Diary of a Newly Diagnosed Dissociative Part 2: Fear
Prior to my Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis my alters existed and operated outside of my awareness. They affected my life in ways I had no explanation for, like invisible strangers living in your house and rearranging the furniture. Receiving the diagnosis was like someone turned on a light and exposed the multitude around me. Suddenly I could see and hear what had always been there. None of what occurred in the aftermath of that diagnosis was new. But all of it was severely amplified. And I felt, among other things, fear.
The Dissociative Identity Disorder Diagnosis Caused Fear I Couldn't Explain
I ransacked my diaries looking for coherent entries that illuminate the fear I lived with in the first few years after diagnosis. But though the words "afraid" and "scared" are peppered throughout hundreds of entries, there's no elaboration, no neatly articulated description of the fear. Sometimes the entire entry is simply a declaration of fear:
I'm so scared inside ....
More often the fear is an aside tacked on at the end of a different kind of thought entirely:
I am very tired right now. Everything seems confused. But I guess really it's getting clearer. I am afraid.
Fear is mentioned by various members of the system repeatedly and yet it's never described beyond these declarative statements. Why?
There's Fear and then There's FEAR
I wasn't just afraid those first few years after my Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis - I feel fear to some degree every day; this was different. I was terrified. I couldn't have delved into the nature of my fear at the time. I was too paralyzed by it. I was afraid that:
- These alters I'd been introduced to wanted to take over my life. Would I die? Would I go into a kind of coma? Would I ever be able to come back again?
- I was possessed. I saw a psychic not long after my diagnosis who told me I needed to "kick the beings out." This kicked off recurring episodes of utter terror that my alters were external creatures trying to trick me and mess with my mind.
- I had descended permanently into madness. The voices, increasingly more bizarre messages in my diaries, and my new awareness of their source left me feeling like I'd tumbled headlong into such abysmal insanity that even the most professional of professionals would take one look at me and exclaim, "There's no label for that. That's just crazy."
It's Hard to Combat Fear about Something You Don't Understand
As ridiculous as those fears may be, they're incredibly difficult to think your way out of when you don't understand what you're dealing with. I didn't understand my diagnosis and therefore couldn't rationally address my fear of it. Educating myself about DID helped me see that my fears, though unfounded, were normal for those newly diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The antidote, as I see it, to this deliriously irrational fear is education, and the knowledge that though your experience may feel wildly unique - it very likely isn't.
Complete Series: Diary of a Newly Diagnosed Dissociative
- Part 1: Confusion
- Part 2: Fear
- Part 3: Loneliness
- Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: Diagnosis and Shame
- Part 4: Desperation
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Gray, H. (2010, December 6). Diary of a Newly Diagnosed Dissociative Part 2: Fear, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 10 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/12/diary-of-a-newly-diagnosed-dissociative-part-2-fear
Author: Holly Gray
I am very grateful for all of your help and suggestions. I had been terrified of my post...that it may have seemed intrusive. I have not been doing very well (it feels that way, anyway). I have been very fragile and have a young part that reacts to people obsessed with perfectionism. I'll be paying more attention to soothing and comforting activities. I am very afraid of this young part who wants to die since she is in such pain over being around anyone who reminds her of her perfectionistic Grandma (ie. a coworker and my sister in law who I live with). I saw the new therapist and did not say a thing about my parts since i "felt" it to be the right thing to do. I just read your post today. I had my husband check it 1st to see how you may have reacted...I was afraid. He couldn't understand why I would be so afraid but i realize so much of the fear is from many parts that are trying to keep our secret safe. I respect that about them. They have been quiet mostly this week. my therapist wants me to work on a safety plan since I have been having terrible destructive impulses at times but my parts have kept me very busy and distracted. I asked them last week why we haven't been getting anywhere with the plan and the older parts have said that they do not think I know how to go about doing it and that they know how to keep me safe...i'll have to work on it with my therapist. I am being very careful with this subject since I don't want to get into any arguments with them; they are still very secretive and don't really trust telling me a lot. I can feel that it's because they are afraid I will reject them so we are working on trust. The older parts do want my help with 2 younger parts since I am able to talk to them and help them some of the time- other times when a younger one reacts-my older parts just shut me down and I can't think, read, drive, talk, it can be very scary. I can not tell you how grateful I am having some one who understands, though, it's very grounding to be on your blog. It's so helpful having several of you confirming how things will get better, it's normal to have the confusion, to have hope in the information in some of the literature. Thanks so much, take care
Thank you for your blog. I am learning so much from you and everyone that is posting about their experiences with intense fear. I had been diagnosed with PTSD ten yrs. ago, been in therapy but did not have a diagnosis of DID. I had bought Dr. Haddock's sourcebook about 6 yrs. ago but had been too afraid to actually read it since it was causing flashbacks when I tried.I have been having so much trouble the last few months with dissociating it is really interfering with my job. I am looking for a new therapist and I got the book out to try an read again. I was able to get through most of it. At one point, something clicked inside while reading and I became aware of an audience inside me. They were standing together in the dark whispering back and forth what would happen if I found out that they were there. Then one of them said, "she knows." They were filled with terror and intense shame. I haven't felt shame like that for many many years, I thought I was passed feeling shame. I was stunned, to say the least. I felt as if I had unlocked my front door and caught a bunch of thieves. I gathered myself and told them I was afraid too but that they had been keeping me safe for nearly 50 yrs! We were almost normal! I told them I was very proud of how they had been protecting me. One of them said that they couldn't let me see them because they didn't think I could handle knowing. They said they want me to care about them and that they are very tired. This happened last weekend. I have been listening more closely to their internal dialogue and have been communicating and was able to go to work all last week. One of my smaller parts had a problem with one of my coworkers. I was able to help an older part comfort her 9the younger part). Today, I was not able to go to work at all. I was very shut down and I can't get any answers as to why. I want to help them but I do not know what to do except to offer to listen. Until I see a new therapist this Friday, is there anything I can do to continue helping these parts besides writing to them?
