Lack of mental health resources increases risk of suicide in those with Dissociative Identity Disorder

It’s frustrating to see the public service messages and articles discussing how we need to get people who are having suicidal ideation into treatment centers to prevent them from killing themselves.

Though I appreciate the sentiment of the anti-suicide campaigns, the reality is people who have a diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) do not receive the same access of care afforded to every other mental health diagnosis in the DSM V.

DID is the most stigmatized diagnosis within the mental health community.

Interestingly, DID is considered to be amongst the highest risk for suicide. Some estimates say that at least 70% of people with DID have attempted suicide.

With those staggering numbers, one would think the mental health community and the suicide prevention community would be working to improve access to mental health care for those with DID. Nope.

In the 1990s, there were more therapists, psychiatric hospitals, and day treatment programs available to those with a DID diagnosis. The False Memory Foundation (largely supported by those accused of child abuse) succeeded in its goal to end treatment resources for those suffering from DID. This result protects child abusers.

Today, it is extremely difficult to find an experienced outpatient therapist who is willing to treat DID, so many of the highest risk people either have no mental health therapy, or are working with a therapist who doesn’t understand the complexity of treating DID.

Most people who suffer from DID reach points of crisis where they need extra support and hospitalization.

The extra support could look like a day treatment program that understands trauma and dissociation, but after all my research in the United States, I am aware of only 3 programs serving this population (I am not sure that one is still operating) that accept insurance as payment. Since day treatment programs are designed to be community based, it is not very helpful to the majority of people suffering from DID who don’t live in those communities.

Without trained therapists and lack of day treatment programs to provide extra support, the person with DID is more likely to end up in a serious suicidal crisis with an extreme lack of resources available to them.

In a best-case scenario, the person with DID has private mental health insurance or Medicare, both of which offer psychiatric hospital coverage.

Here’s the problems people with DID run into when they are in need of intensive crisis intervention:

1. Although trauma hospital programs have become more common today, these hospital programs will not treat people with DID. They flat out say “we are not set up to treat DID.”

Huh?

I imagine when I hear programs disclose that information, it likely means one of these things:

-we don’t want someone with DID because it will be disruptive to our program, which is completely unfounded.

– we don’t believe these people really have DID, so we don’t want to work with them. People often like to believe this is a rare disorder, it is not.

-since people with DID have a higher risk of suicide, we don’t want to risk our liability by accepting them into our program.

2. There are only six hospital programs that accept insurance that have proficiency in treating DID. I will name them here with no endorsement of them since they are of varying quality:

-University Behavioral Health in Texas

-Sheppard Pratt in Maryland

-River Oaks in Louisiana

– Del Amo in California

– Forest View in Michigan

-Psychiatric Institute of Washington (PIW) in D.C.

Now, this may seem like a lot if you believe the disorder is rare, which it isn’t, and if you don’t take into account that people with DID are likely to have limited emotional and financial resources to travel to these destinations if their insurance actually covers the place.

In addition, these hospital programs more often than not have a waiting list to get in, which doesn’t work for the patient who is truly in a suicidal crisis.

California has created a few really nice DID programs that offer cutting-edge therapies for people with DID. Only problem, these programs are only available to those who can self-pay, typically $40-50k a month. Unfortunately, the symptoms of DID are not likely to coincide with being wealthy enough to afford such places.

3. You might be asking why doesn’t a person with DID just go to their local community mental health hospital? This is another huge topic, but I will do my best to sum it up.

Your typical community-based hospital doesn’t believe in the diagnosis of DID, so when you enter that system you are likely to get a diagnosis of schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar. When you receive those diagnoses, it means the mental health system is largely going to solve your crisis through intense medication therapy. There is no medication that treats DID, so getting blasted with medications does more harm than good.

