I had therapy with Bean today. It had been a week and a half since I had last seen her. I had meant to write a blog about how last session went, but I must’ve gotten sidetracked and never actually got around to it. Because I never wrote it down, I don’t actually remember what transpired during me and Bean’s last session together. I did remember one small detail and that was it – sitting with the swirling feeling in my chest, and connecting it with a specific traumatic incident. She had asked me the first time I ever felt the swirling in my chest, and I had told her that I felt it only after ____ had happened. And that I felt it ever since. But… this post is about my session today, so let me bring us back to that.
Today’s session was at her home office, since I was out of town on Monday – our usual session day – and she’s only in her other office on Mondays. So given what has transpired there, with her husband and all of that, I was especially anxious leading up to today’s session.
She asked me how the medication was going, and if I was having any side effects. I told her it was going well, and amazingly I was experiencing hardly any side effects. She asked me if it still feels like my brain is coming apart, and I told her no. She agreed that this was a good thing.
I asked her what we talked about last session, since I couldn’t remember most of it. I told her the only part I remember is the swirling in my chest. She said that yes, we did talk about the swirling feeling. And that while discussing the swirling, I got to a place where I couldn’t speak. It was then that she enlisted the help of R. She said that R came forward and spent a good amount of time talking with her. She said they talked about my anger, and what happens when I get into that angry state. I said, “what angry state are you referring to?” And she said, “well when [such-and-such] happens and that makes you angry.” (I have no memory of any of this.) She also said that she and R discussed that I may have “other parts” that I am not very aware of yet (??-not sure what that’s about). And she said that R was the one who ended up leaving when the session was over. Bean said that when R walked out, she was very calm. She said it the first time it seems I’ve ever left a session calm. For some reason that struck me as funny (maybe because it made me feel so self-conscious and exposed) and I laughed out loud. [I thought I hid my fear and anxiety better than it seems I actually do :/.]
I talked about the little kid I take care of, and how wonderful they are. I told her about how close we are and how I love to make them laugh. [I am using “them” because I’d prefer not to disclose the child’s gender.] I talked about feeling calm on the drive back with the family from the desert. How I actually felt peaceful and content, and what a strange and odd feeling that was. That my stress and nervousness and anxiety and racing thoughts seemed to have subsided completely, and what was left was just a warm glow. A contentment. I remember thinking, “I wish I could feel this way all the time.” And I told Bean that.
I brought up the fact that I am starting to believe that these “parts” of me are, in fact, made up. That they are, in fact, not real. That it is obvious that I dissociate, it is obvious that I have these different states that I get into, but that what happened when I was diagnosed DID by my ex-therapist was that my mind turned these states into something more than they really are.
Bean: Okay, I hear what you are saying, and I respect that. I am wondering though, after one of our earlier sessions you had written me an angry email and had signed it “R”, and then you had written me another email right afterward apologizing for the previous email and asked for me to please ignore that. How do you explain that?
Brandic: Well, like I said, I do have dissociated states that I get into, and when I wrote that first email was when I was in one of those states. It’s just that I gave that state a name, and that is “R”.
Bean: Okay… I see. I’m also wondering, do you remember when we spoke on the phone that time when you were having a really hard time and you were really dissociated? And you were really scared, and you couldn’t speak?
Bean: Well, when I asked if you could take a step back, and if R could come forward, you seemed to shift into a state where you were able to talk, and you were actually quite calm. Do you remember that?
Bean: So how would you explain that then. Was it that you just shifted states? Because what I observed is that you went from being in a very frightened, scared, and overwhelmed place so much so that you were unable to speak, to shifting to a place where you were able to feel much calmer, and carry on a conversation. I imagine that it was quite a relief for you when you were able to get into that calmer state.
Brandic: It wasn’t a relief at all.
Brandic: No because it didn’t feel like me. I wasn’t connected to that state at all. It didn’t feel like “me” at all. I didn’t feel calm.
Bean: So were you feeling scared of what was happening then?
Brandic: No, I wasn’t scared at all. I wasn’t feeling anything. I don’t feel anything when that happens. When I go into these states. I’m just watching.
Bean: So it sounds like you were simply in a depersonalized state then…?
Brandic: Yes, I was in a depersonalized state, but it wasn’t just a depersonalized state. Because these different states are different. They have their own way of acting and their own way of talking that stays consistent. It’s not like I’m either feeling like “me” or I’m feeling depersonalized. No. I’m either feeling like “me,” or I’m in another one of numerous states that show up and have recognizable ways of being and acting that are consistent. For example, with R, well, R has a unique way of being, a consistent way of acting. That’s not just simply depersonalization.
