The Rare Case of a Supportive Family Member


Shirley J. Davis

The circumstances surrounding the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder make for some very lonely times for the person who learns the live with the condition. Often the family members of the diagnosed feel they are being attacked just because the person has sought the help of a professional to help them get past the horrific emotions involved with this diagnosis. Denial is a constant companion of both the family and the diagnosed person. I know first-hand, because I have had to live through those terrible days of loneliness.

In the beginning of my therapy, I was having to face so many conflicting and disturbing feelings and facts. I deeply loved my family, yet the horrific truth that my family of origin not only didn’t protect me from the monsters that caused my personality not to form as normal, but also that I had such horrible things happen to me when I was so young and vulnerable was heart-wrenching. No one wants to admit to themselves that they were victims of such atrocities, and it is human nature to want your family to support you in your recovery. Such is often not the case when speaking of child abuse, and so it wasn’t with mine.

I can still remember the afternoon my mother accompanied me to a therapy session. I wanted to reassure her that my therapy wasn’t only concentrating on her horrible parenting, but that it was a place of healing. We went in sat down, and immediately my mother began to protest that she had always been a great mother, and that she didn’t understand why I felt I had to hurt her by talking about her. Neither I nor my therapist got a word in edgewise that day. We just let her ramble and when it ended I felt more alone than I had ever felt in my life.

My other family members weren’t at first any more helpful. The subject of what happened to me was carefully avoided, and I was more or less written off as just “crazy Shirley” whom everyone felt sorry for because, obviously, I had been duped by a horrible therapist. Only one person in my entire family, during these beginning years of treatment, believed and stood by me. She sat on my bed in my apartment one day and told me she knew I was telling the truth because she too had experienced horrific abuse by the same family member I had. She told me stories of things I had only related to my therapist, things I had not related to this family member before. She was a major part of why I was able to move on in my treatment because she validated the realities that yes, it was real, and yes it happened. Unfortunately, she is no longer alive, her body succumbing to breast cancer just a few months after that important afternoon.

As time advanced, I met with a lot more opposition and denial from my family. I learned to deal with it the best I could by seeking validation in other places. I joined a few support groups and learned to seek my help from other sources.

Then one day a miracle occurred. My youngest brother Mike began to break the taboo and talk with me about what had happened. I answered him honestly as best I could and after a while he told me that he had spoken to a psychologist who told him that I was not making things up and that my diagnosis was very real. He began relating to me stories of things he knew, that suddenly he was able to understand better because they made more sense to him then. He remembered stories my mother had related to him about things my abuser had done to me that being young, he had just shrugged off as being tales. Suddenly he understood that not only had the abuse against my person happened, but that my parents had known all along. This understanding helped him to look further into DID and to become not only a believer, but a great asset to me.

Mike has become and continues to be my greatest ally. He makes sure I am well physically, and watches out for me when he notices I am not having a great week, month, etc. He even hands me my medications because one of my alters (or perhaps more than one) doesn’t do well taking them on their own. He makes sure I eat and, most importantly of all, he listens.

Listening is the most important thing he has done for me. I try not to speak of the abuse too often, but when I do need to talk he listens without judgement. He is my biggest fan when it comes to my writing and a built-in support in case I have a failure.

Finding a family member who is a supporter when dealing with the issues surrounding Dissociative Identity Disorder is indeed rare and beautiful. I shall never take for granted the love and understanding I receive daily from my gentle brother.

I’m hoping by writing about his loving care, that other family members will look at their loved ones differently. We are not monsters who are telling tall tales, we are survivors struggling to gain a life after living through hell.  Open your hearts and don’t be afraid that your own memories of your childhood will be tarnished. Reality is reality, and sometimes it sucks. That doesn’t detract from you as a person. Having am abused childhood where things weren’t all a bed of roses doesn’t mean you are defective or abnormal. It means you are human, no more, no less. Only by facing the truth and bringing child abuse issues out into the light of day, can we end this scourge on humanity.

Be brave, and love the your loved one who is trying so hard to get well so they can live a happy long life. Be part of the solution not the problem.

“The Only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

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