Also, it is important to understand that people with DID have been highly traumatized in their lives, or they wouldn’t have the diagnosis to begin with. By asking a person to enter a community-based mental health program, you are guaranteeing that they will be re-traumatized by the way they will be treated and the lack of understanding of what is happening with them.

Sadly, we recently witnessed the prevalence of sexual abuse in our world through the “me too” campaign.

People with DID are not born with this condition. It is a result of being subjected to severe trauma in early childhood, typically severe sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.

I wonder, where are the crusaders for this population of victims?

Where is Oprah Winfrey, Brene Brown, Angelina Jolie, Demi Lovato, or any other person of influence who could make a difference in the suffering of those with DID?

I don’t even understand why the for profit hospitals aren’t all over trying to serve this underserved population simply to make money.

Somewhere in mental health history it was decided that the DID population is invisible, expendable, and just don’t matter.

The irony, those of us with DID come from families where the message that we don’t matter was drilled into our heads. Sadly, our current mental health system only reinforces that belief.

My final thought, would the suicide statistics be as high for those with DID if we had adequate resources for those suffering with this disorder?

Does it matter to you?

Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), which most people don’t seem to understand and are terrified of it. I guess I understand the not understanding part, as it is often hard for those of us who have it to understand ourselves sometimes.

I want to tell you about my experience to see if I can help bring any clarity to the understanding and fear of this disorder.

I grew up in an alcoholic and extremely abusive home. Sexual abuse, violence, religious abuse, and neglect were part of my everyday childhood. I am not going into detail here about the child abuse I endured because that is a whole other very big topic. I just need you to accept I endured a horrific childhood that wouldn’t be imaginable to most people, so I can stay focused on trying to explain the DID.

Growing up, I didn’t have a manual to read to tell me how to deal with the amount of trauma I experienced, but I was lucky enough to have a resilient brain to help me survive it.

As a child, I was often in overwhelming abusive situations that my brain just couldn’t process at that developmental point in my life. So, my brain ended up splitting off into what I call different “parts” or personalities to handle all the trauma and other things in life that I was expected to handle.

For instance, I had parts that would handle being sexually abused through the night, and other parts whose job it was to go to school the next day and pretend like everything was normal. I have parts that hold specific traumatic memories, and other parts who hold the feelings that go with those memories. I have parts who function just fine in the world, but will tell you they can do so because they did not experience the trauma themselves. For them, it is like it did not happen to them.

I have parts who have their own friends, and socialize very differently. The outside world that might notice this chock it up to mood swings, which I find very funny.

My parts are evolved enough to know they all share the same body, but my parts also each see themselves as a separate person living in this body. Most of them see themselves as much younger than the biological age of the body, which often creates a lot of confusion for all of us as the body is aging.

My parts are very different, some even have different names, ages, genders, sexual orientations, religions, vegetarians, meat eaters, happy, depressed, cognitively impaired, brilliant, social, agoraphobic, and on and on.

Most people don’t know how to look at me and understand that depending on which part is out, the essence of who I am shifts to that different person.

One moment I can be experiencing the world through the lens of a successful and bright 40 year old woman, and something may trigger me to shift to an 8 year old boy who is afraid of everything and has trouble navigating the world and trusting anyone.

A lot of people don’t believe it is possible for someone to truly be this way, but the truth is the brain is an amazing thing, and there are thousands and thousands of us on Facebook alone who all seem to have a similar way of living in the world like this as adults, yet we have never met each other in person to come up with some collaborative scheme to fake this for reasons that would only benefit those accused of child abuse.

My life is very challenging on a daily basis. Amnesia and psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and PTSD are my biggest struggles. These symptoms are fairly common for those of us navigating DID.

I have had this diagnosis for 28 years and it has been confirmed by multiple experts (this fact seems to be important to people, so I put it in). In the 28 years of knowing about this diagnosis of DID, I have worked really hard to have some semblance of a life and to get better.

