“Forget the past, it’s gone, but glance back occasionally to remind yourself where you came from and where you are going.”
As I sit here watching the last days of 2019 pass by, I must look at how much I’ve grown this year. Looking back over the year 2019, I am constantly amazed that I’m where I am mentally. This year has been one of many struggles. This year was filled with some very hard times and a lot of growth. Some of the most difficult and loneliest times of my life were in the year 2019. But this year has also held a lot of redemption for me.
I spent many days and nights earlier in the year barely able to function. There were days where getting out of the bed was just too much to handle. And this was all done completely alone. Some days it took everything I had just to make it to my therapy appointments. 2019 was a year when I thought I was busy dying but I was persevering to get better. I was engaged in a lot of maladaptive behaviors, but I was also clawing to hold onto some form of life. Coach and I had some intense therapy sessions, but I never felt anything but her love and wanting me to succeed. There were many times I remember telling her, “Don’t you dare give up on me. And don’t stop pushing me.”
Then after having trusted her and doing whatever assignments she told me to do for over a year I began to reap the benefits. My thoughts and beliefs about myself and the world around me began to change. I soon had the hunger for being happy and happiness I would find. I then realized that the craving for being alone would dissipate and loneliness became my enemy. I would soon formulate a plan with my parents to move back home to Mississippi. Texas had served its purpose and brought about change and growth. I was no longer controlled by my trauma. And I now had an internal system that was helpful and working together instead of chaotic and hurtful to both me and those around me.
I was “different” in every kind of way. I was no longer facing life like I was going to a fight. I was beginning to enjoy life for what it was. Days were still difficult at times but not catastrophic. The day would come when my mom and dad would, at separate times, move my belongings home. Except the day my dad would fly out to help me we would drive my truck the 8 hours back to Mississippi together. I was excited to be making the move but terrified of the unknown. I knew one thing…. I had grown closer to God and my faith in him through a time of desperation had not let me down. Coach would continue to guide me through these tears of fear as well.
Excited as I have been moving back home, I have been moving forward with shaky uncertainty. I was terrified moving back to the same town that once held so much judgment against me. I was also moving back to where my children have been living and growing for two years without me. All these emotions I hadn’t counted on being so intense. I was so consumed with being happy that I wasn’t prepared for everyday emotions and frustrations of a situation like this. My “difference” became apparent to both me and other people who I had known all my life.
When I left this city almost 10 years ago, I was full of anger that had lasted the entire time I was gone. I was now returning happy and at peace with myself and my trauma that originated in this same town. I also had been embraced with my reappearance rather than shunned like I had been preparing. I came back to town feeling loved and looking for love again. I had been on a path of self-destruction that had almost taken my life. And now God has given me a chance to start over.
Each new day I try to find a way to grow and thank God for giving me that chance. My opportunity of being a better parent has proven to be a slower process because I am now starting completely over trying to learn how to do this the right way. And honestly, I continue to take shaky steps forward. I don’t really know what I’m doing but two little boys were glad to see me make it back to town anyway. I’m finally able to be fully present with my children and enjoy the simple things like rocking in a chair together.
Friendships that I thought were dead and gone are now renewed and healthy. I no longer go through my days wanting to die. I go through life with coach by my side and God leading the way. And hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to give back in a way that benefits others. And just maybe one day in my personal life I’ll find love in a healthy way and they will also be able to enjoy the new me as much as I do. Goodbye 2019.
Adjusting to Home
“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Today is the two-week mark of me having moved back home to Mississippi. The timing of the move was to ensure that I was home for the holidays and that’s exactly what I did. I came home and was soon greeted by my little boys making the first week filled with love and happiness. Anytime you move from one place to another there is an adjustment period usually filled with frustrations and my time back has had those times as well.
For me there has been a mixture of emotions that I was somewhat prepared for but have also been surprised by. With my dark past in this small town and trying to get settled the stress of it all has brought tears to my eyes. The stress of being back in a town where there are some difficult memories to face mixed with the stress of getting new doctors, reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, developing new routines and the death of a family member has left me emotional and a bit edgy. All-in-all I would consider the experience thus far normal.
In the best of circumstances, the stress would be a noticeable factor. But coming back to the place where all my trauma occurred with still very vivid memories has made the transition a little more difficult. The difficulties where they are uncomfortable are not impossible to overcome. My initial thoughts about moving back where that I would face a lot of judgment and harsh criticisms as I had in my younger years. What I have found is that I instead have faced people who still are supportive and who love me even knowing my past. And those who send their judgmental stares and comments my way have been drowned out by hugs and words of support and compassion. Me and old friends have sat while we all laughed and cried together with stories of difficult days from the past and the near future. And my aching heart is always soothed by the words of my children saying, “Momma D, we’re glad you moved back because we missed you.”
