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Don’t Use My Mental Illness As An Excuse

Don't use my mental illness as an excuse for anything. No, a relationship with someone who has DID isn't easy, but I'm not always the problem. Read this.

I’m one of many people with dissociative identity disorder (DID). I lose time, regularly forget pretty important stuff, and I have alters who behave according to their perceptions of the world, not mine. How does that translate to daily life? I mess up – badly and often. As I see it, the fact that I can’t control DID is beside the point when it comes to personal responsibility. I don’t believe my mental illness entitles me to some bad behavior or extra leniency. But just like I can’t use DID as an excuse, neither can anyone else.

Don’t Use My Mental Illness As An Excuse To Avoid Trouble

It’s easy to blame people with dissociative identity disorder for things we didn’t say or do. We’ve been told countless times by many people that we behaved in ways we can’t recall or fathom.

We know those reports are often accurate and that knowledge makes us wonder, each time we hear about something we’ve supposedly done, “Is it true? Did I do that?” Convincing us we’re to blame for things we’re not isn’t all that hard to do.

Don’t Use My Mental Illness As An Excuse For Every Problem

Far more likely than outright, purposeful manipulation (though it does happen) is genuinely confusing other issues with dissociative identity disorder. Any mental illness can easily become the scapegoat in all types of relationships (Fear, False Beliefs and Blame in Mental Health Stigma).

Just because a person has multiple personalities does not mean that individual is to blame for all of the ills of the relationship … you also have your own baggage, and you also need to work on yourself and your relationship. – Amongst Ourselves, Tracy Alderman and Karen Marshall

Don’t Use My Mental Illness As An Excuse To Invalidate My Perceptions

Don't use my mental illness as an excuse for anything. No, a relationship with someone who has DID isn't easy, but I'm not always the problem. Read this.There’s no doubt that relationships with people with dissociative identity disorder have their inherent challenges. If you choose to be a part of one, please keep a few things in mind:

  • You make mistakes too. Not every miscommunication is related to DID. When we don’t inform you of pertinent information, for instance, it’s true that dissociative amnesia is often to blame. But if we truly believe we told you, isn’t it possible that you forgot?
  • Our feelings matter just as much as yours do. Our feelings are legitimate, even if they don’t seem rational to you. In fact, the more out of proportion to the situation our reactions seem, the more likely it is that we’re struggling with something particularly meaningful. Don’t just dismiss our emotions as part of the disorder.
  • Alters are not second-best. It’s never okay to treat any alter as less important than other members of their system. Though the behavior of an alter might be offensive to you, choosing not to acknowledge that alter or their actions is problematic. We’re all parts of a larger whole; when you disregard one of us, you disregard all of us.

Though DID is the source of a lot of frustration, confusion, and conflict, it’s rarely the only source of problems in any relationship. People with dissociative identity disorder shouldn’t use DID as an excuse for every mistake or problem. Neither should you.

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*Photo by Dana Robinson

13 thoughts on “Don’t Use My Mental Illness As An Excuse”

  1. I concur wholeheartedly. We are (predominantly) responsible for our actions outside of a few mental health, specific examples, and if we are repeatedly making the same mistakes, it’s time to evaluate ourselves carefully and as objectively as possible.
    As a retired psychiatrist, this had become a bit of rhetoric at times and your post was refreshing. Far too often, patients have found the excuse of 1. “I’m not to blame, my PTSD, depression, etc. is what’s driving this problem”, and 2. “I’m not feeling accepted or trusted because of my PTSD, depression, etc.”, among other aspects to input into the argument.
    Yet, we can’t have it both ways. When we suffer from any illness, physical, mental, spiritual, surgical, and so forth, we take on certain responsibilities once we understand that diagnosis. It’s no different than learning that we have epilepsy. It may take us some time to adjust certainly, however the ultimate responsibility to care for ourselves lies with ourselves, and to alter how we live and relate to others in order to care for ourselves within the confines of that illness; as well as caring for those who are close to us.
    It’s up to us who are ill to learn about our disease, how to grow within those boundaries and issues that may arise and the consequences if we fail to do so, if we do not, as a result. Failure to take our own responsibility for our illnesses is again, no different from that of any other disease state. If we wish to de-stigmatize mental illness, this is the appropriate attitude. Thank you for this posting.

