DID Posts: Seasonal memory loss started again…

I haven’t written a post about DID in a while. It’s so much a part of me and my chosen lifestyle that I forget how much of a struggle it was to get here sometimes.

Every year something unique happens in my life. It can start any time between the first day of school and Halloween.  It ends some time between March and May the next year. Average length of time is six months.

During this time period, my symptoms increase to an overwhelming level; my body memories activate and never stop or slow down; and all of my  typical patterns (sleep, exercise, eating/hydrating habits, work) change.

It starts with a feeling of sadness that permeates all parts of my consciousness. The sadness is followed by hyper-vigilance, paranoia, and lethargy.  I stop sleeping. I dissociate more often.  My hunger decreases, and I’m tired all the time. Everything feels like a challenge.  Nothing brings joy. Staying at home feels safe.

Time slows down or speeds up without my realizing it. I feel like I am moving through a fog. Fear makes fun activities like cooking and going out too scary to contemplate. Lack of appetite = weight loss = more body memories and body-related symptoms.

Worst of all, I start forgetting every day things and not recognizing my surroundings.

How do I know this happens? Why can I describe it so well?

The awareness started after I got a real job that required me to remember routines and processes, so probably 2006/2007. Shortly after I walked away from my family, I experimented with self-training a service animal to help with the PTSD. While that story is for another post (maybe), the whole experience brought the lost time issue into present reality.

It started in August with meeting, hiring, and learning basic dog care and dog information from a professional dog trainer. By October, I had a puppy and was working with him and  the trainer through a 4-level dog training program. One Saturday in February, I woke up and couldn’t remember any of the training exercises and activities we had been working on since October.

Luckily, I did remember having a dog and how to take care of him. Reflecting on that experience, though, showed me a similar pattern of remembering and forgetting that spanned decades. My counselor at the time was not surprised when I shared this with her in session. She explained to me that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have such experiences.

A full switch (my term, not  the professional one) between alter personalities means a full consciousness switch – as in one personality leaves or goes dormant while the other takes over completely – and whoever is in charge retains the memories of those experiences. Alter personalities in a non-integrated system often are not aware of each other and do not communicate or share memories if  they are aware of each other.

close up of pictures
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

My counselor reassured me that the memories weren’t lost or stolen. Instead, they were stored someplace in my mind that the present me (or me in charge) couldn’t access.  If and when I did need that information, it would become available. By this time, we had been working together for almost two years. She was familiar with my patterns of increased and decreased symptoms, triggers, etc. more than I was.

When my counselor realized how much  this bothered me, she offered to help me create a plan to minimize the negative effects of my seasonal memory loss. The first (and most effective to me) was focusing on Internal Family Systems therapy to foster communication within my alter personality system.

The coping strategies and techniques I have discussed in the past are all part of this plans so I’m not going to describe them again here.

Who is in charge? And what will I remember next May?

Back then, it was me or Pip or a combination of our four dominant personalities in charge unless something triggered one of the others into taking over. I  didn’t know about my two simultaneous lives, so couldn’t factor that into the equation. But that mattered less because the memories still disappeared and often didn’t come back again for years.

These days, we all work together and are all “in charge”.  Sounds weird, but that is the truth. Each personality or part of me has a specific set of tasks to do in order to keep our system running smoothly. We have others trained to perform multiple tasks or act as back up if someone isn’t feeling well or needs extra help, but all of us are needed if we want to be at our best.

So what will I remember? I honestly don’t know. And at this point in my life, I am not sure if I would want to know. One of the best lessons therapy taught me was that I don’t have to remember everything that happened. And I will remember what I do need to remember at the exact time that information is required to help us:

  • achieve a goal
  • maintain safety
  • not make the same mistake again
  • something else I can’t describe with words

Conclusion

While memory loss is scary and often feels uncomfortable, I can now accept it as another part of my life. Sure, I miss being able to remember everything and sometimes mourn the loss of those memories. But at the same time, I trust all parts of me to find and share memories, skills, and experiences as we want or need them to thrive in our present life.

Thanks for reading

Family: Birthday Reflections

pink green and yellow ribbon illustration
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Birthdays always feel odd to me.