I have given up on getting better at times, and have just tried to learn how to navigate my life without letting others find out I have DID. This is definitely a disorder of secrecy, as my experience has shown that when people find out you have it, they immediately pivot away from you as if you suddenly became dangerous and scary, no matter how long you have known them and in all sorts of capacities.

Hollywood has not helped with people thinking this is a scary, dangerous disorder because it has really only made movies about DID (formerly MPD) that portray killers and other dramatically scary people.

The truth is that:

1. People with DID are typically some of the kindest people you will meet. They are kind because they have been hurt so much that they would never want to hurt anyone. They are often overly sensitive to not wanting to hurt people in any capacity.

2. I realize people do not want to believe DID exists because then they would have to believe that horrendous abuse is happening to children all over the globe. Because NO ONE gets DID unless they have experienced horrendous trauma as a child, usually before age 8. And the truth is, this is happening way more than anyone wants to fathom.

The biggest truth that people should understand is that we are already living among you as your neighbors, school teachers, therapists, police officers, friends, and so on, and you have no idea we are here because our experience is that we must keep this particular victim status a secret to protect ourselves from further abuse as adults.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean when I refer to further abuse as an adult. The very system in place to supposedly help those of us suffering from mental illness typically refuses to help those of us with DID, and oftentimes doesn’t believe us.

The mental health system is sorely lacking in people who are qualified to help someone who has DID, and both therapists and treatment centers typically won’t work with us because of their own lack of education and fear of DID.

Therapists and treatment centers like Sierra Tucson and The Meadows that specialize is treating “trauma survivors” won’t treat trauma survivors who have DID (they both refused to treat me based on my DID diagnosis).

In my opinion, you have NO RIGHT to call yourself a trauma specialist if you decide the most traumatized amongst us don’t deserve your treatment because you are afraid of your liability, or some other equally ridiculous fear. We are people who deserve help, and it is the responsibility of the helpers to get the education they need to help ALL traumatized people, not just the ones who fit neatly on their trauma spectrum.

When we feel suicidal or in need of emergency help, we can’t just go to any hospital, because most of them refuse to acknowledge or treat those of us with this disorder. Instead they stick a variety of other diagnoses on us and medicate us into wellness (there is no medication for DID), so most of us with DID try very hard not to use the mental health system unless it is one of the rare people or places that understands and treats DID.

The most depressing fact is that DID is actually a serious mental health problem that can be “cured” if the person with DID wants that, and has access to appropriate resources, which they almost never do.

This makes me sad, and I hope it does you, too. Everyday when I am not focused on my own recovery, I think about how I can change a system to get people who have been so severely abused in this world the help they deserve.

No one deserves what happened to them to get DID. As fellow humans, we should all be trying to figure out ways to help our brothers and sisters who were served these horrific starts to their lives. I hope you agree.

The Meadows Trauma Program—No to DID


From the Meadows website:

“For over 35 years, The Meadows trauma treatment program has been helping trauma victims heal and learn the skills necessary to cope with the devastating, and often hidden, effects of trauma. The trauma treatment program at The Meadows was specifically designed for trauma survivors by Pia Mellody and a team of world renowned experts including Dr. Peter Levine, John Bradshaw, Dr. Shelley Uram, Dr. Jerry Boriskin, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk and Dr. Claudia Black.”

The world-renowned Meadow’s trauma recovery program is only meant for people with certain levels of trauma. 

You can’t have too little, or you better be extremely wealthy ($60k) because your insurance program is not going to pay for it. You can’t have too much because then they feel you are too high of a risk for suicide or some other lawsuit.

I put up a good fight arguing that my DID diagnosis should not exclude me from the option of getting treatment at the Meadows. Unfortunately, it appears the Meadows is basing their decision off the Hollywood version of DID instead of examining whether a person might be appropriate for their program regardless of a DID diagnosis.

I find it very fascinating that these treatment centers are more comfortable with people who are actively suicidal than they are a stable person with DID who is not suicidal. My therapist likes to say that these places just don’t understand the diagnosis, and I am beginning to agree that they are getting their information from Hollywood instead of real life.

