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Diagnosis and Stigma of Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

Diagnosis and Stigma of Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)

(Note: This post was authored by Maria, our guest on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show segment on Dissociative Identity Disorder.)

My name is Maria. This is my real name given to me at birth. I was born in 1959 from Italian and Arabic heritage. I have one sibling. I was, at times, surrounded by a big extended loving family. My mom was what was called in those days “Brittle Diabetic.” She was also a paranoid schizophrenic. The onset, it seems, came when she was very young. For her, she was unable to be a mom or a wife for long.

My life with my parents was very turbulent , often very unsafe , and very isolated. I was a caregiver (both emotionally and physically) to my mom from my toddler years until her death. I lived in many homes, often moving five or more times a year. My mom was often in the State Hospital, mental facilities and medical hospitals.

I was married at age 20 for a short time and later divorced. I am now 50 years old and the mother of grown children.

Discovering My Memory Problem

I had seen a counselor in high school to discuss my home situation. He was in the process of getting his Ph.D. in Family Counseling while being a social worker in the school system. I saw him three times a week to talk about home and how I was managing. I was unsafe at home , everyone knew it, yet by high school my attitude was very stoic, like what’s the fuss?!

I made it through school and out of the home I lived in. In my mid 20s, after my divorce, I was working several jobs and going to college full-time to be a Social Worker while raising my children. I remember a college paper assignment requiring that I list ten good memories from before the age of 10 and ten bad memories and how those affected my adult life. l also had to tell my fellow classmates about myself. I had no idea who Maria was and I had no memory. My memory began at 17 years old .

I went to therapy once a week to discuss my memory problem and anxiety I was having. I experienced some panic attacks (from trigger issues) and had trouble sleeping. I had seen several therapists before this, and always been told I had grief, stress, loss and anger issues that I needed to confront stemming from my mom, past abuse and other obvious childhood problems, but I refused to discuss my past or confront any anger or grief.

A Caring Therapist and Being Diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder

This new doctor did not push — just made me comfortable to speak, befriending me at times as a colleague. Because of his respectful approach, with some gentle nudging, I felt comfortable sharing different aspects of my life. And, for the first time, I also felt that I could share the existence of Toni, an alter (we call a person) who existed since I was two years old. Toni felt “safe” and introduced herself to the doctor, admitting she made the appointment to come in and was there during the initial intake session. We actually had been having a bit of co-sharing awareness. She was aware of me. I really thought I saw her as a child, but never knew who she was.

After several further consults , studies and evaluations with various doctors who ruled out everything else first, I was finally diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

It was 1989. I was in a psychiatric unit at the University of Rochester, called the R- Wing, where Dr. Goldstein, a specialist running a ‘Multiple unit ‘ consulted further with his colleagues. I was officially diagnosed as Multiple.

Stigma of Dissociative Identity Disorders and Its Impact

This diagnosis carries a lot of controversy among people with multiple personalities, doctors and other mental health professionals. There are many distorted media depictions of life with Dissociative Identity Disorder which has created fear in me, my family and the general population. There are books written on the subject suggesting long tedious recoveries and not much hope of normalcy. Most of this information stems from a few groups and how Multiple Personality Disorder was originally presented vs. modern-day research on the subject.

What I, and this group, have learned after losing everything precious to us (like mothering our children, employment , respect , normal rights) because of a misunderstood label, is you can have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), you can be multiple and still manage as a healthy citizen, parent, wife or husband and so on…as long as a group learns tools to communicate and manage the symptoms of the disorder. I have learned to properly use inner dialoging, journaling , and sharing body space and time. We are all happy ,co-consciously existing, sharing memory together. Another option is integration of alters, where nobody is lost.

After all these years, it is not odd when a ‘switch or transition’ between one alter or another occurs. It is quite subtle, normal to us and even our loved ones now. We do not dramatically or sharply switch because we no longer fight and fear it, nor does it come with announcements, calling attention to switches or ‘switch on-command’ like circus show entertainment.

