Emma's Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Podcast 2



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. 


Dr. E interviews Dr. Dan Siegel of the Mindsight Institute, who defines dissociation by defining integration by defining differentiation. He explains interpersonal neurobiology, and how that has everything to do with DID but is also bigger than that. He then defines developmental trauma as an assault on integration. He then explains the science of why and how this is, and what hope it gives for healing.


We share the processing we have done following the Mother Hunger episode and the interview with Dr. Siegel. We share how understanding what Dissociation is actually helps us deal with both false beliefs from shame and the protective denial that comes with it. We explain how Dissociation isn’t just avoidance of what was bad, but avoidance of the realization we couldn’t do anything about it. This tells us, we learned, what the wall of terror is and how to get through it.


We speak with Kelly McDaniel, who coined the term Mother Hunger. She explains what this means, and how it is the earliest trauma and a disenfranchised grief. We discuss not having “permission” to talk about our mothers, much less work out mother trauma, which leaves us isolated from mothering and healing. In this, she is able to explain how and why dissociation starts in infancy - and what it is protecting us from exactly. Trigger warning for mother related content, and reference to the mother-baby dynamic, though no specific abuse stories are discussed.


Dr. E interviews Dr. Bethany Brand about Top DD Studies, but most of the interview is lost. Sasha interviews her friend Kim about being a partner of someone with DID, and that interview is lost - twice. Then we share why we played the surviving bits anyway, and what that has to do with DID.


Sasha reads emails and answers questions about DID. Questions include how we found out about DID, how insiders knew about each other, and whether we have a “core” part. We are also asked about hosting and about persecutory alters. We also discuss support groups and participating positively, and how to just be ourselves even in the context of friendship. We also share a rebuttal to the attachment model in the previous episode. The link to endorse us (by 7/28/19) for our two podcast nominations is here:



Dr. E shares what she just learned about attachment from Dr. Crittenden, who is an upcoming guest on the podcast. She explains why it matters for trauma survivors, and how it changes everything in giving hope for healing and improved relationships. A few examples of the parent-child dynamic are given, including general references to abuse; however, no specific traumas are disclosed or discussed. Cutting and also persecutory alters are mentioned in passing reference as an issue with underlying attachment issues.


This podcast was recorded at the park, so you can hear background sounds including traffic and children. We share about the Cycle of Anxiety and what that has to do with avoidance. We talk about how Dissociation is protective in the short term, but long term avoidance makes things more complicated - including causing illness and other problems that add to what we have to deal with in life. We discuss triggers and avoidance, and what it means to “do it afraid” - even in friendship.


Prior to airing this episode, we explain some issues and terminology related to the interview. Dr. Roger Solomon shares with us about the loss of Francine Shapiro, as well as the history and work of the EMDR Institute. He defines trauma as that which is overwhelming and impactful, as well as stored maladaptively in the brain (different aspects of the memory stored in different parts of the brain). He talks about how this impacts our present functioning in many areas of our lives. This is dissociation, he days, with a sense of self for each of these states. He explains action systems for psychological defense, and how trauma interferes with these. Then, he says, a dissociative disorder is when there are clear cut parts of me and not-me. He explains the three phases of treatment, and how EMDR is applied.


We share insights about dissociation and therapy gained from watching one of the husband’s shows. We share about how protecting ourselves can also isolate ourselves, and about boundaries, and about safety requiring some flexibility. We discuss the experience of learning to tolerate memories, the feelings that come with them, and the questions that result. We talk about the pacing that goes with that process. Around 21 minutes, there is a trigger warning for sharing about the experience of receiving a blessing from the husband (mention of prayer and God in passing, but not in detail) - words of healing spoken to each of us individually.


Emma gives an update about how we are doing since Africa. She shares what she has learned about hard things in life after trauma, or even when new traumas happen. She shares about progress in learning about friendships - and her Self(ves). She shares an experience of recognizing dissociation in the moment and being able to ground herself, thank the alter, and deal without switching. She shares about trying to stay present and face things in therapy, and being patient with herself while she tries. She mentions some family, but there are not abuse disclosures or descriptions. She shares about starting to be able to hold on to what is real and safe, even when life is hard.


We try to share an update since returning home from Africa. We discuss the abuse dynamic of threats from abusers, but no details or examples are given. We mention meeting someone new inside. We read and respond to listener emails.


We talk with Mary about our trip to Africa, including some difficulties we encountered. Trigger warning for mention of being taken, hijacking, kidnapping, not having food or water, getting locked in a room, and nightmares. These experiences are mentioned in passing only without detail. We review NTIS with Mary after therapy once we returned, and she uses Doctor Who as an example of thinking of good things before bedtime. Then we process with the husband some of what happened and what we have learned. We talk about how we can use the experience to help us with issues from the past. We talk with him about Dissociation being a good and appropriate response to trauma, not something wrong we’ve done or wrong with us. The husband points out that working together to get through our incident was a kind of “association”. The husband also points out that some of the Littles are stuck in memory time the same was Mary was stuck in Africa, and we have the power to help them like we did Mary.


