This is actually happening features real experiences that often include traumatic events, please consult the show notes for specific content warnings on each episode and for more information about support services.
I was asleep, everyone around me was fake, everything I was going through was not real. There is no way that this could be happening and it's just this very convincing feeling that you're right about this. From laundry, I'm witness Aldine, you are listening to this is actually happening Episode 176, what if you were trapped in a never ending dream? Today's episode is brought to you in part by Land, a new film from Focus features directed by and starring acclaimed actress Robin Wright in her directorial debut Right, tells the poignant story of one woman's search for meaning in the vast and harsh American wilderness.
Eddie, played by Wright, finds herself unable to stay connected to the world she once knew. In the aftermath of an unfathomable event, she retreats to the magnificent but unforgiving wilds of the Rockies for solace. But after a local hunter played by Demian Bichir brings her back from the brink of death, she must find a way to live again. It's a story of humanity in the face of uncertainty. Don't Miss Land in theaters February 12th. As a child, I was always described as super, super happy and very outgoing, I was always the one who was dressed in bright colors and the first person to say hi to people.
And I made friends really, really easily. But from a very, very early age, I was internally struggling with things I don't think I understood. So despite the fact that I was overtly happy and outgoing and playful and fun, I was dealing with a lot of internalization, I think, of the trauma experienced at the hands of my mom in particular.
I was born in England, I'm a child of immigrants, so they came from India, and then when I was about six months old, we all moved to the United States. So I never lived in India, but my parents grew up there. My parents are both doctors, they're both very intelligent, well read then they had my older sister, who was very much the same, and then they had me and I'm much more inclined to like the arts and psychology and music and those kinds of things that were pretty far into them.
So I don't think they really knew what to do with me. My sister, who was born in India, kind of developed that Thai to her culture. I never really developed that Thai both to my culture and to the people in my family who lived there and still lived there. So there is that cultural barrier. There was a language barrier because I did not grow up with the language that my parents spoke. Their relationship to me, I think, was just sort of not really understanding how to relate to me on a level that I appreciated or would respond to, and also I think my mom having trauma from her own childhood that she hasn't really talked about.
She had a lot of stuff that I don't think she ever got help for, and then she would take it out on me in ways that were not OK to take out on a child.
The littlest things would set her off where I would be doing my homework or something and maybe not do it fast enough, and she would get so angry that first she would verbally berate me to the point that I would start crying because I wouldn't understand what I had done wrong. And then if I fought back at all, if I ever said anything to stand up for myself, the floodgates would open and she would become physically violent and hit me and call me really horrible names.
Basically tell me she wished I had never been born. And then she would go and lock herself up in her room for days and just like, not talk to me.
If I tried to get help from my dad or my sister, they would kind of dismiss it because I think that that kind of behavior is not really thought of as being abusive or traumatic.
It's it's like Mom's just being mom. But then I would go up and try to take care of her as a six year old or a seven year old and try to, like, make the peace. And it would end up with more physical abuse and more of her, like completely isolating herself and refusing to talk to me for days and days and days. As I got older, the physical abuse aspects of it got worse. She just made it very clear that at least when she was struggling, that meant that I was struggling, too.
If she was having a hard time, she wouldn't let me be happy.
It was interesting because I mentioned it to my sister later in my life and my sister was just like, oh, that never happened to me. Mom would get mad, but she would kind of just go do her own thing. And I was like, oh, dang. I think, you know, sometimes there's just like that one, that scapegoat in the family. And I think that was me. And I find it really hard to be mad at her for it, because I think my mom was struggling for a really long time with things that had happened to her in her life and the isolation she felt as an immigrant in this country in a marriage with my dad who loved her.
But my mom didn't really reciprocate. I don't think so. I think my mom felt really trapped. And I was like the sensitive one who would try to keep the peace. And I always ended up getting kind of punished for it. As a kid, in order to basically cope with the fact that I did not want to be awake and I didn't want to be living my life, I actually had a super, super vivid dream life to the point where I could essentially make myself go to sleep any time I wanted, and I could make myself lucid dream any time I wanted.
