29 August, 2007

So where do we go from here?

The more I've been thinking about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that it might be best for me to answer some common misconceptions about DID. It feels lame, but there ya go. It's sometimes hard to realize that most people really don't have a clue about what DID is, and those who do probably don't understand it at all beyond a confused sort of basic concept. I hate Q&As, though, so I'm going to kind of do this as a cohesive entry, just sort of answering unasked questions.

I'm not demon possessed. For one thing, my alters aren't tormentors - at least, no more than any people can be when they feel like being irritating, and that's only some of the time. They don't suggest that I do things, they don't make me miserable, they don't urge me to behave badly or whatever. One important thing to note, too, is that I don't perceive my alters as coming from somewhere else, some outside source - they're as much a part of my body and mind as I am, and have been for pretty much as long as I can remember. For me, being alone in my head, having only one set of thoughts, is as weird a concept as the idea of having more than one person is to you.

Also, to say that DID is a therapy-induced phenomena is just bullshit. Pardon my French, but there it is. If nothing else, I've known about my alters long before I had a term for what they were called, years and years before I ever started therapy or took a psychology course or in any way knew what DID even was. The best way I've thought to describe it is that when I talk to myself, my selves talk back. It's always been that way. I don't even have to be a part of the conversation; there have always been other people there chatting away. (Yes. It can be extremely distracting.) I guess it's like being in a chat room, to a certain extent.

I first remember being distinctly aware of alters when I was about thirteen. Still though, as with most people with DID, thirteen is about when I first start having any memories of my childhood... I know that the whole reason I started keeping a daily journal when I was eleven was because I was so freaked out that I often couldn't remember what had happened to me the day before. (This is called dissociative amnesia - the reason I don't have memories of some things is that other alters were 'fronting' and therefore are the ones who experienced the events. Those times when I've been blanked out and unaware of what was going on because someone else was fronting are called dissociative fugues.) It's incredibly interesting to look over some of my earliest journals, especially... There are several very distinct handwriting patterns, one for each person who was writing. We're not even all right-handed.

Contrary to media portrayals, very few multiples have just two personalities. I certainly don't. If you want to get technical and statistical, the average number you'll see in most authoritative sources is actually sixteen alters; or seventeen people, altogether. The main person is usually called the 'host'. We have all agreed that every single one of us HATES that term. It makes it sound like we're freaking parasites or something, perpetuating that idea that DID is demon possession. We've had a hard time thinking of some better term, though. We tossed around the idea of saying the 'original' for a while, but that's not accurate, either... Often the person who is out most in adult life was NOT the original person. We've loosely decided to call Tina the front-runner, but Crystal doesn't like that term and not everyone agrees... For lack of a better one, it works.

Everybody has a name. Probably you'll know most, maybe all of them, eventually... Some of us are really shy. Most are younger than Tina, a couple are older, a couple are the same age. Some get older as the body does, some don't; some have ages that fluctuate depending on the day and how they're feeling. Everybody picked their own names, but we kinda more just felt like they were supposed to be our names... They were just the names that felt most right. They fit best.

The alters DON'T all have specific 'jobs'. Nobody's specifically the angry alter, the sad alter, the dangerous alter, the sex alter. Yes, some could sort of be classed into things... But no more than you, based on your personality, could be classified an angry person or a happy person or a playful person. You're not always happy all the time and it isn't your JOB to be happy. Make sense?

Sometimes, when the system is having a really really hard time functioning because of depression or whatever, we do have specific alters with specific tasks. They come and go, though, and don't have names. They're not full-fledged people, just jobs. That's all they exist for - somebody to make sure the laundry gets done or the bills get paid or whatever, like robots. They're called fragments, or splinter personalities: we just call them frags. Like I said, though, they don't always exist. In an ideal world, we're able to function well enough that we can be responsible for our own things. When times get really tough, though, they are certainly helpful. Wouldn't everybody like a robot who always made sure the dishes got done? :-P

The reason DID is still a disorder is that it can be pretty damned hard to get everyone to cooperate and function well together. You've seen reality TV shows, where a bunch of people get tossed into a house, told to live together, share common goals, whatever... Imagine they were all tossed into the same body. And that they all had some sort of psychological disorder before that happened.

