Mark of Exclamation – Down The Dissociation Highway


Melissa speaks with Tonya and Jaime about a confusing trip to New Jersey; prior to the Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis. What happened during that weekend, and what did everyone think was going on? Extreme happiness, euphoria, and a sudden high IQ are looked back on; finally, with answers.

Melissa: I have alternate personalities.

Skittle: It’s really funny!

Melissa: But what if none of this is real?

Unknown: She doesn’t even like me!

Melissa: Where was I when that happened?

Melissa: SNAP back to it, man. Snap back to it.

SpitFire: Can she just get out of my face?!

Skittle: I want to watch a cartoon!

Melissa: What if I’m not real?

Melissa: It’s not usually obvious to recognize someone who is living with alternate personalities, it’s a disorder of hiddenness, even from the person themselves. Today, we speak with Tonya and Jaime, two good friends, whom we went on a trip from Montreal by bus to meet them in New Jersey in October of 2019. The subject of the conversation is the way we were behaving on arrival that was a stark contrast in our usual presentation. This was a co-conscious switch with a Headmate named Exclamation Mark, though, as we were not yet diagnosed, nobody knew that at the time, which was confusing for all involved.

Melissa: We also delve into another Headmate that surfaced around that same period; John Q, with an IQ of high potential, he certainly left an impression.

Melissa: If you give us a listen and you want to learn more, find transcripts or interact, you can find us over to access exclusive bonus episodes, join a private community, and support The Bag System podcast. Find the link in the description or look us up at pod.Fan Your support contributes to creating transcripts for the deaf or hearing impaired, to tech costs, our hosting platform, or general show improvements, with the monthly membership fee at less than 5 USD.

Melissa: We met Tonya and Jamie through my Idranktheseawater YouTube channel a few years ago. Together, we have been a traveling trio from across the USA and Canada; growing closer with a distance of our voyages. You’ll hear Jaime, who is from New Jersey, though, has an accent that sounds southern.

Jaime: We started talking sort of disconnected and she introduced me to you, Tonya, and that’s how I met the both you.

Melissa: You’ll hear Tonya, who lived in Texas for most of her adult life after her service with the Navy.

Tonya: Was watching YouTube videos and this video popped up with this chick who had a fedora hat on, and was doing some poetry, and I thought it was really cool, and checked her out, and checked out our other videos and got to talking, and we ended up just getting it off.

Melissa: To build up to where the conversation starts, I was two or three hours into the bus route when I was struck with a traumatic thought loop about events that occurred long ago, and about how upset I was. At first, I felt a feisty attitude. But soon, my thoughts veered in a similar but opposite way. I continued to consider the traumatic events, though, rather than feeling distressed or angry by them. I felt a sense of pride that I managed to be so talented at my failure to deserve respect or even basic humanity.

Melissa: The concept grew slowly, so I didn’t notice this too much at first. Other than that, it felt positive and nice. Around an hour into this new twist in the loop, I felt my grin grow stronger, more persistent, and I realized I couldn’t rest my cheeks. It then occurred to me how unbalanced this must have been. I tried breathing deep to focus and clear thoughts. I attempted to press my hands on my cheeks to keep the smile from bursting so obviously wide; I failed.

Melissa: The further the trip went on, the bigger and more uncontainable the happiness became. Something was distinctly wrong, though. I had no idea what. Had someone slipped something into my drink? Why did I suddenly have so much energy, when hours before, I barely managed to drag my sleep deprived body to the bus depot? The only time that the happiness broke was on a transfer in New York City.

Melissa: A homeless man hungrily picked through the garbage and passionately consumed leftover fries dipped in someone’s used ketchup. Like a powerful fall that hit with tears and pain of empathy, I left my place in line to hand him a twenty US dollars bill and said, “I don’t know what I will do without this, but I sensed you need it more. Please put that down and buy some food.”

Melissa: After leaving from a place on the next bus, the incredible force and happiness remained rushed, though only momentarily. Soon the energy grew overwhelming and the pain in my face from the degree of smiling could not be smothered. By the time we got to New Jersey, I was honestly frightened. I truly felt this happiness in respect to being so talented at being so horrible, though simultaneously I could not comprehend, and my voice of reason was alert.

