There are many things that I; a person living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, finds difficult some of the difficult areas are as direct result of my condition, whilst others are a direct result of my past and my own self image.
Living life with a label isn’t easy, nor is it easy to live with the pressures that stem from society, a society that at times seems to view people who like me have endured a period of mental instability and illness in a different way.
If you look at my arms for instance they are littered with the scars of pain, I did at one point self harm on a daily basis it was how I survived. Today though my scars are faded there are times when peoples gaze is fixated upon them, they give an awkward inquisitive kind of frown and sometimes ask those questions that I wish they’d never ask. “Have you been in a fight with a cat” was the strangest question I ever had, but the usual is ‘”oh! did you do that yourself'”.
I’m not sure what people want me to say in these circumstances, but I have learnt over the years honesty is the best approach, yes occasionally it leaves others slightly shocked but I am in all truth no longer ashamed of the scars, they just reflect a period of my life. Yet I do find it hard that I am judged, often by those who have no idea what it’s like to be in that kind of intolerable pain that leads to self harm.
The same awkwardness can happen when I lose time, personally I get frustrated with myself its something I really hate doing and yet what’s worse is often the fact that people don’t always understand, I can’t help the fact I lose time or say the same thing over and over again in a slightly different way. Yet it means we stand out from the norm as as such are open to criticism and judgement.
When I was an in-patient in a locked rehab unit, a secure facility with an airlock as standard, the local taxi firm wouldn’t collect people from the unit, they judged without any real information. Ignorance I guess led people to hold a view that was without foundation and based upon stigma. The patients, well we were judged, it was as if we some how became pariahs just because we needed help and were being detained in this unit.
As an informal patient there I regularly attended a local community group if a new person asked me where I lived I would just say the street name and not the place, I’d tolerate the comments of sympathy at having “those people as my neighbours”. they meant me of course but I never told them I was one of the patients. I regret now not being brave enough to face them to let them say their piece and then reply “oh you mean me, I’m a patient.”.
Yet sadly medical people judged me too, some still do, I can recall countless times when I was judged and labelled those times when no matter what I said my views didn’t count, or they were ignored. I can recall being asked more than once to undergo a breath test in one hospital, I hadn’t been drinking in fact I’d been on an Alpha course and had permission to attend. But it often over ran and thus they judged I must have been drinking or doing something I shouldn’t. It irritated me to be treated in such a demeaning way, undergoing breath tests, drugs tests, searches etc and all I had done was attend a local group, yet I knew complying was the only answer and so I accepted what was needed to be done to appease my jailers. I say jailers because they held the keys to the air lock and they dictated if and when I could go out even though I was a voluntary patient.
I am sure that I’m not alone in feeling judged or labelled, we are after all a society fixated on labels and psychiatry is full of them, we don’t seem to treat causes just a set of symptoms. We treat people as objects rather than human beings with feelings and emotions, can this be right. One of things I have found helpful recently has to be the fact that when I discussed how I was judged in my first psychiatric hospital with my psychologist he seemed to understand why I had done what I had.
If a patient acts out in a psychiatric unit they are seen and judged as aggressive or troublesome rather than as someone who is distressed and trying to demonstrate their feelings, their hurt and at times their frustration. Looking back I can see how if instead of labelling me, judging me and drugging me they had offered me help to understand and explore why I had reacted in the way I had it would have been far more beneficial to me, my alters and to the staff.
Today whilst I live in society and I’m a free person and no longer a patient I still find at times that I feel judged, now it maybe the case I am over sensitive to feeling this though perhaps it’s more likely that unfortunately some members of society find it impossible to not judged others. Many people know I have had a difficult past, some even know I have D.I.D but at times it can feel that others don’t understand what it’s like being me, this person with many parts.
Yes it’s chaotic at times, life for me and my alters is never easy some days are better than others, but easy isn’t something we experience. I don’t want people to give me sympathy, I am not asking for people to give me special treatment, I’d just like that they wouldn’t judged us when they haven’t walked even one hour in my shoes.
Copyright DID Dispatches 2014