Unicorn – a fairy tale

a long time ago in a far off land there lived a young princess. she was the youngest of four sisters who, though beautiful, were cruel to her. they kept telling her she wasn’t really a princess but a prince and when they found her wearing their old dresses they would tear it from her body and make her stand in front of a tall mirror and say, “look, you’re really an ugly boy!” what they didn’t know however was that the mirror was enchanted so when the young princess looked into the mirror she saw who she really was and not what her cruel sisters told her she was. also, when her sisters looked into the mirror they saw their own cruelty reflected in the mirror which enraged them and they decided the mirror must be warped somehow and decided to smash it. however, no matter how hard they tried, the enchanted mirror didn’t break.

one lovely spring day the young princess went for a walk into the forest to gather wildflowers which she liked to decorate her room with. as she walked she came to a small stream which had a little bridge over it. as she was crossing the bridge she tripped, dropping the flowers she had collected. as she was picking them up she chanced to look down into the stream and saw her reflection, her true reflection, which she had never seen before. to her horror and shock, she saw that her sisters were right, in the water below she saw the face of a young boy with short brown hair, not the pretty face she’d seen in the enchanted mirror.

terribly upset and forlorn, she began crying and ran from the stream, half blinded by her tears, into the woods, not realizing she’d strayed from the path in her distress and swiftly became lost. exhausted, she collapsed next to a weeping willow tree and cried herself to sleep.

when she woke up it was nighttime, and the young princess didn’t know where she was. she began looking for the path as she walked beneath the pale moonlit sky but only walked deeper into the woods. she soon found herself in a wide clearing, a meadow that was covered in glowing pale white moonflowers. she had never seen such a lovely sight before and decided to pick some to take back home but as soon as she plucked one from the ground its beautiful light faded and the blossom withered in her hand. she immediately became ashamed at what she’d unknowingly done and quickly decided to not pick anymore because she didn’t want to destroy such beauty.

as she stood admiring the twinkling flowers a unicorn walked into the meadow in front of her, its glistening silver white coat shimmering like stars. entranced, the young princess could only stare at the unicorn in wonder as it approached her, its long pearl horn glowing with magical light. it walked around her, as if curious, then stood in front of her and looked her in the eye.

to her surprise it then spoke, saying, “I know who you are and I know you are not what you appear. what you do not know is that your sisters, when they saw you were growing to be more beautiful and kind than themselves, cast an evil spell upon you so that everyone who looked at you would see a boy and not the beautiful girl that you are.”

this surprised the young princess, who said, “but at the stream I saw my reflection in the water. it showed a boy!”

the unicorn told her, “even you have been fooled by the spell. I can see there is great kindness in you. when you picked the moonflower you felt badly and even though your sisters treat you so poorly you have never said an unkind word to them. I can help you break the spell but you will have to be very brave in order to do so. first you will need the moonflower you picked.”

the princess looked around on the ground and soon found the flower. she noticed it had three petals. she carefully put into the deep pocket of her dress.

“next,” the unicorn said, “you must follow me to old man willow, the oldest and wisest of the trees in the forest and ask him for three of his leaves. he will ask you three questions, one for each leaf, and you must answer truthfully. I must warn you, he will ask questions that will make you look deep inside yourself to find the right answer and you may learn things about yourself you didn’t want to know. however, I can also tell you this, the answers you find within yourself will teach you a valuable lesson that you will carry with you for the rest of your days.”

nervous though resolute, the princess followed the unicorn through the forest until they came to a tall majestic tree. its leaves sparkled in the moonlight and as she grew closer she realized she could see a face upon its wide gnarled trunk. the unicorn softly whinnied and a pair of large deep brown eyes opened and stared at her for what felt like the longest time. a low deep voice spoke, saying, “so this is her, is it?”

the unicorn spoke, “it is her, who has been cruelly spelled. you know what she needs.”

the vast tree spoke again, this time directly to the princess. “I will give you the leaves you need to break the spell but you must answer my questions. do not answer in haste, but carefully think and look within for the answers.”

the princess nervously agreed. old man willow slowly intoned, “what is the worst thing you have ever done?”

the princess thought about things she had done before. she remembered the time she had broken her eldest sisters fanciest and valuable silver tiara when she’d been enraged. she recalled angrily spilling ink on one of her sisters favourite dresses. she remembered wanting to push one of her sisters down the stairs. then she had a thought, maybe it isn’t something I did but something I wanted to do, something so terrible that I would never dare actually do. she then spoke, hesitantly. “I once wanted to put nightshade into my sisters wine,” and began crying, feeling profound shame for having had such a cruel idea.

