Review of Sheppard Pratt’s Trauma Disorder Unit

In some ways, Sheppard Pratt resembles a college campus instead of the typical scary hospital.

Clearly, this is only one person’s experience with Sheppard Pratt’s TDU. Everyone is likely to have a different experience, but I think information is important, so I hope you find this helpful while also realizing it is only my point of view.

Admission Process

Perhaps the worst thing about Sheppard Pratt is its current admission process. I can start by saying the current person running their admission process is not exactly friendly or compassionate, and I’ll leave it that they can do much better.

The SP TDU admission process is designed to disempower clients as they have the unrealistic expectation that your private therapist is going to do all the work to get you admitted. In fact, they don’t want to speak with you at all and only want to speak to your therapist (in my case, this means dragging the admission referral process out as my therapist is short on time and administrative tasks are not her strong point). Even after the initial referral process was done, the admission coordinator requested my therapist get discharge summaries from past hospitalizations before they would approve me on their waiting list. More wait time as my therapist is too busy to chase paperwork from previous hospitalizations, and I wasn’t in the best of shape to assist her. Eventually we persisted.

Unfortunately, Sheppard Pratt will not hospitalize you if you do not have a referring therapist and psychiatrist. I am not sure where this leaves people who don’t have one for whatever reason.

My request for hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt was not to do work or get a diagnosis, I was in a severe suicidal crisis. Initially, we were told it would likely be a 1-2 week wait. After many phone calls from my therapist and me, we were told it would be another 1-2 weeks. Although the Admission Coordinator verbalized her understanding of how dire my situation was, she really didn’t seem to care.

At more than one point we asked if we could be admitted into their general psych unit and we were told “no” and that they would not tolerate us “gaming the system.” We were not clear as to this response as it says on their website that in emergencies, it is possible to be admitted to the general psych unit, but transfer to the trauma unit was not promised. We were ok with not being transferred as our safety was very poor and we simply wanted to go to a safe inpatient unit. Again, we were denied that option.

In the end, it took me 6 weeks to gain an emergency admission into Sheppard Pratt’s program. There was no priority given to those in crisis versus those coming in for diagnosis or to do some work. I was also told I had 24 hours to enter the hospital if I wanted the admission spot. This came with no pre-warning that an opening was coming up, but for fear of losing our place on the list we took the spot which took a lot of shuffling since I was coming from out of state. Surprisingly, when I arrived at the Trauma Unit, there were a few open rooms that remained open. Perhaps they don’t have enough staff to handle more?

The Program

I would say their program is highly individualized. They have groups and individual sessions. I was only allowed to attend the boring educational groups because the staff felt I was too unstable to hold it together for the deeper groups. I won’t get my feelings hurt about this since there were many of us not allowed to go to those groups.

The therapists they have there are often therapists who are training to be top trauma therapists. I’ll be honest, my therapist was shitty. Every session felt strained and awkward. I didn’t benefit from her at all. The upside to that was I didn’t have any transference with her, which is usually something difficult for me to manage.

My psychiatrist was someone I saw 5 days a week, and he was exceptional. We got off to a rocky start as he was triggering as hell, but fortunately, this doctor’s ego was intact enough that he was willing to change his behavior that was so triggering to me. A nice thing about the psychiatrist was that he actually did therapy with me instead of the typical medication management. I grew to have a strong appreciation for this man’s competency with DID.

The real heroes of this unit are the mental health workers from every shift. Sheppard Pratt really did something right when they decided to hire and train top notch people who could sit down and talk to you just about whenever you needed it. These sessions were key to the success of my treatment there. I’d go so far to say that these people had a higher skill level than the therapist I worked with.

While in the program, you can expect to learn a lot of skills to manage your DID. People take it quite seriously, so it was helpful.

The Unit

The nicest thing about the unit is that it feels completely safe, and has very little chaos going on.