On one hand, I enjoy celebrating life and am always grateful for my second chance.  Every moment is precious, and all parts of me look forward to the day laugh lines appear on our face.

On the other hand, I feel extremely annoyed about all of the expectations that used to come with birthday celebrations.  Parties, going out, being around people, and all kinds of activities that were meant to be “fun” ended up something else in my personal experience.

My favorite kind of gift is when someone close says “happy birthday” and means it.  If the individual chooses to give me something too, that’s always appreciated and valued.

person holding inflatable decor
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Giving and receiving of gifts means a lot to many people.  I have a hard time accepting gifts sometimes.  It goes back to my past trauma, triggers, and fears.  Wanting something and asking for it as a gift – didn’t always get me what I wanted.  Sometimes it got me the opposite.

But these days, I can trust the people who want to give me gifts to give me something I will enjoy instead of something they think I will enjoy.

My best gift today was talking with my dad on via video chat.  We talked for an hour about so many different topics.  I got to see his smile and hear him laugh.  He passed the device around so I got to talk with my aunts and uncles too.

It was a great start to my day and brings out hope that things will keep getting better.

My last birthday wish (or hope) is for all of my guests to have a fun day or peaceful sleep after reading this birthday post.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Body Shaming – Internal & External

Apologies for the late post…I slept late and then fell asleep after exercise and a phone call with my mentor yesterday.  By the time I woke up, it was time to go back to sleep again.

Body Shaming

It’s a big deal, especially in today’s world where anything can pop up in the mainstream media or on social media (on purpose or by accident) and anyone can comment.

I had another post in mind for this week, but Grant Gustin of CW’s The Flash spoke out about body shaming in this article on Digital Spy.  Gustin fights back and speaks out against body shaming – in general and by addressing comments directed at himself.

The Flash is one of the few TV shows I enjoy and follow via Internet news.  It addresses a lot of interesting topics from alternative and unique to me perspectives without a lot of bias or stereotyping.  My other favorite CW show is DC’s Legends of Tomorrow for similar reasons.

But back to the main topic – Body shaming is a form of bullying.  Depending on the circumstances, context, content, and perpetrator, it can also be a form of sexual & physical harassment or abuse.  It’s something I still struggle with as an adult and experienced from many people growing up.

Body shaming is more than talking about how physically attractive or unattractive a person is.  It goes deeper and can affect self-esteem, self-confidence, and one’s sense of self.  Body shaming covers a lot of topics.  Here are a few:

  • How I smell
  • A flabby belly instead of a flat one
  • Being short
  • Having slanted eyes
  • Being curvy and Asian
  • Wearing Glasses
  • Looking younger than I am
  • How I dress (style and type of clothes I wear)

And just for fun…since you already know my face…here’s a photo of me in one of my favorite summer outfits – no makeup as per usual.

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BODY NEUTRAL & BODY POSITIVE – Body Image alternatives to shame/negativity

I’ve mentioned these terms before.  And I try to stay true to them in real life – for myself and for the people around me.

It’s not easy to change the tapes in your head when the people who are supposed to guide, support, and protect you are the ones making these comments.  The person who body shamed me the most was my mother.  Being sexually and physically abused further damaged myself and made me hate my physical appearance to the point where I didn’t trust anyone who made a comment about me; positive or negative.

What helped me most was putting aside concepts of attractiveness and beauty in favor of learning how to love, accept, respect, and value my physical self for all of the positive blessings it provides me as I work to achieve my goals of overall wellness and independence.

Something else that helps is to stop making negative comments (in my head or out loud) about my own and other’s appearance, whether on purpose or by accident.  It took me many years to stop automatically thinking in the negative about bodies (etc) in general.

I still don’t see myself the way other people see me.  Looking in a mirror can be tricky depending on who is watching through my eyes.  Every alter has a different perception of our physical self.  And none of us really enjoy the attention we receive.  Our goal is to blend in, not stand out.

But I/we also want to feel comfortable, confident, secure, and happy with our physical appearance/body/self too.  And that means creating and using a personal style to guide how we present ourself to the outside world.

Maybe these concepts and tips will resonate with you.  Maybe they won’t.  but you are not alone in experiencing the body shame.