My spiritual life which has held a lot of contentment for many years has been met by people who just want to love and support me while I find my way here in small town living of the Deep South. And thanks to coach before leaving Texas I was already learning how to let people love me again. Likewise, I continue to be supported by my friends from Texas who only want to see me succeed as they saw me in the days of barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep surviving. The best advice I was ever given as a child and an athlete that’s kept me going was, “Never ever give up.” And the words I always tell coach is, “Don’t ever give up on me.”
Two of my hardest but most rewarding years of my life were spent healing in Texas. And it’s where I feel like I got my second wind in life. I love being able to smile a genuine smile today. I love feeling like I now have the capability to be a mother to my children. I love knowing going forward that my relationships with people will be ones that are genuine instead of superficial. And that they can be relationships that are healthy. I love knowing that my hard work has bought me something more rewarding than a degree could ever give to me……LIFE. And I love knowing that no matter how many times I wanted to nor how far down I got physically and mentally…. I NEVER GAVE UP. The miracle happened and I’m alive today to enjoy it.
Happy Birthday To Me
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. “
Today is my birthday and a day that I haven’t really celebrated since I was young. My birthday has always been representative to me of the day that I was put up for adoption and given away because I was unwanted. And after meeting my birth mom several years ago the fear of being unwanted at birth became a reality. That was exactly what she told me. I didn’t receive the explanation from her that she was young and couldn’t take care of me. She very coldly told me, “You were an inconvenience in my life and you still are.” I don’t know how cold the chill was that went over me the day she spoke those words. But it was cold enough to chill my soul.
I’m not afraid to admit that this has been a very painful part of my life for a very long time. And in many ways, I have allowed her reality to control my thoughts and actions about myself for many years. And then I met Coach who through unwavering compassion has taught me differently. She saw the open wounds of those awful words and graciously began helping to promote healing.
What coach has taught me is that I wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone but her. The beauty of living in a free nation is that not all our realities have to match, nor do we all have to agree. She also taught me that my self-worth should never be determined by a woman who didn’t have the capability to love me anyway. I have two wonderful parents who love me and have done nothing but support me my entire life.
Today, I’m happy to say that December 4th is a day that should be celebrated. I am a good person who loves people and loves to be love by both family and friends. Life has not been easy, but the trauma doesn’t control me any longer. My birthday means that God was gracious enough to breathe life into me for me to make my mark on this earth the best way that I can. I have a family and two beautiful little boys that call me mom that love me. And I also have friends spread across the country that love me and want nothing but the best for me. And I have a “system” that does their best to help keep me functioning in new ways that we’ve learned the last two years. They are a special group that I depend on to help keep me going and loving me enough to keep me safe in every single way.
Now December the 4th isn’t a day where people are prevented but rather embraced for wishing me a happy birthday. Today I smile instead of frowning and staying locked behind doors. There’s nothing like getting to share birthday time with my oldest son Marshall. And, today is a day where God is thanked for the breath of life that made me. And for my birth mom, she is silently thanked for being the vehicle by which I enter the world. These days of being grateful have changed my view on many things. I am grateful to God, the universe, friends, family and others I’ve not yet met for being a part of my journey. Because the day that someone is born is a day when life changes for anyone, they meet in ways we may never know. I say with all the happiness in my heart…” Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!”
“We never know the love of a parent until we become parents ourselves.”
–Henry Ward Beecher
The doctor walked into where Mel and I had been sitting waiting for the ultrasound. The doctor takes the apparatus and gel and moves it over her belly. Looking at the monitor he said, “Do you see that little blinking light?” Mel and I both shook our heads yes. The doctor said, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat.” For a moment the feeling was surreal, but it soon changed to excitement. This was our baby and we would be parents in less than 9 months.
The next few months we would be preparing for our little baby to reach the due date. At 12 weeks the doctor would tell us that our baby would be a little boy. We were both beside ourselves with excitement. But in a few months Mel would develop pre-eclampsia and be put on bedrest. This would make me extremely nervous, but I was still hopeful that everything would be alright.
The days came and went but our baby’s birthdate would change from a date in January to December 3. This meant that he would be a preemie and would have to go to the NICU. The day of his arrival Mel was in labor 36 hours. I was just a ball of nerves waiting and hoping that both Mel and our baby would be ok. I eventually fell asleep on a couch in the room from sheer exhaustion. The next thing I know a nurse or doctor was trying to wake me saying, “Ms. Arnold your baby is about to be here.” Mel was also yelling, “Dana wake up!” I wake up quickly and head over to where everyone was scurrying around. Within a few minutes Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold would be born and he was beautiful.
