When I said that The Courage to Heal isn’t on my recommended reading list, I thought I knew precisely why I felt that way. Written for survivors of child sexual abuse and popular among people with dissociative identity disorder, the book seems to assume that the reader has repressed memories, even going so far as to say in its first edition, “If you are unable to remember any specific instances [of abuse] but still have a feeling that something abusive happened to you, it probably did.” That quote felt deeply problematic to me, but in hindsight, I see that I didn’t fully understand why. Now I do: it’s unintentionally reminiscent of the mind-bending child sexual abuser logic that helped cultivate my dissociative identity disorder. Keep reading »

I developed dissociative identity disorder in much the same way that many people do. I grew up with an abusive father and a loving, but oblivious, mother who inadvertently taught me how to pretend that what was happening to me wasn’t happening at all. I was an imaginative child and dissociation came easy to me. Telling the truth about what was going on in my home, however, has never been easy. So, when I told you not to go around saying that child abuse causes dissociative identity disorder, I didn’t do it because I wasn’t abused; I did it because I was. Keep reading »

These days, when I think about Dissociative Living, I think of it as a series of letters from me to you – “you” being anyone who lives with Dissociative Identity Disorder (or DDNOS, but I lump you guys under the DID umbrella for efficiency’s sake). It feels personal to me, like an intimate – though public — correspondence. These letters I’ve written are about a thing we have in common, a serious thing, oftentimes a painful thing. I feel uneasy about some of those letters. I feel uneasy because I know just how vulnerable and suggestible a person can be when they’re struggling with something serious and painful. These days, when I think about Dissociative Living, I think that some of my letters may have hurt you. To begin with, there’s that last letter: the one about how I’m crazy. Keep reading »

I am a fraud. I wanted to understand Dissociative Identity Disorder because I wanted to understand myself. I didn’t like it, though, all this multiple personalities crap that made me feel out of control. So I changed it. I made DID okay. Hard, but okay. I made myself look sane … on paper, anyway. I am not sane. I am crazy. I try so hard and fool a lot of people. And the sickest part is that I still believe I’m right. I still believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder is an extreme amplification of what everyone experiences. I still believe there aren’t any people in my head, that they’re just me, just dissociated aspects of one identity.

But there are people in my head. I slip and say “we” sometimes. Rarely. But sometimes. There are people in my head and that in and of itself isn’t crazy. But I am crazy.

And that makes me a fraud.

About a year ago it occurred to me that managing cortisol might directly impact symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Because cortisol is an adrenal hormone secreted during periods of high stress, it seemed logical that people with trauma disorders would have higher-than-average cortisol levels. The symptoms of cortisol imbalance supported that idea, and since taking the steps to stabilize those theoretically high cortisol levels could do me nothing but good either way, I launched an experiment. I quit smoking, swore off dieting, and tried to get better sleep. Did it help? Keep reading »

Trauma disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) come with a host of chronic problems. Cortisol imbalance – either too much or too little of this adrenal hormone sometimes referred to as the “ultimate stress hormone” – might be one of them. But why bother investigating something that might be a problem, when there are so many things that are? I’m a curious person. And I’ve got a hunch that managing cortisol might directly impact symptoms of Dissociative Identity Disorder and PTSD, which in turn helps balance cortisol levels, which alleviates symptoms, and around and around we go. Keep reading »

I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), trauma disorders that are both: 1) responses to overwhelming stress, and 2) sources of continuing high stress. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone our bodies create to help us cope with extreme stress, physical and emotional. I began researching the signs and symptoms of cortisol imbalance when it occurred to me that living with DID and PTSD (or any chronically, very-high-stress condition or situation) would logically mean living with elevated levels of cortisol. And whaddyaknow? The top five symptoms are also the top five most frustrating, debilitating, and chronic issues in my life. Keep reading »

Last fall, I started reading more about cortisol, an adrenal hormone perhaps best known for its role in the fight or flight reaction. I’d heard a lot of chatter about how we’re all drenched in the stuff on account of modern life is like fighting hungry lions only without all the hungry lions. And it occurred to me that if busy work schedules and not enough down-time could produce enough excess cortisol to get medical doctors pushing things like meditation, living with trauma disorders like Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) must be as dangerous as battling a pride of hungry lions on the edge of an active volcano during a hurricane. Keep reading »

When I published my last post almost a year ago, I was sure that it marked the end of Dissociative Living. I wasn’t happy about that. I was frustrated and angry with myself for what I saw as an inability to manage stress effectively. And I was sad that I had to give up writing about Dissociative Identity Disorder because of that inability. Since that post last September, I’ve learned some things, including: 1) there is a profound difference, practically speaking, between stress and chronic stress, and 2) you cannot manage chronic stress – you either survive it, or you escape it. Keep reading »

I’m weary. I’ve been living on the wrong side of my stress threshold for a while now. Part of the problem is that my stress threshold is maddeningly low. But part of the problem is that major things keep happening in my personal life lately; things that create enormous stress even for the most mentally healthy among us. As a result, my Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms have amplified steadily over the last eighteen months. In the words of my fellow blogger Natasha Tracy, “When life gets nasty disease gets nasty too.” She’s right, of course. But I kept thinking, ‘hey, life is really turbulent sometimes and you just have to rise to the occasion.’ I failed to recognize, though, that doing so usually involves letting go of other, less urgent occasions. Keep reading »