I’ve been going to counselors on and off since the second grade. When things come to a head between me and a counselor, the counselor usually says that this is because they just don’t have experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder. But the truth is that it is because they don’t listen to me and get caught up in trying to push counseling techniques onto me that only exacerbate my symptoms or that I’m not ready for.
Yesterday this happened to again. David and I went to our weekly counseling session yesterday. Before our counseling session David and I decided upon three things to talk about: my symptoms of depersonalization/derealization, the fact that my parents randomly sent David some money, and that I regained another skill this week. As soon as I got there my counselor wanted me to fill out anxiety and depression inventories. So I did. Then, despite the fact that I brought up my first concern, she changed the subject to how I handle repressed memories. She began to push me to try to use containment methods when I’m having these memories. The truth is that I am not yet ready to jump into containment methods with a counselor because I’ve had problems with counselors surrounding containment in the past. So I told her, like I’ve told her before, that containment methods can worsen the memories and that I don’t want to do this right now.
Even so, she continued to try to tell me that I need to find ways to control the memories. I told her repeatedly that any type of control I exert over the memories can increase how often they occur. But she kept convincing me that I needed to attempt even a little bit of control. At that point, though, I felt so confronted that I could not even think, let alone share how I feel. Plus, as I said, I felt very helpless because it was obvious that I was not going to be able to talk about what I wanted to talk about in the session.
The truth is, though, that I’ve talked to other people with DID, or who have had repressed memories, and they also say that exerting control over a system or around repressed memories can destabilize them too. But this counselor doesn’t have experience with treating someone with DID, and really was insinuating that I am doing something wrong. She also discouraged me from processing the memories that I’m having because right now I’m having a difficult time. So I told her that it is imperative that I process my memories as they come, because if I don’t process them that I end up with a backlog of suppressed and repressed emotions that will surface sometime later. Plus, it also means that I’m going to have a bunch of memories to process all at once at some point and that it definitely not healthy. It’s equivalent to what happens when you procrastinate with a bunch of tasks: eventually everything will add up and you find yourself in a tight spot. Yet even though I told my counselor this, she still acted like I was somehow at fault for the way that I handle the memories.
My counselor ended up continuing to talk about this situation with my memories for at least half of an hour, even though I didn’t want to talk about it in the first place. During this time, she actually told me that she will not talk about any of my trauma with me because she thinks that without containment, it will be harmful to me. She told me that ethically she is not able to help me in this area and stated a few times that she isn’t well versed in DID. I knew that from the beginning, but decided to try to work with her anyways in the hopes that she would try to learn. A counselor doesn’t have to know everything about DID in order to help me. They just have to be willing to listen to me and to let me voice how I feel. But it is obvious that this counselor isn’t going to do this.
The most frustrating part of all of this is that I didn’t even want to talk about trauma, repressed memories, or anything of the sort yesterday. I knew that I’ve been triggered quite a bit lately. But my counselor brought it up anyways and then pushed the subject. And because neither David nor I are good at confronting professionals, the whole thing just seemed to go on and on and on. I ended up in sensory meltdown and could barely make it through the session.
Afterwards, David and I realized that we don’t even know how she determined that I want to talk about trauma and memories all of the time in session. I don’t. I process my memories mostly on my own and don’t need to rehash them at every session. She erroneously assumed though that I wanted to devote my time with her in counseling sessions to primarily talking about my memories and trauma. I have no idea how she came to this conclusion and neither does David. But I sort of felt like she is making the fact that I am having repressed memories a huge deal. It is, but it’s also a part of my life and is something that has been going on for almost four years. It’s not something that’s even on the top of my concerns, but this counselor acted like it had to be addressed at every session.
So I’m going to start looking for a new counselor again. This time I’m going to be more careful about who I choose and try to look for red flags pretty much immediately. I’m tired of giving counselors chances only to have it backfire on me. I am left with a lot of frustration right now surrounding counseling.
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