A Moment of Chronic Pain

I have a gizmonic exercise bike I found on the sidewalk last year.

I say ‘gizmonic’ because it has a computer that monitors heart rate and caloric output.

It also has games.

I brought it home and slipped some batteries into it and
nothing.

It looked like the computer was broken.

The fix was simple.

The springs that held the batteries in place weren’t making contact
with the batteries.

I stretched them and Bingo!

A fancy exercise bike for the time it took me to stretch
some springs.

My favorite game is the  ‘Calorie Destroyer.

The faster I pedal the more ammo and mobility my gun has.

Last week I raised the seat for better leg extension.

Bad idea.

As I reached level four I felt a twinge of pain in my lower back.

Did that stop me? Of course not!

I was taught to ignore pain.

The twinge became a sharp pain.

The next day I felt stiff.

Friday I walk across the City to therapy.

I began to dress.

There’s  a small chair in front of the door to bedroom closet.

I needed a jacket so I moved the chair and felt something pop; a jolt
of pain raced up my spine and down my legs.

Did I decide not to walk over five miles to my therapist, most of it up hill?

Of course not!

I was in so much pain that when I got home I took two aspirin and a double dose of ‘Clonopin.’ Most docs use benzos to treat severe spasms of the lower back. (I don’t advise anyone else to ever do this without consulting a doctor.)

I laid down and entered the world of pain.

Survival in the world of pain means finding the ‘right’ position: a way to arrange one’s body to cut severe pain.

Finding the ‘right’ position and holding it for as long as possible was the focus of all of my energy and concentration.

I’d find a position only to have to find another position five minutes later.

This meant having more pain to find respite in less pain.

For all my emotional pain I have never had to deal with severe medical pain.

After it was over I had a deeper appreciation for the suffering and courage of
people in chronic pain.

Rob Goldstein 2015-2018

First published November 2015
Revised November 2018

Happy Anniversary Robert Goldstein

from Looking For The Light

Looking For The Light

I heard this song yesterday, Robert instantly came to mind, his enthusiasm for the band reminds me of how I felt hearing them for the first time.

Robert, I’m sending my love as you celebrate 27 years, thick, thin, rich, poor, sick, sicker and still in love!      M

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Dissociative Identity Disorder: Learning to Trust

The patients’ job in intensive psychotherapy is to ask why.

Why do I seek out women who are devoid of the capacity for love?

Why do I veer from an extreme identification with the middle class to an extreme identification with the poor?

Why do I force myself to fail economically just as I get closest to winning?

Why do I sometimes behave as if I hate myself?

I first grappled with the problem of internalized stigma during the early days of the AIDS epidemic when I wondered if the AIDS was God’s judgment.

None of the intellectual and political constructions that served me as gay activist in the 1970’s could defeat the internalized homophobia unleashed by AIDS.

I watched men die from grief, self-hatred, and fear and I was nearly one of them.

This was when I realized the true function of any ‘ism’ is to convince the target to self-destruct.

This was why any novel written about gays before Stonewall usually ended with suicide or the impoverished death of the gay character.

AIDS was the greatest tragic ending, infused with the dissonant myth of a loving, yet vengeful God.


Internalized homophobia was the least of my problems.

AIDS was trauma on trauma.

I didn’t know I had a dissociative disorder.

I was living in the worst possible place at the worst possible time
for someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Any spot on my arm sent me into panic, so much, so I became a frequent
flyer at the local crisis clinics.

The shrinks eventually gave me a prescription for Xanax.

Xanax
                                 Xanax

The only thing I knew about Xanax was it made the fear go away.

The pharmaceutical industry reported Xanax had an anti-depressant effect.

By 1986 I was on a prescribed dose of eight milligrams a day.

A seizure when I decided to stop the drug was how I learned  Xanax is addictive.

2011 photograph of a mannequin in a shop window on Mission Street taken in 2011 with a Blackberry
Xanax

My DID allows parts of me to form attachments while protecting the parts that are fragile and afraid.

One goal of my treatment is for me to learn to trust a woman.

This process of building trust with a woman who wants what’s best for me and who acts in my interests is a path to becoming whole.

