Monday, October 16, 2017

Living with DID: Panda & Crew

Next up on our Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder series is a system and their father. People we had the pleasure of meeting via Twitter and a dynamic we found to be quite unique. 

For us, the truly wonderful thing about Bill is that his daughter has DID and he supports them. Through our conversations on social media we had explained to him that he is very much the minority.

Initially, we met Panda & Crew's father during a Twitter chat. He discussing on social media that he is the parent of a woman living with DID...Moreover he fully supports them and has a relationship with many of Amanda's alters. Which is something through the work we've done, that we found wonderful, as this is not typically what occurs for people living with such a complex mental illness. His support and their strength has brought something special to the blog today and we're pleased
to share their story with you.



Name/System Name: Amanda. Sarah is who we spoke to as she explained to us that she is the current host of Panda & Crew and has been for the past 3yrs. 
Bill- Amanda's father and not an alter


Body Age: 33yrs old. 

Alters: Sarah is 17yrs old and is the current host. The alter's ages range from 2month-48yrs old.

Number of Alters in the System: Sarah explained there are over 350 alters in Panda & Crew.

Diagnosis: They were diagnosed December 7th, 2010. Sarah knows the exact day because it is their birthday. Bill has known about them since 2011.

Prior Knowledge: Sarah and Amanda knew 1yr before their official diagnosis, but 80& of the system know of each other. 

Openness in Daily Life: Sarah and the others are open about their lives on their Facebook page, their father is one of their biggest supporters. 

"People don't always believe and are not accepting...It's difficult to see what they go through." -Bill

Relationships: They've been in a romantic relationship for nearly 10yrs. For the younger parts their partner treats them as his children; they call him "Unky Day Day."

School/Career: They are unable to work at this time per doctors orders. Sarah expressed to me her interest in psychology. 

Family/Relatives: They do know of Panda & Crew but other than Bill none are supportive.

Why Have you Consented to Discussing your lives with us?

"We want to spread awareness. What you see in the movies isn't real life." -Sarah

"They/We are more likely to hurt ourselves than other people..." -Bill & Sarah

Sarah, Bill, and Panda & Crew want people to understand what Living with DID is like for them. They want people to understand that DID can be different for everyone and they are an example of one system living with this disorder. They listen to music often and sing a lot. They love karaoke! Sarah is a terrible drawer and these are only a few of the things that make up who Panda & Crew are.

More About Panda & Crew: Their inner world is made up of a beach and mountains with many animals. Wolves, tigers and cheetahs are some of their favorite animals. In their IW (inner world) there are many families. Sarah herself has given birth (in the IW) in may. Many alters are adopted and that is where the families and sub families come from. 

They have experiences of IW sickness but not outward on the body. Anna who is 6 months old now only recently got over the flu. Anna decided she likes being a baby because babies are nurtured and cared for within the system.

While in therapy Amanda had expressed that she doesn't want to get rid of the alters as she is afraid to. Sarah said, they've all become family. They were seeing a therapist for a while but unfortunately that therapist's office was over 1 hour from their home making it too difficult to continue. 
"No system is the same." -Bill
"No Two People are the Same." -Sarah

Amanda had given birth to two children in the real world (external world). She has a 10yr old daughter and a son beginning high school soon. The entire system views Amanda's children as their own children, other than the little ones who view them as playmates. 

When Amanda's daughter was younger she would ask if ____ could come out and play, as her children did indeed have somewhat of an understanding that sometimes, "mommy wasn't herself." 

Bill: "Most everyday we talk on the phone. They all refer to me either as grandpa or daddy. (It depends on the part) With "littles" some conversation has been picking up." Bill had explained that not even he always can notice a switch when they occur. With the "littles" he listens to what they say and lets them talk about what they want and/or need to.

Abigail was one of the first Bill had met. They call her "funny bunny," she is a bunny rabbit and was only 3 years old. It was explained to me that via therapy Abigail was able to adapt more to her situation and mature some, to the age of 5 years old. They had stopped watching horror movies because of the abandonment issues Funny Bunny specifically was experiencing. 

Some Parts see themselves in certain imagery found in life.

If you could tell a Doctor Anything What Would it be?

-Treat each part as a person and individual to get to know them and what they need.
-Don't (always) push trauma talks. They'll tell you when they can discuss it. Our previous doc wanted to get to know each of us and what we needed. It could've really helped.
-Some of us need glasses, while others don't. 
-There are some internal alters that have some severe physical problems more so than what we deal with externally, but unless you spoke with us you may not know this and then wouldn't be able to help us all.
-Some parts are blind.
-We are coconscious often, but some parts are all alone. Despite trying to connect more.

Bill explained that he has seen some of the immense struggles they've dealt with when seeking help and some of the harsh ridicule they've endured. It is difficult for him to see this but he is always there for them. 

He tries to keep track of whom he's met and if there may be a new alter that Amanda or Sarah do not know of yet.

DID Myths?

Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder are often confused, but not at all the same. Sarah had explained that in one of their previous relationships their ex told them, "Ya'll are crazy. Ya'll hurt people." By the statements he had meant people with DID not specifically Panda and Crew. Which is truly a shame and seems to be a large commonality when considering the information people who are unfamiliar with the disorder assume. 

Final Thoughts?

