Emma's Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder


Five Piece

In a three part series, we interviewed the writer and director from the 2019 film Five Piece. The main character in the movie, Brandon, has dissociative identity disorder. Here’s the synopsis.

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Chicago, IL native, Matthew Roth attended Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL, to pursue filmmaking, learning all aspects of the craft in under two years. Upon receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Film, Roth embarked to Los Angeles, CA, shortly after, where he worked on various productions. The following year, he raised money for his first feature film The Man Who Collected Food which went onto win numerous awards at various film festivals and find distribution though Media Blasters.

Then, while seeking financing for other projects, Roth had a chance meeting with Writer/Director Martin Donovan (Apartment Zero, Death Becomes Her) whom he worked with for the next few years, developing scripts, filming sessions with actors, and learning even more about the art of film.

Roth then decided to make his next film and wrote one with a small budget in mind, Five Piece. With a cast consisting mainly of actors Roth met through Donovan, he shot Five Piece on a shoestring budget and completed it in late 2017.


The Man Who Collected Food (2010)

Five Piece (2018)

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We also interviewed two of the actors from the film, Tory Despres and Robert Paul Taylor.


Tory Despres is an actor, writer, producer and director.

He got into acting participating in high school productions of plays and musicals. After high school, he attended Loyola Marymount University majoring in Theatre.

He studied at Playhouse West for five years under teachers such as Wolfgang Bodison, Kathleen Randazzo, Holly Gagnier and Scott Caan.

His feature film debut was in FIVE PIECE which has gone on to win Best Picture at multiple film festivals around the country.

The first short film he directed, wrote and starred in, LOVING DEATH, is currently making the rounds in the film festival circuit and just recently got accepted into The Playhouse West Film Festival. He feels blessed to get to do what he loves for a living and is excited for what the future holds.

On television, Robert plays Remy Ramirez in Season 2 of Hulu's Emmy Nominated 'East Los High'. Taylor has guest starred roles on 'Mixology', 'Brooklyn-Nine Nine', 'New Girl' and plays Ronaldo on 'Fresh off the Boat'. Overseas, you can find Robert as Raul on Russia's Mega-hit 'Chernobyl' Season 2.

On the silver screen Robert stars in "Five Piece" (2018), "Mask of Janus" (2018) and "South 32" (2016). Taylor also appears in a series of acclaimed festival films such as LA Film Fest winner "In Her Place", "Opening Night" and Outfest LA favorite "The Forest".

As a screen writer Taylor has co-screen-played features: 'Mask of Janus' (2018), 'South 32' (2016), 'By The Rivers of Babylon' (2016) 'Table 18' (2018) and the miniseries 'The Bathroom Diaries' (2014).

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Here’s the trailer for the film:

Conference Survey

Please take our survey as part of the Plural Positivity Conference!

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As the survey is about the experience of dissociation, there are some questions related to trauma. However, this is not a survey about trauma, and the trauma questions are not expanded in depth otherwise. Still, please be aware of this as a trigger warning prior to the survey, and take care of yourself during and after the survey. As many insiders who want to take the survey are welcome to do so.

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Emma Sunshaw
Guest: Jane Hart from A&E DocuSeries "Many Sides of Jane"

In episode five of season three, we interview Jane Hart, the woman with DID featured in the A&E DocuSeries “Many Sides of Jane”.








New York, NY – December 18, 2018 – A&E Network’s new, six-part original docu-series “Many Sides of Jane” will explore what life is really like for one young woman living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, as she juggles parenting her two young boys and navigating her complicated relationship with her mother and her past. This is the first series of its kind that showcases this disorder in such an intimate light. Jane graciously allows cameras into her private day-to-day life, including her intense therapy sessions, to capture every moment as new memories emerge helping Jane as she continues to unlock mysteries surrounding DID and her childhood trauma that caused it. “Many Sides of Jane” premieres on Tuesday, January 22 at 10PM ET/PT on A&E.

“A&E Network is dedicated to transcending television by inspiring dialogue and perhaps even changing perceptions like we have with our Emmy-winning series ‘Born This Way,’ ‘Intervention’ and ‘Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President & Head of Programming for A&E. “We are proud to partner with Jane as she bravely opens up her private life to our viewers to ultimately remove the stigma attached to Dissociative Identity Disorder, help spread awareness and hope, while showing the world that they are not alone when it comes to their own mental health struggles.”

