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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Humor of DID

Since we started speaking out more via our Twitter we've encountered many wonderful people...Of these people are countless DID Systems; we've now spoken to 100's of people who know the many ups and downs I myself experience, as they too live with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

We reached out to our friend, April (and her system) in hopes she would consider writing a bit about the humorous things she herself has encountered. She did not disappoint. DID can be truly frightening to live with and endure, but that does not mean there aren't beneficial, quirky and damn funny things that do indeed happen to us regularly.

We wanted to try and express some of these instances with April's help because there has been so much negativity circling lately it is becoming stifling!

We wanted to quickly thank her for sharing some of her life with us and you here on our blog. Enjoy!
April, rockin' one of our Dissociative Tees ;)

As a coping mechanism disassociation with firm alters can be funny at times.
I spend some of my time in a state of anxiety and fear thus alters get more active. I am tired and vulnerable so an alter may be trying to ease My burden by being present.
I do not have conscious connection with my [internal] words or action. For me the times of them out and active are a Blackout period. This can be seconds or minutes... hours to days. What I learn is from seeing changes in my environment or from what someone else tells me. Some things alters write to me or voice record etc.
This post is dedicated to some of the funny things I figure out or wake to..😄

When you come to and all of a sudden there are remnants of parts/extras/alters being active:

I turn and there is half a painting not mine or my toenails have been repainted...

Last week Jynx gave herself (us) a pedicure, but apparently a younger part didn't like it and wanted to 'help' Jynx make them more fun. So now My toenails are half gray and four of them are randomly white. This moment in life #BroughtToYouByDID.

This img is of Jynx. I came back to paper and
glue all over my face and neck...
One of their body image projects.

I had a shower or a bath I don't recall...

Dishes were done and I am dressed...

Minny is my 'cleaning genie.' She very much helps in that respect. It's quite a fun surprise to not need to finish up dishes, laundry, or etc...

I didn't have a pop now I do...

Furniture moved...

Bathroom cleaned ( yes!)...

Shelving up and decorated in my kitchen.

Funnies posted on Facebook middle of the night or early morn...

Online carts shopping or letting me know what they want.

We have a full cart most of the time on Amazon lol, My parts have even created their own Wish List via Amazon. I like to get them something when we have the extra funds to do so. They've surprised me my entire life, but now I've been able to do this on a couple occasions. :)

A Hairstyle Maddy had done on April.

Wild hairdos from highlights and braids to Wee making a red marker highlight. 

For those who know me a bit more and since high school, I've said I can sorta determine the time frame based on my hair style/color etc. An amusing thing... The faux hawk, dreads, and curly blond Mohawk thing that Jynx did only last year was definitely wild to come back to. Additionally, Purple hair was definitely a surprise earlier on in therapy.

Wee loves to dress up. She likes to take selfies face scrunched or big eyes or hats, very funny if you aren't me (she will share to friends 'her smile' ...ahhhh!!)

Wee taking Selfies <3

There are so many things. Day after day. In and out. I get frustrated. It can be a hassle when I can't find things as they moved...but sometimes I just have to laugh. Things could be worse. Challenging for sure. Confusing always. Maddening at times. Harmlessly funny too.

Thanks again to April for sharing some of this with us. During therapy, after I had met the doctor, I was truly an amusing thing when after a particularly difficult night/morning I 'came back' sitting inside of a giant ball toy. It was ridiculous and just one of the many things that occur any given day and week while living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. We all hope this made you smile and perhaps wonder... We are people living with a disorder that our brains utilized to survive early childhood trauma, but that doesn't mean our parts (alters) aren't fully functioning people with their own thoughts, desires and quirks that can create some seriously hysterical moments in our lives.

This Moment in Life Brought to You By...DID ;)

One of my parts messing around after Jynx
did her makeup.

The Lovely April.

April Selfie
Toon playing with one of the ferrets last summer.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Men's Mental Health

You may have taken notice that I find Mental Health an important topic to discuss. We have been building more relationships and contacts within this profound community. My parts and I often state, "we are stronger together," this continues to be proven true to us time and time again.

One of the wonderful people we met, via twitter, was Mike Douglas. He often can be found tweeting words and posts of encouragement in regards to mental health and the needs of those struggling. He also, has discussed men's mental health and I very much agree with him on many of his view points on this topic. We asked him to share some of his thoughts on the subject of Men's Mental Health with us and are thankful he took the time to do so...

