Advocates

Advocates

“Momma D, Why Do You Act Weird Sometimes?”

–Marshall Landrum-Arnold

The above is a question from our 6-year-old son.  The one thing I’ve learned about having this disorder is that no matter how hard I try to be “normal” I’m not.  The term “normal” is truly a subjective term that only fits perfectly on a washing machine.  Maybe I should say socially acceptable.  Regardless of what term I or anyone else tries to use the fact of the matter is that a lot of times I’m just not.  I have awaken many times to face the day with the attitude that I don’t nor will I ever have some type of mental disorder.  No sooner than the words roll off my tongue do I realize that I, in fact, have a mental disorder that can, at times, be completely debilitating.

I have come across many people who are of the opinion that “you just need to look at things differently” “you just have to think more positive” or “the past is in the past.”  I would instantly become infuriated even if the emotions didn’t reach my face.  A lot of statements are not malicious but rather out of ignorance.  Also, with trauma you just can’t “unbreak the plate.”  There is no possible way to just pretend that things didn’t happen…..THEY DID HAPPEN.  Everyone around you can be in total denial with their heads in the sand but the fact is that the images, words, feelings, body memories and mental torture goes everywhere I go all day long every single day.

Having a diagnosis like Dissociative Identity Disorder is not one that’s easily hidden from those closest to you.  When you have a spouse and children the inevitable will surely happen.  I’m talking about sometimes very rapid mood changes, alters emerging, rages, voiced self-hatred, noticeable self-harming behaviors, etc.  I realize that not everyone with this disorder operates the same as “systems” are as unique as fingerprints.  But for our little family we have chosen to educate our children as things happen.  Please understand that I’m not talking about telling our children my trauma history in detail.  We educate them on an age appropriate level.

We’ve educated and continue to educate our children about being from an LGBT family and how families look differently.  I have found that children are pretty satisfied once their questions are answered even with the most simplest of answers.  Throw the taboo topic of mental illness that most cringe to discuss in there and more questions emerge.

As a child, I credit my parents for exposing me to individuals with mental retardation and other disabilities.  Maybe this is why I don’t shy away from anyone with a disability.  I truly accept anyone as they are regardless of disability or difference.  Within our little family there’s no denying “difference.”  Marshall has been noticing for a couple of years now that I’m just that….Different.  He might not know the name for what’s happening when alters come out or when I become completely non-functional.  But make no mistake that he knows something’s wrong.

One of my biggest hurdles everyday is anxiety.  I can range from just a little uncomfortable to vomiting and diarrhea.  So, while living in Albuquerque I found that the gentle vibration of a moving vehicle combined with my favorite music can soothe the soul.

survival

 One day Marshall was riding with me which was always our special time to sing together and get a snack from somewhere without little brother.  He said, “Momma D, can I ask you something?” Me thinking this would be a typical little boy question similar to “Why do birds poop when they fly?”  But what he asked me for the first time caught me by surprise.  He said, “Momma why do you freak out and act weird sometimes?”  Instead of further fueling the shame of the having the disorder by saying, “Don’t ask questions like that.”  I simply asked him for clarification by saying, “Baby what exactly are you talking about?”  He said, “Like when loud motorcycles drive passed you and other loud noises scare you. Or when we are playing with my toys and you act like a kid.”  I told him, remember age appropriate, “Son when momma was younger she had some people that scared me really, really bad.” He said, “Did they like jump out and scare you?”  Not being too far off the mark in some instances I said, “Well sort of but mommy just got really scared and things still scare me a lot.”  He said, “And that’s why you freak out sometimes and get scared by loud noises?”  I said, “Yes, baby.”  He then asked, “Is that why sometimes you have to go to the hospital?  Like to help you not be so sad and mad?”  I thought to myself, “Why is he so perceptive?”  But I replied, “Yes, baby.”  He said, “Is that why you see people like Tina so they can help you not be so mad and sad?”  Proud to answer the questions of such a smart little boy I said, “Yes baby.”  His instant reply was, “Ok can we go to Toys R’ Us and not tell momma Mel?”  I chuckled as I said, “Heck yea!”  You will be entertained to know that all teenage and child alters were shouting with excitement when I said that.  When we arrived at the store he said to me what Mel has told me many times prior to going into a very overstimulating situation like a toy store, “Momma D, I will sit in the buggy and will put my hands on your hands to help keep you to the ground. (He was talking about staying grounded.) Don’t worry, it’s just a store and people and they won’t hurt you.”