In the new series, produced for A&E by Renegade 83, “Many Sides of Jane,” a 28-year-old mother of two from Boise, Idaho who was recently diagnosed with DID allows cameras to follow her journey. Her more than nine identities, ranging in age from 6-28 years old, can appear at any time and are typically triggered by stress. Diagnosed only three years ago, she is on a journey to understand what caused her DID as well as figure out how she can best co-exist with her many "parts" as they each emerge to try and make themselves heard.

Throughout the series, Jane will be coming to terms with past abuses that occurred during her childhood and her relationship with her family under the watchful care of her clinical psychologist. This is a raw, unfiltered look at an extraordinary young woman who is learning how to live her life again with a commonly misunderstood disorder known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. Jane has nine distinctly identified “parts” although there are more inside that are either not as developed or haven’t felt safe making themselves known at this stage in therapy. Her nine distinctly identified “parts” thus far include the following:

• Janey is six years old, innocent and childlike, and has no memory of Jane’s abuse nor had to endure it.

• Beth is 10 years old, reserved and soft-spoken. She is scared and traumatized from enduring a majority of Jane’s abuse.

• Jaden is an 11-year-old tomboy and very defensive of Jane’s abusers.

• Alexis is a 17-year-old energetic, fun, party girl. She is the rebel and loves flaunting her sexuality and being in control.

• Madison is a 28-year-old lesbian who wants nothing to do with men. She is assertive, direct and is a protector of Jane and all her “parts.”

• Jerry holds all the anger about Jane’s past abuse and prevents her from fully feeling the emotion of anger.

• Ashley is 19 years old and has only recently made herself known in therapy. She is beginning to establish a good rapport with Jane’s therapist so that she can begin to tell her story.

• Jeffery is a male part who is still a bit of a mystery.

• A new non-verbal “part” has just started to emerge unexpectedly. This “part” comes out in association with new flashbacks and does not yet have a name.

A&E has partnered with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, to share information and resources for individuals and their family members who may be affected by mental illness. These resources include an on-air PSA featuring Jane Hart, end-card information with NAMI’s HelpLine, a discussion guide and more.

“Many Sides of Jane” is produced by Renegade 83, LLC, an Entertainment One (eOne) company for A&E Network. Executive producers for Renegade 83 are Jay Renfroe, David Garfinkle and Erica Hanson. Executive producers for A&E are Elaine Frontain Bryant, Shelly Tatro and Brad Abramson. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights for “Many Sides of Jane.”

Jane Hart is a 28-year-old loving mother of two, an author, a public speaker and mental health activist. Born and raised in Boise, ID; Jane currently resides there with her two beautiful sons. Three years ago, Jane was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder, which has impacted her life in ways she never could have imagined. One of the exclusive causes of DID is repeated childhood trauma to which Jane has unfortunately endured throughout her life. Dubbing herself a “human information sponge,” Jane has spent countless hours researching the effects of trauma on the brain as well as learning as much as she can about DID in the hopes of helping others.

Receiving her diagnosis was tough on Jane both mentally and physically, but sharing her condition with a close friend was a turning point for her. Despite their close relationship, her friend assumed Jane was dangerous; damaging their friendship and leaving a lasting impact on Jane. This pivotal point in her life has inspired Jane to shine a light on the cause to diminish the stigma of mental illness, especially those living with DID.

In June 2016, Jane wrote an article sharing her knowledge of DID and her personal struggle which led to a speaking opportunity on a well-known psychology podcast “Shrink Rap Radio”. This opportunity led to a life-changing journey; the opportunity to chronicle her life living with DID on the new docu-series titled “Many Sides of Jane” airing on A&E. Under the guidance of her therapist, Jane has currently identified over nine distinct identities or “parts” (as Jane refers to them) and she’s working to unlock the mysteries surrounding her trauma and to find internal harmony between her many sides.

Upon agreeing to participate in this rare and raw series, Jane made a promise to herself to be 100% open, real and honest, letting the world see that those suffering from DID still have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. Jane’s goal in opening her life to the cameras is not only to erase the misconceptions about this highly stigmatized disorder but to also normalize mental illness and to spread truth about the silent epidemic of child abuse and its lasting effects on the human brain. Jane feels there is power in sharing her story and it is her mission to help others realize mental health is just as important as physical health. Those suffering from DID are special, smart and unique; they deserve compassion, kindness and understanding.

Healing Together

We are at the conference in Florida!


It’s been super intense, with lots of triggers and difficult content.

But it’s also been amazing, watching people care for each other well, survivors support one another, and seeing friends practicing such good self-care. We are really blown away by it all! It’s been too much for us for very much social interaction, but we have learned a lot and are proud to be here.