  2. Hi Jenni,

    I’m so sorry to hear how things have gone with your daughter. My oldest daughter had a way of making life pretty miserable for everyone. The thing with teenagers is that they truly believe the world does revolve around them. We finally decided that it was best for her to go live with her dad. It really was the best thing for thing for us both. Our house became peaceful & that made me feel guilty. I liked her gone. After the first year she stopped being angry with me & we now have a really good relationship. She has my grandson & I love being a grandma.

    Don’t be to hasty to make a permanent decision…her attitude can change with some maturity.

  3. This really hits home for me. I am diagnosed with PTSD, and I lost custody of my daughter a little over a month ago. Prior to this I was on medication that was not working, money was tight, I was working towards a total breakdown, and my 15 year old daughter was in my face screaming at me almost daily. I did my best to function, but I couldn’t take all the fighting. She wanted me to buy her things that I could not afford, for example expensive perfume, name brand clothes, she wanted to go out with her friends to expensive restaurants, movies, plus provide enough food for her and any friend she invited over. I tried. I could barely pay the bills, let alone buy $5.00 bottles of shampoo, and all this gel, hair spray, makeup, etc. Went I couldn’t give her what she wanted she’d totally go off on me, in front of my friends, in front of my friends kids. She acted out, and I punished her for it, I grounded her from the internet because she was behaving dangerously inappropriate on the internet. Her teacher called and told me she was failing her classes. She told me she did all her homework at school, and no matter what I tried, she wouldn’t do her homework. I grounded her some more.

    She cried to her school counselor about how bad things were at home. They were bad. I was falling apart, I started having memory lapses, and she kept telling her school, and a friend of hers mom that I emotionally abused her, and kept punishing her for things she wasn’t doing. She said I was crazy and delusional, and I was severely violating her privacy, and she did all the cooking and cleaning. Which was so untrue. In reality she never picked up after herself, and all I did was clean. I cleaned her room because I went in there to her dirty laundry and I could barely see the floor, from all the clothes, dirty dishes, and trash all over the floor. It took me 8 hours to clean it all up.

    When DCS came and told me someone reported me because I was mentally unstable, and was neglecting my daughter, that’s when I had my breakdown. I was severely dehydrated and malnourished because I starved so she could eat. I spend six days in the hospital, and finally got my meds regulated. While I was in the hospital I was told I lost custody of my daughter, and all the cleaning I did, she claimed she did.

    Now I am dealing with these social workers who think everything I say is a lie, and they refuse to believe my daughter was behaving bad because she said she did nothing wrong and I was hallucinating. They believe her. When I try to tell my side of the story they tell me they don’t believe me because I was so out of it, nothing I say is credible because I’m sick.

    I have been a single mom since she was two, and I gave my whole life to this girl, and now she tells me I did nothing for her, I was never a mother to her, and I was always sick, and she had to take care of herself. DSC treats me like I’m a total criminal, and because I have a mental illness, and she is living with her drug addict aunt, and I’m not allowed near her. I was told she is too “traumatized” to see me.

    My heart is completely shattered. She’s told so many lies about me, and mixed it in with a little truth, and at our last supervised visit, I called her out on her lies, now I may never she her again. My own child. instead of calling my parents and getting me help, she got me in a lot of trouble because I tried to save her from herself, when I couldn’t even save myself. She played on my mental illness so she could go somewhere where she could get all the expensive things, and she is in heaven playing the victim role.

    I’m a lot better now. The doctors say this is the best they’ve ever seen me. Honestly I don’t want her to come home. I have my moments when I miss her and breakdown, but I don’t think I ever want her living with me again. I doubt she’ll ever tell the real story. I am seriously considering terminating my parental rights, and cutting her out of my life totally. I finally regained my sanity now that she’s been gone, and I am terrified if she does come home, I will lose the sanity I’ve fought so hard to regain.

    1. Hi Jenni,

      I’ve certainly felt like people were playing on and using my mental illness to their gain, but never to the extent you describe. I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through. My son is 12 and I know it would be utterly devastating to experience something like this with him.

      I’m glad you feel more stable now that she’s gone, though I’m sorry her absence was what allowed you to regain your sanity. I hope that, no matter your relationship with your daughter, you’re able to maintain and build on that stability and take care of yourself first.

  4. Very well done and Kerri and some of the other comments are so bang on. Thank you all! I have this issue with my psychitrist and mother… it’s hard!

