It has been close to a year since three doctors sat down and told me that I have D.I.D. or Dissociative Identity Disorder.
I guess the best definition comes close to the following: DID is a psychiatric diagnosis that describes a condition in which a person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. In the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems the name for this diagnosis was Multiple Personality Disorder. In both systems of terminology, the diagnosis requires that at least two (but usually more “personalities” or “aspects of a personality” routinely take control of the individual’s behavior with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness.
The terms are always changing it seems. It’s not like SYBIL or anything you might have seen displayed in movies or on TV — tho, The United States of Tara comes close to being realistic in the goofiest and silliest way possible. I think only 2% of those diagnosed with DID display the level of personality shifts as shown in that program.
I’ve hinted about this on my blog from time to time, but I think this is the first time I’ve actually written directly about it. I’ve decided to own it. And, I miss blogging. The problem is that the vast amount of my time is spent working through this disorder to over come it. To get my life back.
Of course this always begs the question – have I ever had my life in full or in parts? Over the course of this hardcore therapy which now includes hypno-therapy I’ve discovered that I’ve been losing time (or switching) most of my life. This explains a lot. For years and years I’ve wondered why, with my exceptional memory, I am often “cloudy” on certain spans of time or actions I’ve taken. And, all those torn out pages from my journals over the years. Or things I did at work but couldn’t recall except through the covert gathering of information from others. The funny thing is that I never once questioned these losses of time. I simply plowed forward with little or no thought.
A sort of fuzzy “re-boot” of my mind without owning it.
This all started at the time I was abused as a child. What the psyche can’t handle the brain tries to find ways to distill it so that the psyche survives. Survival is the name of the game. And, oddly, that has always been my motto. …”I am a survivor!” …I can deal. …I can wing it. …I will succeed no matter what. …And, I always have. But, with great costs.
Like most men with DID it wasn’t until my 30’s that things started going haywire and I couldn’t fully deal or hide the confusion. The stress of a big career, relationships, the issue of the abuse I suffered — all of which I do remember–, and the changes of hormones in the body resulted in everything coming to a thudding crash in late 2008.
I lost my newly found and beloved job here in San Francisco as I attempted to understand exactly what was wrong with me. As my partner helped me cope and we went from one doctor to another — the first great therapist I found recognized the problem almost immediately. However, my condition was a little beyond her experience as a doctor. She slyly referred me to another doctor who had served as her mentor. As it turns out this doctor is a god send for me. She has been working with DID relating to men for over 25 years.
I guess it took me well over six months to fully accept that I was dealing with DID, but I accept it now.
I’ve taken a series of tests and it looks like I have a very good chance of defeating DID and coming to what they call a form of “integration” in which these fragments of my psyche can merge back into one. You see they are not “personalities” — there is only one mind and one personality. These are ways the mind found to deal with the pain and horrors that were too much for me to fully accept on certain levels. They are aspects of me that take over to protect me. As one gets older it catches up with you because these aspects are forever stuck in a limited emotional state the trauma created. They are irrational and unable to react in logical ways to every day challenges of stress. But, the mind is so wired at this point that when certain situations trigger panic — the “appropriate” aspect takes over and I involuntarily take a back seat as the aspect gets through the situation.
Of course I face no danger now. In fact, I haven’t faced any real danger since I was about 9 years old. But, the aspects do not get that. So, now, I spend three to four hours a week with a doctor trying to understand what each aspect is worried about — in addition to my own worries.
Confusion has become my operative mode of conduct.
When B and I went to Manhattan last week I was terrified I would “switch” and do God Knows What — however, luckily, I only “switched” twice. Of course this resulted in a couple of odd situations. Monday, I found myself on a concrete pier of the Hudson River somewhere near W67th Street. And, I had only $10 in my wallet. Guess who got to walk all the way back to W23th and 7th Ave! Fun! My legs are still sore.
But, I try to think of it as a sort of an twist of adventure in my life. And, I like to remind myself that I have not failed in my one quest — which has always been to never lead an ordinary or dull life. Tho, the time away from working is deflating and being dependent upon Social Security Disability and Medicare is so devastating to me — I am quite blessed that the support was so quickly approved. I have a home, a love who cares for me, a family and great friends who support me and I will get through this.
