Category Archives: Depersonalization Disorder

Distraction or Imagination, Imagination or Distraction

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ive spent more time today pondering about the act of reading. This morning I described reading as a child/ teenager as my ‘salvation’. I’ve been thinking what that looked like for me. Was my salvation finding solace in imagined places, escape through fantasy or was it on a more base level merely a distraction? 

I’m coming to the conclusion that it offered me and still does, a distraction. As observed this morning, reading takes all my attention. Maybe as a young person reading enabled me to temporarily focus on something different to reality. 

I read fairly quickly. And unfortunately I have usually forgotten what I’ve read relatively quickly. One of my huge frustrations in life and therapy is my difficulty in using imagery and ‘pictureing’ myself. Sometimes the mindfulness exercises require me to ‘imagine’ myself by a lake- I find it absolutely impossible. It really makes me angry, that I can’t do it. My psychiatrist says it is due to my struggles with depersonalisation and de-realisation. Whatever the reason, I can see this in my reading behaviour. 

I would devour books but could never enter them. I remember loving the stories of life at Mallory Towers and The Famous Five but I could never allow myself to be taken into another world. I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t truly empathise because I couldn’t own my own reality. 

Some books have had lasting impressions on me- to kill a mocking bird the most notable. It is one of the few books where I can still remember reeling at the injustice in one of the court room scenes. 

I love reading. But I’m now not entirely sure why! I don’t mean to be heavy about it, whatever the reason I like the act of reading very much. I think I’ve just been caught by the possibility today of it not just being a way to use my time but it could also be a way of me entering another’s world as I try and make sense of mine.

Thanks for listening. 

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Growing in knowing

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My quest for change continues…

Since Sunday in particular I have been musing on the question- ‘what do I want things to look like?’ I’ve been blogging about wanting to do things differently, but I need meat on the bones- what does that look like?

Currently, I’m not entirely sure. But I am now able to observe that I have a clearer sense of what I don’t want. My sense of self is slowly but surely developing… I can now articulate foods I like and dislike… Textures of materials… Colours… Smells…

But I realise I find it is a lot easier to articulate what I don’t like, it is more tricky for me to express what I do like or want. I think some of that comes down to fear of rejection- if I say I like something or want something- what if I can’t have it??? Occasionally and very recently I have been able to say to friends with whom I feel safe enough if I don’t want something – I find that hard enough let alone saying what I would like !!!

This morning I realised again, that for so many years I have accepted what I don’t want in life because either
A) something was better than nothing
B) fear of being hurt and punished for articulating my own preferences or
C) fear of having nothing if I choose not to accept what is in offer.

The challenge for me is to grow enough in my personhood to work out what I do want. If I don’t want Christmas/ New year / school holidays to be like this… What do I want them to be like …

And that my friends is part of my mission… I realise just because I want something doesn’t necessarily mean I can have it… But I’ve got to at least start with getting in touch with some of my desires and give myself a chance of living the life I want…

I feel this at such a deep level that this blog really doesn’t do it justice- but maybe that in itself is a bit of a clue – maybe I need to strip back again to the basics…

All is good

Thanks for listening

Side by side

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This week has been a new experience for me. I have been trying to marry my sadness at the loss of my brother’s dog- both the dog itself but more painfully the impact on my brother, while at the same time also trying to accept and live in the moment of all the great things that I am doing and getting on with.

The balance of both sadness and lots of joy has been a new and tricky situation for me. In times past, on the whole things would either be absolutely awful or absolutely amazing. This week I find that both are occurring simultaneously for me- and I have found it difficult to manage- mainly because I manage my life by compartmentalising everything, everyone and myself!

I have not seen Penelope for 3 weeks. And I have been thinking about my upcoming session on Friday. What do I tell her… Where do I start? Do I let my grief be the focus of the session or do I spend some time telling her all the massive strides I have taken forward? Well, in line with dialectics I will obviously do both. Because both are equally valid and equally true.

I remember a previous therapist saying to me once, that one of the hardest things can be to accept that someone has been both horrible to you and at times nice. That confusion throws me at times- but it is working with the grey. I tend to box people into competent- incompetent, generous-stingy, capable- incapable… And actually sometimes people including myself can vary on that spectrum.

On Monday I felt paralysed by my emotional pain. Everything I had been working on seemed Sooo pointless. By Tuesday I was able to accept more that Nellie dying is absolutely awful, but that doesn’t have to negate everything else. Yesterday I was very wobbly and today I’ve identified my struggle of two things going on at the same time. That is really helpful.

