We all have dreams. I’m no exception.
When I was a young woman, I dreamed of a much different life than I have now. Who doesn’t? I had a bucket list of things I wanted to do before I died, but sometimes life takes your dreams and aspirations and shoves them into an abyss.
Let’s examine together my personal bucket list, how my dreams have been pushed by the bulldozer called life into a hole in the ground, and my thoughts on my life today.
Item Number One on My Bucket List: Get Married
Having been born in 1960, I was raised in a social environment where boys would grow up to be husbands and bring home the wages while girls grew to be mothers and housewives.
When I was in junior high and high school, it was a daily occurrence to hear other girls talk about their boyfriends and their dreams of big weddings and living happily ever after.
I wasn’t mature enough then to understand that what I was hearing was fantasy and that life is much harsher than they or I could imagine.
I had no boyfriends in school and worked hard after I graduated to stay away from any relationship at all. I was fearful of engaging in any type of relationship where I would need to conform as a wife because I had no example to build from. I had been beaten into the ground by family members who had decided to use me instead of love and protect me, so my self-esteem was extremely low.
To be honest, I’ surprised I didn’t end up getting married just to use someone else to boost my inner turmoil about who I was then.
I was thirty-three when I met a young man three years younger than myself and began dating him. The first time we were intimate was a huge disappointment as he was too excited and botched it. After that, I knew I did not want to marry him, so I broke off our engagement in November 1992.
In February of 1993, this young man began calling me again asking for dates. I turned him down, or so I thought.
In the early morning hours of April 18, 1993, I awoke to find myself in a hotel in the nearby town of Effingham with this person lying next to me asleep. I got up to go to the bathroom and there before me, hanging on a clothing rack, were a tuxedo and a wedding dress.
This is how I discovered that one of my alters (who is me of course), had gotten married to a man I did not love and did not want.
Was I shocked? Beyond belief, but I felt responsible and decided not to tell him what had happened and to make the best of it.
Item Number Two on My Bucket List: Owning a House in the Country
Growing up, I lived in a small (very small) city full of neighbors who were intently watching you so that if you made a mistake, they could turn you in.
As paranoid as that may sound, it was an unfortunate truth.
More than once neighbors complained about my middle brother making too much noise or me and my siblings looking shabby and dirty.
Funny, no one asked why they just complained.
So, it became a dream to own a huge two-story home in the country where no one would bother us. My brother could hoop and holler all he wanted and climb all the trees he desired without bothering anyone.
As an adult, I had a chance of owning that home.
My husband at the time worked as an over the road truck driver and made really good money. For the first time in my life, I was in the middle class and enjoy the money that I had never known before.
(This was in the 1990s when drivers made excellent money, not like now when they are expected to do just as much work for a third of what they earned in the 1990s.)
We bought a two-story fixer-upper home built in the 1800s with huge plans to make it into the beautiful house it had been originally.
We had lived there for four years when my husband, who had the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, became ill and went on disability. Since I was already on disability myself, we became unable to make our old home alive again.
Then I finally decided to get out of the marriage I was so unhappy in and divorced my husband after eight years of marriage.
I allowed him to have the house and began a huge downward spiral in my mental and physical health that would eventually lead to me living inpatient on a psyche ward for over seven years.
Item Number Three on My Bucket List: Children
From the day my middle brother Jim was born, I dreamed of having ten children. I knew in my heart that I wanted a huge family, perhaps driven by the intense loneliness I lived in.
For many years I dreamed of having a healthy sexual relationship with a man so that I could get pregnant. Then I would dream of the love I would shower on my children and the fun I would have with them.
However, when I finally got married at the age of thirty-three, reality finally sunk in.
I tried my best to like sex, to enjoy someone touching me in intimate ways, but I didn’t. I faked orgasms and interest for eight years while we attempted to get pregnant.
Needless to say, and gratefully, I did not get pregnant and never will now as my body has aged out of the years when it would be practical and safe.
I say gratefully not for me, but for the kids who would have been dealing with a mommy who wasn’t all there and who tried to die by suicide several times. They would have experienced trauma and had emotional problems themselves.
Item Number Four on My Bucket List: Become a PhD
In high school, I had heard other kids dream of their career ambitions. I understood that times had changed, and women could and were getting higher degrees and forming fulfilling careers. I also knew that going to college and earning a degree was the way to push oneself forward to accomplish this.
Although I had no specific career in mind, I took classes in high school, designed to make my dream of earning a Ph.D. possible. Those classes included math and science that were easy for me and I enjoyed.
Then in 1976, my father dropped dead in our kitchen from what appeared to be a massive coronary. He was 39.
My home life had been totally chaotic before because of my narcissistic and abusive mother, but now the only thing standing between myself and madness had died.
Don’t get me wrong, my dad was complacent in the abuse I endured that caused me to form dissociative identity disorder. He clearly saw the signs of what she was doing to us (and what his father was doing to me) and did nothing.
