I received a diagnosis in 1990 that changed my life forever – dissociative identity disorder (DID). DID is a trauma-related disorder where my personality did not solidify in early childhood but instead remained fragmented, becoming more so as time passed.
I have always known that a male relative had been sexually inappropriate with me in my childhood. However, I was unaware of just how deeply and badly he had torn me apart until I was twenty-nine years old and received the official diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Up until that diagnosis, I thought my life to be average. I had no idea that other people didn’t lose time and have people say they did and said things they couldn’t remember. I worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home for almost ten years before moving on to work for a major insurance company not suspecting my life was going to take a drastic turn.
WHAT IS DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER?
According to Psychiatry.org…
“Dissociative identity disorder is associated with overwhelming experiences, traumatic events and/or abuse that occurred in childhood. Dissociative identity disorder was previously referred to as multiple personality disorder.
Symptoms of dissociative identity disorder include:
- The existence of two or more distinct identities (or “personality states”). The distinct identities are accompanied by changes in behavior, memory and thinking. The signs and symptoms may be observed by others or reported by the individual.
- Ongoing gaps in memory about everyday events, personal information and/or past traumatic events.
- The symptoms cause significant distress or problems in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.”
DISCOVERING MY DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER
in November 1989, when I was twenty-nine-years old, I moved into a tiny apartment to live by myself after living with my cousin for a few years. I had begun to see a drug and alcohol counselor because my mother and brother were alcoholics and I was your typical codependent enabler.
One evening, I got ready for bed, laid down, covered up and turned off the light when suddenly, I experienced horrific emotions of terror and despair. I began to witness myself as a small child being raped by a male relative who had been inappropriate with me. I sat up quickly, threw my legs over the side of the bed while sobs wracked my body. Was that child really me? Before that moment I had no recollection of the rape the dream had showed me. I sat up the rest of the night terrified to fall asleep.
That triggered me to see a professional.
Since receiving my diagnosis I have experienced extremely poor treatment from medical doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists, therapists of all kinds, hospitals, and clinics. They all believe I am lying when I tell them about my disease. They see my mental health diagnosis and pass judgement – either I’m lying or I’m looking for attention.
It may surprise you to see that mental health professionals have treated me horribly, but honestly, many are not well enough trained to understand how to treat my disorder. Instead of admitting that weakness, they brand me a hysteric looking for attention, and deny their shortcomings. The sad truth is that there is tons of research and books available to tell them the cause and symptoms of dissociative identity disorder. They could learn how to treat it but they do not, or cannot.
In 2005, I became so ill that I needed extensive inpatient care. I voluntarily admitted myself into a long-term mental health facility. At a group meeting I was told by the social worker that my diagnosis did not exist and I was not to speak about dissociative identity disorder to the staff, other residents, or the therapists. They were silencing me.
I lived in that facility for over seven years. I never spoke a word about my diagnosis, yet, the condition never went away because I was not lying.
Despite being ignored, ridiculed, and laughed at, I have always been open with the diagnosis of DID. I have never bragged that I have a severe mental health condition. Rather, I have tried hard to create an understanding of what people may or may not see in my behavior. These attempts have always backfired, but I keep trying.
The medical community treats people with mental health conditions with no respect, suspicion and sometimes hostility. That stigma and maltreatment multiplies if you live with the diagnosis of a severe illness such as dissociative identity disorder.
Shirley J. Davis is an advocate, speaker and author focusing on the disorder she understands best, her own, dissociative identity disorder (DID). Shirley lives in rural Illinois with her brother, his wife and their two young sons. She enjoys writing and spending time with her four-year old nephew Michael. Shirley can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn. Shirley also owns and operates a website dedicated to spreading awareness about dissociative identity disorder.