Our endeavor is to help younger groups, as well as psychiatrists, therapists and other medical professionals, as well as partners of those with DID who may encounter groups to know that multiplicity is another way of life and usually becomes a disability only when the person becomes highly stressed over being a multiple; fearing it, trying to control or stop switches and remaining hidden — furthering secrets and shame associated with the stigma of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Our name as a family group or system is ‘Mosaic Gang’ – not because we see ourselves as pieces to a greater whole or a puzzle, shattered , fragmented or broken, but simply because we each share in liking to do collages and mosaics.

I hope to provide more insight into living with Dissociative Identity Disorder Tuesday night, Sept. 1, on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Thank you,
Maria and The Mosaic Gang

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Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder – Sept. 1

Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder – Sept. 1

Years ago, I saw the movie Sybil, about a woman with Multiple Personality Disorder, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.). Sybil caught the world’s attention by shedding light on what it’s like living with multiple personalities and coping with Dissociative Identity Disorder.

Most recently, screenwriter Diablo Cody entertains tv viewers weekly with the real but exaggerated accounts of a woman struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder without the assistance of medications.

What’s It Like Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder

This Tuesday, we’ll be discussing Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) and the complications of living with it day-to-day. If you are not familiar with the term Dissociative Identity Disorder, the term, Multiple Personality Disorder or “split personality” may be more recognizable.

Studies on D.I.D. have shown its development stems from severe trauma, such as sexual or physical abuse in early childhood (causes of Dissociative Identity Disorder). In D.I.D., several identities or “alters” materialize and take control of the sufferer’s thoughts and behavior at any given time. If this isn’t problematic enough, the change in identity causes loss of memory when the person is able to regain himself/herself again.

Our guest, Maria, will share her first-hand account of living with D.I.D. For Maria, enduring a very traumatic childhood and even an unexplained medical procedure seems to have triggered her disorder. (Read Maria’s accompanying blog post on Diagnosis and Stigma of Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder.)

Her earliest recollection of living with a multiple personality was at 4 years old. As a teenager and young adult, she recalls making excuses for her alters when she had been told over-and-over again that she had done something she didn’t remember doing. At one time in her young life, she was coping with as many as 58 personalities. Now a mother of three in her fifties, Maria has managed to cope with her personalities and has some advice she would like to share with others. Her aim is to debunk the negativity about D.I.D. and show that “alters” (a term she has a problem with) might be a good thing.

Healthyplace Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft will discuss the signs, symptoms and treatments of Dissociative Identity Disorder as well as his experiences in treating D.I.D. patients. Dr. Croft is always willing to answer your questions on this topic or any other mental health issue during the show.

Remember you can find information on Dissociative Identity Disorder and other dissociative disorders on the HealthyPlace website.

If you suffer from D.I.D., or if you are involved with someone who does, e-mail me at producer AT healthyplace.com. We want to share your written or video story with others so that they won’t feel alone.

See you Tuesday at 5:30 pm PST, 7:30 pm CST and 8:30 pm EST for the live HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show or you can always watch Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder Video on-demand.

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Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Recap

Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Recap

The joy and stress of being an Alzheimer’s caregiver was our focus on Tuesday’s show. Our guest, Barry Green, shared his account of watching his father struggle with the brain disease.

Barry reminisced about the good times he spent with his father, but explained those good times quickly turned into difficult times with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. A stressful part of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is dealing with the patient’s failing memory. As Barry and his mother soon found out, arguing about material facts of his dad’s life and current events was a fight they were not going to win. With a positive mindset, Barry decided to stop arguing and dialed into his father’s current thoughts and beliefs on a day-to-day basis.

Barry has a very encouraging and unorthodox way of coping with an Alzheimer’s patient. He is now a motivational speaker who travels all over to deliver speeches on success and happiness. You can find more information about our guest at www.barrygreen.ca.

Dr. Croft joined us via webcam from a conference in Dallas to talk about the emotional turmoil caregivers may experience. He explained that if you are caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer, chances are that you are also holding down a full-time job and maybe even raising a family of your own. That pressure, coupled with the pain of your loved one exhibiting a new persona, can be dangerous to your health. Dr. Croft provided the warning signs of caregiver stress.

