But first, a preamble…
This year has been a tough one. Last Thanksgiving I made the decision to go off my anti depressant / anti anxiety medication. It had been about a year since I had needed to be in therapy. I was just finishing up my degree. I was moved in my partner of four years, and we had a happy little family of furry creatures. Things felt good, and things felt stable. However, I felt a bit devoid of the passion that I knew I was capable of. The ability to get teary-eyed in sad scenes of a movie. The ability to feel uplifted when I see a hawk flying in the sky, or a beautiful flower while on a hike. Despite feeling like things were calm in my life, I also felt dead inside. I attributed this to the medication, and decided it was time to wean myself off of it.
Within several weeks of being off the medication, I felt as though I were thrown into the emotional haunted mansion of hell. Things couldn’t have felt worse, or crazier. Rather than going back on the medication (I can be very stubborn if you don’t already know this about me), I decided to seek out the help of a therapist.
My initial therapist was someone I had met and connected with at my university. She seemed like a good therapist, however we both soon realized that I needed to be seeing someone who specializes in treating trauma. She referred me to S. S was someone who I connected with almost immediately. She was kind, she was intuitive, she was nurturing. About a month into therapy she begins telling me that she is fairly certain I have DID – dissociative identity disorder. I was already quite familiar with DID, since I have a close friend with DID, and I had also gone through a period years ago when I was convinced that I had it as well. That conviction didn’t hold, since the symptoms didn’t seem to quite fit. So here is S telling me she was certain I had DID. A part of me felt relief, thinking that I finally had an explanation for every crazy symptom I was and ever had experienced. I was also feeling quite conflicted about it, however, and wasn’t convinced. I joined a DID support group. I began reading books on DID. Some of it resonated, but not everything. But S would not consider any other alternative. Thus we embarked down a journey much like Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole. I began to feel crazier and crazier. I began to cling more desperately to S for stability. The more I did this, the less stable I became. I tried ending therapy several times, desperately trying to figure out what had gone wrong, all the while being deathly terrified of losing this one person who had become the center of my world. And then, just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. She terminated our therapeutic relationship. She said she couldn’t help me, and therefore she felt it would be morally unethical to continue working together. In a goodbye email, she went back on the DID diagnosis, claiming after much thought and research she had determined I was not DID after all, and stated that her belief was that I had borderline personality disorder instead. She then attached three referrals for therapists who specialized in treating borderline clients. Thanks S. How mind-fucking of you. How ever could I thank you – for diagnosing me DID in the first place, for being quite stubborn about it, for encouraging me to attach to you and for reassuring me that you were in it for the long haul, for all the times you assured me that it needs to get worse before it gets better, and then completely severing our connection permanently and abruptly. Let’s just say it took me a little while to recover from that one.
A brief stroll through the lands of a third and then a fourth therapist (the details of which are not worth recounting) led me to the conclusion that a) I needed someone who specializes in dissociative disorders, not just trauma and b) I needed to be willing to be picky, and to trust my gut. I had to let go of the notion that most therapists are good therapists and can probably help me. Many therapists are good therapists, I believe, but I really need someone who is good, and who really knows their way around dissociative disorders.
And now we get to the introduction. World, meet Dr. Abby.
My first appointment with her was this past Friday. I had horrible flip flops and butterflies in my stomach and heart palpitations the whole way there, but I managed to arrive in one piece. She told me where to sit, which I was a bit taken aback by, but sat in the appointed chair and our session began.
I won’t give you a blow by blow account of the session, because this is long enough as it is. But I will give you my general assessment of her. She exudes a calm confidence without being arrogant or self-righteous, as has been the case with a couple previous therapists. She listens without judgment. She is more quiet and curious than chatty or opinionated. She can tolerate uncomfortable silences – which I cannot say for myself! She is very grounding for me, and all my anxiety subsided during our time together. She doesn’t smile just for smiling sake but only when she genuinely means it, which I really like. Overall, I am cautiously optimistic.
Maybe five times a charm? Only time can tell.