First off, big thank you to Erika for letting me talk on her blog about men's mental health. Thanks!

Men's mental health is an interesting topic and a challenging one. For me personally I don't like the gender divides we put on things, such as men's mental health. Why can't we talk about mental health without having to feel like we are excluding some. However I understand the need to do this, sometimes there needs to be a focus.
Just as I can support the discussion of ovarian cancer, women can support the discussion on men's mental health, and just like ovarian cancer while I will not be directly affected I can and will likely know someone affected by this at some point. So lets share the knowledge and support.

Men's mental health is something that is often shamed, not over looked, shamed. Men that show emotions are seen as weak and feminine. Emotions are 'women things' not something that should affect men. Anyone heard this before?
Unfortunately its all to common.

As men we are told to 'man up' and get on with it.
Is it surprising then that suicide is the biggest killer of men 18 - 45? Problems with mental health can happen to anyone and we should be encouraging people to talk about it and seek help. Not shaming them into feeling alone and without hope. Suicide is 100% preventable.

Small things can help, text a friend, have a walk, get outside, one to one situations often make it easier to talk about our problems so try those out.

If you are struggling please check out the Same or Mind, lots of resources and support available.

Here's wishing you a happy and positive day.

Kind Regards


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Encouragement Corner: Save As

You've heard and perhaps have seen us discuss some of the hate and encouragement we receive in our DM's over the last year or so, but what you may have missed is our mention of a particularly lovely person we met via Twitter... @steffync.

What even she was unaware of was my parts have been saving and documenting the words of encouragement she has been sending to us. When I, myself, became aware of this selfless action she takes, simply because she wants to encourage myself and my parts, I felt it appropriate to share some of these wonderful words with all of you too!

This post I'd like to deem, "Encouragement Corner" because that is what some of my parts call the DM's we receive from @Steffync. Several of my parts now wait with anticipation to see what she'll send next. Additionally, she always seems to send the perfect phrases and imagery for when we really need them. Whether it be something silly or the perfect words of encouragement when we are struggling. Again, simply because she wanted to take the time to make sure others are ok. She is not someone we know in our every day life, outside of the Twitter realm, but a kind person making our world a bit brighter.

Below are some of the wonderful things she's sent simply because she wanted us to know someone was thinking of me/us and because saying a kind encouraging word is worth it to her. A truly lovely person, both inside and out. We want to pay homage to a wonderful person making our world a bit brighter each and every week; and hopefully she can make yours a bit better now as well.

Thank you so much for always popping up in our DM's you fabulous person you. <3

This entered our DM's after a weekend of sleep deprivation.
*Save As* DayWeCouldNotHoldCamera
*Save As* MorningAfterNightTerror.S.Encouragement

*Save As* QuirkyWeirdMagic.ThingsSteffSaysToEncourage
*Save As* WWSS.WhatWouldSteffSay

*Save As* BeYou.SteffEncouragement
*Save As* AniousMess.SteffEncouragingWords
*Save As* IAmNotWorthless... We received this After A Part was Struggling immensely with Self Harm.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Interview: Books, Bipolar, & the Brilliant Rebecca Lombardo

I had the pleasure of interviewing author and advocate, Rebecca Lombardo, in short, we were thrilled. She's someone my parts and I have come to adore and respect across the board. Her and her husband, Joe Lombardo, are working hard to bring about change.

They do so together with their many endeavors. The Voices for Change 2.0 podcast, her blog and the re-launch of her book, "It's Not Your Journey" are a few ways they rock the mental health community. What they're doing is an invaluable venture for the mental health community and for those who live with Bipolar --like she does-- and how this impacts the significant other/spouse --like he does!

We had another of our wonderful chats via skype and discussed the unstoppable Lombardo 'rockin' Team, as well as, the profound things Rebecca brings into the light that are so important to draw your attention to in order to bring about change!

Joe & Bekka Lombardo-IMG courtesy of Rebecca

Erika: Hey lady, thanks for chatting with me (us) today!

Rebecca: No problem, thanks for asking.

E: Of course, we adore you as you know (haha) So I'd like to begin by discussing the relaunch of your book, "It's Not Your Journey."

R: Great. Starting at what brought this about... In 2013 I attempted suicide. For me, it was more about punishing myself for all these perceived 'mistakes.' The lie of, "Everybody would be better off without me," it became worse and worse. That day, by the time Joe (husband) got home I was passed the breaking point.

