Dissociative Identity Disorder, Depression, PTSD, Anxiety
My name is Suzanne.
I deal with dissociative identity disorder, depression, complex P.T.S.D., and anxiety.
I was correctly diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in May of 2003, but I’ve been dealing with it all my life, as well as the depression, anxiety, and complex P.T.S.D. So yeah, all my life.
D.I.D. is created in early childhood usually before the age of seven and it’s a result of overwhelming circumstances, in my case it was severe neglect and abuse, and it can also happen if a young child has had multiple surgeries or medical procedures. It also happens with kids, young kids, which have grown up in refugee camps and live in a civil war area. What it basically is is the child has nowhere to go when the overwhelmed circumstances happen. So what I did was, if the perpetrator came into the room, me the typical Suzy that you see here, would kind of go into the background and I created this persona that would deal with the event in the situation and they would hold all the memories and everything of that event. When the event was over and the perpetrator was gone, that persona would kind of go back into my subconscious and the apparent normal self, me, would come out just kind of carry on and try to carry on the best I could.
Beforehand my disassociation was my coping. Whenever life got too bad I would dissociate. In D.I.D. you create at a young age these personas to deal with stuff and so I would just kind of basically check out of life and another persona would come and deal with life. But then I would have no memory of what I had done. I’d have people come up to me on the street talk to me and they know who I am but I have no flipping idea who the hell they are because I don’t remember talking to them. Being aware when I need to pull out of things, I’m fairly busy and fairly active, but being aware when I know when things are getting too much and there’s personal stuff that I need to work on. Being able to be in an environment and the activities that I do, that I can say I need to back off, I’m going to stop for a couple weeks but I’ll be back. Like my dragon boat team, I’ve been dragon boating for ten years, and I’ve been in the hospital. I called the psychiatric unit in the hospital the St Joseph Spa and Treatment Centre and I’ve been there many times. But each time I come out, the dragon boat team, I still got a seat. So there’s nothing, I’m not going to lose any seat or anything like that.
When I was in the psych unit one time on my birthday – the hospital is up on the hill – they paddled during practice, they paddled underneath to sing me Happy Birthday. I remember sitting outside and my nurse came up to me and said what are you doing, you know conversation sitting at the picnic table. I said “Oh waiting for my dragon boat team to sing Happy Birthday.” Well she couldn’t see the dragon boat team because the hospital is on the cliff. So she’s looking at me like thinking is Suzy hallucinating again, what is she talking about? I said no, no it’s dragon boat practice and the team did paddle by, we couldn’t see them but we could hear them and they were singing Happy Birthday. They’ve been there from the very beginning and they have been an awesome phenomenal support system all in their own way.
I guess mainly knowing what I need to do, lots of self care, lots of knowing what my limitations are. For years I have, while I still have years of blank memories. I don’t remember Christmases, birthdays, any major events. Grade One, Two, Three, Four, I remember little snippets of it. I went to college for two years when I was thirty; I can pull up little bits of memory of that but not a whole. I don’t have access to those memories. I’ve obviously got them because I’m the one that was doing everything. But being able to pull up those memories, whether I’ll ever be able to, I don’t know.
I’ve got three/four, maybe five, major personas. One is Stanley. Stanley was created when I was six years old. I had an older brother who was one of my protectors, and when he was sixteen he joined the army, so I no longer have the protector when crap happened. I created Stanley and Stanley’s job was to find really small places for me to hide in when stuff happened.
I would like to get out more and be able to do more public speaking, talk to more students, talk to more classrooms. Actually I would love to do a conference, a mental health conference. But because I don’t have the PhD and all the letters behind my name, it’s kind of hard to get into it. But it will come. Whatever’s meant to come, will come. I never thought I’d be talking to youth and at risk groups and stuff like that. I never thought I would ever be doing that but that’s what I want to do. So I just want to keep doing what I’m doing. I have done presentations, given talks to nursing staff or nursing students from the college. I’ve also done talks with a couple at risk youth groups and then the girl’s group at the local transition society here. And then this last June, I went back to my old school, my old high school and presented to three psychology classes there. That was a little surreal. Each class is a bit different but yes; I just go in there and talk about the D.I.D. and what it really is and what it isn’t. I discuss how it’s affected my life and talk about the depression and the complex P.T.S.D., mental health in general and why we need to start talking about it. What’s really interesting is once I start talking about mental health issues, other people start opening up and it just blows my mind. Could be teachers, it could be people I sing with, could be people in the dragon boat team, people I golf with. Because mental health touches everybody, whether you have it or family member have it, you know somebody who’s got it, so it touches everybody. It’s very interesting that people come up to me and talk to me about their issues or their struggles with it.