The team would whisk Marshall away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Mel wouldn’t get to see him for the next 24 hours. It also meant that we would have to leave our baby at the hospital when we went home. That must be one of the most agonizing moments of my life. So, our routine would be me going to work and dropping Mel off at the hospital to be with Marshall in the NICU in the morning. And when I got off work I would go by and pick her up from the hospital which we renamed Camp Marshall.
I can honestly say that those days were some of the most stress of our lives. Leaving your baby at the hospital while you go home no matter how well things are going is very hard emotionally. The level of worry isn’t one I can put into words. But eventually on Christmas Eve of that year we brought our little baby home. Marshall was making our hearts beat then and he still does. The Christmas of 2011 was one of the most special Christmases on record. Because he was and still is one of the best presents, I’ve ever received. Happy Birthday, Marshall!!!!!
I AM THANKFUL
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
With the Thanksgiving season here I couldn’t help but think of things that I’m thankful for. The transition back to living in Mississippi is one that is still in process. I’m grateful to be back around family but living in solitude for so long has left its mark. Still amid some of the frustration I’m incredibly grateful just to have another day to wake up to every morning. Everything I learned in Texas is being put into practice which includes everyday frustrations and the sometimes overstimulation of being in public and around people daily.
My heart has longed for several things over the past couple of years since being in Texas and this thanksgiving my heart was warmed by not having to spend the holidays alone again. I was able to spend the day and night with my two little boys. I can’t explain to you what healing effects that had on my heart. I finally got to show them that I could be around little boys without freaking out. More than once both boys were in my lap while we were rocking and snuggling. And we were able to go to Walmart shopping hand in hand amid the holiday crowd.
It wasn’t comfortable but there were no cold sweats that day. Texas taught me that not all situations would be comfortable, but I would be ok. And that’s exactly what’s happening. I have been preparing for two years for the days and things that I’m currently experiencing. But when my little boys told me that they loved me and are happy that I moved back home that was all I needed to hear.
I still had to dodge nerf bullets and some of those might not ever be found again. And a trip to McDonalds and all the squealing and stimulation was enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. But I got to enjoy the boys being able to just be kids without feeling like I would snap from all the noise. Instead I was able to enjoy the chaos that I had missed. Me, my boys and my family could tell that my hard work and healing was paying off and that brought the tears to my eyes.
Those that say, “Well, that was just one time.” I say, “I remember the times when a day and a half of being around my boys squealing and playing without snapping wasn’t possible.” I did it and I’m still doing it. My hard work is paying off and for that I AM THANKFUL.
My Parts And Change
“DID is about survival! As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide in shame. DID develops as a response to extreme trauma that occurs at an early age and usually over an extended period of time.”
― Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook
I don’t know why I’ve decided to write another blog so soon. Maybe it’s because I’m so eager to get back home that the loneliness of this room has taken its toll. But maybe it’s also because my parts are talking so loudly about the upcoming change that it’s hard to do anything else. I still hold true to my beliefs about the benefits of my two years of hard work and the spirituality that I hold near and dear. But to ignore what my parts are saying would go against everything I’ve learned. So, I’ve decided to give this some attention.
My child parts are like typical children. They’re excited to know that they will be able to play with Marshall and Copeland soon. They look forward to being around them again and to once again. And a certain little 5-year-old looks forward to being able to play with her chap sticks that have carefully been sent back home at an earlier date. They also long for a parent’s love to help ease the scariness of this new change.
My teenagers have a menagerie of emotions like most teens. Some are ready to go NOW and are having a hard time with patience. They all look forward to this scary but new life and experiences. My once loud and aggressive protector is the one who is surprisingly calm during this time of stress. She has always been the one no one could get close to. But through healing she has become one that knows her place and realizes that everything isn’t about a fight. The kid that she is longs for someone to simply hold and support her while this change happens. She’s not afraid to admit that she’s scared. But she also knows that she’s still one of the backbones of strength and courage in my system. Instead of being a part of aggression she has found and made peace with her trauma and now works with us all instead of causing chaos. She has become one of the hardest working parts in relation to recovery. And she holds tightly the words of our dear Sarah close to her heart.
She was hands down the loudest but most damaged alter I have. Her loyalty to our coach and our system is comes from a place that’s admirable and loveable. And I must admit that having her working with us for several months now is something that makes my heart leap for joy. Her heart is open and healed and has become one of my parts that I couldn’t live without. She one that has brought about the most change and has remained open to love, peace and happiness. My part that is her direct opposite and wise beyond her years is still strong with positivity. Very simply put she brings light to the darkness. The desires of her heart I won’t share but peace from within is what she exudes.
