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Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Felicity Lee
Felicity Lee

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by felicity on 5/11/2014, 1:57 pm

Dissociative Identity Disorder:
Safety in Ignorance

Jamie was bred into a generational family of abuse.  They didn’t consider what they did to the child as abuse but rather ‘training’ to fit into society as expected.  She was to attend college in order to work as an attorney within the ‘organization’.   Her training began at birth.  During her early childhood, she was exposed to brutal rapes and torture by members of the organization.  Since she was viewed as an asset rather than a child with needs, the abuse came from seemingly every source.  By the age of three, the perpetrators, who were aware that abused children dissociate, had effectively set up scenarios that split her mind into several different personalities.  Before she was 5 years old, she had learned only pain, sadness, agony, and betrayal.  She knew never to tell anyone, or the punishment would be death of a friend, pet, or herself.  

She learned to dissociate (go away) in order to avoid the torturous situations, never realizing that another state of mind was aware.  She learned to avoid the sad feelings of having no one there who cared enough to protect her, not knowing that another state of mind carried those feelings.  She learned that there were only two ways to avoid the ongoing agony: dissociation or suicide.  Mostly, she learned to behave normally in public and for the next 40 years, she managed to behave as if her family of origin was perfect, being the product of loving and nurturing parents.  

She always knew the sad and pain inside and never forgot the threats of telling.  As long as she acted normally, all would be well in her life.  She would attend the best schools, marry well, and have the perfect family.  That was her cross to bear – her heritage.  

Throughout her life, Jamie struggled with the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder (DID), as do most children who use the defense of dissociation to deal with extreme abuse.  She always felt as if her outside life were a fog, unreal and timeless.  This is called ‘derealization’ and a symptom of DID. She could never remember to eat and had no connection with her body.  It also seemed unreal.  This is called ‘depersonalization’ – another symptom of DID.  She often lost time; seemingly waking up in places she did not recognize feeling much younger than her age.  This is often termed ‘switching’ – yet another symptom of DID.  Though she lived her life in a state of self-hatred, she knew she was as she had been carefully taught – damned.

Jamie is but one in some million abused children struggling with living adult life as a survivor of abuse.  Not all have dissociative disorders, but many do – about 1-3% of the population.   Though these statistics are reality, articles and information are written by groups of ‘professionals’ who claim that there is really ‘no such thing as DID’.  These articles also invalidate the people who have been diagnosed with DID and/or treat dissociated clients.  It soon becomes obvious that the topic of trauma and dissociation is actually viewed by many as ‘controversial’.  

I remember when I was first diagnosed with DID some 10 years ago.  I ran home from the doctor and began researching the diagnosis.  I learned that there were vocal groups who not only hated me, but also the few mental health professionals who I could look to for help with my symptoms.  One group, the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF), have been in the media since the 90’s spreading such nonsense that there is a syndrome called ‘false memory syndrome’.  This happens when a person remembers any childhood abuse.  Another popular tale is that therapists who treat dissociation ‘implant false abuse memories’ into their clients’ brains.  Most importantly, these folks poke fun at the DID diagnosis stating that clients come to ‘believe’ they have DID from their therapists – called ‘iatrogenic DID’ or ‘therapy induced’.    According to Dr. Paul McHugh (a well-know FMSF member):
“Once the patient permits the therapist to "talk to the part . . . who is taking those long drives," the patient is committed to having MPD and is forced to act in ways consistent with this role. The patient is then placed into care on units or in services - often titled "the dissociative service" - at the institution. She meets other patients with the same compliant responses to therapists' suggestions. She and the staff begin a continuous search for other "alters." With the discovery of the first "alter," the barrier of self-criticism and self-observation is breached. No obstacles to invention remain.

Countless numbers of personalities emerge over time. What began as two or three may develop to 99 or 100. The distressing symptoms continue as long as therapeutic attention is focused on finding more alters and sustaining the view that the problems relate to an "intriguing capacity" to dissociate or fractionate the self.

