To Those Whom I Met In An Online Support Group For PTSD

It’s different now. You know? Four years ago, you were my only support— online, in person, and in life. I only had you and a brand new baby to hold.

I shared a lot with the group, with you, but the biggest battle is still one I carry alone. Though, you taught me to bare it all and learn to pull a few close. I did that. You taught me a lot of other things too, although many of you I’ve shoved away. And you let go.

I bet you don’t know, everything I do, the woman I am today, is because of you. I stumbled into the room half dead, half alive, broken. And every time I opened my mouth, you cared and you actually spoke back. Everything I said, you told me it helped you. I’d never had confidence in myself like that… or people who wanted to love me. I didn’t even know the sound of my voice before I met you.

We bled together and laughed together. I swear, we introduced the world to cupcakes and vodka. You still make me smile. You still make me cry too. Because I know, in the end, I hurt a few of you after the loss of my sister.

It’s not easy for me to admit I did some of the damage. It’s not easy for me to write this open letter to you. But, when hearts get broken, we have a way of slamming doors. And, when we remember love, we have a way of kicking them open too.

Maybe, back then, I was just a stranger who walked into your life and you did your best to love me. I wish I would’ve told you then I was so broken I didn’t know how to receive it. I wish I could have told you then how I will love you with everything that I am… and hurt you because I can’t always control it.

All the words I needed to say got lost because I knew you loved me and you were hurting too, but you shoved me away. You ignored my pain. And every single time, it broke me. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch your news feed; your sadness and pain. But, mostly, your love.

Many of you had families; sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, grandchildren. Gosh, I envied them. And I listened when you called me family too. Maybe I seemed just as lonely as you, but the truth is, you had love you couldn’t feel in the middle of your darkness. It was too much for me because on my side of the fence the yard and the houses are empty.

I wish I could’ve told you back then. I think a part of me really tried. But I was shattered, the words came out sharp and anger became me. I wish I had logged off. Part of me wishes I had stopped reaching out. Because my circle was small and when it came to pain, I carried it all; your bad days, my bad days, your loss, my grief, all of the weight from everything we’ve ever escaped… and the only place to dispose of it was in the same place we gained or left it.

I’m sorry I hurt you while I was hurting. You deserved better from me. But I just wanted to say, in case you ever look back my way…

Thank you for teaching me how to walk.

Dissociative Identity Disorder: I Think I’m Me

It took 15 years of avoidance, the view from the end of a very long rope, and one newborn baby, to make me face my Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and to realize most people who have DID do not act like the main character of the Showtime series United States of Tara.

Before my child was born, I did not know anything about it and I didn’t want to. The only thing I knew about Multi Personality Disorder (now known as DID) was that every time I’d heard mention of it, the context of the conversation could pretty much be summed up like this:

“Those people are crazy.”

False. I’m not. In fact, I’m very intelligent and the process my mind created for me over the course of eighteen years of my life is meticulously and intellectually organized and understandable after coming to terms with the trauma that caused it.

Furthermore, the other “me.” is still me, and she is a teenager. I’m not a doctor, but now that I am learning more about the condition, my research would suggest that she is teen because that is the time in my life in which I endured some of the most severe trauma, and my mind felt the need to protect me.

Therefore, when I am dissociated, my emotional coping skills, social cues, and communication, reflect that of my teenage self around that particular time of trauma.

For me, the problem is that my teen-self was just as articulate and just as smart. As a teen, I was developing the guts to defend myself against my father via my mouth. (It usually ended up in the need to outrun him.)

Thus, she is the me who steps in now when Dissociative Identity Disorder wins the boxing round.

It sucks. It’s humiliating. It’s embarrassing. It’s enabling and disabling all at the same time. It causes me to lose track of days, projects, deadlines, commitments, forget whole conversations, say things I don’t mean, and lose my cool when I’m in a verbal altercation and someone throws the right words with their punches.

“She” is the side of myself that I hate. The side who would kill you with words and read you your book, and she knows how to hit where it hurts. She will destroy you and spit words in such a way that after you are done defending yourself, you will still play in your head over and over because they were accurate, but expressed in the most destructive way.

She’s not crazy, either, but she is a victim. She is scared, defenseless, and angry, so my mind’s choice to become her is dangerous. She will do anything it takes to defend herself or me from one more bad thing, but she’s a fraud and she knows it. She’s helpless, vicious, emotional, cold, careless, and reckless.

She is my DID, and if she wasn’t as smart as me, professionals could just feel sorry for me or write me off as “another crazy.” But I understand DID more than most people in the psychology field because I live it, and it seems to create even more of a struggle for me.

I do not take medication. I don’t write notes to my other selves or have conversations like Jekyll and Hyde situations you see on TV. I haven’t followed the DSM-5 method of treatment or integration. I don’t do any of those things.

I face the pain behind it head-on and I do that because my daughter’s future demanded it. That doesn’t mean that I can always control it. Understanding and the ability of articulation do not negate or invalidate the challenges of any mental health diagnosis, and neither should stigmas or personal biases against established mental health conditions.

When mental health professionals or educational institutions allow those things to cloud their judgment in providing services or meeting the needs of those who struggle with uncommon mental health diagnoses, it is people like me who suffer the consequences.

It is children like my beautiful 3-year-old daughter who are robbed of their futures because their parents cannot break through socialized perceptions of mental health conditions that have become common belief and spilled over into common practice.

We are not all the same! What helped me face it? Facebook. After 6 years of therapy had failed me, spilling my thoughts and being able to track my conversations on Facebook saved me. I helped myself, and I’m nobody.

I’m a mental health patient. I’m a suicide loss survivor. I’m a child abuse victim. I’m a domestic violence survivor. I’m a rape survivor. I am a “disabled” person.

I am a lot of things, but what I am not is a psychologist, a suicidologist, a doctor, an LCP, MSW, MD, any other certification or title, you name it! I’m not any of those people.

I’m someone who can be (no, someone who is!) part of the answer educational institutions and medical researchers are looking for. So goes the same for every single person with a mental health condition or illness.

We are a million different people, not one diagnosis, and there is no single solution.

This Is What Survival Looks Like

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a funny thing. Sometimes it hits you before you really know it. In every area of my life, I’ve fallen apart. But I didn’t understand why until just now.

See, in two days, June 28th, it will be the 3 year anniversary of the day my ex-partner left without warning and never looked back… 9 days before I became a mother.

Two days after that, June 30th will be the first anniversary of the first time anyone other than my father and my rapists have taken their hands and fists to my face.

July 6th will be the day I learned my dream of becoming a mother would be the most humiliating, horrible, and hardest day of my life. It was the day that would spend every single day afterward saving me. It is the day I gave birth to Lanna Mae. I still cannot believe one year has passed (…much less three!).

My partner leaving and my child’s birth forced the return to my hometown. September 18th makes two years since I found my father’s handprints on my daughter. On that day, I ran to my Sister.

August 27 is the day that changed my whole life. It was the day I was violently sexually assaulted. I went to work for two or three days… before I felt much.

You think you have control over your heart and your mind and your soul, but the truth is, you don’t. You think you can handle it because you understand it, but understanding isn’t enough.

I went on to go to therapy for six years following my assault in 2007.

After the birth of my child in 2013, I accidentally typed “PTSD” in the Facebook search bar while trying to Google how giving birth might impact the symptoms of complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I accidentally stumbled into a Facebook group that embraced me. More than anything, they responded to me in such a way that I learned—I saw—my voice mattered. I wasn’t crazy. I was actually pretty smart!

August 27, 2013, I started my first day of college… online. Mentally, I grew more in a year than I had grown in my life.

Truth be told, I knew I was smart. I excelled at my job, but sexual assault opened Pandora’s Box. It’s hard to work with traumatized youth and addiction when you’re fighting for survival.

It cost me my job. My job was my life. Thank god Facebook ended up giving me feet. Because it opened the door to so much. More so, it opened my eyes.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get the life I dream of. I don’t know if I’ll make it to age 45. I don’t know if Psychology is what I want to do with my life… or if it is what I do with my life every day and I’m majoring in the wrong thing for the way the Powers that be need me to use it.

I don’t know if I should even be in college or if I’m there because I’m trying to find answers for myself and my own life. I’m too smart.

The kind of smart where you think you have it all together, you can beat the odds, you can do it yourself and not fall apart.

Then one night, you have a flat tire, no family, an anxiety disorder (symptom, they mean), and you run out of smokes, and that’s all it takes to almost rattle you enough to take your own life.

That’s PTSD and it’s not a disease. It’s life broken and scars left by broken people.

I do not walk with my feet. I walk with my fingers.

If you or someone you love is feeling hopeless or suicidal, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For help outside of the U.S., please visit