I’d like to think that, as I am now six months into my official dissociative identity disorder diagnosis, I wouldn’t still be struggling with accepting that I have DID. But the truth is that I still have doubts. Some mornings I wake up in complete denial. I try to rationalize my denial my pointing out the differences between myself and others with DID I’ve come across, even though I know full well that the dissociative spectrum is so diverse that no one’s DID is the same as another person’s. Yet I still try to convince myself that this all just a misunderstanding.
Reasons I use to tell myself I don’t have DID (note that I am not saying any of this is true for all people with DID – these are my irrational rationalizations):
Medication: I am not taking any psychotropic medications, and I haven’t since September. Every person I’ve ever come across with DID (and mental illness in general) takes at LEAST one psychotropic medication. I tell myself that since I am functioning without medication, I must not be ill at all.
Functioning: I function decently well. I’ve held jobs (and excelled at them), I’ve always been one of the highest achievers in my class (from elementary school through college), and I am able to live independently without assistance from anyone. I know many others with DID are not that fortunate. They are unable to hold jobs, unable to focus or stay present long enough to manage an education, and many are in supportive living.
No inner world: In my reading and through my participation in DID support groups, I’ve come across so many people speak of an inner world that they can actually picture inside of their minds – filled with different rooms and places for alters to go. I don’t have that. I find it difficult to imagine having that.
Trauma: This is difficult for to me admit, as I would tell a client to never compare his or her pain to another person’s. Yet I find myself regularly comparing my trauma to other people’s traumas, insisting that my experiences are minor in comparison to what other people have gone through. I tell myself I don’t have DID because what I went through just wasn’t that bad.
Lack of alter involvement: I realize in typing this out that it is one big oxymoron, because admitting that my alters exist actually supports my DID diagnosis. Many of my DID friends have actively participating alters: alters that use the computer and social media as themselves, alters that perform certain life tasks, etc. None of my alters use the computer (that I know of). None of them have their own accounts. As far as I’ve realized, I’m the one putting the work into daily tasks, not any of my alters.
Memory: Although I don’t remember everything, I do have memories of quite a few traumatic experiences I have endured. I tell myself that if I really had DID, I would have dissociated during these events and blocked them out from my memory. Why didn’t I dissociate all of the time?
Reasons I use to counteract my denial:
Medication: Funny how I use this both as a tool for denial and a tool for acceptance. The fact that psychotropic medications don’t affect me actually supports a dissociative diagnosis. DID cannot be treated with medication. The symptoms that may coincide, such as depression and anxiety, can be treated with medication, but DID itself must be treated through therapy. It explains why anti-depressants never helped me, and why even the strongest anti-psychotics never stopped the voices in my head.
Outsiders have met my insiders: When I told a good friend about my DID, there was no sense of shock or surprise. In fact, my friend had suspected something long before I even realized it. When I asked why he never said anything to me, he said it didn’t matter to him – it was just who I was. I even found out he had met one of my younger parts. My therapist has also met several of my parts, even before they were comfortable enough to come out to me.
Recognizing differences: Two weeks ago, I had a disagreement with a coworker. We were discussing an issue with boxes that needed to be shipped out, and I insisted that I didn’t pack and label the boxes. I couldn’t recognize my own handwriting. As I stood there vehemently denying that these boxes were mine, my coworker reminded me that I was the only one who knew how to do it, and no one else would have written those labels out. He was right. It could have only been me. But that was not my handwriting. Someone else had taken over for me, and it wasn’t the first time. Over the years, I have come across many notes that were not in my usual handwriting, but I knew that they must have been written by me. These differences are never subtle, either.
Ending up with things I don’t remember buying (or liking): I’ve been known to carry around a pink and white polka dot bookbag. My therapist commented on it once, and I mentioned how I hated the color pink. And then she asked me why I had a pink bag. Truthfully, I don’t even remember buying it. I don’t remember buying a lot of things I end up with.
The voices in my head: I can’t ignore it. Hearing voices is not normal. Yet I’ve heard them for years. Sometimes I can understand what they are saying, and sometimes I can’t. Medication doesn’t make them go away because they are parts of me. They are not auditory hallucinations. They are my alters.
Memories: There are entire chunks of my life missing from my memory. Sometimes I can’t remember what I did last week or what happened in therapy. These are clear indications of dissociation. When I am present, my memory is exceptional. There is no other reason for my memory to be that shitty, even with the drugs and alcohol I’ve taken in the past.
Trauma: This is another dual-purpose tool for both denial and acceptance. I know through my research and involvement with other survivors of mother-daughter sexual abuse that the incidence of DID seems to be much higher with survivors of this type of abuse, so inevitably my risk is higher. I also endured physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse by both of my parents, increasing my risk factor for developing DID even more. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I had a traumatic childhood and early adulthood. Saying that my life was fine won’t change the fact that it really wasn’t.
As I sat in therapy last week and insisted that I never went through any trauma, my therapist reminded me that that just wasn’t the truth. She told me that if I continued to deny my experiences, I was also denying everything that my parts went through, all of the trauma they endured. It’s not just about me; it’s about them, too. I realized that I was doing the same thing to my parts that other people had done to me: denying the reality of my/our experiences.
Sure, I wish I didn’t have DID. No one wants DID and all of the shit it comes with. But for every reason I come up with to support my denial, there are even more reasons that support my diagnosis. I can try to maintain my dissonance, but that will never work in the long run. Maybe one day I won’t have to fight myself anymore on this issue. We’ve done enough fighting already.