Blast from the Past: The Bee Talks With… Sarah E. Olson

Book Cover Becoming One by Sarah E. Olson

This was first posted in April 2015:

Today I feel honored to host Sarah E. Olson who kindly agreed to answer my questions. Sarah has written a book called “Becoming One” where she describes her healing journey from abuse victim who has dissociated to becoming one and supporting others via her blog “Third Of A Lifetime”.

I will post a review of “Becoming One” tomorrow and I can only say that it is a powerful book. But enough said: here is what Sarah has to say for herself:

“How would you describe yourself in one paragraph?

Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Bee! I’m the author of Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder, and have been active in online child abuse survivor support groups and talking with survivors for 20+ years. I curate links dealing with PTSD on my blog, Twitter, and Pinterest. My husband Dan and I live south of Boston with three inside cats who rule everything. I enjoy living in New England with its vivid changing seasons, although this winter has tested me! I began writing as a child, and never stopped. I’m intellectually curious, and relentless in tracking down details, which both helps and hinders productivity. In nonfiction, I read a lot about psychological trauma treatment, while in fiction, I primarily read police procedurals, dystopian novels, and dark psychological thrillers. There is often an overlap between my nonfiction and fiction interests. As one example, I loved The Hunger Games trilogy, not just for its story of revolution, but for how Katniss’s multiple traumas were subtly developed into very recognizable PTSD symptoms over the length of the series. It felt authentic to me. Fiction or nonfiction, I always want to read things that make me think.

A fun fact about you?

A strange artifact of my childhood abuse is that I hear music in my left ear, which is otherwise nearly deaf. It’s not music from an external source — it emanates from within my head. 🙂 I can’t change it, override it, or turn it off, and sometimes the selection is incredibly annoying. Like, why the muzak version of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” on endless repeat when I love her original?! Sometimes I can sing harmony with myself, which makes me laugh! It seems to pick up volume when I’m stressed. It’s not crazy or schizophrenic; it’s a dissociative thing that I accept as part of me. I’ll be exploring this and similar phenomena in more depth in my follow-up book titled Becoming One Every Day: Living Purposefully with Dissociative Identity Disorder, due in late 2015.

What made you write in the first place?

As a child, I began writing fairy tale stories which featured bright, beautiful, most-loved, and safe little girls. I wasn’t getting much of that in real life. In high school, I wrote poetry and short stories which I showed no one. As an adult, I trained to be a paralegal — a ghostwriter for attorneys. I’d learned my entire life that attention was not a good thing, so instead of going to law school I chose a support profession which guaranteed I would never receive credit for my writing. My quest for the last 20 years has been to challenge myself to risk putting my writing out there in a public way.

Which Author has influenced you and why? Combined with “What is your favourite book?”

I first read The Talisman, by Stephen King and Peter Stroub, about 30 years ago, and have reread it several times. It describes an alternate — but adjacent — universe to our own, kept separate by a force field which occasionally rips open and creates chaos in both worlds. It introduces the idea of ‘twinners,’ whereby if you are a happy person here, you have a twinner in the other realm with darker aspects. Or if you are evil here, your twinner is most likely fighting for forces of good on the other side. A lonely little boy accidentally steps into the other reality, and learns that he must find the Talisman which will either unite both realms or destroy them.

I read The Talisman long before I was formally diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The intriguing notion that there were ‘twinners’ in a nearby alternate reality hit me as very close to home, and fascinated me. I’d often felt that I must have crossed some huge surreal force field where all the rules and people were different, but somehow still very weirdly familiar. And I could never explain it, to myself or anyone else — but here was a book that offered an alternate reality that actually made some sense of my bizarre life. I believe that reading The Talisman made me much more open to exploring alternate realities within me, in therapy, than I’d ever have entertained otherwise.

Your writing ritual (if you have one)?

I don’t really have a ritual. I’m grateful any time I feel inspired, and take notes in those moments so I won’t lose the thread of what was important about it. At any one time I have numerous projects, fiction and nonfiction, floating around in my brain, but I’ve learned that I must really focus on one at a time or nothing gets finished.

Your secret “sin” when you write?

I drink far too much coffee! 🙂

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if, what do you do against it?

I do get writer’s block. For me, it’s about procrastination paired with perfectionism. Somewhere as a child I learned that if I can’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all, which then makes me delay even trying. I fight that self-judgment daily, because it just stops me cold sometimes. I want the writings I put out into the world to be as good as they can be, but if I wait for “perfect” they’ll never be released. My commitment to myself this last year has been to finish things, which is why the ebook version of Becoming One exists today.

Your advice for apprentice writers?

No matter what you want to write, fiction or nonfiction, you need to keep writing. You need practice to learn your style and hone your voice. Like any skill, you get better the more you work it. At the same time, don’t stop reading! You can learn so much about writing craft by examining how other writers do it.