“yes, you did. it was a terrible thing you thought of doing, but you didn’t do it. my second question is this. why didn’t you, when they have been so cruel to you for so long?”

the princess thought about the question, and more quickly than she expected, the answer came to her. “because I love them, even though they are mean and spiteful. hating them would only make me like them, and I don’t want to be like them.”

the tree shook itself, its leaves waving, and spoke again. “you are correct. it you became like them you would be just as ugly as they are, not on the outside, but on the inside where it truly matters. here is my final question. what is your heart’s desire?”

the princess became puzzled, for she had never wondered about such a thing before. she thought maybe it would be for everyone to see who she really was but that didn’t feel quite right. “it’s not what other people see but what I know that is important,” she thought. she then thought maybe I want to be beautiful and then realized that her sisters were beautiful but also vain and proud and decided that didn’t make sense either. then she thought maybe I want to rule the kingdom but quickly realized that would mean her sisters would have to die for that to happen and swiftly discarded the idea.

she stood there, thinking of many ideas, one after the other but none of them seemed to ring true. finally, without really realizing she had done so, blurted out, “I don’t know.”

to her horror, old man willow began laughing, a low rumbling sound, and she began crying, sure she’d answered the question wrong. then he spoke in a kind voice, “you don’t know, yes, that is the truth and the correct answer. many believe they know and spend their entire lives searching for the wrong thing. the seed of wisdom is knowing you don’t know all the answers. you are lucky, few so young as yourself would admit to themselves such a truth.”

the wise old tree then shook one of his limbs, and from above three shiny leaves fell gently into the young princess’s hand. she carefully put them in her pocket, and thanked old man willow.

behind her, the unicorn spoke again. “you have one final task and it is the most perilous for I cannot join you where you must go. follow me. “

she walked with the unicorn through the forest and they began descending into a valley. around them the trees and bushes began appearing frightening somehow, as though their bare limbs were reaching towards her wanting to grab her.

they soon arrived at a tall stone cliffside reaching high above them. a narrow cave opening was visible before them, and a pale glow emanated from it. a strange cold breeze seemed to surround them.

the unicorn spoke, “inside the cave, where I cannot go, is a place of magic. you must enter and draw water from the enchanted well. you will need this.”

the unicorn shook its head gently and from its glowing mane a small crystal bottle fell into the princess’s hand.

“I must warn you. inside you will see a great many wondrous things, many of which you will desire. you must not so much as touch anything, for if you do the beast that guards the well will appear and you will be devoured and never be seen again. do not be tempted. also, the beast is hungry and may try to trick you so beware.”

the princess nodded, too nervous to speak, but walked towards the cave and entered it even though she was trembling with fear.

inside the cave she found herself walking along a narrow twisty tunnel and then, quite suddenly, it opened into an enormous cavern, brightly lit with a warm golden light. around her were a vast variety of wonders. mounds of shining gems, pearls, and jewelry lay scattered all around. a long table was piled high with food, cakes and delicious treats of all kinds. an array of beautiful dresses of every colour hung on a long rack, beautifully embroidered with gold and silver thread. as she walked past them she reached out a hand to touch the soft velvet of a particularly lovely dress but then remembered the unicorn’s warning and quickly pulled her hand back.

ahead she could see the well, its magical water shone silver in the light. just as she was approaching it she heard a small sound. she looked around and saw a small white kitten. it appeared to be limping and was mewing piteously. the princess felt great concern for the small wounded animal and reached down to pick up and comfort it. as she did so she happened to spy a mirror against the wall. it showed herself reaching downwards but instead of a kitten she saw her hand was close to touching instead a long scaly paw with frightful sharp claws. she stood up with a shock, her heart beating wildly and realized it had all been a trick.

as she turned to face the well she heard an angry growl and heard the beast stomping away in frustration. she took the tiny bottle and dipped it into the well then closed its stopper and placed it into her pocket.

she left the cave hurriedly, not wanting to be tempted again and found the unicorn waiting for her. it was obviously pleased to see her and pranced around in delight. above, she could see the sky was becoming lighter and realized it was dawn.

the unicorn congratulated her and told her to get on it’s back so it could return her to the castle quickly. as she rode the unicorn told her what she had to do to break the spell, explaining that she had to place a single petal, a single leaf, and one drop of the enchanted water into the glasses of juice that were served at breakfast, one for each of her sisters.

she agreed, and it wasn’t long before the castle appeared in the distance. the unicorn let her dismount a short distance from the castle gardens and she thanked it before rushing inside.

she arrived in the great hall just as the servants were beginning to serve breakfast. she found a jug of juice and poured three glasses, then added the petals, leaves, and water as she’d been told to, hoping nobody would notice.

