The GPS is Set to Home

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I don’t write much about my son, Angel, who has dissociative identity disorder. It seems to be such a sensationalized topic in the media that I don’t want to trot him out to add to the scrutiny. The fact is, he leads a pretty normal life.

After years of counseling, (which continues) he understands his issues with his “peeps” very well. He is appreciative of the mechanism of their development because he has only minimal memories of the severe, prolonged abuse he suffered as an infant and toddler. (Who can DO such things to babies????) He had worked with a psychiatrist who wanted to meld the 12 personalities, but Angel was not in agreement with this treatment. To him, it seemed like abortion because each of his peeps was valuable to him.

11 of his personalities live contently together. He can sometimes be seen staring off into space with a slight smile on his face. When I ask him what’s going on, he says his peeps are having a tea party in his brain and he starts to laugh. He has told me many times that he appreciates having peeps because life is exciting and he is never lonely or bored.

The 12th personality, the “asshole”, used to appear uncontrollably when Angel got angry. Angel learned through therapy to accept this personality because this is the personality who endured most of the abuse. (He does not know this personality well, because to know him would be to remember his abuse.) In order to temper any damage that could be done by the asshole, his peeps have learned to work together to nurture and control him so he is no longer dangerous. Quite a feat for a brainful of peeps!

Angel works as a security guard in the evening, sometimes through the night. He loves this job because it can be done by most of his peeps, so there is no fighting over who gets to come out. He has a nice circle of friends who understand his issues, and he feels comfortable in social situations with them. They know that if he suddenly starts to dance wildly and strut his stuff, his “diva” personality has the floor. (She loves pink boas and nail polish.) Or if he becomes the center of attention, leading the activities like a pro, his “game show host” personality comes out. Or if he just sits in the corner, withdrawn, his baby personality comes out, too frightened of the world to interact. This peep will need to be driven home by one of his many friends.

Driving is the biggest issue because one peep might be driving somewhere and another peep might take over and not know where they are going. He has learned to accommodate for this problem the way he has accommodated for all issues that have come up in his short life. He now keeps his GPS set to home so they can all find their way home!

With all of these personalities, he is just Angel. Accepted by his friends and family in his amazingly normal life.

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Needing to get a picture ID, Marie and I went into the black hole named the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Despite many years of revamping, that place can still take 4 hours to navigate. It was with this background that I bring up the option of the line for people with disabilities. Actually, there WAS no line. Tempting. MMMMMMMM. Marie has a disability. Teaching her to be more independent, I was actually only accompanying her while showing her that SHE can maneuver through the system. Without parental assistance, she really DID have a disability. But I have raised my children not to see their disabilities but their abilities. She may not talk or hear, but, armed with all of the appropriate paperwork filled out and the certificates of existence she needed, (birth certificate and social security card,) she has the capabilities of writing what she wants to say and reading back what the other person writes to get her ID herself. She can function as fully as a non-deaf teenager in the registry. And that meant she was fully capable of waiting in line like everyone else.
There have been many times in life that a disability line looked tempting, especially handicapped parking. What parent of a child with a disability hasn’t dreamed of getting that front row spot. Granted, many parents of children with disabilities DESERVE that front row spot, but not us. My kiddos can walk fine. No need to park there, even if the only other spot was a half mile away. But it certainly was tempting…
Just like that line at the registry. After about an hour of snaking through the regular line, the disability line looked awfully lonely. Marie could just zip in there and be done with it. But Marie isn’t disabled. She can communicate fine, just differently than others. She does not need a special line.
And such is our life. To let the children think they can use a disability line to get through life would be unfair to them. They have been raised to know they can do everything anyone else can do, they just may have to do things differently. No disabilities here!

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Marie is a teenager who has had her eye on both boys and girls for a possible boyfriend or girlfriend for several years, with no actual luck finding anyone. We had “the” talk a while ago when she asked me if she should like boys or girls. Knowing her proclivity to try to dress like a boy due to her early childhood abuse, I told her that whether she had a boyfriend or a girlfriend would depend on who she wanted to have sex with when she was an adult. SEX? She looked at me in astonishment! She didn’t ever want to have sex with anyone!!!

Even though she vehemently denied ever wanting to get intimate with anyone, I still had a knot in the pit of my stomach when she went off on her first date with a guy she knew from a previous school. She wore her bright orange Kool-Aid guy t-shirt, which I had suggested she change. (She is quite stout, and actually looked like the Kool-Aid guy in that shirt!) She felt she looked fine, taking no interest in looking good for Carl. When he came to pick her up, they easily chatted in sign language, having not seen each other for about 3 years. She told me they were going out to dinner and I asked if she needed any money. She looked at me incredulous. Of COURSE she didn’t need money, Carl was going to pay! I asked them what time they would be home. They looked at each other quizzically and Marie finally signed “11”. And off they went.

Being the opposite of a night owl, I plopped myself on the couch in the living room with lots of caffeinated Diet Coke to keep me awake. Because I don’t have a lot of free time to watch tv, it was nice to enjoy Netflix and The House of Cards. After only an episode and a half, home came Marie! I asked her if she had a good time on her first date. She was non-committal. She said she enjoyed eating dinner and talking to him, but they didn’t know what to do after that and it became boring, so she came home. That’s my girl, Marie!!!!