You can catch Barry’s story and Dr. Croft’s advice on how to care for yourself while caring for your loved one by watching the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show ‘on demand’ on the player. We also invite you to go to visit our Alzheimer’s Disease Community to try and make sense of your emotions.

We will take a break from our show the week of August 24 but we will return on Tuesday, September 1 at 7:30 CST. We will discuss Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) and the difficulty of being in a relationship with someone who suffers form it. If you, or someone you know, is in a relationship with someone who has D.I.D. and they would like to share their story, please contact me at producer AT healthyplace.com.

Take care and see you back here next month!

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Joys and Stress of Being an Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Aug. 18

Joys and Stress of Being an Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Aug. 18

This Tuesday, we’ll talking about Alzheimer’s disease and the challenges caregivers face. Alzheimer’s not only affects the patient but many Alzheimer’s caregivers live with stress and depression.

As you may or may not know, Alzheimer’s patients often demonstrate behavior such as combativeness, trailing (following the caregiver) or they might even experience hallucinations. The most heartbreaking symptom of all would be memory loss. It is very painful when parents or other loved ones do not recognize you anymore.

Barry Green will be our guest Tuesday. He will let us in on his personal journey of being his father’s caregiver while he suffered from Alzheimer’s. His uplifting story will bring encouragement and help us understand Alzheimer’s in a positive way. Barry is now a motivational speaker and travels to deliver a keynote speech he calls The Joy of Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Croft will be available to help caregivers understand their emotions and give some advice on how to cope with feelings, good or bad, that you may be experiencing. As always, Dr. Croft is eager to answer any questions you may have on this topic or any other mental health issue.

If you have a story about being a caregiver for an Alzheimer’s patient, we want to know. E-mail your questions or comments to producer AT healthyplace.com. If you would like to know more about Alzheimer’s disease or Alzheimer’s caregiving, you can always find trusted information here at Healthyplace.com.

Tune in Tuesday, April 18, at 5:30p PT, 7:30 CST, 8:30 ET to watch our guest share his story. You might find comfort knowing that someone else also experienced the difficult and sometimes negative aspects of Alzheimer’s caregiving and how he managed to turn things around. You can watch the show live or later, on-demand, on the HealthyPlace TV Show homepage.

See you then!

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Psychology of Changing Your Sex – Recap

Psychology of Changing Your Sex – Recap

Tuesday’s show was a small step in helping others who struggle with Transsexuality.

Healthyplace.com Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft (psychiatrist, board-certified in adult psychiatry, addictions, and sex therapy), while in residency, worked in a program that evaluated individuals wishing to change their sexual orientation. During the show, he explained the emotions that a transsexual person lives with everyday.

Dr. Croft reminds us all that those who feel they are trapped in the body of the sex they cannot identify with often realize those feelings at a very young age. (Read Dr. Croft’s blog post on the “Psychological Process of Changing Sex“.)

Our guest, Maxime, a male-to-female transsexual, experienced her first transsexual feelings at around 6 years old. Growing up, she felt awkward and didn’t have much support from her mother who asked/warned her to never discuss her feelings.

Now that she is transitioned, she dedicates herself to sharing her experiences by making videos and posting them on youtube. You will have to watch our show to see how Maxime has overcome life’s obstacles and where she’s at in her life now.

Sex Reassignment

As you may know, there is a solution for transsexuals, but it is not an easy process. It includes undergoing hormone replacement therapy (also referred to as “post-op”) which helps to bring about physical changes to become more of a man or woman. Sexual reassignment surgery is the next step but can become so costly (and most likely not covered by insurance) that often times the individual doesn’t go through with it. Whatever you decide, Dr. Croft explains this is a very long process and requires a huge emotional/psychological/financial commitment.

If you missed the show on the psychological aspects of sex reassignment, you are still able to catch it by clicking the “on-demand” button on the player. We encourage you to watch and gain insight into the world of transsexuals and hope you will share it with someone who might be going through this difficult process.

To see more of our guest Maxime and her personal journey with transition, go here to watch her videos.

