Spectacular Failure

I failed at something I loved, spectacularly failed. I never thought the end would be like this, but, alas, it is. I now question myself constantly. What else could I have done?  Could the outcome have been different if I had never said anything? But now it is known, even if I’m not believed the secret is out. It is no longer a secret that this person gaslights, and makes you doubt your sanity by denying the truth of what you experienced. The denial of that experience is far more destructive than the original inappropriate behavior. It makes for more interesting reading if I put forth examples of this crazy-making behavior. However, in the interest of discretion, I should not, though I ache to convey the insanity.

There’s an interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced where as the complainant I became persona non grata when I was previously well-received by the same people who now will not even say “good morning.” Some of these people I adored, and had respected greatly. When you originally assess that a person is credible, lovely and a good judge of character, it can be a jolt to your system when that same person no longer speaks to you with no explanation. I’ve cried over it, theorized about it. And now I have to move on, and accept that it will forever be one of the mysteries of my life. I have to work to make this experience not define me, though it is hard to stay out of that tendency.

It’s hard to go back to my okayish self. I’m out of that job with a new one, but the scars remain. I get freaked out easily, and still question my reality and my sanity. I want it to be behind me, but there it is, like a March mud season that does not relent.

I tell myself that it’s okay to come out to the living again. But the fear is right there beneath the surface, ready to bloom to defense or flight at a moment’s notice.

I tell myself that I am more than just a job. I am more than a document I produce. I need to not leave this earth of my accord, despite the nightmares and the flashes of visions where I go into oblivion.

I drive very little these days because I get in that floaty cloudy state far too often. I’m on the bus a lot, and it seems I’ve found my people. The woman who speaks to herself at the bus stop is my sister, my sister in confusion and trying to make a life with a brain that works differently from the rest of the world. The homeless guy on the bus is all of us trying to make it in this life. The mom with 3 kids on the way to the mall is going to give her kids a fun Friday night, just like other moms all over the country endeavor to do on a Friday night. On the bus I can sit there and silently cry about the job I no longer have, and the people I no longer see. There’s a quiet acceptance of each other on this bus-the homeless guy that needs a shower, the woman that talks to herself, the mom with 3 kids that are full of noise and laughter, and me with my head against the window with a broken heart, but a hope for all of us on that bus.

The Bus Terminal

I have to leave you behind at the bus terminal. It is time for us to board our separate buses. I want to be on your bus, but my ticket has a different number on it. I avoided it for a while by taking a longer layover, but in the end, I have a different destination from you. And the longer I delay my departure, the more time that passes before the inevitable will be clear to both of us: that I should have heeded my original bus ticket in the first place, when I realized we had different tickets.

You, who are kind beyond measure with my PTSD and dissociative disorder -I wish you were on my bus. But, alas, we are not even on the same busline. I will miss how you gently rub my head when I shake unexpectedly, and the fab way we baked that chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting from scratch in my kitchen. We learned the difference between unsweetened cocoa and Dutched cocoa. I still have that container of unsweetened cocoa we accidentally bought at first, not realizing our mistake. We planned on doing something with it sometime. But sometime never came, and now there it sits on my pantry shelf. It will likely remain there. I like looking at it, thinking of you in this kitchen, bringing it to life with your presence.

Aside from baking and a fondness for board games, we have little in common. Before I forget, please keep my copy of Power Grid, the board game. I had not played it in years. Let it live on with your friends. Games should be played instead of gathering dust in a study. I will miss playing games with all of you.

My heart does not yearn for you the way it should when two people are in love. We have little to talk about, unfortunately. I think that’s why we usually tried to “do” things together because we both knew, on some level, there wasn’t a connection, a passion, a love -none of that was there. What we had was a friendship, for which I hope some day can be revived if you forgive me for all of this.

I yearn for your companionship, but not your heart, and that’s why my bus ticket is different from yours. We’ve hung out in this bus terminal for a good while, and it’s been a lovely, but I should catch my bus and stop dillydallying. My bus ticket is nonreturnable, and so is yours. As hard as it is, I must wish you well. It was the best layover ever, but we can’t spend our lives in this bus terminal. It’s time to find out where our buses will take us. One last hug, but I can’t turn back when I walk away.

To Every Clinician with PTSD and DID Clients

This weekend I finally felt the edge of hope for the first time in a long while. Take note, clinicians: it’s not because of medication, a therapeutic approach, or a hospitalization. It seems that the answer all along was incredibly simple: people. I’ve needed to connect with people, in particular, people that understand dissociative identity disorder. Yesterday I met a handful of women with DID, and I’m buoyed beyond words by the experience.

I mentioned my ever constant and present experience of losing time at home, and spending as little time as possible at home because I lose time. I spoke to a woman with the exact same experience. It’s not lost on me that coming out of the isolation with this meant that another person had to have this same experience. I wanted to throw my arms around her as she conveyed her experience to me.

Here’s a note to clinicians that I wish could be delivered to every single one out there: All the talk therapy, theoretical approaches, medications, hospitalizations and case management will do nothing to alleviate the loneliness of mental illness. Group therapy is a regular part of any hospitalization, but once you’re launched back into the real world, group therapy is surprisingly difficult to locate for non-veterans with PTSD or DID. Beyond group therapy, support groups for non-veterans with PTSD or DID are just as difficult to locate as therapy groups. The result is that such individuals find themselves isolated with no peers to connect with. Even the best therapist is no replacement for peer connections. Please do what you can to create therapy groups and support groups for people with PTSD or DID. Many researchers are spinning out trying to find the PTSD cure. Perhaps the answer is not in the cure, but in the connections. Together we can endure a lot if we feel the balm of support. Can the answer be as simple as connections with others? Maybe. This is where we can learn from Alcoholics Anonymous. We all know I’m ambivalent about AA, but they certainly get the people part of contributing to success with continued sobriety. We can’t cure each other of our PTSD or DID, but we can feel less alone in this fight. And some days, that connection may be the very thing we need to get the next day.

The most important thing a clinician can do is seek to create opportunities for peers to connect with each other. Ask your clients if they know anyone else with their mental illness. If you start noticing a trend in that few, if any, of your clients have peer connections start talking with your colleagues. Look for groups. If you come up empty, your clients have likely come up empty as well. Did you know that aftercare from inpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient treatment always includes a recommendation for group therapy? Most of the time that recommendation is for a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group, which is different from what I’m recommending. But here’s the rub: outpatient DBT groups are also few and far between outside of major metropolitan areas such as Boston or Washington D.C. Let’s work to create communities of support so that no one with PTSD or DID is ever without the connection of another peer. With all the intellect, resources and energy out there this should be a mission that we can make a reality. It’s not an expensive venture, far from it. Tomorrow I’m going to start to be a pain in the ass on this, and I’m going to start asking every mental health professional I come into contact with if we have such groups. I don’t think we do because I’ve done my own looking in my community, but I feel compelled to turn over every rock. Someone needs to ask “Do we have groups for people with PTSD or DID?” “Why not?” “Has anyone ever tried to create such groups?” “Who would know anything about this?”

If I can be a pain in the ass in my own job with my knack for asking annoying investigative questions, surely I can put that skill to use here.

I implore that we all ask our therapists or our colleagues if such resources exist in our areas. Then we need to ask why, and look to rectify the gap. Humans were meant to connect with other humans. Everyone should feel the edge of hope from the understanding of another peer.