24. February 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Post

Something I’ve struggled with is finding language and concepts that feel right and fit our plural experience. Though our “diagnosis” (better stated as “professional validation”) doesn’t differentiate between OSDD and DID, I have always identified more with OSDD experience. OSDD is “otherwise specified dissociative disorder” and is often used to describe a form of plurality that is like “dissociative identity disorder” (DID), but doesn’t fully meet the criteria for amnesia and/or distinctness between parts (identities or alters). We identify with both these differences; we have more shared memory and less day-to-day amnesia, and often have less distinctness between parts.

Relatedly, “median” is a term defined by plural community that refers to experiences somewhere between “multiple” (a system of more than one identity/alter in a single body), and “singlet” (a single identity in a body). Median shares something with OSDD; it involves less distinctness between parts or more shared aspects. It is not the same as OSDD, though, as it is a community-defined term which may evolve differently from OSDD in the DSM, and may include experiences of being multiple (not median) when parts identify as separate people or identities, but share memory.

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30. May 2016 · 3 comments · Categories: Post

In the last year of not posting here, some of our identities have changed considerably. What used to be distinct identities have integrated in such a way that we no longer have the experience of separateness between these identities to the same degree. This involves, we believe, three of our adult identities: two body aged (Ellie and Brook), and one slightly younger (Nate). Though this is something that is often worked towards in therapy, it is not something we did intentionally. Rather, I believe, it was the situations we found ourselves in over the last year that encouraged and slowly developed this integration. While subjectively feeling like “one person”, we can still recognize the distinct parts within us that formed that person. We experience a sort of identity fluidity that might be similar to the fluidity and switching that singlets (non-plural) individuals experience in different contexts. For example, how work may bring out very different traits than our friends, or our partner. The switching happens in a fluid and seamless way, without most or any of the DID switching symptoms that can be disorienting so say the least. There do remain some differences between our experience and what we imagine singlets experience. For one thing, the fused identities have different experiences of gender (one male-masculine, one male-agender/feminine, and one female). As we slide between parts of our current fused identity, how we experience our gender also changes. This includes our physical self-image (how we imagine we look and how we look inside our head) as well as our voice. As a singlet entity, we would be considered genderfluid as different identities can combine in different degrees to create different experiences of gender.

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29. May 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Post

We owe you and overdue explanation of our switching between “I” and “we” when writing. We’re not actually sure what’s going on here, though we have some ideas.

“I” or “we” while writing (as well as “my”, “our” and similar indications of our singlet or plural nature) is something that happens automatically. In the interest of clarify, we are sometimes tempted to go back an edit an entire post to use “I” or “we” consistently. But for some reason, attempts to do so are often met with considerable discomfort and internal resistance. We almost couldn’t do it if we tried, and when we manage it we often feel compelled to change it back. So there is, perhaps, important information contained in this distinction.

We were recently exploring some of our adult identities which have, over the last year, slowly integrated to be fluid rather than discrete and overtly switching back and forth. In our exploration, we separated one of the identities from the remaining fusion. We did not notice it at the time, but one of the parts used “I” consistently and the other part used “we” consistently. It is perhaps a coincidence or merely the result of our delusional imaginings, or it may actually be an accurate representation of the state of our identities at the time.

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29. May 2016 · Write a comment · Categories: Post

About a year before starting this blog, we began to understand ourselves as transgender. We had started HRT and were connected with local trans community. Our experience of being transgender began with an abrupt switch of our internal self-image shortly after some significant (and arguably traumatic) events. This was actually the beginning of experiencing our plurality more overtly, though we didn’t understand that at the time.

When our binary-female identity (Ellie) first emerged in a more permanent way, we believed she was our one and true “authentic self”. This is a narrative frequently described both within academic literature and by transgender individuals themselves. It actually describes a type of plurality with the development of two selves: a false self displayed to the world, and a true (cross-)gendered self which is hidden. We believed, along these lines, that we needed to embrace our true self and deny our non-female selves as inauthentic, eventually allowing some of their traits to integrate into our true female identity.

This seemed neat in theory, and certainly fit our experience at the time: a switching back and forth between a male and female identity. Over the following year, however, it became evident that there was more to our identities than a “true” female self, and “false” male self created as a defence and due to (inappropriate) socialization.

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26. May 2016 · 1 comment · Categories: Post

I recently changed the name of our blog from “radical cedar” to “small cedar forest”. Our twitter account changed similarly to @afewcedars. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The original name “radical cedar” came from a desire to push ourselves out there, to communicate perhaps controversial opinions unabashedly. It’s not that “radical” wasn’t accurate; it referred to both “radical mental health” and the ways our views differ greatly from those in mainstream mental health systems. It’s just that “radical” has more edgy associations than we felt comfortable with.