The food was below average, but you can survive on it. Unfortunately, the TDU is not allowed to go to a cafeteria to pick out the food, so food can be disappointing, which caused more than a few freak outs amongst the patients. Keep in mind that the unit does allow you to keep a snack drawer where you can have things brought or sent to you. Most importantly, this space can hold sodas, well, at least when I was there.

Each person has their own bedroom, which is quite the luxury for a psychiatric hospital, but a real necessity for trauma patients.

The bathrooms are on the hall, and though you mostly have privacy, it is not uncommon for someone doing checks to knock on the door while you are in there to make sure you are ok.

There is a lot of unsafe behavior that has happened on this unit in the past, so they have very strict rules about what you can bring and not bring. This makes it hard to stay there for long. For me, not having access to a hair dryer was emotionally hard for me to deal with on a day-to-day basis as my hair is wild without it. Nothing I could do about it except avoid mirrors and dissociate my appearance.

It has been a year since I went into the program there, and I have actually stayed out for an entire year now, which has not been something I have been able to accomplish after leaving other treatment programs.

There is no doubt about it, I got help while I was there. It was hard being there for so long, but it turns out it was worth it in the end.

My opinion is this: I have experienced what is out there for people with DID over the past few years, and Sheppard Pratt is hands down the best available.

The main issue they need to resolve is helping people with DID who are in a suicidal crisis get into their general psych unit until a bed becomes open on the trauma unit. I know the hospital has such a good reputation that even the general psych unit doesn’t have empty beds. Still, Sheppard Pratt is in the position where they are mostly alone in helping people with DID around the world, which is a staggering responsibility. I hope they will look to figure out a way to create more bandwidth for their program to help more people.

I have to wonder how many people end their lives because they are unable to access help there. I know I almost didn’t make it.

If you have DID and can wait to get in, the program gets my highest recommendation. A strategy I suggest to everyone is to get on their waiting list if you are even thinking about going into the program. You can always say no-thank you when your number comes up.

Is healing from Dissociative Identity Disorder possible?

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. 😔

Rolodex switching and amnesia

I am still recovering from my inpatient stay at Sheppard Pratt’s trauma program. I suppose your average person doesn’t understand why one would need to recover from being in an inpatient program.

My brain feels as though it is loosely held in place, and on any given day it can spin and spin so that I don’t know which way is up. My recent 4 week hospitalization at Sheppard Pratt was like that.

I believe being in an inpatient environment is always a very triggering situation for me. As one of the therapist put it, it makes sense for me to be triggered as whenever someone paid attention to me as a child like is done at SP, it always meant abuse was to follow.

Needless to say, that trigger and the fact that truthfully I am not in control of my life behind the locked doors of SP, my defenses are at their highest.

I learned from this last hospitalization that my childhood go-to defense was to keep me and my entire system so confused that we couldn’t put two sentences together. This last hospitalization played that defense out.

I had trouble remembering things before I went in, but once in, I couldn’t remember hardly anything. My treatment team believes I was switching so much that the “Rolodex switching ” kept my memory from working. That’s one theory, and possible, but other theories are equally possible.

I am home now and I had desperately hoped my memory would improve as the degree of amnesia I was experiencing was terrifying. It is a little like temporary episodes of dementia that come and go.

My memory is a little better but still troubling. I went to a restaurant last night and was in line with my family to order at the counter. As I walked away I had to ask my spouse what I had ordered. I had been so present and in control until I wasn’t.

Today I was thinking of my son’s birthday. I couldn’t remember the day and year for sure. I asked him when his birthday was because he is still at the age where “when is your birthday” is still fun to answer. I feel guilty that I couldn’t remember.

Things seem settled down, so why am I struggling so much?

I know I am confused and nervous and certain about this new direction in my therapy.

I learned at Sheppard Pratt that I must focus exclusively on internal communication and cooperation as my most pressing goal.

Only problem. There doesn’t seem to be a clear formula and I am honestly both certain it is the way to go but dumbfounded as to how one goes in that direction. Talk about needed manuals.

