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Bird in the Invisible Cage

We are trying to cope with the resurfacing self-injury urges. I was shocked and terrified when these thoughts first came. Then, through the teenage alter, we discovered that it is her belief to punish us for being bad and no good. If we can’t have pleasure, we must have pain. Which uncovered the anhedonia – imagine not being able to feel the love of your child when giving them a hug. Horrible pain and confusion – I love my children. I know I do. Why can’t I feel it? Why is God punishing me?

Depression has played a major role in my life, but I never knew it. I had accepted my way of thinking to be normal. But, when bad thoughts start surfacing, the Protector stood proud and threw red flags at me. He has saved my life many times without me realizing it. The Protector is the only male alter I have – can’t figure out why he’s male. After all, men can’t be trusted. Maybe I created him to be the appropriately loving father I so longed for. At times, my heart feels so empty, emptier than empty. God doesn’t even come to visit at those times. Imagine being so worthless that God can’t even be there. It is truly a pit, in the rawest sense.

Severe anxiety sprang from the depression and from therapy. In my own mind, I wasn’t moving fast enough, I was having trouble understanding the simplest of things Max was trying to explain or to get me to accept. I still get frustrated, depression goes up and down – which I didn’t understand either. The anxiety gets so bad, I lose track of what is reality and what isn’t. I can’t remember if I talked to someone or not, if I drove to work, what day of the week it is – the list is endless. Max would slow down in our sessions and I would regroup. He handled things as they came up. He allows me to e-mail him and monitors my moods at MoodTracker. All of these things give me a sense of safety, knowing he knows when things are really bad. I’ve made countless phone calls outside of session to ask questions or just for reassurance. There is no greater gift than a psychologist who truly understands what your needs are and when not to give in to what you want, but to give you what you need. And to explain that in a caring, non threatening or abandoning way.

Max uses EMDR with the alters and with me. He also uses a technique I call “crazy mixed up movie.” It’s a technique where he has me think of the disturbing image and then we play it forward, then backward but add things, like silly music, chipmunk voices, funhouse mirrors. I don’t know why it works, but it scratches up the image so it’s not so disturbing.

He has shown me how to use a three column technique to dispute my “automatic thoughts.” I don’t like it, because I have to write down my feelings and ugly thoughts – denial has been my game for survival and now he’s taking them away from me. That was very confusing and terrifying but now I understand as we work through the processes that it is helping to create that new foundation of healthy beliefs. Keeping my goals in mind is the key to forward progress. And it’s okay to take one step forward and two steps back. As bad memories or behaviors are addressed, it does throw my mind into chaos and sets me back.

I never knew that other people had setbacks too. People without mental health issues. To me, you either have problems or you don’t. Max calls it “all or nothing” thinking. My world is black and white and I still struggle with that – much to the frustration of a creative therapist (the gas tank isn’t full and it isn’t empty, it’s somewhere in the middle – the gray area. I say you either have enough gas to get where you’re going or you don’t).

It took me over one year to trust Max enough just to step into Psych Central. He said, just try it. Just look, you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. One day, I did. And things changed. I realized I wasn’t the ONLY ONE. There were other people out there who were struggling with the same things. People who weren’t “freaks” because they have DID and didn’t have to hide who they were. Caring people full of similar experiences and how they help themselves through the rough times and share in the joyful times. A special Hiding Thread created by others where we can all go and rest for awhile when things are just too much.

When I told Max what I had done out of desperation, tears came to his eyes as he realized that I had made progress and was beginning to trust. It was as much a triumph for him as it was for me. Two weeks of Psych Central catapulted me into a whole new learning phase – a whole new world of acceptance and care and thoughtful help or just a silly spinning heart to let me know that I was being thought of.

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I know I will survive. I have a psychologist with a therapy technique that fits me perfectly, a psychiatrist who just doesn’t push drugs, and Psych Central for everything else.

Who would have ever thought that I was worthy of such kinship? Now, I know that I am.

–Songbird and Daisy

Bird in the Invisible Cage

Personal Story

A personal story contribution is a story told by someone who is living with mental illness, a caregiver or family member, or a professional who treats mental illness. We believe in the importance of the patient's voice, and those most impacted by the effects of mental illness. These stories are a vital part of the mosaic that makes up the complexity of living with mental health concerns.

APA Reference
Story, P. (2020). Bird in the Invisible Cage. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.