These were some simple situations with some very powerful answers and outcomes.  And how you choose to educate or not educate your family about mental illness is your business.  Some might disagree with how we choose to do this with our children.  My answer has always been, “That’s the beauty of living in a free nation.  We don’t have to agree.”  But what a disservice it would be for this little boy if we weren’t honest with him.  I wasn’t inappropriate in any manner.  I was simply answering something that had been bothering him in a very age appropriate manner. I didn’t get into specifics about my trauma as at age 6 he is not mature enough to handle that.

The fact is this…..I’m one of his mommas and he and Copeland both love and miss me dearly.  He knows I’m different and yet without judgment he still loves me unconditionally.  Being away from Mel and the kids living in Texas and working with someone determined to help me is extremely difficult.  Take away all of my mental issues and what’s still left is a momma and a wife who misses her family dearly.  Things I’m missing being away from them I’ll never be able to get back.  Through necessity we are raising our family to be….ADVOCATES.

“A lot of people are living with mental illness around them.

Either you love one or you are one.”

–Mark Ruffalo

#thispuzzledlife

Back In The Saddle? We Think Not.

Back in the Saddle? We think not.

November 14, 2016

“Somehow the disorder hooks into all kinds of fears and insecurities in many clinicians. The flamboyance of the multiple, her intelligence and ability to conceptualize the disorder, coupled with suicidal impulses of various orders of seriousness, all seem to mask for many therapists the underlying pain, dependency, and need that are very much part of the process. In many ways, a professional dealing with a multiple in crisis is in the same position as a parent dealing with a two-year-old or with an adolescent’s acting-out behavior. (236)”
― Lynn I. Wilson, The Flock: The Autobiography of a Multiple Personality

Since my last blog, life has hit both me and my family like a tsunami.  Attempting to live with Dissociate Identity Disorder has become a bigger challenge than either my wife or myself could’ve ever imagined.  The agony of trying to find a therapist in the state of New Mexico who specializes in this disorder has been nothing less than impossible.  The lack of knowledge on this disorder by therapists that we have dealt with has left my wife and I in tears and shaking our heads. We have decided that New Mexico has given us the best it has to offer….our boys. As far as competent mental health services, it like the rest of the country it leaves a lot to be desired.

I like many other clients resort to staying away from the therapy field, for the most part, because of the additional damage that has been done.  There just aren’t enough therapists who are competent enough treating severe trauma related disorders.  Let me lay it out….so, when an individual goes to a community mental health therapist they are usually being seen for depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, phobias, etc.  Where all of these are often seen in trauma related disorders the thing that sets this apart from DID is the fact that there’s often one issue that becomes problematic.  In DID, there are often numerous issues that on a 1-10 scale are all busting out at a 15 at any given time.  Additionally, my psyche has compartmentalized memories of the traumas which has created alters all with their own personal needs, fears and individual diagnoses. There are times throughout the days and weeks where I have absolutely no memory of anything.  I or shall I say some part of me could’ve been having a conversation and interacting with you as though I was completely coherent.  Trust me…being told I’ve done things leaves me just as stunned as telling someone that I have no idea what had transpired during my encounter with them.  As frustrating as I’ve seen therapists get while attempting to blindly treat this disorder, what has been the most damaging are uncontrolled egos.  Where there might be a lack of knowledge of specific trauma related issues, whatever happened to genuine compassion instead of therapeutic arrogance?  Luckily, there has been only a one, thus far,  that hasn’t jumped out of the pot just because the water got hot. Personally that has done more for peace of mind than any therapeutic relationship in the past.

trapped in head

Slowly, I hope to fill in some time gaps from the last 1-2 years.  Our boys are what seems to propel this family into continuing the often heart breaking and gut wrenching symptoms and effects that this disorder is taking on both me, Mel and our kids.  They keep days when smiling isn’t possible at least somewhat tolerable.  The purity of love between a child and a parent is one that’s individual and impenetrable.