Borderline Personality Disorder
Depression, Anxiety, Addiction
What is your name?
My name is Chris.
What are you dealing with?
I deal with the depression, anxiety, and addiction issues.
How long have you been dealing with it?
Probably all my life. I’m fifty now.
What are some of your coping strategies?
So I have healthy and unhealthy coping strategies and unhealthy ones have to do with addictions mostly like drinking and marijuana use, and I find that they don’t work at all. And another unhealthy one is how I manage stress in my life and I got to be able to deal with it better than I have. But healthy ones that I have I find are exercising are good and being outside. I really have to fight depression. I have to fight it with all I got just to get up and get out, but once I do make those steps the depression eases. So I find it’s really hard to do and it’s really tough. But if you can anybody, including myself, stay and fight it and don’t let it win then you’re on the road to recovery.
How has depression affected your work abilities?
Depression has affected my work horribly because I used to just jump from job to job to job to job and I couldn’t stay at any particular job for any length of time. And that’s really horrible actually and I don’t know. It was mentally tough not being able to keep jobs but I was always wanting to quit because I couldn’t handle the stress. My home life probably wasn’t that good. Numbers of times I got admitted to hospital. I attempted suicide. And so that didn’t really help my work out because I was unstable. So I find that one I get in to a good place where I have been recently is that I’m stable, I got a good frame of mind, and I keep doing healthy things.
So what are some goals?
I have goals. My goals for the future, and with my depression are trying to stay positive. I’m going to try my best to stay positive. I know what don’t work so I have to stay away from those. In regards to depression, if I have to take antidepressants for the rest of my life I’ll take them for the rest of my
life. But with that being said I’m going to go in a positive frame of mind and I also want to try to help people and get involved because I find if you help people with depression and they realize that you’ve been there you’ve got a better chance of helping people and by helping people you help yourself. I think that’s really, really important, and that’s a lot of the reason why I’m doing this today is to send out the message that ‘hey if you fight the fight we can beat this’ and you’re not alone, nobody’s alone. It may feel like it but you’re not and you know everybody has different struggles, mental illness and depression is one and it can be beat. I’m proof.
Do you think you can live positively while dealing with something labeled so negatively?
Absolutely I have to live positively because if I let the negativeness of depression and everything seep in then it’s when. So I got to always keep in mind to be positive. And by being positive and feeling well, because I find positiveness comes from within, and if you exude positiveness that depression can’t eat away at you. You’re winning the battle and I find that you’ve got to stay positive and all the negativeness that goes on about depression. I’m going stay positive myself and help people and try to turn people’s negativeness into positiveness and if everybody that suffered from depression that then depression would be beaten.
So what advice would you give individuals dealing with mental health issues?
My main advice to give people with mental health issues are dealing with depression or anxiety is to seek help. First of all get help, if you need to get help, and talk to people. You know if you can talk to your family or your loved ones there are professionals out there and that’s what I did. I called a twenty-four hour helpline crying and didn’t know where to turn. From there they helped me get the ball rolling and I was so glad that they were there for me. So my main thing is to talk and and tell people because some people don’t know what you’re going through and you don’t have to do it alone.
So besides the crisis hotline what else have you done to help yourself if you were in a situation where you needed individuals to help you?
I went to group counseling actually and everybody there was dealing with mental health issues. I checked myself in the hospital on a number of occasions, but most recently I attended group counseling. I went to see that two doctors a G.P. And a psychiatrist to help me and I also had a therapist to help me. And what happened was they put me on the right path. A lot of it is in your thinking and it and I was really negative in my thinking so they were beating it into me to think more positively about myself and all the good things. That really helped a lot that I’ve done that I followed through and never missed an appointment because there’s life on the line and right now it’s worked for me great. I don’t even see a therapist or anything anymore now but I know the signs that if I get unwell I have to see somebody.Any advice for individuals?
Another thing that I find that would help people suffering from mental illnesses are if your in unhealthy situations, like an unhealthy home or an unhealthy friends that hang out with, you got to change your lifestyle. And change it for a healthier way. If you’re hanging with people that party and drink, that’s all depressants. It ain’t going to help your mental health. So you have to change. You may have to change your whole life around healthier things and that’s what I’ve done and so far it’s working. I’m here.
Depression, Eating Disorder, Addiction
Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Postpartum Depression, PTSD
What is your name?
My name is Marli.
So what are you dealing with?
