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