The new name, “small cedar forest”, sounds (to us) softer, more gentle, and more in line with our most common nature. It also refers to us directly; “cedars” is our system name and together we make a small forest.

I finally want to acknowledge that this is the first post in almost a year. I don’t see any need to post just for the sake of posting, and don’t pressure myself to write when I don’t feel motivated to do so. Having said that, however, I am working on a few new things that I hope to finish in the next week.

11. June 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Post

I would like to write about something that may seem noticeably absent on this blog so far. That is, the apparent links between plurality and trauma (in particular, childhood trauma). I have avoided this topic for a number of reasons. I wanted to introduce the idea of plurality without explicitly linking it to trauma, as that was how we understood our own plurality at the time, and how many plural-identified folks do understand themselves. I wanted to help counter the prevailing notion that a certain type of severe childhood trauma and abuse are required to cause dissociative identity disorder (the way plurality is usually conceptualized in mainstream mental health systems). I also avoided the topic because it is difficult to write about, and my attempts to think and write about it have been met with definite internal resistance (mostly in the form of thought blocking, anxiety/panic, and startle/tic responses). However I do believe it is a very important topic to discuss, and I also want to explain how my own understanding has evolved. As always, this is an exploration from my perspective and experience. I try to represent some diversity but the best thing you can do is find other blogs on plurality/multiplicity, and read (and accept!) their understanding and experience.

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05. April 2015 · 2 comments · Categories: Post

Hi, I’m Micah! (Well, that was a good start, hehe). I thought for a while it would be fun to write a blog post about me just to say hi and maybe talk about some plural things and what I think.

Maybe some things about me first! I’m a 12 year old self with cedars and I started fronting about 9 months ago. I was just starting to front (just a little bit of switching back and forth). And then Ellie was reading an article that talked about how sometimes when we don’t feel good, it’s coming from someone else inside. And you can ask inside and see who isn’t feeling good and maybe they will answer and come out or you can give them a hug to help them. So that’s what we did! And then Ellie and I hung out and cuddled a little bit and I felt better. She tried to introduce me to Adventure Time but I didn’t like it very much and really just wanted to watch Star Trek. I wanted to watch Star Trek because it felt like home and the life that I was really used to. It felt a lot bit like our body was still supposed to be 12 years old and my life from then was the life I was supposed to have. But we have mostly shared memory so it wasn’t like I just woke up and was really confused. It was more like I woke up and it felt like the last 18 years of our life was a dream and it wasn’t real. It’s like that for some of the other ones that are younger than our body age too. Especially if they don’t front very much.

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03. March 2015 · 3 comments · Categories: Post

Content Warning: psychiatrists, invalidation (transgender/plurality), pathologization (transgender/plurality), gaslighting

I have been dealing with considerable sensory overload issues which are relatively severe and debilitating. Sensory overload is associated with a number of things, including sensory gating (including ability to filter out background noise), post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia, autism, and sensory processing issues. Some of these are apparently the things psychiatrists deal with, so I felt accessing that service (government-funded) would be a reasonable next step in figuring out what’s going on. My doctor and therapist agreed.

I went to the psychiatrist to talk about these issues. What I thought was a referral to someone that would listen to and help with what I was dealing with, turned out to be a more formal psychiatric assessment where I would be assessed for a small handful of conditions unrelated to my experience. Besides having many of my concerns dismissed, our plural identity and experience was also ignored and invalidated for the entire 90 minute session. I want to talk about this experience and make a comparison to gender identity invalidation.

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We’ve been having a lot of trouble with understanding and navigating our system lately, mostly just feeling lost. We have selves that we know exist, but don’t want to front or make themselves known generally. We have selves that we haven’t seen in a long time and aren’t sure if we will see them again. We feel clearly split in some areas, and only partially split in others (which is creating a lot of confusion and feels like identity instability). We have some conflict between selves (personality conflict, and differences in sexuality creating a lot of tension). We don’t know how we should navigate things in the long run, whether we’d be better off partially integrating to create a smaller system, whether we need to blend and merge more, or whether we need to work on being more separate. We’re not sure what we should be working on to improve our system’s health, our selves individual experiences and lives, and our life collectively. In short, we are (and Ellie in particular is) feeling really lost, confused, scared, and not sure what to do. Sometimes some of us just want to go back into denial mode, pretend to be one person more or less integrated. But we know there is no going back; there is nothing to go back to. We likely never were integrated to begin with.