Melissa: I texted Tonya to warn her and Jaime that something was very strange and different, but to please not worry.

Melissa: I do have Tourette syndrome, though it’s less severe than it once was, and I tend to edit my tics out of the recordings. Right before knocking on the hotel room door where my friends would answer, I grew nervous that I may not be able to calm down and let out a single phonic tic. The door was opened for us and that’s where Jaime and Tonya will be continuing this story.

Jaime: I remember being really confused; not sure at what I was thinking at the time. I think it was a cross between, is she on something, or is she just goofing around? Like, I didn’t know what was going on? At first I was just really, like, we knew something was different, like, something was off; you know,

Tonya: Because when you texted me that, it was like, you know, I was like hey, “Don’t be alarmed and let Jaime know something’s going on. I’m like, “Oh. OK.” And when you walked in. I was like, OK. She seems a bit more happy than usual, but not nothing, I guess a bit scary or anything like that. It was just kind of unusual, like kind of like with Jaime was and not sure what was going on. Like, has she been drinking? What’s going on here? It seemed like you were a little more, I don’t know, like, elated and just not the same Melissa. Something was different.

Jaime: Yeah. You kept repeating the same phrases, like, over and over again. Like, something about being validated. Like “You’re validated,” or something like that. And you were laughing to the point, like we thought maybe it was mania or something and we didn’t know what was going on. You weren’t making a lot of sense in what you were saying at times. So, it was hard to figure out. You know, we didn’t know at the time how concerned we should be because we were like, maybe this will pass. Maybe she just needs to take her meds or maybe she just needs to calm down. Did she have too much coffee? I don’t know. It was just really bafling.

Melissa: I remember you’d asked, “Are these tics?” So, it must have seemed like I wasn’t saying what I was saying purposefully. It couldn’t have been me or that I was being sarcastic. Was that kind of an impression that you had, that it was sarcasm?

Jaime: Yeah, I think so.

Tonya: Yeah. That’s what I felt. Like, oh, she’s being sarcastic. Yeah. At first, thought, maybe it was a tic, or something, because I think it was you were heading to the bathroom, and you… What was it, like did you? I don’t know if you tripped, or, you just crawled into the bathroom, was like, huh. Like, what’s going on? And you’re like, “Don’t mind me.” You know, like, I don’t know. So, yeah, it’s kind of like, “OK, what’s going on?” You know.

Melissa: I think I was in fits of laughter, going in the washroom, and laughing.

Tonya: That too. Yeah.

Jaime: Did you fall down because you were laughing?

Melissa: Probably. Well, do you guys remember any of the things that I was saying, other than just being happy? Like, what I was happy about?

Tonya: Kind of staring at the ceiling a little bit and then smiling about it, like about being validated. But you were smiling, like from ear to ear. Just; I don’t know. You wasn’t really like, talking to us. You know. It was just this whole, smiling and just standing there for a minute, and we’re just like, looking at each other like, “OK. What’s going on?”

Jaime: Yeah. You were kind of pacing all over the place too. Like, you were all over. Like, walking around and moving constantly. Also, you were saying like negative things about yourself, but you were saying that with a smile and like, you we’re laughing about it. You saying something along the lines of, like, you were a terrible person, or something, and you were just like, laughing. I don’t know if you remember exactly, Melissa?

Melissa: I’m the best at being the best at what no one else wants to be the best at. Statistically, I’m one hundred percent plausible to be the best at being the worst because nobody else wants to try to be as bad as I am.

Jaime: Yes, I was pretty much it. I remember that we were looking at you and were like, I think that’s the point where I was just like, it really hit me. Like that something was really wrong. Like, you weren’t just laughing or smiling. It was like some kind of psychotic break or mania or PTSD. Like, it was something more.