Hair cuts, jewellery, clothes, making soups and eyebrows seem so unbelievably pointless when I think about my brother. And in many ways yes they are. But I’ve had glimpses that sometimes the more mundane things in life are the things that enable to you keep going when the bigger things are shaken. Going grocery shopping, washing up, having a shower are part of the rhythms that may help stop a potential crash.

I have had to accept that Nellie has died and i am trying to accept that my brother will respond the way he chooses to respond. I have had to put into practice the skills of self-soothing and distress tolerance in a way I haven’t had to for quite a while. I am tired, very shaky and vulnerable. But I have also known what I have needed to do to manage. I’ve been exercising, cooking, watching films, sitting outside, tidying up. Apart from one day I haven’t totally collapsed- which is wonderful 🙂

Thank you for all your thoughts.

Thanks for listening.

Hepzibah.

Signs of change

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My body continues to be challenging. My eye is not responding to treatment as I would have hoped. The main repercussion of compromised vision has been the effect in my distress tolerance and DBT skills. I have blogged previously about how I am a visual learner and my more successful skills are visually based. For the post month I have not been able to read, knit, crochet, make jewellery… Blogging is just about ok in very small doses!

So I’ve had to challenge myself to be skilful in new ways. One of the main things I have done is have bursts of de-cluttering and organising my home. In shortish bursts I’ve attacked various drawers and shelves- it’s been sooooo satisfying!

Today I went through some photos. The first pack was of a visit to New York. I looked at the photos and could not relate to having visited there. The images were alien to me. I then began to organise my Olympic memorabilia- I had been part of the opening ceremony but have no real recollection of this event. I found it very challenging and on the whole quite unpleasant so I zoned out a lot of the time. The photos mean nothing to me.

But then I saw an image of St. Basil’s cathedral in Moscow. Immediately I knew I had been there! How encouraging is that!!! I knew I had been there. Such a change.

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The other encouraging development over the past month is that I have been able to connect more with the needs of my body. For my whole life I’ve lived in fear that I have imagined or made up being ill. The reasons for this aren’t important at the moment. Except to say, it has at times stopped me getting appropriate medical treatment.

During this last month, I’ve had to go to the hospital 10 times and each time I have been able to articulate and identify the level of pain I’m experiencing. Every single time the doctor has believed me and my symptoms have matched up with the evidence in my body. That is really helpful for me. So helpful. Maybe I can trust what I am feeling in my body a bit more than I ever feared. Amazing.

I’m not happy my body is struggling. But I’m really happy that I am more connected to myself than I ever have been.

Thanks for listening.

Chronic emptiness

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I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at the beginning of 2012, by a consultant psychiatrist who I hadn’t met before this time of hospitalisation. My relationship with him was not easy.

My regular psychiatrist who has known me for many years has never been totally convinced about this diagnosis and this week when I saw him again we discussed it further. We looked together at the symptoms of BPD. Like every other human being in the entire universe I am unable to be boxed and many of my behaviours (or absence of certain behaviours) are not typical of BPD. However we both agreed that one of the BPD symptoms I do suffer from is the one of chronic emptiness.

For those that know what I mean, you would know that chronic emptiness can be one of the most painful and debilitating ways of suffering. For me, it is the most distressing of all my symptoms, and the one I try and medicate most with my behaviour. It is also the one that I feel I am making the least progress in my recovery.

But I write this post because I need to validate that I am trying. I have physically thrown myself off my sofa and moved away from the tele. I have got my skills checklist out and decided to make some christmas presents and blog. I am choosing to fight the choking abyss that threatens to extinguish life from me. At the risk of being criticised for my use of superlatives- my only defence is that there are no words that adequately describe the experience of chronic emptiness.

Marshall Linehan likens BPD sufferers with having 3rd degree emotional burns. Whether I have BPD or not is slightly irrelevant, unfortunately I can relate that level of pain.

I continue.

Thanks for listening.

Sexual fantasies and changing faces part 3

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The second theme that has emerged from my book interview last week is far more painful and problematic for me. It is related to my appearance. As well as thinking/ acting like I am asexual- I hold a deep seated belief that I am so ugly I will never be loved by a man that is not a git. I am so physically repulsive to people that any ‘normal’ guy wouldn’t touch me with a barge pole.

I am not saying I don’t have body dysmorphia- maybe I do- but in my mind I also feel I have evidence for this belief. I was born with a facial disfigurement- not genetic- just a freak thing in the womb. I have an abnormally wide distance between my eye sockets and a flat nose. I have had two lots of plastic surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital, unfortunately my first one was not until I was age 11.

