Today I went shopping after work. Often I pick up ice cream – clearly one of the four food groups. I looked down today to see a half-gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream in my basket. And I don’t even LIKE that flavor.
It all started on vacation. A journey through a rain forest, an amazing day back at work, a short visit to see the meds doc, and then off and to the grocery store. Like a waterfall of realizations all coalescing after a trip to the freezer section.
We had done some pretty intense hiking – 30 percent grade in a rainforest through a misty rain, the trail and stream sometimes merging for a stretch. Goretex shoes just rock. Emily grew up in the woods – camping, hiking, Girl Scouts – wandering through the woods in the backyard of her house. Hiking last week brought it all back. As I traipsed through the woods at wonder of the huge leaves and a strange variety of Spanish moss coating the trees, I+Emily felt my eyes wide with wonder and the excitement of exploration in my heart. Snippets of camping memories came back to me – good sweet stuff. Despite the people around me, I was alone in the woods, peripherally aware, part of me passing along warnings and laughing as my husband, friends and I slid in the mud. But I+Emily was alone in my woods of years past, having traveled back first person to a time I had only read about before. My woods. I felt at home.
A few neat and special experiences on vacation gave me both the impetus and the opportunity to re-experience Emily’s history in first person. This is not to relive a *memory* of something past, but to remember the feeling as she might have experienced this new wonder in the woods – as if she had been here all those years ago. Transported back to that child of wonder in a woods that was new but so old. An extension of Emily’s life that perhaps had not been lived, but should have.
I came home relaxed, with memories of kidhood overlaid with my neat explorations shared with many of my friends. But I also came home somehow more at peace.
What happens after vacation? The dread and crap of work and responsibilities come crashing down. Sometimes it seems almost instantaneous – my husband came home after his first day back at work pissed off and fuming. Something is wrong with this world. But that didn’t seem wrong with me.
Let’s be honest here – it has been 14 months since a dear friend triggered me really good and started all this mess barfing out of me. 14 months of struggle, self reflection, realization and horror. Pain, suicidal thoughts, cutting. Anger and rage. And then REALIZATION of anger and rage I unleashed on others. Without realizing.
Throughout this time, I have been intimate with the Five Stages of Grief introduced by Kubler-Ross in her 1973 book “On Death and Dying”.  Denial (I feel fine – this can’t be happening to me), Anger (Why me? It’s not fair!), Bargaining (just let me get have more time), Depression (I’m so sad, why bother doing anything?), Acceptance (It’s going to be okay. I can’t fight it, so prepare for it).
Originally presented as stages those with terminal illnesses go through, the five stages also apply to survivors. She stresses that these stages don’t have to occur in order, with people often cycling among them. I was in denial so strongly for so many years, and even now in denial as certain selves. I have an ongoing concern that this waffling on my parts will not resolve. How could I have a blog on DID, do all this research, identify with so many others, and still sometimes believe this is all bullshit? Boggles my mind(s).
One of my readers, Parris, made a comment to a post yesterday that really got me thinking. She said “You will encounter bouts of denial possibly for the rest of your life. Sometimes it’s the only way to get through. And it’s okay. It has to be.”
I sat in shock when I read this. It was a relief – I did not have to beat myself up over this uncertainty within myself. Selves. This outright CONTRADICTION. Whatever. Maybe my feelings will eventually coalesce as I recover.
Maybe this realization that denial is NORMAL will allow parts of me to come together, knowing that this contradiction is not a barrier to connection. That it will be okay. Thank you, Parris.
I read this just yesterday, in this strange in-between state of selves – and I realize I feel some acceptance. That final stage. But not like I am accepting death, but of the possibility of an unknown and frightening life.
This morning when I woke up to go to work, I was starting to stress about the day ahead, but surprisingly the feeling didn’t intensify during my commute. Normally a fast driver, I found myself in the slow and middle lanes, not much over the speed limit. I was even once the dreaded slow drivers common in some areas around here (50 in the left lane.) Calmer. At work, I leapt into the looooong task list I created for the hundreds of responsibilities I had let slip over the past 14 months. I’d made that list maybe 3 months ago and made little progress despite its creation.
But today – today I initiated phone calls for late work from others, I attacked some tasks I feared facing – a deadline I am 9 months behind on. I bit the bullet and met with the finance people who manage that project. I met with several people and defined projects for them within my group. And I ENJOYED it. I could think; I could brainstorm; I could ENGINEER! I was massively PRODUCTIVE for an entire day. That has not happened in a long time. Nine hours in a row without a struggle. Without agony. Just a normal busy work day.
