Learning to Listen

I started attending a group for people with dissociative identity disorder back in June of this year. It was quite a process just to get into it. There was an intake, an extensive intake, of which I was quite resistant with many of the questions. I was asked the ages of my parents and whether they were deceased, to which I answered, “No idea.” When asked to describe my relationship with each parent I said, “Terrible, and don’t care to elaborate today.” There were 16 possible boxes to check under the Family Psychiatric History section. I checked 12 out of the 16 boxes. I was asked to elaborate on all the boxes I checked, and I replied, “Don’t care to do so today.”

The intake form, 3/4 of the way through asked me to talk about my strengths, and I answered by stating, “Not robotically answering questions on an intake form.”

It’s a small wonder I was allowed into this group. I think it may have helped that one of the facilitators was not meeting me for the first time.

We will meet for something like 36 weeks, and we are 8-10 sessions in (I’ve not kept track of the exact number). It’s become one of those things that I look forward to every week, and, at the same time, I don’t want to turn my check in because it’s a lot of money that is not covered by insurance. I know it’s rare to have such a group for DID folks, and I am grateful and always do math in my head each week when I turn in my payment.

It’s hard to run away from this condition when you’re talking about the challenges with having parts every week. Sometimes I feel myself start to slip away during the group, but I can see I’m not alone with the struggle. I’ve known before I started the group that it’s important to listen to my parts, and have consistent communication and collaboration. I’ve learned that one can know that, yet not do it any consistent manner. I’ve found myself in the place where it’s easy to listen to the part or parts that are usually near the front. Those voices at the back get drowned out, and they start to come out sideways because when a part is not heard that is when I start to feel off. But, I don’t usually think to inquire or listen to see if a part needs something when I start to struggle.

I bought a notebook for my homework in the group. I found that parts also liked just writing in the notebook. However, I quickly learned there was conflict among parts as to where each part could write. Now everyone has their own tab and area within the notebook to write. All parts seem to be content with this solution. It surprises me that I still find content I don’t recall writing, but now with the tabs I know who’s writing! I always appreciate clues. Should have implemented this solution years ago.

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I’m going to try again

I’ve not posted on here with any consistency. Unfortunately, that has been by design. I suspect that someone in my life is regularly reading this blog, and knows it belongs to me.

However, this past weekend I attended a conference for others with DID, and I made the most amazing connections with others who also have DID. I feel less alone after this amazing experience. There were many people there unafraid to be who they are, regardless of their DID. Though, I hate to admit, typing these few sentences is difficult. It’s taken me 45 minutes just to get this far in creation of this post. But, I’m going to keep trying because I can see that my fear and hiding are not serving me.

It’s the most hopeful I’ve felt in a long time. I can feel the ever present darkness get a lift with a crack of light shining in my black cloudy fog of I don’t matter in this world. That is my default thought, that I don’t matter. But I met people who do matter, and they are not held back by their DID. I got to know lovely, loving people who like me back and want to be my friend. What a small beautiful miracle …

I’m going to try to bottle up that courage  and confidence I saw this weekend, and apply it to this blog.

just hold on

You’ve come to realize the depths of your self-loathing today. You subscribe to “dissociative identity disorder” google news alerts, and today you received such an alert. The news alert featured a story with a video of someone describing their experience with DID, and in the video the person briefly spoke using the voices of all of their alters. You find yourself wincing as you watch this, and you ask yourself Why? Why would I wince at this? You wince because you see how it looks to others. There’s no question it looks strange. You look strange enough in life (with your thick glasses and nondescript face, for starters), and to have another piece of strangeness (DID) juxtaposed upon your original strangeness sometimes feels like a strangle hold, an infinite prison of madness and weirdness.

As much as you have grown to love Letty, your younger alter, you hate having DID. You wish you could somehow give it back, return it, exchange it, anything but have it. But, that is not how this works. It’s not how it works with any mental illness. It’s here, ensconced in your being, and you have to learn how to cope with whatever ails you.

DID is the great division between you and the rest of the world. It’s the big secret that you have to constantly weigh when and if to disclose it to people. You know, you’ve heard it all …

“DID is what saved you, kept you from going insane, made it possible to survive your childhood.”

Lately, you truly wonder what the worth was in being saved. Saved to function in some half-assed way with the DID albatross? Yes, because that’s a full life, getting all triggery, and freaky from time to time with PTSD, DID or a lovely hybrid of both. And, you argue that DID helped you go insane. It most certainly did not protect you from mental illness.

If only DID was like a rock you could throw back into the ocean. Alas, no. DID is something you have to work around, like a part of the road that tends to flood. You either avoid that road when it rains, or you do the hard work to fix it.

DID is full body robbery. It robs your mind, your body and your voice, all at the same time. The professionals call it protection. Let’s dispense with the euphemisms. It’s robbery. You see people with similar talents to you, and you are keenly aware that they are going to surpass you. You are further aware that they are going to surpass you because they are not held back by mental illness. You can plot all your career setbacks, and they are all attributed to your DID or PTSD. Either you let promotions pass you by because you know you should minimize your stress, or you’ve had situations with people because you are so sensitive. It’s been abundantly clear to you that the best loves and friends you’ve lost can be connected back to these two issues. You despise that you are this way. You desperately want to NOT be DID, but you might as well throw a penny into a wishing well because that’s how likely your desire to NOT be DID will come true.

You find yourself again thinking of the news article that brought a spotlight to your self-loathing, and you realize your own hypocrisy in that you want people to accept you, DID and all, but you wince at the mere sight of someone telling their DID story on the news. Ok, so you’re a hypocrite, but now what? What is one to do with this information?

Right now, in this moment, all you can do is tell yourself that in another time, and another place, heck, maybe tomorrow, you will feel differently about yourself. You’ll be kinder and nicer, and you’ll be glad you’re here. Until then, all you can do is hold on, and try not freak any more people out along the way.