“How long till my birthday?” She jumps up and down, pony-tails bouncing eagerly together with Dreams and Hopes. The mother exhales in exacerbation: “Five days. But can you please stop asking me every other second”. The girl claps her hands, enthusiastically, because five days is not a lot. She can survive five days, but oh, it will be hard. A girl some blocks away is just one day away from her birthday. Pony-tail girl would have been green with envy, but this girl, shrouded in clothes that her mother seldom wash, with greasy hair that covers her serious face. She tries to not think about the upcoming event. Birthday`s are the worst.
I write a lot about dissociation, and this leads to the side-effect of noticing it everywhere. This actually led me to say, when our leader asked us psychologists who wanted to check if a girl had AD/HD: “I don`t think I should do it, I`ll probably only see dissociation anyway”. The others laughed, and the task went to someone else.
I remember reading the book “En dåre fri” by Beate Grimsrud (excellent book) that described a girl with schizophrenia.
She described how she hears voices, and some of them were even given names. The same happens in a famous Norwegian book called “A Road Back from Schizophrenia: A Memoir” by Arnhild Lauveng. The protaganist is living a healthy life today, working as a psychologist. What fascinates me in the book, was that she described voices that belong to specific One was called the “captain”, and was very harsh on her. She never worked hard enough, and had to be punished often to “learn her lesson”. She also had a child part, and I think there was at least one more. Her diagnosis was schizophrenia, and she thought so herself, but it reminds me awfully much about dissociation.
Many patients have been misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, when they really suffered from dissociation. Is it strange that I just found another book that reminded me about dissociation as well? The last week I`ve been reading a book from Sofia Åkerman (could unfortunately not find an english version of it). She was a patient for many years because she harmed herself seriously by cutting. She is now living a good life, helping others with the same issues as she, and is known in Norway, Sweden and Denmark for her books. In one of the last chapters from “To survive: A book about self-harm” she mentions a little story by Kristina Lugn (in picture) called “the birthday party”. A girl is celebrating her birthday, but she is not having fun. She tries to explain why not: “The enemy comes when I celebrate my birthday. He wants to destroy the cake, my gifts and harm the people around me”. Sofia fell in love with the story that no-one else understood. She put it under her pillow at night, and read it over and over. She got it. Maybe she had met Mr. “Enemy” personally. He never said hello in happy circumstances, but laughed and smiled when blood dripped and colored her future red.
In my clinic, I`ve actually seen this: When everything is going like it should some part of my patients protests: It shouts: “You aren`t supposed to feel good!!” and maybe even feels threatened. The captain, The enemy or the dark side, have a lot of power. Loosing it is scary and uncomfortable for them. In some ways, it’s perfectly understandable that it push the emergency button by doing the only thing it can in a crisis: Hurting the one causing the threat.
We need to understand the captain or the dark sides, since it also has a story to tell (maybe even the most important ones). When A. Lauvheng started to get better, the captain was stiill sometimes there. He kept organizing and made sure she got the results she wanted. But he wasn`t allowed to criticize her anymore. Actually, his job was important, but the tough words were superfluous.
He had to learn some lessons himself.
Maybe her birthday will be better, this time?
Earlier posts by me (ask for password on firstname.lastname@example.org)
- PTSD Misdiagnosed As Schizophrenia (jharnisch.com)
- Dollhouse: Schizophrenia (emmaformica.wordpress.com)
- Dissociative Identity Disorder As “Shape-Shifting”… (michaelswingman.wordpress.com)