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Being treated for a dissociative disorder

Posted by Pfinstegg on July 28, 2004, at 18:16:49

There have been several wonderful, thoughtful posts here lately, with posters describing impressive levels of insight and courage in exploring new areas within themselves, as well as wonderful examples of excellent therapists at work. I don't have anything quite comparable to offer, but wanted to share a bit more of my own experience as someone with a dissociative disorder being treated by a psychoanalyst. I don't have actual DID, but rather a normal-seeming adult self which functions well in marriage, motherhood and a university career in science, However! I am constantly fighting down really severe anxiety (real fear) and depression. I didn't know it when I started therapy, but I have discovered that I have actually walled off my infant and childhood experiences, which included severe maternal neglect, and, later, an alcoholic father who was sexually and physically abusive. I seem to have gone into a sort of daze during my entire childhood, emerging as a teenager and, later, adult who seemed to have everything going for her- brains, good looks (yes, I'll say it!), and a personality that people were drawn to.

When I first went into analysis a year and a half ago, I was trying hard to keep that adult in place in therapy, too. Gradually, that has given way; it's as if the walled-off, dazed infant and child have come to life. *They* feel very separate from me- they really are suffering children who didn't get to grow up. Now, they are fully present in the analysis. I don't think I have ever experienced such fear, grief and sorrow in my entire life. But, I do think it's a big step to experience these real childhood feelings, rather than the anxiety and depression which were signallling their existence

It's as if the infant and the young girl have to start from scratch in learning to relate to the analyst. At first, when those parts surfaced, they felt completely alone, detached and grief-stricken. On the couch, I would turn my face away towards the wall and just sob. I felt like I was dying of a broken heart. Very slowly, they are beginning to relate to the analyst- they have moments of trust and closeness, followed by more distrust and withdrawal almost instantaneously. Back and forth- they have a long way to go in building a secure attachment, and in discovering what their desires and wishes are. In the process, too, they have to discover a lot more painful details of what actually happened to them that was so destructive. I'm calling them *them* because, although I, as the adult, know and understand about their experiences, they, as the children, don't know anything much about the adult me.

My analyst is absolutely wonderful in helping me sort all this out. He is always extremely gentle and tender towards the child
parts, trying to let them know that they have a safe person to be with. He is just very empathic by nature, but, when the adult part is there, he relates to her (me!) in a more complex, humorous, sharing way.

I guess our eventual goal will be to dissolve the separations in me which have occurred. But, for the time being, my analyst is intent on speaking directly to the child parts- giving them their first safe, loving experience. My part of the work is just to let them be there as fully as possible, and to experience their pain- not alone this time, but with him. That is the vital key to everything that is happening in my therapy- the connection to him.




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poster:Pfinstegg thread:371785