My diagnosis has been postpartum depression, bipolar, post-traumatic stress disorder. I struggle with anxiety symptoms that link me back to generalized anxiety disorder, and some of my symptoms that pop up have been psychosis in the past; it’s self harming behaviour. So it really covers a large gamut fortunately or unfortunately of diagnosis
How long have you been dealing with everything?
My first symptoms presented when I was around three and they were anxiety based. And as I grew and as I gathered more life experiences, the fun stuff in the not so fun stuff that happens in life. The symptoms have evolved over time and so they’ve been there my entire life. I don’t remember a conscious time when they weren’t there. One of the themes that have been there right off the hop is feeling bad about myself where I don’t belong in this world or that the world would be a better place without me and so that’s been a constant for my existence.
So what have been your coping strategies?
The coping strategies have been interesting because over my lifetime they’ve changed and I believe when I was a teenager, and my twenties, I was having a lot of what I would call a psychological pain. Sometimes I actually felt like I could feel my skin peel off it felt so painful on the inside and I thought if I could just find a magic thing that worked then it would work forever and I would have it made in the shade. What I’ve realized is that those coping mechanisms need to also change and evolves because some things that worked when you were sixteen, don’t work when you’re twenty-five, and don’t work when you’re thirty seven. And so currently the coping strategies that I use at a very high level are really looking at vulnerability triggers and realizing that I actually want to move towards that feeling. My instinct is as soon as I feel that fear and I feel like I’m not going to be good enough or I’m going to mess it up then I just back away and what I’m finding is I have to really consciously talk to myself to say do it anyway and just see what happens. So that’s a big one and tied into that is a lot of meditation. A lot of finding a creative outlet and I don’t necessarily mean a lot of what people talk about as creative outlets, we look really at music in art, but looking at some of those other things. I’m a social worker by trade. Creativity to me really looks at you know how do we start looking at social emotional issues in different ways. Different things work for different people and that’s how I feel I can spread my creative wings.
How has dealing with mental illness or mental health issues added to your support within your job?
I’m going to be as authentic as I can be because that is something I always strive to be. With being a professional provide service there can be another level of stigma around if you’re a practicing professional and you also have mental health issues then that that somehow either you’re not a true mental health patient and you’re also not a true service provider. It really is changing which I’m glad to see in the reason it’s changing is because people are talking about it. There are more conscious conversations flowing out about the topic. But for me I found that it has been a real plus. Once I moved into the authenticity of it, as in I don’t need to announce from the mountains that I have a mental illness. At the same time if I’m sitting with someone and we’re working towards an intervention plan and one of the questions that pops up this is the time to go to the hospital. I feel that my authenticity means that I need to be asking myself those questions as well and care taking for myself and if I know all the difficulties that come to me accessing services also apply to the people who are sitting with me trying to access services as well. We all have the innate knowledge of what we need to heal. Sometimes we need a space where we can explore that and remove the shoulda woulda coulda and so that’s where I tried to head towards. So it’s not that I’m a fancy pantsy professional who knows what should be done, but I can be an active part of their team. I’m grateful for that and hopefully we can provide support that the plan can come in place and it can be effective for the person. It’s their life they are the experts. I want to honor that in my professional practice as well.
So what do you want to work on towards the future/do you have any specific plans?
I went through most of my life feeling like I did not have the right or the value to make any goals because of mental illness and the impact it had on my life. I felt that I didn’t have anything to contribute and so I didn’t really look at goals as being something. It was just to get through lunch and trying to survive another day. So goal setting has been an acquired skill and so now I find that I have different areas of goals. Professionally I want to get into my masters I want to explore research I want to participate in the continued advancement of the discussion around mental illness and how we can bring this to a level where if somebody wants service they’ve got options, they’ve got choices on their intervention plan and it and it’s going to be effective for them. Personally, continue to grow as well and that that is my goal. I have three kids and society is going to teach them that mental illness is weird. Within our house I want them to grow up in an environment where it’s not weird. It is just the same as if dad has diabetes and he’s going to check in with that; mom has mental illness she’s got to check in with that. The other part of that is then as our house does that and as we spread out in the community we can ask those questions well why is it? Why do we look at depression that way? My kids can be a part of that discussion as opposed to saying, well no people have mental illness are a write off. So I think in the long term our family growth really centers around that. How do we be authentic and scared and excited and still love each other knowing that bad things can happen at any moment but we’re living life through it. And then on the other hand challenging the system and saying why is that the only way we’re doing it? Why can’t we change it? It’s not any more complicated than that.
Parenting with mental illness.
