A Colonoscopy, Ketamine and Polyfragmentation

When we were diagnosed in late 2015 with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), we initially came up with about 20 names that there was some sort of record in the brain or externally of the body having used. In three years of off-and-on treatment, the number of alters that have made their presence known some way or another has increased slowly to roughly 40ish. Then, late this March we were ordered to have a diagnostic colonoscopy. Everything has now changed.

We have described, previously, our ‘system’ (multiple personalities in one brain who function together cooperatively) as “The Enterprise.” Well….when we woke up from the colonoscopy procedure in late March, ALL of the alters were wearing Admiral Insignias and they were all trying to fit on the bridge… HUNDREDS OF THEM. Seriously.

Everyone wanted to be in front at once

We had no idea how many alters were hanging out on The Enterprise until it had to be grounded because the entire crew was trying to get into the captain’s chair!

Grounded, what did that mean? There were days upon days that the body went without being able to function. We stayed in bed for some of it…zoning out in front of mindless video drivel in the powerchair for hours when we were awake and up.

We had one clue, there was a shadow memory of someone telling us that we had been given a dose of ketamine during the diagnostic colonoscopy. Ketamine?! We remembered the medications that usually were given to me during general anesthesia: Propofol, Versed, and at times Fentanyl, but we had never been given ketamine during a gastrointestinal diagnostic procedure so the ghost memory didn’t make sense.

The episodes of polyfragmentation fronting continued, but soon we found that we could singularly front for longer episodes once a few days had elapsed from the colonoscopy on Wednesday. Around Friday, we started to crave some answers and we started calling the hospital and emailing the doctor who had performed the procedure. The primary task was to discern what had happened to the brain?!?

Downtown Seattle from Harborview is always a nice view

The gastroenterologist replied to our email that he didn’t think that ketamine would be given during the procedure, but he would have to check with the anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist who performed the anesthesia for our colonoscopy and get back to us. The nurse who called from the hospital to check on us after the procedure also had no answers. No one could tell us what had scrambled our brain and grounded the Enterprise before the weekend descended. We were alone with a scrambled brain over the weekend.

Once Monday arrived, so did answers. Early in the morning we received a reply from my GI doctor confirming that we were given ketamine during the procedure (much to his obvious confusion as to why), then within an hour, our phone rang with the nurse anesthetist on the other end of the line. She also confirmed that we had received ketamine. In contrast, she had an excuse for giving it: To avoid giving us opioids when the body didn’t want to stay under.

We finally had confirmation and even had the rationalization, but the frustration was only beginning. Episodes of polyfragmentation were intermixed with episodes of dissociative fugue, which for us, in contrast to feeling like the entire enterprise crew has descended upon the captain’s seat, a fugue feels more like no one wants to take the seat or even enter the bridge! No one wants to “front.” The body is blahhh…with no one to take control.

Fugue states can be inconvenient for systems or individuals who have any life and regular schedule. We are collectively working on our Master of Arts degree, or we were, when this occurred. When the brain was essentially off-line for weeks following the procedure, our higher education career began to be in question.

We had recently transferred into the Master of Communications program in our college after an issue with our eyes during the winter caused us leave the English-Nonfiction Writing MA program. But the more agressive alters and those who weren’t entirely onboard with that idea became argumentative inside and out. Once again, the fact we were time-sharing a body with many different personalities became an intense struggle.

We worked intensively with Dr. S, journaling when we could and struggling in a class that wasn’t coming easy while we really wanted to finish our first book that we started in our last undergrad year. We impulsively applied to an exclusive MFA program at a college back east. We did not get in.

Apps like Bitmoji & Snapchat make expressing alters easier

Then we prayed: Should we try again? Was there a Master of Fine Arts program out there for us or should we stay in Communications? The answer was clear and we wrote about it here, publishing it on Odyssey.

Once we made a decision to made a change, we wanted to find the last few weeks in the communications class easier, but they weren’t any easier at all. We finally finished two days ago with a “B.” For a class we didn’t even want to finish after being in an extremely dissociated state for several weeks of it, we will be happy with that.

We are still having episodes of polyfragmentation, and we have learned that there are more members of The Enterprise System than we had ever thought to consider before the ketamine exposure. Our primary care physician has added ketamine to our allergy list and we have instructions to speak to the educational Harborview hospital about the exposure so that they can learn more about dissociative identity disorder and how people with it can react to medications with dissociative qualities. We have yet to make that phone call.

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