When I was a child, my mind was specifically made to not think. I wasn’t to understand what was happening. People around me did things to my mind to ensure that. I was simply worthy of being kept alive for the purposes of a lot of sick people.
The first time I remember something substantially unusual about my life was when I was around 10 and the first Star Wars movie came out. Back in those days, we didn’t have movies like that, so it was a big deal to be going. I remember waiting outside the theater with my friends (another family took me), all of us filled with excitement. The next thing I remembered was walking out of the theater with my friends as they were excitedly re-enacting the movie scenes. But, for me, I had no memory of the movie at all. I was terrified someone would find out that there was something terribly wrong with me, so I didn’t say anything to anyone, and pretended to know what the movie was about for months. It was so disturbing for me, I still have not watched that movie.
Then, throughout my life there were voices in my head commenting on various things and criticizing me. Even though I heard multiple voices and sometimes we talked back and forth with each other, I talked myself into believing that everyone had voices in their head. It was especially easy to do that when the whole “inner child” concept took off.
In high school, I didn’t put much thought into it, but I changed identities frequently and maintained opposite identities at the same time depending on who I was around or what I was doing. This was not your normal finding your identity experience. This was bizarre, and I knew it, but chose not to think about it.
Some of my identities in high school were band geek, druggie, political activist, ROTC rising star, non-drinker, heavy drinker, business entrepreneur, school skipper, slut, good girl, athlete wannabe, advanced student, special ed student, and of course the lost child who wanted help but never asked.
By some miracle, I got into the state college. It was a miracle because I hadn’t remembered or paid attention to about 90% of what I think they taught in school. I got in because I had such an interesting list of activities and successes (minus the not so good ones I left out). I was let in under a provisional status that gave me a couple of quarters to prove that I could do college level work.
I started college and was driven to succeed. I did extremely well in most subjects. I spent my first ten weeks learning everything important for college. I didn’t even know how to write an essay when I got there, but I worked hard and caught up with my peers. I became extremely good at debating both sides of the issues. I believe this was probably because I was able to switch into different parts to argue each side. This got me heavily involved in politics on campus and in the state. I became a rising star in the political successes I experienced. I was also really good at accounting, which was weird because numbers tended to bore me, especially as a career. But, I was good at it.
I fell in love with a guy the first quarter I was there. I lived in a co-ed dorm, so we had some wild parties and it wasn’t unusual for boyfriends and girlfriends to live together. In our one dorm room, we had 5 people living there, and it wasn’t much bigger than a regular secondary bedroom in a house without a bathroom.
Sex, alcohol, pot, and pizza were everywhere. Though I was in no way a virgin when I entered college, many of my dorm mates were, and were losing their virginity quickly and stupidly. I had one really stupid sexual experience with a guy I didn’t even like because I was trying to fit in. Dumb mistake. That experience started something that stayed with me in a negative way, even to this day.
The man I loved, and did want to have sex with started out ok. But then I quickly started to have problems having sex. I would just freeze, have a flashback, or just not want to have sex for reasons I didn’t understand. I mean, I loved this man, I was attracted to him, I felt safe with him, but as each day crept along it seemed to get worse, except every once in a while I would change in a way I couldn’t explain and have a good sexual experience with him. It was good sometimes, and bad most of the time. I truly had no clue what was wrong with me. He loved me and wanted to stick it out with me, but when we hit the 3 year mark I let him go. I couldn’t do it to him anymore. I knew something was really wrong with me because my sexual problems kept getting worse, and I didn’t think it was fair to do that to him.
I was able to keep succeeding at some important roles and clubs at school, and my grades were very good, which landed me a top job with a highly competitive corporation. They expected me to be somebody based on my resume, but none of us had any idea what was brewing inside for me.
After achieving success after success my Senior year, I found myself feeling depressed, crying a lot, and thinking of suicide. I had no idea what was wrong with me, so I kept it a secret and went to the elaborate student mental health center at the University. At the student mental health center, the psychiatrist literally yelled at me and told me to stop crying, and gave me a prescription for Xanax. At first it was helpful to get me through the days and the tough academic demands, but then I started reaching a point where I needed to keep taking more and more to feel ok. Finally, I started feeling suicidal again, and fortunately I found a good therapist and psychiatrist off campus who helped me get inpatient at a local private psychiatric hospital. I have no memory of how I found those two people who helped and cared about me a great deal.
I spent the next 6 months at the hospital, kind of a psychiatric mystery on why I wasn’t getting better. At the time, I was put on every anti-depressant available, and none of them worked. At the same time, I started to realize these strange conflicting feelings going on inside me. I was attached to my therapist, and I remember one time she was going to be out for a couple of days. During those couple of days, I was feeling ok, but then I also started having suicidal thoughts and other conflicting thoughts. I remember the voices in my head increased and were talking to each other. I also remember my body not always feeling in my control.
I tried to discuss this with my therapist and psychiatrist, and unfortunately, they did not believe in dissociative disorders, or at least thought they were very rare (not true). So, they continued to believe I was only suffering from Major Depression, which I was, but I also had other complicating factors going on, which explained why I wasn’t getting better. They finally put me on lithium, the drug mainly used for people with Bipolar illness, and it seemed to help my depression, or it was completely a coincidence.
I was finally well enough to leave the hospital. I still had serious mental health issues going on, but I finally was able to go home. Going home eventually made it so I could see an expert in what I suspected was going on with me, and she diagnosed me with Multiple Personality Disorder, which is now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. I hadn’t read up on it really because there was no internet back then, and books hadn’t really been published on the subject, or at least available to the public. I just knew it felt like other people were living inside my body, and I learned about therapists who were treating this condition. I knew I was not experiencing life like the “Three Faces of Eve” or “Sybil,” but a less dramatic form of that was taking place in my life.
So, essentially, I self-diagnosed myself. I do not say this to brag, but to let you know the frustration I feel for myself and others who are in a mental health system that refuses to wholeheartedly believe in this diagnosis, or believe it is so rare that they don’t expect to see it in their professional career. The truth is it is extremely common, and somehow, we need to wake up mental health providers. I can’t tell you the number of mental health professionals in my current city who call themselves “trauma experts,” but refuse to learn about or work with people who have a diagnosis of DID. As a result, people with DID spend years and years getting the wrong kind of treatment, and essentially lose a significant part of their lives to the illness because the mental health professionals diagnosed them incorrectly because of their own bias or ignorance. This must change.