I stood next to my mom in the cashier line at the run down Macys. She is 87, battling dementia, and growing weaker. There is only one cashier and she is moving slowly, so the line doesn’t really move. I tell my mom to move back a little from the people in front of us as Covid is raging through the community again. My mom doesn’t have the wherewithal to navigate social distancing and masking without me.
A little girl, probably 4 years old, is twirling around with her mother in front of us. My mom is watching her closely and can’t take her attention off her. My mom says to me “she’s going to be a dancer” and when I don’t acknowledge her familiar comment, she says to the little girl “you’re going to be a dancer” and the little girl looks uncomfortable and then away as my mom can’t take her gaze off her.
I suddenly feel shame pouring into my body as my mom attempts to give this unwanted attention to the little girl. I know I can’t stop her, so I begin to dissociate just a little to try to pass this moment. But the line seems to be taking an eternity.
Time passes as I ease back into the present and find that the line has moved just a little. The little girl is doing her best to entertain herself while her mom waits to buy her the outfits she picked out for her.
I honestly am not looking very closely at the little girl other than to admire the cool shoes she was wearing. In a slightly dissociated state, I find myself only minimally present in the line with my mom. I am doing my very best to tough out bringing my mom and her boyfriend to the mall to get her a Bra and him a belt.
I have been trying to set boundaries around being with my mom. She was recently verbally abusive toward me, which had stirred up a lot of parts within me. I was doing a good job seeing her less at her assisted living home. But, she had called one of my little parts the day before.
Calling a little part is not something I am used to her doing. This is a new thing she is doing to “motivate” me to do whatever it is she wants. She had called on a part that she used to sexually abuse when she would have one of her episodes of drunkenness and despair when my father would disappear on her.
My sweet little part knows that it is the present, but they are still stuck in thinking like an abused child who has to take care of their mom, no matter what.
My therapist did her best at trying to help the little one with the way they were thinking, but these beliefs are strong and certainly not going to be undone in a 50 minute therapy session. The little one was in a significant amount of distress over these boundaries and us not doing more of what my mom wants from us.
I gave in and pulled together my protector parts who know how to be around my mom without any emotion. I stood there without emotion as my mom is talking to me without me really being present. Then, I heard it. I heard the sick words that weren’t quite right for my only halfway present brain to keep pretending like everything was normal.
“Look, she is already acting like a woman.”
My brain swerved to come present. Sounding angry, I said “what are you talking about??” At the same time I knew exactly what she was trying to tell me. She says with a smiling gaze, “you didn’t see it, but she is doing things to let us know she is ready to be a woman.” I glance at the little girl and she is only sitting there playing like a 4 year old.
Shame fills my body. The lights seem to go out for me briefly as I next found myself shopping for pillows while she was still in line. I see that she is finally about to reach the cashier and I come over because my mom has trouble remembering how to do things, so I help her pay for her bra.
I look to the exit at the Macys and wonder if we can make it that many steps without something else happening. I just need to pull it together and pretend like we are a normal family. No one can tell the perverse sickness accompanying me. I try to push the shame far away as I know I need to get us out of there and get her back away from me.
To someone else, her comments may have seemed benign, but I knew better. I grew up with this woman sex trafficking and abusing me and others, so I knew these were the words of a perpetrator who forgot her moment in time and was experiencing pleasure imagining taking the little girl’s innocence from her.
It is so weird because in my mind I think I can’t go back to the past and understand the how and the why of my abuse. And then this woman with dementia shows back up in my life. And with this dementia comes parts of her who are from our past. They are ugly and familiar. They are twisting up my dissociative system something good.
I want to believe that because I survived this day and didn’t go off the rails that some good will come out of this. Maybe I am in fantasy, but I try to be hopeful. I mean, I have been so afraid of this woman my entire life, and now I can stand next to her and realize she is sick and twisted and can’t hurt me unless I let her. I am the adult. I have more power than her. I just need for all my parts to believe this new reality.
I didn’t see this coming, but my part “Wisdom” did. They told my therapist last week that maybe the ordeal I am going through with taking care of my abusive mom may be a blessing. Maybe so, but I am left feeling like I need to die a thousand deaths after today.
The woman who haunted and tortured me throughout much of my life is suddenly helpless and lost and desperate for someone to care for her (and her partner who also has dementia) as she grapples with knowing her mind is slipping away.
I have been forecasting what my mom’s demise was going to look like for about 7 years. I imagined all sorts of scenarios and I was just sure I was going to abandon her to some awful fate. That would be my revenge for what she has done to me throughout my life.
It’s hard to have mercy on someone who just 7 years prior subjected me to more horrific abuse that practically ruined me. As much as I wanted to believe the evil that I grew up with was somehow gone, she gave me a clear reminder that she was still right there prepared to show me the depths of hell to get her own needs met. She also very clearly reminded me that in her eyes, I was still nothing, would never be good enough, and had no value except to serve her needs.
I spent the next 7 years back in therapy after a decade hiatus, in-and-out of psychiatric hospitals, unable to work again, and struggling just to leave my house. Prior to that, I was living some semblance of a normal life, but I let her destroy me again. I didn’t even see it coming, and I have such programmed loyalty to my parents, sadly, I would probably do it all over again.
It’s weird how loyal most of us are to the families who ruined our lives. I am not amongst the group of people who decide to go “no contact” with their family. Mostly I decided to have contact because I convinced myself the serious abusive behavior was over.
For about the last 5 years, I have had minimal contact with my mom (my dad died 7 years prior). She had her boyfriend to make her feel like she was the queen of the earth. Boy, she struck gold with that guy. Does whatever she wants, no questions asked (a narcissist’s dream). It’s somewhere between cute and disgusting to watch.
Slowly over these last 5 years her memory problems started becoming more noticeable. Once the pandemic hit, and she stayed holed up in her house all the time, it started to become more evident the path she was on. The isolation definitely sped up her cognitive decline.
She would express worry about her failing memory every time I spoke with her. I would express concern to my siblings, and they would say she was fine and to just leave her be. We all have complicated relationships with her.