I am the first to say that not everyone with DID is in a place to do residential treatment, but there are also lots of people with DID who are in a place to do it and be safe. I consider myself the latter, so this has been a personal frustration for me.

I guess what really hurts me with the Meadows (I have been rejected by many other treatment centers based on my diagnosis) is that some very important people in the trauma field stick their name on the Meadows as consultants for their trauma program.

I just don’t see how these people in good conscience can sleep at night by turning away those of us who have been the most harmed by child abuse, meaning those of us with DID.

It is absurd how afraid people in the trauma mental health field are of those of us with DID.

I have made it my mission to try to educate and change the current lack of resources available to those of us with DID.

The clinical director at the Meadows agreed with me that there are not intensive treatment programs for those of us with DID, but only a handful of hospitals that are in place for stabilization.

I don’t need need stabilization. I need treatment. I deserve treatment. This is not my fault, and it is not ok that the founding members of the trauma movement are not working to provide more services for those of us with DID.

As much as Sheppard Pratt and University Behavioral Health are doing to take people in when they are unstable, those programs are not going to help anyone heal.

Those of us with DID deserve treatment programs where the very best and latest treatment modalities are available to support our recovery.

Recovery is possible, but not for most people who don’t have access to the latest treatments offered at these trauma treatment programs.

For the past year I have been having the hard conversations with those who reject us because of a stupid diagnosis. I do not accept that we don’t deserve help because our trauma was so severe that we developed DID.

In my opinion, don’t you dare call yourself a trauma therapist and then say you don’t treat DID, and equally, don’t consider yourself a world – renowned trauma treatment program if you won’t help those with DID.

If you have DID, please confront these people when you encounter them. We must assert our rights to get better, and let them know that we are severely injured human beings who deserve to be at the front of the line when it comes to getting help.

Then they can sleep at night knowing they are helping all of us who have suffered severe trauma.

Today’s Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder and Sierra Tucson


For the longest time, I have bought into “talk therapy” as the solution for helping me heal my DID. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great value in talk therapy with a therapist who understands DID.

The highly respected Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, has done significant research on the best way to heal trauma is to work with the mind, body, and spirit. I didn’t fully understand what he meant until I had access to these therapies myself.

I have found that the traditional treatment centers for trauma/DID are giving lip service to his research by adding yoga or “movement therapy” to their programs, and the rest being individual or group therapies only.

In my opinion only, the traditional treatment centers for trauma are backed largely by the members of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). ISSTD is the most influential organization when it comes to teaching practitioners about trauma treatment, and its members are doing what little research exists about Dissociation. I applaud them for this.

As a person suffering from DID and complex ptsd, I’ll be the first to tell you my brain does not operate like a non-traumatized brain. The long-lasting problems of trauma are with the brain, not the emotions so much. My brain did not develop correctly as I grew up, and so my brain stays in this constant state of fight/flight/freeze, which has caused me numerous health and psychiatric problems. Consequently, it has robbed me of living a functional life.

I don’t like to think of myself as a slow learner, but on this very important point I have been. I listened to the ISSTD and their current three phase treatment protocol, and subsequently have been depressed and hopeless about my lack of progress despite my very committed efforts.

I am going to sound like a Republican here, which I am not, but I believe a handful of the private trauma programs run by corporations are doing a better job at treating trauma than the ISSTD traditional model.

Why? Because they are focused on the research done by Bessel Van Der Kolk, Peter Levine and others who get that the way to healing is through the mind/body/spirit, and have aimed their treatments in this direction.

I do not understand for the life of me why the ISSTD is not strongly supporting a treatment model that the mind/body/spirit approach addresses.

What I hear over and over from ISSTD trained therapists (and I am thrilled they are trained) is that they believe having a positive long-term relationship with the therapist is the solution. And don’t get me wrong, I do think it is an important part of the solution, but I believe this long-term talk-therapy only approach is doing great harm to the DID and complex trauma community.