she put them on a tray and approached the table where her three sisters were sitting. she placed a glass in front of each of them, apologizing for being late for breakfast and told them bringing them their juice was her way to make up for it.

her eldest sister sneered, saying she didn’t want anything from her ugly brother. hearing this, their father the king, who had been watching the whole time, admonished her, saying her brother was being kind and that she should at least behave graciously.

the young princess watched nervously as her three sisters drank from the glasses of juice. they set the glasses down and began eating. at first the young princess thought she’d made some kind of mistake for nothing happened, but after a minute or two her sisters became silent and dropped their knives and forks on the floor. they each stood up suddenly and before the young princess’s eyes their faces began to change, transforming, as though their faces were made of clay and a sculptor was reshaping them.

the entire room watched in surprise, the king and queen stood up, alarmed. each sister began screaming as they desperately felt their faces with their hands and realized what was happening.

the young princess suddenly felt herself becoming strangely warm, as though she was standing in the summer sun. her skin began to tingle with a strange fuzzy sensation. she didn’t realize it but she had begun glowing with a bright white light. she looked around and realized everyone was staring at her and, startlingly, the light surrounding her flashed into shocking brightness then swiftly faded. around her she heard voices murmuring, and then heard cries of surprise. she looked down at herself and saw that she was now wearing a bright gown and saw her hair was long an luxurious.

then, the people around her began pointing towards her sisters and made sounds of shock and disgust. she looked around and saw that each of her sisters faces had become twisted into cruel mean spirited women, with glaring eyes and thin lipped sneers.

the king and queen looked horrified and kept looking back and forth between the young princess and her sisters. after a short while, a look of understanding came over the king’s face and his face hardened. he turned towards the sisters and spoke sternly to them, “you three have done a terrible thing to your sister. you deceived us all for cruel selfish reasons and it appears you have gotten what you deserve. now the ugliness within you is visible to the world. none of you deserve to rule after I am gone. your sister, who you have treated so disgracefully for far too long, will ascend to the throne when my time comes. I am sorely tempted to have each of you thrown in the dungeon for what you have done but I have a better idea. it is my decree that mirrors be hung on every wall in the castle so that there will be nowhere you can hide from yourselves. your own reflections will punish you till the end of your days!”

the people applauded the king’s wisdom and justice. the queen made the young princess sit between her and the king. she began crying, feeling pity for her sisters in spite of their cruelty, for inside she was still full of gentle kindness, but also cried tears of relief in the knowledge that her long suffering was finally over.

– the end –

re-traumatized and coping skills

Today, while volunteering with the Transgender Support Group at the local arts festival, we were walking back to our booth when we saw our primary abuser not only walking in our general direction but also staring at us. Fortunately, we were very close to our booth so we ducked in there immediately, telling our friend what was happening. She helped to both shield us from his gaze but to also calm us and kept us in the present moment, which we were able to do, for the most part.

Thanks to our DBT skills, visualizations and especially our friend, we were able to avert a complete collapse, which has happened during similar circumstances in the past. Once the event was over we didn’t dwell upon it. Yay! We clearly have come a long way, to be able to process the occurrence and move on about our day.

Looking back on it we can see how we were triggered instantly, upon our recognizing who was walking towards us as was our realization that he had been, and still was, staring at us. Time slowed down to a crawl as this happened. Our physical body experienced a near immediate fear response, which included slight dizziness, tight chest, and coldness in our upper body. We could feel our heart pounding.

We arrived at our booth mere seconds later and told our friend what was transpiring and pretty much let her take the lead from then on. She used comforting words and words to remind us that time has passed since those awful days, as she used her body to shield us from his gaze. We aren’t entirely sure how long this all took, but guess a few minutes.

One thing we did do during this time was to glance around, here and there, so we wouldn’t get lost in one internal image, which worked. We also did a swift internal meeting of our Circle of Love and Strength as well, telling everyone that it is 2018, that we are safe, that nobody can hurt us, that our friends are with us to support us, that sort of thing. We also practised some slow deep breathing, always a good tool to help relax the body.

The body, mere seconds into a triggering event, is within a primal fight or flight response, with the expected accompanying effects. When triggered, it can be helpful, indeed crucial, to focus upon tools to relax the body itself. Deep breathing, as we mentioned, is one immediate thing one can do to fight the effects of a triggering event, which has very specific physiological effects. A feeling of odd alertness is one such effect as is a sensation of coldness in the upper body and extremities. All one’s senses can feel somehow clearer and enhanced. In extreme cases one can experience time dilation in that the world around them will seem to slow down around, allowing for time to assess the situation one is facing at the time. Though it feels as though time has slowed down to a crawl what has actually happened is that one’s senses and reflexes have become heightened, affecting one’s perception. At the extreme end of the spectrum is tunnel vision, and at the fully extreme end is complete dissociation from the event itself, a fragmenting off from the whole self in an attempt to protect oneself from the trauma of the event.