This last year my mom’s dementia started really ramping up. She is 87, and frankly it is an undeserved miracle she has made it this far. She has always been lucky like this. It has never been fair.
My mom would usually vacillate on our calls from sounding scared and helpless to scary and evil. Her dissociative identity disorder is not really relevant to this story, but it is fascinating and scary for me to see how DID can play out with dementia..
There were many times on the phone I felt like she wanted me to force her into assisted living or to live with me. Then she would scream at me at any mention of such a thing. It was a familiar whiplash for me.
Finally, it became clear that both she and her partner who has worse dementia could no longer prop each other up enough to continue living independently. My mom was unraveling. Parts of her I hadn’t seen since my childhood were popping out and behaving in ways she had been keeping contained. I hired helpers to come in, and she would do things like come to the door naked to greet them (a classic intimidation move from my childhood playbook). It wasn’t that she didn’t know what she was doing, she did.
Things continued to spiral downward until she finally got helpless and scared enough that she agreed to come up to assisted living by my house. Prior to this she had always lived a comfortable state away. My therapist was not thrilled about this decision as she knows the evil and power this woman has exerted over me, but as I teach my children, that’s the beauty of adulthood, getting to make your own decisions and mistakes.
After the initial high stress of getting her and her boyfriend moved in to assisted living, things have settled down. I have gone to see her frequently since she is only one block away from me. I have listened to her rage at me when she learned she couldn’t just leave the assisted living facility by herself given her dementia. I have listened to her have the same conversations with me over and over. The reassurance she needs reminds me of what my kids needed when they were young.
The surprising thing that has come out of this decision to bring my mom nearby was to get the benefit of exposure therapy by seeing her over and over. Through these many visits I now clearly understand that she is an old, helpless woman who can no longer hurt me. Finally.
As someone with polyfragmented dissociative identity disorder (I have a lot of parts), it has been really helpful to see we have switched roles: I am now in the parent role and she is the child dependent on me. This has been a huge relief to the many parts of me. Finally, the parts who have held on to the belief that she was this omnipotent person who would forever rule her evil over us have finally reached the point of seeing how helpless and weak she is.
So far, my mom seems to mostly know how lucky she is to have me helping her and making sure her quality of life is the best it can be under the circumstances. My guard stays up, but not like it used to. When she yells at me now it is no longer as traumatic. It is mostly just pathetic and sad. This is where I try to show her mercy instead of payback. It’s hard when the days seem all too familiar to my childhood.
The few people who truly know who my mom is to me wonder why I am taking care of her. Why don’t I abandon her like she did me. Why don’t I show her the same cruelty she showed me. Why am I still loyal. I am the first to admit she doesn’t deserve it, and I think she may know that.
Right now, I have decided that the reason I am taking care of her as this helpless, old woman is because I am not her, and never want to be like her. If I turn my back on her, doesn’t that make me the monster she was to me growing up?
I am not a monster. I am a good person in spite of what she has done to me. I am a good mother and have taken good care of my children and never once abused them. That’s not who I am.
My mom. I don’t know how things are going to go. I have given up trying to predict anything. I can’t imagine ever forgiving her for robbing me of my life, but I can try to show her mercy as she approaches the destruction of her mind. She doesn’t deserve it, but I will try to be there anyway. Somehow I find comfort in being kind when I know she would have met me with cruelty. I can’t help but think about my first psychiatric hospitalization at 21 where she refused to see me and left me abandoned.
If she continues to live, the days will become harder for me. Her dementia combined with her DID and the evil within her is like a continuous gaslight coming at me. I am not sure I will always be strong enough to stay in my adult parts and withstand it. It will be like a constant storm approaching with me uncertain of how hard of a hit I will take.
Have to remember to keep breathing, and taking it one day at a time. I said I will try to take care of her, but I can’t promise it. I will not allow her self-destruction to become my self-destruction. I just pray I can keep my word to myself.
Positivity. Such an awkward experience for me every day of my adult life. A foreign language I never understood, so I don’t even bother to try to process it in my brain or body. Mostly I am just numb to it, but occasionally I feel physical pain to someone else’s positivity toward me. I hate that pain.
Bounce, bounce, bounce.
No matter how many times, or how it is done, positivity from others just bounces off my being. Never internalized. Never understood. Always wishing the other person didn’t say it because it just leaves me feeling awkward and confused about what to do with it. As usual, when I reach this uncomfortable state, I use the only skill I can count on to provide me relief: dissociation. With dissociation I have no mental or physical memory of it. It is gone. And I am relieved and back to my baseline of nothingness.
Nothingness is my familiar, and where I belong.
My therapist, ever the hopeful optimist, seems to think I will one day break free of this pattern and be able to internalize positivity toward me (let me be clear I am aware this is what normal humans are supposed to do). I would like to believe her, but honestly, I am an expert in facts and patterns as they pertain to me, and I have never been given reason to believe it is possible. How old do I have to get to prove my point that the attachment damage and mental programming of my belief system is forever stuck?
I am not delusional about my parents. They were shit parents who did unspeakable things to me and I didn’t deserve it. No child deserves the emotional, physical, sexual, spiritual and neglectful abuse they raised me with. My parents would probably cry it is not their fault as they are just passing on generational trauma. Both my parents were raised by shit parents. Though I understand generational trauma is a thing, I also have to balance that understanding with the fact that I have not abused my own children. I would never, and I am not sure why my own parents chose differently.
Being raised in an environment where I was chronically abused and traumatized, my mind chose to survive instead of giving up. I don’t remember this negotiation within myself, but apparently I must have done so. There have definitely been many days where I am furious with my younger self for making this choice.
In order to survive, I had to make deals with god or the Devil or whoever was bargaining on any particular day. I suppose many times it was me negotiating with myself (or with my parts). I developed rules that I would follow to lessen the pain and suffering of my childhood. They didn’t always work, so I often had to refine them.
Refine, refine, refine.
In my adulthood, those rules became beliefs about myself and how to lessen the pain and suffering of life. I wish I could say pain and suffering ended with childhood, but it didn’t for me. The damage that was done to me delivered a very damaged adult to a hugely imperfect world filled with lots of damaged and cruel and sick people.
