Sunday, November 12, 2017

Brittany Simon: Alternative Lifestyles and Mental Health

I cannot express to you the excitement some of my parts experienced when Brittany Simon agreed to talk with us regarding her mental health and lifestyle. If you're unfamiliar with her corner of youtube she runs a channel on Alternative Lifestyles and assisting people through their journey's in the BDSM community, as well as, a "Gay as Fuck" (that particular Tshirt of hers is our favorite) advocate who openly discusses her life on her channel...

Recently, her channel's 33,000+ followers discovered more personal information regarding her mental health and how that impacts her life. She released a video discussing her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder-BPD and has been sharing all of the new ventures going on in her life.

Some of those are major changes for anyone, but with a mental illness change can be even more challenging. From relationship's ending and a major move things, in short, have been a bit hectic for her lately.

That wig tho! When I first saw this img I could not believe
 Jynx or Stevy didn't own a wig like this! 
NOTE: The content of this post may be triggering so please practice self care and be conscious of your own limits if you continue reading. I'd call this post NSFW. ;)

When we connected via Skype we quickly found that in a sense we are opposite in some of our experiences. Living with BPD Brittany explained she feels emotions at a higher percentage than some one else would. For me, myself, I find I don't feel much at all unless coconscious with my parts...This is something I'm working on in therapy, but it does seem that I may be on the spectrum in some capacity. With trauma and DID specifically diagnosing other things becomes even trickier. We had a pleasant and candid chat with one another something I, myself, don't experience much. There aren't many people I find enjoyable in my brain to converse with but Brittany was a pleasant surprise. I find I would define the conversation as fun and informative. 

BPD & Relationships

In her earlier life she dealt with traumas and emotionally abusive behaviors from her mother. Despite those things she continued in the way that worked best for her... Something that we always discuss as beyond important. "Normal is an Illusion. What is Normal for the Spider is Chaos for the Fly." Day after day, time after time, this phrase comes up and is so relevant to endless types of people. 

Brittany: "I knew I was unique. I assumed I was just a normal hormonal teen, but as I grew I found I needed additional help. So I sought out a therapist."

Erika: "We can definitely relate to that. I watched people and other children since I was very young and saw that there were vast differences. I knew something wasn't quite right, but eventually I gave up seeking help--I discuss this because it is an example of what NOT to do-- but thanks to parts of me we found help. Some refused to give up on getting help and they eventually found our therapist we still see today."

Due to the heavy emotional swings Brittany experiences she began to feel guilty about her mood switches. It was difficult for her previous long term partner. He wanted a submissive in check. While she appreciated the friendship that grew and was negotiated to dom/sub (Dominant/Submissive) relationship she had to be honest with the fact they are just different people with different goals and directions in life. He unfortunately took some things personal, and that is definitely one aspect of a relationship to which we relate. My husband and I still struggle with this from time to time. 

He can do the, "what's wrong with you" thing and that as most of you know, isn't ever helpful. All people struggle though and so we work on it, but the dynamic of our relationship is quite different from that of Brittany's and her former partner.

"I'm not broken, I'm just crazy." -Brittany

BDSM & Healing/Working Through Trauma

Within the BDSM community, Brittany would identify as a submissive/bottom. While similar in nature those roles within the community do have differences both in type, responsibility, and level of intimacy. 

Brittany: "I'm always battling my own brain. I definitely don't cry with my tops. It's a different relationship."

Erika: "Absolutely. I can't define as a top. Only one part of me would call herself a dominant, more specifically a service Dom. I've seen in one of your videos you put it as you don't want that responsibility over another human. That is something that I very much agree with. I know me fairly well and no thank you. haha!"

Brittany: "Yes! When I was researching BDSM I read novels from Anne Rice and Hamilton. When I was 21yrs old my best friends mother took me into her home, she explained the BDSM community and specifically, gay leather to me. There's value in the past and we need to respect history."

Erika: "Oh yes, very much. History of anything is profoundly important. It is amazing you had that in life person to turn to and one of the reason's we adore your effort and work. You're now that person for 1,000's of people via your channel."

Brittany: "Thanks, yes. I felt honored she shared with me. It really helped me see what I was missing."

"I'm a badass. I trust myself better than other people." -Brittany

Brittany would identify herself as a control freak and work-a-holic. She comically explained that she used to think she was spontaneous but needed to plan out her spontaneity. BDSM is a Community of control. Allow me to explain that before you take it in a negative way...

It is a structured community of consent and negotiation. Which is why there is so much overlap from the Trauma Community and BDSM. That negotiated control and consent based culture can be found hugely beneficial when working through various trauma. 

