I was re-reading Sarah Ban Breathnach's book: "Simple Abundance" yesterday, and I ran across a page that somehow never really caught my attention until now. What I mean to say is: that I read this page, followed her advice, and continued on with life. What I did not do was reflect on what I had learned from the experience. That action didn't occur until yesterday.

In this particular section, she speaks of ways to discover who you truly are, and what makes you the unique individual that (supposedly) you can admire and feel comfortable with. Now, considering that many of us diagnosed with DID ask repeatedly: "Who am I", this is an interesting concept. Who we are, which one of "us" is the main, who do we need to be versus who we wish to be.....are all questions that an individual who has suffered trauma in early childhood and adolescence struggles with. Yet, here is a non-DID individual with some fascinating ideas.

She quotes Jessamyn West initially, who says: "Knowledge of what you love somehow comes to you, you don't have to read nor analyze nor study. If you love a thing enough, knowledge of it seeps into you, with particulars more real than any chart can furnish."

Well, I'd have to argue with that a wee bit. Knowledge of WHO we are is not quite as "seeping" as the quote leads one to believe. At least not for an individual with DID. Somehow, who we are or who we were meant to be was pushed aside to permit our basic survival. The natural development of growth was interrupted by either constant trauma or the basic dysfunction of the familial unit. Many of us frankly are simply surprised we are still present in this world, alive and breathing......and only now have the opportunity to face the reality of "who" we have become.

Add to that the fractured component, the fact that our psyche's have been divided in order to survive. A wonderfully beautiful survival mechanism that leaves behind shattered remnants of the individual we once were. Now, we must somehow piece these back together in order to answer so many questions that have typically been sorted out by the average person once they reach adulthood. Who are we? That sentence alone sums up the confusion so many of us face daily.

Robert Louis Stevenson is quoted as saying: "To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to keep your soul alive." Now, THAT is a statement I can agree with, and therein lies the beginning of discovering who "we are". I know what I was "told" to be, how to act, what was expected, and what my self worth was so often that these very concepts became my core foundation of belief. It was as if I was brainwashed into interpreting who I was, and the secret of having "insiders" merely added even more protective layers of confusion.

Who am I? What do I know of myself? What do I know of my different states or insiders? What do I like? Can I answer any of these questions definitively?

One quick glance through any DID forum will show the average reader that these are questions repeatedly asked of any survivor of abuse. The energy exerted in order to survive often sacrificed any time for personal reflection and self discovery. These are subjects that as "free adults" we are now trying to ascertain. But how to do so?

Now, that's where Ms. Ban Breathnach caught my attention. She refers not to journaling, as many of us do daily; but to explore additionally who we are as individuals. Her suggestion is to use an artist sketchbook, and keep it by your bed. Every evening, scan through your favorite magazines and collection of the little things that caught your attention throughout the day. By spending a few minutes nightly, selecting out what calls to you, and pasting these into your sketchbook, slowly you can uncover who you are deep inside. The answers may surprise you.

For me, I was astonished to discover that there were little quotes on some of my tea bags that tingled my innermost thoughts, and those were added. Cards that contained words of thanks for particular acts of kindness that I initially thought nothing of, provided another clue as to the sort of person I truly am. Pictures that called to me, paintings that I simply could not take my eyes away from were each placed within my sketchbook. To my surprise, it was as if daily, layer by layer, all the way down to the very core of my being, I was being revealed.

I discovered that my insiders were not as I perceived them to be. Their additions to the sketchbook allowed me to see that they had delights I never truly recognized; little poems contributed by some, and simple lines taken from songs that for some reason or another awakened an emotion long forgotten were added by others. This honestly shocked me.......

Colors came to life that I had no idea existed. Pink scribbles from some of the young insiders and doodles from the older ones. Interesting pictures that recalled childhood events that were not traumatic, but were certainly memorable were included. Daily tidbits, things that delighted us within the present time: a fortune from a fortune cookie, a receipt from a recent outing, the drawing we found left behind from one of the boys, pressed flowers from walks almost forgotten, a portion of a butterfly wing that was found after a storm,.....all provided a visual reminder of the person we have become.

And perhaps, most astounding of all, was that this simple activity not only uncovered who we are, but also enlightened our minds to a world that often is overlooked. That of the present.....and who we are now. Not shattered and fragile, but a unique and truly beautiful collection of novel thoughts, ideas and standards.

It made me recall the time I spent working near a stained glass shop, and the hours I spent rummaging through the scraps of glass to find certain odd shapes that delighted me. Particular colors, textures and prisms, all in an effort to create a design that illuminated what my mind saw. I still have many of the things I made, and I find that I often stare at them in wonderment. This delights me.......the simple knowledge that just as that stained glass work of art was once simply fractured pieces of glass, has now been translated into an extraordinarily beautiful Koi fish window hanging.

And upon reflection, the bigger picture: that no matter how many pieces we may have become, we are still an amazing work of art. We are individuals who are truly unique and exquisite.

May each of us find a delightful component of who we have become today......for it's truly there.

Have a wonderful day everyone,

Shelly

 


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    Shelly Dowen-Johnson

    I am currently traveling with my husband across the United States, due to the nature of the work he does. 

    I am the mother of two boys, one who has recently been diagnosed with Early Onset Childhood Schizophrenia (Schizoaffective Disorder). 

    It appears the Dowen family gene sequencing contributes much more than the darling dimples both boys have inherited!  But, as always, with love, tender care and support....we will thrive! 

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