Category: Posts

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!

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Can we heal?

‘Can we heal?’ she asked, quivering with the significance of what she was saying, as if her very life depended on it. ‘Can we really heal?’ I could well understood the agony in her eyes. I lived for many years overwhelmed by trauma, the symptoms of unhealed suffering. And if recovery is impossible, then why are we even trying?

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My recovery from child sexual abuse

It feels a long time ago now, the time when my abuse sat silent within me. It’s been over ten years. Back then, I didn’t understand any of the dynamics of abuse. The things that had happened, the things that had been done to me, the things I had been made to do—they sat silently within me as heavy weights on my soul, fetid non-reminders of my badness, this toxic mush that I thought was me.

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Managing flashbacks

Coming to terms with flashbacks—understanding what they are, learning how to manage them, and eventually figuring out how to reduce them—is a cornerstone of recovery. Carolyn Spring explains what goes in the brain during a flashback and how to learn to manage them.

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Ten roadblocks to recovery

Recovery from trauma is hard work, but it is possible. However, there are number of things that inhibit that process, and this article looks at ten of them.

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My experience of phase three work

I used to struggle to understand what phase III could possibly be about, because my life was so consumed with just surviving, and then so consumed with working through traumatic material to neutralise it, that I imagined that therapy would always be like that, and that once it was no longer happening, there would be no more need for therapy.

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‘Don’t make me vomit slowly’ – my experience of phase two work

When I first started therapy in 2006, I didn’t know much about trauma and nothing about ‘the three phase approach’. My counsellor didn’t know much more. So although I’d like to say that we started by carefully doing the Phase 1 work of safety and stabilisation, the reality was a great deal messier than that.

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Recovery is my best revenge: overcoming trauma

Is recovery possible? That’s the question that everyone is asking, even when they’re not asking it. After a breakdown, perhaps after years in the mental health system, do we have to simply accept that we’re broken and that we’ll always be broken, or is it possible to live a life where we’re back in control again, where we’re living as we want to live, where life has purpose and meaning?

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Suicide – to be or not to be?

I could cope with it no longer. Every part of me—eyelids, throat, bowels—everything was clenched tight in a ball of furious unbearability. This feeling—such a feeling!—loomed up over me like some prehistoric sea-monster, ready to snap me up and devour me, ready to pilfer my bones and pick apart my brain. This feeling was too much.

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‘Dissociative parts of the personality’ grabbed the headlines, but my inability to set boundaries was the silent assassin destroying me from the inside… I said yes to everyone else, and no to myself. Other people mattered; I did not. And so, breakdown.

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Ten things I have learned about child sexual abuse

Understanding the dynamics around child sexual abuse, who the perpetrators are, how they achieve their ends, the impacts of abuse on us—all of this knowledge, this ‘psycho-education’ has aided my recovery. And so these are ten of the many things that I have learned about child sexual abuse, some of the insights that have begun to heal my shame.

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Managing triggers: part two – turning down the smoke alarm

After trauma our brains are sensitised to threat and our amygdala – our brain’s ‘smoke alarm’ – tends to react to burnt toast as if the house is on fire. In this article Carolyn Spring shows how to turn down the sensitivity of our smoke alarm – and overcome the impacts of trauma.

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Parts are only part of the problem

I have dissociative identity disorder. I have many separate, distinct and unique ‘parts’ of my personality. My ‘parts’ or ‘alters’ collectively add up to the total person that is me. I am the sum of all my parts. They are each a letter, and I am a sentence.

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It’s a pain: the physical impact of trauma

Physical symptoms are a big part of life for me with DID. Yes, I have ‘multiple personalities’, the “two or more distinct identities that recurrently take control of the body” and I’m not for one moment denying the significance of that or the impact it has on my day-to-day life. But I would say that physical symptoms such as chronic, unexplained pain, headaches and nausea have been and still remain far more distressing and life-impacting for me than the presence of parts.

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Coping with crisis

Crisis makes sense. The adrenaline of it can become addictive, or be all we’ve known. Life doesn’t feel right if things aren’t frantic, if relationships aren’t disastrous. Crisis can be an attachment cry. Crisis is the language of emotions that we don’t know how to regulate.

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Powerlessness is such a core experience for victims of abuse that often we don’t even notice that it’s there. It is played out in the way that we interact with people and the world – it’s the shadow cast by the sun, rather than the sunlight itself.

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Who am I? – Questions of identity in dissociative identity disorder

I look up and I am in my therapist’s room. I look up and I am in the cafe area of the shopping mall. I look up and I am in bed in the dark. I look up and I don’t know if I am I. There is no thread of continuity between these places, these experiences. Who am I now, writing this, re-reading this, re-writing this?

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Carolyn Spring helps people recover from trauma and to reverse adversity. She is author of Recovery is my best revenge: my experience of trauma, abuse and dissociation and numerous other books and articles.  Carolyn has delivered extensive training throughout the UK for both dissociative survivors and professionals working with them. Having worked for a number of years with extremely traumatised children as a therapeutic foster carer, she set up PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) in 2010 to promote recovery from dissociative disorders. She now works more widely in the field of mental health and adversity and brings a wealth of personal experience and research to her writing and training, bringing a rare positivity and the belief that no matter what people have experienced, recovery is possible.

“I have spent my entire adulthood reversing adversity. I developed dissociative identity disorder (DID) as a result of extensive childhood trauma, leaving me helpless, hopeless and suicidal. Alongside this, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME), leaving me wheelchair-bound for several years. I wasn’t able to have children and in the end even my marriage ended in divorce.

I’ve spent over a decade researching and learning how the brain is impacted by trauma and suffering and how it can process and recover from such suffering. After spending years believing that I would never recover, I began to find the answers. With help, I began to turn things around to reverse adversity.

If I can turn things around, when I had so much going against me, then so can you. And that’s the hope I want to offer you. I want to show you how it’s done. It’s not easy – it takes a lot of hard work, but I want to share with you everything I’ve learned over the last fifteen years. Because recovery really is possible.”