E: I'm sorry but thrilled you're here to discuss it with us.

R: Thanks. It was a difficult time, but I always wrote poetry mostly, and then was blogging from time to time, but that was for me. I thought, lets try blogging again. I wrote a few posts and then decided to make them public to friends and Joe only, but after encouragement I then began to publicize them.

People were really into it! All over the world. I would get messages from people telling me how I was saying everything they were thinking. It was really rewarding for about a year, but then I began wondering... Can you turn a blog into a book?

We began to look at self publishing options. We didn't know then what we do now and that road of self publishing became a nightmare! I kept writing, and sent things to different publishers while a couple were initially interested they later contacted me and withdrew their initial interest. I had another publisher finally on board, it was encouraging, but after waiting four months I was finally contacted again and they declined.

E: Wow, that's shitty! Sorry, love.

R: Thanks and yeah, it took months because I became discouraged. I decided to try one more time. The guy we ended up working with, at that time, had said all the right things, he was newer and wanted to prove himself. So we agreed to work with him and publish through Amazon. During August of 2015 we launched but he was too inexperienced unfortunately and many of the things he said he knew and was doing, he wasn't. He was supposed to be marketing and getting the book out there; I ended up handling that. Other things were difficult with the editing process, again we were told he was going to be handling that, he didn't.

E: Right, you'd think your publisher would handle that aspect of the process and set up a marketing strategy with you.

R: Yes, he never ended up having it proof edited. Added things that weren't necessary, but now I'm loving the new edition. Things are properly handled, the new book is what I envisioned. The things in the previous book that I wasn't happy with have been removed and a few things have now been added.

E: Yes! I love the new cover and can't wait to dive into this version, especially with the changes, we can't wait! I'm excited about the bonus material and poetry section you mentioned.

R: Thanks, I'm much happier with where we are now.

E: We saw you started a new hashtag... #KeepTalkingMH lets discuss it. What's the goal here and your ideas behind it? Hope?

R: I want to keep the conversation going and battle stigma. I had previously registered a # on While I was thinking about this idea "Keep Talking" came into my head. I thought, "Jackpot! I'm getting this. I'm doing it!"

I immediately started talking and got the conversation going. We had some wonderful people tweeting #KeepTalkingMH: Kevin Smith, AJ Brooks, Billy Gardell and Mr. Science Theatre 3000 to name a few.

E: Oh, very cool! Who hasn't seen Clerks or Dogma? haha! Seriously though, how wonderful of all of them to get involved in spreading the conversation of Mental Health!

R: It was great of everyone to help with this movement. It never was actually trending. Eventually I gave up on getting it trending but made it a movement. I know it's being used. It's blowing up now!

My goal for it is to become this mental health movement like #ImNotAshamed.

E: Yes! We've written for them and they're wonderful...

R: I'm hopeful for it and optimistic! We need to keep talking... I know we need to make mental health easier to talk about!

E: Absolutely, we do!

R: I'm going to keep asking people to tweet about it. I'm hoping, now, to get the attention of @WashPostLife

E: That's the starting point. Talking and getting people involved, is so important.

R: Mental Health isn't singular. It opens up the whole realm of mental health. I wanted it to include everyone so I made it as general as possible. I think it can get bigger from here.
 One thing that's kinda inspired me here is, Sarah Fader. She's like a kick in the ass to me. Like, "Oh, I gotta get to work." We're all in this together. We all have to participate.

E: Good way to look at it! Having open and continued conversations about mental illness with those living their lives with MI's and the people in their lives! So, that brings me to my biggest curiosity how does Joe help day to day? How do you work through the tough spots together?

R: It was tough at first. He had to learn the ins and outs. All people are different and we all process differently. He had to learn my pet peeves and we had to learn to manage life together.

E: I love the way you both talk about your lives, you always say "we." Acknowledging the other and each other's struggles. It's very encouraging.

R: It took years of practice. He wasn't ever bad at it. He just knew this was big and took it head on. We had first met and tried to date but it didn't work out. About a year later, we got in touch again and he said, "I can't get you outa my head." I was touched but upfront with him. I was struggling and self-injuring quite frequently at that time.

Joe took everything on. We were and still are in this together. We officially began dating in May of 2001 and August 3rd, 2001 we were married.

