Coping with DID: The Struggle for Unity

If you live long enough you will discover that you are the person you are looking for.

When my adult alternates used Virtual Reality as a social network the other members called them ‘The Family’.

Of course, they did this even as they discussed my DID behind my back as a
fake; albeit a convincing fake.

a photograph staged in virtual relity of a battered little boy sitting alone with phantom alternates in the back ground
Coping with DID – Making the Family

Making The Family

According to the theory of the Trauma-Related Structural Dissociation of the Personality, a child with DID does not develop an integrated sense of self, thus when children with Dissociative Identity Disorder become adults, they are a fragmented ‘self-state’ of traumatized ‘emotional selves’.

The ‘Self-State’ creates an ‘Apparently Normal Self‘ to interact with other
people.

The ‘apparently normal self’, or ‘host’ alternate may have no clear memory of childhood, the trauma, or the family of birth.  The ‘host’ compensates for the system’s deficits and attempts to complete the process of integration, but the ‘self state’ has no clear sense of time or reality:

Photograph staged in Virtual Reality of an avatar wearing a blind fold
The ‘apparently normal self’, or ‘host’ alternate may have no clear memory of childhood, the trauma, or the family of birth.

 

…The ability to differentiate fantasy from reality is critical in achieving the integrative mode of consciousness. “Trance-logic” (i.e., the tolerance and/or rationalization of logical inconsistency while in a hypnotic state) which is a core aspect of the cognition of DID patients (Loewenstein, 1993), allows the patient to adjust to “normal” daily life while maintaining beliefs which are not only inconsistent with external reality but may be contradictory among themselves…”

‘Dissociation allows the existence of several different (subjective) versions of reality within one person. Thus Kluft (1993) once called DID “multiple reality disorder” (and not multiple personality disorder) and referred to “alternating reality states.” Somewhat similarly, Chefetz (2004) refers to identity alteration in DID as “isolated subjectivities.” Paradoxically, distinct or “alter” personality states are not disintegrated structures only but they also represent a striving of re-establishment of the lost unity (Şar and Öztürk, 2005).

Frontiers in Psychology

 

The Cycle of Repetition

If the ‘host’ fails to integrate, the ‘self-system’ or ‘emotional personalities’
replace it with a new host.

An illustration staged in virtual reality of a battered little boy with two male adults moving to protect him
The new host must survive the social environment and compensate for the lost time and the ‘failure’ of the previous alternate

The new host must survive the social environment and compensate for
lost time and the ‘failure’ of the previous alternate.

This leads to overwork, perfectionism, exhaustion, hyperactivity and system collapse which results in a new alternate and a new a cycle of mal-adaptive behaviors and relationships and another failure to integrate.

When I was in my early 20’s I moved on impulse from New Haven to Honolulu.

I still don’t know why.

On day I woke up on a beach in Hawaii.

I looked for a psychiatrist and a job.

The shrink gave me a diagnosis of bi-polar illness, depression and
prescribed Elavil.

I found an excellent job with one of the local hospitals.

One day I woke up and discovered I left the job because I’d met
a hot sailor with whom I’d gone to live on the beach.

So, I was again on the beach without a clue.

The shrink changed the diagnosis to bi-polar illness, manic
episode and added Lithium to the Elavil.

I found another good job and a nice high-rise apartment with
a view of Diamond Head.

One day while swimming at the local beach, I heard a voice:

Voice: “I need to go to the hospital.”

Me: (frustrated) Why?

Voice: (pleading) I’m scared.

Me: (Angry) We’re doing great! What’s wrong with you?

Voice: (pleading) I’m scared.

Within a few weeks, I was out of work and in lock-down on
the local psych unit.

I told my shrink about my argument with the voice and he
added the anti-psychotic, Haldol to the Lithium and Elavil.

I decided not to tell him about the writing I’d found;

“I think I am murdered and feel ashamed.

I hide under my blankets and feel ashamed.

I reach for a faceless cock and feel ashamed.

I feel ashamed and I feel ashamed.”

1978

I didn’t know the voice belonged to a teenage alternate named Bobby and that ‘going to the hospital’ was how a young Bobby escaped his family.

I didn’t know that being in the hospital was the only time Bobby felt safe.

