Out of the Darkness, Into the Light Part 1
“Dissociative parts of the personality are not actually separate identities or
personalities in one body, but rather parts of a single individual that are not yet
functioning together in a smooth, coordinated, flexible way. P14”
― Suzette Boon
Since this begins a new year, I thought I would start it off with a ‘boom’ of reality from our world. The topic that I will discuss is one that has such stigma attached to it that it’s has taken me months to muster the guts to discuss it. This is a topic that hits home in the best/worst kind of way. I’ve written for months now explaining some of the many symptoms that I experience mostly on a daily basis. 2014 was no doubt one of the most difficult for me, Mel and Marshall. However, we as a family including my brother have shed tears together, as well as, have a lot of laughter. I have also smoked a ton of medical marijuana just to be able to live day to day.
I figured that a few months ago when I ‘came out’ out as a medical marijuana consumer, the thought crossed my mind that even though people can be cruel when it comes to mental illness, that since this blog is about MY healing I would ‘come out’ about my particular illness. Many have read my blog since day one and for that I thank you. I would also like to say that while reading this particular post that you just keep an open mind. I’m not going to try to change your opinions or perceptions of mental illness. I’m simply going to try and paint you a picture of mine to the best of my ability.
I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Now for those with no therapy background, I can tell you that this is the same thing as Multiple Personality Disorder. And now your opinions and thoughts begin to race. The only references that most of you have are those of the books/movies The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil. Hollywood did a horrible job painting a picture of what those of us with this disorder look like and how we function on a daily basis. Guess what? I’m still the same Dana that you grew up with and loved. I just have a world that has formed inside my brain that I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have. I didn’t question it because to me that has been my normal. Does this diagnosis make me ‘crazy?’ Should it make you fear for your family’s life if I happen to be around? Does this make you want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction? I can promise you that all of that energy would be wasted.
The symptoms that I have mentioned in other posts are all true and are a part of daily life for me. I can’t tell you what it’s like living with a spouse with this particular disorder because only my wife can answer that. I can tell you that it’s the most intricate puzzle I’ve ever had to try and figure out. Having only had this correct diagnosis for almost 1.5 years we, as a family, have had to adjust. We were already adjusting prior to Marshall being born. His birth somehow set off a bomb inside my brain that retriggered everything that has happened to me. Not his fault or mine, just our reality.
With both my wife and I having Master’s Degrees in Counseling, we were baffled when we never even considered this diagnosis as one that would fit. Even in graduate school, because of limited time to study the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders we didn’t see the signs. If you want to know why we had limited time to study on this manual, just take a look at it one time and you’ll see that it could take years to be taught thoroughly and it’s like computers changing all the time. This diagnosis is still part of a great debate about whether or not it’s an actual diagnosis. I can’t answer for other families but for our family it’s very much a REAL diagnosis.
Some people have, in fact, asked Mel if she felt safe around me with Marshall. The answer is always the same….yes. There’s a lot of self education we’ve had to do because of the stigma within the mental health communities, as well as, those outside that community. We don’t have all the answers yet to how and why and neither does science. I can tell you that the very slow journey of recovery from a lifetime of trauma actually began when the correct diagnosis was given. Now I finally had answers to why sometimes I would answer myself and had what I thought were ‘loud’ thoughts.
To see me today, I’m the same goofy ass, class clown that was and still is friends with Levi Pierce. I have scars on my arms. It’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s how I survived. You don’t have to be afraid to have your kids around me. I’m not going to cook them and eat them.
DID, as I’ll refer to the diagnosis from now on, is not near as scary as the picture that has been painted. Does it have scary moments? Of course. So does Bipolar, Major Depression, Schizophrenia and any other disorder. This disorder requires a very patient and understanding spouse, as well as, professionals to be able to deal with some unpleasant moments.
The title of my blog “This Puzzled Life” is all about putting these scary pieces back together enough for me to be able to enjoy doing what I love…..helping people. Once piece at a time is how I’ll learn to live with this disorder. Trial and error is how it’s been for almost 1.5 years now with the correct diagnosis. Prior to the correct diagnosis it was and still is at times a total nightmare. Also, life continues regardless if I have a disorder or not. Friends and family still pass away which can complicate things. But, this too, is just the way life operates.
With very patient but firm therapists, I’m finally being able to look very closely at some of the horrors. The ‘alters’ or other personalities, if you so wish to call them, have their own story because they were created by the mind at very key times in the abusive history. Alters together are called a ‘system.’ Each ‘alter’ has his/her own function within the system. Each person with DID has a system much like that of a finger print. Not every therapy works the same like a cookie cutter. Do not be afraid to ask what you don’t understand. Your fears come from what you don’t understand.
“DID is about SURVIVAL. As more people begin to appreciate this concept, individuals with DID will start to feel less as though they have to hide the shame.”
There are also no psychotropic meds that are specifically designed for this disorder. This also explains why for the first 3 years of seeing a psychiatrist none of the meds worked for an extended period of time. Some antidepressants, anti-psychotics, axiolitics work well for some alters and not for other alters. I was taking Parkinson’s medications for the side effects of other medications while feeling horrible from the side effects. So, that represents toxicity to me. My psychiatrist offered as a last resort the state’s Medical Marijuana Program because of all the mood swings, PTSD, hallucinations and every other symptom I would have at that time. Now believe what you want about medical marijuana, but I can personally tell you that that medication as it is so treated, is one of the reasons my wife, son, friends and family still have someone they love living. The memories of the trauma alone are more than I can handle. The effects of PTSD steal your sanity one image, smell, thought or sound at a time. The body memories while very painful become a little more tolerable with the marijuana and acupuncture.
This is why I’m also so big on people recognizing and working on their own trauma. That way people like me who set out to enjoy life don’t have to wait 40+ years to understand what that means. I’m representative of people who were too proud or stubborn to face their own demons. This too was not a “choice.” I understand the concept of ‘free will.’ Where was my free will? That’s right, there was none.
People from all walks of life have this diagnosis but go on for years with the wrong diagnosis because so much can mimic other diagnoses. There are also those still that live with this diagnosis and are very successful members of society. The trauma didn’t just occur overnight. It’s has happened my whole life so, the process won’t resolve itself overnight. There is a lot of painful elbow grease that has to be put into this recovery. The point is to keep putting one foot in front the other. I’ve never backed down from a fight and won’t start now. You just can’t take the athlete out of me.
I will take you through the victories and the setbacks of this journey. Hopefully, I’ll help educate you while also healing me. The only thing I ask is keep an open mind.