Bill helps a lot with the system. He assists them in being who they are and comforting them when they need it. 

At this point in our conversation we spoke with Abigail, Funny Bunny. She was out briefly and told me, "I doesn't like thunderstorm." Throughout our conversation there was a storm rolling and rumbling about in the background in their area. Funny Bunny had come and gone and Sarah explained to us that when they were around 9 years old a bad storm had made this fear of thunderstorms for them worse, but especially for Funny Bunny.

Sarah had shared one last thought with us and those of you who've been reading our ramblings or following us on Twitter for a while will find the statement familiar.

"Normal is relative." -Sarah

We hope everyone has enjoyed this latest featured system for October! Again, we thank everyone for their condolences and patience with us and the lull in our blog due to the grief we've been working through. For those who have asked yes, many times at this point, yes we will be discussing what it is like processing grief while living with DID. It is a tricky thing and we will need more time to work with our therapist before we can openly discuss more private matters that occur in our day to day life, such as this. 

Stay tuned for the next post coming up at the end of October on Mental Health and Sexuality. We had a wonderfully fun conversation with the amazing and informative Brittany Simon from youtube. I'd recommend caution and proper common sense when viewing her videos on Alternative Lifestyles, i.e. don't watch her videos at work darling people. ;)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Living with DID: Arien Smith

How is it already October? Am I the only one that views 2017 as another fly away year? Seriously, where did the time go? Not that I'm complaining because YAY OCTOBER! Halloween season is our favorite time of year, but we're excited to bring you another Featured System of the Month--October is Arien Smith!

We are again grateful to the countless at this point who've messaged our Twitter or emailed about wanting to share their DID stories. Without all of you wonderful systems this simply wouldn't be possible. We're looking forward to many more of our "Living with DID Talks" in the future and continuing this series to show people what those of us living with Dissociative Identity Disorder actually experience. We all share similar diagnoses but our lives can vary drastically as you've come to see over the last few months.

Let's get started, here is Arien Smith...

Name: Arien Smith (Arien told us that his birth name is shared with an abuser and so they go by Arien now)

System Name: They joke about their system name being, "The Company" because Arien is largely anti-capitalistic, but they don't really have a designated sys name.


Age/Body Age: 22yrs old
Parts Age Ranges: 5-30 years old
The System: There are 5 alters within Arien's system:
  1. Little Arien, 5-7 years old.
  2. Ava, mid 20's-30 years old. Ava uses the pronouns They/Them and holds more of the trauma and are more traumatized than the others by these experiences, according to Arien.
  3. Bael, in his 30's and a protector.
  4. Sion is 25yrs old. A Protector but a different type than Bael is.
  5. Arien is 19-25yrs old. Definitely the most tentative but now is speaking out more.
Diagnosis: Arien was only diagnosed January of this year, 2017. Which as you may know at this point, is definitely considered newly diagnosed. I myself [The We In Me] am several years in at this point and still would be considered early on in therapy.

Religion/Spirituality: All of the parts would define as spiritual, but not necessarily adhering to a designated religion.

Relationships, Work & School, Oh My!

Arien expressed to me that they currently are not in a relationship however, they would be upfront about their diagnosis before entering into a romantic relationship. Again no current relationship, but they do define as polyamorous. Which is not as uncommon within the DID Community as you may assume.

As far as their day to day lives go, yes Arien does work, but no his employer does not specifically know their diagnoses; that being said they collectively do not hide the switches in their work environment if they occur. They're aware of how fortunate they are. So, if little Arien, were to come out they would simply explain they need a break or a few minutes to collect their thoughts and then would return to work after Little Arien finishes his break; i.e. coloring or having a snack for example..

Which was something that I can say surprised us--myself and my parts-- because wow what a fortunate situation to be in! In regards to high school Arien has minimal memories of this, but he and Bael did attend college together.

Family/Relatives: They are not aware of the diagnosis.

Through discussing more of Arien and Co's life they shared that they are indeed able to maintain steady 9-5 employment during weekdays. Little Arien enjoys coloring and does need the occasional break during the week. They all eat regularly, Arien will cook meals in the evenings after the work day is through. They all have time to enjoy their weekends and free time.

When a financial decision is being made the group discusses this and determines if it is ok to do so. Which again, for being so early into their diagnosis is a truly wonderful thing for them all. The fact that they can maintain steady work, income, and a routine they are all working on together already is nothing short of amazing.

Arien went on to say that he is not unrealistic and can assume he knows only about 10% of his life. This is especially true since he's newly diagnosed and did not have prior knowledge of his alters until that time in January.

Accepting a diagnosis like Dissociative Identity Disorder can be a massive alteration to life, but finally having those answers can be liberating and bring about some seriously positive changes for the individual, as well as, the system as a whole.

"With communication, hindrances and my denial at the very beginning things were difficult." -Arien

Artwork Arien Shared with Us. 

What would you tell psychologists or doctors in general about DID?

Most doctors know of their diagnosis, but when they're in an Emergency Room and the doctor can clearly see the diagnosis listed there they never seem to acknowledge it...Arien wishes that they would simply ask, "who's out?" This would be a big help to their system especially since none of them identify with the birth name. Bael becomes especially agitated as he hates the birth name, none of them ever use it.