The rules don’t allow for a joyful life. I had to agree to give that up in order to survive. Joy is not allowed. Love is not allowed. Need is not allowed. Smiling is not allowed. Feeling good about myself is not allowed. Feeling accomplished or being accomplished is not allowed. Feeling smart is not allowed. Feeling like a good person is not allowed. Accepting anything good from anyone is not allowed. This list is never ending.
What is allowed? Hating myself. Feeling stupid. Criticizing myself. Giving myself negative internal messages all day long. Starving myself. Allowing myself to continue to be abused as an adult. Cutting myself. Smashing my head into a wall. Being a failure. Wasting my life. Giving to others what I don’t have or allow for myself. Not letting anyone care or love me. Staying isolated. Taking in every negative word any random piece of shit has to say about me. Believing the worst about me. Not giving myself any grace. And zero forgiveness to myself for the piece of shit I am even if it isn’t my fault.
These are the deals I made. The rules I agreed to live by. Apparently, I will be taking these to my death. It’s a shame that I am a person of my word and don’t break promises.
I will stick with the therapist who holds false beliefs about recovering from the childhood I endured. The alternative is death, and though many parts of me welcome it, most of us are not willing to do that to our children.
In her own selfishness, my mother didn’t teach me one ounce of selfishness. I will always sacrifice my own needs and desires for others, and I am glad my children will benefit from it. I won’t thank my mom for that, but I am grateful it is an unintended consequence of being severely abused by a narcissistic mother.
It’s been a little over 3 weeks since I started low-dose ketamine nasal spray as part of my treatment regimen for CPTSD, DID and suicidality. I have had phenomenal, life-changing results that seem entirely impossible to be true. The stability I feel just doesn’t seem believable to me, and I am still waiting for the bottom to fall out.
You can read about my initial experience here if you are interested.
At 3 weeks in, I have been able to decrease the ketamine doses. The first two weeks I did one nasal spray on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Since I responded so positively with the first dose, and the stability seemed so solid, I decided to push it out to one spray a week for the 3rd week. I’ll keep you posted how this goes, but so far, it is holding me in a good place of stability and mental clarity.
As a side note, I am not taking the commonly recommended antidepressant to go with it as I am not a fan of of them for me, and I wonder do people really need to take the antidepressant since it wasn’t necessary for me. Anyway, I know someone else may need something different, so I recognize it may be necessary for other people. I do take a sleeping pill at night, which is the only medication I take besides the generic ketamine.
As someone who experienced severe developmental trauma, I have been living a lifetime of PTSD flashbacks, debilitating depression and anxiety, frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm, and the unsteadiness that comes with having dissociative identity disorder. Oh, and the most difficult consequence of my awful childhood has been trying to live a decent life after being raised by a family that didn’t love me.
The traumatic patterns I learned as a kid have been extremely difficult to change as an adult.
With my new ketamine-induced stability, I have honestly been a little confused about what to do with myself. I don’t feel like myself because I am not used to this ability to regulate my emotions, deal with stressors, and not think about killing myself on-and-off throughout my days.
For me, ketamine actually accomplishes what DBT is supposed to accomplish for those of us with CPTSD.
I can’t completely say, oh, I tried ketamine and now everything in my life is perfect. It’s not. But it is 1000% better and more manageable. The difficulty with the issues I was struggling with have gone from a 10 to a 3, which has made a very significant difference in my ability to cope and live my life.
Since the ketamine also enables me to think more clearly, I have had the opportunity to think about what is still causing my life to be messy, or less than good. By no surprise to me, it’s my attachment issues. Turns out ketamine can help a lot, but it doesn’t help with the aftermath of growing up in a family that didn’t love you.
My earliest messages from my family were: you don’t deserve love; you are unlovable; you are too much so make yourself small; there is something wrong with you; everyone hates you, so shut up and stay quiet; you don’t deserve happy; you are trash and don’t deserve anything good; you should do us all a favor and kill yourself; the only thing you are good for is sex.
So, sadly, the ketamine doesn’t take away my belief that I am a terrible, no-good person who doesn’t deserve love.
Since the ketamine did take away the nonstop flashbacks of childhood abuse, I can now actually focus on these horrible beliefs that I have about myself. For once, I will be stable enough to stay focused and safe while I deal with the real pain of my childhood. I am done talking about the horrific abuse I suffered as a child because that is in my past, and I need to live in the present.
Talking about my abuse did not help me recover from my traumatic childhood. I did a lot of therapy, and it just didn’t give me the results I needed to recover from all the trauma. I do believe there is value in therapy, but I honestly do not see it alone giving most people the results they need to recover from CPTSD.
Unfortunately, in the present, I hold these really horrible beliefs about myself that I can’t seem to distance myself from like I can the memories of abuse.
Maybe this is the real work of therapy I have been waiting for. It’s so extremely painful for me that I am probably going to drive my therapist crazy with the slow pace and resistance I am going to put up to defend myself. I really can’t help it no matter how hard I try not to do it.
Ugh. I have no idea how to even begin to tackle this horrible belief system I have about myself. At this moment, even with my new found mental clarity, I can’t even intellectually believe that those things aren’t true about me. I know usually starting in an intellectual place is easiest for me, but at this point, that seems like that might be a far off accomplishment. But, I will push like hell to get there because I will not waste the miracle of what the ketamine has done for me.
Ketamine still allows me to feel the awful feelings that go along with severe trauma. The big difference is that ketamine makes it so I can mentally get myself out of a suicidal spiral as my knee-jerk response to these feelings. Instead of going right into a suicide plan, I seem to have the wherewithal to recognize my suicidality and to talk to someone about what is going on with me. It’s not alway easy to find someone to talk to about what I am feeling and thinking because I only have a few people in my life that understand it without freaking out.
Once I find someone to talk to, to just get it out, the suicidal thoughts melt away. This was definitely not possible pre-ketamine.
I am excited to see if the ketamine continues to hold me in a place of stability, and whether it quite possibly might allow me to do a level of talk-therapy that I had never done before. A level that may actually bring me healing?