And that was one of the biggest joys in my life as a child. As soon as I got into bed, I would take about 20 seconds, 30 seconds to just think of what I wanted to dream about. And then I would do it. And it was just absolutely magical. The thing was that in my dreams, growing up to wake up from them, during which I was very aware I was dreaming, I actually would have to somehow into my life in the dream to get up.
And I never thought of it as suicide. I just thought it was like a big shock. I jump off of the cliff or I was usually flying. So I'd just be like, OK, stop flying and fall to the ground or step in front of a car. If I'm in like a city, go underwater if I'm near the ocean and take a big deep inhale. That would be how I would wake up. While I really didn't want to spend any time with my mom because I was very scared of her, I also wanted to spend every minute that I could if I was around her, like making sure she was really, really well taken care of.
So I kind of took on this strangely, like, anxious caretaker role in my house. I would get really nervous if people were not being very outwardly affectionate or outwardly happy. And it really kind of culminated in these very anxious behaviors, which included writing everything down obsessively in my diary that I did that day so that I could know, like if my mom got mad, I would know what I had done to not trigger it in the future. I was actually reading a diary of mine a couple of months ago, and I went to one that I had written in two thousand and three when I was in third grade, and I started to measure my body shape and weigh myself a lot and be really, really concerned with what I was eating and what my body was in as a third grader.
And there's like drawings that I found in my journals that were showing ways in which, like, the shape of my tummy had changed or something. And I would write down, they need to eat less bread. I need to eat more fruits. I need to like to skip lunch. So really, this perfectionism, this like anxious need to take care of everybody and take care of everything that could lead to any kind of blow ups. My eating disorder developed all the way to high school and a pretty slow creeping way where I don't think I or anybody around me would have noticed that I have strange eating habits.
It really came to a head in high school when I started to also become more like sexually active with my first boyfriend and to question things about my sexuality and gender identity. I also have an incident when I was very small, maybe like seven, six or seven years old, of a confusing and upsetting, like sexual situation with a cousin of mine, which also kind of put a pretty strong wall up inside of me. So as I got older and started to have more sexual contact with people when I had my first relationship, that definitely brought up some confusing feelings and a lot of my anxious behaviors became like much, much, much worse.
I wasn't really in touch with what was happening to my body, and I started off with pretty like I would say, like textbook anorexia. I started to restrict certain foods that I would eat. I would convince myself that I had allergies to certain foods so that I would rationally be able to tell people that I couldn't eat them. I would almost like fake allergic reactions to things, but to the point where I would really feel it.
It became very psychosomatic to the point where I was convinced that there was just lists of food that I just couldn't handle. Later, I guess, in high school and into college, I started to purge using vomiting and also overexercising. I started losing a lot of weight and becoming extremely unhealthy to the point that I was blacking out a lot when I would get up in the morning, I fainted, I fainted and a lot of places publicly. The biggest one I can remember is one time in college, I fainted at a train station because I was on the train and I hadn't eaten for two days and I felt really dizzy.
And then I had to get off the train and I ended up passing out in the station and getting taken to the hospital in an ambulance.
I don't think that anybody in my family at least really wanted to acknowledge it, it kind of goes back to the cultural piece of this where it's very hard for people from certain cultures, mine included, to acknowledge the presence of mental health crises in their families, especially. That's very taboo to talk about. So at least within my family, they kind of ignored it or tried to give me other ways of coping, like eat healthy and exercise and meditate and all that stuff that you hear that is great.
And it doesn't work when you're like heavily depressed and heavily anxious and dealing with PTSD. Friends wise, I had a lot of friends that were kind of in the same boat, I went to an arts college and was studying music, and it sucks that it's a stereotype, but a lot of them were also struggling very much with similar things. So if nothing else, we actually kind of might have perpetuated those behaviors in each other.
I was drinking a lot.
I was doing a lot of drugs in college to the point where people were having trouble keeping up with me. I would self medicate in these ways and then kind of laugh off like why I was upset or why I was experiencing these hard feelings.
I had friends come up to me and say, I love you, but I can't be your friend because being around you is hard and it triggers things in me.