Arien's system is not alone in their avoidance of the birth name. Bael becoming agitated when people use it makes perfect sense to us and through this venture we've found countless systems for which this is true. I think their pointing out the trickiness for systems when going to any doctor, whether that be a routine appointment, ER, or psychologist it is definitely important for the medical AND mental health community to be more conscious of DID. It could make these already difficult and potentially triggering situations much easier for the patient and doctor(s) alike.

How about DID Myths?

As is true with most of us they hate the violent myths that are prevalent within society. Arien expressed they aren't violent, not at all. We aren't dangerous or malicious. People with DID are not "crazy" we, simple put, have to adjust our lives to the world around us and apply living in a different fashion than most.

"It's not like I'm standing in a room seeing 400 people..." -Arien

Final Thoughts

I am not hallucinating. This is my life and I struggled with accepting my diagnosis, but once I did things began to change for the better. Just owning the diagnosis can be such a helpful tool when working on living with DID and can be beneficial through therapy.

Too true. Realizing that these parts of oneself are there for a reason and accepting this diagnosis is where the journey to recovery begins. For my system, they tried very long and through--lets say difficult-- encounters they found doctors who helps, got us a psychologist who saw it and finally did diagnose the problems occurring, but that was the pre-recovery struggle. Now I'm in therapy. We are in therapy. We work together after I, myself, had accepted my diagnoses and are continuing to work together living a more unified life. Which does not mean *POOF* the various parts of me are magically gone, but now we work together.
"I don't have to be like everyone else." -Arien

Friday, September 1, 2017

Mental Health and Sexuality: Take Back Your Sex!

We came across Megan Ashley, via her Twitter page and came to find that her partner Tanya and her run a blog and podcast- Take Back Your Sex! I think sex is one of those topics that's often labeled as "taboo" still and it should not be. I find it odd, at times, that so many struggle discussing the topic, moreover it gets confusing for me, that people often assume if you have a trauma history you can't function in any sort of relationship--whether it be sexual or not. I find this common misconception to be a baffling one and so we wanted to broach the topic and found some wonderful people open to the idea...

Here is the first piece of many more to come on relationships, sexuality and mental health.

NOTE: Topics discussed throughout this post may be triggering and you should utilize your best judgment as to what you can and can NOT handle. Be well and practice self care by knowing your limits.

Tanya created the Take Back Your Sex blog, then brought on Megan and developed it into a podcast. One with open conversation surrounding positive sex discussions. 

A bit about these woman will tell you they're definitely strong and live, perhaps, what you may define as an alternative lifestyle or relationship. 

Megan was in a toxic relationship and has dealt with additional trauma's in her life. Nearly eleven years ago Megan's mother was murdered and she herself was stabbed. Megan shared this during our conversation and discussed some of her diagnoses with us as well as how Tanya, applying BDSM structures to her life and finding out more about herself through sexual expression have played a part in her growth and journey to recovery.

Megan is a participant in the BDSM community and utilizes the structure it gives to help her work through her mental health struggles. BDSM is a consent based culture and community that holds consent
in the highest regard and importance. It is no secret (well, maybe it is), that many within the trauma community utilize aspects of BDSM in their lives to heal through traumatic events. Whether that be giving over the hyper-vigilance aspects of control they seek or the desires to protect another individual and assist them through these things...There are many dynamics--endless-- within an often fantastical community which is one of the beauties of it.

"The Boring Stuff"

Inherently, this community is one of open acceptance, structure and largely a consent based culture. It should not come as a surprise that those with trauma seek out these things. So much negotiation goes into each scene, at times, that it's of no surprise to me people are drawn to it. Why wouldn't they be if they hold an understanding of what BDSM actually is? Similarly to the stigma surrounding mental illness, the BDSM community experiences it's fair share of misguided and ill-informed stigma. Unfortunately, many of the people who discuss sex, in general, also experience the sneers and snide remarks; I myself find this to be a bizarre societal oddity.

"With my anxiety I need to control everything. BDSM is helping me work through that." -Megan

Tanya is the creator of Take Back Your Sex then brought Megan aboard. They began utilizing instagram for sexual liberation. Via different relationships and the journey through school to become a sex therapist, Tanya began to realize she was growing more and more. She does not work as a therapist but uses what she learned in life and through her education, which is based in sex therapy, on Take Back Your Sex! 

Tanya recognized her muse in Megan. Through her own goals and soon finding their shared aspirations they began creating a life that suited each of their needs and continued growing the blog and podcast.

"I wasn't trying to have sex, I craved a muse." -Tanya

We had an insightful conversation, one that I myself found very intriguing and informative. As you may have come to realize, I hold information and knowledge in the utmost importance. Giving oneself the gift of knowledge can be invaluable.

Learn, people. Learn.

Tanya doesn't see herself as a BDSM community member, "I wouldn't claim to be in the lifestyle..." As an artist Tanya was seeking a muse and did indeed find that in Megan via her strength. They use many BDSM structures but an important note, there is not a sexual dynamic to their relationship. They value open communication but have now negotiated sex out of their relationship. Which is something that is not as uncommon as you may assume. 

"...start as a submissive then become a better Dom." -Megan

Due to Megan's anxiety she has an inherent need to control everything. BDSM has been assisting her through this. She craves someone else being in control. Someone (in a consensual manner) making her let go, at negotiated times has helped her. 