The things that were repeatedly taken from many of us can be negotiated, with other(s) over the age of 18, in a safe and consensual way. We've had many reach out to us since we posted one tweet regarding BDSM a few months ago. Some of these things we did reach out to Brittany for and/or send people right over to her tumbr or channel. I am aware of what I know and we are aware of what we do not know. I am in no way an expert on BDSM, but some of us would identify as part of the community. 

As we've stated before BDSM is not a magical cure and the thing that'll fix and instantaneously heal. Brittany herself will tell you that and again, we found her open honest view of life in general refreshing. Healing and working through various life experiences takes work. This work is something MANY of us find worth it as we want to live our fullest potentials. That will of course be different for each of us, but with therapy and BDSM Brittany is finding her rhythm and how to handle her own mental illness and get the best for herself. Which is definitely something to be admired and to seek out for our own lives. i.e. "Find your own version of Normal."

"Pain is rewarding to my brain." -Brittany

We had discussed the potential impact (only a little pun intended) on ending a long term DS relationship along with an out of state move... She isn't worried about no longer being a sub and is transitioning to bottoming. Now that this post is up Brittany has completed her cross country road trip and you can see her travels across the US on her channel. Her vlog's are there along with her regular content.

DS is not the magical cure all. It can help people but is not to be used in loo of therapy. In combination many have found it beneficial to increasing their quality of life.

She went on to explain that early on in her BDSM journey, when she would participate in a scene she was dissociating (mmhmmm, yes, dissociating) from heavy impact play. Now that she's spent time in therapy and even longer in the BDSM community she knows so much more about her life. Through growing her brand and partnering with others she's continuing to help people on their own journeys with Mental Health and those in the BDSM Community.
Brittany Simon
Brittany on her recent travels. Vlog

"I don't need people to be perfect, I need them to be aware." - Brittany

She expressed a few concerns regarding the professional mental health community and like many or most of us they are indeed note worthy...

It took far too much time and money to obtain help.

She additionally needed a therapist who was familiar with the ins and outs of BDSM. In her former, Seattle that was not beyond a struggle, but now in the vastly more conservative, Southern California she has concerns for what that will be like. 

Brittany does have positive tools in her life now that she utilizing for balancing her BPD...

"I'm having less episodes." -Brittany

With this major move comes many uncertainties and instability. Being used to an 80+ hour work week this move will be ending that and she's planning on only a couple days of work per week now, plus considering school. A vast change, but she's optimistic in her ability to focus on her channel and brand in the months and years to come.

With her primary focus now being on her Patreon and YouTube channel she's excited for the things that will be unfolding in her life. Which if you're wondering about a few of those things is a book! We are quite thrilled and looking forward to this and her future content. She's considering a book of essays on her life as well as a BDSM-101 book of information. Largely those are the questions she receives on her social media. The "How To's" if you will...

We wanted to end with a quick thank you to the always wonderful Brittany Simon and a shout out to the podcast. The Kinkier World podcast, is a group effort and can be found with a simple search. We've been listening on Sound Cloud since the beginning and there is an enormous amount of information to enjoy. She's apart of this with fellow Kinksters, give a listen for more info and to give your ears some amusing pleasure. They really can be quite funny and with this diverse group of four working together there truly is something for everyone regarding BDSM.

Thanks again, Brittany you do indeed rock.

The cutest GIF to ever be a GIF. She's got adorable ears people!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Laura Becker: Relationships & Mental Health

Laura Becker and her wife, Ceann, are a great example of what marriage, by definition, should be. A partner who will always be at your side despite the up, downs and diagonals of life. Through the tough road of physical and mental illness together they discuss their struggles and respect boundaries when one of them needs it. A truly remarkable thing to find in another, especially these days it seems. (Yes we said, "these days" don't judge.)

Through our discussion with Laura and Ceann we came to find how their relationship functions as well as how they balance their respective struggles and combat them with each other's assistance.

Laura & Ceann 
Laura lives with Major Depressive Disorder, GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) & BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Similar to many stories we've heard for those of you with BPD, she was misdiagnosed. That being said, Laura spent 14yrs of her life with the misdiagnoses of Bipolar 2; something that by now you may know we find reprehensible. She's been on medication for her mental health for 15yrs, but thanks to her newest Psychiatrist (2yrs now) there was a reassessment and correct diagnoses were finally established with a better regime of psychiatric medications, thankfully.

Ceann has multiple-sclerosis 2nd progressive and depression. Her depression is well managed. She takes medication for her mental health once daily and "I'm good,' she says. One thing I found immensely troubling is years ago she had a doctor tell her that she was retaining water in her head due to her menstrual cycle. Basically, guessing her diagnoses based on the fact she was female. This is deeply troubling given she was actually living with MS and it was chalked up to possible vertigo due to mensies. Many of you know we are well aquainted with misdiagnosis and poor care from doctors. I was often "too young" to be so ill and I simply wasn't understanding what the doctor(s) were telling me. After my parts got me (us) to the Mayo Clinic that was changed and they listened, finally, to concerns and took a look at everything instead of trying to get us out of the office as quickly as possible. We despise hearing tales of woe in the misdiagnosis realm, but here we are again. Everyone seems to have these stories in varying degrees and we very much want to work towards these changes.

