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For us, depression was a symptom, not the condition.

Our host, Amber, has always struggled with depression and anxiety - usually without ever understanding why. We remember when she first decided to give antidepressants a go. She had been living in Sheffield for a couple of years, which she loved and has been the first place that felt like home, she’d recently turned thirty, was in a new relationship, and was living in a nice house with her boyfriend, she was working, finally had a dog of her own, she had close friends, and thought she was happy.


She couldn’t understand why her mental health was still so unsettled, and her behaviour was often erratic. She was struggling with the same depression that’s always been there, anxiety, and alcohol addiction/dependency (another symptom). She was so sure that her life was coming together as it should, that she should be happy, yet she wasn’t. A few months into the relationship things weren’t going well, he was a controlled drinker - we were a binger. While he could have one or two bottles of beer, Amber didn’t have that kind of control. She tried cutting down, and he could not grasp the idea that it was something (or someone…) she couldn’t control.


We remember him coming home with bottles and bottles of beer after Amber had said she would stop drinking, and when she questioned him about this his attitude was still “just have one or two” - that isn’t how our brain functioned, for whatever reason, then. Only a few months into the relationship (which in retrospect was flawed, but at the time seemed good) she felt she needed to do something to demonstrate a willingness to change, and, of course, doctors are more than happy to prescribe antidepressants.


She started with Citalopram and felt immediate relief, which was likely mostly a placebo effect. After the 6ish weeks they say are needed for SSRIs to take effect she was doing better, from the patchy memories we have. She was on Citalopram for maybe a couple of years, it helped with sleep although she was tired all the time and it lowered our alcohol tolerance and possibly caused some system changes (not that we had any idea that we were a system, or what that was then.)


I remember the holiday she and he went on. Amber normally took the Citalopram at night, and the flight to Turkey was a night flight. She had half a pint of beer in the airport and a spirit and mixer on the flight and took her Citalopram. The next thing Amber knew, she was standing with the boyfriend negotiating the price for a taxi to the hotel, which made no sense as transfers were included. Amber ended the negotiation, very confused, fished the transfer information out of her bag, vaguely remembering a horrible incident of her emptying her entire hand luggage in the middle of the airport searching for the paperwork, and they managed to find the transfer bus in time, she was ‘airport girl’, for a long time. The only times we remember amnesia from before we knew about our DID was after alcohol or drugs, but it would be disregarded as she was under the influence.


Anyway, that’s another story. She was on Citalopram for a couple of years, then there was Duloxetine which was effective but heavier than Citalopram. Mirtazapine followed that, but she stopped that because of how terrible she felt after just a few days of taking it. She was on and off antidepressants, beta-blockers, and diazepam for anxiety, for several years. In the last few years there’s been Fluoxetine, Citalopram again, and most recently a low dose of Amitriptyline to help sleep was prescribed, after she asked for melatonin.


She sought help for the alcohol dependency and was advised to have none for six months, which she did, and for a while, the relationship with drink was better, but it didn’t last and has been rocky until we found ourselves and started healing. Now we rarely drink.


Even when things seemed good, they could go bad, which has been a recurring theme in life. Amber managed to get her mental health on a reasonable track when she discovered massage. She’d been having cyclical breakdowns for all of her adult life - bi-yearly, we now believe the cyclical nature of the breakdowns was related to our first trauma which happened when we were two - and had a huge breakdown in 2016. There were many contributing factors - work, the death of a childhood friend, questioning her relationship, Brexit, and an assessment by a psychiatrist which was over two hours of questioning just to be told she has depression and anxiety, he made a note of BPD traits but didn’t tell Amber that and we only found out through a mental health nurse we see regularly.


So there was still no digging to find out what was really at the heart of her problems. Anxiety was becoming more and more of a problem and Amber found herself medicating her anxiety as opposed to depression around this time. She’d been unemployed for a short while, after losing her temporary job because of panic attacks, and decided to learn massage therapy. It was while training in massage that she stopped taking antidepressants and was just using Propranolol sporadically to help with anxiety. But even when she was on an ‘even keel’, she was still unpredictable and struggled a lot.


Amber has had depression and anxiety her entire adult life, often for seemingly no good reason, that’s because our depression, our anxiety, was a symptom of our dissociative identity disorder. She had no connection to any of the real reasons for depression and anxiety because she was not connected to them, they were held by other parts of self. It was only after Amber started to really dive into what was ‘wrong’ with her that answers started coming.


In 2019 she started therapy through a local charity, Share Psychotherapy. They provide therapy on a sliding pay scale depending on how much you earn, and we’re very grateful for their help these last three years. She’d learned about them and been on their waiting list for maybe a year, and started seeing Maggie in June 2019.


That year, Amber had already made some significant changes. She’d been running her massage practice and had been opposed to involving any spiritual aspects in it. She found herself being drawn to energy work though, and initially got her first reiki attunement just for herself. Another breakdown led to her acknowledging her spirituality, an acquaintance offered her a level two attunement at a discounted rate, and Amber discovered myofascial release (MFR).


MFR is a hands-on therapy that can release physically stored trauma, and Amber took to it immediately, both as a client and practitioner. She loved it so much that she talked her husband into letting her go to America to train with the father of indirect MFR - John F Barnes. It was only a few weeks before she flew off to America to do her training that she started weekly therapy with Maggie.


