I live with a mental health diagnosis that many people find fascinating, Dissociative Identity Disorder, once known as Multiple Personality Disorder. The interest people have in my diagnosis always astounds me. Most of what people know about DID is what they have heard and seen in the movies and on television. There are movies like Split, Sybil, The Three Faces of Eve and Star Trek the Next Generation where the android Data became a multiple.
On the surface, to some, Dissociative Identity Disorder seems to be an anomaly and something to desire. I have even had people on social media ask me how they can splinter their personalities!
Then there are those who see me as a freak of nature and someone not only should they fear, but that they cannot and will not hire. Some are even afraid to leave me alone with their children. This is a sobering thought process among many when they learn of my diagnosis, and sadly it is a belief that bleeds over into almost all mental illnesses.
The most heinous and abusive persons I can think of though, are the ones who say that I should be hidden away and that I am making up the abuse that has splintered my mind.
My purpose in writing this article isn’t to help perpetuate the many myths surrounding DID, or to profit from its popularity in the selling of movie tickets, books and advertising time slots on television. Rather, I want to help people understand three things. One, DID isn’t a thing to be desired. Two, I am not a freak of nature who can’t be trusted. Three, that there is overwhelming evidence in my life that Dissociative Identity Disorder is real.
First, I’ll address those who wish to acquire DID. What? Do you wish you could have cancer or kidney failure? Dissociative Identity Disorder is just as destructive to lives and, unlike some forms of cancer and kidney failure, it isn’t curable. We can learn to mitigate the effects of the disorder, but because of its organic nature, we can never fully be rid of it. We who have DID live in daily chaos. Even when we reach co-conscious awareness and cooperation in our systems, there is always the chance an ego state will become triggered and we will lose time. Being a mystery to yourself is not fun as we do not have a running narrative of our lives. Why would anyone wish to live this way on purpose?
Second, we shouldn’t be trusted or employed? People living with this diagnosis are more likely to be victims of crime, not perpetrators. In fact, people like myself who live with DID daily are highly intelligent and very talented individuals who can multitask like the wind. Not only this, but we are very intuitive and caring. We could not and would not harm anyone, especially children. Might someone with DID commit a crime? The reality is, we are no more likely to commit a crime than any other population in the U.S. Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t a freakish problem, it is a normal response of a child to severely abnormal circumstances under which they are forced to live. I am totally normal for where I have been.
Third, making it up? I wish it were so. There is a lot of evidence, in the form of medical records, that prove that I suffered from the symptoms of DID which go back into the 1960s. My mother told my pediatrician when I was five years old that I was spacing out and that my mood would swing wildly for no reason. I was sent to specialists who did a series of tests and they determined I must have a tumor or some other lesion on my brain. They performed a pneumoencephalogram, a horrendous test where they put a bubble of air into my spinal column so that my they could obtain clearer pictures of my brain tissue (this is long before the wonders of MRI’s). Afterwards, I had to be taught how to walk again and while I was hospitalized, I tried to kill myself. I was only seven years old. When we moved to Illinois I was taken to Neurologists at the Children’s Hospital in St. Louis Missouri where I reported that I felt like I would grow taller and shorter, I felt like I sometimes was standing outside my body, and that I had friends telling me all the time about things I didn’t remember saying or doing. I also had sudden headaches, heard inner voices, and would space out for several minutes where I wasn’t emotionally in the room. The Neurologists treated me for the accompanying depression they observed, and put me on drugs to contain the seizure activity they thought I was suffering. When I turned eighteen I stopped taking the seizure medication because of the horrendous side-affects, and was surprised when I didn’t have the seizure activity I was always told would result if I did so. Now I know why, I didn’t have epilepsy, I lived with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
These things occurred many years before Multiple Personality Disorder or severe childhood trauma were even discussed and before the fascination with this disorder became so wide spread due to the media. In fact, they were recorded before the book Sybil was even written. These records exist and have been accessed by my therapist. She greeted me one day in her office, and after I had settled in, she said “It happened Shirley. All of it. I’ve seen the evidence.”
Please, if you are going watch films or television and then speak on social media about DID get the facts. Don’t allow the media to use you to make money at the expense of fellow human beings who are doing their best to make a success of their lives.
Only by being educated consumers can we end the stigma and mystery which surrounds Dissociative Identity Disorder forever.