In particular, DID can be dangerous when one or more alters are suicidal. One of ours in particular has had lots of serious bouts of suicidality. She understands that killing herself kills everybody, but when she is really depressed she tends to be convinced that it would be something of a mercy killing. That even though not all the alters want to die, they'd still be better off in the long run if they did. Similarly, when one of the non-recovery oriented anorexic alters wants to fast, or an alter wants to cut, or one of the young ones gets frightened and hides somewhere without warning, that can put everyone in jeopardy.

Some people believe the goal of therapy should be integration; all alters merging into one cohesive person. We solidly disagree. To us, that feels like murder. A lot of multiples feel that way about integration... Why sacrifice the lives of beautiful and unique people because some cultural idea of normal says there should only be one mind in one brain? Having more than one person in a body is not necessarily harmful. Often, it can be beneficial. Our goal in therapy is to have a working, cooperating sort of family system.

I think that's about all for now? It seems like we're running out of things to say, so I guess it'll have to do. If you haven't yet, I encourage you to look at some of the links we posted... They really are good. The Significant Other's Guide is helpful for anyone who knows an alter, not just SOs.

27 August, 2007

Multiple Confessions

It's so hard to write when your hands are shaking...

Perhaps as long as the science of psychology has been around, people have prescribed art and writing assignments as ways of healing damaged minds. I've always used my writing to help me cope with painful emotional and mental difficulties that have come up throughout my life. Especially lately, as I've been preparing to re-enter therapy for real and seriously this time, I've been increasingly aware of the fact that I can neither be fair to you, as readers, nor fair to myself without being completely honest in this blog.

It isn't fair to YOU because you've come to read a truthful, raw, sincere blog. It isn't fair not to give you the complete picture, to skate over aspects of my life which I'm too frightened to discuss. For one thing, it may well leave you lost since you'll only be getting fractured glimpses. Beyond that this incomplete, bullet-style relation is boring, if nothing else. It's all the reasons for which I hate abridged books... and yet that's what I'm doing to my blog, for fear of the consequences of honesty.

Granted, whoever first said honesty was the best policy must have led a pretty damned sheltered existence at best. Complete honesty is only an occasionally wise move, subject to factors variable and diverse as the audience and the weather. I'm not endorsing a life lived entirely in lies, but discretionary disclosure and carefully tainted perspectives can still get you out of a hell of a lot of trouble. How many thousands of people would have survived over the years had they only told a small lie when pressed by the man with the sword?

So now you see a bit of the dilemma I face. Honesty for the sake of true, quality writing? Honesty for the sake of my recovery?

Lies for the sake of face, humiliation, security, friends...family?

As I've known since the first of my livejournals to this, my most recent and current blog, there are more than faceless strangers reading the words I type. Even through those periods in my life when I've tried to hide my words, I knew that if someone really wanted to, they'd find a way to read them (and often did). I'm sure of many who read this and suspect many more, ranging from lovers to best friends to siblings and parents, uncles and aunts and therapists, cousins, former teachers, coworkers, casual acquaintances, schoolmates, god knows whom else. That's a whole lot of an audience. I've now way of knowing if they read daily or when the fancy hits them, if they care about me as a person or find this an interesting read. I've had people find my blog by googling random subjects or being referred from and recommended by well-known sites.

...All that makes this blog seem a lot more impressive than it is, and the stakes much higher than they are.

In the end it boils down to me being aware that the confession I want to make is controversial even in some of the best of academic and psychiatric circles. Media portrayals, which adore any slightly comical, novel idea, love to misconstrue the realities of it to fit into their needs, to the detriment of anyone trying to come out about their situation. Popular opinion loves to snatch quickly at what they understand, add a liberal helping of speculation, a portion of doubt and ridicule, and a heaping of false facts and gossip to everything they hear and see.

All these things said, I wish to discuss a couple more disclaimers before continuing.

To my friends: please comment with your support, but don't do so without being informed. While this is an entry about something I'm frightened to reveal, I'm actually quite happy with it in many ways. It's not nearly as shameful as outsiders think. It's complicated, yes, and can be quite embarrassing, awkward, even dangerous, but this is neither a death sentence nor a mark of disability. Just an aspect of who I am.

