It took 15 years of avoidance, the view from the end of a very long rope, and one newborn baby, to make me face my Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and to realize most people who have DID do not act like the main character of the Showtime series United States of Tara.
Before my child was born, I did not know anything about it and I didn’t want to. The only thing I knew about Multi Personality Disorder (now known as DID) was that every time I’d heard mention of it, the context of the conversation could pretty much be summed up like this:
“Those people are crazy.”
False. I’m not. In fact, I’m very intelligent and the process my mind created for me over the course of eighteen years of my life is meticulously and intellectually organized and understandable after coming to terms with the trauma that caused it.
Furthermore, the other “me.” is still me, and she is a teenager. I’m not a doctor, but now that I am learning more about the condition, my research would suggest that she is teen because that is the time in my life in which I endured some of the most severe trauma, and my mind felt the need to protect me.
Therefore, when I am dissociated, my emotional coping skills, social cues, and communication, reflect that of my teenage self around that particular time of trauma.
For me, the problem is that my teen-self was just as articulate and just as smart. As a teen, I was developing the guts to defend myself against my father via my mouth. (It usually ended up in the need to outrun him.)
Thus, she is the me who steps in now when Dissociative Identity Disorder wins the boxing round.
It sucks. It’s humiliating. It’s embarrassing. It’s enabling and disabling all at the same time. It causes me to lose track of days, projects, deadlines, commitments, forget whole conversations, say things I don’t mean, and lose my cool when I’m in a verbal altercation and someone throws the right words with their punches.
“She” is the side of myself that I hate. The side who would kill you with words and read you your book, and she knows how to hit where it hurts. She will destroy you and spit words in such a way that after you are done defending yourself, you will still play in your head over and over because they were accurate, but expressed in the most destructive way.
She’s not crazy, either, but she is a victim. She is scared, defenseless, and angry, so my mind’s choice to become her is dangerous. She will do anything it takes to defend herself or me from one more bad thing, but she’s a fraud and she knows it. She’s helpless, vicious, emotional, cold, careless, and reckless.
She is my DID, and if she wasn’t as smart as me, professionals could just feel sorry for me or write me off as “another crazy.” But I understand DID more than most people in the psychology field because I live it, and it seems to create even more of a struggle for me.
I do not take medication. I don’t write notes to my other selves or have conversations like Jekyll and Hyde situations you see on TV. I haven’t followed the DSM-5 method of treatment or integration. I don’t do any of those things.
I face the pain behind it head-on and I do that because my daughter’s future demanded it. That doesn’t mean that I can always control it. Understanding and the ability of articulation do not negate or invalidate the challenges of any mental health diagnosis, and neither should stigmas or personal biases against established mental health conditions.
When mental health professionals or educational institutions allow those things to cloud their judgment in providing services or meeting the needs of those who struggle with uncommon mental health diagnoses, it is people like me who suffer the consequences.
It is children like my beautiful 3-year-old daughter who are robbed of their futures because their parents cannot break through socialized perceptions of mental health conditions that have become common belief and spilled over into common practice.
We are not all the same! What helped me face it? Facebook. After 6 years of therapy had failed me, spilling my thoughts and being able to track my conversations on Facebook saved me. I helped myself, and I’m nobody.
I’m a mental health patient. I’m a suicide loss survivor. I’m a child abuse victim. I’m a domestic violence survivor. I’m a rape survivor. I am a “disabled” person.
I am a lot of things, but what I am not is a psychologist, a suicidologist, a doctor, an LCP, MSW, MD, any other certification or title, you name it! I’m not any of those people.
I’m someone who can be (no, someone who is!) part of the answer educational institutions and medical researchers are looking for. So goes the same for every single person with a mental health condition or illness.
We are a million different people, not one diagnosis, and there is no single solution.