Day 60 of 100 intentional reflective steps.
General knowledge about dissociative disorders consists of people with multiple personalities, also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), like Sybill. The fact is everybody dissociates,.. We miss an exit on the freeway because our brain is wandering. We get lost during a movie and realize we don’t know what has happened in the last 15 minutes, or we wander off mentally during a class or sermon. It’s common. Normal. And like all things it’s on spectrum and on the far end it is a serious mental disorder. On say the left end is the day to day mental wandering. On the far right is DID, where the brain splits itself into different individuals to protect itself from painful memories.
The brain is amazing. When dealing with memories that are too painful or traumatic, especially childhood memories, the brain can literally protect itself by shutting down or splitting off into other protective “personalities”. The ability to dissociate becomes a clinical problem when dissociation is frequent, keeps you from interacting in the present and keeps you from processing or acknowledging difficult memories.
Often people with dissociation will also have memory issues because they can’t remember what was said or done during a dissociative episode because their brain was not functioning in the present.
I live towards the far right of the spectrum. I’m one person, with the masterful superpower to escape the present and disappear into nothingness, at the slightest hint of discomfort, frustration or fear. Its unintentional and unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Really, its my only valid claim to ninja skills. As this was first diagnosed I felt like a bad mad scientist lab exhibit. I felt weird, fragile and unsafe. I wondered how I could continue interacting in life or manage care for my family if my brain were to disappear and fragment at will. I saw no hope that I could interact publicly in a meaningful way. I saw my career and relationships all going down the proverbial drain. I felt marked, labeled, poked and prodded like some freakish circus exhibit. The bearded lady, the contortionist, elephant man, Jill. I’m not exaggerating! I felt that weird about being told I have a dissociative disorder. When I left the hospital it was still being evaluated as to whether or not I had multiple personalities, which was a terrifying prospect to me.
Here’s what made it so scary. I did not know one person who suffered from C-PTSD, Dissociative Disorder, Major Depression, Minor Depression and Anxiety Disorders. Polite society doesn’t talk about these things. We label them and then hide them in closets and back rooms beneath clothes that don’t fit anymore, dusty luggage and out of season sporting equipment. But I need to talk about this. I need others who will too. I need to share my story so that someday someone will feel a little less weird and a lot less hopeless about their life.
I didn’t chose this. I didn’t chose my crazy, abusive, cruel parents. I can look at this with eyes filled with tears that say “its not fair” and “I am ruined”. I don’t like waking with horrible nightmares or flashbacks of crimes against my child self. However, over the year I have “settled” and come to terms with my diagnosis. My conclusion is that I am so grateful that God has protected me for decades in more ways than I could even imagine. I quit fighting the diagnosis and have embraced it. Most days.