An unexpected conversation.

Have you ever had a dream where, when you wake up, you can’t shake off the feelings it has left you with? Have you ever felt compelled to double check that whoever was in that dream is ok?

For a couple of years now I have struggled to remember any of my dreams. I only remember through having one or two images from the dream the following day. And of course, a nagging feeling or emotion that I have trouble identifying. I have tried different things to work out what is going on. Why these dreams are happening the way they do, is still a mystery. It’s difficult to understand them when I remember so little.

Many different people have been in my dreams, and though I get a nagging feeling, I am usually able to contain it and move on from it without anything bad happening.

The other night, I dreamt about my ex therapist, who I started working with 15 years ago. For 5 years, we worked through many of the issues I was dealing with. We developed a brilliant therapeutic relationship, although it took me a long time to fully trust him.

I don’t remember what happened in the dream. I just knew he was there. When I woke up the following day, that worry stayed with me and he kept coming into my thoughts. This has happened before, so it wasn’t a surprising occurence that I was unfamiliar with.

A few days later, and I woke from another dream that he was in. Again, I don’t remember the content. I just remember him being in the dream, and waking up to that awful feeling. I tried, again, to dismiss it. But eventually, as the day went on, my feelings got the better of me and I emailed him to check in.

Our emails were nothing out of the ordinary. The general pleasantries having been covered, we ended up talking about our therapy days. It was interesting to hear his perspective from that time. For all this time, I have only had my own perspective and my own memories of our therapy. With a lot of those memories being vague, and some even missing, it was interesting to discuss his perspectives also.

When I think back to that time, I can see I was in such a dark and difficult place. But I never realised how deep that ran. And I never really realised how he saw things. He mentioned that he often worried that he had pushed me too much through difficult sessions. I reassured him he never did that. I remember it being much easier for me to be pushed. I struggled to simply offer up information and so there were many times where he did have to push me, where he had to ask me questions in order to get anything out of me. There were days where I was just so overwhelmed by emotions that I would shut down. Not just mentally either; I would feel physically paralysed. Sometimes I could hear him asking me questions, trying to help me ground myself, trying to get me to move my eyes, to stop that fixed stare. And even though I could hear him, I was stuck, within myself. On the inside I was screaming for him to help me; banging on the internal walls I’d built around myself and screaming as loud as I could in the hope that he would hear me. On the outside, I was still, my eyes fixated on the same spot, unable to even nod or shake my head in response to his questions. Eventually he would help me to regain control.

I remember when he would try to reassure me that it was possible that things could improve and that I wouldn’t always feel so bad. And sometimes I would question his hope and optimism. I would reply that he was just telling me that because he would never dream of telling me that I was doomed, and that things won’t get better. Calmly, he would explain that he genuinely believed what he was saying. I never believed him and I never accepted his hope or allowed him to express it without biting back at him. Though I do know that he meant everything he said in that regard; he really did believe that I had hope of moving forward from the trauma I’d experienced.

In his own words he recently described me as being, all those years ago, ‘tormented’, ‘closed down’ and ‘hard to reach out to’. And in retrospect I see that 100%. He also told me that he didn’t know if I would survive, which made me realise how lucky I was. I was lucky to have not purposely killed myself. And I was even luckier that I didn’t accidentally kill myself through self-harm, overdosing, ligaturing. My life could have been wiped out and I wouldn’t be here today to share my experiences. And now, 15 years on from when I first met this person, I can happily say he was right. His fear that I may not have survived was very real and he had good reason to have the concern. I don’t think he was the only one with that worry.

When you are in the midst of depression and other mental health problems, it is near impossible to ever believe you can get through it and have a better life.
I am living proof that it is possible to survive. Never be afraid of reaching out when you are struggling. There will always be somebody who is willing to help, support and guide you. I would give anyone my time if they needed it or asked for it. Plenty of people have given me their time throughout my life when I needed it. And I believe that is partly why I am still here today.

You never need to suffer alone❤️

Dissociation, self-harm & compartmentalising

poem written by me in 2014 about dissociation

I came across this poem dated from back in 2014 that I wrote after an episode of dissociation. Reading it back now, isn’t triggering, but I can really remember the sadness and desperation I felt during that time. 

I would remember some of the time when I dissociated, but most of the time that I spent in that state is still a mystery. There were times where I’d wake up in the morning and find I’d hurt myself somewhere along the way, but often struggled to grab any memory of doing it. Only a few months ago, I found a ‘stash’ of blades that I never knew existed.

Knowing that at any point, there was a chance I could go into this state and hurt myself so much is terrifying. There were times when self-harm brought me out of the dissocisted state; not sure if that was a shock-reaction ‘cos I’d suddenly be thinking “wtf are you doing?” And I wouldn’t know what had triggered that incident of self-harm. When my mood was really low, I lived in constant fear that I’d go into a dissociative state and seriously harm or kill myself. That was more scary than ‘consciously’ feeling suicidal. At least when I wasn’t dissociated, I still felt in control of my behaviour. When i was dissociating,  the bits of it that I remember, it was like I was stood watching myself. And no matter what was happening, how I was behaving, I could only watch. I never knew how to get back to myself. It felt like my spirit had left, I was stood in my body, watching my spirit. In this poem, I describe an “out-of-control killer” trying to kill me. That killer, was also me. At the time, I thought that I was just seeing that because that’s what I was doing to myself. And maybe that is right. But here’s the psychological part that my brain’s just made sense of…

I was’t trying to kill myself, as a whole person. Maybe, I was trying to ‘kill’ or repress a part of me that I didn’t like… My inner child. I had unintentionally distanced my inner child from my adult part, because the adult me couldn’t cope with the overwhelming feelings that stemmed from childhood. My mind created different ‘compartments’ for the different parts of my personality and “I” shifted from these different parts, depending on events, environment, company etc. For example, the ‘adult Kerri’ was very sensible, professional when I needed to be, came across as quite confident. The ‘little Kerri’ felt very hurt, vulnerable, ashamed. The ‘punitive parent’ part of my personality was very hard on little me. Looking back, when I saw my inner child in my own mind, I despised what I saw.

Basically, if you look at the image I scribbled on the poem. The “adult” me, who knew right from wrong and wanted to be balanced and ok, is the one watching from a distance. The punitive me, who despised little me was the one who wanted to destroy that child I saw. The child I saw, was my inner-child.

When I started to try and acknowledge my inner-child and understand her feelings, it helped me to stop separating parts of my personality, and “I” started to become more whole.

Happy to report, no dissociation for over a year. In fact, no dissociation since I started to see my inner-child as a vulnerable child. Also, since I started acknowledging all parts of my personality, by being honest with those close to me about how I was feeling. For example, anger was a difficult emotion for me to share with other people. If ever I felt angry about something, I’d usually hide my anger. It would then build up inside and sometimes lead to self-harm. Now, even just saying aloud to somebody “I’m really angry at…” It helps, because I’m no longer denying my anger.

Anyway, I’ve learned a lot by writing this. I hope it helps you to understand it a little. I do want to point out, everyone is different and I am only going from my own experiences.

Any feedback welcome 😊