Megan was experiencing sex in a negative way before leaving her toxic relationship. She explained she was experiencing dissociation to the extent of not feeling connected to her body. Sex never felt good at this time. She realized she needed more from life and craved the feeling of safety. She wanted someone to bring out the sexual parts of her in a safe way.

Megan has been on a journey of finding herself and that includes her sexual experiences. From one extreme to the other, she has now begun to realize that it is ok to say no. Which can be a massively beneficial thing. Anyone who experiences addictions, guilt or shame can tell you that. With so many toxic things going on for her she slept with what she defined as many people, in an attempts to feel something but still was not connecting to her body. She was in a sense, in a dissociated auto pilot. Seeking what so many who deal with trauma attempt to find...connection. After witnessing her mother's murder and the added traumas of this experience she numbed and became hyper vigilant in many things. BDSM has been an assisting factor in giving up some of that obsession for control.

Tanya is growing and becoming more selective of whom she places her trust. Furthermore, saying "yes" does not make you sex positive. Which is another one of those unfortunate misconceptions. Choosing who and how you allow people into your life is just as positive as wanting to enjoy sex. Touch is so important and by removing sex from many things in life there has been some serious benefits to her well being. 

"It's been cathartic to laugh with Megan. We don't have sex, but we just laugh and connect that way..." -Tanya 

As a culture Tanya believes we are hung up on sex. I'm inclined to agree. Which is one reason I am working towards bringing more sex and relationship content to our blog. Sex is a part of life, with or with out mental illness, but I've come to find many in the latter community want to avoid this often triggering and tricky topic. I don't particularly think that way and I'm not much for avoiding here we are.

BDSM is often considered a "deviant" lifestyle. Sex is a taboo topic and often regardless of where you fall on that arbitrary scale you're shamed... Prude? Shame. Whore or 
Man-whore? Shame. If you fall somewhere in-between and express your dislike for any specific activity you're then labeled a prude, but the opposite is also true as well, when you express your enjoyment of sex or sexual exploration that then somehow makes you a whore. Well, which is it? If I were to ask the answers would differ greatly. My stance on this is simple...Live your life. Live it in a safe and consensual manner, with open communication about what your expectations and needs are and don't forget about your partners either. Otherwise what the hell are we doing anyway?

"Giving a voice to the voiceless makes you a healer in your own right," Tanya said which I greatly appreciated the encouragement but I often don't look at things that way. I am however looking forward to continuing using our collective voices to better the lives of others.

I want to give a quick thank you to both, Megan and Tanya for openly discussing these pieces of their lives and the importance of clear, concise information regarding sex and their relationship. Don't forget to check out their links regarding their blog and podcast for further information on the work they and their team are doing! Without people willing to speak, candid and positive information will continue to fall by the wayside. That as a society, we cannot afford. 

"We'll never get these things fixed if we don't talk about it." -Tanya 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder: Shima

This series continues to show us [The We in Me] the great need for something like this to be more available to the general populous. Through these discussions I am also learning various things that hadn't before occurred to me. Yes, I live with DID but that doesn't mean everyone's system is the same. No two traumas are alike and they definitely impact every individual in different manners.

We're pleased to bring you  the second Featured System of the Month--Shima. We met them, via Twitter and through our correspondence became thrilled with their agreement to share their story and life Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder and the accompanying struggles that entails.

Name/System Name: "Me, myself I go by Shima."
Image is of Shima, created by: Head mate-Nick
Twitter: N.O.

Body Age: 21
System Members/Head Mates: Ages are under 10 and some unknown adults. We use the term "alters" or "sys members" or "head mates." Some use variations of these internally. There are over 20, but Shima is aware of more though she can't communicate with them...yet.

Diagnosis: Shima is an example of a system that knows they have DID and are trying to seek help. Which, anyone within the mental health community or Dissociative Identity Disorder can tell you is no easy feat. They don't have the opportunity to find doctors or the financial stability it would take to even go yet, but they are working on this problem.

Work & School: Work was incredibly difficult with their mental health struggles and unfortunately they're limited due in part to physical health as well. They hold a high school diploma, but haven't yet gone to college. This is something Shima has been considering, but likely later on when things are more stable and a diagnosis is finally received. Once this occurs they'll be able to obtain more of the help they need i.e. the balance/stability. This is a common and glaring problem for many living with DID.

When switching is constantly going on and you can't keep up with consistency needed to maintain course loads or work it is of no surprise these things cannot be balanced for many systems.

Openness in Daily Life: Shima had expressed to me that basically anyone considered a friend to the system would be told of their lives, but only if it's deemed safe to tell the person. Most people who know Shima,[non-relations] know that they live with DID.

Relationships: There aren't any external romantic relationships, but from what Shima knows there are internal relationships.

Sexual Identification: People would assume she but Shima would identify as both male and female.

"I have a brother and he has a sub-system."

This amazing work was created by: Johnny (Shima's Brother)
System Structure: Shima, "I have a brother, but most of us aren't related. My brother does have a sub system of 2 siblings though." Shima continued on to explain that most within the system are friends and support each other when they can. As for littles within the system they are considered adopted family. Something we've seen within other systems as well and I think that is truly a wonderful thing. As some of you know at this point, relatives are a touchy subject, but chosen family is a crucial piece of life and living, in my (Erika) personal opinion.

