Succulents and Children

In the absence of having as many children growing in my house I have returned to my roots and begun growing plants again. I used to have a house full of plants but as the babies arrived the plants became more and more neglected until they became like an Agatha Christie novel, “and then there were none”.  It seems I can’t grow plants and children at the same time.  Which is worrisome given my renewed green thumb and the fact I have one child still at home.  It stands to reason she may be in jeopardy at this point.

I have been devoting my efforts at growing succulents, the en vogue thick leafy colorful small plant variety that store their water in their leaves. Succulents are fussy little devils if you don’t live in an arid climate or if you are trying to grow them indoors.  Too much water and they die. Not enough water and their water bearing leaves shrivel and die, leaving you with a leafless stump which mocks you until you pluck it out of the dirt in anger only to discover the roots are strong and viable.

Unlike my parenting it has take several failed attempts to arrive at a basic understanding of what these plants need to survive.  Not that my parenting was stellar but I did manage to keep the humans alive.  Botany, agriculture, horticulture, sciences on the art of growing stuff, would be good education for me, I just prefer the trial and error method. Either way, there is deep satisfaction to knowing that you were able to keep something alive and sustainable by your efforts and wisdom.

However, the difference between raising children and plants is marked.  I can control the environment of my plants. I control the temperature, the light the water, the quality of the soil and even select the quality of the seeds or plants that I choose to grow.  I even get the PICK the plants I want to grow.

Children, however, are given to us as a mysterious blessing. We don’t get to pick the personality, nature, emotions or makeup of the children we are blessed with, even if they are adopted.  God gives them what they need and endows them with their personalities and characteristics that make the unique to all other humans on the planet.  We don’t get to fully control the affairs of the world, the environment, the social toxins and changing landscape of morality and politics in the world.  We are stewards of our children to help them navigate these complexities but we are not in control of them. And should they go “astray” we aren’t allowed to pluck them out of the dirt and repot them into new material, just because we don’t like the way they are growing.

However, the blessing of being a parent and watch children grow, mature, live into the fullness of who they  has no competition in the growing of plants.  The work is great but the personal reward for a job well done is greater.

I love my plants and am enjoying rediscovering the beauty of careful, patient applied science to watch them thrive. But I love being a mom. Thanks Emily, Alex, Brittany and Taryn for being way more fun than houseplants and for giving my heart joy.  You are an every day blessing from God to me and give me hope for a bright future.

Dissociative Identity Disorder

I have dissociative identity disorder (DID) without multiple personalities.  DID used to be synonymous with multiple personalities but it is now accepted that it can be a distinct disease even in the absence of multiple personalities. When people ask ‘how many of you are there?” The answer is “one”. There is only one personality, one person, on being inside my brain but it is fragmented. Movies and books have sensationalized DID but those of us who live with it know it is a day to day struggle to keep your life and memory together and on track.

Dissociation happens, in its most benign sense, when the mind wanders and you find find yourself three chapters past where you remember reading, two exits past your exit on the freeway, or your mind wanders in the middle of a conversation and you realize you have no idea what is being talked about. Dissociation is also a very useful psychological tool that helps victims of trauma separate their brain from whatever trauma or pain of their body is experiencing.  Children are especially adept at using this tool, largely because they have no way of escaping tragedy on their own so they disappear in their own mind, relying on it to relieve them of the stress. It is a gracious gift from God to protect the minds and hearts of victims.

However, dissociation becomes maladaptive when the person is no longer under duress and yet the brain still wants to dissociate, fold in on itself.  Such is the case with me.  I joke a lot about having a terrible memory, which I do but it’s more complicated than just not being able to remember things.  8 months ago I enjoyed dinner out with my family and friends to celebrate my birthday. The other day I mentioned to my youngest that we really need to take her to this restaurant someday, when she reminded me we had gone for my birthday.  I have no recollection, zero memory, of having done this,

I look at pictures of my children when they were little and wish I could remember what it felt like to be there with them but it is as if I am looking at a scene where I wasn’t present. This last weekend we were going to take an adventure in Seattle and I mentioned a place I wanted to go because I never have been there. My husband reminded me we had been there with good friends some years back.  Blank. I would swear on the Bible that I had not been there.

My brain checks in and out with less predictability and dependability of a shift worker punching a time card.  But, it cannot be assumed that I don’t remember everything – I do remember a lot and hate to be challenged as to what I remember.  I know when I know something – and it makes me hostile when people assume my illness has warped a memory I have.  I have a memory that works. It just doesn’t work all the time.

Its a challenging way to live. DID makes reading books difficult because I can’t remember characters from one chapter to the next. My husband says every movie is new to me because I don’t remember how they end, which is true sometimes.

Living with DID is a challenge because my brain is constantly battling a non-existent enemy and escaping to higher ground, leaving me in the darkness. You would never know my brain is checking in and out. I cannot predict when it will happen and often don’t even know when it has, until I cannot remember something I did this week, this day or last month.

This is living with a DID brain; a lot of blank space with fragments of memory floating around like puzzle pieces anxiously looking for a match to make a more complete picture.