Too many people either lose hope and give up on this treatment, or spend a big part of their lives doing only long-term talk therapy and only getting a little better and suffering through life. I have been suffering through much of my life despite access to good therapists and being highly motivated.

Recently, I had the accidental experience of going to the private psychiatric hospital Sierra Tucson. I wanted to go because their program is completely different than ones I had been to in the past, and they have a focus on the mind/body/spirit as the solution for trauma and the co-occurring problems that go with it.

I feel I must mention this about Sierra Tucson before I go further. As an institution, they are terrified of DID and don’t really want to treat it because they are afraid a person with DID will commit suicide while in their program. They had a series of suicides a few years back that got them into a lot of trouble, and as a result, they are skittish (this is what an admission’s person there told me). Of course, none of the suicides were from someone with DID, but the industry-wide fear and discrimination against those with DID persists.

I also should let you know that me, my spouse, and therapist had to beg them to let me come to their program. After two days, they finally agreed to admit me on provisional status.

That said, I want to talk about my experience there. Once I was admitted, I experienced that about 95% of the staff who worked with residents to be extremely caring and kind professionals. As someone who grew up not being cared for at all, and never receiving this level of care in any other treatment setting, this instantly created a huge change in my brain and how I perceived the world.

Once I started the program, I began individual therapy with a primary therapist, small group therapy with the primary therapist (where we were allowed to talk about our trauma), management of my treatment by competent psychiatrists, talk therapy with a somatic experience therapist, lots of good groups with a couple of exceptions, DBT therapy, family therapy, and the option to work on spirituality if you wanted to (though I would argue the entire experience is a spiritual experience for those that allow it to be).

I also got to experience what they refer to as Integrated Therapies. I went there in a lot of neck and back pain, so I got to meet with a pain doctor who got me off the opioid drug I was taking, and replaced it with supplements and a nonaddictive muscle relaxer. He set up for me to have regular physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, and personal training to recondition my very unhealthy body.

Other Integrated therapies I experienced were acupuncture (which one time reduced my ptsd symptoms by 50%), Somatic Emotional Release body work, Shiatsu massage, Equine Therapy, Ropes Course,  EMDR therapy, Bio-Neuro Feedback, nutritional consultations (where they discovered I was pre-diabetic), yoga, Tai-Chi, DNA testing to determine the best medications that will work for my body, and psychological testing where the psychologist actually meets with you to go over the results (there were no surprises in my diagnoses).

Every person I worked with was on the same page and like a therapist to me. I got some of my best therapy from my physical therapist. The woman who styled my hair gave me an hour of solid self-esteem boosting therapy. The massage and acupuncturists all gave good therapy besides just their normal tasks. The chiropractor was fantastic and showed she cared about me. The techs who are in charge of knowing where you are were some of the kindest people I met. They were all so sincere with the love and care they gave me, which was such a healing mechanism in itself.

I can’t lie and say everything at Sierra Tucson is perfect, but their treatment modalities and culture of caring for patients is superb, and that makes me say you may want to consider it if other therapies for trauma haven’t worked for you in the past.

In my opinion, Sierra Tucson runs into problems because it is a corporation that clearly puts profit over client welfare. But, interestingly, as a business, they don’t realize what a gold mine they are sitting on for Trauma and Pain treatment, which are definitely their strong suits. They focus on advertising what a great substance abuse program they are, and in my opinion their substance abuse program today is only average, and I would definitely go somewhere less expensive if that was my issue.

Unfortunately, in my case, my primary therapist was depressed and dealing with her own trauma, and this greatly impacted what happened to me at their program. I had an opportunity to change because they were moving her to a less stressful group, and I made the critical mistake to stay with her and my group until I gave my trauma history.

