The Realities of Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder



Shirley J. Davis

One in four people in the United States will experience some type mental health crisis in their lifetimes. Since this is Mental Health Awareness Month, I am writing as many articles as I possibly can during May to try to end the stigma involved in all mental health disorders. The best way for me to do this is to speak up on the one I understand the best, my own, Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is my hope that speaking up about the realities of this disorder will help people to understand that DID is not a fanciful diagnosis that is a fad or that what they see in the movies or on television is the truth.

I have been reading on social media the extent of some peoples misunderstands of Dissociative Identity Disorder (once known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Some think it is something to laugh about and that it can’t possibly be a true diagnosis. Still, others think it is something to be desired, asking questions about how they can develop the disorder on purpose. In part thanks to the media, folks think DID is such a novelty that it couldn’t possibly cause any major problems in a persons life.

Dissociative Identity Disorder Laughable?

There is nothing funny about being diagnosed with any serious mental health disorder, DID included.  There is nothing desirable about not knowing from one day to the next if you are going to be approached by someone accusing you of saying or doing something you don’t remember. There is nothing funny about the abuse that was suffered to become a multiple, or the horrendous stress involved in working through the memories of it. There is also nothing hilarious about the expense, both financial and emotional, paid to recover. The financial burden is enormous. Therapists, Psychiatrists and hospitals cost a fortune. I was fortunate to have great insurance, but even I had to declare bankruptcy in the mid-90s.  The emotional toll is great too. I’ve seen therapists for almost three decades and suffered almost more trauma from recovery than from the initial abuse. I have endured therapy though, because those memories are the reason I am the person I am today. The jokes that are made about Dissociative Identity Disorder are cruel at best, and extremely stigmatizing.

How Can I Develop Dissociative Identity Disorder on Purpose?  

This is a question I see often on forums. I almost fell out of m wheelchair the first time I read it. Let me go on record as saying it is no fun living with this disorder. The chaos is hard to describe. An example of it would be bedtime. When I go to bed at night I have a hard time going and staying asleep because my alters are more active when my body settles down for the night. I’ve described this inner turmoil as like trying to sleep in a room full of people, all talking at the same time and about different subjects. Why on earth would anyone wish to not remember their lives, lose time, wake up days or even years later totally disoriented and not remember their lives.

Dissociative Identity Disorder is a Novelty Causing No Major Problems

The thought that DID doesn’t cause any major problems is beyond belief to me. Anyone who has ever experienced the embarrassment and disorientation of waking up after a late night drinking and blacking out, may be able to relate to why dissociation is no picnic. Waking up after a dissociative episode is frightening.  I have lost days and years of time, but even losing a few hours can cause me to feel a sense of disorientation and dread. The bottom line is, I can’t trust myself. I never know when something important comes up missing in our home whether an alter took it or if it is just normal everyday mislaying stuff. For example, a rather large check turned up missing in our home. I had recently had a long dissociative episode and I couldn’t be sure that I hadn’t lost or cashed it in my dissociated state. This is only a small glimpse into the chaos involved in living with DID.

As one can see, Dissociative Identity Disorder is no laughing matter, nor should people who live with it be the brunt of societies jokes. We are ordinary people with an extraordinary coping mechanism, dissociation.  The next time someone makes a joke about someone having a split personality I hope you will be reminded of this article and the chaos I have described here.

Please help end stigma.


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