I am honoured to be writing for Willowjak- Journey to Wellness. I have been on a 52-year life journey filled with beauty and wonder, growth and transformation, and my fair share of landmines. I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada. I recall interview after interview, while going through the process, trying to articulate, time and time again, that the deepest calling in my heart was to share the healing, transformative love of the Divine with those who felt the world was collapsing around them. I knew the strength of the Divine, the healing love of the Divine, and the power of the human spirit to survive.
July 1990, I was admitted to the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre for the second time in 5 months. I was suicidal. I had come off the rails and I was a major train wreck in the works. I saw no other way out of the hell I was living. That month, I was diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder- MPD, (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder- DID). Even as I type my diagnosis, I feel the anxiety welling up within me and the tears are very near the surface.
I have been an advocate for mental illness from that day on. I am one who believes we need to speak about mental illness. We should be as free to speak about it, as we are our physical illness. And yet, when it comes to the mental illness I have walked with in my life, I tend only to speak of depression, anxiety and panic attacks, PTSD and suicidal ideation. I am fearful of speaking MPD or DID. I have said it out loud again after many years of not uttering it. Even now, some 20 years after fully reintegrating, I am afraid of how people might judge me. Was that really Michelle when she got so upset? Was that really Michelle who withdrew? Was that really Michelle who lashed out? Was that really Michelle who said those things? YES! YES! and YES again!
There are parts of my journey that I do not remember, and maybe that’s a good thing. So why MPD-DID? I struggle with even referring to it as mental illness because, for me, it was the power and resiliency of the human mind and spirit to endure through difficult times that resulted in the disintegration of my soul, my personality. I had been sexually abused by various individuals throughout my life, up to and including a psychiatrist that I was in the care of. I want to be VERY clear, the psychiatrist that I was assigned in July, upon my readmission to the hospital, and the one I came to develop a strong doctor-patient relationship with, for over 20 years, the one that stood by me and walked with me through reintegration, was not the psychiatrist that sexually assaulted me. It was a journey where sometimes it felt like 1 -step forward, 99 backward. There was much pain, heartache, tears, self-discovery, and fear.
Some of you may say it is fate or coincidence, or good luck, but I believe it is the work of the Divine, that placed particular people along my path when I needed them.
A family doctor who noticed I referred to myself as “we”.
A psychiatrist that had just started at the facility I was sent to.
The Clarke Institute’s MPD clinic that said my case was too much for them to handle.
A lawyer that had been referred to me, who not only did pro bono work, but who listened for hours upon hours.
A minister that been referred to me, who engaged in pastoral care/counselling with me while I completed my degree at Mac.
A mum and sisters who did not give up on me.
A spouse who embraced me in all of my brokenness, in all of disconnection, who was not afraid of the diagnosis, but rather, did all he could to learn what he could and work with me alongside my psychiatrist.
So why do I contribute to Willowjak- Journey to Wellness? Because I have had challenges. My hope is that my Voice may give others hope along their pathway. It is my hope that together we will continue to journey towards wellness as individuals and as community. I believe in the African concept of “ubuntu” that says a person is a person through other people. So, I want to be a part of expressing compassion, reciprocity, dignity, harmony and humanity in such a way that builds and maintains community with justice and mutual caring.
I’m honoured to be a part of this and so a huge thank you to Stacey for her invitation. I look forward to being a regular contributor here in this forum.