At Johns Hopkins, we see patients in whom MPD has been diagnosed because symptoms of depression have continued despite therapy elsewhere. Our referrals have been few and our experience, therefore, is only now building, probably because our views - that MPD may be a therapist-induced artifact - have only recently become generally known in our community” (McHugh, 1995).

Dr. McHugh is an educator and a doctor.  He, and others like him, have trained and are now training scores of people who have and will be entering the mental health field.  These folks were not only trained, but rewarded for accepting such nonsense as ‘truth’.

I do recall my university studies in the area of psychology.  During my some 6 years in university, I never learned about DID/MPD and only remember learning how to spell ‘dissociation’ despite that theories of dissociation were first written about during 1869, when French neurologist Pierre Janet discovered that a system of ideas split off from the main personality when he hypnotized his female patients. Soon afterward, William James, the father of American psychology, uncovered a similar phenomenon and termed the condition ‘disassociation’.  The theory of DID has been around since then.  

Many have asked why our society seems to listen to and believe such garbage as ‘false memory syndrome’, ‘iatrogenic DID’, therapists having the ability to or even wanting to ‘implant memories’ in their clients’ brains.  And, for those who care, answers creep forward.  Are the members and/or followers of the FMSF (who does have a shady history) and other professionals who perpetrate this controversy financially benefitting from child abuse?  Are they just ignorant and/or too lazy to research dissociation and or the effects of trauma on children?   What’s the deal?

I have come in contact with mental health professionals who not only have set beliefs that DID does not exist, but refuse to treat it and actually emotionally abuse those who seek treatment.  Therefore, I have learned to hide, as I did as a child from unsafe people who are meant to keep us safe.  Those seeking help ‘avoid’ those who are meant to help us, because they ‘avoid’ us by believing that we aren’t ‘real’.  
As a society, we find safety in ignorance – we avoid anything that seems unsafe.  We believe what seems the safest to believe.  And, when we live this way – we die ignorant.  
Why is it difficult to believe that so many folks struggle with symptoms of DID?  Clearly, there is no such ‘syndrome’ as ‘false memory syndrome’.  At least, there has never been any evidence to prove such a thing.  Therapists do not have the power to ‘implant memories’ in their clients brains, and DID happens as an affect of extreme trauma at an early age.
Is it easier to invalidate folks who have endured horrible abuse at the hands of their caretakers than to help them?  For gosh sakes – these people have lived through hell with nobody to protect or stand for them.  They aren’t suffering from ‘false memory syndrome’ or ‘iatrogenic DID’, but from horrifying flashbacks, lost time, confusing derealization and depersonalization, eating disorders, low self-esteem, relationship problems, and more.

These folks cannot regain their childhood, but deserve respect and support now as they struggle to live in a world that holds everything they always deserved.  At the very least, they should not have to fear the mental health system that has the education available to treat and finally give these folks some help.

Anyone who invalidates the reality of DID only needs to think for themselves – and, disregard those who, for whatever reason, promulgate the notion that DID is not real.  We, who have DID are real; we only need professional therapists to help us realize that.  Maybe, you don’t like ‘knowing’.  Maybe, avoiding us – dissociating our reality is easier.  Maybe, deciding that we are all looking for attention helps you get through a day.  

From the very beginning of our life, we learn to act normally, to fit in with society’s expectations.  And, within our society are beliefs that hold us all together: parents nurture their children teaching them right from wrong; teachers ensure that their students behave and learn according to rules within the status quo; friends and family accept that what happens ‘behind closed doors’ is not their business; only criminals of low social standing would ever abuse a child; children cannot be believed.  