And I'm actually really glad that I had people in my life who put those kind of boundaries up because it made me realize how much of an effect one person's actions and words can have on others. That slow rise of these behaviors that included things like my eating disorder, those existed in tandem also with more overt symptoms, I would say things like having panic attacks and isolation, still being really bubbly when I was out with my friends, but my mood would switch just so fast from things would be fine.
And then one little thing would happen that I would feel like an idiot about. And it would absolutely just tear apart my entire day, if not my week. And I would just go into a spiral of anxious thoughts and just like wormholes of self-hatred. Looking back, I think that I was experiencing suicidal ideation from a very early age, mostly in in imagining what that would be like just so often, that occasionally it would be like the only thing that could bring me enough peace to go to sleep at night, just the thought that that was an option.
I didn't really make an attempt until I was older, although one could argue that not eating for a week on end is a type of suicide attempt. And only when I was a little bit later in college did I ever make appointed an overt suicide attempt. So when I was 20, I was very, very sick. I had stopped eating almost completely and my boyfriend at the time told me that he thought that I needed help and helped me find a treatment program for people with eating disorders.
He self-identified as an alcoholic and a meth addict, so he really kind of knew the place that I was going. And so I actually enter the hospital voluntarily and it was an inpatient program. So I had to go and live in this hospital. I thought that I would be in and out in a week or two. Today's episode is brought to you by Audible If you're looking for the best way to listen to audiobooks, podcasts and meditation programs all in one service, check out Audible.
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I was in the middle of my third year studying music therapy, interestingly enough, and I didn't want to be there and I didn't want to get help, but I had absolutely no idea that it would be like probably the most pivotal moment in my life and the moment that every single thing that I had ever struggled with in my life was kind of forced to come out. Anybody who knows eating disorders knows that it's not about needing to be thin. It's not about losing weight is a very effective coping mechanism that has gone awry.
So being in treatment necessitated me coming to terms with a lot of the things that had happened to me in my life and coming to terms with the fact that I was not OK and had been living my life with a multitude of very unhealthy coping mechanisms. So what I thought was going to be two weeks in treatment ended up being four months. My very first week there, I don't think I stopped crying at all because I was so terrified of something as simple as them asking me to eat a plate of mac and cheese.
And it was the scariest thing in the world to me. They had me start to go to therapy, which I had never really gone to before, and I basically was just thrown headfirst into this situation that I did not realize would be so devastating. And it was really the prime example of they have to tear you apart before they put you back together. And I just felt absolutely torn apart at this place. And I remember the overwhelming feeling of just being so helpless and so terrified that every time I try to think about it, I'm like physically shaking at this moment when I'm talking about it, I'm physically shaking.
It just brings out this horrible reaction in me.
The thing that I feel like I was confronting the most was my relationship with my mom, actually.
I think the biggest thing was coming to terms with the fact that this person who loved me so much really broke me down for most of my life. I was living with this woman who on the daily would somehow show me that she loved me and she was struggling so hard and I could see how hard she was working to make life good for me and my sister. And that ambiguity of is this person good or bad? Is this person abusive or not abusive?
Is this person a good parent or a bad parent like that is not a question that I can answer. And that's what's so confusing about it, because I think that in a lot of ways, my mom was amazing. But the problem was, I didn't know who I was getting when I came home because my mom was so unpredictable and I wanted it to be good all the time because it could be so good and like maybe a snack every now and then, I would have been able to cope with that.
But this was like punching, hair, pulling and things that just like really crossed that line. So I was coming to terms with the fact that, like, this relationship that I really valued in my life and that I knew was one of objective love was also full of hurt and harm. And coming to terms with that, this kind of turned your world upside down. So I was in the hospital for almost two months before I was able to leave for the day, so I was able to go out on the day pass.
And so as soon as I was out and as soon as no one was watching me, I took advantage of it. I ended up just like grabbing. It was probably a knife from the kitchen or something. And I ended up trying to cut my arms open and my sister found me and they had to take me back to the hospital. It was suddenly like the thing that made my family realize that I was really sick and really hurting. Then they started coming to like family therapy with me.