"It's a thing. People want to share their experiences with others. Connections. We want to relate experiences to others." -Shima

Shima and her head mates shared that they wanted to talk with me (The We in Me) because of connection and shared experiences. People need to know more about our lives and they wanted the opportunity to delineate what their lives are and not the many negative portrayals thrust upon our community via the media and misconception.

As far as Shima and Head mates are concerned their lives are relatively mundane. There isn't a set routine to maintain structure and balance at this time, but Shima is hoping that once a doctor is found and formal diagnoses are given they can begin to heal together and maintain a life.

"Still trying to get stable from problems we had one month ago. People who would front a lot haven't started coming back from that yet..."- Shima

Usually it's just Shima, as far as s/he knows but Shima expressed they don't do much. Wake up, eat, spend some time drawing and hop on social media for a while. Shima told me an amusing story that occurred the other day that they wanted to share...

"A few days ago, I think, an alter I didn't know 'runs out' or ya know, 'pushes me out[of the way]" and all of a sudden a fully lined sketch of a cat girl was on my page. I think she said, she drew her friend, but she's also a cat girl so I'm not sure."

This is something I myself [Erika] have experienced and know many others living with DID also encounter. You may begin a project or set yourself up to work on something, but then hours go by and Wham! There it is...something entirely different from your intended creation. It is definitely one of those aspects of living with DID that tend to be interesting and yes, at times that can be frightening depending on the individual person or system.

Shima created these.
If you or your Alters could tell a doctor anything what would that be?

I guess for one's that like to believe this doesn't exist... I don't know. I'd say there's weirder things in nature that can happen to people, far more than having different beings within us. Some Lizards for example, can change their sex whenever they want in order to reproduce. So, weirder things can happen...Try to actually listen to people. They give their opinions without knowing or understanding fully what's up.

To me this was a crucial point for Shima to bring up as nearly every system we've spoken to at this point has had a negative encounter with doctors...and yet, we still--as a community-- continue to go. There can be many reasons for this and I'm certainly not stating all, but people know more often than not, what they need and how to gain that. Despite struggles time and again people need help and healing within the DID community, unfortunately this isn't something you can stroll into any Psychologists office with and state, "Hey, I need your help. Here is what's been happening for me and from what I can tell, have read or have heard from the people in my life, I'm living with DID. Sometimes I'm not "myself" they say, and then the long discussion of those instances...

Which is unfortunately not the case and we would very much like to change that. I can walk into any office and state, this is what's happening, this is why, I think my arm is broken. The doctors will give me an x-ray and proceed from there... I don't understand why this doesn't occur with DID. If my arm isn't broken after viewing the x-ray but merely fractured then the doctor would proceed from there and give me the answers and help I need for what is wrong, in my mind the same should be true for DID. Utilize the criteria and discuss the options. I am aware not everyone has DID, but for those that do life could begin so much sooner if walking into an office was deemed a safer endeavor than it currently is.

DID Myths

"If you have DID you're secretly hiding a killer within you." -Shima

The biggest myth that stands out to Shima is that it's obvious. "No you can't have it, I'd know..." We've heard this before and to Shima it is an utter oddity. Shims went on to explain a few key points here as to why that is.
  1. DID is defense mechanism-not made to be obvious
  2. Helps get us by
  3. Hideaway-
Another issue Shima took in regards to the many misconceptions circling Dissociative Identity Disorder is that it's called rare. Rare can very much be a relative term and so if it is only 3% of the population that's still millions of people!

We like to create characters. Artwork is a great outlet!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

How are Mobile Apps Changing the Game on Mental Illness?

There's no denying it, technology is here to stay and it is only going to continue invading our lives more and more, but is that necessarily a negative when we have people utilizing these advances to better our daily lives? I think not.

We've used so many various apps over the years that I, myself, cannot tell you all their names. There's no shortage of technology to improve oneself, however for those dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder this is the one I really would recommend...

nOCD is a new app available thanks to it's creator, Stephen Smith. It's available for download here , but don't go just yet see all the bad ass things this little pocket helper can do! We've been given the opportunity to partner with and use nOCD over the last several weeks. In doing so I've come to find some exciting things and benefits to this particular app.

Let me first give you the breakdown on nOCD. There are some wonderful customizations available with this one so check it out and see if it can be tailored to your needs, but for me--the eternal skeptic-- I was indeed pleasantly surprised by the ability to utilize the many user friendly features included.

1. Set up- the very thought will induce my counting compulsions, yet I muscled through with
relative ease. They did, in my opinion, think of their potential users.
2. Getting Started- You'll be asked to follow prompts in order to give nOCD an idea of your individual needs and some basic information.
3. Use it-- For me, I also live with Dissociative Identity Disorder, *cough* you may have noticed *cough*, never the less, I found this app to be beneficial.

I'm going to show you a few of the features of the app via images sent to me from nOCD, but also screen shots from my actual use. An animated video will be provided at the end of this post, courtesy of nOCD, BONUS! 