Melissa: I remember your face in that moment, kind of like you got smacked in the gut, or something. And that’s when I decided to take my Haldol. I was like, I’m really being awful. Like, not necessarily. I didn’t really think that I was being awful, because I thought that it was self esteem, in my opinion.

Jaime: I was just really concerned.

Melissa: Right. No. But I felt like it was causing an impact that wasn’t desired. So I thought, well, I think that I should just take my meds and sleep; make this stop so that I can stop impacting people in such a negative way because I could tell that I couldn’t calm down. I was just like, practically in the ceiling. Well, what do I do? So I needed to take my meds. And that was, I think, I remember the longest process just to take the meds.

Jaime: Yes, that’s right. You kept getting distracted. It’s like you kept getting distracted by the laughter, and the like, every little thing around you and everything was validated. You were just going off on a tangent. It took, like, I don’t know, maybe a good fifteen, twenty minutes to get the medicine into your mouth and actually take it.

Melissa: If you look back, would you consider the looking at the ceiling and smiling ear to ear a state of dissociation?, Like, staring at the ceiling and getting lost and can’t think anymore? Would you be able to connect that now with your knowledge of what might have been going on or what would have been going on with a state of dissociation rather than necessarily a psychotic break?

Jaime: Yeah, I think that, now that I know what was going on, I would be able to tell. But I mean, at the time, we had no idea you had DID. So, we didn’t even think about it because, supposedly, like I heard, it was rare. So, I don’t know. I guess that wasn’t one of the first things that came to my mind at the time, you know?

Melissa: Right. It didn’t come to my mind either. I assumed psychotic break. Or, actually, assumed someone slipped something into my drink and that I was drugged.

Jaime: Yeah, that makes sense.

Melissa: But I thought, no, because the cup, it had a lid on it. I Had been watching it the whole time. It was in front of me on the street in front of me. Then I thought, maybe it was sleep deprivation because I’d had so little sleep. Did you guys notice anything different about Melissa energy levels? Because, usually, I’m dead tired.

Tonya: You did have more energy than normal. Yeah. Like you said. You had been struggling with being tired all the time. You definitely had more energy than what you typically have.

Jaime: Yeah. You were borderline hyper.

Melissa: Pretty much. Because I was so tired, like so tired. I could barely, like, open my eyes. It was like, painful and my whole body hurt. And then all of a sudden, like, the further we got along on the bus ride, the more the happiness climbed about being really marvelously good at being disturbingly bad. And the happier that we became, the more energy we got, and then, it was like we could have just bounced off the roof. When, just like an hour before, we were dead tired to the point where we didn’t know what we were going to do for this 12-hour bus ride.

Jaime: So, that, how long on the bus ride were you feeling this way? Like, how far into it?

Melissa: It started about two or three hours in, and it was progressive. At first. I liked it. Oh, this is positive. I’m kind of good at being awful. I was confused and afraid and yet still smiling ear to ear, until it got to the point where you guys end up seeing us.

Tonya: And I just remember looking over, like, where’s my friend? Like, what’s going on? You know?

Jaime: And then that night, we went to the movies?

Tonya: Yeah. We went to the movies.

Jaime: She seemed OK during the movie. Like, she was very quiet,

Tonya: She seemed OK as well, or went out to grab something to eat. Yes, she seemed fine. And then we went to the movies and she seemed okay. And, I think something was going on in the movie, but nothing that we really noticed.

Jaime: We got into my car and that’s when you told us something was wrong. You told us that you needed to go home right away. Like, something wasn’t right. You needed to go to Montreal

Melissa: From the adverts before the movie, there was these meaningful clips that they insert in these ads to make it seem like, “Wow. Our product is great. Look at this car. We have family meaning.” From that, and right away, it was, “That’s amazing!” And it got so amped. “This is weird.” And I didn’t say anything. I said nothing. I didn’t want to ruin the movie. And the further we got into the movie, because it was pretty much a very meaningful movie also, which was Maleficent to self-sacrifice, the love, everything about it was absolutely meaningful. And I couldn’t calm down.

