Dealing with Denial

by | 3 January 2019 | 11 comments

‘But if I accept that this is real, that this stuff really happened to me, then I don’t think I’ll be able to cope.’

The therapist looks at me as I splutter out my confession. I have used denial all my life to cope with my abuse. Now, a couple of years into therapy, I sit perched on the edge of a precipice. Will I free-fall into life without dissociation?

She says nothing. Instead her eyes narrow and she breathes slowly and deeply, looking intently right into the front of my brain. I feel like she is trying to draw more out of me, before daring to respond. The silence is uncomfortable but I refuse to comply.

‘Go on,’ she prods.

I sigh and growl out my frustration with myself.


Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available for preorder!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to for more information, and if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at, and our online courses at We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at




  1. But HOW do you go through it? I’m not dissociating consciously. I can’t switch it on and off. I WANT to go through it. But I don’t know how.

    • Yes! I would love to know this too.

      • This is what I’m trying to find out too. I’m ready and willing to do it , but how? How do you begin this!?

  2. Thank you for sharing this. Every last word of this is truly appreciated. Every word so important for dissociative survivors.

  3. Thank you for these perfect words

  4. I love your therapist…..well, the way you portray her anyway….so calm and patient and sure in her knowledge and faith in recovery…..thank you so much for sharing her…..

  5. It’s so hard to throw myself into start feeling, accepting, knowing, when I have landed on deaths door in ICU so many times.

    I think I’m very determined to to
    do this recovery process be get to a different point in life and my experience of myself, but how do my community mental health team get the balance of progressing, not staying in this status quo of denying, dissociating and not healing that I have been in for 12 years, while also staying alive and safe?

    Thank you Carolyn. I believe you are a very strong woman.

  6. Thank you for this post (and all your posts!). It lays out so well the thinking and feeling process that goes on with trying to resolve trauma. My own self-doubt about what happened is so strong! The comment about acknowledging that one coped with the abuse and trauma the first time is spot on – I have to remind myself I survived, the child I was found a way to cope. So the least I can do is honour her by being strong enough to feel her pain, and to love her for keeping us safe.

  7. Wow. Just wow. How is it that you know exactly what I have said and felt in the past? I am struggling with denial now and you have mirrored my thoughts and feelings. What a help you have been. Thank you for sharing your insight!

  8. You describe my thought processes so accurately it is disarming. From the time I first stumbled across your writing (a lot of years ago) I became aware that there was at least one other person in the universe who was like me.

  9. Very well written blog, excellent account of your experience from your past, i can so resonate and relate to this as I am early stages of my recovery from childhood trauma.


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