Pancake Days

A few weeks ago Miss 5 was insistent that we have pancakes for lunch. Having the sweet tooth that she does they were served covered in copious amounts of maple syrup. After devouring them (and more sugar than we ever needed!) she watched Sesame Street on TV.

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When Sesame Street finished Miss 5 disappeared back inside, and Miss 7 came out to watch the show that was on next. Miss 7 stuck around for several different kids shows, then also disappeared back inside. Then Miss 3C came out and quietly watched another TV show.

In between all the TV watching that was going on different parts wrote in our journal. Lots of conversation was had, and a few issues raised to discuss in therapy. It turned out to be an incredibly productive afternoon.

Given how helpful it was, we tried it again a week or so later. This time Miss 7 got to help with making the pancakes, and thankfully, there was less maple syrup involved! Then, as with the week before, there were more kids TV shows, lots of journalling, and talking inside.

Now we’re waiting for groceries to be delivered so we have the ingredients to make more pancakes. This time Miss 21 is going to be making the pancakes. Before she starts cooking  I’ll get out our journal, pens, pencils, and other art supplies. Then, once we’ve eaten, anything goes.

Allowing time for everyone to come out has been really helpful. There aren’t any rules aside from keeping the body safe, and not leaving the house. Older parts, myself included, are always around to help out if need be. Younger parts can play with their toys, draw, watch TV, or write with help from others.

The other part we’ve had to be careful of is making sure we’re home alone. We have a lovely housemate, but they don’t know the extent of our mental health issues. We’ve mentioned depression and anxiety to them, but nothing about trauma, dissociation, or DID. These pancake afternoons are very carefully planned to make sure we’re alone, and won’t be interrupted.

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Will Therapy Ever End?

Our current therapist made a comment recently that made my heart sink. They said they thought we’re likely to need, at least, some supportive counselling for the rest of our lives.

The body is in it’s early thirties. If we make it to even eighty, that’s another fifty or so years of therapy. Maybe not weekly like now, but perhaps monthly.

Our current therapist will also be retiring in the near future. We’re trying not to worry too much about that, and trying to focus on getting as much DID focussed work done as possible in the time we have left.

That’s one of the hardest parts about having DID. Finding a therapist who has enough knowledge and experience to actually be helpful to us. In the last eight years we’ve just been lucky to come across therapists who are excellent at working with trauma and dissociation.

We’ve recently spent several weeks in hospital. None of us regret the admission. We got a lot of work done, and nearly all of us were able to talk to our therapist. No easy feat when there’s eighteen of us!

Our therapist is confident that we’ll have the majority of our trauma and DID based work done before they retire. I’m not sure how realistic that is. As much as ongoing therapy (for the rest of my life) makes my heart sink, I also can’t imagine our life without regular therapy or hospital admissions.

Does therapy ever end when you’ve experienced chronic childhood trauma?

Our Sensory Toys

Over the years we’ve slowly accumulated a rather nice collection of sensory toys. These toys, often aimed at children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
and/or Sensory Processing Disorder, are also helpful for people with anxiety and trauma based disorders.

We have a complicated list of different diagnoses including both physiological and psychological. I’ve seen so many different doctors, specialists, therapists, and allied health professionals. All have given different advice and guidance on managing my symptoms.

When it comes to my mental health the things I’ve found most helpful are the ones I’ve discovered on my own, or suggestions from professionals that I’ve tweaked to better suit my needs.

No one every suggested sensory toys for grounding. Ever. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon them. Mostly they were fun toys. I knew I’d pick at skin, fingernails, and clothing when feeling anxious, so something to play with helped. Sometimes that meant taking a soft toy to therapy to hold and play with. Now I usually sit and run my fingers over the plastic bottle of Diet Vanilla Coke I have before/during therapy. It has raised bumps, lines, and the label, plus the lid. Lots of different textures.

At home I have more choice: a weighted soft toy, a fidget cube, two different tangle toys, and a weighted blanket with fiddle tags.

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Our collection of sensory toys: A weighted hedgehog soft toy, a fidget cube, two tangle toys (smooth, and textured), and our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket with our DIY fiddle tags.

