Written by Lamaga.
I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I’m lying in bed talking to an old friend on the phone and suddenly the veil lifts and I’m not there any more. Sometimes I’m unraveling in a real, verifiable memory. Sometimes I’m completely delusional. I’ve been told that chunks of my narrative are falsified. This means that I carved out ugly truths and got creative in filling the recesses with interesting or pleasant anecdotes. This means I am technically a liar, and a skilled one. I’m the narrator; I’m the third person in telling my life’s story. The best is the de facto release when I have no memory. The worst is when I wake in state of dread, knowing that I became not me, and not knowing what happened. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to admit–through my interrogations–to partners, lovers, friends, family, fucking strangers–that I do not know who I was, who they were, where we were, so could you please, would you mind, filling me in?
DID is a life sentence.
There are a lot of apologies. One of my exes called me a monster. A good friend in college woke his roommate and stayed up all night, pacing, after witnessing one of my episodes. More than one person has tackled me as I tried to retreat, after which I became violent.
People–including medical health professionals–often confuse DID with shizophroid disorders or psychosis. The symptoms I allegedly express can lead to these diagnoses, and I don’t blame every doctor I saw or every friend who dragged me to the health center for fearing that I might be psychotic. It’s difficult to get people to trust that while I’ve temporarily “lost it” this is not a permanent state. And, as horrifying as watching someone “lose it” is, it’s exponentially more horrifying to feel yourself losing it, to recall nothing beyond that realization, and to wake up in the morning just knowing that you lost it. You lost time, you lost yourself, and you will lose people in your life because of it. DID is the monster.
I’m afraid that I’ve befriended that monster. Movies tell me that the best way to ensure your own survival is to build a relationship with your captor. By humanizing yourself, you’re less likely to hurt yourself. I would know this because during a particularly intense episode–or state, as is the official term–I veered from dissociation to psychosis and I attempted to destroy myself. As I passed out from blood loss and emotional exhaustion, I saw myself talking to me, coaxing me out of distress. The next morning, before looking at myself, I noticed all the missed calls. I knew that something awful had happened and I could never take it back.
It’s difficult to get people to trust that while I’ve temporarily “lost it” this is not a permanent state.
So we broke bread. People were scared of me. I was no longer your average college come-what-may student. Some therapists found me a fascinating challenge, elevating my mania and stunting my recovery. Eight years ago I believed in recovery. I believed that reveling in my “situation” was akin to ownership. The battle for control required a lot of alcohol. I didn’t take my medicine. To be clear, my medicine is for anxiety. At that point I had been screened and vetted. The doctors concluded that I had an acute anxiety disorder and cleared me of everything else. At this point, DID wasn’t on the table, wasn’t in the lexicon. It should be a relief to learn that you’re not schizophrenic. In reality, it was horrifying to learn that this was just me.
DID is a life sentence. It doesn’t matter that I have a diagnosis now. Well, that’s not entirely true–I did feel lighter after a doctor put a name on it. There was a direction. I could do research. I could find other people who found a name for it. And my psychiatrist has been amazing. He’s forthright and honest. This will never go away. I can take my anti-anxiety medications and, on occasion, deal with a bout of some SSRI for depression. I can get enough sleep and eat right and refrain from drinking too much. [I don’t do drugs that alter my reality.]
People ask me what it feels like. It’s not a static experience. It’s not like having a cold, where you conduct a simple examination of your symptoms. Runny nose, cough, headache, yeah, I’m sick. I don’t question if I have a cold. I wake up feeling like shit and I know exactly why and how to treat myself. If I go to a doctor they will tell me to get rest, hydrate, and take some aspirin. If I go to a doctor during a DID episode, I will end up in the psych ward. I’ll find myself petrified with gauze where blood was drawn and an IV tethering me to a unit in which patients are screaming and howling. If I go to a doctor after a DID episode they will first suspect substance abuse and then not know what to do with me. If I repeat, enough times, that I’m okay, they’ll let me go on my own recognizance.
I remember when I was 20, excelling in school, delighted with my social life, comfortable with and grateful for all the solid friendships I had, and sitting in my psychiatrist’s office, asking her how I could possibly trust anyone if I could not trust myself. She didn’t have an answer.
I’m not sure how to end this. It’s not meant to be a revelation or a confession. I’m not okay with publicly stating the reasons I think that I have this disorder. If you want, I’m happy to sit down with you and elaborate, or to type words in a box, or to stop being friends because you didn’t sign up for this. I only ask one thing: please correct people when they make a joke about or draw a grossly misleading caricature of DID.
It’s plenty an entity on its own.