Emma's Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder




Trigger Warning: Content on this website and in the podcasts is assumed to be trauma and/or dissociative related due to the nature of what is being shared here in general. Content descriptors are generally given in each episode. Please use appropriate self-care and your own safety plan while exploring this website and during your listening experience. Natural pauses due to dissociation have not been edited out of the podcast, and have been left for authenticity. While some professional material may be referenced for educational purposes, Emma and her system are not your therapist nor offering professional advice. Any informational material shared or referenced is simply part of our own learning process, and not guaranteed to be the latest research or best method for you. Please contact your therapist or nearest emergency room in case of any emergency. This website does not provide any medical, mental health, or social support services. 


Pat Ogden, PhD, is our guest to explain sensorimotor psychotherapy. She tells her story of learning about trauma work, and the recognition of the body as an ally in healing. She explains how somatic resources help stabilize the nervous system. Trigger warning for the example of thinking about how your body feels when your remember being abused (a father specifically is used in the example, but no abuse story is detailed at all). She explains how safe touch can be so healing, and how being mindful of our bodies not only can help us stay present, but also help us function differently in now-time.


Ashton Parker shares their story about being in the military when diagnosed with DID. They share about learning to cooperate as a system, and how creating a structure helped them work together. They share how finding online resources helped education them about their diagnosis, and what they are doing to contribute and give back to the community.


Emma shares her response to hearing Sasha’s podcasts with Julie, and what it taught her about respecting the others inside. She explores how to apply kindness to internal dynamics just as much as externally in the survivor community. She explores what it will look like if she tries again to do the workbook and work with the others inside instead of avoiding it. She chooses gratitude over fear.


We visit with Julie and Dona on our last night of girls’ weekend. Dona, who does not have DID, shares what she has learned from the podcast and being friends with people who have DID. We also share our experience of being in a tornado earlier today. Julie and Dona share about experiences with different alters in Emma’s System, including sharing some Little stories. Julie finds out both Sasha and Dona know more specific alters than she knew herself. Sasha shares what it’s like to hear about the outside perspective of DID. They read emails from listeners, and answer questions. Trigger warning for mention of school shooter at Julie’s daughter’s school, emergency response, and tornado experience.


Emma checks in during the visit with Julie and Dona. Feeling “foggy”, she tries to decipher a message from Molly (trigger warning for mention of God). She shares how she is trying to trust, and trying to be present, and trying to be aware of what’s happening.


We drive with Julie to our cabin in Branson, where we plan to meet up with Dona for a girls’ weekend. Sasha explains how our doctor is teaching us to eat based on water content of food to help our auto-immune disorder that’s caused by trauma. They also share about some of their differences, including different perspectives of DID and OSDD, as Julie is working on getting an official diagnosis. Julie and Sasha also share how they processed a conflict, communicating directly in healthy ways so as to resolve it quickly and without drama. Trigger warning for mention of eating insects (in context of candy found in a souvenir shop). Another trigger warning for the end of the podcast, when Julie is triggered when she is bumped into as she leaves a restaurant, and is dissociating as she tries to tell the story of what happened.


Julie comes to visit and stay with our family. Julie shares about triggers on her trip, and how survivors face them uniquely in environments that are challenging for everyone. They also share about parenting with DID. While recording the podcast, they witness aggression between inebriated people in the park. It is triggering, but also part of Julie decides it was escalating enough that the police needed to be called for safety (trigger warning for description of assault). Involving the police triggers some of our system, and the podcast continues as both systems deal with what happened and try to get re-grounded.


We were excited to talk with one of our in-real-life friends, Scarlet of The Labyrinth System - one of the first systems online with a YouTube channel about DID. They share what they learned about DID, and how they were diagnosed. They also explain the difference between inpatient, intensive outpatient, and outpatient treatment. They share their experience with genetic testing to identify which medication are most helpful for them. They share about their efforts to educate online, and how supporting each other in the DID communicate brings healing to all of us. They share how this is reflected in the Infinite Mind conference in Orlando each year. They also explain some examples of boundaries when working publicly and in the media while advocating for DID. There is a trigger warning for mention of suicidality, but only in passing reference with no details.


