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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There are Times When One Must Change One’s Story

This is how life is when you feel weak and helpless:

You lay down and die or you puff yourself up until you
look so big everyone stays away.

But they stare.

One day the puff goes out and you think that maybe you don’t
need it: that there is no one to blame, there is no one to hate.

Bad things happened to me and they still happen; bad things will
happen to other people long after I’ve died.

Weak minds and political opportunists abuse religion; they always
have, and they always will.

All political creeds are open to corruption; all economic systems are open
to abuse, the poor will always be their own worst enemies because violent
poverty causes intense identification with the oppressor.

How does one think ones way out of the hateful violence inflicted by
one’s own people?

Somehow, I’ve thought my way out, but it’s taken most of my life.

My puff is gone.

I don’t need to explain myself, to apologize,  or make myself livid with rage.

I don’t need to incite power struggles.

Not today.

Power struggles are about feeling powerless; the need to fight small battles
is about the need for distraction.

No puff…

No anger.

“Am I dead?”

“No, not dead.”

I’ve never felt more certain of my worth as a person, never more secure
with myself.

Myself.

My. Self.

The puff is gone and in its place I think I see a person; a man whose hellish
past no longer defines who he is or how he will live the rest of his life.

I think I can see my self.

Now everything is new.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2015-2018

First published Sep 25, 2015
Revised May 25, 2018

DID and the Arrow of Time

DID is an uneasy alliance of defense mechanisms.

For instance, Bobby and the Aversion Therapist; I know the story is true,
but I don’t remember it.

From my perspective, it never happened.

From Bobby’s perspective it never ended.

Research into Dissociative Disorders is improved since I was first diagnosed with one in 2009.

In 2015 the National Institutes of Health published research that explains
memory disruption in people with DID.

Normal memory is episodic.

The flow of consciousness across time is necessary to create an experience of the present, (“now”) in the context of a subjective past and anticipated future. Accordingly, under normal circumstances, time is experienced as continuously moving forward. However, traumatized individuals often relive their traumatic memories through flashbacks and lack the ability to live in the “now,” reflecting a key dissociative process associated with trauma-related altered states of consciousness. Such reliving events are in contrast to intrusive memory recall most frequently associated with reminder distress and not involving an altered state of consciousness or a dissociative process but rather represent a state of normal waking consciousness   Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2015


Normal memory is “Back when I was 16,” as opposed to ‘I am 16.”

 

“Episodic memory differs from other kinds of memory in that its operations require a self. It is the self that engages in the mental activity that is referred to as mental time travel: there can be no travel without a traveler …”  Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2015


I don’t remember things, I relive them.

 

“…while remembering an event, mental time travel is “partial” in that the present self voluntarily directs attention to the past self, thus maintaining awareness of the present self in the present time. In this case, the “I” is proposed to exist in the present self, which outweighs the representation of the past self in past time. In contrast, during a reliving experience, mental time travel occurs “fully,” generally not by choice, and is usually triggered by internal and/or external stimuli that bear some resemblance to a past self-state. In this case, the “I” is thought to inhabit the past self, which is thought to outweigh the presence of the present self, thus lacking a mental time traveler and the ability to voluntarily position oneself in the past or in the future.” Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2015

 

Art by Rob Goldstein
A Multiverse of the Mind


Maybe it’s a gift

I discussed my post about the first day of desegregation with my therapist.

It’s a short piece but was hard to write because as I wrote it, I lost most of
my vocabulary.

I told my therapist I was writing like a seven-year old.

She said it was a gift.

I shrugged.

Maybe it’s true.

Maybe telling the ugliness of mindless violence as witnessed
by a frightened child is a kind of gift.

It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse.

A writer is one who writes.

Why do I write?

Why do I give so much of my life to it?

How many poems must one write to be
a writer?

If it’s a masterwork, one.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2018