One never knows what comes next

This southern city is not my cup of tea. It’s no Earl Grey latte, hell, it’s not even a Starbucks hot black tea. Still though, I cannot ignore the fact that I’m getting signs from the universe that I am right where I should be.

I landed a job in my field. Pays abysmally less than I made in my prior job with the same experience. But, I’ve met some great people, and become great friends already with one of my colleagues, another proud member of Rainbow Club*.

With some trepidation, I managed to find a DID therapist. She’s crazy expensive, but I can tell she knows what she’s doing. That job I got is not giving me hassle about working from home one day a week so that I can easily go to my sessions. And I can just feel that I’ve reached a new place in my therapeutic process. My last therapist was incredibly supportive of me, but she had no DID experience. I tried a few times to find a therapist in my last city that had DID experience, and it did not go well for many reasons. I sense that it’s time for a new phase in my process, and I’ve found the right person for it. And I am in the right city with the right job and with the right wife to make it all possible.

And, yet, despite all this, I’m aching to ask my new therapist, “It’s all a mistake right, I don’t have this DID thing after all?” The feeling that it’s all made up, and all for attention just permeates my sense of being at times with no warning. It just pops out like a bad, obnoxious pop-up shop on the street with never ending noise and confusion. Then the feeling goes away like it was never there, until it is again.

*Rainbow Club is my own way of describing those of us that identify as LGBTQIA.

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.

Have you ever run into your own therapist at a 12 step meeting?

It is a bit forward of me to start out with tossing this question out, “Have you ever run into your own therapist at a 12 step meeting? I say it’s forward of me because I’ve been absent from here for months upon months! This I recognize, and it’s been on my mind that my absence has grown longer and longer with each day. How to explain it? A good part of it is the fact that I’m well aware that my anonymity is not what it used to be, especially once I was Freshly Pressed. It’s been oh so hard to feel free to write on here. Also, recent struggles led me to isolate big time, and that isolation stretched to this blog as well.

But back to the original question, has anyone ever run into their own therapist at a 12 step meeting? I ask because this just happened to me this very morning with the therapist I wrote about here. What made it awkward is the fact that I’m still trying to sort out my feelings as to whether or not I want to continue working with her. She has many moments of brilliance and insight, but then I get annoyed when she says she will make a certain phone call, and then does not or it takes her two plus weeks to do it. We spoke about the phone call thing, and she apologized for it, but she said that she usually follows through, and I did not call her on it. She thought I was unhappy about that particular time we were discussing when she failed to make a particular phone call she had committed to make. I could have used my words and said, “No, you’ve done this before … ” Alas, I did not, and that is my issue to own.

I say all this to say that I think all of this colored my own pained reaction when I ran into her. She asked me if I was ok with it, and I said yes, which was not the complete truth. But what is one to do in the moment? After all, she’s a person too. She’s entitled to avail herself of 12 step meetings. Afterwards, I wanted to talk to her and assure her that I usually go to the 10:30 meeting, and that I would not return to the 9:00 a.m. meeting, that I was just there because I had a breakfast to attend, and decided to take in an earlier meeting. But it was not to be, as soon as the meeting was over she quickly scampered to someone and started what looked like a serious conversation, so I just left.

I would love to hear others experience with this kind of situation.