Emma opens up about the ways Mother’s Day has been difficult in the past (trigger warning for references to miscarriages, deceased parents, infertility, and abuse dynamics). These issues are only referenced, not described in detail. She then shares that this year she is focusing instead on the things she has learned from the therapist, and she gives a list of ten.


Robert Cox shares his experience regarding trauma being misdiagnosed as trauma. He then defines trauma, and explains about big T traumas and little t traumas, and why it all matters. Trigger warning for when he tells an example of a child protecting his sibling from a drunk father (no explicit details) and an explanation of why a survivor would rather just be hit than criticized or shamed. He uses this, then, to explain complex trauma. He then explains integration in the context of your brain processing memories and sensory experiences. He talks about outward signs of dissociation, and what skills he teaches to help patients stay present as they unlearn the habit of dissociating. There is also a trigger warning (for our system) when he uses the memory of a car wreck as an example of the difference between dissociated memory that feels like it is in now time, and integrated memories that you know are in memory time. He talks about sensorimotor therapy trying to avoid the reliving of memories because it can be traumatizing when it really does feel like it is happening in now time. He explains why mindfulness and yoga work so well with trauma in the brain. He shares how he explains DID and he tries to normalize and explain it as a survival skill. He then gives examples of breathing and relaxation exercises, including some visualizations. He explains how shame counts as trauma, and how it impacts our relationships in the present. He concludes by relating this to attachment, and explaining why animals are so helpful in healing attachment. They close by exploring how connections heals shame.


Emma shares about her therapy session today, including about trying to help crease eye contact and also reading out loud the letter she wrote last week to the others inside. She shares about “waking up” and starting to feel more aware of what’s happening in therapy, and how there is good in this even when it is hard. She shares what’s she has learned about friendship, and how both being wise in discerning who to connect with and the work of connecting has changed everything. There is a trigger warning for a sharing of a memory as an adult of caring for the mother, who then had dementia, and still getting hit. No graphic details of this memory are shared, only discussion of ongoing abuse dynamics as an adult. She then shares about boundaries and healthier dynamics that apply both to external friendships and others inside.


Sasha called Julie but elephant talk made the Littles pay attention so then the boys tune in on snack plans for Julie’s visit. There is trigger warning for littles and for reference of bad pictures but no memory time because now time is safe.


We speak again with Dr. Peter Barach, who teaches us all about attachment. He tells the story of being in class with Mary Ainsworth, and explains Bowlby’s theory (links in the blog). He explains the different attachment styles, and what that looks like in adults. He shares that disorganized attachment is quite common in DID. He gives the example of the Robertson research film “A Two Year Old Goes to the Hospital”. He then applies all of this to the context of trauma and multiplicity for some discussion - including suggesting that different alters have different attachment styles. There is a trigger warning for when discuss therapy boundaries, and how unresolved attachment issues play a role in unethical behavior of otherwise good therapists (and bad ones) - an example of a therapist diapering her adult clients is given. We also discuss ways to remain connected with your therapist between sessions, in good and safe ways that are healthy and contribute to healing attachment. Then we apply it internally, too, and explain why improving internal communication changes things so much - and how that heals attachment, too. He then ties this full circle to Dr. Daniel Brown’s theory of CPTSD, and how it’s caused by disorganized attachment followed by abuse later. He also references “Ghosts in the Nursery”. We apply what we learned our struggle through the last week, weather trauma, and efforts not to re-enact trauma.


Emma shares what the family has been going through with children in the hospital and her son recovering from surgery. She shares the struggle of missing a therapy session this week. She focuses on what she learned in the workbook this week, and shares a letter she wrote to the others inside. No specific memories are shared in this episode.


