I have always thought that I had accepted my diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, and yet in the last few weeks I have come to realise that there is a real issue of denial going on. I am now having to face up to the harsh reality that I have a lot of work to do in order to accept the diagnosis and who we are.
When I was initially told in 2008 that the health professionals dealing with our care thought we might have some form of dissociative problem, I was really isolated, I had been in hospital unwillingly for some time and was 200 miles from home, it wasn’t just a normal psychiatric facility but a locked unit and It ran by a system of rules and regulations which I found difficult to comprehend and was re-traumatising.
Even though I realised I couldn’t remember things, I had so many gaps in my past, I lost time and people would tell me I had said or done things that I had no recollection of doing; and would of course deny ever saying or doing, I had no idea what dissociation was. Looking back it was a bit of an alien concept and I wasn’t in any position to find out more about it as I had no access to the internet, and limited contact with the outside world. So I had to accept what the therapist and her psychology colleagues were saying as they performed numerous tests upon me and whilst it sort of made sense to me logically we never discussed it at any more detail.I knew I had suffered trauma, all my therapy sessions had been about trauma, and my nights and days were filled with memories and flashbacks.
For various reasons I eventually underwent the SCID-D test, not once but three times, each time by a different healthcare professional. Two of them were experts and one had never performed the SCID-D test before and wow did I feel like her guinea pig, she asked me every question going and her test lasted approximately ten times longer than the experts. Maybe practice makes perfect.
The results all led to each person independently diagnosing me with Dissociative Identity Disorder and for the very first time I actually understood what that meant in terms of different parts, and the terminology used to describe the things we did on a regular basis.
I can recall the first call home to my family to tell my daughter the results, I was somewhat incredulous about it all, as if it was just yet another label and well I hadn’t always been like that, had I? My poor daughter; received a very brief and angry response when she replied…. “That makes so much sense Mum”, I know I raised my voice, I ended our conversation quickly and was angry with her for even thinking I had ever been like that before now.
But overtime and with more understanding I honestly felt we had come to accept the diagnosis and who that meant I/we were, yet recently I now recognise that I have never fully accepted the way this diagnosis makes me feel. That’s been a hard lesson to accept, as I really believed that I had taken ownership of my DID and I understood how my mind works, why, and acknowledged I had alters and that they had different traits to me.
Truth can be hard to bear, yet once seized there is no going back, no more denying and no more burying my head in the sand when it suits me.
You may ask what has brought about this sudden revelation in my life, well I have been in therapy for quite some time, and then this year for reasons I don’t wish to disclose at this juncture I had a break in sessions. I eventually changed therapist and now see a very skilled psychologist who works in the field of trauma and dissociation. We have only been working with him for the past month, but in that short time I have come to realise that denial plays a much bigger part in my life than I ever imagined. It hasn’t been a light bulb moment, but it has been a necessary part of my journey and one I am willing to learn from.
Having any mental illness or condition is often difficult to accept, but a dissociative disorder like DID well to acknowledge it means accepting why, why I dissociated in the first place, why I became so fragmented and why I have alters; some of whom carry horrific memories.
The answer to these whys, well I am a victim of childhood trauma and as a child in order to survive the unimaginable this child called Carol dissociated, took herself up above the trauma and the pain and let an alter take those memories and the suffering. I know that dissociation probably saved my life, for without it I have no doubt the little child I was could never have survived what in reality we went through, so to block it off, compartmentalise it, was our saving grace, It allowed us to continue to exist in the reality of normal everyday life.
But for the last 5 years whilst I understood the concepts, the theory and the facts relating to DID, I didn’t want to accept the reality that this was me; not fully anyway. I guess we thought we had, we tried to wear a mask of “we have DID” but the truth is I couldn’t quite take on board my alters memories as my own. I’d doubt them, disbelieve them, dismiss them, deny them, I would try my hardest to correct my grammar from plural terminology of we, to I. I’d talk of my alters but in a way that somehow allowed me to not fully take on board that this was me, that they are part of me, their memories are my memories, they were abused, I was abused.
I know I am not alone, denial is a significant part of dissociation, DID wouldn’t exist without the minds need for denial it acts a bit like a glue holding the dissociation in place. Denial also plays a crucial part in keeping past secrets hidden, both in childhood and in the here and now. For someone to fully acknowledge they have DID, means to accept what happened to them as a child, to accept the harsh reality that they were a victim and possibly people they thought of as caregivers or friends, were in fact abusers. Many people especially those with dissociative identity disorder will understand just how much denial can impact upon life. Its a key issue and its one that; for me at least, is going to take some conquering.
For me this revelation has meant many tears, tears of sadness, hurt and regret too, I felt I had failed my alters by disbelieving them, let them down somehow, though I know that I have nothing to be ashamed for I have no reason to feel guilty, none of this was my fault I was just reacting in a normal way to difficult circumstances. I have also cried because having to accept the past is painful, to fully comprehend that this is my life, was my life.
Today I am starting a new road, acknowledging, believing and trusting my alters, this isn’t a simple easy step forward and I know I will stumble and fall and I will need picking up again, more than once. Yet acknowledging my past, taking ownership of the truth, letting go of false hopes and false aspirations its not easy and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth doing. I know the hard work is only just beginning yet for the first time I really want to grasp this truth and if that takes hard work so be it. No pain – No gain, that’s the saying.
I am no longer denying the reality that I am a we, a multiple, who lives a pluralised existence in a non-pluralised world. A person made up of alters, fragmented parts and a person who endured the most awful past. You see I also know that dissociation is a natural sane reaction to an insane set of circumstances, and there is nothing more insane than childhood trauma.
If like me you are struggling to accept the diagnosis, don’t lose heart you will get there even if it takes a while. Denial is a big issue and it takes some conquering but I have realised that survivors, multiples, we have choices we can either keep on ignoring the truth or seize it and take ownership, by taking ownership we are accepting who we are and slowly we can move forwards. Well here’s hoping.
Copyright: Diddispatches 2013.