You can track your progress here with some serious detail. Something I found to be massively beneficial as I live with a dissociative disorder. I can go under every section of my progress screen and find out my patterns--if they're there--and yes, for those wondering a few of my parts also utilized the app. Bob was one who has some anxiety to a debilitating degree, she used the SOS feature several times...

Your Progress Screen
Your Plan Screen

 The SOS screen and Bob's favorite feature on this app we found to be one of the greatest additions. Here you will be asked what the trouble is-- Obsession or Compulsion. Remember earlier when we had you get started customizing, this is where those come into play! Following either your O or C here will take you to the next step and onto more of your specified prompts. Again, something we found amazing about this app.

I won't use Bob as an example but myself. So one of my obsessive thoughts is that I am crazy. When selecting O this will take me to my corresponding triggers and assist me through a timed process. This app even times these things for me when I utilize it! In turn it shows me my previous CPM's (Compulsion Prevention Messages). Which as you may know during those highly triggering moments they're difficult to even consider what they once were, but with nOCD, bam! There they are for you to remember.

Before I leave you to download nOCD, allow me to show you yet another added bonus to this app. They've given you the option to tailor make your reminders. You can set the specific times and what days of the week you want to be notified to practice what you're learning, exposures, or simple check ins.

This was a nifty feature that I set several reminders for myself as well as a few parts to utilize. Oh and just so you know we can decipher the differences between what we've each needed as they are different for several of us.

Living with OCD can be a monster to tackle alone so this brings me to my only question for you...Why do it alone? There's a community out there and help available. People like Stephen Smith and the nOCD team are creating some amazing things for each of us to better ourselves and improve of quality of life. Why not use all of the tools available?


We sincerely hope all of you out there struggling with OCD find the app as beneficial as we did. Don't forget to comment once you've tried it! What worked for you? What could be improved upon? Happy apping!

nOCD app video

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder: Theresa

Welcome to the first installment of our new blog series- Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder! We're thrilled so many wonderful people agreed to join us in this venture. Since we started our Living with DID Talks last year, many systems have continued reaching out (Hundreds at this point) and some have expressed a desire to figure out a way to join in on our journey to combat stigma and introduce real world information in regards to Dissociative Disorders, specifically Dissociative Identity Disorder. They've told us countless times now, they wish they could do what we do--in regards to public speaking-- and use their own voices to show people who we are as individuals and as a community.

Our hope with this series is to bring about change and give insight into what everyone living with DID can experience in their daily lives. Not just myself and The We In Me but those who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder and their collective systems. These wonderful people have been sharing their day to day lives with us and how they all, respectively, deal with life. Throughout this series you will gain insights into their lives, how each system can define things differently, and live life by finding what works for them. We all share a similar diagnosis but we all experience trauma and life in differing degrees.

Everyone involved has expressed hope that this series can help end the stigma and common misconceptions of who we --those of us living with DID-- are as people. We all are people. We want and deal with the same things you do...perhaps just in a different way at times.

Here is our very first Featured System of the Month...We hope you enjoy and can appreciate the amount of dedication and effort from all the systems we'll be bringing to you, as this series grows. This is a struggle for many systems as speaking about these things goes against the very nature of what Dissociative Identity is; for many of the parts/alters  it is incredibly difficult and takes some tact and logistics to make them comfortable through this process. A great deal goes into something like this for each of them. Living a dissociated life takes it's toll...

NOTE: Some of the images in this post may be triggering. Please practice self care and do not continue reading if this concerns you. The most triggering images are at the very end. Take care!

Name: We voted on our name and chose, Theresa Dutcher.
Twitter: @DIS-SOS
System Name: We all use the name Theresa externally. Internally, yes we have individual names.

Age/Body Age: 30
Parts Age Ranges: Infant-43yrs old
System: There are 15+ parts

Diagnosis: They were officially diagnosed in 2009, but didn't have a therapist until 2014. Initially, they had a doctor that was trauma informed but unfortunately had minimal, at best, information about Dissociative Identity Disorder. Before the diagnosis one had studied psychology. "We are aware of an internal therapist." This part studied psychology to help the system when she studying and gaining an understanding of DID. She knows some of their individual struggles and helps. She studied Psychology at university and another part gained a degree in another trade through a job program.

Work & School: Theresa and her system did work off and on over the years but for right now, they cannot. When they're more stabilized and able to work again they will likely go back to the previous trade that one part within the system studied. Theresa had expressed this could become problematic because the part who originally studied this trade hasn't been around at all and is dormant according to the system. If this part were to remain back within the system and not "front" [take over/go to work] it will prove difficult as the others did not study the trade course(s).

They began to focus more on teaching over the last few months due largely to their achieving part. This achieving part is the main reason they began teaching tools to benefit people's mental health. Something we've seen discussed on Theresa's twitter account.

Religion: As for religious beliefs they cannot agree on a religion. Christianity was what Theresa identified with but they've had disagreements about this as many feel it to be unsafe. More specifically in the church they had attended and worked, to several in the system it became more unsafe.

Relationships: "We don't interact with people often. We did have a boyfriend, but things ended. We remained friends." -Theresa

As for their day to day life, it looks like most peoples; perhaps with a few alterations. Theresa has a strict structure and rules set in place for her system. An example of this is a teenage part who enjoys high action stories, but these are only allowed in the afternoon.