But make no mistake, I do not believe talk-therapy without the ketamine would bringme closer to healing. The ketamine has been the missing ingredient to my healing, and I just wish I could get others to understand this may be the missing ingredient for a lot of other people like me.
I have become super-annoyed by any mention of the 3 phase approach to treating Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As put forth in the DID treatment guidelines by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), these are considered the gold-standard recommended steps for therapists who are treating someone with DID:
1. Establishing safety, stabilization, and symptom reduction.
2. Confronting, working through, and integrating traumatic memories; and
3. Identity integration and rehabilitation.
It sounds like an easy formula for assisting those with DID, but like previous treatment recommendations for DID, this 3-step phased approach is seriously flawed and needs updating (it’s been 10 years of minimal success).
Unfortunately, the vast majority of DID patients get stuck in stage 1, or if they manage to get out of stage 1, it is too easy for them to get knocked back into the stage 1 need for safety and stabilization by triggers in life and therapy.
Talk therapy and learning new skills is not effective enough in helping people with DID to successfully master the phase 1 goal of safety and stability because it is too easy for them to fall back into deeply rooted familiar neural pathways that make them unstable again.
The deeply-rooted neural pathways of someone who has DID is what keeps them stuck in a dissociative reaction to stress, which is why it is critical to address rewiring the brain of a DID person in stage 1.
Instead of therapists challenging themselves to figure out how to successfully help their clients master phase 1, they are actually told by these same guidelines that some people just don’t have the capacity to get out of stage 1, and so they can therefore feel ok when their clients stay stuck in phase 1 and a life of misery. This is completely wrong and cruel to those suffering with DID.
It is quite frustrating that the majority of trauma therapists will identify Bessel van der Kolk’s “The Body Keeps the Score” as the book that has most influenced them, but strangely, almost every trauma therapist has little to no expertise in helping with the neurobiological effects of trauma, which is kind of the point of this book.
I believe there is a small percentage of people who can successfully manage this 3-phase approach as it is, but what I see from the vast majority of people I know who have DID, people get stuck in the phase 1 need for safety and stabilization. They may get stabilized, but either by working on trauma or some other life trigger, they slide right back into the need for safety and stabilization, which leads the person with DID to feel like they are failing therapy because it seems impossible to maintain enough forward momentum to make progress in therapy.
When your brain is wired for dissociation and PTSD, you can’t simply rewrite the way the brain functions through talk therapy and skills.
What if the very first step is impossibly flawed because therapists have been giving their clients the wrong advice on how to reach stabilization (DBT skills, mindfulness, CBT therapy, corrective therapeutic relationship, blah, blah). These methods can be helpful, but they don’t help the client achieve a strong enough mastery of safety and stability.
The type of stabilization achieved by talk-therapy and skill building is too weak to endure the triggers faced by the highly traumatized person.
Is it possible the answer to phase one stabilization is outside the traditional therapist’s wheelhouse, and involves neurobiology instead? Something that will rewrite the neural pathways?
Is it also possible that stabilization can occur in days-to-weeks instead of the years therapists typically spend on this with desperate clients?
I believe it is possible there is a much more effective and efficient way for traumatized individuals to get stabilized quickly.
An open mind and a belief in miracles is required at this point.
As the pandemic was nearing an end, I found myself loosening up on my fight-or-flight mode of survival that served me extremely well during those stressful months. As good as that might sound, what followed for me was a quick dump into the gutter of mental health hell. Apparently, my mind needed to do something with the build up of 14 months of limited parts activity I experienced to hold it together. If you are confused by this, try to understand that I was in the trauma of the pandemic, and to survive, I could only have around parts who were strong and didn’t feel, just like most of my childhood. The emotional and vulnerable parts were tucked away. The parts of me that had been frozen during the pandemic crisis were starting to rapidly thaw. Their emotions were overwhelming.
I rather quickly became depressed, suicidal, anxious, dissociative, and unable to deal with the stress of my children. Each day, I was becoming more unstable. I had reached a point where I had decided I was going to kill myself or go into a hospital (note, there are no hospitals that treat or believe in DID within my state, or even several states away, which makes this option less likely).
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst), I was a 10 on the suicide scale. I couldn’t even hold onto the love for my children and what my suicide would do to them to prevent me from doing it. I was too far gone, and my suicide was becoming imminent.
How I stumbled upon Ketamine, stopped a serious suicide attempt, and saved my insurance company $30,000
In a complete fluke, a holistic doctor I work with for health issues had just prescribed generic ketamine nasal spray for depression and anxiety, and had no idea of the severity of what I was suffering because I hid it from them like I do most people outside a therapist’s office. I made the decision that I was going to try it as my last ditch effort before I checked out. The imminent risk and permanency of suicide outweighed any reservations I might have had.
The Ketamine Experience
I simply took one small spray of the ketamine in one nostril. I could immediately feel it coming down my throat as there was a slight burning feeling that lasted for a few minutes. After the burning sensation, I could quickly notice I was starting to feel what I would call a manufactured dissociation as it didn’t feel how I normally feel when I dissociate.
The dissociation lasted for 30-45 minutes, and then I felt kind of high. I was feeling emotions like funny, happy, and curious —funny and happy are definitely not normal feelings for me. I knew not to drive my car or make any big decisions. Though I did shoot off one very wordy email I kind of later regretted 😎.
The dissociation and high were gone within 2 hours of the nasal spray. I was left with a sense that my mind had been cleared of cobwebs I didn’t even know were there. I very dramatically had a mental clarity I wasn’t used to. I was much more aware of everything happening in my environment.
By the 3rd hour, I began to evaluate my thoughts and feelings because I knew this was a test to help me figure out what to do with my suicidality and depression. I scanned my brain for thoughts, emotions, or voices of parts, and to my amazement, my suicidal feelings were completely gone, and I had no sense of any depression, anxiety, or even dissociation. I was completely grounded in the present with a strangely crystal clear mind. I was actually worried I was going to have a manic episode because I was feeling so oddly good.