My primary therapist dropped the ball on me from start to finish while I was there, and I believe this ultimately led me to getting administratively discharged in the middle of my program stay. I don’t want to beat up on her because she is a nice, well-intentioned therapist who in my opinion was working while impaired.

My Primary Therapist never asked me about my trauma history, so she had no idea how extensive it is. She gave me the assignment to give my Trauma History to the group, which at first I thought was a bad idea, and then I was feeling strong enough to do it without emotion.

I gave my extensive trauma history (only about 60% of what I know) to my group as she asked, and the next day she came to get me and said she was “worried about me.” At some point she asked me if I thought I had alters coming out trying to sabotage my treatment or wanted to leave against medical advice. This was 100% false as I am fortunate to have co-consciousness with my parts, and all my parts were quite happy about our experience there. I was never suicidal or wanted to self-harm while there. But the truth didn’t seem to matter as people who never even met me made the decision based on her statements.

After arriving back home, I am devastated that I don’t have the money or access to get the therapy I need. Needless to say, my depression and functioning is not good.

But, one very important thing I must say. My brain changed while there. I feel different. Not entirely by any means, but my brain feels a smidge healthier, and I have not had suicidal thoughts since I went there. And I don’t know how, but a traumatic event that happened to me over a year ago no longer has the emotional charge it had before I went. I can now think about it and not feel suicidal.

I can’t explain this change in my brain in words, but it was like I could feel what a normal, calm brain felt like. It is definitely different and not something I could ignore.

There really is an answer out there for my damaged brain to recover and leave the suffering behind. It is hard for me to believe, but also extremely upsetting because they put me out for no reason, and I can’t afford a comparable treatment program at this time.

In the long run, I am sure it would be cheaper for my insurance company to pay a reasonable amount to a comparable program, but I don’t think they think that way. I am going to try, so I hope those of you who pray will pray for me, and those of you who send positive energy, will send it my way.

Healing is possible…..

Figuring out the puzzle

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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.

A few things about me

It is April 2017. I do not know the exact date because as a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I am particularly bad with remembering dates. On good days, I get the month and year correct. This is a good day.

It is challenging to begin a blog about your life when you struggle with amnesia to the degree I do. I would like to start with my childhood, so you know how I got to where I am, but I truly don’t know if I know enough to start from that place. Maybe I should talk more about today— how I am today. Who I am today. What my days are like, or something in that neighborhood.

I think I am what is called the host in this female body. Since I can’t remember much of my childhood, it is hard to know that with certainty. But, if it is true, it means I am the one who was originally born into this body. The one who was born into a horrific existence and needed saving by the creation of other insiders in multiple systems in my brain. I realize that statement is probably confusing to those who aren’t DID. I will try to explain things the best I can as we go.

I am not sure how many other “insiders” live within me—-for me, that refers to the other people who live inside me. Therapist hate when I say that because they say of course you can’t have all those people living in you. I know we only have one body, but I want you to know my experience. As of now, I feel like these other parts/alters/insiders are like other people living within me. I am not psychotic and believe they are actual people in my body, but then again maybe it is psychotic to believe in feeling the experience of having other people live in your body. I realize that sounds fairly confusing, so let’s leave that alone for now.

My life is not so great now. I am currently sitting in a closet hoping to have privacy and peace so I can write this blog. This blog has a threefold purpose: 1. to educate people about what it is like to live with DID. 2. to provide information and support to those who might be struggling with DID. 3. and selfishly, a way to work on my own recovery. Yes, I do still believe in recovery. I read somewhere recently if you have no hope, there is no point to living. Today, even with all the struggles and setbacks I have, I still have hope. That may change tomorrow.

My life is not very dramatic by appearances, so you wouldn’t know I had DID if we just casually met. In fact, almost everyone in my life from neighbors and friends to coworkers I have known for years have no idea. It is lonely leading this secret and inauthentic life, but the stigma that goes with DID is so severe that it is too much of a risk to my family in many ways that I am sure I will talk about often on this blog.