I had been put on a couple of different medications and things just weren't working, and I don't really know how fast a lot of these medications are supposed to work, but I guess I wasn't making progress in the amount of time that my team thought I needed to make progress. So finally, my care team was like, you keep trying to hurt yourself. We need to figure out an actual treatment plan for you that's going to work because these medications are not doing anything.
So I was made aware of the options of electroconvulsive therapy. And my team was really kind of pushing it. They really wanted me to do it. I think that they were really frustrated by how slow my progress was. And I called my parents and I talked to them about it and they were like, OK, like, I guess if this is what your care team thinks is necessary, we'll do it.
So I said, OK, I'll try this. I didn't really have anything to lose at that point, and the only thing I knew about electroconvulsive therapy was like what I had seen in movies. And I was like, this sounds like a setup up, but I don't really care. And then they were like, you know, the side effects are not as bad as people think. Like it's not barbaric. It's not like how you see in movies you're not going to be awake.
So I started having these sessions. They make sure that you've not eaten yet that day and they just take your vitals and then when your time is ready, they put you on a bed. They would inject me with something that put me asleep and I would basically just go to sleep and when I would wake up it would be over and I would be so tired and I usually would have a headache and I would be completely zonked out. And honestly, it was the least interesting thing that I could imagine going through.
I was just asleep the whole time. So I had 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy over the course of a month, so three a week for a month. I would essentially just go in a couple of times a week, they would check in with me to see if my symptoms have been alleviated and this was the point, about five or six sessions in that I started to stop believing I was real. My team would check in with me and be like, hey, how are you feeling?
And I'd be like just sleeping, like I'm tired and I just remember being exhausted. I would just give very vague answers because I couldn't really function. I couldn't really make sense of what I was feeling. Because I was just sort of vague and out of it all the time, nobody realized that I was slowly getting to this point in my own mind to convince myself that I was essentially asleep. I was so sure that all of this was a dream that I couldn't be awake because, like, this didn't make any sense.
And why would I be here? Like, why would I be going through this? Like, the entire situation just felt so ludicrous. And to my my brain that was going through all this hard stuff and was getting electrocuted a couple of times a week. It just made no sense that I was awake. But this wasn't a dream. And that got to the point where it was very inception, I was like, cool, I know I have to wake up.
And I was actually very convinced that the only way to wake up is to to die. So on top of already having suicidal ideation and having had suicide attempts in the past, I was now convinced that in order to actually wake up and live my life, I had to die like it was a necessity.
And it's funny, this kind of ties back to the fact that I could make myself lucid dream any time I wanted as a child, so it just stands to reason that as an adult, when I was convinced I was dreaming and I was convinced that the world I was in wasn't real, I thought I knew exactly what to do to to be able to wake up. So while I was getting electroconvulsive therapy, I was also going through, like the hardest stuff that I think I've ever been through with treatment, which was I was in therapy with my mom and I was expressing to her the things that I felt were harmful from my childhood.
And she was just really resisting. So I was getting I was basically being told that I was a liar and that everything that had happened to me as a child either wasn't that bad or just hadn't happened. And then on top of that, my boyfriend at the time was going in and out of rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. In losing touch with what was real and what wasn't. That was when my rage came out. That was when I started to become angry that something was going on and I was not allowed to leave this just absolutely horrible situation.
And I was so angry that everybody around me was telling me that I had to stick with this just nightmare of a life. It felt like my world view just got flipped where it was like I was in my lucid dream, but the problem was my dream was going sour and things were hurting too much. In my lucid dreams, I could generally control almost everything, but now I was utterly convinced that I wasn't real and that I was asleep, everyone around me was fake.
Everything I was going through was not real. There is no way that this could be happening. And it's just this very convincing feeling that you're right about this. People can maybe try to rationalize to me, but I knew in my heart that they were wrong and I wasn't awake. And I was furious that at every turn I was being thwarted in my attempts to wake up, which in this situation were my attempts to end my own life. But the entities within my dream, which were in real life, my care team, my parents, my family and my doctors, they were physically holding me back from doing what I thought I needed to do.
