We are pleased to announce Edie Bakker as our March 2021 Artist of the Month! Edie is a Texas-based author and poet with a colorful and adventurous background. She grew up in Papua New Guinea, wrote for National Geographic, and has published several books, including Rendezvous with a Rainforest and Crocodile Set Free, which we featured in a past Holiday Art and Gift Show.
More recently, we were thrilled to see her poem “Grappling with Dissociative Identity Disorder” was a top finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities 2020 Pen 2 Paper Creative Writing Contest. Since Edie is such a talented writer, we figured, who better to recount her rich, storied life and creative ventures than Edie herself? We sent her some questions to better understand her writing process, her inspirations/influences, and how her disability experience informs her work. Read on!
Edie, can you start by telling us who you are and where you’re from?
My name is Edie Bakker. I am an American raised in Papua New Guinea by Anthropologist/missionaries. I moved to the United States at 18 and married my high school sweetheart. We have been married for 41 years. When I was 28, I wrote an article for National Geographic Magazine and later led an expedition for them. However, when I was 31, due to various circumstances, I had a nervous breakdown and became mentally ill for twenty years. With ten years of therapy and medication, I recovered completely and began to write books, starting with a memoir of my mental illness called Crocodile Set Free, and the story of my two expeditions covered in Rendezvous with a Rainforest. Fortunately, a small home publisher fell in love with my books and began to publish them for free. My third non-fiction book was called When Cultures Collide. After a medicinal stroke five years ago, I lost my superb memory and switched to fiction. I have recently published my seventh book on Amazon.com. Three months ago, I retired in Costa Rica where I continue to do content editing.
When did you start writing?
I wrote my first story for a world-wide writing contest when I was 15 and won first place. After that I stopped writing until I was 23. My second piece was a paper which I was invited to present at a World-wide conference for missionaries’ kids. I then realized I was on to something and began to write almost constantly, getting a few pieces published in magazines, but mostly collecting poems into an album.
What drew you to poetry?
I have always loved poetry as I am a deeply sensitive person, and I appreciate personal expression. I found writing my own poetry to be cathartic and often during my years of being mentally ill I wrote poetry as a way of sorting out my feelings.
What inspires you to write/create?
I have a creative personality and began excelling in art at an early age. I love music which is a kind of poetry. I love to tell stories. I often write short fiction stories to express the likely feelings of someone I have heard about on the news or other sources. I write to help other people understand things whether they have happened to me, are my personal experience, or have happened to other people.
Does your disability inform your work? If so, how?
While I was mentally ill, I wrote volumes and volumes of journals to understand myself. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder when I was 32 and lived with the disorder for twenty years. D.I.D used to be called Multiple Personalities, and I had 157 of them. I had a different set of feelings, ideas, reactions, and experiences for each personality. So, as I came to understand myself in therapy, I learned to understand many other types of people and greatly increased my communication skills. The process of integrating personalities involves learning to understand and care enough about each of them so much that they become a part of you again.
Can you give us a glimpse into your writing process behind “Grappling with Dissociative Identity Disorder,” your poem that placed in Pen 2 Paper’s 2020 creative writing competition? Congratulations, by the way!
“Grappling with Dissociative Identity Disorder” is a compilation of several journal entries during the year that it took to learn to believe that I really had, “Multiple Personalities.” Of course, I had to learn this in order to work with each of them and so become a whole person.
What do you want people to know about Dissociative Identity Disorder?
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a lot more common than most people think. It is caused by the reaction of an intelligent and imaginative child to an environment that was chaotic or abusive before the age of 8. The child learns to wall off parts of his or her world that are unable to be processed, by dissociating from them and creating whole new perspectives and ways of acting. For example: My parents had to work in an isolated jungle to translate the Bible, so they sent me to a series of foster homes. I could not resolve my need for them with their need to spread the Gospel. I somehow created different personalities to cope with each different foster parent’s demands, having dissociated from my need to feel tangible love from my own parents. Many Tg-professionals believe about 1 in 100 people have D.I.D. and that that most of the females who have it end up in therapy, if they get help at all, while many males end up in jail because of the differences in the way men and women think.
Have you been published or received other recognitions for your writing? Where can our followers read your work?
My seven books are published on Amazon.com and can be found under books by the name Edie Bakker if they spell correctly it. My National Geographic article is published in the February 1994 issue of the magazine. I have won several awards in past Pen 2 Paper contests where my stories can also be found.
Read Edie’s poem and the rest of Pen 2 Paper’s 2020 finalists at https://www.txdisabilities.org/pen-2-paper.