We attended one session this morning and one session this afternoon. You can here about it on Dr. E’s podcast, Healing Together, Part 1. We tried to take lots of notes for our therapist, and will talk about them with her, but also shared with you what we learned. Here are some of the graphics we discussed in the podcast:


One thing that was completely unexpected about this conference has been the sense of community.

Here, people are very open about their DID, and there is a movement of “pride” within the plural community.

It’s been touching to see the power of connecting with others, even within our own limitations, and the vulnerable sharing of participants in different sessions.

It’s given me new insights, even, into our own podcast and why we started it - not just to face fears about recording ourselves, or to educate via podcast since we had only found YouTube videos, or even to document our own progress… but also to simply speak up, to break our silence, to use our own voice.

That’s been a pretty powerful realization, no matter what we learned today or what we learn tomorrow.

Meeting Minutes

In episode 14 of season 2, Emma shared the minutes from our first internal meeting. This was huge progress, and really took a lot of time to pull off and a lot of energy to figure out how to do. We have been working on this for over a year with our therapist, and then the last month in group as well. Our first big effort as a system was this meeting about meetings as we planned what our meetings would look like, and how we would gather people to come to the meetings. It was really a lot of work! It was also exhausting, and we slept for almost twenty hours after our first meeting.

But here’s what Molly’s Meeting Minutes looked like:

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You can see it was fairly simple in the beginning, just noting the date and where we were and who was present. We also noted a few that watched without participating. The main section, then, was the actual minutes from the meeting, which Molly typed as they happened. At the close of the meeting, there were assignments made for everyone attending, as well as a list of topics brainstormed to cover at the next meeting.

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Maybe that gives you some simple ideas for starting meetings for your system?

Be sure that everyone is invited, even if they cannot come!

It’s the same for those who do not wish to come - they are still invited, even if they don’t want to come.

But no one has to come. Everyone always has a choice. That’s a really important thing for everyone to know.

Guest: Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW

It was a profound experience for us, specifically for Dr. E in confronting her own diagnosis directly for the first time, and to be received with such compassion and understanding. It was the exact opposite of shame, which we have been talking about and studying recently. Our deepest gratitude to Susan Pease Banitt, for just being her.

Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW, is a social worker, psychotherapist and author who specializes in the treatment of severe trauma and PTSD. She has worked in the field of mental health for more than four decades in diverse settings: inpatient, outpatient, and medical with adults and children, and trained in the Harvard medical teaching hospitals in Boston, MA. She is a Reiki Master, Kripalu trained yoga teacher, and shamanic healer in the Celtic tradition. Susan’s book The Trauma Tool Kit: Healing PTSD From the Inside Out (2012) won several awards including; the Alumni Media Award for Written Work by Simmons College School of Social Work, and the Silver Nautilus Award for Health and Healing.  Susan speaks internationally on the psychological and holistic treatment of PTSD. She lives and has a private practice in beautiful Portland, Oregon with her husband and a menagerie of pets. Her second book: Wisdom, Attachment and Love in Trauma Therapy: Beyond Evidence-Based Practice (2018) has just been released!

You can read her blog HERE, and she has podcasts HERE.

AIM "Healing Together" Survey

We are so excited to be heading to Orlando this week for the Infinite Mind “Healing Together” conference this next weekend!

As we mentioned on the podcast, they have a survey up for anyone with a dissociative disorder. It’s a great opportunity to (safely) participate in good research. CLICK HERE for the link!

The survey was pretty triggering for us, just as a heads up. There were flashing faces that you saw quickly and had to choose the emotion being expressed. While not a difficult task, this was really triggering to us, and we aren’t sure why. It felt in part due to the flashing pictures, and in part to some of the expressions we saw. None of it was in and of itself anything terrible or inappropriate or unsafe by any means, but somehow the process triggered something that did not feel good.

After that section, there were a series of surveys about different topics. One was just general demographic information, some of which was kind of funny because we would answer it differently depending on who was out. Another seemed to be about depression type symptoms, and for us those all go to our insider who is the mother of the outside children. The other questions were about trauma, which actually caused a switch for us because they were so direct and heavy (and Emma doesn’t remember all that anyway), and different experiences regarding dissociation. It was not so hard that we couldn’t get through it, but it took us almost an hour and a lot of self-care.

Be sure to participate if you are able, as it is very helpful and they have a goal of getting 200 responses.

But also remember good self-care during and after, as always, due to some of the content in the survey.

A Love Story

You guys! You guys!

This was the most AMAZING love story! CLICK HERE to listen to episode 10 of season 2!

We thought we were interviewing an author about their book written for (outside) children about DID, but it became about their journey of love while discovering DID.


