Sunday, 4 September 2011

On not believing I have Dissociative Identity Disorder

Hello curious people of the world. I hope you are well.

This week has been interesting for me in that I feel different. There is change inside me, although I'm not sure in what way yet so I won't try to analyse it too much.

As you may have noticed from my not too subtle blog post title (which took an embarrassingly long time to come up with), this post is going to be about the annoying tendency I have to stop believing I have dissociative identity disorder, or anything wrong with me at all. This is not a new problem, as evidenced by this post, written nearly a year ago.

I talked with T in psychology this week about this desperate problem. It's always been something that has come up from time to time. I might wake up one day and 'realise' I have nothing to feel bad about and wonder why on earth I have felt the need to make up all of these lies and have wasted years in therapy talking about 'parts' when I should have been getting help for this awful, shameful lying disorder. Usually, within the space of a few minutes to a few hours however, something happens, either outwardly or inside my head and I realise it is true: I do have DID.

Recently, however, the doubting part of me is driving the bus so often and I have been really struggling to believe I could possibly have alters/parts/whatever you want to call them. I can think up completely logical explanations as to how it couldn't possibly be true and I convince myself that there has been a terrible mistake. The problem is, I am still doubting it, even in the middle of alters doing crazy things. It's not enough to get through to me. I'm struggling to really get out in words how difficult I am finding this. On Wednesday, I talked in therapy with T about this problem. It was she who brought it up actually.

The conversation came about because on Monday I self harmed. Not badly: just light cuts on my wrist and arm, but still, it's not really a good sign. It has been quite some time since I last cut myself. Probably the last time I properly self harmed was last year. So I feel let down/like I've let myself down. Disappointed. It is a sign as well, that no matter how disconnected I am from the others inside, they are still thinking and feeling.

I told T about it on Wednesday and first of all she asked me when I had done it and when I had last seen her and I wondered why she was comparing the self harm with the date of the last session. Was it because she knew the session took me out of 'function mode' and thought it could have been a result of that? Or was it because she knew I knew she was taking leave from work after the session and wondered if I was doing it in some kind of protest of her going away? Or am I just being really paranoid?

Anyway, it was not just after the last session and it felt in no way connected either. It just seemed to happen. I felt the same as I had been feeling i.e not much at all really... blank. And then I just started thinking about cutting myself and it became something that had to be done. If you had a sore that was infected, you'd have to clean it out and care for it: it might be painful to do but you would tell yourself you had to do it, because it needs done. This was the same. It didn't feel good but I just had a strong sense that it had to be done. So I tried to get myself to go into the background and let whoever it was who needed it done take over.

T asked me what I thought the trigger was and I told her I didn't know but then I wondered if it was anything to do with the internal conversation that I had listened to and written down last week. I showed T the conversation and also another piece of similar writing and she read through them and shared her thoughts about it.

One of the things that she pointed out was that even in the middle of the discussion that was going on between parts, there was someone saying 'it's not real, I've made it up'. She seemed a bit incredulous that there was still a doubting part of me in the middle of it all and started to say 'when it's so obvvv' and rethought her wording before saying that it was 'so strong that it is real'. I wish she would just tell me blatantly if it's obvious to her because it's not obvious to me and frankly, I do need some reassurance. Having said that, saying that it's so strong that it's real, is pretty much just the same thing and reassures me that she at least doesn't think I have a lying disorder.

I explained how I am struggling more than ever to believe it's DID and we talked about this for quite a while. T wonders if part of me feels a need to disbelieve it because it is too overwhelming. She told me that she is not trying to convince me but that my 'story fits'. She also told me that it seems clear to her from my other writings and drawings that they are describing traumatic events that I may not be consciously aware of myself but that are memories held by other parts and that it's clear that it's about an 'unwanted sexual experience' and that there is a lot of self blame.

Unsurprisingly I argued that I don't remember anything happening beyond a certain point and that maybe nothing did happen. She said that she didn't hold any views but that the experiences are held by other parts and she talked about how my experiences that we both know of would have affected me... the 'church' and my parents break up etc.

I know she is very careful, as she should be, not to put ideas in my head. Which is why she has never tried to convince me that I have DID. Today though, every time I came up with an argument as to what else it could be, she gave me reasons as to why that was unlikely to be the case:

 e.g. ME: I think it must be an organic problem; maybe from when I got knocked out as a child. T's thoughts: unlikely as there is no indication of this on a day to day basis and I am able to function very well at work and complete complex tasks. More likely that memories are just held by other parts and not accessible to me.

e.g. ME: where T says my story fits, for me it doesn't fit sometimes. T's thoughts: my experience of things varies and moves along a dimension of reality, so at times it doesn't feel real and bad memories don't exist whereas at other times it does seem very real.