My suicidality went from 10 to 0 in just a few hours.
Later, when my kids each did their behaviors that had been over-stressing me these past few weeks, I felt like a super-parent who was not the least bit phased by their antics.
As it was approaching bedtime, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep because: 1. I always struggle with insomnia (and sleep meds don’t always work for me), and 2. I was worried the feeling good and crystal-clear thinking was going to make me want to stay up all night being productive at some random thing. Surprisingly, I took my normal low-dose sleeping pill and easily fell asleep. Even more surprising, I was able to sleep-in the next morning, something my anxiety hadn’t allowed me to do for years.
When the day of my first ketamine dose began, I was looking at either a $30,000+ psychiatric hospitalization, or ending my life and traumatizing my family and friends.
Instead, one spray from a $45 bottle of compounded generic ketamine completely removed me from that suicidal crisis and stabilized me.
My mind has stayed clear, like really sharp, and my emotions have been extremely easy to regulate.
My ability to emotionally regulate was put to the test almost immediately. The day following my first ketamine dose, I was scheduled for a therapy session with my therapist who I was having some serious attachment conflict. The session was indeed volatile, and one that would have normally sent me into a suicidal tailspin. Instead, I noticed I had a few fleeting suicidal feelings during the session, and I moved on, and they didn’t stick with me post session. A highly stressful situation was completely manageable, which is unheard of when it comes to me having attachment conflict in therapy.
Maybe some of you don’t see how big of a deal this is. Before ketamine, I was emotionally wobbly every day. I never knew what little thing might send me off into depression, suicidality, overwhelming anxiety, or into my constant dissociative response pattern that creates quite a bit of amnesia in my life.
My use of ketamine is like someone handed me a brand new life. A life that has been missing for over 30 years. I was finally free of the debilitating existence I had known almost my entire life.
I am finding the experience of my new brain extremely foreign. I don’t feel emotionally overwhelmed. I don’t feel depressed, suicidal, or even dependent on a therapist at this point (I have struggled with severe disorganized attachment, so this is kind of a big deal for me). My mind just feels clear and calm, which I really am not used to.
I waited a couple of days and did a second nasal spray of the ketamine. I was still feeling completely stable before this dose, but I wanted to do what was recommended by the doctor who prescribed it. With the second dose, it was barely noticeable and I didn’t experience the dissociative and feeling high side effects.
I have researched ketamine a lot since then, and I know others typically don’t respond for a week. There are several ways to take in ketamine, and an array of different dosing strategies. The doctor that prescribed the ketamine I used was a believer that low-dose and through the nose to get closest to the brain was the best method.
Ketamine seems to be a miracle for me. Although I live near a big research center that has all sorts of clinical trials going on for ketamine, I know I would be excluded from those studies because of my dissociative disorder (a familiar narrative for those of us with DID). We are just too much with our diagnosis for a lot of things..
Alternatively, there are many ketamine clinics that have set up shop in my state so that they can make a lot of money off this new treatment. Typical treatment prices seem to be around $400 a session, and insurance rarely covers it according to their websites.
For once, the compounding pharmacies seem to be the most economical place to get it, but finding a doctor who will prescribe it this way may be the challenge.
If you are a long-time sufferer who has given up on treatment for DID/CPTSD, or someone who suffers from chronic depression and/or anxiety, I would give ketamine a try if you can get your hands on a legitimate form of the medication. I am not recommending the street drug that is a higher dose of ketamine and will do who knows what to you. Try Googling ketamine near you and see what comes up. There’s lots of research, books, and articles about the way it works and what it has been used for.
There is a fascinating article about using ketamine with complex PTSD trauma survivors here.
I have to believe an angel dropped ketamine in my lap when I was at one of my lowest points. It clearly saved my life, and it just may be offering me the chance at living with a non-traumatized brain. As each day ticks by, I am still amazed at the calm and clarity I feel.
As a takeaway, I hope that each of you who reads this will consider that maybe people with DID aren’t succeeding not because they aren’t working hard-enough, committed enough, smart enough, or don’t have the ego strength or attachment stability to succeed in therapy. Maybe it really has more to do with how their brain is wired, and maybe there are easy fixes such a ketamine that will address the neurobiological effects of developmental trauma.
Just maybe, the most difficult repair is easier than everyone thinks.
During the COVID pandemic, I have been operating in “fight mode” these past 14 months. My extreme survival instincts kicked in without having to give it much, if any, thought. I remember telling my therapist “I” (meaning my DID system) was built for times like this.
Those early weeks of the pandemic, I remember sitting for hours watching the news and the circus of people who were supposed to lead us out of this mess I had never seen before in my lifetime. At some point it clicked. Things were really bad, and if I wanted to live, and keep my family alive, I had to hunker down into survival mode and follow the rules even as they changed and didn’t make sense on a daily basis.
I had to shed lots and lots of parts of me. I couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, soft, rebellious or childlike. I needed the strongest, toughest, smartest parts of myself to be here. The others would have to go.
I did not consciously choose to rid myself of the vulnerable parts of me, the parts of me that might get in the way of our survival. I experienced what I typically experience, as if a higher being inside me had made some choice to reorganize the system without my input. I just rolled with it as usual.
I had moments where my hidden parts were quietly active as the pandemic wore on. Still, their expression within me was very limited because I could not risk dying, and in “fight mode,” I needed only the best fighters.
Typically with dissociative identity disorder (DID), there is a lot of noise in your head. For me, that noise is different parts commenting on things going on in our life. Opinions, name calling, crying, planning, negotiating and more goes on all the time. So, I have learned to live with “noise.”
With all that noise, the benefit is I know what is going on with the parts of my system. I know when someone is upset, happy, or creating a problem within the system. This is critical information to have if I want to have some semblance of a life in the world.
So, with all the silence over the past 14 months, I don’t know the answers to questions about other parts of me. I have no idea how or what they are doing.
Probably more importantly, I have become phobic again to interact with the other parts. It’s a real thing, not wanting to talk to other parts, not wanting to know the answers to important questions, not wanting to experience them and their pain and other unpleasant feelings/memories they bring to the table.
