Halloween staring me in the face, it takes imaginary messages from the devil penetrating me to understand the chaos and fear going on in my system this time of year.
I know many parts absolutely believe in these messages from the devil, but I want to say I do not, without being mean about their beliefs.
I don’t have the answer as to why parts of me feel with certainty the devil is sending messages to them through an inanimate object in my therapist’s office that looks like the face of the devil to them.
They are terrified. I just see a piece of metal that kind of looks like a scary face, but they see and feel the devil.
I try to focus on living a normal life, and fight to keep from being consumed with ideas that the devil is coming for us.
I hate the people who have scrambled my brain, body, and soul like this.
Instead of enjoying the candy and Halloween costumes of my kids, I focus on just getting through alive.
I don’t even know what all these scary feeling are about. I don’t know that I will ever know.
My brain still protects me from the madness of my childhood.
No matter how sane I try to create my life, madness will always be with me, as I am madness.
It doesn’t seem like this should be so confusing, but it is.
Some days ago, a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, stood in my childhood bedroom watching in freeze mind as my mother threw out her toys into the big green dumpster my mother had wheeled into the room.
This child did not understand, as any reasonable person wouldn’t, why her mother insisted on stripping every bit of humanity out of her.
She caused no trouble in the house. She did everything her mother or brothers told her to do. She had sex with whoever wanted it. She tried not to breathe as she was afraid it would upset them. Her existence was so minimal.
Still, with trying to do everything right, her mother hated her with such sadistic pleasure.
Her mother had made sure to strip her of everything.
Decency. Humanity. Love. Free thought. All gone.
She was forced to live in a room that only had a bed and a piece of office furniture. There could be no signs of a human child living there. Only nothingness, so she would always know she was nothing and nobody.
The little girl is stuck in this place, long past trying to understand her life.
Confusion, obedience, and an ounce of pain belonged to her.
I watched her for days. She was stuck there. I was stuck watching her. I had no explanation to give her. Yes, it was all vaguely familiar to me, but I wanted to keep it “not me” because that looks like such a painful, awful existence. Who would want that?
Feelings of suicide had been circling us as a system. I was not in as much control as I usually am, partly because watching this little girl made me want to die.
So I let the others inside me deprive the body of oxygen until I reached an altered state of consciousness. Here, I could go to the little girl in the bedroom.
Like I would do with my own wounded outside children, I reached down and picked her up and held her. She had never been held before, but she did not resist me and gave in to trusting me and let me carry her away.
I held her tightly against me, with her legs wrapped around me, and I could feel her pain and confusion. It is stuck in my heart.
I wanted to promise her that she would never be hurt again, but I knew I couldn’t do that in this very imperfect world.
She had endured more pain and suffering than a nation of people.
She would experience it no more.
I delivered her to the angels in heaven as I knew of no other place that promises the end of suffering. I told her she would be safe there, and the angels would love her and take care of her.
After I delivered her, I gasped for breath to get some oxygen in my earthly body. I was barely there. I was barely making it out alive.
I struggle to care about the damage done to my brain, or my almost lost life. It seems unimportant in the scheme of things.
I look to my childhood bedroom everyday since then, and it is empty. She is gone. She is free from the cruelty dealt to her.
I am relieved to have set her free. And uncertain as to what this means for me.
My parents did not love me. They did not hold me or care for me in even the most basic ways as a baby/toddler/child/adult.
As an adult, I know how this has affected me. I struggle to connect lovingly with other people in relationships. I don’t like to be touched. I struggle to feel anything other than numb.
There are people in my life who say they love me and care for me deeply; yet, I feel empty and nothingness and awkward to their loving gestures.
Interestingly, for me, I can feel love when it comes to my children. I genuinely love them, and I feel their love for me. I am not sure why it is so different when it comes to them.
When people other than my children say they love me, I cringe as if a dagger just went through me. I know I am supposed to give a loving reply back, but I can’t, and retreat into a state of internal awkwardness.
In case you are wondering, I am married. I don’t know why my spouse puts up with my difficulties around love, touch, sex, and oftentimes being aloof.
Sometimes, the fact that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) comes in handy as there are other self states within me who do not struggle with the attachment damage from my childhood.
I don’t always control which part of me is out, and thus I fluctuate in the level of connectedness I have with others. This can be confusing to people because they don’t know about the DID (or don’t understand in my spouse’s case).
There are times when I am home with the family and I find myself very disconnected from them. My spouse will ask me what is wrong, and there isn’t anything wrong, but a self state that has more severe problems with attachment is usually present.
Other self states may go overboard with love and intimacy with other people. These self states tend to like to drink and be social, which of course is not the best combination.
My adult self-states are mostly similar enough that even the people who know I have DID have trouble distinguishing between them. But there are subtle differences if one is paying attention. However, very few people know about the DID.
My therapist seems to think my attachment problems can be healed through therapy and working through the pain of my childhood. I disagree. Though I have much more insight into my attachment problems, it doesn’t seem to do anything to help change that this is the way I am.
She would say I am feeling hopeless again, as if depression or something is causing me to come to this conclusion. I don’t feel particularly depressed. My mind is actually fairly clear, and I see my thoughts and feelings about my attachment problems as a form of acceptance of my reality.
I don’t mean to be a Debby Downer, but I do think it is better to accept reality and try to live life as it is rather than chasing a mental health that will never come for those of us who have been severely neglected as children.
That is not to say we can’t have a different version of mental health based on acceptance, instead of forever chasing a higher level of mental health and living our lives in the therapy room instead of the real world.
Too many of my friends and myself have spent almost our entire lives in the therapy rooms chasing an elusive mental health that will never come.
Please don’t get me wrong. I do believe in therapy, and it is necessary for many of us to survive in the world. But, I believe many of us with severe trauma backgrounds are using up our entire lives waiting for the wellness to begin. It’s just something to consider.
Yes, get therapy help, but don’t get caught in the idea that you will get “cured” and then miss out on living your life because you spent it searching for answers that don’t seem to transform into wellness.
*Disclaimer, my therapist and others do not agree with my point of view.
Wrestling with the truth that my parents repeatedly reinforced into me that I am not lovable has turned off a switch in me that should be on to experience the human condition of love and care.
This leaves me like one of those futuristic robots who can show the slightest bit of emotion, but fall short of the real human experience.