Author’s Note: Working through complex PTSD and DID isn’t a linear process, so chronicling it isn’t likely to be either. Here’s a synopsis of the beginning of my battle with dissociation. Other blog posts will give more detail about specific time periods. Others will circle back around or leap ahead to present day. If you wish to continue with me on this journey, I hope you find it enlightening.
Morguefile [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Really, I just did a lot of Tegretol, but that crap has a plethora of horrible side effects for people who aren’t psychotic and/or epileptic.
Recently, my time-traveling brain visited a time before the use of Tegretol. A time when parents and teachers had already grown concerned over my dizzy spells and my propensity for passing out at a number of inopportune moments. But during the same time I was also discovering, nurturing and being discovered for my talents in drama and puppetry.
As it turns out, there was a brief time when, as a teenager, I had friends. And not just the ordinary companions that youngsters gather around themselves in order to survive puberty. These were friends who sought me out and pulled me into their circles–older friends who didn’t think twice about driving a 13-year-old to plays and the state fair and a number of other “cool kid” activities. When buddies from church were staring in Once Upon a Mattress or Where’s Charlie?, we purchased tickets and formed our own fan club. They even invited me to spend Friday nights at Dairy Queen on Main where the really cool kids talked about subtexts in popular musicals while the ne’er-do-well wannabes settled for dragging Main. (We always had a better time.)
Then Dad got a new job. We switched churches (again). I was sent to a different private school. The doctors who had been accusing me of faking my dizzy spells and passing out on purpose finally, in an act of desperation when no tests came back positive, put me on Tegretol.
The result: I seldom saw my older friends anymore. I spent two years in high school reviewing everything I learned in junior high, and as an adult, I have a complete void in my brain concerning everything that happened outside of school (as well as much that happened at school) during that time. I remember attending a youth congress in D.C. in 1987, attending a few afternoon football games my freshman year in high school and then suddenly being a junior performing and serving at Dinner on Broadway to earn money for a puppet team tour the next summer.
Given this background, it won’t surprise you that when the dizzy spells returned, I told no one. I hid seizures by excusing myself as they came on. I went to college and dealt with debilitating pain while continuing to take full class loads, work up to three jobs and travel every weekend with my mime troupe. One might call that success except for the toll it took on me. I was still dissociating, hiding a seizure disorder, barely getting by. And by then, desperately suicidal. Unconsciously, I was testing the limits of the stress any human can handle. By my senior year, I was averaging three and a half hours of sleep a night, still maintaining an A average in my classes and having full-on panic attacks at an
I graduated. Met with true grownup tragedy when my first romantic relationship shipwrecked unexpectedly. By 1998, close encounters on the highway led to losing my driver’s license, an experiment with Depacote followed by extensive bioenergetic treatments. And despite all this, I barreled along, ignoring the warning signs, working 60 to 80 hours a week if I could get up and work at all. Avoidance became a way of life. As for coping mechanisms, passing out was the only one that worked until I started to self-harm.