We can recall the events of our being in a near-car wreck some years ago while living out west in excruciating detail, recounting how the vehicle we were a passenger in skidded across a Provincial highway in the direction of a small pond on the other side of the highway. During that event time ‘slowed down’.

We are still somewhat astonished at how well we coped with today’s earlier encounter. There was a time where a similar sighting would result in our being suicidal. We feel it is a testament to our new DBT knowledge, our family and friends, and our generally positive state of mind. We would consider these elements of our safety net.


It has been a while now that we can claim to, for the first time in some time to have hope, actual hope for a better future. We were populating the outskirts of hope for far too long and we now feel far more positive than we once did. We have not experienced a suicidal episode for a couple months now.

Part of our hope revolves around our plans to return to Walt Disney World, as Disney holds a very special place in our heart. Disney magic has meant a lot to us over the years, and continues to enchant us. Walt Disney’s words, “Keep Moving Forward,” is a motto we have chosen to represent our wish for a better future, while also recognizing that not every step need be forward. It is the will to keep moving forward which resonates within us.

We feel the twenty week classes of DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) have been key in our progress, as has, of course, our continuing trauma therapy. We have made new friendships, and enjoy their company.

We considered giving this entry the title of Magic, or perhaps Passion, for it is passion which has re-awoken in us and it is Disney Magic specifically which we believe in. There are reasons for this of course. As we have recounted before, or at least we think we may have (thank you Swiss Cheese Memory), we had a childhood friend whose family went to Walt Disney World yearly, and who brought back with all sorts of interesting things. It was his stories, however, which really captured our imagination; stories of legendary attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion. We recall being especially impressed by his descriptions of the Contemporary Resort with its monorail station inside it. Additionally, there was the Disney Sunday Movie, a weekly delight.

Such magic was desperately needed during our tortured childhood. We need not go into the grim details as we have recounted them here previously. Other magic helped us as child, such as the magic of our Willow tree (before it was cut down anyways). Imagination is a magic too, and our love of reading helped us escape into imaginary worlds such as Middle Earth and Narnia.

Well, we got a little sidetracked there. We aren’t here today to talk about the past, well at least not the traumatic past. Whether we title this piece Magic, Passion, or Hope, all three play a part here. We all have our passions. For some people it is gardening, a favourite sports team, running long distance races, or writing.

We feel our passion for Walt Disney World is a gift, and for us to be able to maintain a child’s sense of wonder when we are there even more so. It helps tremendously that we have a number of child alters who have needs of their own and need magic just as much, if not more so, than all of us.

living a multiple life

The challenges facing a multiple are unique; indeed, they are challenges we face daily with little respite. Having voices, parts of self, alters, or however one wishes to describe their multiplicity, is not for the faint of heart and nor is it easy. That said, it does have its positives; being able to pretty much automatically call upon a given alter to deal with a particular situation has been what has kept us alive, quite literally.

Multiplicity is born out of the dark and profound depths of childhood trauma, much of what we experienced during our early and formative years. As we have mentioned before dissociation generally, and identity fragmentation specifically are a form of defence mechanism developed at an early age to combat unbearable trauma. The theory, put simply, is that a child, incapable of dealing with trauma fragments away to protect itself, often blocking the memory of specific trauma from the greater whole.

What this means, and where things become complex, is that each alter, or part of self, is holding onto, through no fault of their own, the memory and, more importantly, the feelings associated with their time trauma, and in some cases have been for long decades, since very early childhood.

One of the challenges facing us, as a multiple, is what we have often referred to as our Swiss Cheese memory. Events occurring a mere day ago can, and often do, feel like they have occurred much earlier in time, clouding our memory. We can simply forget events, or get time lines mixed up, or remember only little pieces of what has happened. We are terrible at remembering people’s names, for example, or remembering exactly what day it is.

Another challenge, and of the greater ones, is our switching. Switching means to switch from one alter to another, which can happen instantly and frequently. We can switch due to being triggered or for other less obvious reasons, such as when we are in a toy store and a little comes out to play. What this results in at times is a surfeit of emotional states in quick succession.

It doesn’t help that society has a generally skewed view of what multiplicity is, though one might claim it makes it easier to be multiple, for what one sees on TV and in film is nearly always a gross exaggeration of what it truly means to be multiple. It also should be noted while multiples tend to share some similarities and commonalities we also can differ greatly in how our individual multiplicity manifests itself.

