EDIT: After I published this, I was notified that it’s my 100th post. Seems right 🙂
Today was the first day of practical exams. I had one test earlier this afternoon. Out of the three I have for midterms, this was the test I was most nervous about. I was very happy that I could complete this practical first. The other two are Wednesday and Thursday.
I did well. Not perfect, but very well. I made one small (but important) error that should be worth about 5 points or so. The grading is mostly subjective, so a lot of it depends on how the professor is feeling at that moment. I tried to bring a positive energy into the room, so hopefully she was in a good mood. At one point she commented on how calm I was throughout my exam and I almost burst into laughter on the spot. It’s not that I wasn’t calm (I was – my partner took my pulse as part of his exam and it was a steady 60 beats per minute), but of all the things we’ve been called throughout this lifetime, “calm” is definitely not one of them.
However, I was pleasantly surprised at how well we, as a system, have handled the amount of stress we’ve been under this past week. I remember last year at this time when we took our very first practical exam, ever. I was standing in lab after the exam was over. I was working on a lab project with three classmates. I knew I had done well on the exam, but I was so physically riled up from all of the stress and anxiety leading up to the test that once it was over, I just…lost it. I was cursing and shaking and making a fool out of myself in front of my professor (who put her hand on my shoulder and asked me if I was okay after I flung a small object across the room). It was the first time I felt like I was watching myself behave in this totally inappropriate manner. It was like being trapped and having to watch myself have a meltdown from INSIDE my own body. I was humiliated and terrified.
Two days later I had a session with Zooey. I told her what happened and explained how bizarre the experience was. I said that it felt as though I was doing something, but I didn’t WANT to be doing it. I couldn’t stop. It was as if someone else was in control of my body and I was just watching.
This experience was so upsetting for me that I kept spiraling further and further into meltdown mode. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared all the time that it would happen again and I would embarrass myself (or worse).
That’s when she suggested I re-consider going back on medication. I didn’t want any “heavy” meds, but I was willing to try something for my anxiety and sleep. I met one of her colleagues who put me on a couple of different meds to help me calm down and get through the day without panicking.
That incident also marks the beginning of my realization that I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I think Zooey suspected before I did (since I’d been switching in sessions without realizing it) but she was just sorta flowing with it…or something. She did talk a lot about dissociation, depersonalization, and derealization. I started doing more research and eventually, two months after I had our first “co-conscious” switching in that laboratory, I found an article that explained my experiences so well that I knew I’d finally figured out what was going on with me.
I brought the article to session and read highlighted portions to Zooey. I remember being so nervous about it that I actually laid down on the sofa for a few minutes beforehand. I wasn’t sure how to tell her. I was scared she would laugh at me or tell me I was being ridiculous.
But she didn’t. After I was done reading, she asked me why I chose those specific passages to read aloud. I said, “Because of all the things I’ve been told about myself, all the diagnoses, all the books and articles and pamphlets, NOTHING has ever made as much sense to me as the words in this paper.” Then I asked her what she thought.
She simply said, “I think it’s a fit.”
So today, almost exactly one year later, I found myself in an nearly identical situation. But this time I have medications to keep my anxiety low and a whole lot more knowledge. I’ve spent the last year figuring out as much as I can about DID, this system, and how to improve our life. I know a lot more about managing situations so that they don’t trigger certain Insiders. I’ve somehow started to learn how to work with them, instead of against them. I have a better understanding of the strengths and purpose of each part and I try to use that to our advantage. I’ve even grown to love many of these parts as siblings or even children.
I will admit that this is a frustrating and difficult way to go through life, but I am learning to appreciate just how beautiful and miraculous the development of a DID system truly is. I am alive because of what they have done to survive. And yet, they are me. I am them. We are one and many at the same time. It’s nothing short of amazing.
I still have so much work to do, but I’ve come a long way in one year. And what a difference it has made.