His death brought a new level of uncertainty that destroyed any hope I had of becoming a Ph.D. I could not concentrate in class and my grades suffered.
Without my dad to ride them, the school faculty became a new enemy. I went into the office of my guidance counselor to ask about college, and he told me that I wasn’t smart enough to go to college and earning a Ph.D. was beyond my ability. He then offered sixteen-year-old girl papers to drop out of high school because and I quote him word for word:
“You will never be worth anything.”
Who does that?
Anyway, I did attempt to go to a junior college and then a four-year university but graduated from neither one. Although I was and am intelligent, I believed what he said to me, I was worth nothing.
Changing the Direction of My Dreams
Does any of the things on my bucket list sound familiar? If not, I’m sure that you had things on yours that were equally unattained.
When I received the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder in February1990, I finally understood why I didn’t fit into the world at large. I understood that my behaviors, fears, and motivations were different than what other people experienced.
Paula, my first and most beloved therapist, began to teach me how to live in the world inhabited by everyone else. It didn’t keep me from making some huge mistakes, but her lessons on life, after many years, boosted me out of fantasy and into reality.
I was never going to achieve all the things on my bucket list. She didn’t say that of course, nor did she believe that, but I came slowly to that conclusion myself.
No, I was not going to have a happy marriage, own my home in the country, have ten children or earn my Ph.D.
I needed to change course and make a new bucket list that was in tune with my abilities and my age.
My New Bucket List
My new bucket list isn’t only shorter, it is also achievable even at the age of 58.
Item Number One: Finish a College Degree
After many years of starts, I finally earned my Associate in Arts Degree in Psychology ironically from the same junior college I had begun my college career at in 1978.
I proudly rolled across the stage in May 2015, at the age of 55 and sat proudly among my classmates, many who was eighteen-years-old.
In 2017 I decided to try my hand at a nearby four-year university. I sat among kids who were young enough to be my grandchildren. However, it was a hoot to be among them, and they enjoyed my old person’s perspectives as well.
Although I have decided not to complete my Ph.D., I took classes that were tough but fed my intense curiosity about the neuroscience of mental illnesses, including DID.
I also proved to myself, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I was indeed capable of not only understanding my classes but thriving in them as I received consistently high marks.
Item Number Three: Live Well
I termed it “live well” for a reason. Not only is everyone’s idea of living well different for each of us, I still do not have a handle on just what the term means to me.
Am I speaking of living well physically?
Not really. My body is in a horrible mess. I have lived in such a soup of stress, fear, and emotions that I have formed several physical problems and from which I’m sure I will die in the next decade or so.
That may sound defeatist, but I believe its reality.
I have had a stroke, live in a wheelchair, have an ACEs score of 8, diabetes, an enormous amount of lymphedema had breast cancer, and bones that are quickly degenerating. Shit, I’ve already had cataracts removed!
Add those factors to the fact that none of the women in my family have lived past 73, and you can see my pessimism.
No, for me living well means healing as much as I can from dissociative identity disorder, whatever and wherever that may lead me.
I also desire to live alone again. I’ve had it with living with family members and will never allow myself to live inpatient in any type of facility ever again.
Living well means working on myself as much as possible to make the years I have left happy and fruitful.
Item Number Three: Writing
Growing up I began writing poetry and short stories in the third grade at the age of eight. I had some small dreams of becoming a published author, but that was overshadowed by the other things I wanted out of life.
Today, while I am not making huge amounts of money or any at all for that matter, I have now published over ten books and enjoy people from all over the world reading my work.
I cannot tell you how valuable to me you come to my website is to me. I am humbled and beside myself with joy when I read comments about what I have written and hear that I have helped you.
I believe this item on my bucket list is the most fulfilled of them all.
How I See My Life Today
I realize this post has been rather long, but I’ve said things to hopefully help you realize that even if life bulldozes your original bucket list into an abyss, there is life.
I now see my life in a different and more focused fashion than when I was young.
I realize that there are many more years behind than before me but that doesn’t frighten me at all. I am determined to make the next decade and a half better and better and to accomplish much.
I have begun giving speeches, writing books, and writing this website to reach out and share the knowledge I have gleaned through my healing from intense childhood trauma.
I feel now that if I can just help one person out there in Internet land feel and understand how wonderful and important they are, then I have changed the world.
I also feel that in sharing my journey down the road less taken that I can help mitigate for others the deep traps I have fallen into through thirty years of therapy.
Reaching out to you is my number one priority and will continue to be so for the rest of my life.
I once again leave you with this thought.
Life was never meant to be a horrendous event and then you die. That is a thought planted by others in our early years on planet earth.
Life is a wonderful and powerful adventure to savor and enjoy.
Yes, bad things will happen, and people will die, but how sad it would be to only concentrate on those events and miss out on enjoying the beauty all about us and never appreciate it.
Keep learning, keep loving, keep reaching for the unreachable.
Live, enjoy, and savor life because you only get one chance, there are no second chances.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for a newer and richer experience.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt