Once again, it has been a while

Although it has been a much longer while since I had any contact with my long ago lost friend, Michael. I should back up a bit. Thursday night, my wife and I were discussing the fact that I’ve had many Michaels in my life. And suddenly the last name of my dear friend in college surfaced in my memory. I had been trying to recall his last name for many years.

I did something that I’m sure many of us have done, I searched for his name within Facebook. Given his unique last name and general idea of the region where he likely lived, I found him in less than 3 minutes. When I find a memory that has any teeth I latch on to it for dear life, and immediately get into investigator mode because memories can be fleeting for me. As fast as they may appear, they are also quick to evaporate. As soon a memory lands on me I immediately try to get it down somewhere, whether it’s on a piece of paper, a napkin, a text or email to myself–I jump into action. And I was not going to lose this one as it had eluded me for years.

I messaged him, and said something half-awkward like, “This is X, and I think you’re the Michael that worked at X with me in the 1990s while we attended x university at the same time …” It was something to that effect. To my surprise, he replied almost immediately with surprising joy at hearing from me. He said he had looked for me for years. My Facebook name is slightly different from my first name, it’s a nickname of my first name. And I made my Facebook profile private in that it does not come up in searches. I clearly recall making these choices in circa 2008 when I set up my profile because at that time I was still hearing from an ex with whom I had severed ties in late fall 2005/winter 2006. Yes, years later I was still hearing from this person. Ironically, my love addicted relationship with this ex is what led to me unconsciously leaving my friendship with Michael in the late 1990’s. And years later, my efforts to keep myself safe from her still continued to provide an obstacle to us finding each other sooner.

My dissociative identity disorder (DID) has mechanisms that I am still discovering, like the ability to leave a friendship, many friendships if I think about it, and not have the conscious awareness that I was doing that. Once I connected with Michael, I sat on the couch and thought about our friendship, the little I could recall. And that was sad to me as well because I know there is so much more that is not known to me at the moment.

We FaceTimed on Friday for an hour, and it was like no time had passed with the ease in which we spoke with each other. I didn’t yet tell him I have DID. Felt like too big a share for the first conversation. I did tell him I got sober in 2008, and he revealed to me he got sober in 1999. It was equal parts joy and sadness speaking with him. Having him right before me on the screen made it very real that this was a friend I walked away from over 25 years ago. He had many questions about why our friendship evaporated. I did my best to explain that I was not aware of how mired I was in my love addicted relationship at the time. I was so deep in that relationship that I left other friendships because my ex made it a negative experience any time I interacted with anyone but her. Without even being aware of these choices, I eventually dropped all of my friendships during that time. If it had been pointed out to me back then I am sure I would have given an angry retort that this was not happening, that people’s lives were just going in different directions. I can recall how stubborn I was to hear anything that contradicted my ideas/views on how things were in my life.

Michael talked about events that I did not recall, happy, mundane things like going for coffee and spending time at each other’s apartments. I treasure the friendship we had because I know it was safe, that he was safe. And back then I was not good at choosing safe people. We were each other’s fans, and such goofy friends. We would make up words, usually about gross things, just because we could.

To my surprise, I have found myself crying in small spurts since i’ve spoken to him. It’s like a delayed decades long response to the loss of the friendship back then. Even writing this I can feel myself get teary again.

I used to believe that my DID was only keeping me from bad memories. I have learned this week there is good I’ve lost as well.

A New Dog in Town

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This little handsome devil is Thurman. He’s been with us for almost two weeks. This sweet creature came from a puppy mill, and when they were done with him he was taken in by a rescue. He’s six years old, and doesn’t understand dog toys or even dog biscuits. He hates to be picked up, he shakes, makes his legs stiff and tries to get away. When he’s stressed or anxious he pants and shakes, it just breaks my heart to see this.

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what is best for him, or trying to soothe him, or keeping an eagle eye out for signs he needs to go potty that I find myself less shaky overall. I think the last time I shook, felt stuck or ruminated was over two weeks ago. I can’t swear to it, but it does seem like it’s been an inordinate amount of time since I’ve felt stuck or fuzzy.

He needs to be walked several times a day as we have learned the hard way that his bladder is very small. He cannot go over 4 hours without a walk. I’ve learned that when you walk a dog you become ripe for conversation or greetings on the street. I am accustomed to keeping to myself on walks that this new way of life is bewildering, stressful, uncertain, and lovely all at the same time.

It took him a few days to find his bark. First time was mere minutes before a WebEx staff meeting when I was working from home. He heard children outside our window and started intermittently boofing, this sound that was not quite a bark but sounded like he was asking, “What the hell is that noise?”

Then last night he decided to show us his bark at bedtime when he wanted out of his crate. My wife and I laid in bed, held hands and tightened our grip with each bark hoping it was just intermittent as we are in an apartment. We figured out he would bark when he heard me speak. I tried to whisper to no avail. I’m glad today is Christmas because I am aware it was very late before I finally fell asleep.

We shall see what tonight brings with this little guy. Nonetheless, he keeps me out of my ruminating head, and gets me out in the world. Though for the first time I missed a train stop on the way home from work last week. I went 4 stops past my stop before I realized something was amiss. I missed my stop because I was reading The Best Dog Raincoats and Rain Boots, According to Professional Dog Walkers on The Strategist.

Learning to Listen

I started attending a group for people with dissociative identity disorder back in June of this year. It was quite a process just to get into it. There was an intake, an extensive intake, of which I was quite resistant with many of the questions. I was asked the ages of my parents and whether they were deceased, to which I answered, “No idea.” When asked to describe my relationship with each parent I said, “Terrible, and don’t care to elaborate today.” There were 16 possible boxes to check under the Family Psychiatric History section. I checked 12 out of the 16 boxes. I was asked to elaborate on all the boxes I checked, and I replied, “Don’t care to do so today.”

The intake form, 3/4 of the way through asked me to talk about my strengths, and I answered by stating, “Not robotically answering questions on an intake form.”

It’s a small wonder I was allowed into this group. I think it may have helped that one of the facilitators was not meeting me for the first time.

We will meet for something like 36 weeks, and we are 8-10 sessions in (I’ve not kept track of the exact number). It’s become one of those things that I look forward to every week, and, at the same time, I don’t want to turn my check in because it’s a lot of money that is not covered by insurance. I know it’s rare to have such a group for DID folks, and I am grateful and always do math in my head each week when I turn in my payment.

It’s hard to run away from this condition when you’re talking about the challenges with having parts every week. Sometimes I feel myself start to slip away during the group, but I can see I’m not alone with the struggle. I’ve known before I started the group that it’s important to listen to my parts, and have consistent communication and collaboration. I’ve learned that one can know that, yet not do it any consistent manner. I’ve found myself in the place where it’s easy to listen to the part or parts that are usually near the front. Those voices at the back get drowned out, and they start to come out sideways because when a part is not heard that is when I start to feel off. But, I don’t usually think to inquire or listen to see if a part needs something when I start to struggle.

I bought a notebook for my homework in the group. I found that parts also liked just writing in the notebook. However, I quickly learned there was conflict among parts as to where each part could write. Now everyone has their own tab and area within the notebook to write. All parts seem to be content with this solution. It surprises me that I still find content I don’t recall writing, but now with the tabs I know who’s writing! I always appreciate clues. Should have implemented this solution years ago.

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