I have therapy tomorrow. In the past I was never short in the talking department, but feel confused how this new therapy approach works with my therapist.

In the past, we dealt with whatever that came up, but now I realize I must be more intentional about my work.

Perhaps I will begin by remembering to bring my new system map to the appointment. Last time I forgot.

I am afraid of this new but possibly old fractured mind that works in a state of confusion. I am sure I can’t do justice to explaining how someone can operate on the tightrope between ok and blank mind syndrome (not real).

If you can’t imagine it, count yourself lucky. It is truly terrifying.

My journey has changed

Some of you may have noticed that I have been missing in action for the past month or so.

I was really not doing well and needed intensive inpatient help with managing the symptoms of my DID and PTSD, particularly the level of suicidality I was experiencing.

I decided to go inpatient and it lasted longer than I expected. If I wouldn’t have really pushed to get out, I still easily met the criteria of someone who needed to be inpatient. But alas, I always feel terribly restless and triggered when I am inpatient, so a month was as much as I could do.

I am now happily home with my family and working to transition back into my real life. Still figuring this out and hope to share it with you as I uncover the new path of my journey.

I experienced incredible levels of amnesia and confusion while inpatient, but I was still able to gain some important insights into a new direction for my life.

I plan to share these new plans with you as I unpack myself back into the real world and my real life.

For now, I can say I realize I do have a life to live while doing this work, and I don’t have to “fix” my life before I can start living it.

I am also happy to say I am not currently feeling suicidal, which is remarkable because that is my typical normal. I know better than to get overly excited about this as I know it can change on a dime, but I do feel a sliver of hope that it is currently absent.

Speaking of hope, I did manage to gain some hope despite the incredible amnesia, confusion, transference, and uncomfortableness I experienced staying in this inpatient unit. Nothing like being locked up and power taken from you as a survivor that is seemingly required for inpatient treatment.

I am feeling well today and I am looking forward to sharing my new journey with you, and my experience during my inpatient stay.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support I received from you all.

With love and hope to you all,

Kathy

Lost and alone

I have been quiet lately, feeding off my mom’s voice in my head that if I don’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. So, I am breaking the rules.

Lost would probably best describe how I have felt most of the time lately. I can’t remember things, much more so than usual. My sense of “time” is completely off. Can’t tell you if it has been one week or 2 months since things have happened.

I am living day-by-day, not knowing if I will make it through the day.

I plan for my future and my demise all in the same hour.

I am suffering from wicked thoughts of suicide that are in my brain but don’t feel like my thoughts. It’s confusing.

I try not to act on any of the suicidal plans, yet at times I find myself getting up to go do whatever is my demise of the hour. Most times I catch myself when I am getting up and am able to stop myself. Sometimes I haven’t been completely lucky with that strategy.

Some days I feel morbidly depressed. I have resorted back to hiding in my bedroom as much as possible. I spend countless hours staring out the window, and suddenly I have an extreme depressive feeling, which follows with a graphic idea of killing myself.

I don’t know where these graphic suicidal ideas are coming from as I am much more practical than to think of these ways if I was suicidal.

I imagine there is extreme anger and pain behind the graphic ideas about my demise.

As I said, it gets so confusing. I think parts of me are “leaking” into me in a way that I cannot distinguish me from them. As such, their thoughts seem to make perfect sense to me.

Yes, I should stab myself with a butcher knife and lie down in my bed to bleed to death over night.

That is so not me, but yet it is me.

I would never do that to my children, but in my head it feels as though I will.

The world is so lonely for me right now. I am fortunate to have a spouse, therapist, and friend who know about some of this and are trying to get me help.

But, I worry no help exists.

In my life in the mental health system, there have been times when I know if I just went and worked on “x” I would stabilize or feel better. Honestly, I have no idea what x is for me this time.