We share about a research group we have been in that focused on psychoeducation about DID. We share some of the things that made it hard and some of the simple triggers we noticed. We also share some of what we learned, including what caused us to struggle as we processed new material and considered new ideas while trying to practice what we learned.


After trying for months to connect, Dr. E finally gets to talk with Robert Oxnam, who wrote the book “A Fractured Mind”. He opens the interview asking her questions, which gives us all a rare glimpse into her own perspective throughout the interview. She mentions what we have shared before, about the deaths of our parents. He shares about his collaboration with McClean Hospital and gives some statistics about the occupancy of DID. He introduces his own story of DID, including causes for his experience with it (trigger warnings for his examples of growing up in wartime, beatings, screaming, threats, and being confined in a freezer). He normalizes DID as an understandable reaction to trauma. He describes other countries and cultures where a multiple perspective is quite normal, and how these conversations help fight stigma. He talks about the creativity of DID, and how beneficial this can be in ways other singletons don’t have access to be able to do. He proposes that functional multiplicity should be called “cohesive multiplicity” to emphasize successful internal cooperation. In sharing his story, he emphasizes the importance of being creative, being safe, and connection with others who are positive and strong enough to support you through your journey (trigger warning for mention of suicide attempt, but no details disclosed). He also recommends humor as one of our greatest coping skills.


Sasha shares how the system is doing with avoiding avoidance. Dr. E explains that the opposite of avoidance (dissociation) is mentalizing - being present and accurately aware of yourself and others. She gives four reflective skills necessary for mentalizing. A big part of this, Sasha learns, is being empathetic with yourself and others inside. Two neutral examples are given in this episode: a dish breaking in the kitchen and missing therapy today, so no abuse details are shared in this episode.


Sasha talks with the husband about Easter, and he shares with her and Molly why it matters for trauma, and how it helps us keep going to therapy. It may be a triggering episode, with ritual and organizational abuse referenced but not discussed in any detail beyond an opening trigger warning. The pagan history of Easter and early church history is discussed, as well as Christian themes of the garden prayer, the death of Jesus, and the resurrection. These stories are referenced only, not told explicitly, and done in the context of why acknowledging trauma matters. The Husband and Molly discuss misinterpretations of forgiveness, and how any true forgiveness includes full acknowledgement of what was done wrong. This, then, is part of why the hard work of therapy cannot be avoided. Emma then opens up about an experience in therapy last week as she continues to become more aware of the stories of others inside.


Sasha calls her friend Julie to process our son’s surgery week. They talk about being overwhelmed, pacing therapy, and learning to trust friendship. Sasha refocuses by sharing about our upcoming trip to Africa with our ten year old daughter, and she is cheered up by reading emails from listeners. She closes by calling Meghan to open a package of art lettering of all of our names. There are references to medical trauma, but no specific examples, and references to dissociating and internal changes due to therapy. There are no memories disclosed or discussed in this episode.


JohnMark, with Sarah close, shares about enjoying the park after therapy. They share more about NTIS, and how it means the hard things are in the past in memory time and talking about memory time doesn’t change that now time is safe. They also share about learning that we are brave and strong, even though we were hurt - that it wasn’t our fault and we did our best trying to get away. They talk about how working together means acknowledging the role others also have in keeping the system safe, and how it also means sharing time with the therapist and taking turns. They share what they are learning about touching - not just good touch / bad touch, but also about safe touch / unwanted touch. No specific memories are shared in this episode.


Kassi, with Sasha and Taylor nearby, shares how the last few weeks or months of Emma trying to be more aware has stirred things up internally, and why that’s been hard even if it’s good progress. She shares her perspective of returning to Missouri, and discusses whether this was positive or not, considering that maybe not all memories are bad. She shares what’s it’s like as the system starts to dare to trust the therapist, and as they start disclosing bits of things to her. She does reference call back / return, the mother taking too many pills, and being hurt by her father, but none of these are explained by in detail. She explores the experience of good triggers, and how that was practice processing hard things with increased co-consciousness. She explores what she is learning about grooming or patterns of abuse - including being taught or tricked into wanting or needing attention from the abuser, or the shame felt when your body responds to abuse. She also reflects on how all of this has impacted the development and structure of our system. This may be a highly triggering episode, though no specific abuse details are given.