Beyond that, there’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer! You can control your own writing destiny, either by self-publishing or seeking a traditional publisher. Becoming One was first published by a very small press in 1997, and I was grateful for that opportunity. But today, with self-publishing, there are no gatekeepers, and you have choices that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Research those choices carefully, to be fully informed about whatever path you choose.

A great place to start that research is at http://www.thecreativepenn.com/ to which I’ve subscribed for five+ years. Joanna Penn has steadfastly and honestly blogged her journey from being a blogger who writes about writing, to taking the leap into writing thrillers. Her website is a wealth of information for anyone looking to get started with writing and publishing. (I have no affiliation with her other than knowing that she is a genuinely helpful and generous person.)”

Thank you again, Bee, for your hospitality!

You are very welcome!

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Please find her book on Amazon (link. below). A countdown deal of $.99 runs from 31. March to 6. April 2015 both on Amazon UK and US and it is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

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Please find out more about Sarah here:

Sarah’sBlog
Sarah onTwitter
Sarah onPinterest

 

Book Review: “Becoming One ~ A Story of Triumph over Dissociative Identity Disorder” by Sarah E. Olson

I posted this first in April 2015

Book Cover Becoming One by Sarah E. Olson

Publisher: Swan Pond Press
Publishing Date: 14 November 2014
Edition: updated 2014 e-book edition of 1997 paperback
Genre: non-fiction
Formats: e-book, paperback
Source: review copy by author in return for an honest review

Bees: 6 out of 6

About the story:

This is Sarah E. Olson’s account of her healing journey from dissociated survivor of abuse by a family friend to becoming one. Sarah sought help for eating problems but was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Her therapist Howard Asher who wrote the foreword to this edition embarked very dedicated to the healing journey with her.

You are confronted with memories of the abuse, with the feelings connected and the development of healing in different ways: Sarah shows letters to her sisters and her therapist and transcriptions of her therapy sessions all connected with her account of what happened while doing therapy. She explains what happened to her while healing and describes the memory process.

About the author:

On Amazon it says about Sarah E. Olson:

“Sarah E. Olson is the author of “Becoming One: A Story Of Triumph Over Multiple Personality Disorder” (trade paperback published 1997) and has maintained an online presence since 1993. She just released her updated ebook edition “Becoming One: A Story Of Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder.” The updated paperback edition will be published shortly.

Her blog ‘Third of a Lifetime’ contains a wealth of links pertaining to dissociation and PTSD. She also maintains on her blog the Dissociation Blog Showcase, an index of ~185 blogs which discuss dissociation primarily from a personal experience perspective.”

Note:

I have to admit I am doing something I usually don’t: I am writing this review before having read the whole book. I know some reviewers do this, but it does not feel right to me.

In this case, I decided differently because I can only read this book in small instalments. Being a survivor myself means reading about Sarah E. Olson’s healing journey activates my memories, new thoughts about my identity and a feeling of panic, fear, and chaos which for me is always connected with my past as well as new developments in my healing journey.

This book though deserves to be highlighted as it shows a very strong woman, who gives hope and encourages not to give in to one’s negative beliefs and that it is possible to overcome the hurdles of a survivor’s life and to become a thriver.

Honey Bees in the book:

“Becoming One” is a captivating book. It challenges one’s perception of “self” and “identity” as it is hard to understand that there can be more than one personality “living” in one body. The reality for many survivors of abuse though is that there are more than one living inside.

I love the way, how Sarah E. Olson changes between transcriptions of her therapy sessions with Howard Asher, her explanations of what happened in her life at that particular time, letters to her sisters and to her therapist as well as her own writings in those days.

She holds it all together in chapters that focus on different aspects of her healing like her resistance to the therapy process or hallucinations she experienced in one part of her healing.

This is a very positive book that emphasises the ability of survivors to overcome their survival strategies which have become troublesome. It certainly has started another process of healing in me. But it also describes what is necessary for this healing process. In the cases of survivors who have dissociated it means to have a dedicated therapist like Howard.

This is also a very courageous book: Sarah E. Olson shares very private experiences and writes about a syndrome that many do not believe exists: multiple personalities.

Stinging Bees in the book:

“Becoming One” is a tough book to read. The abuse she has gone through is so horrendous that I often have to skip reading about her memories. The unfairness of not being believed as a young child is hard to stomach. And it does trigger memories of own abuse if the reader is an abuse survivor.

And the mead of it all?

“Becoming One ~ A Story of Triumph over Dissociative Identity Disorder” is an important book to read especially today where the perceptions of abuse and how police, the justice system, and the public react on disclosures of abuse. Even though, it is a tough topic; this book is worth reading as it shows how you can change your life around no matter from what horrible past you suffer. And it explains many processes happening when you survive abuse to those who did not have to endure it. “Becoming One” is a book I will read on and off for the rest of my life.