Protrait of an avatar used by my alternate bobby
I didn’t know the voice belonged to a teenage alternate named Bobby

The Self-State of “Emotional selves” hold the emotions, thoughts, fantasies, wishes, needs, and sensations the ‘host’ considers unbearable and unacceptable.

Dissociation & Complex Trauma

In 1985, ‘Bobby’ wrote about his first hospitalization .

Despite the hospital’s intention to use ‘Aversion Therapy’ to cure
Bobby of his ‘homosexuality, for Bobby it was the first he felt safe
to assert himself.

Bobby doesn’t write about that feeling of safety because he doesn’t
remember it.

Bobby and the Aversion Therapist

Art by Rob Goldstein
Bobby and the Inner Shrink

Studies of children with DID show that alternates in children are more
alike and have less amnesia barriers between them.

An illustration staged in Virtual Reality of a battered little boy surrounded by adult selves
The new host must survive the social

Alternate personalities strengthen and become more individual over the life cycle.

Severe trauma in adulthood worsens the prognosis for people with DID.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018

Sources:

Living in a Cooperative Self System

Dissociation & Complex Trauma

Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD) and DDNOS

Disavowing and Re-Claiming the Self-Identity in the Aftermath of Trauma-Generated Dissociation

 

 

 

 

Coping with DID: “I love All of You”

Dissociative identity disorder is a childhood onset, complex-post traumatic disorder in which the child is unable to consolidate a unified sense of self. Detachment from emotional and physical pain during repeated traumatic events results in alterations in the way the brain encodes memory.  This leads to fragmentation and gaps in memory. Exposure to repeated abuse in early childhood results in the creation of discrete behavioral states that can persist over later development, and evolve into the alternate identities of dissociative identity disorder. The Mayo Clinic

This morning as my partner left for his weekly visit to his ailing Mother he said, “I love all of you.”

I sat as wave after wave of love, pain, gratitude and fear passed over me, then I said, “We love you to.”

I am not an easy man to live with.

One must be willing to live with constant self-examination and bluntly stated opinions.

This September marks the beginning of my eighth year of psychotherapy.

Eight years later, I am someone new. I accept the DID, I accept the violence
that caused it and I accept that I was gifted with a mind that went to  extraordinary lengths to keep itself alive.

I am proof of the existence of the human mind and the will to survive and thrive.

A 2011 Graffiti Mural in San Francisco's Clarion Alley
Fighting Shadows

To ‘Seal Over’

At the long-term psychiatric hospital where I worked in the early 1970’s, we
used the term ‘sealed over’ to describe a patient who is skilled at hiding
his illness.

Most of us must learn to ‘seal over’ everyday distress and anxiety as a
skill of daily living.

Healthy people don’t often consider the energy and skill it takes to interact
socially and succeed in our careers.

An illness that impairs social skill is crippling.

We don’t think about what it means to lose our health and ability to work
until we must think about it.

Blackberry Photograph of a mannequin in a shop Window in San Francisco
Xanax

What is Healthy?

I define ‘healthy’ as striving to become an informed citizen, having a balanced sense of humility, respect for the rights of others, a sense of compassion, and respect for life; which means the born, the fundamental right of all children to food, shelter, education, safe cities and schools.

I define healthy as doing my best to pull my weight; which means using my skills to dispel the lies that make it hard for people with DID to get the right treatment.

2011 Blackberry Photograph of Mannequins in a shopwindow in San Francisco
Cruising

Mental Illness is Not an Act.

There are thousands of easier ways to get attention: one can write a good novel, produce a brilliant portfolio of art, write moving poetry, become a skilled surgeon, strive for excellence at any job that affirms your humanity.

If I’m trying to get your attention by destroying my life in public it means I’m sick.

A man who has to shoot schoolchildren to slake his rage is sick.

The question is not why people have mental illnesses, the question is why Americans collectively refuse to recognize mental illness as a set of real and
serious illnesses?

I cannot ‘think’ my way through DID or Bi-Polar illness.

Mental Illness is not a choice and the ‘well’ make it easy for the ‘sick’ to choose isolation.

Getting well in a sick world

I had the worst possible parents in the worst possible neighborhood in one of the most institutionally abusive and violently racist cities of the United States in the 1960’s, and yet I entered adulthood with a fundamental sense of right and wrong, and a fundamental understanding of our political system.

I was broken in a dozen different ways but I knew it was wrong to lie.