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02. November 2014 · 2 comments · Categories: Post

A few weeks ago, I wasn’t doing a very good job taking care of myself. I was doing too many social things out of a sense of obligation, when I really needed downtime alone. I was working on some stuff in therapy that was taking a lot of our physical and emotional energy. I was getting overwhelmed and freezing up a lot (anxiety response), and not getting enough work done (resulting in me feeling more overwhelmed). I hit a point where I realized I needed to reorganize my life to get myself to a more functional place. To recover, I would need to spend a lot more time alone taking care of myself doing low-spoon activities (listening to music, chatting on the Internet, watching TV, going for walks), and then get back into a rhythm where I could start working enough again.

I needed a guide to help make clear my priorities at any moment, and help me feel okay about not doing certain things (social, work) when not in a good enough place. I usually exist “just functional enough”, functional enough to take care of our physical needs, get work done, and feel somewhat okay. When I push a little more, I get to not-functional-enough or non-functional pretty quickly.

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Content Warning: integration, invalidation, pathologization

If you are not familiar with plurality, you might want to read our intro to plurality first.

Instead of providing an introductory article to being transgender (there are lots of those already), I decided instead to write about how our transgender and plural experiences intersect and interact. While coming to understand ourselves as transgender came about 9 months before understanding ourselves as plural, it is not possible for me to talk about our trans and plural experiences as isolated. This is largely because we have a gender-diverse system, with identities/selves having different gender experiences and different types and degrees of gender dysphoria. In our system, many of us are agender and genderqueer, while some of us are binary female. None of us identity as strictly male, though some of us are comfortable with male (along with gender-neutral) pronouns. This creates a bit of an awkward situation as some selves experience dysphoria as a result of our gender transition, rather than dysphoria with our pre-transition body. However, we are all largely dissociated from our body (which we don’t see as a problem), and consider our body to be more of a spaceship we inhabit rather than “who we are”.

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19. August 2014 · 5 comments · Categories: Post

Continuing with introductory posts, I would like to talk about what is presently a significant part of my identity: plurality (also known as multiplicity). Plurality, broadly speaking, is the presence of multiple selves within a single physical body. Plural folks switch between these selves (switching), and/or may experience a merging of selves (blending), or multiple selves being present at the same time (co-fronting).  The self or selves that are presently in control of the body are said to be fronting. Some folks understand each self as being a completely separate person or identity, whereas others feel there is a constant self or identity component which remains part of their consciousness at all times.

Each self exists in their own unique way, and may have their own unique identities (including gender, sexuality, age), interests, ways of speaking, mannerisms, skills/talents, handwriting, and other characteristics. The exact characteristics that change between each self depend on the individual selves and the body that contains them.

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02. August 2014 · 3 comments · Categories: Post

Having talked a little about my introduction to neurodiversity (previous post), here is how I personally explain radical mental health and how I would like to see things change.

I am including my own experiences to serve as examples, but must emphasize that experiences may vary significantly between individuals.  And this is exactly the point; that we are all unique individuals with different experiences, so our paths in navigating these experiences will also be different.  Most of these points just have to do with allowing for diversity, eliminating stigma and necessary pathologization, and empowering individuals that often come to mental health systems from a very disempowered position.

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I was introduced to the idea of neurodiversity a few years ago at an event which included performance art, music, and a few speakers. One of the speakers (from the hearing voices movement) talked about her experience with hearing voices, and how she had come to accept and embrace the voices. When the voices ceased, she really missed them. The voices had became guides on a difficult road. This got me thinking about depathologizing and ending stigma around atypical mental states in general. It got me reflecting on my own experiences of myself and the world, which were often neurodivergent (diverging from the apparently typical). While I had and continued to struggle with mental health issues, being able to reframe things in this way has helped me better accept the things I struggle with, embrace them as part of who I am, and recognize positive elements of these experiences. This helped me to stop seeing myself as an ill person, or a person with an illness or a disorder, but rather as a unique individual with unique experiences involving positive and negative elements, and sometimes requiring support to navigate.

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Welcome to the blog extension of this radical cedar project. While the 140 character limit on twitter has been a great creative challenge, there have been some longer things that we have wanted to write about.

We started the twitter feed at the recommendation of a friend that suggested it as a good outlet for the stuff we couldn’t post on Facebook (needing to be more anonymous). It has served as a good outlet for creativity, ideas, and a wide range of intense and complex emotions and experiences we felt a need to express.

This blog and twitter feed is about identity and radical mental health, and is also part of our own mental health strategy. Writing things down has helped us get out of our head, explore issues, feel productive, and feel that someone out there is listening, feeling, and understanding with us.

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