Reading something with violence or that is over stimulating too late into the evening can cause unnecessary sleep issues. So they decided this needed to be restructured and agreed upon in order to better the wellbeing and daily life of the collective group. Some afternoons are spent exercising or outside enjoying a beautiful day.

"We run errands and do every day things or another part may want to work on an art project. Nothing big is going on in our life but there are often internal things happening."

Before they had a sleep routine things were falling apart. Theresa shared with me some of the discussions they had together and one of the main things they say to each other before they had a stricter regime in place is "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

Now they have time set aside for everyone during the day. Upon waking they do the mundane morning things most people do, then it's two hours of writing and research. Followed by their afternoon's of reading, art work, or one episode of a television show. Their meals are scheduled as is their sleep. The strict structure is something that works quite well for them.

"If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

Every system we've been chatting with for the "Living with DID" series has been given similar questions, but as this series progresses you'll come to find that the answers differ greatly in some instances. Some systems are in therapy, some are past it at this point, while others are terrified to try again after several awful and harmful experiences. We were half way through our conversation at this point when we asked:

"Since, we've [The We In Me] been doing our Living with DID Talks with the psychology students, we've wondered...If you could tell a doctor anything about you, DID, or otherwise what would that be?"

Theresa stated it may seem weird to some people but the thing that sticks out is the use of DBT programs for self harm recovery. It isn't something that worked for her system because they are a system of several individuals. One thing may not work for another person and that is beyond true for someone(s) living with DID. When one of the parts would self harm someone else would come back and if this were to come up in therapy it was difficult to express how certain things weren't helpful.

System self harming behavior is a situation that can become incredibly difficult to help. It is not an uncommon occurrence within a DID system, but that doesn't make it any easier. It is a tricky thing to determine... The who's and why's when someone is self harming in a system is beyond difficult. When a doctor had asked Theresa, "Why did you do this?" It wasn't a question she could answer. Additionally, working through self injury can be an immense struggle for anyone, but how can you answer a question if you weren't the one exhibiting the behavior? Simply put, you can.

Common Myths: The big one Theresa wanted to address was the switching... It is not obvious. She used herself and the achieving part as an example here; she does an excellent job of imitating Theresa and even if you knew them very well you could still miss the switch. It's a very subtle thing and you will miss it. She went on to add that certain parts switch differently which was an excellent point as that's not often something people discuss.

Final Thoughts: It took them time to get the strict routine they have in place. They're a system of over achievers, she says and fear has no place in their system. They work together and find compassion. Most of the adults within the system are high achieving and through finding mutual respect and compassion things began to change for the better.

One Basic Goal- Connection
One Rule- Fear does not have room in our system.-Theresa

We wanted to quickly state again how grateful we are too all the systems that have been working with us to create this series. We currently have dozens wanting to partake and for now, we will be producing one (probably two) Featured System every month here on The We In Me. So stay tuned...

Friday, June 23, 2017

10 Human Things Everyone has Experienced With or Without Mental Illness

A mental illness does not make you more or less than another person. How you utilize your thoughts and actions is what shows your value, who you are and who you can become regardless of where you began in life or where you are now.

Think about that for a moment... I play the statistical odds, I find it a statistical improbability that you've never once experienced at least one -- if not all -- of these at some point in your life. Never fear, you're definitely not alone. The following is a list of things that I've been thinking about through my years in therapy. There are human things that connect us all despite the feelings of "us and them," for some people.

1. "It Must Not Have Been Important"

You're at the grocery, stumbling about ,filling your basket and then it hits you. What did I forget? You wrack your brain, become frustrated with yourself and cannot, to save your life, recall what it was. You try to convince yourself, "it must not have been that important." For you--a person without a mental health struggle-- this is likely to occur any given day and you move on from it, but with anxiety, for example, it can ruin your day, week, and yes even have lasting impacts. We are all people and share similar experiences, but the aftermath is in large part, where we differ.

2. "But I Love It & Need It!"

Another biggie here ladies and gents. Spring cleaning time. You begin tidying up, maybe rotating your clothes--I do this twice a year when seasons change-- and there it is... the thing. That thing you forgot you had, but it brought you some form of peace, love and joy or maybe anguish, nevertheless it's your thing. You go round and round in your head with the standard options of, "keep, toss or donate," yet there it sits taunting you from the donate pile. Someone without a mental illness will likely forget about the thing, eventually, but if you do live with any variety of mental illnesses, then that thing may come back to you. Whether it be that same day or weeks later. You may even begin mentally psyching yourself up for that moment and tell yourself it's just a thing, but deep in the back of your mind you get stuck. Because it isn't "just a thing" it is THE Thing.

3. "I Do Not Care"

If you have a social media account or interacted with another human, ever in your life, then you've said this. At very least you've thought it. "I don't give a fuckin flying monkey's ass!" or the deemed less aggressive version "I don't care." Dear friend without mental illness, you're frustrated and you've been wronged in someway or of course the other option... You simply don't care because it isn't a big deal which restaurant you choose on this particular evening nor is the random bit of rudeness you just experienced. All people across the board have dealt this but with a mental illness these moments can make life a bit more difficult, at times.