Switching is, for us, can be terribly exhausting, not to mention be rather confusing at times, especially when we switch in rapid succession. Also, alters tend to trigger other alters so what we end up with can be a real muddle. Fortunately, we have learned some coping skills through our DBT classes as well as things learned in therapy. For instance, we have learned to draw upon all of our alters in a sort of group meeting visualization exercise, during which we use positive self-talk and affirmations.

We are also fortunate to have friends who also face the challenges of dissociation. These friends are a great comfort for us, as when we are with them we need not explain ourselves and they are familiar with things such as switching and being triggered. Together we can help each other and we feel blessed by their company.

anger and progress

During trauma therapy last week we ended up talking about a topic we had never really discussed before; anger, anger at the childhood trauma we suffered. We talked about how anger scares us, in others and in ourselves. We have never been good, if one can use that term, at expressing anger about, well, anything, for as long as we can remember.

We also recognize we have great difficulty in coping with anger external to ourselves. For example, should we be at the library and we hear someone raise their voice it will immediately trigger a fear response, even though the situation in question has not a thing to do with us. This is an all too common experience but it should be noted we feel we are becoming better at grounding ourselves at such times.

There was a time we would flee the building, but now we mostly stay in place, doing deep breathing and the like to calm ourselves. One such coping strategy is positive self-talk about what is happening around us which essentially involves us talking to our selves in a comforting way in our head. Occasionally we have to speak aloud to our selves but fortunately not too often and usually while we’re alone.

There are several reasons for our fear of anger, primarily stemming from childhood trauma. We have an accompanying fear of confrontation as well which is the reason for our alter Naomi, who is docile and suggestible. Other alters, mostly the younger ones, behave similarly.

Something occurred today; we completed our twenty week course of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy at CMHA. It was an emotional event, as we have made friends in the group and have, for the most part, enjoyed the group. There is a small group of us who have decided to stay in touch with each other beyond the group itself which is heartening.

The topic of anger is a very delicate subject to us. One might think that somewhat odd considering our history of trauma, for it would seem we have more than plenty to be angry, at the very least, about. Clearly we do in fact have great anger in us; anger at those who abused us, and anger at ourselves for not being able to stop it. The younger the alter, the more primal the anger. It has been the job, for lack of a better term, for these alters to hold onto paralyzing amounts of pain and rage, for our greater consciousness could not, at the time, be able to exist in such suffering, and so we splintered away our parts of self to hold onto the feelings, to hold onto the trauma.

It seems we have come to a place where we may be becoming capable of beginning to process these angers. When it came up, unexpectedly in last weeks therapy session, we were surprised at some of what we said. The topic appeared from out of the blue, on a tangential thread of thought but has proven to be of great import.

We would be fooling ourselves if we did not admit to feeling a good deal of trepidation about this development though we do trust our therapist to not let ourselves go someplace we are not yet ready for…

… In recent weeks we have been receiving more and more compliments from people who can see our progress. No longer are we the near inanimate soul who was in the tortured depths of clinical depression. The twenty week DBT therapy program we completed this week has taught us new coping skills. Our antidepressant medication is clearly working as promised, though it took weeks for it to take proper effect and we are taking our medications as prescribed, something we had issues with in the past.

We welcome the nicer weather here. It means we can soon begin our routine of long walks. We do enjoy the outdoors and it’s a healthy pastime. It also helps with our maintaining a routine. We have been socializing more too, with old friends and new. Being social is healthy for us.

It can be difficult to see our own progress at times; mostly after we’ve gone through a triggering episode, something we have little control over. On the positive side is our ability to, for the most part, use our distress tolerance skills during such episodes with the result that we are not in a distressed state for lengthy periods of time as would happen in the past.

Positive self-talk is key to this. So is visualizing our circle of trust and strength, and our castle for that matter. This week, when we went to trauma therapy we did not, as we usually do, have our teddy bear, Duffy with us. This was accidental on our part, but we summoned up a virtual Duffy at the beginning of session which helped. We also find ourselves leaving Duffy at home more often than not.

We have, of late, been captured by our love of Walt Disney World. We hope to return either late this Autumn or early Spring of 2019. A Disney vacation takes planning and that is what we have been doing, planning.


BLOG – 20180502 – stability

During our weekly trauma therapy session our therapist this week asked us a few fundamental questions. Among them were an inquiry as to what our goals in our therapy are. After some thought we answered that we wanted to end up with healthy multiplicity, and that it is paramount that none of us wish to be deleted via integration (at least not on purpose, which sort of brings up a whole new can of worms, but we digress). We also stated that we want our alters to be happy and free of pain and fear.

