Emma's Journey with Dissociative Identity Disorder

Transcript: Emma Stays


SYSTEM SPEAK: Season 1, Episode 1 (15 minutes)


This is Emma. And something happened that was good. I guess it was good. So I wanted to share it.

I've been so anxious for so long, but my therapist is really helping me. Therapy’s really helping me. I didn't understand at first how the notebook could help when I couldn’t even read it, or didn't remember writing in it. But it’s starting to make more sense. And I'm remembering more things. And last night, I slept all night, without any bad dreams. I didn’t wake up even one time. And I think that’s maybe the third time that’s happened in the last week or two. For me, that’s a really big deal. And already, I feel a lot better. Just getting some sleep.

But this morning something happened. My oldest daughter who is deaf like me, she has cochlear implants, too. She’s losing her eyesight, and so she goes to vision therapy every week. I already know this... this is not the part that’s upsetting to me, although I know it’s sad and difficult for her. But we’re dealing with it as a family. And her vision therapy is really good. They're nice people, and they’re helping her. And they’ll help her transition if she loses her eyesight all the way, which is what they expect by high school.

But what happened was, I was emailing the school, to tell them that my husband was on his way to pick her up for vision therapy. And... I don’t call because of my cochlear implants, so they let me text or email them. And I was emailing them to tell them, but my email account was open to the wrong one. And so… so when I emailed them, it sent the email from the email address that we use for the podcast, or for the therapist.

I think my therapist has my regular email, but I don’t want to lose my therapy emails, and everything else. I read them almost every day, every morning. I mean, there’s only a few of them, but they really help me. And so I read them over and over again, and I don't want to lose them. So they’re in a separate email. I don't know how it started, but that's where I keep them.

And so I emailed them about my daughter, and signed my name from the wrong email address, with the wrong name. And that’s the first time that happened. So it really scared me, and could potentially be a problem, especially when I'm still anxious, or concerned, about family services when they came at Christmas time. And even though they told me then that it was a false report, and it was being dropped, it was still a really big trigger, and it’s not gone away yet. It’s getting better, but it hasn't gone away yet. And so I've heard on the podcast other people talk about it, too, but it was just kind of a big deal for our family. Not just for ourselves, but also our children, who are adopted from foster care. It was just a trigger for everyone, and really did a lot of damage.

But we also want people to know that it’s good that family services are there, and there’s a lot of good workers. Because we want children to be safe. That is the good and right thing. My therapist reminds me of that. So it’s good that when there was a concern, someone came to make sure the children were okay. But they were, and so they left. But because that happened, that’s immediately what I thought of when I sent the email from the wrong email address this morning.

So that’s what happened. But here is what was good, that was not a bad thing: it was that I did not panic. I was anxious, and I was aware that I was afraid, but I did not lose time, and I did not freak out, and I did not even cry. I just told my husband that it happened, and then I sent another email back to the school from my regular email address. And said that my phone had been signed into the wrong account, which was true. I just left it at that. I didn’t explain anything else, and they don't seem to have cared.

Part of me I still I feel, is still anxious, like what if maybe they are talking about it, or gossiping behind my back about it, or reporting me to DHS, and I maybe I won’t know about it until DHS shows up at my door. Like, what if they hot lined it because of it... like, it escalates really quickly in my head. But I stayed calm. And I also told my husband, and talked about it with him, and he thought it was funny. Not funny like making fun of me, but funny that this is how complicated things are. Funny that nothing in our life is so simple. And funny that what people think is hard in our lives, isn't even close to the pieces that are actually hard. And how so much is going on with our lives, that’s almost a deflection from the other pieces we’re really working on.

But the children are okay, it was just a mistake with email. And at the elementary school where the hearing children go, I am friends with one of the teachers. I've made friends with her, or she’s made friends with me, which isn’t easy. And I don’t see her much, or talk to her much, because I'm not  very good with that. But we have a good connection, and when we talk, it’s real. And so I texted her, and told her what happened, and she thought it was funny. She does not know about the DID. Although she’s maybe a person who wouldn’t care, if she did know. But she does feel safe to me. And she just thought it was funny. So maybe everything’s okay.