Using myself as an example here... I have DID--shocking I know to find this on a blog about dissociation-- and when I say "I don't care" I generally mean it, BUT that is not to say that every-one part of me agrees. Something as simple as choosing a lipstick or restaurant can become an internal debate leading to an argument of "FUCK OFF!" proportions. You and I are very similar but the aftermath of these thoughts and statements differs greatly. We are not so different though. I need to consider a bit of tactical planning around my interactions and the outcomes of said interactions.

4. Enter... The Crush

A recent Twitter Chat brought this one up for me... So there stands a person. You've heard about them, perhaps seen them around a time or two and maybe even had conversations but... SHIT, duck!!! Whew, that was a close one. I mean they almost saw you standing there gazing at them in all their majestic glory! How mortifying. Mmhmmm, many people find this to be a terrifying experience.

Exhilarating as the anticipation, "chase" and fantasies may be it can be paralyzing to have a crush on someone. This is true-- as pointed out to me by the conversation I had-- for the majority of people. Something I, myself, hadn't ever realized before. Yes, I've several varied mental illnesses (you may have noticed) but the crush thing hasn't ever been an issue for me. I tend not to waste my time. By this I mean if I actually am intrigued by a person in some way I make this known.

That being said, one of my parts (DID-remember?) can become completely paralyzed with fear, dismay and embarrassment. While others don't get crushes, ever.

5. Me? Nooo, never.

I defer to a differential of differing identities. Chit chatting away with friend, family or foe and they set you up brilliantly for your favorite -- and much loved -- witty remark. Sarcasm can be an annoyance for many and at times it can go completely over ones head. It happens. Sarcasm is a fantastic flamboyant mask that many of us have become a devout follower. ME ME ME! I've personally relied on sarcasm throughout the majority of my life. While I comprehend it with ease I've never really understood it much. Though some of us find it quite the useful and under-utilized tool.

With most people you'll find this to be a tool of humor and also, deflection.

My Husband and I on our Wedding Day

6. Love

Despite my emotional shortcomings, yes, I am familiar with the emotions and things that can accompany love. Many love their relatives, significant other(s), and friends. For my parts, with some people, this is accomplished with relative ease and exuberance, but I, myself, do tend to struggle and make the decision to love someone. This does not mean I love them any less than you may be able too.

You likely, love your friends and relatives, you probably even have told them so countless times. Living with a mental illness, yes even Dissociative Identity Disorder, does not stop us from experiencing these life moments. My parts are very thoughtful and loving and kind. As I am, I simply have chosen that though. Same outcome.

7. Laughing Until You Hurt

We've definitely experienced this one...I'll use an example from our life. One of my parts was on the phone with a friend and she began to flip out about not being able to find her phone...I'll pause so you can laugh... She had the "ah ha" moment seconds later after realizing she was speaking to us on said phone. They were both in hysterics and it still induces a fit of laughter anytime this moment is brought up with her. Because it's friggin funny!

While laughter is not medication nor is it prescribed, it is said to be the "best medicine" for a reason. Sometimes you just need to laugh until you cannot breathe or your face hurts. With or without a mental illness you can experience this and get just as much out of it.

8. Crying Yourself to Sleep

Why you've done this I cannot say, but I know millions have. It's a statistical probability. While I, myself, have not experienced this, I know parts of me have and yep...They did indeed feel silly about it eventually. It's a human response and does not make you weak, crazy or insane to have that overflow and outpouring of emotion.

Emotional releases are healthy, from what I've seen, and I think it would be fascinating if I could experience them.

9. Raising a Family

Yeah, we do that. While our family, specifically, may look quite different from yours, it is still every bit a family. My husband and I care for and rescue ferrets. I cannot have children, but we have discussed adoption. Yes, even with a mental illness I want a child one day. We want to be able to give a child the gift of safety, consistency and actual love. Something I find many of my parts missed out on.

People meet. People date. People love. People spend their lives together, whatever that looks like for their individualized parameters and relationship. They start a family together, if they have children or not, furbabies or not, they live and grow together and enrich their lives as two or more. With or without a mental illness this is something that people choose to do every day around the world. We're very much the same in that respect.

10. The Simple Understated... We All Want a Life

Here we are, number 10. Engrained into most people is a will and powerful drive to survive...We've said it before, we're exhausted and over survival, now we want to live. Everyone may have different reasons, but eventually these many and immensely varied choices are made. They're made based on who you are and what you want out of life.

My life living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, PTSD, and the accompanying issues resembles most of your lives from day to day depending upon what's happening. Through therapy we're bettering these things, but simply put we have the same ambitions and drive you have. We also struggle and lose hope on rotten days. My life is lived in extremes at times, and you wonderful human living without a mental illness may not experience those specifics (I'm glad you don't) we are all people and baring chaotic uncertainties we've all experienced the many ups, downs and diagonals of life.

OCD or Bipolar, Diabetic or fighting Cancer, DID to Anxiety and Depression, yes even those lost in suicidal thoughts and self harm... The partners arguing about work schedules, the husband and wife fighting about finances, interracial couples, same sex couples, literally all humans of any age deal with so many of the same things I find choosing to separate them a disservice to all of us. Everyone can learn something from another and grow as individuals. All of our widely diverse experiences and struggles may cause different problems for each of us, but we all experience them... We simply handle it differently.