Marie: Carl Reassures Me About Coping Mechanisms

Posted By: on May 11, 2015
photo of smiling woman in a therapy session

Editor’s note: This is part 24 of Marie’s story.

Today was a therapy session day . . .

I find myself looking forward to these days because I know I will come out of the session having found another level of relief and comfort.

I brought my crate full of stuff again: blanket & travel pillows, photos, my notebook and clip board . . . he again helped me carry all my stuff up the stairs to his office.

Once we settled in, we started the session by talking about the status report I sent him last week . . .


Me: I really struggled with whether I should send that status report to you or not. But, after I sent it, I was glad I did. I was glad when the decision-making was finished – for better or for worse, I had made a decision and acted on it and there was no going back.

Carl: What did you think might happen when you sent it?

Me: I was afraid you would think I was making it all up – or over-exaggerating just for attention, just to be dramatic.

Carl: I don’t think that, Marie. I think you are telling me the truth. My experience of you is that you aren’t inappropriately dramatic and you don’t exaggerate. My experience of you is that you are very honest and you tell the truth.

Me: Thank you . . . that means a lot to me. (Tears start welling up . . . whew, that didn’t take long.)

I guess it is hard for me to believe I will be believed – even Mark didn’t always believe me. So, I am afraid of not being believed.

Carl: I believe you.

Me: Thank you. (Deep breath)

So, what do you think happened?

Carl: What do I think caused you to lose the memory of some of what we did in the last session?

Me: Yeah.

Carl: I think you simply did what you have often done when you start experiencing pain. I think you distanced yourself from the pain by forgetting about it. It is a coping mechanism that has gotten you through a lot of very difficult times. It has allowed you to survive.

Me: But I’m no longer in survival mode. I shouldn’t be using coping methods like that anymore.

Carl: It is healthy to process pain when you have the resources to do so. But, when you don’t have access to those resources, distancing yourself is a very successful coping mechanism. In fact, please allow me to congratulate you for coming up with such a brilliant coping mechanism! You are to be commended for that!

That method of dealing with pain has been all you have known for so long. And now you are creating new ways of coping and dealing and processing. It is all good. You are doing wonderfully. The pace at which you are healing and growing is perfect.

Me: Could you tell I was disconnecting?

Carl: Are you asking if I could see obvious signs of dissociation while we were talking?

Me: Yeah.

Carl: No. There were no obvious signs. Your eyes didn’t glaze over, you didn’t stop talking, you were still showing emotion and carrying on a full conversation. I could see you were struggling with your emotions, but given the circumstances, that was to be expected.

Me: Did I act . . . well, weird . . . strange . . . ??

Carl: Are you asking if you took on another personality?

Me: Well . . . I don’t think I have DID, but I lost big chunks of our conversation. I’m trying to figure out what happened. I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but sometimes I wonder . . .

Carl: I have worked with a number of people with DID. I know what DID looks like. No, Marie, I can assure you that you do not have multiple personalities. I think you just separated yourself from the pain for a period of time. That response is common and is within the “normal” range of responses.

Me: Okay . . . .

(A huge flood of emotion hit me and I actually sobbed a bit . . . Carl gave me some time to catch my breath.)

Carl: Were you very concerned about that?

Me: Yeah. I don’t know why, but I was. The idea of having DID doesn’t concern me as much as the idea of having it and not knowing . . . being out of control and not even knowing I’m out of control.

Carl: How are you feeling about it now?

Me: I’m feeling a huge sense of relief. I just got really scared when I lost chunks of time. I’m not used to that happening and I didn’t have an explanation. It really scared me. But, I’m okay now after hearing what you said.

Carl: Good. Rest assured your response was very normal. Does that address your concern?

Me: Yeah . . . thanks.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


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