Something to Write Home About

After being diagnosed with this disorder, I would constantly think about all the things I couldn’t do. No trips to the mall. No driving. No hanging out with friends. No peace of mind. No swimming. No. No. No.

Now, don’t get me wrong, one of the most helpful tools in my healing process has been learning the art of saying no. Yet, I find that I like to reserve the right to say no when and where I want. I’d like to say yes to hanging out with friends without the fear of a seizure or a mental breakdown.

Someone gave me the best compliment the other day. They said, “I used to think you wouldn’t be able to handle something like this, but you’ve made so many changes lately that I think you can.”

Really?  Me? Handle stress in a normal and healthy way? Oh, yes, I did.

I became the musical director of musical theater production. I had a few seizures and used every coping technique I’ve learned over the last few years, but I did it. And now, I’m not afraid to say yes anymore. Who cares if I wig out a couple times? Who doesn’t wig out when the @#$% is hitting the fan? I just wig out in style! 

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Editorial on Conversion Disorder

The new definition for Conversion Disorder has some in the field of Mental Health already wishing for an updated model. Check out the article in Latest News.

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Trauma, Memory and Pain

I found an article that articulates well the processes that contribute to psychogenic pain in Conversion Disorder and other Somatoform disorders.

I found Section III the most informative.

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Touched by Darkness, Healed by Light

I feel despair. The residual hand of darkness lay across my scalp and it burns. Memory’s pain flashes and I cringe until blessed numbness replaces the ancient ache. Pain is a memory lodged in my synapses until a spark of remembrance calls it forth and spreads the unwelcome intruder across my brow and drives an ache into my gut. “I will remember,” it says, until my skin numbs away the message. The icy fingers of night reach out to me once more, but I shrink from its cold, penetrating touch. My soul reduces until I’m packed so far down inside myself, I feel nothing. To feel is to remember. Remembering means pain. Pain means death. I don’t want to die. I want the pain to die, but how far will I go from the pain before I can’t come back anymore? I continue to shrink until I’m a pinprick in the center of myself.

Looking out from the infinitesimal hole, I spy a light far in the distance. Although the light seems to mirror my own miniscule habitat I created, I notice the light expands the closer I get. Or, am I expanding? Soon, I forget myself and the pain and focus on the piercing warmth of light. Its rays thread through me and poke holes through my thickened skin. Although it hurts at first, once the light is infused into the wounds, I start to feel something besides pain. I don’t recognize the feeling and I’m frightened at first. But, I can’t stop craving the light to penetrate my perforated self. It becomes delicious to me and my body thirsts for it. The more I drink, the more relief I feel. The places where the hand of darkness touched me whither from the heat of the blinding light. The shadows of pain flee before it. The darkness cannot stand where the light touches. Then, I realize, I feel joy.

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Interplay Everyday

This text is an excerpt I wrote to show mental health care workers how important body movement is when treating people with trauma, specifically Conversion Disorder.

Interplay Everyday

She wants me to do WHAT!?!

My first reaction to the techniques of Interplay made me instantly uncomfortable. The daily pseudo-seizures from my Conversion Disorder hadn’t eradicated all of my dignity. When asked to do a “hand” dance, I felt foolish. When asked to do karate kicks and fake Tai chi, I felt ridiculous. When I couldn’t think of the words to describe how I felt, I was asked to make up a language or tell a story about it. I did it, though it seemed absurd. However, despite my initial unwillingness to move my body, I found over time that I craved the motions. Usually, paralytic seizures controlled my body for hours on end; yet during Interplay, I was in charge. After “warming-up” with Interplay, I felt my body relax. It helped me see the difference between an anxious and a relaxed state. It helped me reach those hurt places more easily, because they didn’t feel so raw looking through the eyes of a fictional character. I could tap into my emotions and let tears go that refused to fall or anger that refused to surface.

Many trained therapists don’t even know what Conversion Disorder is, let alone how to treat it. I went through two master’s level therapists and one with a doctorate. They tried Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalysis, and Hypnotherapy. Nothing lessened the seizures, dissociation, PTSD, depression, or anxiety. My body received the trauma. Therefore, it seemed only fitting that through moving the body and listening to its needs that I was able to move through the trauma and finally process it. Today, I find myself instinctively using the techniques on a daily basis. If I start feeling my body tense, I “shake out” my arms, legs, and do heavy sighs. It’s not uncommon to see me karate chopping in the kitchen, yelling in gobbledygook, or singing random tones. My body instantly relaxes and I avoid pseudo-seizures. I went from having 20-30 seizures a week to having one every four months, and I’m still improving.

So, what happens now when I’m asked to do a hand dance? I just smile and go for it.

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Afraid to Feel

For years, I’ve gone through life feeling numb. I’ve numbed myself emotionally and physically. If any semblance of emotion tried to surface, my body would suck it up, pack it down, swallow it, stamp it out, or escape from it by dissociation.
Lately, I’ve been working on identifying my emotions and what they feel like in my body. For example, hatred is a strong emotion I feel in my abdomen that resonates into my arms and makes me want to growl and shake my fists, ready to strike. Because hate is such a strong emotion, it’s easy to identify. I still tend to hold that emotion in my body, but at least I know what I’m feeling.
Disappointment, however is a different story. It’s a more subtle emotion and is usually mixed in with sadness and depression. At a therapy session, I was able to separate it out and see that I experience disappointment as a severe pain in my head, dizziness, brain fog, and aversion. My thoughts were, “I don’t want to talk to about it.” I also felt an urge to flee. I couldn’t flee, so I checked out instead. Obviously, I’m not that comfortable feeling that emotion. But knowing and understanding my reaction to that emotion helps when my conversion episodes arise. If I start displaying all those symptoms, I’ll know not to be afraid. I’m just feeling disappointment.
I’m starting an emotion diary. I’m going to catalog my emotions, all kinds. I’m hoping this exercise will help me understand what my body is telling me and offer me a translation tool for understanding my body language.

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IMG_1397I have flashes of images and feelings that soar through my head and body daily. Some of the feelings don’t even belong to me. They were shoved up into my body cruelly and without consideration. It’s only recently that I’ve discovered that some of these hostile waves of emotion aren’t really mine. I’d like to give them back now. I decide what my spirit gets to take with me along this life journey–anger and violent thoughts won’t accompany me. As powerful as hate can be, love will always be stronger. Only love has the power to change men’s hearts. Love is a boundary hate cannot cross.


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