Lost, pushing through each day hoping to gain some clarity the next day. It doesn’t come.

I am wasting my life, lost, never feeling grounded to this earth and my life.

The clock ticks, and ticks, and ticks. My dilemma stays the same. My fragility about my life continues.

I must have some hope hiding in me somewhere, but it is well hidden. The confusion in my mind keeps it from coming to surface. It is amazing to see the mind work so intensely against itself.

I plan for the future. I plan my demise. I don’t know how this will play out. I hope for the best, whatever that turns out to be.

How DID creates uncertainty

This topic is laughable for me, but I am going to try to write about it anyway.

I feel uncertain, unclear, unsure, and confused throughout each of my every days. Those terms might all be synonymous, but I actually don’t know at this moment.

I am married, and I don’t know how my spouse has tolerated me for 20 years. She asks me what I want for dinner, and I don’t know. She wants to know if I want to go to such and such happening this weekend, and I don’t know. Do I need anything from the grocery store? I don’t know. What did I do today? Not really sure. How are you feeling? I don’t know.

The list is endless, and something she has to deal with everyday. Needless to say, it causes her a lot of stress.

Internally, it causes me a lot of stress, too. I try so hard to answer my own questions of myself, and I can’t come to an answer that sticks longer than 30 minutes.

As someone who experiences Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), my brain operates very differently than a person who is what we call a “singleton.”

My life is like living in a giant high-rise apartment building. Lots of people live in my brain, and sometimes they stay holed up in their apartment, and other times they are out and about giving me advice or commenting on my life. These residents have the ability to influence my thoughts and behavior, and frequently I don’t even realize they are doing it.

Probably most difficult of all, my fellow residents have the ability to take my brain and body out for a spin, and they get to have their say with what happens in our life at those times.

My wife doesn’t always notice when this happens. Sometimes she just thinks I am in a different mood. She does catch me when one of the other residents acts very differently than me, like if they act like they are 8 and don’t know how to get food from our kitchen. She also catches me in an amnesia mess when I am under a lot of stress.

Recently I have been under a lot of stress dealing with suicidal feelings, loss, and trying to figure out if I need to go into a hospital for my own safety.

My feelings about all these topics change from hour to hour. Parts of me (other residents) can have really strong opinions about things, so my wife is rightfully stressed and confused when I tell her I am fine and not going into any damn hospital and ask her to stop talking to these places she has been trying to arrange care. The next day, I will often wake up feeling complete opposite, and lately haven’t had the memory for these conversations I am having with her when I am completely overwhelmed.

I get her frustration as I experience it with myself.

My brain is inconsistent and all over the place with things. I have a hard time distinguishing my thoughts and feelings from the others residing in our residence.

I can have a moment where I feel certain that killing myself is the answer to the situation I am in. Then later, I think of my kids and how I can’t do that to them no matter how much pain I am in. Other times, it feels like my kids are so far away from me that the voices in my head make sense when they convince me my children will be better off without me.

It’s a lot of daily confusion that my brain and body has become accustomed to.

I try really hard to know what I want or what is best for me, but the reality is I can’t figure it out.

This latest bout of intense suicidal feelings has been especially hard. Right now I am having a rational moment and am concerned by the thoughts and behaviors around suicide coming from me.

On one hand I know I should be in a hospital for my own safety, but the confusion starts when I begin thinking how oppressive, dangerous, and uncomfortable (they are cold, exhausting, you have to eat unhealthy food, they won’t let me take supplements, they won’t let my younger parts have a stuffed animal to comfort them, they have abused me in the past, they won’t let you leave, and they often want to heavily drug you). And these are only a few of the negative trade offs you get for staying “safe” by going to a hospital.

Days go by, and I have no idea what to do. This is how I operate. Heck, I scare myself when I realize my life is going by quickly while I am in this haze.

I struggle with whether I should make plans for later in the week because I have no idea if I will be home or in a hospital. I usually don’t make any plans, then I have missed out on more living.