People have asked me through the years about parenting with mental illness and some people assume I can’t automatically because of the mental illness. They never speak a word to me but they think that I can’t because of what I look like on paper and that can be very difficult because parenting is difficult regardless outside of anything else. And adding that level of having people look at you like they’re not sure if you can be a competent parent. Informal support systems are important. Find those people around you that can be your cheerleaders and see you for the parent that you are. Talking with your children about mental illness and your symptoms can be done and should be done and if people are wondering how to do that, that’s when they can speak to some of the formal resources out there to get ideas how to do that. The kids know. Genetically they’re also at risk. As a society we’re not very good at talking about feelings off the start. We learn about reading and writing and math and all those very important things. But there’s not a lot of conversations that sit down and say yeah you know what? I got really mad there and I yelled it I’m sorry about that. Fights tend to be explosive and then nobody talks about them again because they’re done and they’ve gone away. And so thinking about developing those skill sets in your kids and it’s a challenge because I have my own vulnerabilities in regards to that. But I feel it’s important because as they grow, the risk of them having symptoms is there. If I had the ability to identify some of the feelings I had sooner in life I sometimes wonder what would be. I did not have that skill set and ended up in a crisis situation when I was nineteen because I let everything go away too long and so those are the parts where that can be a strength. Parenting with mental illness. When you’ve got your support and you’re able to flow those lessons to your kids can be a strength. Your kids will have a chance to grow up with knowledge and insight and respect for something that many other people don’t and so it’s not necessarily a negative thing.
Being in a small community what would you say is available resource wise or what would you be your recommendations for people?
Being from a small community is interesting because on one hand we don’t have a lot of resources. We just don’t because we don’t have the population base. It would be too costly or we don’t have the professionals who live in the rural areas. But on the
positive side of things, we really have an opportunity to be very creative with our intervention planning and that’s where I’ve landed now both as a person who lives in a small community and a person who practices and provides services to a small community. There needs to be choices and options in what people healing interventions are and so that isn’t necessarily all of the standard things that we think of when someone’s in trouble. Absolutely, crisis lines are important. Doctors are important. Social workers are important. All those pieces, but we also can’t forget about the yoga, that connecting with friends, the informal support groups. Then being creative with cooking or gardening or nature. Those are all things that resonate differently within people. And so within a small community, although we may not have all of the formal resources we have just as many informal resources and it’s exciting to watch those get pumped up. We know that peer support works. That’s a resource that we’ve got no matter where you are, no matter how small your town is, if you live with just your family, there can be a built in peer support network there and those are the pieces that I feel we get to explore a little bit further in smaller communities because of the lack of formal. We make up in formal with informal. And as the system recognizes those as being valuable we’re seeing a shift in the comfort level of people accessing them.
Do you think you can live positively while dealing with something labeled so negatively and how do you approach it?
The positive negative question is definitely a complicated one. I would say because the experience of stigma and well being very negative is very much active in out there. But it has contributed to positive change within my world and it has helped add to my confidence after it has hurt me profoundly. So I have a hard time looking at that saying it was a it was a completely negative experience because it has helped turn me into who I am today. But going through those negative experiences and the stigma attached was not helpful and it delayed everything by a long time and it kept me from doing other things because of the fear. In social work practice we talk a lot about oppression. I was asked one time why I felt the need to be so public with saying I have a mental illness. My response to that when I thought about it I looked back and I thought if you have never been backed into a corner so badly by nobody saying a word to you that you felt like the only way you could get out of that corner was to write it on a sign and stomp your way out. Hold on to that feeling because that means that you’ve never had the experience of oppression. And that’s a good thing for you. I however have not had that experience. I have been in scenarios where it is the metaphorical corner. I’ve been in it by not anybody saying a word but by the way policies are created, the way procedures are done, the way that people come or talk about the psychiatric units in the community. I felt like the only way I could come out of the corner was waving a sign. So positive or negative, I’m not sure. I’ve come to land at this point in my life and realize they were the experiences I was meant to have. My responsibility is to help process those experiences to help make a stronger me, and then to help advocate so that the next person may have different experiences, positive or negative, but that they won’t die in the meantime. Because that’s the risk we run with the stigma in-between and around mental illness is that that people die because of that negativity and that close door and shutting people in the corner and we need to pay attention to that.
What would be a piece of advice you’d give somebody?
A piece of advice I would get somebody is check your expectations. Do you expect your symptoms to disappear? They may or they may not. What if they don’t? How do you live life anyway? How do you feel that fear and feel that pain and still live a life that you can be proud of in the midst of it? I waited for a finish line for a long time and I realized the finish line was actually death. In the meantime, I had to figure out a different way to be with symptoms that bothered me every day. So it’s just that good old cliché feel the fear and figure out how to do it anyway. To me if I had one piece of advice that would be that would be it.