When Amber started therapy, she found she would have anxiety about it for a day or two before, she cried all the way there, she cried for the entire 50-minute appointment, and she cried for a day or two after every session. This went on for months, and the entire time Amber had no idea why she was crying.


In America, on a massage table with three therapists working on her, Amber remembered why she cried. She was hit with the memory of what happened after a trauma when we were two. She couldn’t understand how this could have happened to her as an infant but accepted it as truth (she felt it, we’ve all felt it, it happened). This was the beginning of the system unravelling, our truth bubbling its way out.


Amber carried on working, practising MFR and massage, digging into her own psyche. Covid threw a spanner in the works, and after spending over a thousand hours playing Animal Crossing in 2020, the system reveal began. At first, she thought Isabel was an inner child. She worked with Isabel for months to heal a range of traumas spanning the whole life. Mia appeared a couple of months later but split after a few days making Maya too. Early 2021 we found out about DID and accepted we are a system.


Soon after the acceptance, Berlou made herself known. Berlou is our trauma holder for the first trauma, she cried inside for 36 years, it was her crying with Maggie, it was her trauma that caused the depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Healing all of this took huge amounts of painful work. We found Kai, a little persecutor (an alter who inflicts pain upon the system, usually as misguided protection).


Kai was responsible for a lot of bad thoughts, healing him took terrific patience and a lot of love. His attitude was he didn’t want to be healed, he couldn’t be healed, he was bad, and we all had to die - ASAP. He spat a lot of venom while healing, but he got there, and we don’t hear from him often but keep sending the love and gratitude for the pain he held and his importance in our system.


Since we found ourselves, life has been worse than it’s ever been before. We’ve had to dive deep into healing and it’s been dark, scary, lonely, and felt impossible at times. If we’d known about DID twenty years ago, we could have started the horrible task of healing much sooner, but we didn’t. We believe that Amber studying Psychology and Health Studies at University was us trying to find answers, but there’s no recollection of dissociative disorders or DID being covered, and it was another almost two decades of poor mental health later that we did find out. Maybe if she’d been advised by a doctor to see a therapist ten years ago it could have been unpicked sooner.


We aren’t saying antidepressants are bad, they can be tremendously helpful, but they don’t address the cause of someone’s depression, and it’s implied that you can take them until you’re better, and then you’re done - it doesn’t work like that.


We’ve more or less made peace with the journey we’ve been on so far, we’re grateful we found each other and have had the luxury of healing - and it is a luxury. We have had the space and time and have been financially supported through our healing by our husband. We had the fortune of finding things that work for us - yoga, writing, walking, and music - along with weekly therapy for a lot of the last three years through Share. Many people can’t, and if the drugs help, they help, but they aren’t going to provide a long term solution.


Accessing therapy is hard - especially for anyone with DID. We not only need to get diagnosed (which can be impossible depending on where in the world/country you are), but then need to find a trauma-informed, DID-informed therapist, and there aren’t many around. Balance this with the logistics of being a DID system, attempting to figure yourselves out, healing childhood traumas, while fighting the system… Factor in the lack of knowledge within the medical community, even among psychiatrists, it can seem impossible.


We’ve been lucky, many people on the dissociation spectrum aren’t - 72% of DID systems attempt suicide, and it’s no wonder why. For us, depression, anxiety, and suicidality are symptoms of our deeper, hidden, trauma. We also have bipolar, probably BPD, and other co-morbid mental illnesses in the mix, these disorders don’t/haven’t presented strongly enough to be properly diagnosed due to our fragmentation - some alters hold these disorders and others don’t.


For us, depression was a symptom, if we’d dived into this sooner, found the true cause of our mental health problems, we might have healed a lot earlier. As it is, we’re one of the many people waking up to a very different reality from the one we are taught to believe in our late thirties, and it is far from easy, which is why we’re loud.


 

Written by Mia and Jessica... We say ‘Amber’ a lot - Amber is our host, the alter who has lived most of our life and seems to be ultimately in charge - but we don’t know who lived when, as memories aren’t exactly labelled, and it’s clear to us now that there have been several of us living the life, all thinking we were Amber (which we are, but we aren’t Amber the alter, sometimes we think it would be easier if there wasn’t an Amber the alter and collectively we were all Amber, she loves that.)



 

Symptom by Mia


Depression is a symptom,

Not a disease.

It makes you a victim,

Drowning in unease.

Feelings that shudder,

We’re told to dull them,

Keeping them undercover,

Ignoring the pain from which they stem.

SSRI the emotions away,

Stamp them down,

When they come out to play,

Together you drown.


Anxieties don’t just happen,

The brain tries to help you.

A hormonal reaction,

Distorting your world view.

Fight or flight, freeze or fawn,

The window of tolerance,

Has reduced, it’s all gone.


Depression is a symptom,

Not a stand-alone condition,

A cancer or a syndrome,

An unprovoked mind prison.

The reasons are hidden,

Deep within the meat suit,

You don’t know what’s been written,

What sufferings are at the root.

To heal them, you must feel them,

Give them voices and choices,

Acknowledge your own fear.

And together you and your emotions,

Can heal those forgotten years.






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