To my family: you are the biggest reason I've hesitated; not gonna lie. Your religious views in particular make this an especially complicated thing to discuss because as much as you learn and are willing to research, many churches remain way behind the times on psychiatric issues, leaving you in an unfortunate position of being subtly or blatantly misinformed and not aware of it. I ask you now to show me the respect of not talking to me about this until I give you the okay. I encourage you to learn more; if you want, I'm happy to recommend books and websites and Crystal probably can show you even more resources than I can. But please, don't send me a long letter/email/phone call telling me you're praying for me and recommending resources of your own and encouraging me to talk to a pastor and that you understand/have answers etc, etc. Please don't be offended, but I don't want your resources. This is something I've been aware of for years, and I've done tons of research on my own. I've talked to doctors with specialties and degrees you probably don't know exist. Especially when I lived in DC I went to institutes with 'National' in front of the title to make sure I could get the best care possible.

...God, that makes it sound like I'm dying! Okay. Before I go any farther and make you think I've got some rare, bizarre brain dementia or fungus or am infested by sentient, parasitic slugs (Animorphs, anyone?), let me state first and foremost that aside from any previously mentioned health issues, I am fine. There is NOTHING organically or physiologically or otherwise physically wrong with me. This is completely mental, and even then I hesitate to use the common nomenclature 'disorder'.

My name is Tina Malament. I'm twenty-almost-one years old. I'm a waitress. I have major depressive disorder, anorexia nervosa, obsessive compulsive tendencies, various other diagnoses....

And dissociative identity disorder.

Commonly misinformed, many people call it multiple personality disorder (which is an outdated term).

I don't have a good side and an evil side. (Please do me the courtesy of not relegating me to a coin or a comic book villain!) I'm not demon possessed. I'm not bipolar, I don't alternate between highs and lows born from a chemical imballance.

To clarify on my pet peeve, I DON'T HAVE F-ING SCHIZOPHRENIA! I don't hear voices the way you might think; I don't have a false perception of reality or hallucinations or a savior complex. Dissociative Identity Disorder (hereby: DID) is often portrayed/labelled in mass media events as schizophrenia. See also: Heroes, Me, Myself, and Irene, Fight Club, etc. Some of those have elements of DID which are pretty accurate.... Others are completely bullshit off the mark. (Actually, I really liked a lot of the way it was portrayed in Heroes, beyond the artistic licenses taken... The way she looked when switching personalities and the way she described the amnesia are pretty good. Fight Club, on the other hand, sucked. Great movie, but sucked.)

If you've seen/read Sybill, you should know that I have no desire to be hypnotized and integrated. It would probably not help, for one thing. That book, while seen as a sort of media authority on DID, is roughly fifty years out of date when it comes to the actual assessment and treatment of the disorder.

Yes, I have more than one 'personality part'. They're called alters. Yes, they have names, genders, age ranges, complete memories and life histories and very diverse opinions on life, the universe, and everything. Some of them often appear more harmful than others; some are sweet, some tend to be very angry, some exist for very specific purposes and can seem simplistic because of this. Many are good at things which I'm bad at, or vice versa. We have different opinions about freaking everything, speak differently, have different typing and spelling errors, different tastes in foods, even different health problems. We hold our body differently depending on who's out. We like different clothes and colors and activities.

Probably you'll get introduced to everybody as they see fit. Several have already written the entries in this blog; you may or may not have noticed when writing styles shift, vocabularies and sentence styles vary. Maybe you'll notice now that you're looking for it; who knows. Maybe when you expect someone to be a single, cohesive person it's harder to realize when they aren't.

I think we're going to cut it off now. That's probably enough to think about for one day, right?

Here are a couple of websites for you to look at since we barely covered the basics of what DID is... We've been over it so many times with so many people that it gets really tiresome to discuss after a while, particularly when there are so many valuable resources on the internet!
--->Merck - fairly awesome for overview purposes, except for the treatment goals part.
--->Religious perspectives and misperceptions answered. Sort of.
--->Surprisingly good FAQ section on a random AOL-sponsored information site.
--->The Significant Others' Guide to coping with DID

Oh yeah, one final thing... Please, please, do me a personal favor and DO NOT go to wikipedia for information about this. Their entry on the subject was so inflammatory and ill-informed that it made me write a nasty letter to wikipedia about it and create an account so that I could try to go in and edit the entry. (Which I never got done, but still, I worked on it. The entry is so riddled with error that it needs to be completely rewritten and we haven't had the energy for it.)