I won’t lie and pretend that everything is Ok because it’s not.  Bad experiences therapeutically has left me incredibly rigid from the sting of unethical behaviors.  Physically I stay sick every single day in some way.  But truthfully, fear keeps me paralyzed. I have in many ways become a prisoner to my house.  Driving has become too dangerous because of uncontrolled dissociation and switching.  My eyesight changes as alters change making being able to see while driving anything but safe.  Getting lost while driving and not knowing where I’m located and, at times, not knowing the city or state where I’m located presents its own unique hurdles.  Sometimes daily migraines up to 17 hours before any relief is achieved.  And, well, after the previous 3 year battle to prove my innocence in a DUI case because of a dissociative episode while driving has left me quite shaky when it comes to driving by myself.

anne sexton

Going into public now requires that I be heavily medicated to keep the pure terror and panic attacks to a somewhat manageable level and keep anything unpleasant from happening like vomiting; or a terrified and paranoid alter from appearing; or not being able to complete a sentence because too many are trying to talk and I sound like I’m stuttering. I also seem, at times, to not be able to count money or to be able to answer routine questions asked by anyone at a business without little beads of perspiration on my brow because I can’t comprehend what they’re asking or what the conversation consists of.  With Mel by my side the help is there but the embarrassment is often times unavoidable.  When I’m by myself , I’m socially a wreck. I make it out the house and into my vehicle only to turn around within a couple of miles because the anxiety gets intolerable.  I then retreat to my life behind the walls of our house wondering if and when this nightmare will ever end.

With so many stigmas surrounding the disorder and myths about how it should present itself, it’s no wonder so many professionals haven’t the slightest idea what small glimpse of a world they might see before them.  Strictly based on the ideas that Hollywood portrays is another reason so many have the opinions that to have DID you must resemble Sybil Dorsett in the movie Sybil.  When, in fact, switching can be very subtle and unnoticeable.  There is also the ongoing debate about whether or not Dissociative Identity Disorder is an actual disorder.  This disorder has been in the manual since the DSM-III (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition, 1980) when it first called this disorder Hysterical Neurosis, Dissociative Type.   Since then, the sometimes strange and hurtful behaviors and complications of this disorder have been studied. The knowledge and reasons for the disorder forming are of a much  higher prevalence than once thought. But an even higher prevalence of misdiagnosis sometimes for many years due to the lack of education about how to diagnose properly.  This disorder is very complex, perplexing, frustrating and at times damaging both physically and emotionally to the patient and the families.  Very simply stated….. Dissociative Identity Disorder is very much a reality for our family.

#Thispuzzledlife

Out Of The Darkness, Into The Light

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1

1.1.2015

 “Dissociative parts of the personality are not actually separate identities or 
personalities in one body, but rather parts of a single individual that are not yet 
functioning together in a smooth, coordinated, flexible way. P14” 
― Suzette Boon

Since this begins a new year, I thought I would start it off with a ‘boom’ of reality from our world.  The topic that I will discuss is one that has such stigma attached to it that it’s has taken me months to muster the guts to discuss it.  This is a topic that hits home in the best/worst kind of way.  I’ve written for months now explaining some of the many symptoms that I experience mostly on a daily basis.  2014 was no doubt one of the most difficult for me, Mel and Marshall.  However, we as a family including my brother have shed tears together, as well as, have a lot of laughter. I have also smoked a ton of medical marijuana just to be able to live day to day.

I figured that a few months ago when I ‘came out’ out as a medical marijuana consumer, the thought crossed my mind that even though people can be cruel when it comes to mental illness, that since this blog is about MY healing I would ‘come out’ about my particular illness.  Many have read my blog since day one and for that I thank you.  I would also like to say that while reading this particular post that you just keep an open mind.  I’m not going to try to change your opinions or perceptions of mental illness.  I’m simply going to try and paint you a picture of mine to the best of my ability.

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  Now for those with no therapy background, I can tell you that this is the same thing as Multiple Personality Disorder.  And now your opinions and thoughts begin to race. The only references that most of you have are those of the books/movies The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil.  Hollywood did a horrible job painting a picture of what those of us with this disorder look like and how we function on a daily basis.  Guess what?  I’m still the same Dana that you grew up with and loved.  I just have a world that has formed inside my brain that I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have.  I didn’t question it because to me that has been my normal.  Does this diagnosis make me ‘crazy?’ Should it make you fear for your family’s life if I happen to be around? Does this make you want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction?  I can promise you that all of that energy would be wasted.

The symptoms that I have mentioned in other posts are all true and are a part of daily life for me.  I can’t tell you what it’s like living with a spouse with this particular disorder because only my wife can answer that.   I can tell you that it’s the most intricate puzzle I’ve ever had to try and figure out.  Having only had this correct diagnosis for almost 1.5 years we, as a family, have had to adjust.  We were already adjusting prior to Marshall being born.  His birth somehow set off a bomb inside my brain that retriggered everything that has happened to me.  Not his fault or mine, just our reality.

