Monday, January 9, 2017

DID & Dissociative Disorders

When it comes to mental illness, dissociative disorders seem to have some people left feeling completely confused and many times fearful. With films like Split, by M. Knight Shyamalan, hitting theatres in two weeks time we'd like to take a moment and discuss some of the common disorders associated with dissociation as well as a little bit of insight on each. Understanding We is an important piece of ending the stigma surrounding disorders like DID, that all too often find themselves at the forefront of the horror/thriller film genre.

A little bit about the signs & symptoms surrounding dissociative disorders:
  • Memory loss --amnesia-- of important moments events or people. That can not be explained by standard forgetfulness.
  • Mental Health problems: Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or attempts and many additional diagnoses/struggles may also be present.
  • Significant stresses interfering with every day life: work, relationships, family, etc.
  • A lack of identity. It may seem skewed or distorted.
  • Misunderstanding perceptions. Distortion of people and the world around you. (Not Hallucinations)
When I was first looking into and reading about my diagnosis I came across all sorts of information. Some helpful and others not at all. I finally received help after seeing a Neurological specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL. This doctor was well informed, which to our surprise, seemed to be a rare occurrence in the medical/mental health field. People we rely on to diagnosis and help more often than not, in our case, were not informed and able to help nor were they able to give a referral to someone who would have been able to assist in recovery. This doctor at the Mayo Clinic will forever be our hero as he saw and knew what was occurring, and then acted accordingly giving us a referral to the psychologist we still see today.

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Dissociative amnesia: The main symptom of this disorder is memory loss that's more severe than normal forgetfulness and that can't be explained by a medical condition. You can't recall information about yourself or events and people in your life, especially from a traumatic time. Dissociative amnesia can be specific to events in a certain time, such as intense combat, or more rarely, can involve complete loss of memory about yourself. It may sometimes involve travel or confused wandering away from your life (Dissociative Fugue).  An episode of amnesia may last minutes, hours, or more rarely months to years.

Depersonalization Disorder: This involves ongoing episodes where there is a sense of detachment of being outside oneself. As though the individual is observing their actions, thoughts, emotions and/or life as a movie reel (depersonalization).

Derealization Disorder: The individual may feel detached from their surroundings, in the dreamlike sense. The world itself may seem unreal and not fully there. People may experience either or both of these disorders at times. These symptoms can become beyond distressing, lasting only moments or can come and go over years.

Dissociative identity disorder: Formerly known as multiple personality disorder, is characterized by "switching" to alternate identities. DID is the presence of two or more distinct identities. This occurs when the individual has experienced severe and repeated trauma in early childhood. The individual may experience talking inside their head (not to be confused with Schizophrenia) and may feel as though they are possessed by other identities at times. Each of these parts may have a unique name, personal history and characteristics, including differences in voice, gender, mannerisms and even physical difference, example: one or more parts of this person may need eyeglasses while the other(s) does not. There also are differences in the relationships and knowledge between the parts, they may or may not be aware of their situation (being a part of an individual) or each other in some instances. People with DID typically have dissociative amnesia and dissociative fugue-- not always but more often than not.
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With dissociation it can be complex, inconsistent at times and overwhelming to those living their lives in this manner. You may have no realization that this is occurring. It isn't always apparent that is what the individual is experiencing; this can be exceptionally true for someone with DID. The person struggling through their life dissociating is someone who wants to often know what is happening, but isn't sure where to begin or how to get help. For the longest time I would hear "stories" from people about my life. I began saying, "I don't remember but I believe you." My assumptions were widely varied and truly confusing. Well maybe they're confused? Maybe they misunderstood or are confusing me with someone else? If only I knew how right that last bit was.

Eventually, it hardly mattered. This was my life. A life of misinformation and massive holes scattered throughout. I was unaware of my parts and had no idea I was dissociating. Those in my life, at times, were frightened--for me-- and confused. Some were becoming increasingly angry with the various doctors I've seen throughout my life; there were many. Some were angry with me and in disbelief how I could forget such an important moment to them. For me, I wasn't experiencing those moments with them. Now, I can understand their frustrations, fears, and anger. So to me it was understandable their frustration, at times, other instances it just stopped mattering to me. No one could help, no one had the answer, and I began accepting this scattered life of uncertainty.

Therapy Saved My Life. It really did. Without one of my parts determination to find help, continuing despite the immense difficulties this presented for her and others, I would not be here today. I know this to be true. I tend to find things fascinating, at times, words and peoples emotional responses to their lives, especially. So, without this part of me persevering through a battle of epic adversity I never would have found help. My parts would have never been able to find the help they so obviously and desperately needed.

We are here for a purpose. The main reason being, there can be Hope. Capital H-o-p-e. Hope, a small word with a massive meaning and purpose. Those who dissociate know there is hope and help available, keep trying. If you aren't living that fragmented life but you see someone who may be, openly discuss your concerns and fears with each other. I can't promise it'll be easy. In fact I imagine it'll be difficult, but we are all stronger together. We must raise our voices to fight this stigma together.


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12 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I've found this so interesting and informative, especially on a topic I didn't know much about.

    Jordanne || Thelifeofaglasgowgirl.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Jordanne Lee! Thrilled to hear that. It's been our hope for over a year now and we want to really focus on awareness this year!
      Be Well!

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  2. What a fab post high getting some facts on a topic with so much stigma surrounding it, I've definitely learnt a few things about dissociative disorders I didn't know about.xx

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    1. Thanks so much! Very kind and stay tuned for much more on Dissociation and Mental Health guests.
      Be Well!

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  3. I had no idea about all this, you only hear about the really common disorders that I had never even heard of it ~ of course too I didn't even know about the breakdown of how expansive it could be. Thanks for sharing and informing and I'm glad with therapy you're feeling a lot better, I wish for only the best and that this upward trend continues <3 xx

    sophieannetaylor.blogspot.co.uk

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    1. Thanks Sophie Anne!
      We're working on Ending the Stigma and combating the shame and fears of other ppl within the DID community. Misinformation, films and fear keep most very well hidden and silent!
      Be Well

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  4. This is something I've never heard of so I really enjoyed this post. The stigma around anything that people don't understand is ridiculous and I'm so glad that as a community, bloggers are opening up more and bringing it to the front of social media.

    This is a great post and is very well written!

    XO
    Ashley

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words, Ashley. We're glad you enjoyed this piece.

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  5. Its so good you're speaking up about this! I have (& sometimes still do) experience depersonalisation/derealization in certain situations and it can be so distressing, but theres not much info on it. I hope you're doing okay and im so glad youve spoken up :D

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    1. So sorry you know the struggle, Bethany, but thank you! We've coauthored a book on DID http://www.theweinme.com/2017/01/grief-diaries-through-eyes-of-did.html
      and we're very excited about future "living with DID Talks" we're working on organizing with other groups
      Be well

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  7. This is a great post full of so much information! I feel like that is the biggest problem that is faced with mental health issues at this stage - misinformation! More people need to speak up and share the truth and the facts like you have here. Thank you.

    Britt | http://alternativelyspeaking.ca/

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