Different parts have preferred items. The pastel tangle toy is Miss 12 G’s, but not the textured tangle toy. That hasn’t been claimed by anyone yet, but I quite like it. I close my eyes and focus on the texture of each piece, try to describe it, then picture it. The fidget cube is relatively new, and liked by several of us – Miss 5 likes the colours, Miss 12 G likes pressing/touching different parts of it in order (all about patterns with her!).

The big weighted hedgehog toy belongs to all of us. Not only is it weighted (I think it’s 1-2kg), but the fabric it’s made of is all different textures that can be touched, rubbed, ruffled, and played with for all different sensations. It’s comforting (the weight), and distracting (the textures) for all of us.

That brings me to our 8kg (17.5 pounds) weighted blanket. I still have absolutely no regrets about buying it, and spending so much time sewing fiddle tags on. We still find the weight calming and reassuring, and the fiddle tags good for grounding like the sensory toys.
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Choosing To Spend Christmas Alone

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I’ve spent several months quietly pondering how I’ll spend Christmas this year. In previous years I’ve gone away with family, or visited friends. Last year I was in hospital for Christmas due to an Eating Disorder relapse – that sucked.

This year my family are going out of state for a family reunion. I’m not attending because this is a branch of the family that I’m completely unrelated to, and I don’t know at all. Multiple friends have invited me to spend Christmas day with them, but I’ve politely declined.

I want to stay at home. I want to have a special Christmas that’s as magical, exciting, and enjoyable as some of my childhood ones were. Despite ongoing abuse during my childhood Christmases were generally okay. There was no religious focus in my family. Instead of the focus was on gift giving, and feasting.

My mother was an excellent cook. Absolutely excellent! Christmas meant homemade sausage rolls, and fruit mince pies. All the potato chips, chocolate, lollies, and snacks you could imagine. Plus almost unlimited soft drink. There would be a late cooked lunch – an utterly amazing roast with all the trimmings. This in stark comparison to the rest of the year when there were strict rules around food and eating imposed by my mother.

So this year I’m creating my own feast. I’m making the fruit mince pies (just the way my mother did, and they’re absolutely brilliant!), and planning a roast lunch or dinner. I’m buying all the junk food I don’t usually eat. There will be soft drink, coffee, and perhaps a small amount of alcohol. I’m making cheesecake and/or trifle.

I intend to spend the day feasting and watching trashy Christmas movies I already own, or on Netflix. I’ve welcomed friends to visit if they choose, but this year I’m not going anywhere. I’m resting and relaxing.

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Avoidance. Pushing internal stress away. Dissociating. Zoning out. Eating disorder behaviours. Self medicating.

That’s all avoidance. I’m the Queen of Avoidance. Ultimately I know that avoiding stressors instead of dealing with them isn’t helpful, but it’s still a trap I tend to fall in to. Avoidance is what lead to my hospital admission just recently.

It all began back in February. I went for some routine tests and received some very unexpected and worrying results. I was told to attend a specialist hospital emergency department as soon as possible for more tests and/or treatment. Although I was calm on the outside, I was an anxious, nervous, scared mess inside.

I had all the tests done, saw the relevant specialists, and was sent home with an outpatient appointment for follow up and hopefully a diagnosis. Then, due to sleep deprivation from the stress and anxiety of this first health issue, I experienced an episode of another severe health issue. This landed me in the local hospital emergency department for the evening until, after tests came back clear, I was allowed to go home.

All of that happened over a one week period. The stress of having to deal with serious physical health issues made me push my mental health to the back burner. I just needed to go to appointments, have tests done, get answers etc.

Bad move. It turns out that, for me, pushing mental health to the back burner sets me on a slippery slope to chaos and despair. From February to June my symptoms slowly increased. The most noticeable was the avoidance of everything inside – alters/parts were silenced, and I gradually lost all connection with everything happening inside.

At some point that avoidance started bubbling away like a volcano getting ready to explode. Others memories and emotions began leaking through. The flashbacks started and became gradually worse. Eventually I was becoming anxious at 5pm because bedtime was in four to five hours, and bedtime meant flashbacks. I tried to avoid sleeping, but that didn’t work. I switched to increasing one of my medications so that I could manage the bedtime anxiety better, and fall asleep more easily.

That’s where I was at when I went in to hospital. An anxious, stressed, emotionally worn out, nearly falling in a heap mess.