If it’s not okay, I'll feel really bad about it, but I also know it was just a mistake. And that’s what I wanted to talk about, because I just made a mistake. And kind of a silly one, or an embarrassing one. But it wasn't actually a crisis. Nothing is wrong. And so I was proud of myself because I stayed calm, and I didn't panic. And even though I was anxious, I stayed present, and I handled what happened. I didn't have to switch. Not that switching is bad. I know I'm not supposed to feel bad about switching, as far as learning about shame and things like that. But I also think it was good because I could just do it, and I was okay.

I also had another experience this morning. So two experiences in one day of where I almost switched, but I didn't switch. I don't really know how switching works, why it happens, or how to get control over it. Or if it’s something I should control or not. I really don’t know. But I did know that for the second time this morning, something happened where I felt it starting, and I was able to ground myself the way my therapist taught me: with my breathing, and with looking around, and paying attention to what I could see, and feel, and touch, and hear. And I was able to stay.

So that was the example of staying when something was hard, was with the mistake with the email address. But I also stayed when something was good, which also is sometimes hard, and I don’t know why good would be hard. But I miss out on a lot of things because of it. But I know that we’ve been working a lot. And I could feel these feelings... not feelings like emotions, I don't know what it is exactly, or how to talk about it, but I could feel this level of concern or distress, (I don't know what other words to use) about having so much work to do, and about being stressed out by it. I do not mean as in, overwhelmed. I do not mean as in, stressed out by the work. I think the one who was working was doing fine with the working. I think it was the others ones who are not working, that did not want to still be working.

And I became aware of this, and I realized that I was aware of this. And so I thought maybe I should go on a walk. Because I learned in that one podcast that I listened to, I don't know who did it, or who was talking, or who was talking to us, but I learned what they said about how when there's play time, that play time for the littles is important. But that it’s also important to have play time for myself, as an adult. And I wanted to practice that, because I could feel that need to take a break from working, even though the one who was working was handling that fine. The others were not handling it fine. And this was new for me, and I feel like it was a bid deal, and I wanted to tell about that, and kind of count it was a win, I guess.

And so, I decided to go for a walk. But, for some reason... sometimes, I walk with my husband in my neighbourhood. It’s a little bit rural, not as rural as it used to be when we first moved here, but there are still places we can walk and trails we can go on… to the park nearby, or even just in the streets by the houses. But it has a decent trail, but it’s a paved trail. But my husband was going to take my daughter to her appointment for vision therapy. And because we had been extra cooped up, I guess because of this extra work trying to get extra money for our family, and doing that conference that’s next week... or two conferences next week? I'm not sure. But with all of that, I just felt, or could feel that others felt, if that can be a thing? I could feel that we were extra cooped up, and needed to get out. We needed to be outside more, and it needed to feel more like play, and it needed to be not just in the neighbourhood for a quick walk. It needed to be more than that. And so I tried to respect that, and listen to that, and think about what might help, and what might feel better. But instead of switching, I just handled it again. I just thought about it. I mean, I listened, and I paid attention, and I tried to notice what I was feeling. I tried to notice what I was needing, and think about how I could meet that need, or where would be a safe place that would be good for that feeling. And I thought of a place that’s not far from our home, so it would be a very short drive. But it has all kinds of trails, short ones and long ones, some of them are paved, some of them are not. And some of them are more rugged than others. All of it was a little muddy today. But I decided to let that go, too, and didn’t worry about my old shoes.

I didn't take music to listen to. Or any podcast to learn while I walked. I just started out, and listened to the birds, and I could hear all kinds of spring sounds. Woodpeckers, blue jays, red robins, other kinds of birds I don’t even know what kind they were, but they were lovely. I saw deer. And a beaver. And a groundhog. And two foxes. And even a snake. Plus the fish in the creek.