What happens after this, and what was said, becomes quite blurry. I think she may have asked me what I want her to say if another one of these states presents themselves, if she notices a change in me. What should she say, what language should she use that won’t upset or trigger me. I told her not to use “parts.” That was the word my ex-therapist used and I feel like it implies DID (even though I realize everyone has parts of them). I said I would prefer if she used the term “states.” She agreed to that. Also, she asked if it was alright if she used the term “inner world,” or if there was a better term. I told her that to me, the term “inner world” is for people with DID who have created this whole elaborate world inside their heads. Sometimes with caverns, sometimes with many rooms and many floors, and a room for each alter, and a garden, etc. I told her that I didn’t think I had an “inner world” since I don’t have anything like that. She said, well what can characterize what’s going on inside you? As opposed to what you are presenting on the outside… I said, “Inside. Just say, ‘inside.’ Because there are times, and this is quite often actually, when my insides don’t match my outsides. There’s a discrepancy. For example, I may be feeling anxious and overwhelmed on the inside, but be acting calm and content on the outside. The outside doesn’t convey what’s going on inside.” She said that was very helpful, and that she would start saying “inside” instead of “inner world.”
And then, THE QUESTION
Brandic: So you don’t think I’m DID, do you?
Aaahh! Even though I asked the question in a very directed manner (with the seeming assumption that the answer would be “no”), and asked it in a very nonchalant way, the reality was quite the opposite. I had no idea what she thought or how she would answer. In fact, even asking it made me feel like I was hurling myself off a cliff. Once I threw it out there, I could never take it back. But somehow the words were out of my mouth before I could even stop them.
Bean: Well, as someone who studies DID and dissociation extensively, I can say that I think that DID is an area that is highly misunderstood, and that there are lots of falsehoods that people believe about it that we need to educate people on…
She went on, but I cannot honestly remember the rest of what she said, except that she never actually answered my question either way. She never said, “No, I don’t think you have DID.” She never said, “Actually, yes I do think you have DID.” She didn’t even partly answer it by saying, “Well, I’m not sure about the DID, but it’s obviously that you do have DDNOS” like so many therapists in my past have done. Keep in mind, these past therapists were not DID experts. She is.
To be honest, I am quite relieved she answered it like this. Because the truth is, I don’t really want to know. I think if she had said no, that she doesn’t think I am DID, I would have been upset. And I think that if she had said yes, she does think I have DID, I would have been upset. The former because it would feel like my experiences were not being given the proper credit they deserve. And the latter, because it would feel like she is just another therapist who is being manipulated by me into thinking something that isn’t even true and isn’t even real. The fact that she played it safe, and basically stated that DID is a misunderstood thing (without answering my question one way or another), made me feel good. It gives me a sense that it’s maybe a possibility for me, but that the diagnosis isn’t the focus of our therapy. I think she is also respecting my need to not know yet. I am still working it out for myself, and that is okay.
And then, before I knew it, the session was over. I started feeling overwhelmed, I didn’t want to speak, the room started becoming shimmery, and Bean was asking me if I was “just watching.” I wasn’t just watching, but I couldn’t tell her that. I couldn’t bring myself back into my body. I couldn’t bring my attention off the shimmering bookcases, since the shimmering was comforting, and the rest of the room, and my body, and her sitting there across from me, well none of it felt safe because I was going to have to leave it. The world that I left behind for the shimmery world was cold, and harsh. The shimmery world was warm, and had soft edges. I didn’t want to be back in the regular world, so I stayed in this world as long as I could.
Then the doorbell rang, signaling that her next client had arrived. I didn’t actually register it for what it was (thankfully it is much more muted in that back room), but as soon as she said, “Oop, there’s my next client,” I began profusely apologizing, as though I had done something horribly wrong. I lept out of my chair and left her office as quickly as I could. I needed to use the bathroom, and so I looked at her pleadingly, and said (feeling very, very young), “Will you be here when I come out?” She told me yes, that if I hurried, she would be waiting for me when I came out. She ushered her next client into the office (thankfully I didn’t have to see him/her!) and was standing there waiting for me when I came out of the bathroom. She walked me to the front door and warmly sent me off. Even though I left feeling horribly anxious and vulnerable (which is usually how I feel upon leaving therapy), I also felt reassured that she cared enough to have her next client wait so she could say goodbye to me properly.
I don’t mean nothing to her… 🙂