In the meantime, I have engaged in suicidal behavior that I have kept completely secret because I don’t want others making this decision for me.

I know, it makes no sense. I can’t make decisions and don’t want others to make decisions for me either. It seems like my lack of decisions are safer than others making them for me.

Welcome to my world.

Living an inauthentic life

I grew up keeping my entire life a secret. I didn’t discuss with anyone the pain and abuse I was enduring. I also kept my internal world of other inside people a secret.

I knew it was not safe to discuss what was going on with me with others. I learned that my many abusers knew how to exploit me the more they knew about me and my inner system of people.

I would like to say this didn’t happen to me as an adult, but it did. When I was 21, I had my first psychiatric hospitalization for Major Depression, Anxiety, and severe suicidal ideation.

During this very lengthy hospital stay, a therapist on the hospital staff took a special interest in me. She would spend extra time talking to me, and made sure I knew I was special to her. Being 21, I had no idea the direction this was going.

I craved this attention from the hospital therapist, who incidentally was not my primary therapist. I wasn’t used to someone knowing the ugly truth about who I was, and still care about me. It was intoxicating.

It turns out, this hospital therapist was a master predator. She was one of the best I had ever experienced. She learned my inner system of people that began unfolding in front of her. She used that knowledge to exploit me sexually for 9 months.

The hospital knew what was happening and fired her to protect themselves. Sadly, the hospital and my private psychiatrist and therapist who were all aware of it did nothing to help me with the situation. They only worried about their liability in the matter. The betrayal of my private therapist and psychiatrist was worse than the sexual abuse I experienced from the hospital therapist.

So, trusting people with information about my inner world is really difficult. Everything I hear inside my head says to keep it private. The world can’t be trusted.

I live in this self-induced private Hell because I don’t want to be hurt any more. The worst part of this for me is that I don’t get to live an authentic life because no one truly knows me.

I have been married for 20 years, and you would think that person would know me. Nope. I hide things going on with me everyday.

I have pockets of people I can share different things with. My suicidal feelings are often the biggest secrets I keep.

I haven’t found it to be useful to share these feelings, and let’s face it, people don’t really want to know anyway. They say or think they do, but it only stresses people because they get scared about being powerless in the situation.

People would rather wake up one day to the news of my suicide thinking they had no idea. I am fine giving that to them.

Still, I hate living such an inauthentic life. No one knows the demons I wrestle with in my head. They don’t know the many people I share my body with that I must juggle. They don’t know the pain, anxiety, and desire to commit suicide I struggle with every day.

Instead, I do what I am used to. I ignore me and give everyone the me that they want to see. I can do happy or at least normal on many days. It is just another character role to play.

It leaves me in isolation where I am most comfortable. Some days I wish this wasn’t me, but the auto-pilot in me is strong.

Is my inauthentic life my own fault, or is it the wisest decision?

Maybe, one day I will live authentically, and my true struggle will be the story people know about me. That would be nice. Being a prisoner in my own mind is its own terror I subject myself to.

December, my most brutal month of the year

Oh, December.

The month starts with my birthday, and even after 5 decades, I can’t bring myself to be happy about my birthday.

Growing up, my birthdays were especially painful for me because my family never allowed me to celebrate them. I can’t recall any recognition of my birthday, which just reinforces the cruel messages my family sent to me.

I don’t matter. I don’t really exist. I should do everyone a favor and kill myself.

I wish the birthday thing got easier, but I have actually spent the last two out of three years in psych hospitals for my birthday so I wouldn’t kill myself.

This year I have been really struggling to stay out. I want to be present for my kids’ Christmas month. Yet, every day I am in touch with my struggle and trying to fake my way through the holidays.

Last weekend I tried to do something special for my kids, so I took them to Christmas shows on Saturday and Sunday. Normally it is something I enjoy. Sadly, I feel guilty because I kept looking at my watch to see when the show was going to get over.