And it was really lovely, and I enjoyed it. And I could feel some of the littles... I think the boy one, close to the surface, but I stayed! And I couldn’t share that, somehow... not exactly share it, but I could feel him feeling it, but I could feel it, too, and I could stay.

So even though I was good, or even when I saw the snake, I stayed, and I took care of it. And I just kept going, and everything was okay. And I could hear... I could hear in my head, the commentary from the boy, and the things that he was saying, and the things that he was thinking about, what he was seeing and the things that he wanted to do. And sometimes it could influence me a little bit, like jumping over tree stumps, or which side of the path to take when it was muddy, or about the roots of the trees that built the steps up the hill or down to the creek, or skipping rocks in the creek.

The trail crossed the creek three times. And the sky, and the clouds, and the fresh air, and sunshine after all these months of snow... it was really lovely. And it was really good. And I stayed. It reminded me of when we lived in Oklahoma, and I could run up the river every day. When I was young, younger even than I thought I was, or younger than when I thought I was now, I don’t know... Before cancer, when I was healthy and strong… and I was skinny, but strong and healthy. And I ran every day, and I loved it there. And I thought, Maybe here, on these trails, I could learn to love them, too. And maybe here, on these trails, where we live now in the present, could become a home to me. And maybe I could settle into it, and everything be okay again. And I could be healthy and strong, even if I'm older, or heavier, or not as fast as before cancer.

Some of the trail was a soft path. Not paved but soft. Other parts were pretty rugged. Part of it was really steep, going up or down the creeks. All of it was muddy, and I was slow, really slow. The sign and the app on my phone said it was almost four miles (3.8 miles), and it took me about forty five minutes to get through the whole trail. So I know that compared to before, that was really slow. Because people who can run a 5k, which is even a small baby race, they can do it a lot faster, and I could do it a lot faster before. But it wasn't about being fast today. It was about being present. And it was about staying. And it was about being outside, in the sun, with the wind in my hair still growing back from chemo... and strong enough to try at all. So I maybe wasn’t fast, but it was the furthest. But I was there. And I did it. And I tried. And it was the fastest and furthest that I've been since cancer.

So I know I'm learning to remember things. And I know my body’s older now. I have strings of white in my hair. My body is heavier and a different shape. My body hurts even more than when I was young, and it hurt then. And when the weather changes it, I feel it in my bones the way grandmothers talk about it in kitchens before anyone else is awake.

But I'm still here. And I'm still alive. And I think I can even be strong. Strong enough to stay. Strong enough to try. Strong enough to be present. And what my day looks like... at least part of it. Strong enough to listen to what they need, and maybe even try to help sometimes. Strong enough to do for me what I’ve needed for a long time.

And I even sent a picture of the trail to my therapist, and told her. It’s her spring break, and we don't get to see her this week. And I know we’re missing her a lot. And I don't want to bother her on her spring break. I don't want to intrude, or make her resent us. I think I fear that, that she’ll resent us. Me. Resent me.

But this was good, this trail that I ran, and I felt really good for doing it. I was proud of myself, and I wanted desperately to tell her something good. Because I know she hears a lot of hard things, and a lot of not good things.

And because today, for me, this trail means that this therapy is working. Because I left my house, and I did something fun. I did something that was play, just for me, for us. But I stayed, and I did it by myself. The husband wasn't with me.

And so, just for a moment, I felt strong, and brave, and healthy, and well. And that's what I wanted to tell her, because there’s no other way I could thank her for what she’s done for me, what she’s doing for me, or how much I appreciate her… and why I wanted to tell it here: because I didn't want to forget this moment, and because I wanted to thank my friends who have helped me and supported me, too. Because, in this moment, instead of being full of fear, I feel full of gratitude. And instead of feeling anxious, I just feel happy, just for a moment, today. And I needed to hold on to that for a minute.

Thank you for joining us with System Speak, a podcast about Dissociative Identity Disorder. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify, Google Play, and iTunes. Or follow along on our website: www.systemspeak.org

Thanks for listening!