These two grew up together, and dated throughout high school and college, and then finally got married and started their family. Listen to their story! It’s so touching, from him being a witness to some of what she endured to her fighting through medical dramas and even having surgeries to find out what was wrong to ultimately being diagnosed with DID. Deciding together to make this a part of their life, rather than feel like their lives were disrupted by it, they looked for a way to talk about it with their (outside) children. That’s when they wrote their book: The Patchwork Quilt (CLICK HERE TO SEE ON AMAZON).

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Beautifully illustrated by their niece, The Patchwork Quilt is an excellent resource for both outside children and inside Littles. Simple but profound, it’s also just a wonderful metaphor for explaining DID to adults and other support people, as well. We are so grateful for Jeff taking the time to tell us their story-behind-the-story!

GUEST: Dr. Warwick Middleton

Our guest in Season Two Episode 8 is Dr. Warwick Middleton.


Professor Middleton has had substantive ongoing involvement with research, writing, teaching (including workshops and seminar presentations), supervision and conference convening. He has made substantial and ongoing contributions to the bereavement and trauma literatures and was with Dr Jeremy Butler author of the first published series in the Australian scientific literature detailing the abuse histories and clinical phenomenology of patients fulfilling diagnostic criteria for Dissociative Identity Disorder. He was the first researcher to publish systematic research into ongoing incestuous abuse during adulthood. He is a Fellow and Past President of the ISSTD, is Co-Chair of the ISSTD Membership Committee, and Vice-Chair of the ISSTD Scientific Committee. Prof Middleton chairs The Cannan Institute. In 1996 he was a principal architect in establishing Australia’s first dedicated unit treating dissociative disorders (the Trauma and Dissociation Unit, Belmont Hospital). He has authored many papers and book chapters and has been the co-editor of two books based on journal special issues. He holds Professorial appointments at the University of Queensland, La Trobe University, the University of New England and the University of Canterbury.

The ISSTD is, of course, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.

You can learn more about their upcoming conference in March by CLICKING HERE.


With Royal Commissioner Bob Atkins on the occasion of presenting him with his ISSTD Media Award, Brisbane, 2nd May 2018.

Professor Middleton also shared his poem song written by himself, recorded by his son Hugh.. The song is shared at the end of the episode.

He also shared one of his paintings with us, a self-portrait!

The 8 F-Words

If you listened to episode seven of season two, you heard Sasha talk about being in four sessions of group with The Crisses from Liberated Life Coaching. We are excited that they will soon be a guest on the podcast!

But one thing we mentioned in this episode was that The Crisses had identified EIGHT panic responses to trauma or other triggers. Most people know about fight, flight, and freeze. Fight means dealing with it head on, and flight means running away from it, and freeze means hiding in some way.

Some people are also now getting more familiar with the fawn response (being “too good” in hopes for safety).

But The Crisses have also identified four others:

Follow - going along with the abuser or trigger, like joining in with them for safety;

Fortify - making higher “walls” and stronger defenses than before;

Fabricate - changing the story so it’s not so scary (including denial);

Facilitate - empowering yourself for positive change and healing in even little ways.

These are amazing! CLICK HERE to listen to their podcast about the 8 F’s!

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More About Littles

Sasha wanted to add more to the discussion about Littles. In episode six of season two, she shared her own perspective about how time applies (and doesn’t apply) inside a DID system. We did learn after the previous episode that the video the listener was reference was this one, by The Entropy System:

Sasha shared some about how some Littles stop aging due to a traumatic event, and others stop aging when they aren’t required to function as much in the external world anymore. Other times it happens due to a new alter taking over that role due to new trauma or some other reason. There can be lots of reasons, and each system will be unique both in how this happens and their understanding of it.

One thing she is becoming aware of, though, is how much you can learn from Littles within your own system. One example of this she gave was John, who helps us notice when we make positive changes. He likes to pass out “badges” (stickers he got from the therapist) to us and to the husband when we make healthy or empowered choices differently than we would in the past. We promised a picture, and here you go!

Internal Age and Psychosocial Development

In episode five of season two, Dr. E answers a listener’s question about Littles and how they age (or don’t age) within a DID system. The question was in response to a video the listener saw on YouTube about Littles and others inside, and their different ages. The video referenced Erik Erikson’s stages of development.


But she shared specifically about the impact of trauma on psychosocial development, including the recovery model that goes parallel to Erik Erikson’s theory. CLICK HERE to read more about the recovery model.

EDITED TO ADD: Listeners sent THIS LINK as the video discussed in the listener’s question that prompted this episode.

Unboxing Ourselves

If you listened to Episode Four of Season Two “Unboxing Ourselves”, Sasha shared our new experiment in journaling!