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Slowing Down my life

Slowing down has been an ongoing theme this year.  Here are some concrete reasons for my choices.

I/we want to spend time exploring our memories and experimenting with different hobbies, activities, experiences to find joy again.

joy = pleasure = happy = content = relaxed

Feeling joy in our mind is different from experiencing the sensation of joy in our body and spirit too.  All parts of me want to experience joy in mind/body/spirit together and AT THE SAME TIME without falling into triggers or panic attacks.

We’d like to experience this joy alone (amongst ourselves) and with other people too.

That means slowing down our current lifestyle to make space for big, scary changes.

choices decision doors doorway
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • The blog stays at 1x a week.
  • Goodbye to Facebook for the final time. Pinterest & LinkedIn stay for professional and practical reasons
  • More paper books, less ebooks
  • Knitting, cooking, sewing fun
  • More activities & experiences = more built-in exercise and play time
  • Sleep, meditate, relax, and go to related meetups
  • Limit internet & computer use for existing tasks and work/job searching

I tried living in the darkness and shadows with minimal technology and a lot of “old-fashioned” methods of getting things done.  The best part about that lifestyle was learning how to “do” things without depending on machines.

I tried living in the “modern” world with its technology and emphasis on moving fast all the time.  The best part of this lifestyle was learning how to utilize technology to help me achieve my goals without depending on others to take care of me.

Now it’s time for me to find the sweet spot of lifestyle that makes me happy and continues to support my internal healing/recovery journey.  

More big changes are happening whether I want them to or not.

I can make choices now to put support systems in place and flow with the changes.  Or I can fight them until my face turns blue and I give in anyways.  Which seems better to you?

So maybe this isn’t for you.  And maybe it is.  Either way, I hope you find ways to bring more joy into your life.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: A story about anger, pain, and suicide – beware of triggers

Beginning of September always brings back memories and flashbacks because it’s the time when school starts.  Summer was easy.  I was me or some version of me all the time.  Bud during school, I was one person in public society (elementary school, activities, etc.) and someone else in the private society that occupied the rest of my time.

I didn’t have friends in the public society world.  Everyone there looked down on me, bullied me, and pretended I didn’t exist.  I helped by being rude, annoying, and quiet as possible to avoid attracting attention.  But it didn’t make school easier.  I thought school would make life easier because it took me out of the other world.

But it turns out, I enjoyed being in the other world more.  The other world – the world of pedophiles, traffickers, dug dealers, predators, and other monsters – is where I made friends and learned life skills.  It’s where I found family, a soul mate, and a purpose for surviving/living.

Those life skills and experiences may have turned me into a monster not fit for “regular” society in the legitimate world.  But they gave me a secure and valued position in the criminal world and the gray world between legal and illegal.  After I was freed – no longer belonging to the cult or human traffickers as a slave – I spent a good part of my life in  the gray world while trying to forge a life in the legitimate world too.

Part of me didn’t want to give up the gray world.  I had friends and family there.  I had a purpose and helped many people.  My job was exciting and fulfilling even if it was dangerous and involved lots of violence.  Most important though, the people in that gray world accepted me as I was.  I could be my real self with alter personalities, a quirky sense of humor, a bad temper and so on.

But in the legitimate world with my corporate job, I couldn’t be my whole self.  My connections to the gray world and the criminal world put it in jeopardy.  And as that personality, I didn’t recognize or have access to my friends and support network in the gray world.  I couldn’t remember that other life without causing migraines and intense body pain.

But then my soul mate made a choice to leave on his terms.  Other friends died or moved on.  Instead of being free, keeping those friendships and connections made starting over more difficult.  The criminals who remembered me kept harassing me and trying to recruit me.  Kids I taught or helped before tracked me down and asked me to help again. My body gave out on me; I was in so much pain all the time.

Work wasn’t fun anymore.  I tried to retire.  I referred these people to the organizations I worked and volunteered for instead.  And I focused on keeping the promises to my soul mate.  To use my second chance at life wisely; be happy and free; and start fresh as my authentic self someplace else without the anger and pain holding me back.