E: Oh my! That's fast but hey it worked out great for you both. I guess when ya know that's it, end of...rather beginning of new chapter in the story.

R: Yes. Over the years Joe has only continued to learn and help me with my disorder. He goes behind my back to read up on stuff I think, haha! He'll come outa nowhere with a new thing.

"What Can I do to Make this Better?" -Joe Lombardo, the super hero of supportive spouses!

E: That again is so wonderful and honestly invaluable he'll say that and just knows what you need.

R: In my 20's I didn't ever think I'd find love. I look at this man laying next to me at times and I can't believe I ever loved anyone else. It's us against the world and we're strong together. Everything's great.

"I'm good at being married to Joe & that's good enough for me..." -Rebecca Lombardo, Super Hero Slayer of Stigma

E: Fantastic. I really do find myself often looking to your relationship. So lets chat Voices for Change 2.0!

R: I talked to him about it here and there. I asked him if he thought anyone would listen if I did a podcast? From there it grew. I always wanted to present both perspectives. We began discussing our options what we wanted to discuss and how we wanted to achieve our goals.

With our previous network things were always a nightmare and problematic, but now with Scott and Left of Straight Radio we couldn't be happier with the way things are going. It's such a breeze now, we're booked through September 2017!

E: Holy crap! That's amazing. After such a hellish ordeal with the previous network that's amazing and I'm very excited to be on the podcast next week!

R: Thanks and yes, Joe and I are looking forward to it!

E: Okay...This brings us to my last question for you. What were some of your favorite shows? Those moments we (those tuning in) couldn't hear between you and Joe or your guests on the Voices for Change 2.0 Podcast?

R: Wow. Great question, give me a minute here.

E: No worries. I'm nosey and I know it. (haha)

R: Oh ok! One of my favorite guests was Saphyre Rain. Austin and Amanda...I adore them. I met Amanda on twitter after hearing a song they did about Suicide Prevention-- 2 years ago. We've had them on the show twice now.

E: Yes! I caught that episode and they're wonderful. I'll often "come back" to their music blaring on youtube. Who else or what other moments? Sorry...We were excited for this question haha!

R: Haha! No problem. OH! Our "craziest" guest experience was with Diamond Dallas Page (DDP). He was dropping F bombs and we didn't realize he was going to do that on the show. (Laughter) He was definitely one of my favorites and the most shocking!

And of course when we had Karen Unrue on! Her phone kept dropping the calls. On our previous network we would've been beyond stressed and all freaking out, losing my mind! Not at all what happened with Scott driving the broadcast. There was so much laughter.

E: Haha! YES! I remember that show well. We adore Karen and her new book.

R: Yes! Haha! When we were on messenger with Scott during the show it was back and forth with "Got her!" and "Lost Her." The entire thing, all we could do was push on and laugh about it. You even tweeted us saying, "Karen come back!" We were all full of laughter and talking about it again now is bringing how funny it all was back to me!

E: Oh we so remember that one!  Nooo, Come back, Karen! (at this point Rebecca and I were laughing uncontrollably)

R: Yes! I love listening to Britt's talk and to hear Karen say, "Oh bloody hell" it was too much we couldn't help but just laugh about it and continue trying to get her on the line.

E: Me too, not sure why it's a thing, but it is and yes everyone handled that so well.

R: I felt proud of us --Joe, Scott and I-- afterwards. We held it together.

E: You all really did!

R: Thanks. As for our most popular show that is, Dr. Robbin Zazio from the show Hoarders.

E: Oh awesome I'm so excited to see who else you will have on! And again, we're thrilled you wanted us to be on as well discussing Dissociative Identity Disorder. Can't wait! Thank you again for chatting with us about all the amazing things you're doing.

(You can listen to the show we were apart of here)

R: Yes, we're looking forward to it as well. We've a very busy summer ahead of us!

E: I'm sure we'll talk soon and see you on the twitterverse.

R: Sounds good!

A design made by one of Rebecca's friends-Sylvia Nye

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Christain & The Atheist: Discussing Religion with Steve Austin

You may have seen the tweets between Steve Austin and myself off and on over the last few months, --I think, time lines can be tricky for me-- but what you haven't seen within these discussions: hate, fear, or condemnation. He has his hand in many pots and started the #AskSteveAustin hashtag as well as his podcast, which can be found here.