Upcoming Show on Alzheimer’s Caregiving

I hope you’ll join us Tuesday, August 18, as we discuss the stress of being an Alzheimer’s caregiver. If you, or someone you know, would like to be a guest or share a story, contact me at producer AT healthyplace.com.

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Psychological Aspects of Sex Reassignment – August 11

Psychological Aspects of Sex Reassignment – August 11

Have you ever heard the term “A man trapped in a woman’s body?” Unfortunately, this is a reality for people who identify themselves as Transsexuals. This Tuesday, we will discuss the psychological process of undergoing a change in sex and attempt to understand the negative connotations that surround the subject.

Our special guest, Maxime, will let us in on her difficult childhood as a male while confused about his desire to be female. With a less than supportive mother who struggled with mental health issues, Maxime kept her secret to herself and held strong to her fantasy of one day becoming the woman she felt inside. Maxime has now successfully transitioned to female and works to help others explore their identity issues by posting video blogs on Youtube.

Dr. Croft, Medical Director of Healthyplace.com, will be available to give us his medical expertise on the psychological aspects of transitioning from one sex to another.

If you are struggling with this issue or other issues related to Transsexuality, we hope that you will watch our show and be encouraged by our guest. You can also find helpful information on our website under Gender, GLBT.

Have comments or story you’d like to share? E-mail me at producer AT healthyplace.com.

Remember the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show airs live every Tuesday at 5:30 pm PST, 7:30 pm CST and 8:30 pm EST. Watch the Psychological Aspects of Sex Reassignment video.

We hope you’ll join us!

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Compulsive Overeating, Food Addiction Show – Recap

Compulsive Overeating, Food Addiction Show – Recap

On tonight’s show, Dr. Harry Croft did a wonderful job in explaining Food Addiction. Due to technical difficulties, our scheduled guest, Caryl Ehrlich was not able to share her insight with us.

Dr. Croft provided insights into addiction to food, saying that those who suffer often deal with other issues and use food as a coping mechanism. Compulsive overeating often includes food that is high in fat and sugar; never food that is good for us such as carrots or celery.

Remember that you are able to use Healthyplace.com as a resource for you or anyone you know who is dealing with a food addiction. If you feel like you can relate to the vicious cycle that Dr. Croft was referring to, take the time to take our food addiction test to help determine if its something that might be a significant issue in your life.

We encourage you to watch our show on food addiction “on demand” on the HealthyPlace TV Show player. Dr. Croft offered a wealth of information addiction to food (compulsive overeating) and may be describing what you are going through.

If you would like to find out more information on our guest, Caryl, visit her website at conquerfood.com.

Join us next Tuesday, August 11, at 7:30p CST, 8:30 ET as we discuss the psychological process of undergoing a sex change. Our special guest will take us through the journey and the taboo that is often linked to this topic.

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Food Addiction – Aug. 4

Food Addiction – Aug. 4

We’ll be discussing Food Addiction on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show this Tuesday. With depression, obesity and diabetes on the rise in the United States, addiction to food is a serious matter. Finding out the reason why you are overeating is the first step to living a life free of shame.

Join us as we talk to Caryl Ehrlich, founder of the Caryl Ehrlich Program. To date she has helped more than 2000 people lose weight, keep it off and stick to their commitment. She has found success by identifying what caused her to overeat when she wasn’t hungry and used that power to help others.

Dr. Harry Croft, Healthyplace.com’s trusted medical expert, will also be on the show to help us make sense of this complex addiction. He will take us through the emotions and triggers that are source of overeating (Read Dr. Croft’s blog post on Food Addiction, Compulsive Overeating).

Watch the show to get a better understanding of food addiction – an addiction that has caused pain in so many lives. If you are eating to suppress feelings or binge eating in secret, you need to watch our show. If you are wondering whether you are addicted to food, take our food addiction test. HealthyPlace.com wants you to live your best life.

If you have a story to share with us about food addiction, e-mail me at producer AT healthyplace.com. Sharing your story will help others to know they are not alone.

Tuesday could be the first day of the rest of your life! Watch the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV show live at 5:30p PT, 7:30 CT, 8:30 ET or on-demand anytime by clicking the on-demand button on the player.

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