Imagine if you went to sleep and you had a dream and you realized you were dreaming and then you were like, Oh, I want to wake up, and then something in your dream that you thought was fake suddenly wrapped its hand around your wrist and looks like you're stuck here. You're not allowed to leave. I ended up having another suicide attempt which landed me in the psych unit of the hospital instead of the eating disorder unit, which I had been in until the.
The problem with that was that when I was in the psych unit, I had no access to my eating disorder care team, so my eating disorder kind of came back full force because I was now in this unfamiliar situation dealing with something a little bit different.
And I basically got through another couple of weeks of that. And then I was just tired of it and I had had enough and I left against medical advice.
During this entire time, I would kind of slip back and forth between reality and what I thought was a dream. After my sessions were done, I would occasionally slip out of that conviction that I was dreaming, come back to reality a little bit and be like, oh, this looks great, but I'm awake, OK? And then something would trigger me. I would talk to my boyfriend at the time or I would be in one of the therapy sessions and think about something hard.
Or sometimes I would just be upset and I would go back. I would regress. So I end up leaving while still going back and forth between my I guess what I would call my psychosis and coming back to reality. When I left, I think I had snapped back to reality for a moment, for a little while, I was elated that I had left. So I think I was in mentally kind of a OK place because I was just like, yes, I'm taking back control of my life.
And so I felt like I was real and I felt a little more grounded. And it wasn't until a couple of weeks in after I had left, that I realized how lost I was and how little I had really begun to cope with what had happened to me. So the next year was torturous and I think the only reason that I didn't end up succeeding in ending my life was because at that point my family had finally realized how sick I was and they did not let me get away with anything.
And seeing how hard my mom was trying to change and I could see she was struggling so hard and I think something inside of me went back to that like six year old me checking on my mom when she's having, like a major depressive episode and locking herself in her room. And I, I, I felt like I needed to take care of them.
I was still in a relationship with that same guy that I had been dating who had been in and out of rehab. And he was over that next year, was struggling very hard with his addictions. And I started to take that caretaker role on for him, too. So at this point, the only thing keeping me alive was the fact that I felt indebted to take care of other people.
I had this person in my life who was so struggling and who at the same time was also starting to become abusive towards me in a way that hadn't existed before. I already didn't really know it was real all the time. And I was already, like, really questioning my my sanity and my grasp on reality. And on top of that, I would have this person who, if I disagreed with him on anything, would basically convince me that I was crazy.
So this next year, it just really went downhill. I was just confused, like my whole life, I was just confused. I didn't know what to do with any of this. And while my parents were trying to be good to me and trying to help me and my sister was trying to help me, they also had been exposed to the same things. Suddenly they had realized that they might have been the cause of some of the hurt that their child was experiencing.
And so my family was in a very similar situation. As the person who had brought all that up in my family, I became the antagonist. My sister had this conversation with me and she told me that I kind of torn the family apart a bit and I didn't know what to do with that information because I had just spoken my truth. And that was all. That was all I was trying to do. I did not know where to turn because my the people in my life who I cared about and who I thought cared about me weren't reliable in my eyes.
And the problem with me is that while it has a very high efficacy rate, it also has a very strong chance of causing memory loss. So my memories were not reliable.
My sense of reality was not reliable. And the problem of my long term memory also came into play at this point. So even to this day, the two years before I had to lie about when I had that's gone and I only know what happened because of my diaries and because of what other people have told me. To this day, I still have very severe long term memory loss issues, and therefore even my own experiences aren't reliable. And so even telling the story feels really difficult because at least the hospitalization, all of this happened within the last five years, and you would think that I would be able to recall what had happened in the last five years.
But it really all does feel like a dream at this point. And considering I thought it was a dream, it's a little bit confusing. Today's episode is brought to you by Madison Read For decades, women have had two options for coloring their hair outdated at home color or the time and expense of a traditional salon. Now it's time to take coloring your hair at home to the next level with Madison Reid, the ideal alternative to the salon with next level hair color you can do at home delivering gorgeous professional hair color to your door.