I met my soul mate in a punishment cage when we were 3 or 4 years old.  His family was rich enough that his parents  traveled or worked a lot and paid people to take care of him.  His parents trusted the friend who referred the caretakers not knowing or realizing where their son was all the time.  Sort of like my parents  trusting references from my pediatrician and taking advantage of free babysitting from local organizations.

It was my third day in training, and I was back in the punishment cage for talking back or not following the rules.  I can’t remember exactly.  Anyways, he came up and started talking to me.  That became our pattern.  I got punished (a lot).  He came to talk with me. Then his trainers took him away.  If he got punished (rarely at that time), I would walk over and talk with him.

Our friendship bloomed from there.  Both of us were prostituted and raped, so our relationship never involved sex.  We cared about each other too much to want to be involved that way after our shared experiences with human trafficking and cults.

Unfortunately for him, though, he didn’t share my  problems with chemicals and other substances.  Nor could he continue to separate his mind like I did to survive  living two lives.  The medicine, dugs, and alcohol did work on him.  He got addicted and tried so many times to clean up.

But the memories, the shame, the anger, the pain were all too much for him.  He couldn’t cope with our shared past.  And he didn’t want me be stuck in that gray world forever even though that kept both of us safe.  We made plans to get legitimate jobs in the real world and fulfill our dreams after college.  We laughed and pulled each other out of trouble, but more often it was me finding and taking him home after a night of drugs and booze.

Sometime in our software year, we had a spring break that matched up – same weeks off – and decided to hang out together.  But spring break has always been hard for both of us.  My other family found him at a party with a bunch of people from the old gang – kids and adults who did jobs for the traffickers and the cult hoping to move up the ranks one day.  He was still sober, but had the needle in his hand.

We talked.  The others interfered.  There was a fight.  One that finally convinced those people wasn’t involved anymore; that I didn’t want to be involved and would stay out of their way as long as they didn’t target my loved ones.  After the fight, my soul mate handed me the full syringe and asked me to help him get through the rest of the day and evening.

He wanted to spend one last day with me sober and clear headed because we needed to talk.  I took the syringe and tossed it aside.  It wouldn’t go to waste in that room.  Then we left for my other family’s house.

He and I, we spent the afternoon talking and cooking our favorite snack food.  That’s when he told me about his choice to leave on his terms.  He wasn’t as strong as me, strong enough to live without the haze of drugs to take the edge off of his memories.  But he didn’t want me to be stuck in our shady life or to see him spiral down into addiction.  He wanted me to fulfill our dreams and keep my promises to live every moment with joy.

My soul mate wanted  to leave in a dream where all of our wishes and ideals came true.  I chose to support his choice.  After all of his struggles, he deserved peace.  The only promise I asked of him was that he wait until after college graduation to leave.  We graduated college in 2004.  He overdosed and died a year later.

I never saw him again after that spring break sophomore year in college.  But I knew he kept tabs on me.  And after my failed suicide attempt in 2004, he sent me a message reminding me of my promise to get help if I survived.  I got help.  Graduated.  Started seeing a mental health professional and putting my life back together.

So you see, I can’t condemn suicide or people who want to commit suicide.  In my mind, in my world, suicide is a legitimate choice – a fail safe option when nothing else feels right or good or safe – for people who’ve tried everything and anything and lost hope.

But I can’t support suicide – not the way it’s discussed these days – either.  My soul mate lost hope.  He didn’t want to drag me or the others in our circle down either when we still had chances to change.  He made his choice after hours of talking (not just that day) with me and our circle, months/years of rehab and counseling, and working out issues with his family.

I couldn’t go through with any of my suicide attempts, but I never stopped looking at suicide as a fail-safe option until about 5 years ago when I decided to change my name and implement hazy plans to move across the country based on a recurring dream I couldn’t quite recall.

More than 10 years later, in the first two weeks of September when school starts and training started, I finally remember my soul mate and our friendship.  So I guess the last two weeks of sleep deprivation, flashbacks, panic attacks, and pain were worth it.  This story (with some details omitted), came to me between Friday and this morning.

We met 33 years ago and became secret best friends for over 20 years.  I like to believe and have complete faith that my soul mate moved on to a better place where he can work on his plans for the next life.

Thanks for reading.