When I started out on this adventure, taking this journey to the Arctic Circle and the far northern reaches of Norway I had many hopes and aspirations. This was after all a trip I have planned, organised and waited for, for over 15 months, it was a holiday with me in mind rather than living my life with the needs of the alters at the forefront of my decision making. But what as holidaying with Dissociative Identity Disorder really meant not just for me but for the other parts of me, my alters and for those travelling with me. Have I realised those hopes and aspirations which have seemed so crucial to me throughout this trip and when all is said and done has it been worth it.
I came to Norway with three main hopes, and a few secondary ones too though I believe it has only been as the journey has progressed that I fully appreciate those secondary issues.
My main hopes where to break down some preconceived ideas and phobias that have remained with me since childhood, the first was I wasn’t worth doing this for, that meant I believed that I wasn’t good enough to witness the magical spectacle called the Northern lights; which was something I have been fascinated with for quite sometime. The second was to try and overcome my fears of big dogs which has been with me ever since I was a small child, they would be used to scare me or belittle me. Finally I wanted to overcome my dread of heights, it’s something that has been with me ever since I lived in a high rise block of flats when I was a primary school age child.
All of these hopes were at one time simply out of reach, I would never be good enough, I’d always be afraid of both dogs and heights and nothing I could do would ever let me leave behind those fears and thoughts generated at a time when I was being abused and hurt. This trip gave me the opportunity to prove I can leave my past behind me, I wasn’t sure that I could I just knew I needed to try.
I started with the dogs, and planned a husky ride, I would sit on a sled pulled by husky’s trained for that very purpose there would be lots of noise and the dogs would jump up at us. My idea being if I was going to do this I needed to do it full on, not just test myself but my alters too I guess. As the day drew near I remember feeling physically unwell, anxiety was overwhelming us and yet this was for me and I was determined. I am told I switched on the coach journey to the site, my little alters clearly stating they were scared, whilst a teen alter had let it be known they were not impressed with me Carol either. I meanwhile kept trying hard to shut down any feelings, so I guess I was quite robotic by the time we arrived on site.
The noise was deafening and the dogs very boisterous indeed, we had very simple instructions given to us and before long I was sitting on traditional wooden sled being pulled along by 5 adult husky dogs across a white heavily snowy landscape. Initially I felt terrified and I mean terrified but I kept self talking telling myself we were safe and then about half way though this experience I realised just how beautiful the landscape was around me I became quite absorbed by this white landscape. Realising I was doing this that I was overcoming my past, I even managed to take pictures of the dogs pulling me along and felt confident enough to stand near to the dogs at the end, though I couldn’t bring myself to stroking them. I would highly recommend a husky ride to everyone, it’s such a good thing to do whether your afraid of dogs or not, it’s a truly once in a lifetime experience.
With one down I still had 2 to go and I really didn’t know if I could do these, or even if nature would be on my side.
That evening in Alta we went up on deck to see if there was a clear sky and at first it was cloudy, but eventually in freezing cold temperatures the cloud began to dissipate and the beauty of a star filled sky was over head. Lots of people were searching too for these elusive northern lights and so the decks of the ship were quite busy, by the time my hands we’re freezing and my feet starting to chill too I was close to giving up on this aspiration. I probably looked like the Michelin man I had so many layers of clothing on, I must have looked a real sight. But it didn’t matter I was warm and in the cold arctic air that was all that mattered.
Suddenly the clear sky changed and there before my eyes were the Northern lights, the Aurora borealis, it was even possible to see hints of green in the sky with the human eye, whereas through the magic of a camera lens the colours were even more vibrant and purple and green. Apparently I kept squealing with delight, my daughter had to try and keep me calm as I couldn’t stop making noises and saying how pretty it was. Neither could I contain my excitement it was such a awesome experience the lights lived up to everything I had expected and more, they truly took my breath away.
The good thing was that this was an experience shared by many parts of me, my littles were so happy they had me jumping up and down, whereas I was just in awe at this spectacle before my eyes. I felt as of I was tingling all over, I couldn’t stop that feeling I would be quite willing to see them over and over and I’m sure I’d never tire of the excitement and feelings I felt that night.
Seeing them wasn’t just an awesome magical experience, but it meant so much more for me as I truly realised that I was worth this trip and worth seeing such a wonder. I couldn’t sleep afterwards I was so pleased and excited, I’m not sure if what I felt was me having fun but it sure felt great and I wish I could capture that feeling in a bottle to use as I need it.
Two down and only one to go…..would it be possible, could I make this last challenge. When delays leaving port meant we arrived in Tromso late I really thought it wouldn’t happen, but despite being 12 hours late they managed to rearrange our tour which included a cable car ride. That morning I honestly spent hours self talking and internally communicating with my parts telling them I knew we could do this, we really could and we’d be safe. I’m not sure if they believed me as I wasn’t so sure myself.
As we travelled by coach I felt so nervous, it was hard not to bail out and say no, yet I knew this was a journey involving 3 challenges and I’d be so disappointed if we hadn’t managed all 3. As the doors shut on the cable car I felt my stomach lurch and took a huge gulp of air, it didn’t take long to the top but it felt like a lifetime if I’m honest. The view from the window was spectacular and I could see my ship in the dock below, it seemed so tiny from so high up. Once at the top my daughter encouraged me to venture out onto the viewing platform and nervously I did so, it wasn’t as frightening as I had thought, I think the vast amount of snow side tracked me, and given it was snowing as we were there it felt quite magical in itself.
I even managed to throw a snowball which isn’t something I would normally do, but I think I felt so pleased with myself that I kind of got carried away. I insisted on standing right at the front of the cable car on the way down I was so keen to watch the view as we descended from the mountain top.
Once my feet touch terra-firm-a I was ecstatic I had done it, I had conquered some of my biggest fears and I had managed to prove to myself that I was worth more than I had believed in my past.
I had proven that despite my past, my abuse, my trauma and my D.I.D I have been able to accomplish those hopes and aspirations that meant so much to me. I had overcome fears and phobias which I had never thought possible. Wow did it feel good.
This trip has also allowed me to learn more about me as a person, as a multiple, but it hasn’t been without cost, I have had to shut away many of my feelings as it’s so hard to let those feelings show in such a public place surrounded by so many people. The feelings have come but I have had to box them away in the hope I will be able to let them out once we are in the safety of our home.
I have had so many periods of overwhelming emotion, so much switching and loss of time that I feel exhausted mentally and physically at the end of this journey.
If I’m honest I am glad we did this journey, but I feel perhaps the timing could have been better maybe just maybe I needed to be further along my journey of recovery, of understanding about my D.I.D as the price of this holiday emotionally has been high. It’s been a huge strain of those who travelled with me too and this trip may not have been so fair on them or my alters.
I’ve spent the past 2 days mainly sleeping and hibernating, resorting to old habits of shutting off from the world to safeguard all of us. I have so much I still need to learn about me and if there is one thing I have learnt this past 2 weeks it’s that I still have a long way to go, life with D.I.D is a challenge and I need to accept that whilst I can shape my future, my past will for the time being still impact my present. Instead of feeling angry at this fact I need to accept that is how life is, be proud of my achievements yes, but also acknowledge the true reality of life with Dissociative identity Disorder.
I know that over the next few days once I return home I need to allow myself time, time to let my younger alters watch cartoons and be surrounded by their toys. I need to allow the feelings I have tried to box away these past days to surface and flow freely, most of all I just need to reflect upon this experience accept the positives but also acknowledge the difficulties too for it will be through all of this that we can move forward.