With both my wife and I having Master’s Degrees in Counseling, we were baffled when we never even considered this diagnosis as one that would fit.  Even in graduate school, because of limited time to study the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders we didn’t see the signs.  If you want to know why we had limited time to study on this manual, just take a look at it one time and you’ll see that it could take years to be taught thoroughly and it’s like computers changing all the time.  This diagnosis is still part of a great debate about whether or not it’s an actual diagnosis. I can’t answer for other families but for our family it’s very much a REAL diagnosis.

Some people have, in fact, asked Mel if she felt safe around me with Marshall.  The answer is always the same….yes.  There’s a lot of self education we’ve had to do because of the stigma within the mental health communities, as well as, those outside that community.  We don’t have all the answers yet to how and why and neither does science. I can tell you that the very slow journey of recovery from a lifetime of trauma actually began when the correct diagnosis was given.  Now I finally had answers to why sometimes I would answer myself and had what I thought were ‘loud’ thoughts.

To see me today, I’m the same goofy ass, class clown that was and still is friends with Levi Pierce.  I have scars on my arms.  It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s how I survived.  You don’t have to be afraid to have your kids around me. I’m not going to cook them and eat them.

DID, as I’ll refer to the diagnosis from now on, is not near as scary as the picture that has been painted.  Does it have scary moments? Of course.  So does Bipolar, Major Depression, Schizophrenia and any other disorder.  This disorder requires a very patient and understanding spouse, as well as, professionals to be able to deal with some unpleasant moments.

The title of my blog “This Puzzled Life” is all about putting these scary pieces back together enough for me to be able to enjoy doing what I love…..helping people.  Once piece at a time is how I’ll learn to live with this disorder.  Trial and error is how it’s been for almost 1.5 years now with the correct diagnosis.  Prior to the correct diagnosis it was and still is at times a total nightmare.  Also, life continues regardless if I have a disorder or not.  Friends and family still pass away which can complicate things.  But, this too, is just the way life operates.

 With very patient but firm therapists, I’m finally being able to look very closely at some of the horrors.  The ‘alters’ or other personalities, if you so wish to call them, have their own story because they were created by the mind at very key times in the abusive history.  Alters together are called a ‘system.’  Each ‘alter’ has his/her own function within the system.   Each person with DID has a system much like that of a finger print.  Not every therapy works the same like a cookie cutter.  Do not be afraid to ask what you don’t understand.  Your fears come from what you don’t understand.

“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 the shame.”

–Anonymous

There are also no psychotropic meds that are specifically designed for this disorder.  This also explains why for the first 3 years of seeing a psychiatrist none of the meds worked for an extended period of time.  Some antidepressants, anti-psychotics, axiolitics work well for some alters and not for other alters.  I was taking Parkinson’s medications for the side effects of other medications while feeling horrible from the side effects.  So, that represents toxicity to me.  My psychiatrist offered as a last resort the state’s Medical Marijuana Program because of all the mood swings, PTSD, hallucinations and every other symptom I would have at that time.  Now believe what you want about medical marijuana, but I can personally tell you that that medication as it is so treated, is one of the reasons my wife, son, friends and family still have someone they love living.  The memories of the trauma alone are more than I can handle.  The effects of PTSD steal your sanity one image, smell, thought or sound at a time. The body memories while very painful become a little more tolerable with the marijuana and acupuncture.

This is why I’m also so big on people recognizing and working on their own trauma.  That way people like me who set out to enjoy life don’t have to wait 40+ years to understand what that means.  I’m representative of people who were too proud or stubborn to face their own demons.  This too was not a “choice.”  I understand the concept of ‘free will.’ Where was my free will?  That’s right, there was none.

People from all walks of life have this diagnosis but go on for years with the wrong diagnosis because so much can mimic other diagnoses.  There are also those still that live with this diagnosis and are very successful members of society.  The trauma didn’t just occur overnight.  It’s has happened my whole life so, the process won’t resolve itself overnight.  There is a lot of painful elbow grease that has to be put into this recovery.  The point is to keep putting one foot in front the other.  I’ve never backed down from a fight and won’t start now.  You just can’t take the athlete out of me.

I will take you through the victories and the setbacks of this journey.  Hopefully, I’ll help educate you while also healing me.  The only thing I ask is keep an open mind.

#Thispuzzled