Having D.I.D. has many challenges for me and for my family, long before I was diagnosed as a multiple I married and had three children, as a young parent I was never sure of the things I was meant to do in order to be a good mum yet I did know what I wasn’t meant to do. It wasn’t easy being a parent even back then, but with help from the children’s Dad and other relatives we managed to raise our children. Some of my parenting difficulties resulted from a lack of parenting experience, and from the lack of nurture I had encountered as a child, alongside I guess the impact of the abuse I had hidden away in my mind as a young child. Its hard to parent when you have no real experience or role model upon which to base your actions, and I had no role model on how to be a mum, so the whole concept was alien to me.
Somehow though for many years we muddled through, I had support in daily living from either family or social services, the more natural parental nurture came mainly from seeing how others parented their children. But many things seemed hard for me to grasp, I couldn’t somehow just be a mum and enjoy the little things in life such as playing in the sand with my children. So I buried myself in work and community activities anything to fill my time and my days, and which allowed me to feel like I was coping even when we weren’t.
Deep down I knew that I was struggling, when we began losing time, forgetting things, realising we had said or done things without any recollection of doing so, my moods were fluctuating so much I realise now I was probably switching alters at this time. I just didn’t realise it back then, in fact I thought I managed to keep most of my difficulties well hidden from everyone, including the children.
When I became an in-patient in a psychiatric unit my children were all teenagers, the day I was admitted my daughter drove me to the hospital for an assessment and she returned home alone. In the weeks that followed the children all realised I had been harming and wanted to die, and yet they came regularly to visit, never judged me and showed real care and compassion. As time progressed and one hospital stay led to another the children learnt to deal with my absence from home.
Because of the decline in my mental health there was a time I was judged by some to not be able to live with my children, people felt that I wasn’t safe enough as a self-harmer to be around them unsupervised. It split our family apart, it meant I couldn’t live at home, it also meant I was judged and watched at every turn by people who knew nothing more about me than the fact I was unwell and had tried to end my life. I was deemed unfit to be a parent, yet the fact was I would never have hurt the children, they meant more to be than words can ever say and I would have died trying to protect them. But mental health carries a stigma, and that is at times used to judge those of us who are ill and to deny us the right to family life, the right to be a mother to our own children. I was only allowed to be with my children alone once each of them turned 18, despite the fact they felt safe with me, that their Dad was happy for me to be with them and I was capable of being safe around them. It caused huge damage to our relationships which were strained , by 2007 I felt more useless and a burden to them than I had ever felt.
Looking back I realise that I was a good parent, even in the dark days and no one should have ever used my mental health to attack my fitness to parent. It wasn’t as if they had done assessments to make such horrendous decisions they were based on stigma influenced judgement’s and yet still I know parents with D.I.D fear people finding out the diagnosis in case it leads to similar issues regarding fitness. Shouldn’t we be able to treat people with compassion and care and help families to remain as families, now don’t get me wrong if there is any suspicion of abuse I would want the services to protect children, but in the cases involving mental health we need to be cautious that its not stigma based decisions that are being taken. I know the cost of those ill informed decisions as do my children sadly as I wasn’t really able to be mum properly from 2005.
So by the time I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in 2008, I had spent a total of over 2 years in hospital, I had been away from our home area in the secure units for nearly a year and out of their day to day lives as a result. But I had contact with my daughter nearly every day via telephone and letter, she’d visit every month travelling for 10 hours to spend just a couple with me. My sons would come to visit less frequently, but we would speak a couple of times a week if not more and they did keep me up to date with their lives and what was going on for them.
So when I was diagnosed I remember thinking how would I tell these very special people in my life the people who I loved and cherish and I worried frantically about it. In the end I recall telling the diagnosis to my daughter first, her words were simply “that makes sense”. I was initially annoyed and alarmed at this response; I thought the diagnosis would shock and surprise her but it didn’t, and that meant that I had not hidden all the struggles with dissociation as well as I thought. that was a hard pill to swallow.
But I soon realised that in my children I had three allies who all cared, understood and accepted me for who I was, their mum first and foremost and the fact I just happened to be a multiple was a secondary issue for them.
Today sometimes I am aware that our roles are reversed, if my young alters are present my children will ensure our safety and well-being, its at these times they provide care for me. It is in every way a full on role reversal, but it isn’t an all day situation, my daily life is one that is very fluid as we switch from alter to alter this means my children’s lives are fluid too and they have become very adaptable to this changing situation.
The children have also gained their own expertise in dissociative disorders, and they deal with our D.I.D in their own individual unique ways. The switching which is unpredictable can be draining on the family, especially for my son who lives with me, it isn’t easy being a multiple but it isn’t easy on the family either. My trauma, my past, my dissociative disorder impacts all of our lives and yet it also makes us stronger people.
My children have come to terms with the fact that I their mum have a teddy as a best friend, who has to come on holiday with us and at one point was carried every minute of every day. They have learnt to have a mum who is forgetful, loses things, buys things and doesn’t remember, at times gets very distressed and whose mood will fluctuate depending upon which alter is present.
My youngest son once told me after he and I had been away for a week that he felt like he had been on a coach trip as he had in reality taken a whole group of people on our trip, one mum, one body but a whole host of identities. My son who lives with me is honest and has recently asked for a couple of days a week rest and so he know spends a couple of nights each week with his Dad, now it would be easy to take offence but I don’t I know its not easy for me or them. My daughter is often the person who reins me in if younger alters want to go toy shopping and if I get overwhelmed she helps me to rationalise life again, she also attends all my Care plan meetings and is good at fighting my corner now if its needed.
I realise today that as a mum I have missed out on so much, but that despite everything I am blessed with three truly awesome children who I love so much and who I know love me no matter what. I see each of them as unique individuals who bring me immense pride and enjoyment, they all have their own talents and I can see some of me in each of them. Yes we may have been through a lot as a family, but our honesty with each other, our openness and understanding has allowed us to move forward with hope. We are able to accept each other for who we are, accept each others strengths and weaknesses and accept and acknowledge each others differences.
I may not have been able to be the best mum in the world, but my children are secure and happy, they know I am there for them no matter what, that my love is unconditional. We have rebuilt our relationships, we have shared laughter and a few tears but most of all we have created our own memories of life post diagnosis, holidays together, days out enjoying shared interests and fun at home be that baking or just having a simple family meal. Most of all we are building a future full of happiness, hope and opportunity one that involves all of us, the children and me their mum their multiple mum.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014