He is one of the few individuals I, myself, find interesting. Fascinating at times if you'll allow me to be blunt. Religion is something many of my parts and I find to be an intriguing topic. As you may have heard... "Never discuss religion or politics with a friend." While this is sound advice I often fail because in simple terms, it's interesting.

Religion is a varied and diverse belief system many are passionate about. God --specifically the Christian god-- is a hot fire button for all whom believe in "his word." What I've personally encountered is pity when I attempt to explain my belief's on the subject. Why? I honestly can't fully explain it. From my perspective (the atheist) it seems those who follow some religious constructs or "faith" truly do believe my soul needs saving or I'm somehow not finding fulfillment. I assure you, I am.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth...

Steve and I had a candid conversation, via skype-- Can I get a hip-hip hooray for technology real quick?-- on varied religious high and low points...

We began our conversation with simple pleasantries and some chit chat that inevitably lead us into temptation. 😏 By this I mean, the topic of our conversation, religion. His religious beliefs, my lack of, and our mutual respect and compassion of each other's struggles through a life of trauma and our own individual journey's to recovery.

Religious Discussion with Steve Austin

Erika: Hey Steve, thanks for agreeing to this talk with me. I always find our tweet conversations interesting and even fascinating at times. You're not the norm, but the minority, my friend.

Steve: I enjoy them too and am glad you asked.

E: I wanted to start with a definition. I'm curious, as I am with most things, what your definition of a Preacher is? (We knew he would hate the term Preacher & he did not disappoint)

S: Hmm...Give me a second. Preacher? First of all, it's Pastor. Everyone is a preacher. All people are preaching something spreading information they believe in. A pastor though, is a shepherd. Gathering and leading his flock. A protector, guide and guard. A "watchful eye," not in the intrusive sense. A Friend and confidant. A pastor should want to empower the people, "You're the professional at living your life...but what about trying this?"

E: Well said, we knew you'd take issue with the terminology of Preacher AND am glad you did. Well said though, "hey I got your back." That is exactly what it should be. A watchful eye, but not intrusive and a shoulder to lean on. A church leader should be the first honest and open person you can rely on through all manners of struggles and get you additional help when needed.

S: Yes, Exactly. "Your faith should be strong enough," doesn't help. It's one way the church gets it wrong.

"Your faith should be strong enough..." -Steve Austin

E: That's something I've heard many times throughout childhood. I can't think of anyone in trouble that particular phrase has helped heal. Which leads us into my next question... How do you define faith?

S: That's not a simple answer. For me, faith used to equate to: Prayer, church, making my lists and checking them twice. If I'm a good boy but if not I'll burn in hell. Fear shame and guilt, but now faith is a stubborn belief. Beauty to be found in all things. I believe life and I are worth it.

E: Well said again, this is what makes sense to me. As you know, I do equate God(s) to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. So that does go back to our previous discussion, your comment on "Making a list and checking it twice." One of my struggles, as a child within the church, was I often had questions...The biggest problem for me was the concept of randomly opening a book, selecting a few sentences and memorizing only those segments. When I had brought this up to my Sunday school "teacher" she was offended at my audacity and said, "I told you to memorize that one what are you doing?"
I attempted to explain to her that I had read it, but I couldn't just choose that and needed to know the context. She took this as disrespectful and proceeded to tell me, "well that doesn't really matter." Even as a young child I couldn't understand how if the word of God held so much weight with these people how then did those other words not matter?

S: Yes I remember and oh my. Yes! I've seen this and done this in Sunday school. It's an interesting point. There isn't any other book we pick up and randomly choose sentences from.

E: Exactly! One of the questions I ask people is if they've read the bible. Most say yes of course, every day...but that isn't my question. Have you read the entire bible, Genesis 1:1 - Revelations 22:21? This is what I find so interesting about religions of all sorts. It is a common thing to jump about sporadically and study only specific texts.

S: It's a very good point. I've never picked up To Kill a Mockingbird and skipped to the end!

E: Haha! Nope, who would? That leads into so many further questions! Because I'm curious, what is your favorite bible passage? Most pastors/church leaders etcetera have at least a top 3...

S: Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus is talking to the people and it basically says, "Come to me and I'll show you how to recover your life." Studying the red letters is what I take from the bible. Jesus' words during two years of ministry school is what I focused on. A Presbyterian, John Piper has said..."Even in your repentance your feet are dangling over the fires of hell." I struggled with this because where is the hope and love? Even in my repentance I'm damned to dangling feet over hell?