These are the lies you are told.  We, with DID, live in a hell no singleton could ever understand and/or believe.  Few stand for us.  Those who do are our heroes.  They put their reputations on the line, their time caring for the adults who were never heard.  And, they put themselves out there to educate others.  
Those who care know who you are, and you know that you give us life and a strength we never realized we have always held deep inside.  We are survivors and together, we are strong.  The glue that holds us together, the foundation that holds us up is those therapists who are there for us – believing, validating and helping us heal.
I have written this article in thanks to my wonderful therapist and in asking that other therapists take the time to give us a chance.  Join adult survivors of abuse, other therapists, and supporters at the 2014 Trauma and Dissociation Conference being held on October 3-5.  We aren’t asking anyone to change their ‘beliefs’, but to come listen with an open heart to a full schedule of educational opportunities; to take part in valuable workshops and hear plenaries presented by educators and practitioners in the area of trauma and dissociation.   Please visit:  www.igdid.org.

Source: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, July 1995 v34 n7 p957(3).

Copyright:  Felicity Lee 5/11/14

You do not have the right to copy this article without permission of the author.

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Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by hideandseek on 5/17/2014, 2:57 pm

Felicity - that is so wonderfully written and for such a great purpose. I really hope that many therapists and psychologists will attend and learn and stop the DID disbelief they spread.

Felicity Lee
Felicity Lee

Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by felicity on 5/17/2014, 5:20 pm

thank you. I felt like I was not saying what I meant - like I missed my mark somewhere.

Like, maybe I will write another one.

I was trying to say - and, I don't know if it is true - that possibly some therapists avoid learning about good treatments for trauma, because they want to avoid 'us' being 'real' as much as we avoid us being 'real'.

When I was looking for a t, lots of really 'nice' therapists wanted to treat me, but knew nothing about dissociation at all. And, how would they? Their teachers never learned about it. So, they wanted to learn 'from' me? yikes. I didn't know anything about me either. The blind leading the blind? And, what would have happened when I began telling them about abuse that most would never believe. Would they have believed? What about symptoms? Would they have 'known' that cutting, eating disorders, isolation, deep depression, etc. were actually symptoms of trauma and dissociation or would they have misdiagnosed me - again avoiding the real issues.

I thought about this conference, the topics (mainly helping in the early stages of dissociative disorders) and realized that the client 'could' learn enough about their own symptoms to help a t - and, very realistically therapists could leave the conference with a much better understanding and a step forward in treating clients who so badly need the help.

Anyhow - now rambling again. This is something that someone could probably wind up in one sentence - lol


Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by Violet1 on 5/17/2014, 6:08 pm

Not rambling at all and you wrote a very good article.
I was diagnosed DID in 1991- still the MPD era and could not be listed for insurance coverage as a diagnosis until the DSM allowed it to be legit.
Luckily I found a pdoc AND T who worked together and believed, and KNEW how to treat DID.
Yes still in treatment, life happens.
But may there now be a more readily diagnosis and treatment for quicker help.

..." and I said to my body, softly, ' I want to be your friend.' it took a long breath and replied, ' I have been waiting my whole life for this' "...
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Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by mysticmirror on 5/18/2014, 5:14 pm

I love this article as it rings so much truth. Ignorance is something that needs to be changed. Society has does this time and time again with so many different things and when people spend the time to listen and educate themselves we see new things and learn new ways to behave.

We need for others to believe in us and support us. Something we have never had. I so hope therapists will read this and support those of us who have already suffered so much.

I know this conference will be the door to a new world and education for those with dissociative disorders and those who will hopefully treat us.
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Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by Promise on 6/6/2014, 4:32 pm

This is a good article, Felicity!
Denying severe trauma from childhood sexual abuse will NEVER make it go away!
My therapist says, "why would you make this up?" after I say, "do you think this can be true?" When I would reveal a memory.

He believes me and that has helped healing begin.....
So I can start believing in myself.

I hope more therapists will learn that early severe trauma affects the child throughout their entire lives and as adults we want and need treatment to help us function in every day life.
Felicity Lee
Felicity Lee

Re: Dissociative Identity Disorder: Safety in Ignorance - an article

Post by felicity on 6/6/2014, 8:56 pm

Well said - bravo.

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