We always use simple spiral notebooks for journaling because we write so much that we go through one or two notebooks a week. We take the notebooks to therapy, leave them with the therapist, and then fill up one or two more during the next week. I don’t know how many pages we have filled up since finding our therapist about a year ago!

But this was a new experiment. We wanted a communication notebook specifically, rather than only journaling. One thing we remembered was THIS VIDEO from Power to the Plurals, that included the suggestion of making some kind of orientation page at the very beginning of your journal so that any new insiders could know what was going on a bit if they needed help remembering the present time. Here is what our orientation page looked like in this new journal experiment:


Then we made a list of 14 questions we thought would be helpful toward getting to know each other, and wrote them on the next page as you can see. Then we just left the journal out, and let people respond when they could. We left pages between each response, so that we can respond to each other a bit or ask follow-up questions if we want or leave any comments.

Now, remember, this was not just magic or easy to do. We have been working toward this for a whole year, or twenty, as Sasha explains in the podcast. And then intensely for a week, and got about 23 responses. You can hear this “unboxing” on Sasha’s podcast. But here are a few pictures, since we had also recently talked about different handwritings… this is not everyone who replied, but a few examples that we could share without revealing too much content or anything too private.

Internal Worlds

In therapy over the last year, we have been working on building internal communication.

This week and next week we are in a special four-session group coaching class with Criss Itterman, who runs Liberated Life Coaching. We were shocked to hear in class that not only is it important to know your way around the internal world and how to find each other, but also that you can make changes to make your internal world a safer place. This was a big deal to us!

Our internal world was mostly made of places where we grew up, and so a great deal of it is unpleasant and unsafe and there are many (especially littles) still stuck in those places. Recently, however, our therapist helped us in one particular room by hanging Christmas lights for some safe and soft lighting for a little girl who was in the dark and alone. This was an amazing and profound experience, and very helpful, more than we knew was possible! So after this class, we wondered what else we could do?

Power to the Plurals also has a video (a whole series, actually) about creating internal safe spaces and invite the others inside to come there.

There are actually a whole LOT of systems of who have shared about inner worlds, either why they happen or what theirs are like or how to create small changes. CHECK OUT SOME OF THEM HERE!

But for us, we needed to do two things to at least get started.

First, we need a way to get the attention of the others, or call out to them in some way, if we are in danger or someone needs help or if the therapist is trying to talk to us. Our own internal landscape reflects the farm where we grew up, so we were trying to think about the how things worked already. One idea we had was that at the neighbor’s house, now our safe house inside, there was a big bell on the porch the lady used to ring to call her husband in from the pasture. What if we added the same bell? And maybe another in the pasture?

This was super exciting, even if it seems tiny, it really was a big deal to us.

But also, not everyone can hear the bell, and the Christmas lights the therapist added in the one room were so beneficial and warming and helpful that we wanted to do more of that. We thought of the movie A Quiet Place, which used Christmas lights strung up around a property that worked as a warning system. What if we put up Christmas lights all over inside, and when someone needed help the lights turned red? What if when the therapist was talking to us, the lights turned white and everyone knew to listen? That was our idea!

So we spent the week trying to do this, and are still just getting started.

But so far it’s working!

Listen to Sasha tell all about it!

The Three Emmas & Co-Consciousness

So in Episode Two of Season Two, the Three Emmas talked a bit about practicing co-consciousness.

In our system, it was Emma Z who ran away from home at 17. Emma T went to grad school five years later, dated girls, and spent nearly a decade abroad. Then it was Emma S who returned to the States, reunited with the parents before they died, and married the husband.

So what happens when there are Three Emmas sharing a space more and more often? Listen as they share!

And CLICK HERE to read the Power to the Plurals article about Co-Consciousness that we mentioned!

From The New York Public Library (Public Domain)

From The New York Public Library (Public Domain)

Emma Sunshaw
Guest: Matt Pappas from BeyondYourPast.com

Dr. E interviewed Matt Pappas in episode 15!

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Matt is a Certified Life Coach and NLP Master Practitioner at BeyondYourPast.com, as well as a Podcast Host and Survivor Advocate.  He specializes in overcoming anxiety and working with trauma survivors as they navigate daily life.  As a trauma informed coach and survivor himself, he is keenly aware of the unique struggles that survivors must work through in order to heal. 

In addition to his own coaching business, he also is the co-host of the Daily Recovery Support Calls on CPTSDfoundation.org, which offers trauma informed support, 7 days a week...and he operates TealRibbonCreations.com - a web design and podcasting service for Mental Health Professionals, Advocates, and Survivors. 