E: I'm not familiar with him, but yep. That sounds about what I was taught and the many ways I was continuously threatened with god and the church. Within the Christan religion there were so many inconsistent things I read, saw and was taught that it never fit properly in my mind, even as a young child. I know you're aware of the DID, but I'm not sure what all you know or don't...

S: I know about this much... (Skype remember? He squished his fingers together indicating a very small amount)

E: I figured as much, no worries. Many people don't realize how common dissociative disorders are. If child abuse is a massive epidemic, the corresponding disorders that follow those traumas, often continued and repetitive but in varying degrees and type, then dissociation and DID, specifically, while unfortunate, is not as "rare" as some think or claim.

Romans 13:4  For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.  (This is a favorite Verse to one of my parts)

That being said, one reason we know many religions well, in addition to it being interesting... W-E-A-P-O-N. The Bible became a powerful weapon of protection. Using the words against those who meant me harm for any number of nonsensical reasons under the guise of "spare the rod, spoil the child." As well as considering me "demon possessed." My parts can sound very different than I do, this is especially true when I was a child. They have different habits and mannerisms and while "Speaking in tongues" is a perfectly normal and accepted thing within the church, I was possessed by demons and my soul needed saving.

Not discussed during our call, but one of my relatives believed herself to be a spiritual warrior who could rid homes of evil. Somehow I was the one who needed "help", but not actual help just to read more and to not lean on my own understanding. Blind faith can kill. Faith is good, even religion has merit, yes I'm an atheist, but I don't think someone's beliefs or lack of defines them as an individual. Provided they aren't causing harm. Buddhism for example, is a very interesting religion in that respect.

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it..."
-Buddhist Principle of Belief

S: (visibly upset) I am truly sorry. Right, though? Someone being "slain in the spirit" is perfectly normal?

"Compassion comes in, but the church misses it. Religion has become the 'god." -Steve Austin

E: I do honestly appreciate that, but this is the problem. Like you said earlier, the church gets it wrong. Expanding on that, people get it wrong. I don't find there to be some massive amount of evil all around; just awful people, some needing professional help or prison and others who need actual help and not prayer. Prayer to me is hope spoken aloud or in one's mind. It's good it brings people comfort, that's what I find is what the main goal of religion, should be, but often isn't.

As I said, you're one of the more interesting people I've stumbled across on Twitter... You're honestly devout despite some of your struggles. Can you talk to me a bit about some of those recent tweets regarding your own current struggles with faith?

S: That goes back to a recent post on my blog. The Hardest Question I ever asked myself... Ed Bacon author of 8 Habits of Love had said to replace the word God in the bible with the word 'love' and replace Satan/evil with the word 'fear.' I look up to this man and during a discussion with my hands sweaty and shaking in front of many of my conservative friends I asked him the hardest question. The geography of the bible is an interesting thing. This discussion was life affirming and comforting for me.

E: Definitely sounds like it was! I'll link your blog so everyone can find out more about this.

So, I respect your inalienable right to religious freedom, but why is it many devout can't or won't talk to me? Why do these conversations come down to my lack of understanding and the over all 'pitty' for me and my soul? -Long winded I know, sorry!

S: This goes back to religion as a weapon. LGBTQ or DID, black or white all people... If there isn't space at God's table as you are, it doesn't hold water. Which is wrong. That is no longer the unconditional love of God, but becomes expectations. Love is not conditional, it either is love or it is not.

I don't expect there to be evils or demons lurking around every corner or hiding in the bushes.

Ephesians 6:12 - For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

There was quite a bit of our call that he found upsetting, and that to me, is not a bad thing, but good. Confusing at times, but a good emotion to experience. As he and I have discussed in length several times at this point, blind faith is the problem. It may surprise you but 'atheist' is not a dirty word nor is 'Christianity.' This discussion we were able to have only drove that home to me and I think for Steve as well. At one point he did mention a story that enlightened him..

S: I was at a gas station when another car pulled up. At this time in my life I was, "Mr. God" who loves everybody. A republican, white male, in Birmingham Alabama. A man got out of the driver's side and who--I first assumed--was a women in the passenger seat said, "I need to get back home!" She was upset, but after I heard her voice I now realized that was a man. His deep voice gave him away.