Emotional Regulation Disorder
What is your name?
My name is Diana.
So what are you dealing with?
I’m dealing with, to sum it up, emotional regulation issues.
And what does that entail?
That involves kind of difficulty I guess with keeping my emotions from sort of taking over and clouding my judgment and affecting decisions I make and making things more difficult I think than they need to be some of the time.
How long have you been dealing with it?
I don’t have to say probably the last ten years, but probably a little bit longer than that to a different degree I think.
What have been your coping strategies for it?
My coping strategies are ones that I just found out about after going to counseling actually. Previous to that I would say I had very poor coping strategies, or possibly none. Limited abilities in that direction, but I think after I went to see my counselor I find out there’s very specific things you could do like slow down your thinking. I have a chart that I went by that I found useful at first to sort of retrain the way I dealt with things that were hard for me and so I would write down and stop myself from kind of going to with the reaction and try to think through it. I could still react the way I wanted to but at some point the thinking has to kick in and that sort of helps you work through it faster and I guess in a better way.
So with counseling what kind of resources they provided you with or any other kind of guidance from any other kind of organization that you’ve sought help from?
Well I think that the only the only thing I actually accessed would be mental health counseling services at the local hospital and that was pretty much it also. There’s also one on one session with the psychiatrist and that was he was working with the counselors just it was kind of on the recommendation of somebody else actually but it was actually I found it really beneficial overall.
I think that I had a bit extra help with regards to my counseling. I had a social worker that was involved and they were able to explain some of what I was going through, which meant that the counseling I think went along a lot smoother and quicker because I didn’t have to be the only one telling the counselor what was actually happening. So I was really appreciative of that. I understand that the worker was very was communicating with the counselor regularly and that took a lot of the pressure off for me and I think when people are in stressful situations it can be very hard, if not impossible, to explain what exactly is going on in their life at that time. So I’m actually very grateful for that person’s involvement on my behalf.
Would you say that anything really triggers what you’re dealing with?
Specifically, I would have to say sometimes noise, just noise actually. But in most cases it would probably be other people and their reactions to things. Certain situations are worse but I’ve never really thought of it. It would be generally be some situation that I wouldn’t probably be in control of and possibly other people getting excited as well.
So what are future goal or ambitions? Or things that will help you toward getting to a good place if you’re not already there?
So I’d say my future goals are to sort of stick to, or constantly reference the material and the information I was provided with, and try to keep on an even keel, I don’t know how else to describe it. So that I’m not constantly being dragged down by, I would have to say, negative thinking ultimately. It’s about going forward and carrying on and using coping strategies and instead of letting things get you down or drag you down. And if you do, find a way to get back up fairly quickly. And I don’t I think it’s unrealistic to expect to kind of beat it every day or even do well sometimes with it every day but, overall I think it becomes easier and the more you practice, maybe even thinking in a different way, the easier it becomes. And so you have better days and you just practice better coping skills and it just gets easier. I think it takes a while and I think it probably took me about a year to actually change from thinking so negatively and I didn’t realize until I was kind of in a certain situation where this became so important that that I didn’t realize how my thinking was making it all so much harder.
Do you think you can live positively while dealing with something so negative?
Yeah I think that it’s possible to live positively with in actually quite a negative situation because it’s actually very dependent on the way I guess thinking and dealing with each day and I think it’s you know you could look at it as being as yourself as being in a very tough situation but I think possibly in comparison to other people in other countries it may be highly dependent on the way you are viewing your situation. And I think too for myself, sometimes writing down what exactly was bothering me was a big eye opener because at times I would say eighty percent might my attitude and other times it was really a tough situation actually, but not always. I think the key is to sometimes just examine it a bit and examine your day and maybe look at whether your attitude is clouding your experiences or putting a negative twist on it when it maybe doesn’t have to be quite so negative.
I think I’ve made a choice to sort of go forward in a different way. And so yes I have to say so because it’s easier. It’s just easier.
So you do find that you do you do you try and approach it positively?
Yes I do try to approach it positively whenever possible but, I also don’t get down on myself when I’m unable to do that, but I try.
If you could give people any type of advice when dealing with any type of situation what would it be?
I think the advice I would give people is not to get discouraged if you are actually not happy with the counseling or the counselor or people you’re talking to or with. I would just say don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. There are other people out there experiencing something similar to what you’re experiencing, if not the same. Just keep trying. I think sometimes it can be a case of just getting the right counselor, the person understands you or what you’re trying to say if you’re not a good communicator, I know that can be really tough. But I think if you keep trying to get yourself around people or a person, I think it just takes one actually, to help you work through your stuff and just don’t give up.