I knew it was wrong to hurt people.

I knew it was wrong to abuse the weak and innocent.

In that, I am healthier than 39% of the American people.

2011 Blackerry shot of a graffiti mural in San Francisco's Mission District
Campos

What does it mean to be well with DID.

Being well with DID means that I’m still in pain, raw and uncertain. I’m still anxious and often panic-stricken. But it also means I’m alive as I am supposed to be and better at managing symptoms. It means always searching for new skills and better ways to be healthy.

It means asking the unwanted questions.

Rob Goldstein 2018

 

Who Does He Think She is?

When we log into Virtual Reality usually one aspect is present.

Everything we do and say reflects a single menu of interests and attitudes.

The person called “I” can imagine being almost anything.

So virtual reality is not an escape; it’s a becoming, and our primary tools for becoming are the animations and objects we make or buy in the moment.

We shoot most of our photos in a dark surreal nowhere.

That is how life feels to us.

Sara is the oldest alternate.

She used to come out when the body was little and dress in Mother’s gowns.

Sara used to wear Daddy’s tee shirts and pretend they were a nightie.

Mother used to send us out on Halloween dressed like a little girl.

Sara liked it when the neighbors told her how pretty she was and Mother liked when Sara came out because Mother wanted a little girl.

Sara had to go inside when we started school and became a boy.

She often feels lonely.

Digital Portrait of a female avatar in a fur coat
Portrait of Sara

When Mother hurt us, Sara came out, dressed up, and danced
for us.

Sara is nice.

She likes people.

But Sara is a protector.

She’s a smart street kid from the Deep South with her nails out.

She’s a fighter but she’s fair.

I guess we made Sara from what we liked best about the girls
and sissy boys we grew up with in Charleston.

Sara likes torch songs from the 1950’s and 60’s.

She especially likes Julie London:

First posted in 2016.

(c) Rob Goldstein  2016-2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Beautiful Minds of The 20th Century

Eleven brilliant and courageous men and women.

1.

Pablo Neruda
July 12, 1904-September 23, 1973

Art by Rob Goldstein
Pablo Neruda Ricardo Reyes as a young man

I want to eat the sunbeam flaring in your lovely body,
the sovereign nose of your arrogant face,
I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes,

and I pace around hungry, sniffing the twilight,
hunting for you, for your hot heart,
like a puma in the barrens of Quitratue.

~ Pablo Neruda

2.

Norma Jeane Mortenson
June 1, 1926-August 5, 1962

Art by Rob Goldstein
Portrait of Norma Jeane Mortenson

I am not a victim of emotional conflicts. I am human.
Norma Jeane Mortenson

3.

Harvey Milk
May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978

 

Art By Rob Goldstein

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”
Harvey Milk, The Harvey Milk Interviews: In His Own Words

4.

el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz
May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Malcolm X


“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”
Malcolm X

5.

Nina Simone

February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003

Art by Rob Goldstein
Nina Simone

“I am just one of the people who is sick of the social order, sick of the establishment, sick to my soul of it all. To me, America’s society is nothing but a cancer, and it must be exposed before it can be cured. I am not the doctor to cure it. All I can do is expose the sickness.”
Nina Simone

6.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal”, then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

7.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929- April 4, 1968

Art By Rob Goldstein
Dr. Martin Luther King

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.  Martin Luther King, Jr.

8.

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau
July 5, 1889 – 11 October 11, 1963

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Cocteau

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth.
Jean Cocteau

9.

Frank O’Hara
March 27, 1926 – July 25, 1966

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Frank O’Hara


“I wonder if the course of narcissism through the ages would have been any different had Narcissus first peered into a cesspool. He probably did.”
Frank O’Hara, Early Writing

10.

Simone de Beauvoir
January 9, 1908 – April 14, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Simone de Beauvoir


Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying. Simone de Beauvoir

11.

Jean Genet
December 19, 1910-April 15, 1986

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
Jean Genet

What I did not yet know so intensely was the hatred of the white American for the black, a hatred so deep that I wonder if every white man in this country, when he plants a tree, doesn’t see Negroes hanging from its branches.  Jean Genet

 

Disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge the images on this page are in the public domain.

Header photo, Portrait of Malcolm X, by Rob Goldstein (c) 2016

Blog post update July, 2018

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