I would have once assumed him to be "a cross dresser," but I knew they were a gay couple. In Birmingham. This sticks out to me because I was wearing a shirt that said "Real Men Worship God" with a bible verse reference, it was from the book of John but I can't recall which specifically. When the driver had asked me if I could spare $5 to help get them back home, I told him let me finish pumping and then I'll bring the pump to your car. He thanked me and had asked about my shirt.

What you had said earlier about knowing the bible and picking and choosing which verses we study and discounting the importance of the ones before and after made me think of this. Like the good little Christian I was years before...I would have taken this opportunity to witness to them and show them Jesus. When he had asked me about my shirt though, I did not know the bible verse, but I did have my bible app on my phone and looked it up. Summed up the verse refers to who you are and how you live is true worship.

These men brought that to me. It's been this sorta get to know people before judging them. Don't worry about someone else until you really know them because we all matter.

"If what I believe doesn't help humanity
then who gives a shit?" - Steve Austin

E: That's great to hear you had that moment and it meant something to you. I'm certain it meant something to that couple. You helped them when they needed it and likely, hadn't expected it. Thanks again for chatting with us today! I'll let you get back to your family now.

S: Yes it was another great conversation. Talk soon.

For me, the ten commandments are something I often used in defense against my abusers. Knowing our enemy was a key component to survival. Unfortunate, perhaps, but I learned the bible and we studied it quite well. Which pleased those put upon me to due me additional harm on top of the "people" whom had initially caused the DID. My life was truly the perfect storm and religion was at the eye of that chaos.

John 14:15 - If ye love me, keep my commandments.

All of this being said, I don't hate god. That isn't even logical. I don't believe in god, so how can I hate this deity? I don't even hate the people who've harmed me throughout my life, they're simply no longer of any consequence. We focus on my life now, the answers I finally have, connecting with people and continuing to find my own version of "normal."

As you know..."Normal is Illusion. What is Normal for the Spider is Chaos for the Fly."

Peace & Be Well!🌀
Revelations 22:21 The Grace of the Lord be with all. Amen. -ESV

Revelations 22:21 The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with all God's People. -NIV

Revelations 22:21 May the Grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's Holy People. - NLT

The Bible in all of it's varied publications is an interesting read, with certainty, but which of these versions of the very last verse do you follow?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dissociative Tees

Good Morning Everyone!

We're here with some very exciting news... Recently, I've been tweeting about our Octopus painting, Mr. Euphegenia D. Octopi the III, respectfully. We've had over a dozen of you lovely people reach out wanting to purchase him. Something we are so incredibly grateful to all of you for, as well as, everyone who's been following the painting process via twitter and sending us encouragement and kindness. We do appreciate it.

As much as we would love for each and every one of you to hold him in your hands and hang him on your wall, it's sadly not possible. BUT a graphic designer friend of ours reached out to us with a unique suggestion. This was not a dilemma she was aware of and yet she came swooping into our DM's with the answer.

Over the last year or so, countless people have reached out wanting to purchase some of our various random art pieces... Well I'm happy to announce this morning our shop has launched! Yep, instead of hanging Euphegenia on your wall, you can now hang him in your closet! Both men and women's Tees for the time being with a selection of different --100% cotton-- styles.

Taking him with you every day? Sure. Our Dissociative Tees online shop has cell phone cases too! I want to once again thank everyone who has continued to reach out either on our blog, or twitter and invite you to visit our new, albeit small for now, shop.


Dissociative Tees is brand new & we'd love your help spreading the word about it! DT is a mental health brand we're hoping to grow as time goes on and we'd love to continue adding all sorts of fun designs for you to choose from, but we can't do that without your continued help and support!

This week you'll receive 20% off when you purchase 2+ items on our shop. Get something for you and a friend using the promo code! (20% off Code: 20P517)

Euphegenia as you may have already come to realize is our lovely giant purple Octopus. He seemed perfect for launching our shop. Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder I often have told people I feel like an octopus, but desperately could use more arms! It's been discussed with friends as well as our doctor. My parts & I are working on him together. Being an octopus it seemed only fitting that we work on this large painting together.

Thanks for reading and happy shopping everyone!

Find our Shop Here: Dissociative Tees

Oh and by the way... Keep up to date with everything we've got going on over the next few months I promise you won't want to miss it. The reading at the NYU Library for @StigmaFighters in only 15 days time, Toon's coloring book being published, several of our "Living with DID Talks" and so much more in store for you all.