As a teenager and young adult, I experienced depression, problems with self-injury (cutting) and nightmares, but I never realized that everyone didn’t have other “people in their head” until my therapist told me at the age of 31. By that time I had seen many therapists and tried repeatedly to get my life in order. Nothing really helped though because I had no true memories of what had happened to me. I had vague, hazy memories that would seep into my mind occasionally but no true “this is what happened to me” memories of much of my childhood. I lost time a lot—including a whole year in elementary school—and developed lots of coping mechanisms to deal with that problem.
When I was 31, I reached a crisis point and in the course of therapy one day, I mentioned another person in my head. My therapist, not recognizing the name, asked me who I was talking about and when I told her, she very calmly told me that most people do not have other people inside their head. She told me that most people had only themselves – just one person. At that time, I knew about maybe two other people in my head but wasn’t aware of the total number of people that shared my body with me.
At the time of that conversation, I was working on a Ph.D. at a state university. I did my best to continue my studies—I’d passed my doctoral exams and wrote and defended my dissertation proposal, all while raising two daughters and teaching classes. As time passed, life became harder and harder and I started remembering and meeting the other people in my head. Finally, the pain of the things I was learning about my life became too much and I attempted suicide only to wake up in the ICU two days later.
After that, my life was difficult for years. I was in and out of psychiatric facilities for over two years, I got divorced and lost custody of my daughters, and I lost my home and everything I had. I was finally sent to the state mental hospital and it was there that I became determined to survive so that I could regain custody of my daughters.
After five long years, I was able to get my daughters back. In the meantime, I’d gotten married and had a third daughter. I’d also gotten divorced again. I’d found a good job with benefits and I worked very hard to make enough money to support all four of us. I was determined to never lose my daughters again and I swore that I would never return to another psychiatric facility. My life was very hard and I struggled a lot but I rarely let anyone see that side of me.
I was finally sent to the state mental hospital and it was there that I became determined to survive so that I could regain custody of my daughters.
Many years later shortly before my youngest daughter turned 18, my life began to deteriorate and I started seeing a new therapist. She was so incredibly kind and so helpful that I began sobbing about 20 minutes into my first session. I broke down and told her everything – how I had suffered, how I’d lost my children and worked so hard to get them back and keep them, how now I was in so much pain and misery that I wanted to die. I explained that I was waiting for my children to be grown and independent so that I could commit suicide. I had lived through all those hard years simply because I loved my daughters too much to leave them.
My therapist was so devoted that she worked many long hours to help me. She saw me three times each week and occasionally four times. She texted me regularly, and read and responded to every e-mail I sent her. My therapist helped me understand that if we worked with my people to know what their roles were and how they helped me, they would calm down and my life would be better. She helped me understand the importance of listening to each person’s story and what they had done and endured to safeguard my life and my sanity. Working through this process was one of the hardest times of my life but with her help, I made it through.
I am now free from the pain I lived with my entire life. For the first time ever, I feel joy and peace and I am happy to be alive. Now I suffer only because I can’t share the “real me” with everyone I know because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
For the first time ever, I feel joy and peace and I am happy to be alive.
From talking with friends and co-workers over the years, I know that many people have a completely inaccurate impression of people with mental illness. They may want to help people like me but they don’t want to work with us or have to interact with us. They may write a check to make a donation but that’s it. It is very hard to face the fact that if they heard my whole story and knew that I have DID, they might not accept me anymore. I’ve even heard my boss make disparaging comments about people with mental illness so I would fear for my job if my history became known.
I am passionate about changing things for people with DID and other mental illnesses. I’ve started a blog to share the things that have helped me in hopes that others will read it and find some help from my words. I am also hoping to start up a support group for other people with DID. We all deserve acceptance and support! I am so thankful! Now it’s my turn to help others.