Receiving the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder can seem like the end of the world. Then we endure years of treatment struggling to get free of the past that has bound us.
This piece is full of hope because I am a living example of living life despite having DID.
The Chaos of Dissociative Identity Disorder
When first diagnosed, most of us were living in the middle of chaos. Our minds were awash with memories of events that happened to us when we were children that seemed unreal but horrible at the same time. We didn’t want to believe what we knew was the truth.
We had been horrendously victimized by people who should have taken care of us.
The chaos continued after discovery with emotional and other flashbacks, dealing with an unruly inner system, and slogging our way through therapy.
I know for me, money kept appearing and disappearing, I caught an STD and have no idea how I got it, and woke up one night married. Life was a living hell of unpredictability and fear.
Fugue states (where you travel while dissociated and wake up away from home) happened to me often with my alters dragging me different places. I was afraid for my life as well with at least one serious suicide attempt that left me terrified to be alone.
Yes, life was hell.
Dealing with the Symptoms of DID
Dealing with the symptoms of dissociative identity disorder is difficult at best as the alters in our systems cause pandemonium.
The symptoms of dissociative identity disorder are numerous with the most common being as follows:
Hearing voices of the alters converse, argue, or struggle with one another
Hearing voices of the others saying persecutory things and threats
Alters taking over during a conversation
Having people say you did or said things you do not remember
Intrusive feelings and emotions
Unexplained medical conditions
Profound chronic self-puzzlement
Finding objects among your possessions
Finding evidence that you have recent actions
For anyone reading this article who do not have DID, these symptoms are as harsh and difficult to live with as they appear.
Our Best Friend, Denial
It is common for those diagnosed with DID to deny that they have it preferring to instead feel they have been misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Indeed, denial is the most powerful and common reaction to anything dealing with the memories of what happened because who wants that history, right?
I know that even after 30 years of healing I still find myself wondering if I have been lying to myself and my therapists all these years. What if I wasn’t brutally abused? What if I am making all of this up?
Then reality sets in. If I were making all of this up, why don’t I just walk away, shake it off, and continue with my life putting all the turmoil behind me. The answer is that I haven’t done so meaning it did happen and I can’t simply walk away.
God, I wish I could.
Learning to Accept the Diagnosis of DID
The day I finally accepted that I had dissociative identity disorder I began to heal. At first, my diagnosis became my whole identity. I ate, breathed, and lived DID unable to see beyond it.
However, I knew deep down that I was much more than just a client with DID. I am a person first and, after many years of working with a great therapist, realized that I didn’t want to only be known as a DID patient. I am Shirley Davis not Shirley DID, and I needed to remember that.
This acceptance did not come quickly. I worked through a lot of trauma before I was finally able to see myself beyond my diagnosis. I had to allow the memories and emotions that I had pent up for so long to surface so that I could see them and that my therapist could treat them. Then, after I was done with the chaos of the memory, I was able to put them into the past where they belonged.
Another thing I did was to become my own mother. This is the greatest thing I have ever done for myself in that it propelled me forward into the future. I began to nurture and love my alters and in the process I was loving and nurturing myself.
Blending and Healing
It took many years of hard work before I began to notice the alters blending together. No one died, and no one was exiled to oblivion, all the knowledge and talents of the alters in my system accepted me as mom and began to come together. It was spontaneous and not because of anything my therapist or I had done special. It just happened.
The talents, knowledge and memories of the alters became my talents and knowledge and I grew stronger. The chaos slowed down to a dull roar and I began to move beyond therapy choosing to do volunteer and write, a passion I had long nurtured.
Healing from the trauma that caused DID has been a long road and I still have some issues to work on. However, my life is better than it has ever been.
Yes, I am blended but enough stress can cause me to fly apart, at least a little, depending on the stressor, and an alter take over once more. But it is much better than before.
I wanted to write this peace to tell you that there is life after childhood trauma and the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder.
So often it is easy to get caught up in the drama of DID, so much so it can become an identity. It is NOT who you are, anymore than a broken arm makes you a broken arm.
Healing is a process not a destination. The climb out of the dungeon built for us is what makes it all worth it because along the way, we learn so much about ourselves.
I know because I am in a good spot and stand on a hill shouting out to all who will hear that you too can heal and find peace.
“And I felt like my heart had been so thoroughly and irreparably broken that there could be no real joy again, that at best there might eventually be a little contentment. Everyone wanted me to get help and rejoin life, pick up the pieces and move on, and I tried to, I wanted to, but I just had to lie in the mud with my arms wrapped around myself, eyes closed, grieving until I didn’t have to anymore.” ~ Anne Lamott