Lots of insiders pass themselves off as me (meaning people think they are talking to me, and that I am just in a different mood), and that works well for my life. My therapist, one friend, and my spouse are the only ones who truly know much about me. Sadly, my therapist knows me better than anyone. I think it is sad. I don’t mean to be this way, but it is what it is for now. One day I hope to be able to tell the world who I am.

When I am doing ok, I am intelligent, passionate, resourceful, funny, and a good person. By some miracle, my childhood and the resulting mental health problems, didn’t take away my ability to be a good parent. This much I know and it keeps me alive on many bad days. My children do not know about the DID or the child abuse because they are still young.

One thing you may read from me on this blog is contradictory thoughts. This is something I deal with on a regular basis, and it doesn’t make things easy for me on most days. As I always try to inform people no 2 people with DID will be identical. We all created this condition somehow with only a child’s mind. Some people with DID have nice orderly DID systems where everyone has a name, age, role, and decisions are clearly made by certain insiders. That is not my system. Mine is more confusing. Sometimes it is higher functioning than those with nice and neat systems, but I have a system of insiders who operate from confusion and chaos on a daily basis which makes life that much harder. For example, sometimes we may get in the car and change directions of where we are going several times because different insiders have different ideas about where we should be going. And sometimes we just pull into a parking lot and sit there for hours doing nothing because we don’t know where we are going.

Oh yeah, you will here me or others in my system refer to us as “we” a lot in our writings. Just know we are talking about the whole system when we use the term “we.”

I realize this first entry is scattered, but I think scattered is ok because it is getting me started on this new journey.

I want you to know a few things:

DID is real. It is probably the most under-diagnosed disorder despite its official status in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V). Most medical and mental health practitioners either don’t believe in the diagnosis or they have not been properly trained to recognize it when it is right in front of them.

DID will typically not be the only diagnosis the person has. You can expect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to go along with it, and also conditions related to depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and definitely attachment disorders. It is fairly common for a person with DID to have issues with substance abuse, especially if they are trying to medicate the symptoms they are experiencing. I have also found that Bipolar is now often diagnosed with DID, but if you ask me, Bipolar has become the new ADHD as far as being incorrectly way over-diagnosed. Just my 2 cents. A lot of these disorders overlap, and hopefully the next DSM will better categorize these diagnoses.

I hate the organization calling itself the False Memory Foundation. As far as I am concerned, many of them are perpetrators or no better than perpetrators for the damage they have done to many people who both suffer from dissociative disorders and for those who used to treat those with this very difficult disorder. Though they are weak today, I blame them for the huge lack of resources available to people with dissociative disorders. I blame them for the majority of mental health practitioners who were not taught anything about DID, or only had a paragraph in their textbook about DID.

DID is not what you see in the movies or television because as fascinating as some things are about this disorder, it is just not entertaining enough to keep you interested so that you can make someone a bunch of money in the entertainment industry. The recent movie “Split” which I have not seen out of principal, but know enough about it to say that is a completely unrealistic portrayal of someone with DID. I have met somewhere between hundreds to thousands of people with DID, and I have never once met one who was violent in some sort of criminal way. I am sure it is possible, but it is just not something I have seen, and I have seen a lot. In fact, it is commonly known that people with DID will often sacrifice themselves to help others. We were not raised to put ourselves first.

I will only tell the truth, but it is my truth. Whether you believe me or not is not important to me. I know many would not believe the story of my life, and the results I have been living with, but that’s ok. I really don’t care.

A person can only develop DID if they experience horrific trauma as a child. This could mean children who are living in countries where bombs are going off on a regular basis, but I have never seen that in person, but it makes sense to me that it is possible. The most common cause of DID I am familiar with is a result of horrific child abuse, usually starting much earlier than the age of 9. As far as I know, there has never been a case of DID as a result of adult abuse.