I came home from the Clinic in Burwood on Friday, 9 November 2018. We did not go straight home to the country as we had to move our youngest son from his apartment into a shared house and pick up our second son from the Airport after a five-week trip to India so I hit the deck running. We all went out to a family meal on the Friday night which while it was great to see everyone and hear all that had been happening it was a bit overwhelming too. After four weeks of being ‘inside’ to come into the outside with a bang was a shock.
My CPTSD makes me hypervigilant to noise and I found the restaurant very noisy so I was having a lot of trouble staying with the conversations and you know what it’s like when families get together there are all sorts of across the table conversations that can be hard to keep up with!! My head started pounding and I had to ask my husband to take me outside into the cool night air for some quiet time. He was fine with that and totally understood. Ten minutes outside and I calmed down. I did the Grounding Techniques exercise:
- Name 5 things you can see
- Name 4 things you can touch
- Name 3 things you can feel
- Name 2 things you can hear
- Name 1 thing you can taste
and I was back in control and go back into the restaurant.
We stayed the night in Sydney and drove home to the farm the next day. As soon as I entered the house I switched alters. (I have Dissociative Identity Disorder DID). I went straight away to unpack into the bedroom but primarily to check on my razor blade stash. I was hugely relieved they hadn’t been found and switched back again. So all the work the psychiatrist had done on the Mother alter and self-harm had not worked she was still intent on punishment and retribution of the seventeen-year-old alter. He worked so hard on trying to get the alters to recognise that they were part of me the 56-year-old Erin. That we were all the same personality but the alters would not accept that. It confused them. Only one a four-year-old believed him. So there is integration of at least one alter which is progress but not any of the others. They would just shut him down and tell him he was talking rubbish. He would ask me to look at my hands and arms, clothes and take a picture of me on his phone and ask me was that a seventeen-year-old or an eight-year-old or whatever age alter I was and even though I would reply in the negative I would still deny that I was part of the 56-year-old. My alters are all called Erin but at different ages and have very different personalities. The one thing they all have in common is that they were all abused.
DID only occurs in those who have experienced trauma in childhood. It is caused by the child dissociating in an extreme way.
A history of trauma is a key feature of dissociative identity disorder. About 90% of the cases of DID involve some history of abuse. The trauma often involves severe emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse. It might also be linked to accidents, natural disasters, and war. An important early loss, such as the loss of a parent or prolonged periods of isolation due to illness, may be a factor in developing DID.
Dissociation is often thought of as a coping mechanism that a person uses to disconnect from a stressful or traumatic situation, or to separate traumatic memories from normal awareness. It is a way for a person to break the connection with the outside world, and create distance from an awareness of what is occurring.
Dissociation can serve as a defense mechanism against the physical and emotional pain of a traumatic or stressful experience. By dissociating painful memories from everyday thought processes, a person can use dissociation to maintain a relatively healthy level of functioning, as though the trauma had not occurred.
Episodes of DID can be triggered by a variety of real and symbolic traumas, including mild events such as being involved in a minor traffic accident, adult illness, or stress. Or a reminder of childhood abuse for a parent may be when their child reaches the same age at which the parent was abused. My triggers are noise, anything to do with the Church, flashbacks which happen daily, depersonalisation or the smell of nicotine and alcohol.
The treatment plan my psychiatrist and psychotherapist have put in place is to readmit me to the clinic in a month’s time for another lot of intensive treatment if I haven’t self-harmed. If I self-harm I go to the Public System first. So I am really hoping I can get through the month without any self-harm. My husband watches me like a hawk and is fantastic. If I can minimise the triggers so I don’t switch I stand a chance.