...or she encouraged me just to stick with what I do know and keep an open mind. She said that what we do know is that certain things or triggers activate strong emotions and physical experiences and that it would suggest that I don't hold the memories but that they are somewhere.

I don't know if it has really helped to put my mind at rest. It's reassuring to know she is convinced, although I'm sure it must be frustrating for her that I keep coming back to this point; she has a lot of patience. I think if I had a patient who was so much in denial about something I'd want to shake them up and shout at them to get it through their thick head (just to clarify, I wouldn't do that to a patient... although it's not wrong to want to is it?! lol) I guess in one way, if I trust her, I could trust that she knows better than I do. If I do have DID, I can assume that she knows more about me overall than I know about myself, being that I am one part who doesn't share memories or experiences of others, but that those others have shared things with her. She would therefore have more of a rounded picture of things than I do. I also trust my husband, Adam and I talked about this with him and he has told me that he never doubts it and that it all fits for him with what he knows about DID. So the two people who know me so well both don't doubt that I have DID. Is that enough for me to go on?

I wish it was.

But what could help me to know for sure?? If I got an official diagnosis from a psychiatrist would that help me? In some ways I think it would but I know that at other times I would just tell myself I had lied to them about my symptoms... and if my research serves me, don't a load of psychiatrists not even believe DID exists anyway? Maybe this is going to be a permanent thing. I know it's not unique to me. I know it's a common trait for people with DID to doubt it. As Adam reminds me, the author of 'First Person Plural' (Cameron West) struggles with the same issue throughout his story. This doesn't help me though as it's not evidence either way. It's only proof that disbelieving DID is not evidence that I don't have it, if that makes sense. I need something to convince me.

T feels it is useful for me not to believe it all the time as it gives me a break from having to deal with it, but I wish I could just come to an understanding. It's not nice feeling like a fraud and worrying that I'm getting treatment for something I don't have, which then isn't going to help me to be better in the end. If I could just believe it once and for all, I feel I could move on and start learning how to deal with it. At the moment it feels like I'm just going round in circles, thinking I am making progress but then crashing back to square one every time these doubts come back in.

I'm just getting tired of this constant tug of war.


Ellen said...

I know what you mean about feeling that you are 'lying' CC. I don't have DID to the extent that you do, but I have also often had the feeling that this parts situation cannot be true, I'm making it up.

I wonder if part of this comes from the fact that we were not allowed the truth of our experience as children - the abuse was completely denied for instance? And now that we are closer to knowing and telling about it, those old messages of lying are kicking in?

Why would we make this up? This kind of lie doesn't benefit us.

Hope the tug of war gets less for you soon.

Sandy said...

I like T's explination. I think part of you needs a break. Maybe that same part needs to feel "normal". It is a need to fit in with others, be like society, because without it we can't survive.

Jeanette said...

Dear Candycan,

I commend you for stepping up and saying what is on your mind. I can see that in so doing, people are trying to get you to retract your thoughts and feelings about Not having DID. That's unfortunate.

I fully support your need to look at your life and therapy. Why not take Yourself seriously and look into not having DID. You could be right - perhaps nothing happened and there is nothing to remember.

I was there, I know. I was told I had DID and began to have alters appear. I had none before that.

The well-intended people in your life who are trying to convince you that you have DID rather than taking your questions seriously.

Listen to yourself first. There are lots of therapists out there that would welcome helping you explore your thought about DID rather than spending time trying to convince you that you are DID.

Listen to yourself.
Best, Jeanette Bartha

castorgirl said...


Healing can be a circular thing, rather than linear; so I've found that I come back to doubting on a regular basis. Sometimes those doubts can be healthy - they force us to look at what we're doing, and question it - hopefully in a gentle way. Sometimes those doubts can be negative. The main thing, is to look at your life in it's entirety, not just the moments. That is how we find, and know, our truth.

Take care,

Candycan said...

Thanks for your thoughts guys.

Ellen, from the posts I've read on your blog I can see we have a lot in common. It's very interesting reading about your experiences with 'Ron'.

Sandy, it's true, we do need to fit in with society. I guess I just wonder if there will ever be a way I can get through this while still 'fitting in'. Sometimes I feel that eventually I will need to make a choice between functioning and knowing. I wonder if other people have managed it?

Jeanette, I believe I have read your story before and I see from your blog it appears you don't believe DID exists at all. Your blog is very interesting though because you do post a lot of research about DID which is useful for someone interested in DID whether or not they believe it's real. I don't believe my therapist has tried to convince me and as I said, she encourages me to keep an open mind. In the UK, it works slightly differently in that you don't choose your therapist and the NHS here can't treat people for conditions unless there is an evidence base behind it so I have confidence in the therapist I attend.

Castorgirl, it seems that many people with DID go through similar doubts. You're right, it's better to look at the big picture. Sometimes I can be looking at my life with a microscope and end up confused