Anxiety is flowing underneath the surface.

I am struggling to stay sane, to stay out of the hospital, to not ruin my kids’ Christmas, to stay married, to not run away, to not fire my therapist, to be compassionate with myself when I do erratic things like randomly schedule an appointment with a new therapist whom I know nothing about and not sure why I made the appointment.

My PTSD is especially bad right now. The triggers are happening over little things. Noises. Stupid noises keep triggering me.

I am coming off as crazy to adults who hold a significant conversation with me. I know I am a wreck and acting in ways I really should be hiding.

My narcissistic, abusive mom is coming this week for the holidays. I said she could come because I think it could be her last.

I have to reconcile in my head as she presents herself as a normal person, with the memories of her harming me so severely as her daughter that my life has been mostly ruined.

I am also coming to terms with how much she harmed me by not only doing cruel and extremely abusive things to me, but more importantly, not loving me since I was born.

It is hard to sit with knowing your family doesn’t love you. It is hard to stay grounded to this earth with that knowledge.

But, still I persist through this magical holiday time when families are supposed to go out of their way to show their love for each other. Except in my family of origin it is all a fraud. Yet, we do it anyway.

Hoping tomorrow I do a better job of being holiday happy for my kids as the most important thing for me is for them to have what I did not.

The Meadows Trauma Program—No to DID


From the Meadows website:

“For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.”

The world-renowned Meadow’s trauma recovery program is only meant for people with certain levels of trauma. 

You can’t have too little, or you better be extremely wealthy ($60k) because your insurance program is not going to pay for it. You can’t have too much because then they feel you are too high of a risk for suicide or some other lawsuit.

I put up a good fight arguing that my DID diagnosis should not exclude me from the option of getting treatment at the Meadows. Unfortunately, it appears the Meadows is basing their decision off the Hollywood version of DID instead of examining whether a person might be appropriate for their program regardless of a DID diagnosis.

I find it very fascinating that these treatment centers are more comfortable with people who are actively suicidal than they are a stable person with DID who is not suicidal. My therapist likes to say that these places just don’t understand the diagnosis, and I am beginning to agree that they are getting their information from Hollywood instead of real life.

I am the first to say that not everyone with DID is in a place to do residential treatment, but there are also lots of people with DID who are in a place to do it and be safe. I consider myself the latter, so this has been a personal frustration for me.

I guess what really hurts me with the Meadows (I have been rejected by many other treatment centers based on my diagnosis) is that some very important people in the trauma field stick their name on the Meadows as consultants for their trauma program.

I just don’t see how these people in good conscience can sleep at night by turning away those of us who have been the most harmed by child abuse, meaning those of us with DID.

It is absurd how afraid people in the trauma mental health field are of those of us with DID.

I have made it my mission to try to educate and change the current lack of resources available to those of us with DID.

The clinical director at the Meadows agreed with me that there are not intensive treatment programs for those of us with DID, but only a handful of hospitals that are in place for stabilization.

I don’t need need stabilization. I need treatment. I deserve treatment. This is not my fault, and it is not ok that the founding members of the trauma movement are not working to provide more services for those of us with DID.

As much as Sheppard Pratt and University Behavioral Health are doing to take people in when they are unstable, those programs are not going to help anyone heal.

Those of us with DID deserve treatment programs where the very best and latest treatment modalities are available to support our recovery.

Recovery is possible, but not for most people who don’t have access to the latest treatments offered at these trauma treatment programs.

For the past year I have been having the hard conversations with those who reject us because of a stupid diagnosis. I do not accept that we don’t deserve help because our trauma was so severe that we developed DID.

In my opinion, don’t you dare call yourself a trauma therapist and then say you don’t treat DID, and equally, don’t consider yourself a world – renowned trauma treatment program if you won’t help those with DID.

If you have DID, please confront these people when you encounter them. We must assert our rights to get better, and let them know that we are severely injured human beings who deserve to be at the front of the line when it comes to getting help.

