The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

Post-Traumatic Depression January 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 3:39 am

I have severe, treatment-resistant depression.  I’ve been on every antidepressant under the stars and probably some other ones.  Really, I’ve pretty much exhausted the psych section of the PDR.  I even had 29 ECT’s in hopes of budging the intractable depression.

None of these attempts at treating my depression have worked for more than a few months.

Last week, my psychiatrist ordered a ton of bloodwork, hoping to find some physical cause for my depression.  The results of most of those tests came back today, all normal.  I was disappointed.

It’s weird to hope something physical is wrong with you, right?

I was hoping for some physical cause for my depression because physical issues are [usually] fixable.  Take a pill, have a surgery, change your diet–and then you’ll feel better.

When I was 17, I was diagnosed with a arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the left frontal lobe of my brain.  It’s a neurovascular defect, basically a mass of veins and arteries that aren’t supposed to be there and are prone to going explodey and causing strokes and aneurysms.  I was convinced that the surgery to repair the AVM would also cure my depression, even though my neurosurgeon told me there was little to no chance of that.  It’s an appealing thought, though, that there’s an easy cure for my distress.

For years, I’ve been denying the fact that my depression is traumatic, not endogenous, in origin.  When my AVM was diagnosed and corrected, I hadn’t yet divulged the physical and sexual abuse to anyone.  Now, eight years later, that trauma is no longer the secret it was in high school, but I’m still looking for a non-traumatic explanation for my depression.

See, dealing with trauma is hard.  It hurts like hell, and things shift so gradually you don’t realize in the middle of it that things are actually getting better.  After my DID diagnosis early last summer, I went to a residential program that wouldn’t deal with my trauma/dissociative issues, so I had about a six-month reprieve from having to face the trauma.  Now part of me doesn’t want to get back into it.  I don’t want to think about trauma, talk about trauma, write about trauma, dream about trauma.

The quick fix for post-traumatic depression is appealing but ultimately illusory.  The trauma is the root of the depression, and the trauma has to be dealt with to improve the depression.  Frustrating but true.


Thoughts on trauma work January 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 2:34 am

I saw my new therapist again today, and she seems to be a good fit so far.  We haven’t talked in depth about my DID diagnosis–we touched on it in my first appointment, and it didn’t really come up today.  She does seem comfortable working with trauma issues, and I think that’s the most essential aspect right now.

She asked me for my thoughts about doing trauma work.  I had to think about it and figure out what my preferences were and how to express them.

What I told her was that I prefer to work on particular traumatic incidents as they arise in reaction to things happening in my life now.  For instance, feeling like I have to choose between the lesser of two evils often brings up guilt for me because I didn’t save my younger sisters from the abuse and was forced into complicity with it.  There are a number of traumatic events that I’ve already dealt with, and they don’t often interfere with my life.  My goal is (in general terms) to be more functional in my life, and I don’t think rehashing events I’ve already dealt with is going to help me toward that goal.  Basically, I don’t want to do trauma work for the sake of doing trauma work.

Early on, I did do trauma work for its own sake.  My middle sister had just disclosed the abuse we’d kept secret our entire lives.  I was 19, and my whole world turned upside down.  I’d built an entire identity around denial.  I was dealing with self-harm and an eating disorder, but when professionals asked if I’d been abused, I flatly denied it.  When my sister told, suddenly I couldn’t deny it anymore because to deny my experience would be to deny my sisters’ experience.  I didn’t want to be complicit anymore.

I started seeing a therapist who specialized in EMDR and hypnosis.  It was the first time I’d gone to therapy willingly, and I had no idea how to “do” therapy.  The therapist and I did a lot of work around establishing safety before we started the trauma work, and that helped.  But I was so out-of-tune with myself that I didn’t know I was feeling overwhelmed until I’d already done something self-destructive, and I had no idea how to pace myself or self-regulate my anxiety, panic, and PTSD symptoms.

Ultimately, my eating disorder got so severe that I ended up going to Austen Riggs, a residential treatment program that specializes in treating patients with treatment-resistant mental illness.  There, the focus wasn’t entirely on the abuse; I focused more on the effects of the abuse on my relationships with myself, others, and the world.  For the first time, I “got” therapy.  For the first time, I felt like things were shifting in a positive direction.

That’s the kind of work I want to continue with: therapy aimed at greater functionality rather than therapy gratia therapy.


Hello, My Name Is _____ January 21, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 3:36 am
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Hello, my name is Sara.

Only sometimes it’s not.  Seven months ago, I was diagnosed with DID.  I have a bunch of other people living in my head, and most of them I don’t know yet.  I’m just starting to figure all of this out.

There are a lot of times I don’t feel particularly connected to the name I was given.  I’m Sara Kathryn–Sara is my mother’s mother, and Kathryn is my father’s mother.  My last name is my father’s, and I hate to use it because he was my primary abuser.  None of my name actually belongs to me.  I’ve thought a lot about changing my name, but I have no idea what I would change it to.  The DID diagnosis made that disconnection from my name make even more sense.  No wonder it rarely seems to fit–it wasn’t given to most of the people sharing my brain and body.

It’s hard to figure out how I can explain that to people–or if I should explain it to them at all.  Mostly, I don’t.

I saw a new therapist today.  I’ve spent weeks looking for a therapist who was taking new clients and would take my insurance–this is apparently a tall order where I live.  Today I had a first appointment with someone I may end up working long-term with.  She came out of her office into the waiting room, turned to me, and said, “Are you Sara?”

I nodded.  Yes, I’m Sara.  That’s what my driver’s license says.  So do my insurance cards, my library card, my debit card, and the check I need to deposit.  Yes, I’m Sara.  That’s true.

But that’s not all of the truth.  I-Sara (pronouns get very confusing with DID!) was not the one in command.  I’d been “pushed back” in my body.  I could see what was happening, I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, I could feel the way my knee kept bouncing up and down.  But I was not the one saying the words or bouncing my knee.  I don’t know who it was, but someone other than me-Sara was in the driver’s seat.  To use a cliche, I was just along for the ride.

Whoever was driving didn’t tell the therapist that.  Ze did tell the therapist about the DID diagnosis, but ze didn’t go into detail or divulge that it wasn’t Sara doing the talking.  I’m okay with that decision.  I don’t think it’s good to hold back relevant details with a therapist I’ve established trust with, but in situations with new people, it makes sense to hold back some things until trust has been established.  It makes sense for us to protect ourselves.  After all, that’s the point of DID.


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