However, that doesn’t make it any less scary when I might be at my computer one minute and then find myself in a place I do not know around people who appear to know me the next. And, then realize that it has been several hours since I was actually at the computer.
I keep coming back to one thought. Once I do beat this — and no one is willing to put a time line to it — but it sounds like I’m looking at a couple years of tough mental work — I figure there must be a book in this some way some how. I’m not the only one dealing with this disorder and there are so many dealing with it who probably do not even realize it or are too afraid to face it.
Maybe in some way I can help them. Maybe. Fingers crossed.
i know that this should be viewed as a major relief and blessing. i get it. i understand.
when my doctors advised me to apply for permanent disability i was devastated. just getting my head around the idea that i might not be able to work again seems so incredibly hard to fathom. but, the evidence of this is all around me and in my head.
true, i might be able to think about returning to “a job” in a couple of years but there is much therapy and ‘healing’ to be done. after each therapy session i feel ill and as if i’ve just worked a 15 hour day and run a marathon.
so, i applied. it was quite difficult to do.
i was warned by everyone that i would likely have to appeal as most all applications are refused by the government. i dreaded that process. and, in the mean time — bills have stacked up, debt to our ears and i’ve sold almost all of my personal possessions just to have some amount of money. i’ve been going without any income for over six months.
so, to those close to me it seemed a major blessing that the government approved my permanent disability with the first application. my payments will start in march.
however, all i feel is that i’ve been further defeated by this PSTD ordeal.
feeling small, a loser, lost and insignificant is only hightened by the fact that i am now officially recognized as “disabled” — degrading and degraded.
sorry, if i whine too much. i’m quite lucky to have survived what i went through and i am quite lucky to have those who love me near and i am quite lucky that the government didn’t send me on a hassle to secure a way to help support myself.
so, i close my eyes.
…and, i try to push forward.
b took me to the social security office today and we filed my application for disability. something i never dreamed would happen to me. something that i’ve always sort of feared might happen.
many years ago i sat in a room filled with male incest survivors. a support group. after two years in this group i felt that it was turning more into a pity party and even igniting some sort of transgressive need in some of the other members to turn their real memories into further distortions of horror. i felt it was time to move on. i had discussed what had happened to me to the point that i had nothing further to say. and, to be honest, i began to feel ill as i watched some of those men turn worse vs. better.
one of them stopped me in the all as i walked toward the stairs of the odd annex to Mass General. he took my hand and told me that this hell inflected upon us never goes away and that i needed to maybe take a break but to never push it down. i told him that i didn’t think it possible to push it down. and, then, he said in what i felt (at the time) was a rather sinister manner: “Just remember me when you’re 40 and your life falls apart and you find you can no longer function”
i remember shaking his grip on my arm. i was pissed and told him that i was a lot stronger than he was giving me credit and that i refused to be a victim.
i walked away from that group and never looked back.
i really never pushed what happened to me down. i don’t think so, anyway.
but, here i am. i will be 42 next month. and, honest to god, as hard as i try and push — i find that i am stuck. i have trouble thinking, i get confused, i find it next to impossible to be around more than 4 people at a time, i lose time, i’m afraid of my phone, i stumble and wander the night filled with illogical fears. did he jinx me? he probably meant well, but i never forgot how cruel it felt to me.
but, i push on. i will not give up.
still, as i sort of floated out of that building today with my sweet B holding me, i realized i’ve not but $2 to my name, a headache that was threatening me to implode my very being and a feeling of dread i am unable to manage into words.
i slept most of the day. i finally sucked in enough energy to take Little Bagel for a short walk. i tried to clean the kitchen with no luck. and, then i sat in my perfect green chair and set Apple TV to shuffle my music. “Mickey” by Toni Basil came on.
i think i played it about 20 times — grounds for immediate arrest in most states.
but, it made me feel a little bit better.
i tried to think about how lucky i am than most people i know. i have a love greater than can be imagined, two fucking brilliant little children, the very best two best friends anyone could hope to know, a roof over my head, food and i’m alive.
it is not easy. in fact, it is so fucking hard i often do not know what to do with myself — but, in a way, it is fine.
life is fine.
…don’t be fooled by the frothy adverts, the new Mike Leigh film is fantastic. everyone should see it.