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

 

Life in the Age of Aquarius

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derision
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius!
Aquarius!

It’s always good to take a moment to remember our noblest aspirations:

When it is Time to go to the Hospital: 11 Steps to Take Before and After Admission

I don’t do well in mental health settings.

I don’t look sick.

I don’t act like a ‘mental patient’.

Not all people with mental illness end up homeless and hallucinating
on the street.

I also have expectations.

I expect my treatment providers to be as passionate as I was when I worked in the field of mental health.

If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder and you are you are about to enter treatment at a Behavioral Health facility it’s a good idea to prepare.

(1)

Don’t assume that behavioral health professionals are trained psychotherapists. Psychotherapy treats the mind. Behavioral Health
treats behaviors.


(2)

If your primary treatment provider is an outside therapist, ask him or
her to communicate your treatment status and history to the facility.

(3)

Confirm that the counselors at the treatment facility have spoken to
your primary therapist when you arrive for your first day.

(4)

Ask if the staff knows how to treat trauma symptoms.

(5)

Do not enable staff ignorance; you have every right to expect your treatment providers to know what they’re treating and to know how to treat it. Speak to the attending psychiatrist if you have concerns. If that fails, make use of grievance procedures to get the most out of your treatment.

(6)

Do treat the staff with respect and consideration. Most people want
to do a good job.

(7)

Do tell the staff about suicidal thoughts or self-destructive alternates.

(8)

Discuss your physical health and if one is needed, ask for a physical.

(9)

If you are diabetic or have high blood pressure, ask the staff to check your blood pressure and sugar levels. Diabetes and high blood pressure affect mood.

(10)

Ask for a medication assessment.  Mention all unusual side effects or problems.

(11)

Don’t enter a hospital or day clinic alone. Ask your partner and friends to call and ask about your progress.  Make sure that you sign the releases the clinic needs to discuss your case with friends and family.

(c) Rob Goldstein 2017

This post is specific to people with Dissociative and other Trauma
related disorders.

Some of this information may not apply to you.

More reading:

Advocacy for mental health: roles for consumer and family organizations and governments

The Importance of Self-Advocacy in Mental Health Recovery


The Self Advocacy Toolkit

stand up against stigma, no health without mental health

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