Sunday, April 17, 2011
Being True to Myself in D.I.D. Recovery
I am currently in the recovery/healing process from Complex Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and within this kind of 'umbrella' or 'cluster' of disorders, I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and before that, Split Personality Disorder. The name of this particular disorder has changed over the years as the understanding of it within the mental health community developed. Its current name was given to reflect the dissociative nature of the disorder, the root coping mechanism in the mind that allowed the splitting of the personality with a result of the feeling and appearance of having multiple personalities to happen. Without the dissociation part, the splitting of personality could not have happened.
Dissociation is a way of stepping out of your circumstances in your mind when your body doesn’t have that choice. Dissociation protects the person from trauma, from events that are too overwhelming to safely deal with in the moment without ‘losing your mind’. You ‘check out’ temporarily so that you don’t ‘check out’ permanently. It is in a sense, a self-hypnosis, and most trauma survivors experience some level of dissociation during their trauma, no matter the age or type of trauma. If the experience can be processed in a safe way, the emotions worked through safely, in a timeframe that is close to the event, the chance of the trauma not causing long term mental health problems, such as PTSD or other disorders is greatly improved.
When trauma happens in childhood on a regular basis, the coping mechanism of dissociation is absolutely necessary for the survival of the child emotionally. They have no control over their physical world, they have no way out of their ordeals, they have to survive in the mind if they survive in the body. And this dissociation can take place without morphing into other types of disorders. But many times the trauma events and the memories of those traumas start splitting off, kind of like little compartments form in the mind so that the memories won’t be accessed by the whole child, it would be too overwhelming to have to remember all of these traumas and still move forward in life trying to survive. It is a very protective mechanism and it works quite well for that purpose.
I have done a good bit of research on this disorder since coming to terms with its existence within me. How D.I.D. starts to take form from the original dissociation is very complex and very unique to the individual. It seemed I had to know everything there was to know about this in order to fully come to terms with it, in order to have some kind of peace about facing it, in order to not feel doomed in being trapped in this for the rest of my life. I had to have hope, and knowledge is power when trying to go the distance, and that is just how I operate, I have to know what is in front of me and that there is a way to heal and overcome, a way to become whole.
I also know that not everyone who has D.I.D. is the same. As a matter of fact, there are no two of us alike. It’s not going to look the same in every person, it’s not going to feel the same in every person, it’s not going to be healed in the same way in every person. We each had our own unique history that put us here, our own unique traumas at different times in our lives, different people responsible for those traumas, and our sense and depth of horror and betrayal will have been unique for each of us during these times. And so the path to healing is going to be a bit different for each of us. It is a challenge for all of us, and that is a huge understatement.
One thing I learned early on after discovering this in myself was that I had to go with the flow according to what was going on in ME and not become distracted by how things looked for other people with the same diagnosis, and not become distracted by how their recovery process looked either. What works for one person might not work for another, especially in the way it is walked out and in the timing or pacing of the process. We are all unique, unique in the way we got here, unique in the way our minds work overall and in how the disorder manifests in our lives, both past and present, and unique in the way we will respond to treatment and to the healing journey out of this fragmentation of the self into wholeness of the self.
I guess I just wanted to use this post to encourage anyone who is in recovery from trauma, who is in recovery from any disorders that have arisen from trauma, to not get caught up in some kind of discouragement about what feels different to you as opposed to what you are learning about other people who have been through similar circumstances. Because the operative word is ‘similar’; no two people are exactly alike, nor are their histories, nor are their responses, nor are their recovery processes! And although we can gain tons of encouragement and tons of great tips from others who have gone before us, we can make huge leaps forward by finding all these awesome tools to help us learn and heal, and we can discover basic truths that are absolutely common to all of us in recovery, we still are going to have to allow our journey to be our own. And it can be scary at times, it can feel overwhelming at times, it can feel lonely even. It is our own unique struggle and we have to honor this in order to honor ourselves.
Be true to yourself as you always keep your eyes on the prize of recovery and wholeness. Don’t try to copy someone else to the point where you lose sight of the uniqueness of your own journey, because you may miss something very important to your own process, and your healing is way too important!!! YOU ARE WAY TOO IMPORTANT AS YOU!!!