Melissa: I was not the same kind of excited as the day before. Whereas, the day before, it was self-hate, kind of liking hating myself, and thinking that was great, and thinking that was self-esteem. But this time it was completely different. Also a form of happiness, but more elated, like more like euphoric, and to the point where it was like I was seeing a movie for the first time in my life. It was like I was experiencing the world for the first time in my life; simultaneously realizing how weird that was and sitting between you girls. And I was like, I need to calm down because, we’ve been planning this weekend forever, and I’m going to ruin it. We wanted to go to the movies. I already ruined the night before. If I freak out now and say we have to go, I ruin everything. So, I stayed very quiet and I got very excited, the whole damn movie; the whole movie was elated. And I almost poppped some braincells being so happy about the movie; euphoric. So, yeah.

Jaime: Popped some braincells. Yeah. No. We couldn’t tell. We thought you were fine, and when we got out, you were quiet too. Like, you wouldn’t talk until I parked the car across the street. We were going to go back to the hotel but you were like, I gotta to tell you guys something right now. I think you said like, something’s not right. I going to get out of here. Something’s really wrong.

Melissa: I was afraid that I had brain damage or something; like neurological damage from not eating and drinking for a while before. I was afraid that it was a psychotic break, that something really wrong was going on and I just couldn’t identify what it was. I didn’t really think mania. I didn’t really put it out of the equation. I thought more psychotic break because everything that was drinking the day before was the opposite of the very negative thoughts that I would have regarding PTSD. So, I thought it was a psychotic break from post-traumatic stress. Whereas, I just didn’t know. It was really scary. So, I was simultaneously thinking my thoughts and feeling my own concerns, while at the same time, thinking and feeling completely opposite things; as if I was more than one person. It was like I was multiple thought and feeling streams at the same time. That was very confusing.

Jaime: That’s right. I remember you thinking, maybe the dehydration had affected you, too. Like you said,

Tonya: I could tell you were distressed. You were kind of struggling at that point to understand what was going on. So, you were ready to go back and you just said you had to leave. We looked up what could be the best, you know, best way to get you home.

Melissa: Did you notice a kind of back-and-forthing between completely, euphorically happy looking on my face, and absolutely distressed and freaked out?

Tonya: I couldn’t tell you were going back and forth. Are you saying, like at that time, going back and forth in between? Or, could I tell the difference from earlier that day, or?

Melissa: Sometimes, I was completely panicking. I think that you mentioned, say, the next morning, you could tell that I was smiling and trying not to let you see.

Tonya: Right. Yeah, I remember that. Yeah. I don’t recall… Like, that morning. I remember you just being really, really happy. I think when we were at the hotel when you were leaving, it wasn’t necessarily as happy as you were when you were in the car on the way to the bus station. I remember looking over and you were just smiling, like, once again from ear-to-ear, kind of similar to the first night at the hotel. You wasn’t saying much, but you were just really smiling. I was just kind of thinking, like, I wonder what she’s thinking about or what was going on. You know. I could see that, but then also, like, once we got out the car, I could tell you the stress, you were concerned, but it wasn’t like extreme like the night before when you decided that you had to go back, you know. Yeah. I think you were really fearful at the time. You didn’t understand what was going on. You were a little bit calmer the next day before you went back. But, I could definitely tell that something was going on, that… I remember, you kept saying, you were trying to control it. But you couldn’t; really couldn’t control it.

Melissa: Did you notice a difference in the happiness from that morning and the happiness from the night when we’d arrived at the hotel?

Tonya: Yeah. It was different, because it wasn’t like, the same. I don’t know how to best describe it. It was similar, but you wasn’t saying anything like you were the first night. Like, the first night was extremely happy. And then I think the morning of the bus, it was more, you were happy, like, I don’t know, like, like somebody like a kid, when the kids see Disneyland or something, like their eyes are just kind of like, wow, like, look at this; you know, type situation, where it wasn’t the same. It was two different happiness for sure. It wasn’t the same as the first night.

Melissa: After that, and that we were able to figure out, like that we were told it was DID, and we the processed that, we figured those were two different alters; Headmates. The first night, and when we arrived at the hotel was one, with probably ADHD, I’m guessing. And the other night was Maggie. So, that was your first encounter with Maggie. She was kind of euphoric.