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Find your perfect shade at Madison, Dasch read Dotcom. This is actually happening. Listeners get 10 percent off plus free shipping on their first color kit. With code happening. That's code happening. On the Internet, people can hide their true identity and become anyone they want to be. But what happens when those lies go too far? MTV and Wonder represent Cavefish, the podcast hosted by award winning filmmaker Neil Schulman Catfish. The podcast exposes the truths and lies of online dating.
Each week, Neeve and his guest hosts will reveal the wildest, most dramatic stories with never before heard moments. And you'll learn that when someone seems too good to be true, they just might be. Subscribe to Catfish, the podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify or wherever you're listening now. So I experience memory loss in usually two ways, one of which is I know I have some small recollection that an event happened or I had met a person or something was said, but I can't recall any details.
And this feels much more manageable where it's like it could just go under the category of just general unreliable memory, like we don't remember everything that happens to us, I think this just happens to me a little bit more often, this sort of grasping for something that I know is there, but I can't really latch on to. The other way that I experience my memory loss is a little bit more upsetting in which somebody mentioned something or I'll find evidence of something, and when I say I have no recollection of it.
I know that in the year after I was out of the hospital, I was basically a different person and I think that I did a lot of things and set a lot of things that now I wouldn't say and I don't think my best self would say and probably myself before that wouldn't have said, but I was very hurt. I don't remember my twenty first birthday, for example, my mom's pretty upset about that because she planned a big thing and invited all my friends and family from out of town and rented out like a house and had a big party.
And as I can remember, celebrating my twenty first birthday, I guess I didn't do anything. And she was like, we spent an entire weekend, like a long weekend out doing all of this stuff, like partying and having a great time, and we got you all these instruments. And I was just like in my mind, it just didn't happen. The things that I can't remember at all, the things that are totally lost to me, I'm not usually upset that I lost the memory in and of itself.
I don't really care that I can't remember my twenty first birthday party. But the thing that worries me is that this has just been a pattern of not knowing what happened, not being able to recall things, having my memory feel like something that is just inherently unreliable. And so when I get examples like that of something completely gone, we're not even an inkling is left. I get a lot of panic attacks. So this happened actually, I reached out to a friend that I had had in college and I was like, hey, it's been a long time.
I would love to catch up with you. And he was like, I never want to speak to you again. Why would you message me? Like, why would you send me a text after, you know that, like, I don't want to talk to you. And I had absolutely no idea what had happened. And I later realized that I had said some things to him that were very, very unacceptable, and he had every right to break me out of his life, but I didn't know I'd done that.
So sometimes things like that will still happen. That was probably one of the worst. I've forgotten people, too, when I've met people in my life that have told me things about me that they recall from our many conversations we had together, and I'm just like, I'm sorry, I have no idea who you are, that hurts me because I feel like I'm just losing my life. Like I feel like parts of my life are just gone and I'm never going to get them back.
And I'm still young. I'm only twenty seven, but I feel like I've lived maybe like half my life and the other half, I just don't know what happened. When I got out of the hospital, I think I was 20, when you leave against medical advice, your care team, at least at this place, they kind of have to forfeit you a little bit.
So I had to find somebody new. So I started seeing a new therapist that got all my history, got my background and started to help me kind of piece through all of this. And she was actually the person who made me realize that my relationship with my boyfriend was abusive at the time, because I don't think that I even realized that it was. I've been seeing this therapist for the last almost six years now, and she has been everything to me, like I have not met anybody else that I felt so comfortable with talking to and who I felt so not judged by and who didn't make me feel shame for any of the things I had experienced.
And so while the act didn't work, I open up the floodgates a little bit and I figured out what I needed to come to terms with in my life. And so she really helped me with that. I think this last year is actually the first year that I can actually say that I'm happy, I really owe that to the work that I've done with my current therapist. It was just like a very slow process because I had lost so much of my memory that I didn't know what I was doing most of the time.
It took a long time for me to solidify my treatment plan with her because I would keep forgetting what was going on. I would forget what we had talked about. I would have frequent meltdowns and I would slip back into that sense of being in a dream. The uncovering of memory as I went through therapy was something I have a pretty complicated relationship with, because on the one hand I would like more than anything to be able to get back in touch with a lot of my memories and to understand what happened to me.