Then they can sleep at night knowing they are helping all of us who have suffered severe trauma.

Today’s Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder and Sierra Tucson


For the longest time, I have bought into “talk therapy” as the solution for helping me heal my DID. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great value in talk therapy with a therapist who understands DID.

The highly respected Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, has done significant research on the best way to heal trauma is to work with the mind, body, and spirit. I didn’t fully understand what he meant until I had access to these therapies myself.

I have found that the traditional treatment centers for trauma/DID are giving lip service to his research by adding yoga or “movement therapy” to their programs, and the rest being individual or group therapies only.

In my opinion only, the traditional treatment centers for trauma are backed largely by the members of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). ISSTD is the most influential organization when it comes to teaching practitioners about trauma treatment, and its members are doing what little research exists about Dissociation. I applaud them for this.

As a person suffering from DID and complex ptsd, I’ll be the first to tell you my brain does not operate like a non-traumatized brain. The long-lasting problems of trauma are with the brain, not the emotions so much. My brain did not develop correctly as I grew up, and so my brain stays in this constant state of fight/flight/freeze, which has caused me numerous health and psychiatric problems. Consequently, it has robbed me of living a functional life.

I don’t like to think of myself as a slow learner, but on this very important point I have been. I listened to the ISSTD and their current three phase treatment protocol, and subsequently have been depressed and hopeless about my lack of progress despite my very committed efforts.

I am going to sound like a Republican here, which I am not, but I believe a handful of the private trauma programs run by corporations are doing a better job at treating trauma than the ISSTD traditional model.

Why? Because they are focused on the research done by Bessel Van Der Kolk, Peter Levine and others who get that the way to healing is through the mind/body/spirit, and have aimed their treatments in this direction.

I do not understand for the life of me why the ISSTD is not strongly supporting a treatment model that the mind/body/spirit approach addresses.

What I hear over and over from ISSTD trained therapists (and I am thrilled they are trained) is that they believe having a positive long-term relationship with the therapist is the solution. And don’t get me wrong, I do think it is an important part of the solution, but I believe this long-term talk-therapy only approach is doing great harm to the DID and complex trauma community.

Too many people either lose hope and give up on this treatment, or spend a big part of their lives doing only long-term talk therapy and only getting a little better and suffering through life. I have been suffering through much of my life despite access to good therapists and being highly motivated.

Recently, I had the accidental experience of going to the private psychiatric hospital Sierra Tucson. I wanted to go because their program is completely different than ones I had been to in the past, and they have a focus on the mind/body/spirit as the solution for trauma and the co-occurring problems that go with it.

I feel I must mention this about Sierra Tucson before I go further. As an institution, they are terrified of DID and don’t really want to treat it because they are afraid a person with DID will commit suicide while in their program. They had a series of suicides a few years back that got them into a lot of trouble, and as a result, they are skittish (this is what an admission’s person there told me). Of course, none of the suicides were from someone with DID, but the industry-wide fear and discrimination against those with DID persists.

I also should let you know that me, my spouse, and therapist had to beg them to let me come to their program. After two days, they finally agreed to admit me on provisional status.

That said, I want to talk about my experience there. Once I was admitted, I experienced that about 95% of the staff who worked with residents to be extremely caring and kind professionals. As someone who grew up not being cared for at all, and never receiving this level of care in any other treatment setting, this instantly created a huge change in my brain and how I perceived the world.

Once I started the program, I began individual therapy with a primary therapist, small group therapy with the primary therapist (where we were allowed to talk about our trauma), management of my treatment by competent psychiatrists, talk therapy with a somatic experience therapist, lots of good groups with a couple of exceptions, DBT therapy, family therapy, and the option to work on spirituality if you wanted to (though I would argue the entire experience is a spiritual experience for those that allow it to be).

I also got to experience what they refer to as Integrated Therapies. I went there in a lot of neck and back pain, so I got to meet with a pain doctor who got me off the opioid drug I was taking, and replaced it with supplements and a nonaddictive muscle relaxer. He set up for me to have regular physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and personal training to recondition my very unhealthy body.

Other Integrated therapies I experienced were acupuncture (which one time reduced my ptsd symptoms by 50%), Somatic Emotional Release body work, Shiatsu massage, Equine Therapy, Ropes Course,  EMDR therapy, Bio-Neuro Feedback, nutritional consultations (where they discovered I was pre-diabetic), yoga, Tai-Chi, DNA testing to determine the best medications that will work for my body, and psychological testing where the psychologist actually meets with you to go over the results (there were no surprises in my diagnoses).

Every person I worked with was on the same page and like a therapist to me. I got some of my best therapy from my physical therapist. The woman who styled my hair gave me an hour of solid self-esteem boosting therapy. The massage and acupuncturists all gave good therapy besides just their normal tasks. The chiropractor was fantastic and showed she cared about me. The techs who are in charge of knowing where you are were some of the kindest people I met. They were all so sincere with the love and care they gave me, which was such a healing mechanism in itself.

I can’t lie and say everything at Sierra Tucson is perfect, but their treatment modalities and culture of caring for patients is superb, and that makes me say you may want to consider it if other therapies for trauma haven’t worked for you in the past.

In my opinion, Sierra Tucson runs into problems because it is a corporation that clearly puts profit over client welfare. But, interestingly, as a business, they don’t realize what a gold mine they are sitting on for Trauma and Pain treatment, which are definitely their strong suits. They focus on advertising what a great substance abuse program they are, and in my opinion their substance abuse program today is only average, and I would definitely go somewhere less expensive if that was my issue.

Unfortunately, in my case, my primary therapist was depressed and dealing with her own trauma, and this greatly impacted what happened to me at their program. I had an opportunity to change because they were moving her to a less stressful group, and I made the critical mistake to stay with her and my group until I gave my trauma history.

My primary therapist dropped the ball on me from start to finish while I was there, and I believe this ultimately led me to getting administratively discharged in the middle of my program stay. I don’t want to beat up on her because she is a nice, well-intentioned therapist who in my opinion was working while impaired.

My Primary Therapist never asked me about my trauma history, so she had no idea how extensive it is. She gave me the assignment to give my Trauma History to the group, which at first I thought was a bad idea, and then I was feeling strong enough to do it without emotion.

I gave my extensive trauma history (only about 60% of what I know) to my group as she asked, and the next day she came to get me and said she was “worried about me.” At some point she asked me if I thought I had alters coming out trying to sabotage my treatment or wanted to leave against medical advice. This was 100% false as I am fortunate to have co-consciousness with my parts, and all my parts were quite happy about our experience there. I was never suicidal or wanted to self-harm while there. But the truth didn’t seem to matter as people who never even met me made the decision based on her statements.

After arriving back home, I am devastated that I don’t have the money or access to get the therapy I need. Needless to say, my depression and functioning is not good.

But, one very important thing I must say. My brain changed while there. I feel different. Not entirely by any means, but my brain feels a smidge healthier, and I have not had suicidal thoughts since I went there. And I don’t know how, but a traumatic event that happened to me over a year ago no longer has the emotional charge it had before I went. I can now think about it and not feel suicidal.

I can’t explain this change in my brain in words, but it was like I could feel what a normal, calm brain felt like. It is definitely different and not something I could ignore.

There really is an answer out there for my damaged brain to recover and leave the suffering behind. It is hard for me to believe, but also extremely upsetting because they put me out for no reason, and I can’t afford a comparable treatment program at this time.

In the long run, I am sure it would be cheaper for my insurance company to pay a reasonable amount to a comparable program, but I don’t think they think that way. I am going to try, so I hope those of you who pray will pray for me, and those of you who send positive energy, will send it my way.

Healing is possible…..