Tag Archives: Trauma

Update + another Diagnosis

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I intended to update this site every week. Truth be told I needed a break from this and from Adult Survivors of Child Abuse (ASCA) meetings. I journaled for myself during this absence but I simply couldn’t put myself ‘full-hog’ into self-improvement. Going too fast is destabilizing for those of us with deep early childhood trauma. I needed to step back for self-care. I needed to step back because I had been given another diagnosis: Other Specified Dissociative Disorder-1 (OSDD-1).

To say I had a hard time with this diagnosis is an understatement. I fought it. I disbelieved. I was convinced that I subconsciously made up my symptoms, or used improper language to describe them, and misled my therapist. I went into therapy each week with a new theory about how I had an atypical (often non-existent) variant of any other disorder that meant I merely looked like I had fragments. I spent hours online hoping to find information that would somehow ‘disprove’ I had OSDD-1. But nothing stuck, and I knew Complex PTSD alone did not describe all the dissociative symptoms I experienced- symptoms which came and went. This inconsistency is not uncommon but it made wrapping my mind around everything much harder! I drew elaborate diagrams to somehow help me understand why I sometimes have symptoms and sometimes don’t. In the end I am starting to come around. The shoe fits and occasional symptom-flare ups remind me that this is real.

In many ways I have already been writing about complex PTSD as if it were OSDD-1. The idea of somehow being less integrated made sense to me even as I fought and denied it. This description is technically accurate for PTSD and OSDD-1: many people in fact would classify OSDD-1 as a type of PTSD. The difference between complex PTSD and OSDD-1 is that dissociated parts in OSDD-1 are more developed than they are in complex PTSD. OSDD-1 is considered to be like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) except that the full DID criteria is not met (for more information please see my links page). For example, parts might not be as distinguishable as they are in DID, and/or there may not be amnesia between parts.

I lack amnesia between parts and do not have parts that are as distinguishable as they are in DID. Unless I say what is truly on my mind, no one would notice anything different about me between parts. Until now I didn’t even notice a difference. I just thought everyone experienced the world as I did (arguing with myself, knowing I should do something and wanting to do it but not being able to, memories sometimes being clear and other times being hazy, feeling stuck…), or that I was experiencing ADHD symptoms (impulsiveness, hyper-focus, lack of focus/motivation…). My therapist weathered my denial by having me chart my dissociative symptoms. I tried ‘moving forward’ as one but it didn’t work: I need help to be able to do that. We’re supposed to start a new technique of noticing how my body feels, what behavior I want to do, what emotions I have, and what I think (in that order). It’s supposed to ground me in my body and help me address my ‘phobia of inner experience’. I am terrified. I want to run away and hide.

Which brings me to my current predicament: I have datasets and papers to work on, stuff that I should have finished a long time ago; I have emails to send, little things to do for others, an article to review, presentations and a poster to make. My laundry and cleaning situation is beyond a crisis, and I have personal email and chores I’ve neglected. Yet I cannot focus on any of it. I want to focus on it; I just feel so overwhelmed with all of it and with my inner experience that I just want to run away and hide. I think I should put concrete asks out to others to help me complete things (sometimes just having company helps me get things done) and decide to do so, but then I don’t. I don’t want to burden others with asks, say I should be self-reliant, fear I won’t get what I need if I ask for it, and don’t want to put too much on others by letting them know the depths of this disorder.

But I have energy and intent to work, to move forward, to not be stagnant, to live. I feel frustrated, not defeated. I have finally accepted the ‘big scary’ and will start addressing it directly in therapy. I am stuck but am bursting at my seems to move forward. Maybe now I can finally write again, and maybe now it’s what I need.

 

On Fragments

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Is my “I don’t have PTSD/everything is ok” mode a fragment?  Is it an emotional part associated with The Image of Me?  I feel like it might be.  I mean it’s denial and The Image of Me came from denial.  Yet The Image of Me also gave me space to discover what I might be capable of.  Maybe The Image of Me would be seamless with Broken Me (the real me, my emotions) if I wasn’t abused.

Something I Realized This Week….

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I don’t have Complex PTSD because I am weak or deficient.  I have Complex PTSD because I care about justice and treating other people right, and because I give a fuck about things beyond myself.

