Trauma and dissociation

What if I start crying and I can’t stop?

What if I start crying and I can’t stop?

‘If I start crying, I’ll never stop.’ I hadn’t even realised that I believed this. It sounds silly once I say it out loud, but so much of my behaviour, so many of the ways that I approach each and every situation in life, have revolved around this silent, odourless belief: that feelings are overwhelming and that feelings are out of my control.

read more
Help, I’ve got DID! Now what …?

Help, I’ve got DID! Now what …?

It’s scary to think you’ve ‘gone mad’. It’s scary to think you have some serious, incurable ‘mental illness’. It’s scary to not understand what on earth is going on in your brain. And perhaps what’s even scarier is finding out that what is ‘wrong’ with you has a name: dissociative identity disorder.

read more
I can’t, I couldn’t, and I can

I can’t, I couldn’t, and I can

The freeze responses teaches us that we ‘can’t’, and it’s an instinctive, natural survival response that helps us by immobilising us. After trauma, however, it becomes our default response – a habit. We believe that we ‘can’t’ when in reality we ‘couldn’t’ then but we ‘can’ now.

read more
We have two choices when triggered

We have two choices when triggered

‘It’s horrible being triggered.’

I nod. It’s an understatement. There are no words to describe it. The trigger comes and our bodies and brains surge with the aversiveness of survival: everything tells us to get away. This is dangerous! This is painful! This isn’t good! Get away, get away!

read more
Imagining a future after trauma

Imagining a future after trauma

Being traumatised is a tough gig. Maybe one of the hardest. It’s exhausting, it’s debilitating, it affects every area of your life and it can feel insurmountable.

So it’s difficult to think that recovery is possible, even a little bit of recovery. Maybe it feels impossible to think in terms of significant recovery. And harder still to think in grand, magnificent, skyscaper-type ways about recovery.

read more
Why saying ‘You’re not bad really’ doesn’t work (and what to do instead)

Why saying ‘You’re not bad really’ doesn’t work (and what to do instead)

I used to think that one day, maybe one day (a long time in the future), I’d be ‘normal’ and then I wouldn’t have these thoughts any more.
Sometimes I would sit in bed, unable to move, unable to get up and get dressed and get on, because I felt so demoralised at the incessant torrent in my head. I was paralysed with the overwhelm of my self-hate. Ironically, the one thing I thought I was good at was finding fault with myself.

read more
How shame saved my life

How shame saved my life

What if shame is nothing to be ashamed of … but instead is the hero in our story?
Even as I write it, my head is twisting inside-out, upside-down to get used to the idea. But it’s something I’ve come to firmly believe is true, no matter how counter-intuitive it may feel.

read more
Traumatic aloneness

Traumatic aloneness

At the moment of trauma, one of the most traumatising, life-shattering parts of it is that we are entirely alone. We call out in the universe for someone to be there for us, and our call returns to us empty. We’re on our own. That’s a tough gig.

read more
Distress is not illness

Distress is not illness

I’m not comfortable with the term ‘mental illness’.
I know there’s a lot of rhetoric around ‘parity of esteem’ for physical illness and mental illness, and that’s why the term has been pushed to the fore. But for me, mental illness and being traumatised are two different things.

read more
We have to do the work

We have to do the work

Therapy is hard work. But often it’s the therapist who feels it most. It’s the therapist who anguishes in supervision over whether they’re doing the right thing, saying the right thing, responding in the right way. They doubt themselves, yearn for progress, hurt with the suffering of their client.

read more
Making the most of therapy

Making the most of therapy

You’ve come a long way. Misdiagnoses, mistreatment, maltreatment even—but eventually you’re here. You’ve found a therapist willing to work with you—either privately or on the NHS—and so now you’re expecting it just to happen. Right? Wrong!

read more