Without acknowledging your parts, you can pretend like you don’t have a trauma background. You can try to pass as “normal,” but truthfully, if anyone looked closely, they would see you have an extremely limited range of emotions and history (hello DID amnesia). Fortunately, most people are so self-absorbed, they don’t even notice.
The parts hold the deepest shame possible for someone like me who has experienced horrendous abuse. Unimaginable things, things you wouldn’t even believe, they hold for me so I can function.
Don’t get me wrong, I know a lot of what has happened to me in my past. But my parts allow me to stay detached from it. I have gotten close to them and felt their pain, and it is awful, and no one in their right mind would want to absorb that. I fear absorbing it and it truly becoming part of me, which keeps me stuck in recovery.
I started having something happen to me during the pandemic, and I really wasn’t sure what it was. It started with me waking up at the same time every early morning, making the loudest, panicked, god-awful sound that was kind of like gasping for breath while drowning. As I would get my bearings, my mind would immediately turn to self-harm and suicide because my body and mind feels so bad, and for whatever reason, those thoughts take it away. Except it started happening earlier and earlier during the night, and I can never go back to sleep after that cortisol surge.
I have been living these past few weeks on 3 hours of sleep. I didn’t tell anyone because I can still function fine with that much sleep. But what I didn’t count on was the toll it was taking on my system. It enabled a little part of me to come forward.
On que, a young part of me came out and had a lot to say about what was happening to us at night. I don’t know where she came from with so much to say. I never do.
I have been struggling a lot this past week. Lots of dissociation, memory loss (switching), suicidality, thoughts of self-harm, detached from everyone in my life, feeling depressed, and generally disconnected from the world.
Today, I was quite shocked to hear my little one reveal new memories in my head. She did not really speak of them, but I could see and feel them. I was horrified as I thought I was done with new memories. I don’t want anymore bad feelings. I don’t want new knowledge of trauma that I will have to come to accept whether I want to or not.
But, there she was. Seemingly out of nowhere. Telling the story of what is happening to us at night. She had so many answers, and I didn’t ask her for them, but she gave them to me anyway.
I worry because we are living in a different world. A world where therapists aren’t as accessible to me as they were before the pandemic. I had safe people and places to get the support I needed. I clearly don’t have that kind of help now as therapists seem to be the last to crawl out of the pandemic “hole of fear” despite getting their first responder vaccinations.
I worry for the little girl and others who share this memory. I worry for myself and what this new memory is going to mean to me. Will it change my history once again? I have a fear this new memory involves someone specific, and I don’t want it to, but it is pushing up against my consciousness.
I worry about the level of dissociation I am experiencing. I worry that I am doing things and not understanding what I am doing. I seem to be returning to an old, familiar, but troublesome way of living with my DID.
Yet, there is not much to do with that worry except to get lost in the dissociation that will make me forget I am worried. What choice do I have?
I feel like a broken record that no one is listening to. I guess this is in line with why I rarely express my needs. The fear that my needs don’t matter, as was my daily life in my childhood. Ugh, that sounds victimy, and I hate sounding that way.
Let me be perfectly clear. I have multiple mental illnesses that significantly impact my daily functioning. 33 years ago I had my first Major Depressive episode. 32 years ago I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (then called Multiple Personality Disorder) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I have had periods of high functioning, and also periods requiring psychiatric hospitalization and heavy outpatient support during difficult times. I have successfully worked for periods of my adult life, and I have been on disability twice in my life.
My symptoms I currently struggle with the most are amnesia, confusion, no sense of time passing, thoughts of suicide and self-harm that seem to come out of nowhere, inability to feel most things, disorganized attachment that affects my ability to parent, chronic anxiety, and flashbacks that make it extremely difficult to function.
I have come to accept that I will have a life-long problem with mental illness that needs to be managed in different ways depending on how I am doing. I no longer believe the delusion that I will be cured if I only find the right therapist or do the right therapy. This is not me giving up, but instead gaining wisdom with age.
Patience is something we have all had to learn during the COVID pandemic if we wanted to survive. The world was turned upside down, and life as we knew it was gone overnight.
Unfortunately, those of us with mental illness still have our mental illnesses and need extra help surviving in this pandemic world that is actually quite triggering for many of us with trauma backgrounds.
I care deeply about my therapist, but she has kind of abandoned me during the pandemic. I have tried to be understanding and empathetic that she has her own fears going on through the pandemic. But then she got vaccinated as a first responder. Then I got sick and realized that medical providers all over town were showing up for work and seeing patients without any problems. And then my teenager’s therapist started seeing her clients in person.
I talked to my therapist in one of our not-very-useful phone sessions, and I pleaded with her to come up with a plan for what she was going to do to see clients who needed to be seen in person. I was honestly shocked that she didn’t have any sense of a plan, and seemed to want to just continue doing phone therapy with people, despite the fact that she was vaccinated and had returned to normal life in other areas of her life. She promised me she would come up with a plan. Two months later, nothing.
Over the phone, it is quite easy for my therapist to ignore when I am suicidal and need her help. It is easy for her to say it seems like I am doing better when I am actually having a horribly destabilizing day. She doesn’t have to see my emotions, my pain, fear, dissociation, and need for her help. She can just pretend that she is doing her job and everything is alright, despite those moments when I gain the courage and tell her I am not ok and need her help.
My therapist is retraumatizing me.
She is gaslighting me when she pretends like I am ok even when I tell her I am not. She literally doesn’t even acknowledge those rare times when I tell her I am suicidal or struggling with self-harm. She offers me nothing.
She has abandoned me. I definitely agree there was a time when it was right for her to isolate in fear of COVID, but that time is long past since she has been vaccinated, I have COVID antibodies and have been vaccinated (solely in hopes that I would be “good enough” for her to see me then). This rejection of me sets off a cascade of attachment craziness no matter how understanding I try to be.
I have come to the conclusion that either my therapist just won’t get help with facing her own fears about COVID, or she has realized that she can get away with doing this half-ass teletherapy so it makes her life easier (she often runs errands in her car during our telephone appointments, and she doesn’t have to actually sit with my pain).
