I already knew i was dissociative by the time that inside wall came down, although it took years and many therapists of different stripes to get me to accept it.
My mother got into some strange things with some strange people when she settled down in the big city to raise me. I will almost certainly never know the exact progression of things, but i do know she liked hanging out with intellectuals. I’m not sure if she met them first through the university, or through her curious foray into the 70s therapy scene. She was into encounter groups, EST, primal screaming, hypnotherapy… a lot of body work and group work, which were all the rage at that time. As i’ve stated before, in my opinion she only used what she learned in an attempt to manipulate others more effectively. She used those she met there to hone and perfect the face she showed the world, and to feed her insatiable need for emotional upheaval and drama.
The reason i mention this is because, through her exposure to those therapies, i became involved. The thrill must’ve been worth the risk, or something else i couldn’t know or haven’t considered must have been in play. Putting me in situations with professionals, where i could possibly disclose what was happening to me could have caused her significant problems, to say the least. I will say though, she was a single mother, and while the time declared her loose, almost no one back then would have believed a woman capable of sexual abuse; not of a child, and certainly not her own.
So i have memories of therapy and counsellors from an early age. Maybe it was particularly savvy of her to expose me to that world early. Maybe she anticipated teachers making calls about an odd little girl who might be suffering abuse at home. Regardless, the school counsellors and social workers who were occasionally called in never got a damned thing out of me. (Rarely, i might add, to which i ask myself: Was i really that good, or were they that bad? I wanted to be rescued, but i had no idea from what – i think that should have been part of their job).
I remember being handed pillows and being told to punch them. One guy had his face right. inside. my personal bubble, yapping at me like a little dog. He kept saying, “It’s okay to cry, you know. You can cry.” Idiot. In others i see the ineffective and ridiculous counsellors sitting across from me. Urging me to talk, spewing assurances that i’d been taught not to trust long ago.
I remember lying on the floor with adults all around me, each one with a hand on a part of my body. They’re all saying things, maybe saying the same things over and over (chanting?) but i can’t understand them. This memory i recall like i’m watching it on television. I can see myself in the middle of that circle of big bodies and reaching arms and it’s as if it’s happening to someone who just looks like me. They were freaking touching me and so i couldn’t be there. I left my body, but a part of me stayed to observe from a safe distance.
It wasn’t until the halfway house that anyone suggested i might be dissociative. My in-house counsellor was a nun who’d taken some courses. She was a kind woman and i learned a lot from her. After i’d moved out and moved on, i did come back for visits, and at one point came back to them for more counselling. This time i was quickly moved from my nun to a professional social worker who was working towards her degree in psychology. She began talking about dissociation and asking questions about my memories. It was then i learned about the classic DID symptom of “losing time.” She suggested hypnosis. I’d always wanted to be hypnotised and we tried very hard but i was never able to relax enough. I’d only seen her a few times when severe paranoia kicked in. She would ask me to access my alters, and felt disgusted and panicky. I decided she was playing with my brain and stopped seeing her.
I kept looking for someone who could help me, but every bloody one after that would suggest i was highly dissociative and ask if i’d heard of MPD*. I’d never see them again after that. I began seeing a social worker through the church i was involved in, and after months of intensive counselling she gently suggested that i was dissociative. She said she knew how i felt about that, but she’d consulted with psychologists who specialised in dissociative disorders, and they agreed with her diagnosis.
Although i eventually left that church, and then her, and then religion altogether, i did know i had some interesting stuff going on inside my skull. The problem was i had a terrible opinion of therapy and therapists. They’d rarely done me any good. Of those that’d helped, one was a nun, and the other a charismatic, slain-in-the-spirit, funky-chicken-dancing, evangelical. It’s taken years for me to realise that what they did for me is love me unconditionally while validating what i thought and felt. That we no longer share the same belief in the supernatural changes that not a whit.
Ah. I’m now returning to my original point, which i began in Inside Out:
When i went from a top weight of 465lbs to 155lbs, my walls came tumbling down – and they weren’t just physical ones. The wall inside my brain between me and the others who lived up there came down too.
And just to make things more interesting, i experienced my first full-blown mania.
It was 2 1/2yrs of me living like a fully loaded 18 wheeler careering downhill with no brakes.
MORE TOMORROW? PROBABLY.
*Multiple Personality Disorder, now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
IMAGE: Adrien Converse