Last night I listened to the HealthyPlace Mental Health Radio Show interview with Sarah Olson, the author of Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Multiple Personality Disorder. She talked about her integration experience and I greedily took in every word. Here was someone who had achieved what was once my most fevered wish. After I got over the initial shock of my Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis, my focus narrowed to one elusive, coveted dream: the complete integration of alters. This shining promise of a cohesive, unified identity was all I wanted out of Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment.
Integration Isn’t Possible without Dissociative Identity Disorder Treatment
But it wasn’t really recovery I was after. Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t easy. It’s a painful process consisting of years of therapy and no small amount of hard work. I didn’t want that. I wanted simply and only to be free of DID. I searched libraries and bookstores for a guide of some kind; a manual that would provide me with a checklist of steps to achieve integration. I became increasingly frustrated and angry each time I eagerly brought home a book, searched its contents, and discovered nothing like the quick and easy recipe for integration I was looking for. I saw my alters as the problem, and I just wanted them to go away.
Integration is a process, as opposed to an actual event, that begins as soon as DID-focused therapy begins. To view integration simply as a time when all the internal parts come together to form a unified self does not do justice to the process. – The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook, Deborah Haddock
Treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder Reveals the Truth about Integration
My ideas about integration reflected a lack of understanding of DID itself. My perception of my alters as entirely separate beings is part of my disorder. This idea of integration as something that makes them go away is born of that same mindset. Part of Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment is learning that though we experience ourselves and operate as individual people, we are ultimately fractured pieces of one identity. Integration is therefore the opposite of what I thought it was. Rather than a final and total rejection of my alters, integration involves embracing them more fully. It dissolves the barriers between these alter states, but not the alter states themselves.
It took a long time to learn that integration isn’t the miracle solution I was looking for. That, in fact, what I was desperately seeking wasn’t integration at all but simply an escape from Dissociative Identity Disorder. And even though I know better now, listening to Sarah last night I couldn’t help but hope for a moment that I was about to hear the recipe I’d been searching for.
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