Emma shares the story of our family going away for the weekend before her son has spine surgery next week. She shares that her mother is buried nearby, how her grandparents met, and how her parents met. The Masons are mentioned in reference only. She shares about her mother being cremated, and her burying the ashes in the graves of her grandparents, and her making the grave stone marker. She shares about her daughter going to the hospital, and what it was like going on a field trip with her daughter to the farm - which meant facing social anxiety as well as memories from the farm setting (no specific abuse memories disclosed), as well as being aware of both the Littles enjoying it and some triggers (no specific examples given).


Emma tries to stay present while Sasha tries to do a podcast. We did not edit out the dissociating, so as to show what it’s like trying to express ourselves with new experiences of emerging co-consciousness. This happens while the Littles are distracted by the gorgeous weather and want to play instead of recording a podcast episode. We try to negotiate first sharing about the different ways we are making progress in therapy, including talking about (in therapy) some of the specific memories that make talking hard in the first place. Sasha also shares the three traits of our therapist that helped us know she’s the one. She tries to express how powerful an experience it was to really start talking in therapy, even though it’s also hard. She shares about making friends at church (no religious issues discussed), online, and navigating that in real life. They talk about different ways they are making progress, and ways to measure it by changes in life and functioning. Then they share and talk about group homework this week: the phobia of inner experiences. No specific memories are shared or discussed in this episode, but we really had trouble focusing and were pretty spacey, so it may be distracting in presentation.


We interview Justin Sunseri, LMFT, from the PolyVagal Podcast. He shares how he learned about the PolyVagal theory, and his experience presenting about it. He shares stories of applying it to dissociated adolescents in the school setting, and the difference this understanding brings not only to him and the students, but their teachers and families as well. He gives a super simple synopsis of PolyVagal Theory, and shares what clients and therapists need to know about it.


Emma shares homework from group, and what she is learning about self-help skills. She shares about grounding, breathing, imagery, relaxation, and strategies for coping with triggers. She shares about her experience with triggers, and flashbacks, and body memories (only that these happen as part of the DID experience, not any specific memory examples given). She talks about how she has noticed some triggers cause her to lose time, while other triggers give her feelings or flashbacks. She identifies some specific examples of triggers for our system (having our picture taken, things in our mouth like at the dentist), and how sometimes she is aware that she has been triggered but she doesn't know what the trigger was. She shares a story of being triggered by controlled pasture burns last night as we drove home from therapy. She shares another example of a trigger in a story about a time some workers were standing by the elevators when she was trying to get up to the therapist's office. She discusses imagery, and how this can be helpful sometimes, but also can make her more dissociative than she was to start with instead of more grounded. She then shares an experience from therapy yesterday, where didn't know she was at therapy but could hear the therapist reassuring her from far away, and then ultimately connected with The Attic internally for the first time. She shares her goal of just going to therapy, and staying present all the way into her office even if she can't stay for a whole session. She writes her relaxation script about being safe.


John is back, with Sarah, to talk about how hard talking at therapy can be. They talk about feeling things from others inside, even when safe with the therapist. They also share the difficulty of how hard therapy can be, and how much harder it gets to function when therapy issues feel big. They share three things we are learning from the therapist: now time is safe, memory time doesn’t change now time, and you can stay in now time while talking about memory time. They also share the newest lesson from our therapist: that the secrets aren’t ours, so we don’t have to keep them. They do mention Easter eggs in passing as a reference, and a gun in reference to a toy only in passing, but no holiday or specific memories are discussed at all. They close the episode by telling an April Fool’s prank on the husband.