Society does not like difference. Be it skin colour, waist size, red hair… And I feel my heart has paid a heavy price for my difference. It is not something I very often talk about and I joke about some of my afflictions- I have never joked about my appearance- it is far too raw for me.

I also confess, that I am hugely judgemental of other peoples appearance. I look at some people and think they are so minging- how comes they’ve got a husband. However, I judge myself far more harshly.

I can’t tolerate looking in the mirror. I find my face repulsive. I am not a self-harmer but sometimes I have to work very hard at not scratching my face to smithereens. I think it is some of the reason I struggle with de-personalization disorder, I have cut myself off from my body. If I’m out with friends and a man even looks at me- I automatically believe they are doing it for a bet to see if they can pull the ugliest bird in the room. (No wonder I’m single).

I fully realise there are thousands of others with worse disfigurements than I. But that doesn’t change my experience. Again I would never be able to share some of what has happened toe as a direct result of my appearance. My appearance (or my attitude to it) ruins my life. But I’ve got to change.

In the summer I went to a wedding of a young woman who has he same condition as me. Her husband is completely besotted with her. The difference between Sarah and I is that she has an inner belief that she is beautiful. When someone makes a comment about me- I die a little inside as I agree with them about my ugliness, my unattractiveness the certainty of my spinster future…

The time has come to nail this bastard. I’ve got to change the way I think about my appearance. People will have their opinions- they don’t count- my one of myself does. So what do I do… Help!!!!

Penelope wants me to work in opposite action. Go for a makeover/ photo session. I cry at the thought. My fear is that the photographer will refuse to photograph me. But I need to think of a plan.

Secondly, I have contacted the charity Changing Faces. I have known of them for years but have never made the call. Well, last week I did. They offer a psycho-social model specifically for working with facial disfigurement. They acknowledge that it doesn’t matter about the severity of the condition the only criteria is the effect it has on my life. I have an appointment with them on monday.

I am shaking. I’ve got to get on the tube which doesn’t help- but the thought of walking into this environment is slightly repulsive to me. I have been looking at photos of people with similar conditions to mine- I physically gag at the sight. To associate myself with that, feels impossible- but I do think specialist help could be useful.

I know with my head that beauty is in the eye of the beholder… Beauty is skin deep and all that jazz. I long to know that with my heart and be able to treat others with that attitude. I may well remain single for the rest of my life- however, I have the possibility of remaining single but knowing I am beautiful- no one can take that from me. This is one battle that I really need some help with.

It’s amazing what an interview about sexual fantasies can bring up!

Thanks for listening.

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Sexual fantasies and changing faces part 2- I always thought I was asexual

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For most of my life I have carried the weight of these ‘myths/ beliefs- (whatever you want to call them) firstly, that I have no sexual desire at all. When I talk about sex to friends ( not that often) I always say- “I haven’t had sex for 20 years and if I never have it again I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest”. And to be honest, that hasn’t necessarily changed but it has been challenged.

I have never had an enjoyable sexual experience. I have had more awful experiences than I will ever recount. Life is easier, more simple, even more pleasant without it as far as I am concerned. If I never have sex ever again, my life will not be the worse for it.

However, what has been massively challenged in the past few months is whether I ever actually have sexual desires. Previously, if I had to I would have described my sexual orientation as asexual. I don’t find men attractive, I don’t find women attractive. I am sexually dead. Sometimes I might try and think about having sex with a man in a pink shirt in a walk in shower- but that never has an effect on me- it just seems an interesting thing to do if I ever did have sex. But I had an encounter a couple of months ago that rocked that belief.

This was one of those incidents that at the time really knocked me. It was so strange- bordering on surreal. A door-to-door salesman came to my door- a young very attractive ex-offender- and to cut a long story short, he asked to have sex with me. Somehow, almost miraculously I managed to get him out of the house and not succumb. But unbelievably for me… I WANTED TO! If it wasn’t for the fact I didn’t know when my lodger was due home, concern that God would obliterate me and also that my legs needed shaving- I might have done it. OH MY WORD THAT IS SO OUTRAGEOUS FOR ME TO ADMIT! Physically I felt attracted to a man- I actually had to resist the encounter. I have never experienced that before.

My notion of asexuality was challenged to the core. Having to face the thought of maybe I would want/enjoy sex is rocking my core beliefs. Hear me right, I have no desire to have sex with random people. I still feel complete by being celibate. The difference is- just maybe I’m not as dead as I thought- maybe it’s just dormant???? GOSH, this is shocking for me! I need a cup of tea!

Thanks for listening.