Dr. E welcomes back Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW, to share about her recent presentation at the ISSTD conference. This is a very triggering episode, in which she presents about ritual abuse and attachment. No abuse details are discussed or disclosed in this episode, but several triggering topics are explained: ritual abuse, organizational abuse, mind control, and trafficking / sex slavery. She gives a history of mind control in the United States, mentioning specific government programs and protects, and explains a bit about programming and conditioning. She explains traumagenic DID and engineered DID. She connects these survivor experiences to attachment in regards to rupture and repair.


We welcome the Adaption System from Germany, who have OSDD and are becoming a psychotherapist who helps dissociative clients. They explain what counseling and psychotherapy are like in Germany, and what makes them different. They share about their OSDD System, and how fighting to get diagnosed helped them learn enough to establish internal communication. They share about studying under Ellert Nijenhuis and then apply what they have learned to how to help “acting out” or destructive alters. They share about educating clients and professionals about dissociative disorders. They distinguish between DID and OSDD by explaining one ANP as opposed to several. They share about advocating for proper diagnosis and treatment. They recommend reading “The Trilogy of Trauma” by Ellert Nijenhuis.


Sasha shares that the system has been struggling, but we are pulling through without any acting out behaviors. She reads emails from listeners, and shares about teamwork, internal communication, and conflict resolution. She explains why some people do well with EMDR and some don’t. She shares about the trigger of children singing, and how we have tried to turn that around into empowering our outside children. She shares again about why we are not out publicly because of our work and the outside children. She responds to another therapist with Dissociation. They share briefly about how scary it can be to start doing body work. She says again how it’s connection that heals us, together. Trigger warning for reference (without discussion or details) to self-harm, alcohol, pornography, trafficking, and ritual abuse.


Sasha shares how we learned the hard way that journaling, doing the workbook, and attending therapy consistently really is helping. She shares how watching the (outside) children struggle through the recent storms taught us a lot about what it was like for us to deal with ongoing trauma as children. She shares about what we have been learning about caring for the body, and how to use this as a bridge to considering the body as an ally. She shares about our auto-immune disorder and how learning to eat well specific to our body has helped us. She then goes through what we learned about sleep from the workbook. Trigger warning for reference to avoiding Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but no direct discussion of it, as well as mention of flashbacks and nightmares and bedtime triggers. One specific example of a trigger is discussed (the sound of a belt coming out), but the memories are not discussed.


Sasha talks with our oldest daughter, who is traveling with us to Africa. She explains what biracial is, and why going to Africa is so important to her. She shares about getting her DNA tested to find what tribe she is from, and how she has prepared to go to Ghana after studying her black history for several years. She shares about learning the trauma of her ancestors, and how she has both coped with that and healed that story in herself as she goes “home” to Africa. She shares about dealing with bullies and caring for herself and learning to protect herself and having parents who help keep her safe. Trigger warnings for mention of biological family, foster care and related traumas, body safety, and black history related traumas.


Emma shares about her therapy session, in which she learned about how now time triggers memory time. She shares what she learned about how this happens through sensory input. Trigger warning for trigger talk, acknowledgment of abuse, and examples of triggers from the therapist’s office (door slamming and footsteps in the hall). These are discussed without any abuse details or disclosures.


Emma opens up about feeling afraid as part of trying to face things instead of avoid them. She shares about the difficult experience of realizing that sometimes she is triggered by issues related to her children, and our upcoming trip to Africa. She shares about our night of ten tornadoes, and the destruction around us in Kansas City. She tries to process how to deal with triggers without avoiding. She struggles to remember NTIS. Trigger warning for mention of foster care, adoption, lost childhood grief, trauma-holding Littles, child pregnancy in Africa, and weather trauma with tornadoes and flooding.


We invite Dr. Peter Barach to speak with us again about a reader’s question regarding regression in treatment, which he explains as dissociative response to stressors. We use the experience of tornadoes as a neutral example to explore this. We take what we learn and apply it to the good stress of girls weekend, and the difficult weather. We talk about good stress such a non-trauma holidays still being stress, plus hard stress with the things you cannot control. He then explains the importance of staying in therapy when you can, regardless of choice to integrate or focus on functional multiplicity. We discuss the shift that comes when you consider your body as an ally, the others inside as a resource, and safe friends as a connection to healing. We finish by discussing ACE’s and why it really does feel like one hard thing after another even adulthood when your trauma was experienced as a child a and then connect this back to attachment and healing through relationships. They both share some of their clinical training story.


We talk with the outside children about our week of tornadoes and flooding. The outside children share their experiences and feelings. We apply what we have been learning about PolyVagal theory and trauma processing to this experience, and together practice coping skills and grounding skills as we brace for three more days of this same storm. We realize that what we are learning applies to both inside and outside children. Trigger warning for religious reference (in passing, no discussion) and a hymn recorded of the children singing during a tornado last night.


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.