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My kiddos, Marie and Angel, both have flashbacks to their early childhood abuse. From out of no where, a scent might set Angel off, or a man somewhat resembling a perpetrator might set Marie off, and they are both deep in the world of bad thoughts. I know it can happen, but never gave it much thought until today. When I had a flashback that set me off on a nostalgic ride of good thoughts.

I was pursuing the bargains at JC Penney’s, picking out a cute grey sweater to ward off the cold while waiting for the spring that I know is supposed to arrive any day now. Soon. When the mountains of snow melt… But for now I wear sweaters.

While waiting in line, I admired the clothes on the counter ready to be purchased. They were a blouse and sweater in pastel colors, the colors that are supposed to look best on me according to my “color chart”. (Of course I never find the appropriate color clothes because I only buy clothes deeply discounted; the browns, the blacks and the greys.) On the cashier’s counter lay two different colors of beige pants, a light pastel peach colored sweater with pearl buttons on the neck and three quarter length sleeves, and a light pink, sophisticated shirt, wrinkle-less with a stiff collar. The clothes screamed success and professionalism.

Looking at the woman buying them, I noticed she was about my age, with hair dyed a honey blonde and a middle aged waist holding up a pair of jeans. What struck me most was her relationship with the woman she was with. The two of them were giggling conspiratorially, pointing at the clothes with a look of accomplishment. Almost giddy. The other woman was much older, in her 80’s, with similarly colored hair and body frame. They kissed lightly, among their smiles, and as they walked away with the bagged items, the first woman hugged the other and said, “Thanks!” It struck me that it was a daughter and her mother, and the mother was buying her daughter some clothes for her work. As old as the first woman was, her mom still wanted to care for her and to buy her the perfect clothes, probably for a special occasion, like her birthday. Today.

This scene ignited such an emotional flash back for me that I almost cried out. That could have been me and my mother if she was still alive. For my birthday, she would always take me shopping to buy two wonderful outfits that I would not have been able to afford otherwise. They would be in my perfect colors, and we wouldn’t care if they were on sale or not. Even as she aged and entered a nursing home, I’d still bring her out in her wheelchair to shop. I was her child and she was my mother, caring for me and making me happy. She was especially conscientious to remember my birthday, when her mothering was still acceptable.

My heart is still happy/sad after seeing the women in JC Penney’s, and I sit here typing this with tears in my eyes, trying not to let them fall. Today is especially meaningful for me. Today is my birthday. And I did not get any new clothes….

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This winter weather is not letting up!! Temperature this morning was 12 degrees. Snow is still piled waist high everywhere, blocking views and sidewalks. The wind was still blowing, building snow piles in unexpected places. Cold, cold, cold. It is under these conditions that I drive to work.

Sitting in the car, sheltered from the cold and wind, I drive to work down the main street. Therein lies my problem. All along the street are bus stops. Because the snow precludes standing on the actual bus stop on the sidewalk, the bus travelers have to stand on the side of the road getting sideswiped by cars.

The first person I run across is obviously just leaving her job from McDonalds. She looks very tired and she probably worked the overnight shift. She is carrying a cup of coffee in her gloved hand. In the frigid weather, she also wears a hat and scarf, and big boots for the snow, but she must be cold none-the-less. My heart goes out to her. My instinct is to stop and offer her a ride, but I’ve driven by with the traffic and she becomes a distant memory in my rear view mirror.

The second person is a young adult, wearing only a hoodie pulled up over his head. His hands are stuffed in his pocket, and he looks verrrrrry cold. He looks so miserable, I want to just pick him up and hug him warm.

The third person I see is an older gentleman, body hunched over to minimize the cold. He wears a hat with ear muffs, scarf around the neck, heavy gloves and an old workman’s coat. He looks very uncomfortable. “Please, step into my warm car”, I want to say to him, but I don’t. Passing these first few people, I picture myself stopping and picking them all up, stuffing my car like a clown car in a circus. Alas, I do not do so.

What I do is to begin to drive like I have blinders on. I drive in the left hand lane and look straight ahead, not paying attention to the side of the road. I do not see the bus travelers who break my heart as I am driving. I drive like a carriage horse in Central Park, blinders on, concentrating on straight ahead, not getting distracted by view in the periphery.

However, I do not feel comfortable driving with blinders on…

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Anyone who knows me knows that I am not one to generally break the rules. However, it snowed AGAIN last night!! (UGH!!!) About 10 inches!!! And I had a meeting to get to! Out the front door I slogged to my snow covered car. I cleaned off the windshield in order to see out of it, and rolled down the windows to clear off the snow on them. (Sure, the snow fell into the car, but at least the windows were clear.) Off I went to my meeting. There I was, putzing along on the main street, congratulating myself on getting the car ready so fast, (because being late to a meeting is a serious offense.) Singing along to the radio with gusto, (LITE 105), I looked around at all of the other cars so carefully brushed off. SUCKERS! I’ll bet I did MY car in 1/10 of the time it took them to do theirs!

As I so carefully pulled into the snow covered parking spot and stepped on the brakes, a loud sound was heard overhead. Kind of like an avalanche sound. Loud, echoing, freaky. All of the snow that had been on TOP of my car, warmed by the heat inside, now slid freely down onto the windshield, completing engulfing me in a white out. It scared me for a moment when I thought that this could have easily happened stopping at a red light. But I was gleefully overwhelmed by the fact that I had made it to the meeting on time!! Yay!!!! Except for the fact that when I went into the meeting to join the others and there WERE no others…the meeting had been cancelled due to snow! AGAIN!!!!

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