I wrote my best friend today -
“I feel strange today. I am in a skin I have not been in for a while. It is familiar but not wholly me somehow. This feels really strange, but somehow my work is getting done and I have an attention span. It is like all the horrible stuff from a few months ago was some bad dream – I can feel it in a wall behind me, and I can do stuff without it intruding. All the guilt is gone and I am really INTO getting work accomplished on my projects. I could cry – where did this come from? Who am I? Do I have a name?
“I am confused, but somewhat relieved. What do I do with this?”
Not Emily, not Camigwen, not Maggie. Some sort of mishmash of the three of us that somehow works. Still with help from others, but the core somehow being us. Actually, a rather new and unique combination, but not unexpected. A lonely child craving acceptance, an extroverted nurturer, and a confused but genuine woman with tenuous ties across them both.
Do I have a name? I don’t quite feel like any of them.
I went to the meds doc today, and he was happy to see that the meds were “sticking.” He raised the dose a bit more to the maintenance level – perhaps a tad better protection against a future crash. I told him my amazing news about work – that I felt more alive, that things seemed clearer That I felt like the horrible raging pit I have carried in the box in my stomach had shifted to a position behind me, and behind a wall that was more transparent than the box had been. And that the angry pit was no longer a solid core, but had dissolved somewhat into a slurry, a chunky stew of thick noodles. Something I could work with. Like finally unsnarling a major jammed up-knot in a chain necklace and suddenly realizing that all that was left to do was to snake the ends through a few more times.
I also told him that on my way to his office, I looked at the sky and realized I could see the clouds in 3D. They were INCREDIBLE! Layers of fluffy whites and light greys on a background of happy blue. I have difficulty with depth perception, and can sense 3D rarely. I am crappy at softball but excellent in swimming. But the clouds were an unexpected delight. He asked if I felt more like one person. I replied that I still have the separate feelings, but that I felt strangely better. I didn’t feel like the “me” I remember before this started, but what I feel now was not bad. Just different. And it felt good. Cautiously
Another thing from the past that has bubbled into 2008 is a nervous tic I had back then. I forgot I’d had that tic in my neck, and like a wave that overtook me near the end of the vacation, it returned. It plagues me now and I am trying hard to get rid of it. An instant ages-old compulsion thrust back on me along side the more pleasant memories and experiences. (Perhaps a less interesting cause – Lamictal has been shown to cause neurological tics in %1 – 5% of those taking it – this was also statistically significantly different from placebo. )
I went to the grocery store and had to wander a bit as they filled the prescription the meds doc had written. As I milled about, I found myself pulled along that insistent invisible wire towards the Frozen Dairy Products. Capitalized like that to emphasize the evilness and compulsiveness of the twice-modified noun. My favorite flavors over the last I-don’t-know-how-many-years: Breyers Vanilla Bean (a compulsion inherited from my father), Breyers Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup (a compulsion inherited from my son), and most importantly, Haagen-Daaz Coffee (a compulsion of unknown but must certainly mystical origins).
In the vegetable aisle, I looked in my basket and found a half-gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
And simultaneously in my head <Huh? WTF? I love mint chocolate chip! Oh (with some resignation), that flavor is so, well, minty.>
Then I realized I loved that flavor as a child, and I laughed out loud in the store.
Still standing like an idiot in one aisle considering what I/we had done, I smiled and realized I was wearing wide eyes. I wasn’t aggravated that there were 10 people ahead of me in the prescription line. I wasn’t mad that I had to spend 30 minutes in the store when all I really needed to get was dinner. I wandered, picking up little things here and there. Behaving like, as Kate the engineer would say, a certain child immersed in the interminable task of picking over pretty rocks in a stream.
I texted my friend: “I feel like I am a sort of grown up version of the 8 year old. The ice cream – memories and habits of one self intruding on another. Oddly comforting. Like more of me is here without the harsh switches.”
I do not know what integration feels like, and I won’t even put this in the same category because I just don’t have the experience to assess that. I don’t even know if this is more intense co-consciousness, because it seemed like the thoughts were all kinda one (except for that cacophony at the mint chocolate chip surprise).
I don’t know what the hell it is, but as my friend wrote me, “Perhaps this is a turning point in the evolution in your issues. And a good turning point, not a bad one. Perhaps you should just ‘go with it’ and see where it goes – but take it slow.”
I’ll be having some mint chocolate chip ice cream tonight after dinner. I wonder what it will taste like.
 Kubler-Ross, E (1973) On Death and Dying, Routledge, ISBN 0415040159.
 Lamictal (Lamotrigine) – Side Effects and Adverse Reactions accessed from http://www.druglib.com/druginfo/lamictal/side-effects/.