My therapist, whom I love dearly, has become more like a close friend whom I pay so I can periodically confide some of my secrets over the phone. We aren’t doing therapy, and for a while, that was ok. But I have held on as long as I can.
It’s not clear where I should turn. My therapist may have abandoned me, but I struggle to abandon her (hello attachment issues). There are few therapists in my area who understand dissociative identity disorder. And because the pandemic has created its own mental health crisis, most therapists aren’t even accepting new clients because the demand is so high.
My first go-to is to decide to give up. To end this lifetime of struggle and suffering. Then I argue with my selves that I will not abandon my kids. My kids need me to help them get to adulthood.
So this leaves me in the familiar childhood quandary of there being no right answer. Nothing that is going to save or even help me. So I am on my own, spiraling downward when I shouldn’t be if I just had some help. This isn’t fair, but I know the very first lesson of my life was that I should not expect my life to be fair.
This pandemic has done something to me that after almost an entire year of it, I still can’t really explain it. I wonder how many others with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) are in the same boat? I have moments of recognizing how my complex-PTSD affects me during the pandemic. But the DID, I don’t know.
Sadly, my therapist who is trying herself to survive this pandemic, is of little help to me as a therapist. She seems more like supportive friend material now. Maybe because our sessions are over the phone, it just doesn’t work well for most of me. I can also clearly hear her own stress most sessions as she deals with her own feelings through the pandemic.
I think the constant stress of the pandemic keeps me in fight/flight/freeze on a daily basis. There really isn’t anything to de-escalate it as the truth is the fear is real. None of us could have imagined our lives like this, and none of us know where we are headed. But, with this comes a constant cortisol surge. Part of why I know this is happening is because I am never tired.
If you are interested, I actually found a supplement that stops the Cortisol surge enough so I can at least sleep. I got the idea from an Amino Acids expert named Trudy Scott if you want to research it. The product name is Seriphos by InterPlexus. It is now a product I can’t live without, and more helpful than any psychiatric drug I have had.
Admitting there is little-to-no mental health help available to those of us who usually need a lot of it is an interesting thing. Honestly, I try really hard not to let my mind focus on that issue for longer than a split second. To do so is too reminiscent of a brutal childhood with no help and no escape. I can’t go there again.
I joked with my therapist the other day when she was expressing her pandemic fatigue that it was much easier for me because my DID gives me little sense of time. Intellectually I know how long we have been in this pandemic, but honestly, it feels like only weeks have gone by.
I am mostly coping without the help of my therapist. I am that child who got us through our childhood. That child who should not have survived, but somehow managed to. I keep my head down and keep pushing forward trying to get me and my family through this. It helps me understand how I might have survived something so horrific as my childhood. My auto-pilot survival part has taken over. Maybe those of you with DID have found this to be your experience too?
I made it 10 months before getting COVID. I was so careful, but one lapse in judgment, I let an electrician come into my home not wearing a mask because I mistakenly thought I was safe because I had on a mask. Never before have I let someone in my house without a mask. Perhaps the reason I did this is because this electrician was an abuser from my childhood. F-ing figures.
The very first symptoms of my COVID were 3 nights of very bizarre dreams. I was telling a friend about the strangeness of them the morning I came down with the full-blown symptoms. I knew something was wrong, but couldn’t pinpoint it.
When I got COVID, it attacked my brain, which was weird because I was so worried about my lungs before getting it. I know to the average person that may sound crazy, but I don’t really care. When I was in the emergency room, the doctor there validated me saying “we know that COVID gets into the brain because we have autopsies that show the virus is there.”
I believe the bizarre dreaming was the first sign it was in my brain. Then came the headaches. Then came the extreme head pain that felt more like brain torture going on in multiple places at the same time. Then I developed what felt like severe earaches that would come and go. Then everything turned surreal, in a way that was different than my regular dissociation, and I thought I was going to die.
I abandoned traditional medicine and went with a treatment protocol that the NIH had been ignoring, but my kids’ infectious disease doctor believed in (Marik COVID Protocol, if you are interested). I had already been taking the supplements, but when I got the Ivermectin my brain symptoms and high fever disappeared within a day. It was a miracle, but like DID, most people assume those of us who believe in it are just crazy. No matter, but I share it here in case it saves one other person.
I knew with the Adverse Childhood Events (ACES), my age, and the fact that I had asthma, I could die from this. Strangely, the only two things I told the ER doctor were 1. I don’t want to become brain damaged, and 2. I didn’t want to die. It was one of those DID moments where I was surprised what came out of my mouth. Internally, I marveled that that was what I found most pressing to say in the moment.
Anyway, I survived it. I am proud that I did. I had prepared for it with all the right supplements and medications. I still have some lingering symptoms, but I at least survived it.
The “experts” say that COVID will often attack what is already weakened in a body, so they say people with psychiatric symptoms will likely see a worsening of those symptoms. That’s a scary thought since I can’t imagine worse. But, it is true so far that I have moved from horrible, but medication managed insomnia pre-Covid, to severe horrible insomnia post-Covid.
I don’t know why I am writing all this kind of interconnected stream of thoughts down. Except that I know I need to write to try to get myself back.
I have felt paralyzed during this pandemic, and that scares me. It also keeps me alive. But I know it is a terrible way to live long-term, and I have no idea how to change it. I actually miss the challenge of living life as a trauma survivor. At the same time, I enjoy the luxury of it being socially acceptable to stay at home everyday and do I don’t know what. With my dissociative skills neatly intact, the days just blur right by.
But, paralysis with my DID means that most of me is missing. Those many, many parts who make me who I am are just not here the majority of the time. No, it’s not spontaneous integration. I haven’t become a singleton. It means I am so terrified I am locked into survival mode, repressing the majority of who I am. It’s lonely and I feel almost nothing for a year now. 🥺
It is hard for my brain to push forward with my usual coherent thoughts. Each day during the pandemic, I just keep moving forward in crisis mode and it never seems to end. If I slow down, I get consumed by depression and lack of energy, so I have to keep moving to survive.