And on the other hand, one of my deepest fears is that I'm going to convince myself of something in my mind that didn't actually happen.
I'm very afraid of that. And the fact that I cannot trust the memories that I do have, I don't know what happened and I don't think anything I could uncover I would ever look at with one hundred percent trust that it actually occurred. So most of my therapy that I have with my therapist is actually about coming to peace with the fact that, like, I might never recover a lot of my memory and I might never understand some of the things that happened to me.
And I might never actually remember a lot of the more difficult things that happened to me. The ways that I have come to mimic a semblance of memory when it comes to the things I've spoken about is mostly through what other people have told me and what I wrote down in my journals. And thankfully, I've been an avid journal or for my entire life. I don't like reading my old diaries. They're very hard to read. They're just full of pain because I know I'm going to uncover something that I don't recall at all, but sometimes I need to read them in order to understand what happened.
I literally have dozens and dozens of journals. I haven't read all of them yet, but seeing how much pain I was in as a child is often more jarring than anything else, mostly because I feel disconnected from that person, from that child that wrote those things. So I feel like I'm reading the journal or hearing the accounts of a child. I don't know. I think that I've changed so much and I think that we all change a lot, but most of us have the luxury of understanding the phases that came with that change.
And because I don't have a super strong semblance of some of my most formative years, I just feel completely disconnected from that child.
All of the stuff I've been through really made me question and try to come to terms with what it means to have a sense of identity at all. Most people would say that our identities are kind of an amalgamation of all the experiences that we've had, the people that we've met, the things we've been through that form us into who we are. That's what makes a sense of identity. But my sense of identity has been heavily fractured. It feels like I have some kind of like phantom limb, it's like, sure, those things happened, they were there, but I can't see it anymore and I can't connect to it anymore.
As much as memory and experience is important to develop who somebody is, it's more important to be in touch with you, who you are right now and what's happening right now and figure out a way not to live in the past, which I guess I have the luxury of not being able to do. Maybe we've got more control over over what makes us us than we think we do, because I've had to form my own identity over the last couple of years based on things that I've been through in the last couple of years and that I remember and that are important to me.
And maybe it feels like reinvention. But I guess for me, it's like even though I know certain things happened to me and I know I've been through some kind of difficult things, those don't feel like the things that make me who I am. But the pain that they brought me is still there, and I know that that pain is still there because all very often experience pain from things I can't recall. And I'll also have kind of happier triggers, like something will happen and I'll be like, that's something that brings me Joy and I and I don't know why, but I feel like it has something to do with something that happened to me.
That phantom limb that's there also exists in the relationships that I still carry with me, for example, with my sister, like she and I have a kind of fraught relationship that's a lot better now. But she remembers a lot of things about our relationship that I don't they still dictate how she is with me and therefore how I am with her. And so these ripples, they don't just affect me. These these events that happen, the things I did, the things I went through, the things I've said, the things I've maybe caused other people to go through, I still have to own them, even though I can't recall them, because I know that these things still have an effect, whether or not I can remember them.
Moving forward, I am pretty intent on building new new memories as much as I can, retaining memories is still a struggle for me, but it's getting easier and I'm trying to imagine a future in which I'm not dwelling on the things that I can't remember about the past. And I'm getting to a better place about that, about not worrying so much about the things I can't recall, even though it is hard letting go of this worry that I'm not a full person.
If I can't recall all the things that have happened to me in my life and letting go of that fact and just approaching everything that I do with some form of like radical acceptance. I feel like and maybe this is a cliche, but I feel so much compassion for people because I think of the fact that I just don't know what they're going through and I'll never know what other people are going through. And anybody who's been through anything hard like this, like it just builds up your compassion for other people.
And I also understand that, like, I've been offered many privileges in life and this is not the worst thing that could have ever happened to anybody. And it definitely isn't. And I think I'm just thankful that I have what I have in that I've lost a lot and I've lost what makes me who I am. But I think it just makes me feel that much more compassion and kindness for other people because the world is a confusing place and it might all be a dream, but we should all just try to do the best we can with what we've got.
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