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Where to purchase “Becoming One ~ A Story of Triumph over Dissociative Identity Disorder”:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Aside

Carol annes poetry prompt for this week!

Bee set me a wonderful prompt for this week!

In the grounds of longing, the young ones rejoice

Isnt that awesome!
😀

So I decided to give it a go! So here goes my attempt at a poem using it!

Emotions
they fly
flying so high
and in the grounds of longing
the young ones rejoice
rejoice in the joy
of Christmas time
which is near
never fear my sweet little ones
this year
we’ll have fun
so so much fun
we’ll craft and create
eat our fill
open presents
watch childrens tv
and rejoice
in the peace and quiet
where the longing will grow
but never fear
I will make all of your wishes come true
look to me my sweet little ones
look to me
and that longing
to be kids
never lose that longing
for it is you my sweet kids
that make me complete

Lost Souls ~ What is this all about?

August 2018

Yesterday, Carol Ann from Therapy Bits was so kind to publish a guest post I have written a couple of weeks ago about my suspicion, that I might live with Dissociative Identity Disorder. At present, I can’t get a proper diagnosis so I can only guess and reach out to those parts of me that do not feel my own.

However, I have pondered the possibility of living with DID for a long time and for a couple of years I wrote a poem series about it called “Lost Souls”. Today I repost something I have written for another blog of mine which I have abandoned since. I feel though, that it is time now to re-post those poems.

February 2012 

If you do not belong to the community of survivors and thrivers of sexual and other sorts of abuse in your childhood, this expression might be quite strange for you. What might “Lost Souls” mean?

Children who are faced with sexual abuse and rape need tools to survive the unbearable reality of living in an environment that does not support and even harm them. As they are often isolated from any outside help but have enormous creativity and fantasy still at their disposal their psyches do what is called “dissociate”.

Wikipedia describes psychological Dissociation as “… an altered state of consciousness characterised by partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s normal conscious or psychological functioning.[1] Dissociation is most commonly experienced as a subjective perception of one’s consciousness being detached from one’s emotions, body and/or immediate surroundings.[2] Van der Kolk et al.[3] describe dissociation as a “compartmentalization of experience.” Under normal conditions, consciousness, memory, emotions, sensory awareness, affect, etc., are integrated; with dissociation, in contrast, these traits are discretely compartmentalised to greater or lesser degrees.” ( Taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociation_(psychology) on the 28th February 2012).”

In simpler words (which really does not explain the complex mechanisms in full but makes things easier to understand) the child’s soul creates different personalities to be able to deal with the different situations it finds himself/herself in. There might be one personality/soul who is a strong adult fighter and bears the horrors of the abuse. There might be the bright child who deals with school and friends. There might be a teenager who deals with everyday life at home.

Abused children might as well “just” experience being outside their bodies when the abuse happens and are not aware of the horrors but are “back” afterwards. It might only happen once. It might happen regularly. It might develop into Dissociative Identity Disorder.  As different as every person is as different develops “dissociation”.

Quite often there is one “leader-personality” who keeps all the others together and co-ordinates life as a whole if different personalities developed. Sometimes all personalities work together well ~ sometimes there are problems especially if the different personalities have totally opposite experiences, likes and talents.

In psychology, DID is described as a disorder. However, children and adults who live with this condition often see it rather as a great help and a beautiful system. This system enabled them to survive and lead a life which is as normal as possible under the given circumstances. My explanations are much too simple for the extremely complex process  DID is. But I hope it explains a little of what people are talking about when they speak of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

I have experienced childhood sexual abuse but I am not diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I know though that I have been outside my body when the abuse happened, and I have experiences of amnesia which suggests that “me” and “I” are not the “normal” single entity we think of as ourselves.

When I decided to heal from abuse and to have healthy relationships as well as a life worth living I needed some means of expression of my experiences. I have always been writing poetry and one day my muses gave me the expression “Lost Souls”. As I am not aware of different personalities but have lost many memories and parts of my life this expresses the best how I feel and how I try to deal with the healing.

I have been writing several poems dealing mainly with emotions involved in the abuse as well as the healing which are all about my lost souls. Quite soon I felt the urge to publish those in a blog/book to help other survivors as well as educate others who are interested to learn what it means to be a survivor.

Now I have enough material to publish a small blog/book, and it is my wish that many may find help and information with it.

Here is one example of the poems I have written:

Losing my souls

Time
and time

again and again

I am
losing
my souls:

one for the pain,
one for the joy,
one for the duty,
one for the treachery,

one stays behind
lost and cracked.

August 2018

I can’t believe that I still haven’t worked on that book. Maybe it’s time now to create, edit and publish it. I also can’t believe that I still haven’t found a solution to this situation. It still buggers me and I feel like being trapped in a loop with no escape. Nothing I do seems to make a difference. No connecting to these “other” parts nor changes in my outside life seems to bring me a feeling of “It’s solved. I can move on!” What on earth am I supposed to do?