I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself because I know just about everyone is struggling with the way we must live during the pandemic. Maybe this is why it is hard for me to put my thoughts or even words together on paper.
I am so tired. Probably because I am surging in cortisol and burning out my adrenals. I also recognize every day is like Groundhog Day. Nothing really changes. It’s stressful as hell, but I know the stress keeps me moving, and to not move will allow feelings of depression and suicide to creep in.
I am mad at my therapist, but not really mad because I don’t even have the energy to experience or express that feeling too much. I also know she is struggling through this pandemic too, but my irrational child parts feel so abandoned.
It is a fight not to quit therapy again. I don’t have the money to have wasted sessions with her, but I continue to do so because I am scared not to. I hate that she will only do phone sessions with me. I am also triggered by her feelings that I might be contaminated with COVID, although she has never directly said so. Still, it brings up childhood feelings that there is something bad about me.
Of course the big one is that I don’t matter enough to her when the chips are down and she needs to prioritize her own health. My adult brain understands what she is doing, but my child selves feel painfully abandoned.
Having DID and not being able to get in-person support is so hurtful. It’s as if the therapy world suddenly decided we are all doing much better than many of us are (I am happy for those of you who are doing well). Suddenly, our survival is not as important, perhaps we are just collateral damage to this pandemic.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy fear of the coronavirus. It is not something to play with, but I also feel like I have learned how to function safely in the world with my mask, hand sanitizer, and social distancing.
This brings up the “if my therapist really cared about me, she would see me in person.”
I am struggling. Struggling with just about everything. So conflicted inside about whether I should just quit therapy or that is the dumbest idea in the world.
I hate that I can’t get the support I need. I hate that my therapist is so caught up in this stupid pandemic that I barely matter to her.
I know I have returned to trauma time almost 24/7. I can’t make decisions which is usually a pretty good indicator I am frozen in trauma time.
I just love how everyone pretends like those of us with DID and are in need of support don’t really exist anymore.
I guess it is our own fault for not screaming loud enough, or maybe it’s just because the whole world is fighting us for scream time.
Let’s stop pretending that those of us with serious mental illnesses are doing ok, and that the fact that our therapists have abandoned us is going just fine. I do understand their desire for self-preservation, but enough is enough.
Psychotherapy can be done safely with masks, social distance, and hand sanitizer. The restaurants and stores are making it work. It’s time for the therapists to get off their home couches and their teletherapy.
Some of us are dying out here for reasons outside the Coronavirus. Staying at home indefinitely hiding from the coronavirus is not the answer for anyone. The mental and physical cost is severe.
Therapists, it is time to start doing your job again, and not just for the people who get enough out of teletherapy.
It can be done safely. Be creative. Let go of your irrational fear that we can’t meet in person with appropriate safety measures to protect us all. Heck, have therapy outside if you need to, but stop ignoring those of us who don’t find help with teletherapy.
Model strength, creativity, and courage. We need you to do that as much as you need it for yourself.
Living through the Coronavirus pandemic with Dissociative Identity Disorder makes for some interesting times.
I find my life is probably really disorienting under this sheltering-in-place set up. In some ways, it is perfect for the way I live. I now have an excuse to stay home everyday and no one thinks anything of it. The one huge difference is I am locked in with my spouse and two children every-single-day.
My days go by quickly and are very much a blur. My memory troubles me a great deal as it is very noticeable to me that I am losing time and not remembering much. I have internal conversations on the daily as to whether I am developing dementia or it is just the DID.
If I lived alone in this stay-at-home life, I think I would accomplish a lot, but I imagine it would really suck. My days go by quickly because I am actually having to run a household for my family. So, in some ways, I am doing more. I am cooking, ordering the groceries, running the family budget, helping both my kids with their own therapies and school work, doing some laundry, helping my kids with their medical issues and more.
I have moments where I forget about the DID and think about getting back to work soon. God knows our family needs the money. Then I catch myself throughout my days not being able to remember even the most basic things.
Truthfully, I think I could probably get away with working with the serious memory lapses I deal with. Most people are too distracted or self-involved to even notice —thank god. It creates incredible anxiety within myself, though. Always fearing I am going to be found out by those who think I am a competent adult.
Though in some ways this damn Coronavirus has made my life easier, I worry that it will continue on and my life will be one endless blur until the end. Maybe it would be anyway if life was normal, and maybe the normal life distraction just doesn’t allow me to realize how messed up it all is.
I’ll be honest, I am not one of the writers amongst us. I am pretty sure I am not saying much here. However, I do know other parts of me have lots of good stuff to say. I don’t really know why they aren’t writing anymore. Maybe this trying to be normal for the kids all day is just wearing us down or it keeps us from getting vulnerable.
My outside kids have not much to do but to notice when I am being different. God knows I don’t want to screw them up any more than they are, so I am really trying my best to be in parent mode, which doesn’t allow for much vulnerability.
My parts are being amazing with trying our best to hold it together so we can parent the kids and take care of life in a pandemic. Don’t get me wrong, we have had a few moments, but not nearly as bad as I would have thought.
In some ways I realize my childhood of nonstop trauma made me built for living through this awful pandemic. It gives me the excuse I need to stay I fight or flight, to be planning for our safety, and to stay safely in our home.
I wasn’t doing therapy for a while (can’t remember how long—weeks or months), and my therapist contacted me in a moment of weakness. I talk to her on the phone once a week most weeks, though I do try to cancel when I can to save money. Therapy over the phone, or even scarier over the video, doesn’t work for me like in-person therapy does. It doesn’t feel anything like regular therapy to me, so I feel guilty spending the family money on something that is more liken to a check-in or chat.
I know I have had a few seriously destabilizing moments that I needed my therapist, but I now can’t even remember what they were all about. I do know I have had some suicidal moments, but honestly, not as bad as before all this happened. I think it is because I know my family needs me to get them through this.
I am getting kind of tired of being the together one to lead us through these unchartered times. I dunno, maybe it is better this way to force me to do something productive.
I hope we will start writing again as I think we have some useful things to share.