When I was first diagnosed I heard the voice of my parents saying that they were good parents and didn’t abuse me.  Internalizing my parents’ belief led me to believe that what I experienced was not significant trauma, and that developing Complex PTSD means I’m weak (and to blame for this).  It didn’t help that my dad specifically abused us to not have or acknowledge emotions, which he saw as weakness.

While my parents had abusive childhoods themselves we differ in that they responded to their abuse by externalizing and abusing others.  When they abused me they were trying to make me do the same.  It is not in my nature to be mean and abusive to others though, so I internalized their mistreatment of me.  I get this now.

I have Complex PTSD not because I am weak, but because I refused to compromise my basic nature.

Accepting and grounding

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Accepting and grounding

Content note:  Contains mention of fictitious substance use, self-harm, and suicidality.

So I got my dissociative/complex PTSD diagnosis this week.  To say it was a surprise is a HUGE understatement.  I always associated PTSD with startle reactions, not dissociation, so I never thought I fit the profile.  People perceive me as calm… often even when I’m upset about things.  The problem is that sometimes I even perceive myself as calm when I’m upset about things.  Our society has some very flawed notions about emotions that encourage unhealthy dissociation, and I know now that my perceived calmness is often unhealthy dissociation.  I thought my emotional responses were typical.

Dissociative/complex PTSD is actually distinct from ‘regular’ PTSD.  Unlike ‘regular’ PTSD, complex PTSD is more likely to be chronic.  It’s also considered a more severe diagnosis, although people may not consistently experience symptoms.  Complex PTSD results from early and ongoing childhood trauma.  The theory is that this trauma creates a self that is somewhat less integrated.

This whole thing feels surreal to me.  I know I wasn’t happy as a child, but I thought I had transcended my past.  I do not actually think that I experienced significant trauma in childhood, but others tell me that my childhood experiences were traumatic.  I’m told that my experiences count as all four types of abuse (neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual), all before I left preschool.  To hear that I have trauma, that it still affects me, and that it is in fact deeply ingrained in me, is upsetting.  I don’t always accept that it’s true.

My goal might not be ‘overcoming’ this as much as it is about managing it.  From reading other people’s experiences with trauma, I expect that managing complex PTSD will be lifelong.  I’m worried that I might think I’m ‘over’ it some day in the future, only to discover that it has still been controlling me all along.  I already thought I had transcended my past once before and I don’t want to make that same mistake again!

I might always have dissociative tendencies, but if I can learn to recognize my triggers and develop coping skills I might be OK.  I’m told that in the interim I will have to work on this concretely for three to five years.  ‘Working on’ means that I have to address my childhood.  Admittedly, crawling into a dumpster and overdosing on heroin sounds more appealing.  Some of the memories and images I have in my mind would make most empathetic people want to do this.  The trick will be to go slowly so that I don’t get overwhelmed and dissociate or crave ‘escape’.

Moving slowly means that before addressing my childhood, I have to learn more about complex PTSD, how it’s shaped me, and how I move forward.  It also means that I have to ground in the present and in my body.  I know I have those skills because I worked on them concretely when I lived in the Bay Area after I left my parents’ home.  I just need to reconnect with those skills, and be reminded to do so.

What I am doing so far:

My first steps towards grounding in my body had me speed-walking up Stone Mountain and then down.  Speed-walking helped quiet the mental narrative in my mind and brought me more into my body.  As I came down Stone Mountain I started running along some trails.  It felt like another form of dissociation to me, because I was disconnecting from my thoughts, but it felt good and was calming.  Exercise is supposed to be good for grounding no matter how it’s done by people of varying physical abilities anyway.

My second step towards grounding in my body is represented in the photo to this blog post.  I’m supposed to engage my senses, so I took a steaming hot bath by candle light while listening to music.  I added some Bay Laurel, which reminds me of home (and smells good).  When the heat got too much I added cold water, and the alternating temperatures also helped ground me.  I guess that’s something to continue exploring.

Moving forward:

I’m honestly not sure what’s on the other side of this process.  Often I don’t think I have PTSD or trauma (so I don’t need to work on this).  Yet I am moving forward slowly.  I will continue to post updates largely so I can witness myself.  I’m not sure if anyone else will be reading this.  If other people are reading this, I hope some of my posts may be informative.