Tonya: Yeah. That makes sense.

Jaime: Yeah.

Tonya: Looking back at it, then, that makes total sense. I think, also, when you had made the video about MindFire; I think that’s what it was called? I remember talking with you after you made the video. We were talking about it, and how you were concerned that you were changing; something was changing. And you were upset that it was going to push people away. With that, and what I saw in Jersey, that’s kind of, I was like, OK, that does make sense. Looking back now. Because a first, I just thought, it was maybe mania. When you got that diagnosis, first I was like, OK, I could kind of see how you could come to that conclusion. But then, when you finally got the diagnosis, it was like, OK, that, yeah. Now, that fits. So, I think for me, it wasn’t hard to believe or anything like that. It was just like, Oh, OK. It made sense. So, I didn’t have a hard time believing when you said that that’s what was going on, and that’s what you were diagnosed with. I think, the MindFire, and talking with you about that, and how you were changing, and how, you were all of a sudden interested in physics and all these other things. That kind of clicked for me, to say, yeah, that’s more of a DID thing.

Jaime: That’s right. Wasn’t there a point where you were just, you were talking like a rocket scientist, or something, at one point, and using, like, extremely big words. You were interested in all these details, and, was that before or after New Jersey when you started using all those big words, and talking like you were, like, some kind of super genius.

Melissa: That was before. So, that was September 2019, and the New Jersey stuff was in October. I remember you had mentioned it; something like, “No one talks like this unless they’re writing their doctoral dissertation.”

Jaime: I did. (laughs) Oh! Do you think that has anything to do with the DID, or?

Melissa: Oh, yes.

Jaime: Okay

Melissa: Yes. I could say that it wasn’t necessarily a switch, exactly. More like passive influence, in the sense of someone influencing cognitive ability. Because, nobody goes to that kind of a variance in their abilities, cognitively, unless they’re going downwards, not upwards. So, I would say that, yeah, that was someone we call John Q, for IQ. Cognitively, unless you have DID, you can’t fluctuate that high, and that, and then go back to normal, without it being something very, very, like, dissociation or something like that; compartmentalizing aspects of yourself. For you. Jaime, was that a hard pill to swallow when you found out the diagnosis? And then, how did you feel later on compared to that?

Jaime: I mean, at first, I was kind of like, oh, my God, this poor girl, she has so many diagnoses that I don’t even know, like, like, how could she have, like, DID? But then, like, after researching it, and seeing you and knowing you, and seeing how you were before. And like, it just, yeah, made sense afterwards. I put it all together, you know, and I had time to think about it, and we eliminated the mania and PTSD and all that and you weren’t on anything. So, yeah, it made sense after you got the diagnosis and we talked about it.

Melissa: On the bus ride home, I prepared a document present for the psychiatric evaluation, as I was capable of expressing my own thoughts, only in text. The title, marked In bold, read, “Please read this before asking me to speak.”

Melissa: The first part of the text was as follows: “I need for you to read this first, because I am nearly incapable of speaking without my new symptom being so uncontained that I would not be able to explain what you are about to evaluate.”

Melissa: “I am capable of typing with normalcy, as I can filter the words. When we speak, I will be too overwhelmed to express needed information that is more than what you could only observe. Please understand, before we speak, and after you read this, none of this is a joke or sarcasm. The way that I think and express is real. You may notice discomfort in me as you read. This is due to a great deal of concentration in suppressing my symptom, which is difficult to achieve, and that concentration may not last long. If my expression is of smiling, just keep reading to understand.”

Melissa: Following that letter and hospital stay, and after a combination of the weeks with John Q, then with Exclamation Mark and Maggie, we were nearly diagnosed with bipolar. Our psychiatrist was wiser than handing us that diagnosis. He explained. “It’s not mania. You’re dissociating. We aren’t going to give this a label. We will just treat the symptoms.”

Melissa: I was confused as to what that meant. Though, found out soon enough…