Synopsis: Dr. Jamie Marich, the film’s writer, director, and protagonist, is a woman in long-term recovery from a dissociative disorder resulting from various forms of trauma, including spiritual abuse in childhood. This short film is based on a poem she wrote while attending the 2021 U.S. Presidential Inauguration, even though many people warned her not to after the events of January 6th. Being there to see former President Donald Trump no longer in power was a necessary component to her healing after more than four long years of her recovery being challenged by seeing so many people rise up to support him. Her intention was to write a “think piece” about the experience of being there and why, as a child who grew up with the impact of conspiracy theories in her home, the current climate impacted her. As explored in the film, no “thoughts” or “words” could come…only feelings and that all-too familiar experience of the feelings shutting her down. On the weekend of President Trump’s impeachment trial, Marich knew that film would be the only way to fully process her experience of the connection between the former President and the source of her traumatic injury, and she decided to bring the poem to life… and give viewers a glimpse into the dissociative experience of coping with current events.
My recovery includes both addressing my addictive disorder (from which I am now 19 years in), and the impact of traumatic experiences on my life. For me, the trauma translated into a diagnosis that is formally called a dissociative disorder. In my clinical work and writing, I’ve been working on a model (along with a collaborator) called “Addiction as Dissociation,” which posits that dissociation becomes natural and normal to children who grow up needing to adapt to the impact of trauma. Once chemicals or other reinforcing behaviors enter the picture, they amplify the already familiar state of dissociation; so addiction becomes a manifestation of the dissociation. Even when we get clean, sober, abstinent, or well from the addiction part of our condition, a great deal of dissociation can remain. Dissociation comes from the Latin root meaning “to sever” or “to separate.” We can dissociate from the present moment becomes unpleasant, or we can separate within ourselves. Various degrees of parts can form to help us cope and manage the impact of trauma, which translates directly from the Greek word meaning “wound.”
Dissociation hasn’t always been a curse for me. It’s kept me safe at several key points in my life, and it’s created in me a very multi-faceted mind that can see the world as a prism, through layers. When I was two years sober, I entered specific trauma-focused therapy to help me heal the roots of my dissociative tendencies that caused problems. Yet nothing like the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency impacted my trauma healing in the later years of my recovery. It wasn’t even his presence that impacted me, although that certainly played a role. It was the way that I saw people rise up to defend him that made me and so many other survivors feel like we’d never stand a chance of being believed. Although I got through the four years of the Trump presidency with the help of my recovery practices and a whole lot of continued therapy, the behavior that I continued to witness from people at the end of his presidency and during the second impeachment trial took me into a very dark place. More of that sense of “survivors don’t stand a chance” came to the surface. Moreover, the rise of Q-Anon and other conspiracy thinking brought up more memories of home, and as noted in the film, a father who was into such thinking years before Q-Anon was even a thing. In my therapy during the rise of Q-Anon, I confronted the impact of how growing up as a child with a conspiracy theorist challenged my ability to really navigate reality and truth.
I am so proud to share this film with you as an official selection in this year’s Reel Recovery Film Festival. If you take something out of it that is entertaining or helpful, I am glad. Yet for me, making this piece was one of the most deeply healing acts of processing in which I ever engaged. When I woke up the morning after Trump was acquitted the second time, it came to me, as clear as a bell, you have to put your “I Wanted to Write You a Think Piece” poem to film. Give people a glimpse into what it is like to be a dissociative person dealing with “the news.” The images that you see are a genuine progression of my day. In the spirit of expressive arts therapy, which I practice and teach, I was “in process,” not knowing what was going to happen next as I filmed. What results is a small glimpse into my journey.