Shannon, thank you for all the support you've given us since we told you. Probably if you hadn't taken the news so well we wouldn't be able to come out here and now... (Are you proud?)

Readers... We now humbly await your thoughts.

25 August, 2007

Status overview

Well, at long last, we have internet in the apartment. Hooray! Commence celebrating!

Essentially what happened is that the modem arrived Monday but, when we tried to set it up, it quickly became apparent that the little plastic bundle of wires and microchips was completely worthless. (When all lights stand solid red it's never a good sign.) I called Qwest and scheduled for a technician to come over today, on the first day off I've had in a week. Quickly, painlessly, in the course of half an hour, a new modem was slipped in and set up and now all is well.

Otherwise, there's little to report from Colorado. I've been working close to constantly and fighting off a cold/sinus infection/thing with about as much of a respite. Today being the first day I've had off since last Saturday, I plan on parking my ass on the couch with South Park, movies, what-have-you, trying to find something to eat in the bare-bones kitchen, and otherwise resting and allowing my respiratory system to heal. Ideally I should be picking up shifts and trying to bulk up my hours and income, but at the moment I think healing needs to take priority to allow for the rest.

Money, money, money. Cursed money. It feels as though we live in a perpetually broke state of existence though, in reality, it's probably not as bad as it seems. Granted, things are tight. Nevertheless, we are meeting our bills, paying for our groceries, and even affording some nice perk now and then (see also: internet access). Funds will undoubtedly be getting tighter as we come upon the hurdles of Crystal's books for the semester and the newly acquired doctor's bills...

I saw a doctor last week and now have prescriptions for both Effexor and Welbutrin. Started on the Effexor starter pack several days ago - as such, have yet to see any effects or benefits, really. Plan on starting the Wellbutrin after reaching a maintenance dosage for the Effexor so as to pre-empt any conflict between the two while upping the levels. I figure that if there will be negative side effects from one or both, it'd be best to watch them one at a time so I know which medication is causing the detriment.

In addition to the prescriptions, I got a couple of referrals. I suppose I'll be honest about what the one is for: my breasts have lumps.

Dr. Schimke gave me a referral for a women's health clinic to do an ultrasound... There's a large one in the left breast which I noticed about a month ago, and a smaller one in the right, about the size of a marble. They vary in size depending on the day (and, I'm guessing, my cycle) and are also very tender - the doctor thinks they are cystic. Still, though, she's referred me out to a specialist to have them checked out and make sure there's nothing seriously wrong. I'm trying not to grow alarmed. As she said, I'm twenty years old, relatively healthy, there's not a history of breast cancer in my family... Everything ought to be fine... The appointment is September 4th, and I'll let you know as soon as I know anything else.

I'll also update you on the therapist situation as soon as I've met with her... When I called Aurora Mental Health, they told me it would likely be forty-five to sixty days before I received a call back to schedule an intake. Instead, they called me two days later. I've got an intake scheduled on September 5th. I'm rather apprehensive about it, as the therapist they've got me slated to see doesn't have the specialties I'm looking for, exactly. She's experienced in trauma and dissociative disorders but not eating disorders... Still, though, she's been in practice for many many years so I'm sure she's come across them before. Her main areas of expertise are couples counseling and drug/alcohol addiction - I'm really not sure how d.ds and trauma counseling fit in there. We'll see.

With that little overview complete, I'm off to rest more and read more. I finally finished Atlas Shrugged last week and started on Les Miserables. I'm already three hundred pages in to the unabridged version, surprising no one more than myself. Who would have thought I'd charge through Les Mis with such voracity? It's comforting at least to read great works when I'm out of school... I feel less lazy and ignorant.

I wish all of you the best as you start back in to school for the fall. Remember to take care of yourselves in the midst of the chaos.

15 August, 2007

Still alive and still kicking that dead horse

Jesus H. Is this REALLY the FIRST chance I've had to update my blog since returning from MD on the 2nd? Answer: Yes. Yes it is. Suck.