Matt believes that we all have the power inside of us to take our life back from anxiety and overcome what's been holding us back from being the person we truly want to be. 

 Twitter & Instagram: @BeyondYourPast







In episode 14, Taylor talked about setting boundaries as part of protecting your system and your body.

Here are some steps towards setting boundaries:

  1. Figure out what is your stuff and what is their stuff. You are only responsible for you. What is it you are feeling? We often feel like we have no power over what happens to us, or what happened in the past, or what others to do us. That may be true, that we don’t always have a choice in our circumstances or our interactions. But we do always have a choice in our we respond.

  2. What is the violation? When you have a big emotional response during an interaction, that is always a clue. It may be a trigger to old stuff in memory time, but if it is about what is happening now and in the present (or both), then it’s important to acknowledge the violation itself. Did someone touch you without asking first? Or borrow money, but not pay it back? Or take something without returning it? Do they speak disrespectfully to you? Do they text or PM more than what you are comfortable with?

  3. Stand your ground! Once you know what the violation was, you can go back to what is your stuff and determine what is appropriate and safe for you. It’s okay if you are not comfortable with texting or chatting after a certain time in the evening. It’s okay if you don’t want to share your charger cord because you need it right now. It’s okay if you don’t want to hug your Great Aunt Sally. You have the right to decide what is safe and comfortable for you, and knowing your own preferences will help you set better boundaries with other people.

  4. Say it out loud. While it is true that there are some people who just don’t respect boundaries at all, most people just aren’t aware if you don’t say it out loud. Speak up! Say to your classmate, “I can’t share my charger right now because I need to finish this project first.” Or say, “I have $5 I can share, but you need to pay me back by Tuesday or I can’t loan you money anymore.” Or say, “I really want to support you, but right now I need to sleep. I would be glad to talk to you in the morning>” Or, even better, just say no. In fact, like Taylor said in the podcast, your yes means nothing if you can’t also say no.

  5. Be wise. You don’t have to do something just because someone tells you to do it. You don’t have to answer personal questions just because someone asks. Remember that just because someone pays attention to you doesn’t mean they care, and just because someone offers flattery doesn’t mean they have your best interest in mind. Use your energy for caring for you, and then your connections with others will be more meaningful.

  6. Notice your feelings. Remember that resentment almost always means you are in over your head, and that you are already getting sapped of your time and energy without getting enough nourishment in return. It can also indicate burnout in a job or hobby. Feelings of guilt are about not meeting other people’s expectations, which is different than considering your own preferences.

  7. Be direct. It’s one thing to respect different cultures or have good manners, but there are times to be direct. Some cultures are more direct than others, and some less direct cultures can actually be very passive aggressive. Regardless, if someone seems to not understand your boundaries or is just outright not respecting them, then firm up and be more direct and explicit with the boundaries you are setting so there is no confusion about what you mean or need.

  8. Adapt to relationship roles. Different kinds of relationships have different boundaries. There may be professional boundaries in a work, school, or clinical setting. These are meant to keep everyone safe. Dating or other relationships have boundaries, about how much time to spend together and apart, guidelines for how much money is spent, or what activities you are comfortable participating in with your partner. Friendships also have boundaries, like how much time you spend together, or how early in the morning you can visit, or how late at night you can call.

  9. Be responsible for yourself. Part of good boundaries is caring well for yourself. While we all need connection with others, we are responsible for our own level of functioning to a degree. That includes mental and emotional functioning. Your friends can be supportive, but it’s not their job to rescue you from the challenges of life. Your therapist can be helpful in your healing journey, but they cannot do the healing for you.

  10. Set boundaries for yourself, too. You may need your own internal boundaries, as well. Maybe you need to focus on that one healthy meal that is delicious, instead of focusing on restricting yourself from all things good. Maybe you need to turn off your devices earlier, so you can get more sleep at night. Maybe you need to give yourself permission to leave that social scene early, go for a walk after a long day at work, or spend some time at the park after therapy instead of rushing back to everyday life right away. It’s all part of self-care!

Grounding skills

Emma was pretty vulnerable in episode 12, and we want to share some of the things we are learning about grounding skills and coping skills.

Think of yourself as a thermometer for stress... and right now, you are filled up all the way to your nose with stress. So you only have from your nose to the top of your head to deal with normal, everyday stressors. What you need to do is process more of your stress - writing and talking to someone or processing in theray, using coping skills at work, getting creative with self-care - so that the thermometer goes down, like to your neck, then your waist, even, so when things happen you have more "room" to handle them better or differently.