As a result of these inquiries, though everything still requires introspection, it was posited that we may be becoming prepared to begin dealing directly with our past trauma. Up until know, when discussion has ended up about individual traumas we have generally been steered away from such specificity as it can serve to re-traumatize us (and has at times).

This is a daunting challenge and an interesting thing happened when we were first approached with these questions, which we were not expecting at all. Our body went cold from fear when we were asked, “What are your goals in therapy?”

After our initial discussion we brought up our reacting with fear to such a simple question and after some thought we decided an internal part of self had interpreted the question to mean that our therapist might really be preparing to put an end to our therapy. This analysis seems to fit with some of our little selves who are by nature suspicious of any adult’s motives. The impression seems to be that there was a fear of abandonment present in an alter or alters. Our therapist assured us she was in no way suggesting termination. Yay.

Now, the reason why some of us felt such a strong reaction to her question would, on its face, appear to be fairly simple. Our younger alters come from our formative years, a time of great turmoil and uncertainty in our young life so it follows they would interpret her question the way they did. The somatic cold of fear we felt alerted us to our inner turmoil, which we then tried to figure out.

We suppose we should also mention that our psychiatrist has, in our most recent appointment a couple weeks ago, also told us we seemed to far less depressed than we have had been in the past. We came to an agreement about our new medication, which he credits with our improved affect and overall moods. He explained that the side effects which had been bothering us (the seeming loss of our creative spark and dwindling of our emotions) would soon begin to taper off as our body gets more used to the medication. This theory seems to be accurate as we are finding writing easier now and have found ourselves on the verge of tears several times a day for a short while now.

We talked about this in our therapy session and we mentioned we needed our tears, and, in fact, could use a good cry. We were asked to elaborate upon that answer and we simply replied that our tears are precious to us and are a health expression of emotion, which we feel we are in regular need of. We are a very sensitive soul and it doesn’t normally take much for us to cry, so we are pleased this is now slowly returning to us. Yay!

Walt Disney World

First of all we would like to apologize for not writing here in a while. Things in the real world were taking up so much of our time. This post is fairly light reading, and illustrate what our true passion is.

There is, in this world of turmoil, a place where smiles are the norm, where the wonder of childhood meets the bright stuff of dreams, a place of magic, a place where dreams come true. That place is, of course, Walt Disney World.

We have been enamoured of Walt Disney Word since our childhood friend regaled us with stories of his family’s annual trips to that fabled place. At the time the televised Disney Sunday Movie would often show previews of coming park attractions at Walt Disney World and we could only dream of someday going ourselves to that place whose magic we already believed in.

There is a top ten list of world-wide attendance attendance at theme parks out there which sees the top six spots, if memory serves, taken by Disney Parks, including all four parks at Walt Disney World, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and Tokyo Disneyland. The Walt Disney World Resort itself holds the distinction of being the number one holiday destination in the world by a large margin, and for good reason.

Aside from iconic attractions such as the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Disney does one thing better than anyone else and that is customer service. We have been three times since 2015 and have only once had reason to be disappointed in the service we have received while there. We encountered, during our most recent trip, an incident which was dealt with swiftly, with professionalism, impressive attention to detail, and by several layers of management in the Magic Kingdom, whose sole concern was for our well-being.

We often tell people we waited 47 years to go to Walt Disney World and it was worth the wait, and also, that we had very high expectations which were not only met but exceeded. We will never forget our first steps through the entry archway into the Magic Kingdom, our first set of Mickey Ears, and how profoundly overwhelmed we were to finally be where we had, for so very long, wanted to be.

So… Why Disney? One might say why not Disney, but that is too simple of an answer. It could be that it is an ideal, for us at least, a place which personifies the magic and wonder of childhood. We have seen some pretty incredible things in our life; an amazing view from atop a mountain of British Columbia, a summer meadow full of wildflowers and butterflies on an island which photographs would not do justice, the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island on a deserted beach which served only to increase the impressive sense of scale of where we were, to name a few, but none of them compare with our first sight of Cinderella Castle, an image we’d seen thousands times throughout our life brought to life.

In a top twenty list of most popular amusement parks in North America, Disney Parks take up six spots, including the top five, with Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom taking the first spot with 20.49 million visitors per year. In Second place is Anaheim, California’s Disneyland, the original of Disney parks world-wide, with 18.28 million visitors. In third place is EPCOT, with 11.8 million visitors.

One interesting statistic not mentioned in the article is that Walt Disney World’s two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, had they been included in the top 20, would take eleventh place with 4.4 million visitors, more than such iconic amusement parks such as Cedar Point, Busch Gardens Tampa, and Canada’s Wonderland.