John C. Calhoun Homes
A digitally altered snapshot of one of my childhood homes.

As I enter my 8th year of intensive psychotherapy, the questions I must
ask are less confounding.

When I entered treatment in October of 2011, I felt like a helpless child.

It is now October 2018.

I feel more whole.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2018
The Photo of Xanax found on Google Images

First posted November 1, 2015-updated November 8, 2017 – Rewritten and Updated October 21, 2018

 

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Coping with DID: “I love All of You”

Dissociative identity disorder is a childhood onset, complex-post traumatic disorder in which the child is unable to consolidate a unified sense of self. Detachment from emotional and physical pain during repeated traumatic events results in alterations in the way the brain encodes memory.  This leads to fragmentation and gaps in memory. Exposure to repeated abuse in early childhood results in the creation of discrete behavioral states that can persist over later development, and evolve into the alternate identities of dissociative identity disorder. The Mayo Clinic

This morning as my partner left for his weekly visit to his ailing Mother he said, “I love all of you.”

I sat as wave after wave of love, pain, gratitude and fear passed over me, then I said, “We love you to.”

I am not an easy man to live with.

One must be willing to live with constant self-examination and bluntly stated opinions.

This September marks the beginning of my eighth year of psychotherapy.

Eight years later, I am someone new. I accept the DID, I accept the violence
that caused it and I accept that I was gifted with a mind that went to  extraordinary lengths to keep itself alive.

I am proof of the existence of the human mind and the will to survive and thrive.

A 2011 Graffiti Mural in San Francisco's Clarion Alley
Fighting Shadows

To ‘Seal Over’

At the long-term psychiatric hospital where I worked in the early 1970’s, we
used the term ‘sealed over’ to describe a patient who is skilled at hiding
his illness.

Most of us must learn to ‘seal over’ everyday distress and anxiety as a
skill of daily living.

Healthy people don’t often consider the energy and skill it takes to interact
socially and succeed in our careers.

An illness that impairs social skill is crippling.

We don’t think about what it means to lose our health and ability to work
until we must think about it.

Blackberry Photograph of a mannequin in a shop Window in San Francisco
Xanax

What is Healthy?

I define ‘healthy’ as striving to become an informed citizen, having a balanced sense of humility, respect for the rights of others, a sense of compassion, and respect for life; which means the born, the fundamental right of all children to food, shelter, education, safe cities and schools.

I define healthy as doing my best to pull my weight; which means using my skills to dispel the lies that make it hard for people with DID to get the right treatment.

2011 Blackberry Photograph of Mannequins in a shopwindow in San Francisco
Cruising

Mental Illness is Not an Act.

There are thousands of easier ways to get attention: one can write a good novel, produce a brilliant portfolio of art, write moving poetry, become a skilled surgeon, strive for excellence at any job that affirms your humanity.

If I’m trying to get your attention by destroying my life in public it means I’m sick.

A man who has to shoot schoolchildren to slake his rage is sick.

The question is not why people have mental illnesses, the question is why Americans collectively refuse to recognize mental illness as a set of real and
serious illnesses?

I cannot ‘think’ my way through DID or Bi-Polar illness.

Mental Illness is not a choice and the ‘well’ make it easy for the ‘sick’ to choose isolation.

Getting well in a sick world

I had the worst possible parents in the worst possible neighborhood in one of the most institutionally abusive and violently racist cities of the United States in the 1960’s, and yet I entered adulthood with a fundamental sense of right and wrong, and a fundamental understanding of our political system.

I was broken in a dozen different ways but I knew it was wrong to lie.

I knew it was wrong to hurt people.

I knew it was wrong to abuse the weak and innocent.

In that, I am healthier than 39% of the American people.

2011 Blackerry shot of a graffiti mural in San Francisco's Mission District
Campos

What does it mean to be well with DID.

Being well with DID means that I’m still in pain, raw and uncertain. I’m still anxious and often panic-stricken. But it also means I’m alive as I am supposed to be and better at managing symptoms. It means always searching for new skills and better ways to be healthy.

It means asking the unwanted questions.

Rob Goldstein 2018