Coping skills kind of come in two forms:

1.) Grounding techniques often use the five senses - sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight - to immediately connect you with the here and now through sensory input. It works by sending sensory information to your brain with messages of safety and comfort, which conflict with and distract from the "danger signals" your brain is getting from cortisol and other stress hormones in your brain.

For example, singing a song, rubbing lotion on your hands, or sucking on some sour candy are all sensory sensations that are difficult to ignore or distract you from what's going on in your mind. This helps you directly and instantaneously connect with the present moment. Here are some ideas for each of the senses, which you can use for brainstorming... ignore what doesn't help, and think of your own ideas that fit you more specifically. Add to the list. Practice it when you are well, so it is second nature to intervene in your own behalf during those moments of "crisis" or stress when you really need help.


Turn up the radio or blast your favorite song. Talk out loud about what you see, hear, or what you're thinking or doing. Call a loved one. Put on some nature sounds such as birds chirping or waves crashing. Read out loud, whether it's a favorite children's book, a blog article, or the latest novel.


Hold an ice cube and let it melt in your hand. Put your hands under running water. Take a hot or cool shower. Grab an article of clothing, a blanket, or a towel and knead it in your hands or hold it to your cheek. Concentrate on what it feels like. Rub your hand lightly over the carpet or a piece of furniture, noting the texture. Pop some bubble wrap. Massage your temples. If you have a dog or cat, cuddle and pet him or her. Drink a hot or cold beverage.


Sniff strong peppermint, which also has the benefit of having a soothing effect. Light a scented candle or melt scented wax. Get some essential oils that remind you of good times (freshly cut grass, rain, clean laundry, or sugar cookies, for example) and smell one.


Bite into a lemon or lime. Suck on a mint or chew peppermint or cinnamon gum. Take a bite of a pepper or some hot salsa. Let a piece of chocolate melt in your mouth, noticing how it tastes and feels as you roll it around with your tongue.


Take a mental inventory of everything around you, such as all the colors and patterns you see, the sounds you hear, and the scents you smell. Saying this out loud is helpful too. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. Put on your favorite movie or TV show. Play a distracting game on your tablet, computer, or smartphone. Complete a crossword puzzle, sudoku, word search, or other puzzle. Read a book or magazine.

2.) Coping skills are more like the offense, the way the grounding skills are the defense. They are proactive ways to deal with stressors or whatever is happening internally so that you can maintain function. Anything counts that helps bring that "temperature" down or helps you keep functioning. Sometimes these may be the same as grounding skills listed above (i.e., like lighting candles to relax), but when done as coping skills they are done preventatively rather than in response to the trigger or difficulty or stress.

Examples of unhealthy coping skills that are often used to "self-medicate" to deal with life include alcohol, drugs, stimulants, energy drinks, video games, or risk-taking behaviors. While not all of these are always bad, excessive use of any of them in effort to "drown out" the "noise" of life, or "numb" the feelings experienced in response to life are only ways to avoid dealing with life and often complicate matters or make them worse.

Some examples of healthy coping skills include:

Nutrition. Eating regular meals and getting the nutrition your body needs helps your brain to function properly.

Sleep. Your body needs time to rest and recover, but so does your brain.

Exercise. You can walk or move or do some kind of physical activity, even if you are not a work out fanatic, to help your brain be healthy. Stress chemicals, like cortisol, only get processed out of your body through physical movement, so it's really important to be up and about during parts of your day in ways you are able to do. Movement also releases endorphins, which are the "feel-good" chemicals in your brain.

Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.

Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you. Be creative with identifying ways of self-care that help you manage stress, even when you are crunched for time or in public or with little energy to deal with anything.

Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to de-stress by taking your mind off everyday life. Some people like to read stories or books that match their emotions to help them better express them, and other people like to read stories or books that are the opposite of what they are feeling so they can get some relief.

Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support one through good and bad times is essential.

Humor: Adding humor to a stressful situation can help to lighten the mood.

Hobbies: Having creative outlets such as listening to music, drawing or gardening are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.

Pets: Taking care of a pet helps distract the mind from stressful thoughts. Studies Show that pets are a calming influence in people's lives.

Finally, the third piece I mentioned was self-care. Self-care is different than just resting or being lazy because it is intentional and deliberate. It also should be an ongoing practice. You can be super creative in finding ways to better care for yourself on a daily basis, even when time or energy are limited, and even when you are at work or caring for others. You matter! Caring for yourself will help you function better, feel better, and be more productive in other areas of your life. Here are some examples:

Self-Care Ideas for the Mind

1. Start a compliments file. Document the great things people say about you to read later.

2. Scratch off a lurker on your to-do list, something that's been there for ages and you'll never do.

3. Change up the way you make decisions. Decide something with your heart if you usually use your head. Or if you tend to go with your heart, decide with your head.

