Disclaimer – this is a rant aimed at no one – well maybe it takes a few pot shots at the DID stereotype. Please don’t take any part of this personally.
Kathy Broady wrote posts in her blog Discussing Dissociation about the 10 Benefits of Being Multiple and What if you don’t like being Multiple. It’s been interesting reading these posts and the associated comments for many reasons. As with any group of survivors talking about an important issue, there is a certain amount of transference and triggering by what is being mentioned. This wasn’t helped by the (necessary) need for Kathy to moderate the comments, which could mean that people were responding to the latest comment visible; but when Kathy got through moderating them, suddenly your response was out of context with what was occurring.
What became apparent, is that there is a great deal of confusion about what happens if you don’t “like” being DID. We can only speak of our experiences and feelings, but we DON’T like being DID. This is for many reasons, some of which are –
- It’s a disorder born from an abusive past – no one wants to own an abusive past.
- The symptoms we experience as a result of being DID negatively influence almost every aspect of our daily living – and we’re considered high functioning.
- We’re not just DID – it’s a cliché, but we are more than a label assigned by a psychiatrist.
It could be seen that our dislike of being DID would translate to us not liking each of the ones that make up our dissociative system. In our case, this just isn’t true. I freely admit that there are ones which terrify me or whom I just don’t understand. But this doesn’t mean that I don’t like, or more importantly, respect them. Some hold feelings and experiences that I can’t comprehend. Does my fear filter through to these ones in some way – quite possibly. But if that’s the case, then they can also feel the respect and care that I have for them.
Our dissociation was created in an environment that encouraged our isolation. We didn’t reach or call out for help because we soon learnt that help wasn’t available. So now when we look for hope and enjoyment in our life, we try to look externally to challenge those old habits of looking inward. This is not to say that we don’t have internal hope – Sophie and Katie are our most obvious sources of internal hope; but rather we also need to learn to look outside ourselves. External hope for us doesn’t involve any sort of higher power, but is more likely to be found in nature – a sunset, our cat acting like a kitten rather than her 14 years, etc.
This thread, and the thread prior to it, about benefits of being multiple, have given me a curious sense that having DID is rather like belonging to an exclusive club of some kind, and I’m perceived as not playing by the proper rules of etiquette.
I’m going to take this slightly out of context, in that I have also felt very similar things in some areas of the online DID community. In the very first online discussion forum that we joined regarding dissociation, it seemed very much a competition as to who had the “worst past” or “worst symptoms”. Some of the people in the forum had a horrific past, there is no doubt about that. But it became a very negative environment that seemed to invest in dysfunction rather than supportive growth. When I say this, I also realise that we wallow in self-pity on occasion and are the first to admit that we are FAR from perfect!
I’ve also encountered suspicion regarding our ability to function and our diagnosis from other people with DID. It’s a very odd feeling to be questioned about events that have occurred etc. This has always been regarding things we have revealed, but it is still disconcerting. What makes it more interesting is that some of us have quite different versions of events. So unless the person we’re communicating with is aware of our dissociation, it can be hard to tell that they’re talking to another alter so the answer given could be slightly different. A simple example of this is that W still believes that the family was excommunicated from the Church because we screamed during services as a baby; but I know it was because the mother started using birth control.
So what is all this rambling leading up to?
Only from our experience, we’ve found it very hard to find a community or even a few people that we feel some sort of connection with. A connection that is based on similar experiences, struggles or views. Because of this need to feel some form of connection and therefore acceptance, we often fall into the old habits of looking for approval, but expecting to be rejected. This dynamic means that we look for slights when they’re not there, it also means that we can pick them up when they are hidden within a seemingly innocent question. Also because of our insecurities and dysfunction, we have to be very careful that we don’t start to change in order to try and fit in a little more. We did this sort of chameleon behaviour all our life to try and blend in and not stand out too much.
People with DID have different ways of coping, viewing the world and healing. This is one of the reasons why I hate the generalisations about DID. We are all different, some will look to a higher power for help, some will find art an outlet, some will continue to find humour in the oddest places, some will find that getting up each morning is an achievement… All of these are valid reasons to celebrate and an indication of healing. These are also about being human. We respect each persons right to find a way to heal that suits them, we just ask for that respect be reciprocated to all other survivors.