My athlete and student are parts that keep us all going. Having the respect for our dear coach they both repeat the phrase, “Stay the course and trust coach. She hasn’t led us astray yet and we need her right now. We trust her because she’s proven trustworthy. Listen and follow her guidance because she will help lead us home safely.” And I must admit that writing keeps “the student” occupied.
A few of my adult parts looks forward to helping Mel raise the boys. They also bring about nurturing and grace on a daily basis. They look forward to being role models for my children that will help me to be the mother I need to be. I have other desires of my heart but none more important than the ones that foster my being able to take care of myself instead of having to be taken care of. I look forward to being able to take care of myself instead of being trapped within myself and frozen with fear.
All these parts make up me, Dana Landrum-Arnold. I’m proud of who I am now and what I can become as a person in the future. My heart longs for many different things. And I’ll admit that I’m very nervous. But when I look back on the days of Texas, I can say that it has been the most rewarding and difficult time of my life. I have worked harder for this resolution of my trauma then anything else. The scars of my story are evident on my arms and my heart. But the peace I’ve fought so hard for is written all over my face and heart as well. I now see myself as one who has discipline, courage, strength and love to share with anyone who will accept it. I am a good person who a set of individuals tried to destroy a little at a time. What I was blessed with was several parts of myself who fought my battles and took care of me for many years regardless of how maladaptive the behaviors were. And now I’ve grown to the point that it’s time that I take care of them and my responsibilities as Dana. They helped me to survive and now I will help them to thrive. My name is Dana Landrum-Arnold and I have a story to tell.
A Letter From Beyond
With all the healing work taking place I can’t help but think what my dear Sarah would be thinking. So, I’ve decided to write something to help my heart a little bit. Sarah was always concerned and who knows how many of her own tears and prayers were shed and said for me. She was one of the kindest people I knew, and compassion seemed to flow from every pore in her body for me. But make no mistake that she would also very sternly and loving to insert her shoe into my ass if she thought that’s what I needed. I imagine that if she were to talk to me today it would sound something like this…
I have been watching you for the last few years and have seen you decline at an incredible rate. You have given yourself every excuse to behave in ways that still make my skin crawl. I told you several years ago to never give yourself a reason to destroy yourself and things around you. Especially no excuses surrounding my death.
All I ever wanted for you was happiness and recovery. I know you were hurting but I never left you. But I have also seen you step up and take charge of your recovery. You have been through some agonizing days and even then, I never left you. And like pulling teeth you have finally begun to allow people to love you when you weren’t able to love yourself. You have finally gotten out of your own way and done work that has brought about healing.
I always had faith in you and your abilities, but you had to see it for yourself. Your work was about you and no one else. Your eyes have finally been opened to a new life. You have taken charge of your life and cleaned your side of the street the best you can. Your recovery with your new coach has been done one day at a time. And I can’t imagine a better team to make this all happen. This will continue if you get up every day and choose recovery. This process will continue to help you grow as you become the mother that your children deserve. Continue to work on your relationships that deserve the respect that you choose to give to them. Some relationships will be salvageable where others won’t. Thank God every day for life because people that you choose to allow in your life will be blessed just like me and Doug were. Celebrate life for it’s so precious and can disappear in an instant. Help Mel to raise the boys to be men that you both can be proud of. I loved you but never let love end just because a person’s life ended. You have gifts and a beautiful heart that anyone can see and love. Don’t cheat someone out of your beauty just because of a loss. Grieve and move past the hurt and pain. There are many other people that will be placed in your life that will be cheated out of your noticeable beauty if you let the past affect your present and future. Not only your children and family but also those you have yet to meet.
My wish for you is still happiness in whatever way that may look. Never forget to thank the people that helped and love you for they too have seen you hurting and hurt with and for you. There have been more tears and prayers said by numerous people that you may not realize. Anything is accomplishable if you realize that there’s a spiritual being bigger than you. For you are not the ruler of the universe. Ask for what you need and keep those you love close. You have learned many difficult lessons these last two years and I am proud of your efforts. Remember that every day of life is not to be fought with but worth fighting for. You make my heart sing and your beauty shines these days because you’ve found your own authenticity. And damn it looks good on you. I miss you and love you and will forever be by your side.
Thank your coach and her seemingly unending compassion and love that she shows you. She is a rare jewel. The days you thought I was gone was nothing more than me backing off and giving her space to try to help the one I and many others love…. you. Be a person people can look up to rather than one people fear. And remember that life is not easy and was never meant to be easy. I’m of you and love you very much, kid.
This has been an emotional piece for me to write but I needed to hear what I could imagine Sarah saying to me. She is still deeply missed. I’ve finally made peace with her death and subsequent absence. But I choose life authentically. I choose to let people love and care about me even though it’s still uncomfortable at times. I choose life.