If you are in therapy getting help healing from childhood trauma, you have experienced crisis and struggling. Healing from dissociative identity disorder is difficult at best and traumatizing at worst.
This article shall examine the four stages of going from crisis to thriving as adapted from the work of Watson et al. in 2013.
Crisis (I Can’t Survive This)
Crisis is worse at the beginning of treatment but can return in later stages. Crisis is the phase where you feel you cannot go on and experience emotional upheaval. During a crisis, one must pay close attention to your state of mind to make sure you do not fall into the abyss of suicidal thinking.
If you do experience suicidal thinking, please, seek help immediately. A few days in the hospital under supervision is worth saving your life.
You may experience debilitating distress and not function as you usually do. It is vital to be good to yourself and pamper yourself as much as possible. Buy a weighted blanket and lay under it when you feel overwhelmed. Cuddle with a fuzzy stuffed animal or take a warm soapy bubble bath.
If the distress is too great and you need to leave work, do so. It is challenging to get on social security for disability payments, but it can be done. This is especially true if you have been hospitalized.
You may experience during crisis:
Inability to fall asleep
Inability to focus
Withdrawal from friends and family
The most important thing to remember is that the crisis stage will pass; you need to hold on and get through it.
Struggling (I Can’t Keep This Up)
The pain and suffering of this stage cannot be understated. All of life seems to be a struggle as you work through the memories and symptoms of DID. You may feel constantly panicky, or you may feel intense fear, sadness, and hopelessness.
You must watch for depression during this phase as it will drag you down and cause extreme exhaustion. The exhaustion from working on childhood abuse issues is profound, and you may feel like giving up.
When you are struggling, you may need to take time off from work or temporarily leave your job. Again, you can apply for social security disability insurance benefits and hopefully get on soon.
If your employer offers temporary disability benefits, take them up on it. The income you receive from the benefit can help you survive until you get SSDI.
On top of the symptoms from the crisis stage, you may experience:
Difficulty making decisions
Aches and pains (including migraines)
Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol
If you find yourself self-soothing with alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, or other potentially destructive behaviors, be honest about it with your therapist. They cannot help you if they do not know the whole story.
Surviving (Something Isn’t Right)
Reaching the survivor stage means you have caught a glimpse of sunlight shining through the dark clouds of healing. You are either beginning or the center of integration and feel more empowered than ever before.
Also, during the surviving stage, you realize you have made two crucial decisions. One, to live, and second, to get well.
The decision to live is a huge step forward toward thriving. You wake up one morning and realize that your life is worth keeping even with its lumps and bumps. You also realize you have remembered all you need to and become ready to leave the identity of the victim behind.
The decision to get well may seem like a no-brainer, but many people fall into the pit of forever victim. Victimhood has become their entire identity. While this is common during crisis and struggling, it is a dark pit from which we must overcome. Healing means that eventually, you are willing to embrace who you are without the label of the victim or a person who has DID.
Thriving (I got this)
The final and most rewarding stage is thriving when you have all your eggs in one basket, so to speak. You have come through the dark days that slowly lightened until you can see life clearly, perhaps more clearly than most people can.
Thriving does not mean what people call traditional integration. Integration doesn’t mean becoming a singleton (a person who has no alters); it means something so much more. Integration means that you have made peace with your system, and all of you are moving in the same direction and fully cooperating. I sincerely believe that is as close to becoming one personality as possible.
The thriving stage of life becomes more straightforward because the chaos of the old days has passed. Yes, there will be challenges because life isn’t fair or easy for anyone, but you will feel you can handle whatever life throws your way. You can now look at old journals, or pictures your alters may have drawn and see how far you have come.
It is time to rejoice and enjoy life. You may feel special gratitude to your therapist or whoever helped you come out of the dark.
Ending Our Time Together
All of us who have dissociative identity disorder start our treatment feeling overwhelmed and helpless. I wanted to write a piece showing the different stages I experienced. I am now thriving and enjoying my life. I still see a therapist because I also have major depression, but not for DID.
My final words in this piece have been said by me before, but they are essential. Never, ever, ever give up. Some days, it will feel that you cannot take the overwhelming pain you are in, but it will end, and the sun will shine again.
“Listen for the call of your destiny, and when it comes, release your plans and follow.” – Mollie Marti
“Lineage, personality, and environment may shape you, but they do not define your full potential.” – Mollie Marti
Watson, P., Gist, R., Taylor, V., Evlander, E., Leto, F., Martin, R., Vaught, D., Nash, W.P., Westphal, R., & Litz, B., (2013).