Our piggy-backed internet officially decided to give us the boot at home, so that greatly limits my ability to update. Then too, working 40+ hours since the first morning I was back doesn't help at all in the free time department... I've been making a lot of money, but, god am I tired.

Today would have been my fifth double shift in a row but for the fact that a friend offered to pick up the AM shift so that I don't have to be in until 5:45 tonight, allowing me time to settle my ass at It's A Grind (BEST COFFEE SHOP EVER), with an iced chai (I've recently become a fan: finally, I'm a true lesbian!), a checkbook to be ballanced (hooray internet banking; I don't want to begin to think about how snarled it is), a blog to be updated (at this point I feel the need for a parenthesis after each statement), and a doctor to be found (I suppose I'm trusting to fate and location since I know no one here). (Parentheses: the new black. Or comma.) Damn but that was the longest sentence ever.

Oh yeah! And also, I have a birthday party to plan if I have time! Old as I may feel, I still am only partially legal. Isn't that lame? It's not even as though I drink, but the mere fact that I can buy and own a car, rent an apartment, join the military, what-the-f-ever, but not get a glass of wine at a restaurant pisses me off. All this will change on September 16th when my last Big Birthday for twenty years will occur. It's weird, planning my twenty-first... Honestly, I've felt so old for so long that it seems trite.

...Wow. What do I have to say? This is nothing but a tangle of rambles, all frustrated before the point of meaning. This is actually how I've been feeling lately about my life in general, though whether or not the two are in any way connected is debatable.

Lately, waitressing has felt even more thankless and dead-end than it already has... Though I'm still bringing in a fair amount, enough at least to pay the bills, I get off a shift feeling more as though I've been begging for change or turning tricks than legitimately being paid for a job well done. Every 5$ tip on a 90$ check (see also: last night) makes perfectly executed service feel like a joke. If the person will pretty much tip what they're going to tip regardless of the service I give or the check they run, why bother? I ruin myself every night trying to make sure each table receives exemplary service but whether or not I'll be paid for that effort is a crap shoot.

My shoulder has been bothering me again, too, increasing with the hours I work. Hell, it's only been about eight months since my surgery and I'm back to double shifts pretty much every day I work... At this pace, the healthy, whole parts of my body won't stay such for long. People don't realize that waitressing takes an incredible toll on your body. Although I've been eating more I can't gain any weight or keep on what I've got because of waitressing so much... I may be eating Cheesecake Factory food every day, but the calories are all offset by the loaded plates I cart all over the restaurant, the trays of drinks, and constant speed-walking. I'm solid muscle, knots, and strains.

Yucky part is, I've got no clue where I'd rather work or what I'd rather do. What job can I get with a year's worth of college that has adequate pay, benefits, and satisfaction? That I'd enjoy? I have no clue. Especially with working in a mall, it seems that everyone here is older than I and stuck working too many hours in a dead end job because it's the best option they got. So many people here in Colorado are working to pay for the homes, cars, and KIDS on minimum wage, yet I'm making at least twice that and complaining about it. Why does it feel like that makes me a terrible person? I don't think it does...

Last night I was mourning my complete lack of connections here. I didn't exactly have the most outrageous network in DC, but I still new enough people that I could know where to go if I had a question about something, needed help. I had a Pulitzer prize winning author, senior literary professor at George Washington U offering to mentor me and help me become a better writer. I had opportunities. Now that I'm half a country away perhaps I'm not completely cut off from any way to improve but I certainly feel the disconnect. I don't know where to go or who to talk to. I've got no school, no professors, no friends outside my dead-end job. The only way up at Cheesecake is to step into management and I'll be damned before I become THAT much of a corporate whore.

...Of course, then I look at complete complete train wreck entries like this one and think that I ought to have learned better by now than to still have literary aspirations. I can't even keep a blog in one piece.

Well, my thought are trickling out at this point and I'm having a hard time sifting through the silt that remains. I'm going to now return to my doctor search... I've finally got health insurance now through Cheesecake, meaning that I can at long last find a therapist to stick with, a psychiatrist, and get back on some medication. With any luck, maybe my thoughts will be a little more cohesive and I'll have a better time trying to plan and think and do anything with some cocktail to temper my crazy thoughts. It's about time, I can tell you that much. I'm tired of crying myself to sleep at night with absolutely no provocation.