4. Go cloud-watching. Lie on your back, relax, and watch the sky.

5. Take another route to work. Mixing up your routine in small ways creates new neural pathways in the brain to keep it healthy.

6. Pay complete attention to something you usually do on autopilot, perhaps brushing your teeth, driving, eating, or performing your morning routine.

7. Goof around for a bit. Schedule in five minutes of play or fun (non-directed activity) several times throughout your day.

8. Create a deliberate habit, and routinize something small in your life by doing it in the same way each day-what you wear on Tuesdays, or picking up the dental floss before you brush.

9. Fix a small annoyance at home that's been nagging you-a button lost, a drawer that's stuck, a light bulb that's gone.

10. Punctuate your day with a mini-meditation with one minute of awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations; one minute of focused attention on breathing; and one minute of awareness of the body as a whole.

11. Be selfish. Do one thing today just because it makes you happy.

12. Do a mini-declutter. Recycle three things from your wardrobe that you don't love or regularly wear.

13. Unplug for an hour. Switch everything to airplane mode and free yourself from the constant stimulation of social media and email.

14. Get out of your comfort zone, even if it's just talking to a stranger at the bus stop.

15. Edit your social media feeds, and take out any negative people. You can just "mute" them; you don't have to delete them.

Self-Care Ideas for the Body

1. Give your body ten minutes of mindful attention. Use the body scan to check in with each part of your body.

2. Oxygenate by taking three deep breaths. Breathe into your abdoment, and let the air puff out your stomach and chest.

3. Get down and boogie. Put on your favorite upbeat record and shake your booty.

4. Stretch out the kinks. If you're at work, you can always head to the bathroom to avoid strange looks.

5. Run (or walk, depending on your current physical health) for a few minutes. Or go up and down the stairs three times.

6. Narrow your food choices. Pick two healthy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners and rotate for the week.

7. Activate your self-soothing system. Stroke your own arm, or if that feels too weird, moisturize.

8. Get to know yourself intimately. Look lovingly and without judgment at yourself naked. (Use a mirror to make sure you get to know all of you!)

9. Make one small change to your diet for the week. Drink an extra glass of water each day, or have an extra portion of veggies each meal.

10. Give your body a treat. Pick something from your wardrobe that feels great next to your skin.

11. Be still. Sit somewhere green, and be quiet for a few minutes.

12. Get fifteen minutes of sun, especially if you're in a cold climate. (Use sunscreen if appropriate.)

13. Inhale an upbeat smell. Try peppermint to suppress food cravings and boost mood and motivation.

14. Have a good laugh. Read a couple of comic strips that you enjoy, or watch a comedy movie.

15. Take a quick nap. Ten to twenty minutes can reduce your sleep debt and leave you ready for action.

Self-Care Ideas for the Soul

1. Imagine you're your best friend. If you were, what would you tell yourself right now? Look in the mirror and say it.

2. Use your commute for a "Beauty Scavenger Hunt." Find five unexpected beautiful things on your way to work.

3. Help someone. Carry a bag, open a door, or pick up an extra carton of milk for a neighbor.

4. Check in with your emotions. Sit quietly and just name without judgment what you're feeling.

5. Write out your thoughts. Go for fifteen minutes on anything bothering you. Then let it go as you burn or bin the paper.

6. Choose who you spend your time with today. Hang out with "Radiators" who emit enthusiasm and positivity, and not "Drains" whose pessimism and negativity robs energy.

7. Stroke a pet. If you don't have one, go to the park and find one. (Ask first!)

8. Get positive feedback. Ask three good friends to tell you what they love about you.

9. Make a small connection. Have a few sentences of conversation with someone in customer service such as a sales assistant or barista.

10. Splurge a little. Buy a small luxury as a way of valuing yourself.

11. Have a self-date. Spend an hour alone doing something that nourishes you (reading, your hobby, visiting a museum or gallery, etc.)

12. Exercise a signature strength. Think about what you're good at, and find an opportunity for it today.

13. Take a home spa. Have a long bath or shower, sit around in your bathrobe, and read magazines.

14. Ask for help-big or small, but reach out.

15. Plan a two-day holiday for next weekend. Turn off your phone, tell people you'll be away, and then do something new in your own town.

Hopefully that gives some ideas just for better caring for you, while You practice some of these things you already know, already are doing, and already trying so hard. You got this.

Emma Sunshaw