  5. Hi Holly, I found your blog today to be very thought provoking!
    I believe there are always people in all walks of life who try to abdicate responsibility for their actions. But as these people are at one end of a spectrum, so too there are others, particularly with mental health issues, who are at the other end, who do not feel ANY REASONS for their actions are EVER VALID ENOUGH. And these people heap huge amounts of guilt on themsleves, leading them to depression and much sadness.
    In my experience people with DID are very compassionate people, who readily extend this to others, but often do not extend it to themselves. Probably because our early experiences leave us with a lot of self loathing and a very poor sense of our own self worth. Funnily enough, eventually at some point most of us get to a place where we can look back and feel love, grief and compassion for the children we once were. Yet we do not extend this compassion to the adults that we are today. Why? Is there a mystical age limit or time limit to which we are entitled to compassion, and then once we cross this invisible line we are not? I think unwittingly a lot of us do feel that. That once we learn of the existence of our own DID, and commence therapy, an invisible timer is set in motion, and if our behaviours do not change within a specified period, we become extremely angry and disappointed in ourselves. This is where the silent SHOULDS kick in. I SHOULD be able to do this by now. My children and /or significant others SHOULDN’T have to put up with these issues any more.
    We are profoundly different from most other people because we survived circumstances no one should have to, and because of this our brains work differently. If we cannot have compassion for ourselves and accept that there are real reasons why we do or do not do what others can, then how can we hope that others will understand at all. These are not excuses, because we are not trying to abdicate responsibility for the consequences of our actions, but we as a community do need to come to terms with the fact that because of our pasts, our minds and bodies move through the world differently and there are REAL REASONS for why we are who we are, and REAL HONEST TO GOD DEFECITS that hinder us very frequently.

    1. Hi kerri,

      Thanks for your comment.

      “But as these people are at one end of a spectrum, so too there are others, particularly with mental health issues, who are at the other end, who do not feel ANY REASONS for their actions are EVER VALID ENOUGH.”

      That is an excellent point, thank you. I too have found that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder do the opposite of trying to use their disorder as an excuse and instead won’t let themselves of the hook for anything.

      “That once we learn of the existence of our own DID, and commence therapy, an invisible timer is set in motion, and if our behaviours do not change within a specified period, we become extremely angry and disappointed in ourselves. This is where the silent SHOULDS kick in. I SHOULD be able to do this by now. My children and /or significant others SHOULDN’T have to put up with these issues any more.”

      Yes, you said that so well. And this too:

      “These are not excuses, because we are not trying to abdicate responsibility for the consequences of our actions, but we as a community do need to come to terms with the fact that because of our pasts, our minds and bodies move through the world differently and there are REAL REASONS for why we are who we are, and REAL HONEST TO GOD DEFECITS that hinder us very frequently.”

      I think you’re right on point there, kerri. And I really appreciate you taking the time to share that.

  6. I soooo totally agree with you. I acknowledge that I have Bipolar Disorder. But not because I want the sympathy or an excuse or special treatment. It’s a fact of life and it admittance raises awareness ect. But I had a similiar experience this week. Upon release from the hospital on Monday I told my psych that there is 1 exam that I won’t be writing in the first opportunity because it’s simply too much to handle at the moment. When I phoned for a letter explaining that I’m not stabilized yet and that I wont be able to write it, he denied that I ever told him that I won’t be writing it. 3 Weeks ago he also denied ever prescribing a certain medicine for me, until I actually took the original bottle with the pharmaceutical sticker with his name on. I mean seriously, I’m crazy but I’m not crazy…

    1. Nadine,

      Your story about your doctor and the prescription? Oh that’s an excellent example of how having a mental illness discredits people! It’s incredibly difficult sometimes to maintain my own sense of reality in the face of so many other people insisting I’m wrong. Because sometimes they’re right. But sometimes they’re not. And when they’re not, the only way to get most people to see that is with concrete, tangible proof. Otherwise I’m just the girl with DID who doesn’t know what she’s talking about, poor thing.

      It’s exhausting.

      Thanks for commenting, Nadine.

  7. Thank you thank you thank you.

    Those last three points I’ve gotten multiple times and not only are they frustrating, they’re highly upsetting, especially if they wind up being used against me.

    I need to bookmark this for future reference.

    1. Hi SN,

      It really can be very upsetting. I recently read a blog post that expressed clearly the author’s point of view that people with Dissociative Identity Disorder habitually use it as justification for poor behavior. It’s really unfortunate that the mythology surrounding DID has colored people’s perceptions so thoroughly as to render those of us with it as lying, manipulative, attention seekers in the public eye. I hope that in time, if we talk about it enough and share our realities in respectful, accessible ways, those misconceptions will begin to abate and people with DID will seem less threatening to the general public. In the meantime, it’s hard not to take it personally.

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