We also seem to recall reading somewhere that of the average 52 million annual visitors 50% are repeat visitors. When recounting statistics about Walt Disney World one cannot help being impressed. A few examples; Walt Disney World is the largest single-site employer in the United States, has 23 000 hotel rooms on property, sells ten million hamburgers and six million hot dogs a year from its 300 restaurants, and takes up more space than San Francisco plus two Manhattans. 250 000 people travel on the boats, buses and monorails of the Walt Disney World Transportation System daily.

Walt Disney World is our passion, our source of hope and magic!


20180414 – memory

What is memory? During our research we have found there are several types, among them being explicit, implicit, as well as long term and short term memory. As we have mentioned before our short term memory seems to be Swiss cheese in that our recall of recent events is miserable at best. The nature of memory is multifaceted, to say the least. The way memory is created is dependent upon a variety of factors.

Memory, to us, is a delicate subject for obvious reasons. We have learned in therapy that our alters hold traumatic memories from their time of trauma, whether that be of a four year old or a teen. Our work in therapy is focused upon bringing alters to the present, hopefully permanently, but it is slow going. In a doctoral thesis by Margaret Barlow, she describes DID as, “a coping mechanism for sectioning off knowledge of unbearable trauma.”, which is an accurate description to our understanding of dissociation.

One might think that memory for traumatic events would be crystal clear due to the strong emotions involved, and for some events this is true (at least for us) but due to identity fragmentation, our primal defence mechanism, many traumatic events remain unknown to us, one might say thankfully.

Throughout our life we have wondered about the nature of our memory recall, or lack thereof. We recall being astonished at friend’s detailed memory of their elementary school years for example, for ours is fragmentary. The nature of dissociation allows, of course, for some recall to be painfully (literally) clear for particular traumatic memories, too clear one might feel in fact. Alternatively, memory for known trauma may be inaccessible due to amnesiac dissociation, or when specific memories are kept hidden by specific Alters.

Memory is a strange critter. We have, for a particularly traumatic episode in our late teens, very specific but also very brief memory for part of the episode. Our memory for the rest of the episode is nonexistent (which we are grateful for). Of what little we can recall, we recall being dissociated from the situation, very much so in fact, now that we know about dissociation, knowledge we did not possess at the time. Looking back at the event we feel we were in a profound state of both derealization and depersonalization.

There are other events in our life which were traumatic, which we have only an observer’s view of, that we have not the slightest memory of. Due to our multiplicity this is no surprise. There are things we don’t want to remember, as we are not yet (according to our therapist) to be addressing specific traumas directly as yet. Trauma therapy for those with dissociative disorders proceed in three Phases and we are still in Phase One, which is “establishing safety, stabilization, and symptom reduction.” Only in Phase Two does one, “confront, work through, and integrate traumatic memories.” Phase Three is, “integration and rehabilitation.”, which, for us, will be in the distant future.


BLOG – 201813 – therapy

This week our therapist gave us to borrow; Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation, by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele, and Onno Van Der Hart, a rather lengthy book but one with promise. We had heard about it on the DID forum and looked it up at our local bookstore’s website only to discover it was priced too highly for our budget so are very thankful to _____ for lending it to us.

The book is some 450 pages long and is subtitled as, “Skills Training for Patients and Therapists”. It is divided into eight parts, seven of which apply to us (the eighth is a guide for group trainers) with such titles as, “Understanding Dissociation and Trauma-Related Disorders, Improving Daily Life, Coping with Trauma-Related Triggers, and Advanced Coping Skills.

In the book’s Preface it states, “In this manual, we have attempted to gather fundamental Phase 1 Stabilization techniques for patients and their therapists, specifically tailored to address the dissociation that underlies and maintains many of their symptoms. Some of these skills include mentalization; mindfulness; emotion and impulse regulation; inner empathy, communication and cooperation; development of inner safety; and cognitive, affective, and relational skills.”

Some of what is mentioned can also apply to both the DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) we are taking at CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association), as well as our current trauma therapy, specifically mindfulness and inner empathy, communication, and cooperation. In session we often gather together our alters in a Circle of Love and Strength, bearing in mind that together we are greater than our whole.

The Preface goes on to say, “What is unique about this manual is that it highlights ways for both the dissociative patient and the therapist to work with an underlying dissociative organization of the personality as an essential part of coping with many of the well-known symptoms of chronic traumatization.”

One thing we have noticed about ourselves is that our dissociative symptoms seem to come and go with a randomness we can’t quite comprehend, are always waiting in the wings, as it were, ready to pop out unexpectedly. One might even say they pop out when needed, for dissociation, as we have mentioned before, is, at its heart a defence mechanism.