These women are strong encouraging people who truly have a beautiful story of love and acceptance. Their relationship began when they replied to each other's online personal ad. Ceann had just gotten out of a psychiatric hospital and Laura was dealing with alcoholism (not an unusual chapter for those living with misdiagnoses). Each of them was open and up front about their respective struggles. On their second phone conversation they each disclosed their illnesses to one another. They readily accepted and helped each other. Questions were asked with the desire to better the quality of life for their new partner. We were thrilled to see this, as with any relationship they can be very delicate; when coupled with  both physical and mental health one can experience life on a proverbial tight rope. 

This was not the case, Ceann and Laura are a refreshing and too small of an example pool for open and honest discussion surrounding struggle. Sometimes Laura requires space and Ceann knows so gives it, but other times they know what the other needs and they work on those moments together. 9 years of marriage and openly discussing and supporting each other is a testiment to what a healthy relationship can be. They were married in Canada in 2008 because it wasn't yet legal for them in Minnesota. Fast forward to 2013 when it became legalized in their state they were officially married in their home country. 

When I asked them how long they had been together Ceann explained it perfectly...

"A long time, but not long enough."

What's the best thing about your partner? Most Difficult?

Laura: "She tries to get me and she does more than anyone ever has even though she doesn't have my exact illnesses. Her stubbornness is definitely difficult at times, but we don't really argue or fight. We just know each other and talk things through."

Ceann: " She's my home. On our second date I told her I'm gonna marry her some day. Sometimes how smart she is can be difficult, she's so super duper smart I can never win an argument, but she puts up with my mother living with us. haha."

"The whole package. Her smile. Her laugh. Her Love. Her Acceptance. Her Support." -Ceann

Ceann explained that she tries to be supportive as she can, she doesn't live in Laura's brain, but is supportive where she can be. She asked Laura what she could do and they discuss these things honestly with each other. When Laura needs space, Ceann knows and gives it to her other times they just need to be near one another and can sit in silence. 

Laura, with the support of Ceann, has been in therapy for 3yrs she's been utilizing support groups for addiction and recovery for her alcoholism as well as intensive outpatient groups... With her wife's help she maintain's accountability and balance for her recovery journey. Ceann controls her medication and keeps it locked up. There is a checks and balances through this part of their relationship and it works well for them. 

Do either of you think the LGBT+ Community forgets about their MH? 

When Ceann was young she knew she was gay and one of her biggest desires was to grow up and die. In Minnesota she dealt with a lot of heavy bullying. In adulthood, she believes that some of the problem is in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual). Some "professionals" are still insistent that being gay is a mental illness. Which, personally, I find absolutely ridiculous, moving on...

Through our discussion I found we shared many of the same views on mental health and the LGBT+ communities struggles. Discrimination is still very present as pointed out by the latest election in the US. 

Something we say often is that Mental Health and Mental Illness are two different topics. Everyone has mental health to maintain, but that does not mean you are living with a mental illness. This seems to be often missed regardless of your culture and lifestyle.

"It would be wonderful is such biases and discrimination didn't exist, but LGBT people are still being harmed.." -Ceann

Coming out is still a big deal to people. Ceann and Laura are both very compassionate and through this they do some wonderful work and listen to the people that reach out to them. Regardless of differences, though Ceann admits she is very political and becomes frustrated with things that still occur today (how can you not be though, if you're paying attention?) they work on bettering their lives together. 

If you've been a reader of ours for a while you know we typically end on a favorite quote or positive note. Largely, we prefer reality so here is one last thing that Ceann shared with us about a previous relationship she was in nearly 20 yrs. ago...

"It was about 17 yrs ago. We had bought a house and had to deal with consistent badgering and discrimination. Having our neighbors shout "dykes/queers" at us became a fairly constant piece of our reality. Unfortunately, we were told there was nothing we could do about it as we didn't have "proof." It escalated to the point that one of our windows was shot out with a gun!" -Ceann

This is not the reality anyone should face. The mental health and LBTQ+ Community need to use their respective voices together. Why this isn't commonly accepted especially given we're in 2017 people...Before I get off on a tangent here at the end I'm going to end here simply with words from Ceann, whom we found to be beautifully well spoken in her simplicity. 

Home. That is something we've never felt. Regardless of whom we were with or where we were. I never have had a home, nor could I fully understand what that could be until I spoke with these two compassionate woman. If you believe in the adage, "If you see something say something," then you should be able to utilize this verse in all aspects of life. Wrong is wrong and it should truly be that simple. 

"She's my home." -Ceann

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!