Where the problem arises, however, is when an alter unprepared to deal with the situation at hand is pushed to the forefront, such as when Ophelia or Aura are triggered. Both are child alters and ill equipped to deal with, say, a situation which involves nearby perceived conflict or aggression (one of our more basic triggers). An adult alter such as Aloysius or Ligella would be far better at coping with such a situation. Sadly, some of our littles still have issues trusting any adult so tend to come out when triggered, knowing only that someone has to address any given situation, and attempt to do so.

What happens when Aura, for example, has been triggered is always some sort of fear response, most often Freeze, Submit, or Collapse or a combination of them. When at the library we have, on several occasions, had to cope with nearby sudden aggression or conflict, and we invariably are pretty much frozen in place, having to focus upon our breathing while experiencing such symptoms as vertigo, cold panic, and nausea.

At such times much of our energy is focused upon impulse control for we often want to do things like hide under a table or literally collapse on the floor in a fetal ball. Fortunately the adult parts of us know that is not appropriate public behaviour. Were we at home during an episode we instinctively know Duffy bear is close to hand to comfort us and we can easily go in the bedroom and curl up with him under heavy blankets.

If you ever see us suddenly shake our head furiously it is us trying to drive a flashback from our mind. Alternatively, we can appear to sort of go on pause for a brief spell, then returning to whatever it was we were doing at the time as though no time has passed. We have been told by friends our body language and posture changes, our tone and volume of voice is altered and our vocabulary can become near monosyllabic. Apparently we also avoid eye contact. Several of our alters are very suggestible, Naomi in particular, and it tends to be her who agrees to things our greater whole would rather not do. Naomi’s policy seems to be one of agreeable docility; what better way of not getting into trouble? Or so it seems.

Recently we have been having what we would characterize as mini-flashbacks, lasting perhaps seconds (or at least we think they do; during them our perception of time can be skewed). They come unexpectedly and rapidly, perhaps as often as every fifteen minutes or so at their peak. They are startling and unpleasant, often leaving us with a sensation of cold fear.

Creativity and Emotion

BLOG – 20180411 – creativity and emotion

We had DBT this morning, which went well, other than being triggered at the midway point during the second half. Afterwards we spent some time with a friend before going to the library for a short while. Since we’ve been home we had a nap and are watching Arrival, again. We just can’t seem to get enough of it.

Something we are very much concerned about is the continued decline in our creativity and ability to emote. We are pretty certain that this is the result of the new antidepressant medication we are on and plan on discussing this with our psychiatrist when we see him next week.

Our ability to emote, to express our emotions, specifically by crying, is something we have come to treasure and it is being stolen from us. This is rapidly becoming unbearable. It is as though our inability to express ourselves is bottling up the feelings inside us as we find it very frustrating when we feel ourselves wanting to, needing to, cry and not be able to.

As for our creativity, we are finding ourselves unable to write nearly as much as we have in the past. At one point we were averaging writing nearly 1000 words a day but in recent weeks we have been writing less and less, both in our journal and composing poetry or songs.

This simply cannot continue. We have, in the past, told our psychiatrist that we cannot bear losing our feelings and intend to tell him so when we see him, hoping he will make a medication change. We would have stopped taking this new medication sooner but we did promise him we would try it for at least six weeks and intend to keep our promise as we have a good rapport with him and don’t want to do something to jeopardize it.

Additionally, we are finding that we are losing our motivation in general, or perhaps to explain it better, we are finding ourselves without direction much of the time. This is also frustrating, and is interfering with our routine. Our appetite remains minimal as well, though that is being affected by one of our alters, not our medication.

Our short term memory is also still Swiss cheese, but again, that is due to dissociation, not medication. One positive is that we have not been suicidal recently, perhaps the only positive. Where is the balance? We do not know.

We are continuing to find DBT helpful to some degree and have socialized with a couple of the people in our group too, which is nice. The social aspect to group is most welcome to us. We are also endeavouring to go to the wellness centre at least once a week and will, most likely go more often, once the weather is nicer. When we do go we enjoy participating in the peer support groups which are available nearly every day. There was, not so long ago, that we found it difficult to participate fully as we would often dissociate during group.

Our use of grounding exercises seems to be holding our dissociation at bay, more or less, depending upon what it is exactly has triggered us. Some triggers are too powerful to avoid and it is at such times we get lost in the storm. When we are alone we are more susceptible to triggering events, especially late at night when there are few immediate supports to reach out to.

20180412 – THURSDAY – Last night we had trauma therapy, during which we discussed our diminishing creativity and emotions, as well as other things. At one point, near the end of session, we became cold with fear as we were triggered but were able to ground in time to prevent any sort of crisis. We had spent the afternoon before therapy at a friend’s, where we played Scrabble, and after therapy we headed to friends for a late dinner, which was delicious.