Susan, thank you so much for sharing your story. This is such a huge step. And your instincts are guiding you well. You've expressed gratitude, helped a young part find comfort, and are communicating. So first of all give yourself and your system some much deserved credit for navigating this week so well and so cooperatively. Nicely done!
Since you're able to hear them - definitely a plus - I'd recommend asking if there are activities that would be soothing. Young parts might enjoy coloring with paper and crayons (or markers, pencils, whatever you have). Reading, listening to music, enjoying a favorite food or meal. If you don't hear any requests, I'd suggest thinking about what you really enjoy, what really soothes you. Taking a long bubble bath? Curling up on the couch with a movie? The goal here is to offer gentle care both for yourself and your system. You have made real change this week and my guess is parts of you are feeling tender and unsteady. You want to respond accordingly, treating yourself with warmth and love. Don't worry about making any more progress per se - you've done a lot of work and I'd say now is the time for resting and just being together.
As for being shut down, my guess is you have at least two things happening to cause that: 1) the issue with your coworker, and 2) this upcoming therapy appointment. Meeting a new therapist can be very frightening for a DID system and my guess is you're planning to tell the therapist about what you've discovered. There may be parts who are panicking. Remember that Dissociative Identity Disorder is designed to go undetected, which is why you didn't know about your alters until now. Being seen can cause fear and panic. I think if I were you I'd tell my system that I understand that it's frightening and ask them to help me know what they feel safe sharing with the therapist and reassure them that you will respect their boundaries.
You're doing great so far, Susan. I hope to hear from you again.
I believe my initial fear when I was first diagnosed, was due to the way most (not all) media portrays Dissociative Identity Disorder. An acquaintance from many years ago...before I was diagnosed... suggested that I read Sybil, and also, The Minds of Billy Milligan. I remember, after my initial diagnosis, internally freaking out because those books were my only guidelines. I don't mean any disrespect to those books, but for me, personally, I needed a "gentler introduction", as castorgirl mentions above.
Research, education, and finding this supportive blog has been crucial for me making peace with the acceptance that I have DID. I agree with you, Holly, that the antidote is education.
I don't know if one ever finds total peace with their lives in general, but I want to believe that armed with knowledge, we can find peace with various aspects of our lives.
I will definitely have to check out the Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook by Haddock. Thanks Paul for mentioning that book. I have seen it suggested several times now, so I think it's time for me to read it. The only book that I have read so far, and have found helpful, is Stranger in the Mirror by Marlene Steinberg.
Thanks again Holly for exposing those early entries of your diaries. They really do help those of us in the early stages of acceptance see that we are experiencing normal fears.
CG, a part of me wants so badly to educate those around me about DID. I am just not sure if I have the right type of people in my life to make that step at this point. Trust is a huge obstacle for me. This is something I really would like to revisit. Thanks for bringing up the importance of educating others.
"I believe my initial fear when I was first diagnosed, was due to the way most (not all) media portrays Dissociative Identity Disorder."
Ah yes, that's what I call The Sybil Myth. Unfortunately entertainment media hasn't done those of us with DID many favors thus far. And like you, I was influenced by popular misconceptions about DID (even though I'd never read or seen Sybil or any of the other more dramatic accounts) and I therefore had to unlearn almost as much about DID as I had to learn about it.
The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook by Deborah Haddock is always my first recommendation too. I consider it a "must read" for anyone wanting to educate themselves about DID. I do also recommend The Stranger in the Mirror. It took me a long time to warm up to that book, but I now believe it's a valuable resource. Steinberg does an excellent job of explaining the dissociative symptoms in everyday terminology. She also strikes a beautiful balance between normalizing DID - which I believe is extremely important - and acknowledging the more pathological aspects of severe dissociation.
I think you're right - it is possible to find peace in moments and places.
Thanks for your comment, Mareeya.
The key is to educate yourself in a kind way... When I first learned of the diagnosis, I read so much negative literature, because I was coming from a place of denial and suppression. I know this set me up for continued problems.
I agree with Paul, the book by Haddock is one of the gentler introductions to DID.
Another key aspect is for those around you to be educated about DID. I know this isn't always easy, but the more those around us know about the diagnosis, the more they understand about why we may react in the ways we do. That's not to create an environment of no accountability, but purely to help everyone understand what is happening. It might also open the door for those loved ones to seek help for the issues they're facing as a result of helping someone heal from abuses in the past.
Thanks for commenting, CG.
"I know this isn’t always easy, but the more those around us know about the diagnosis, the more they understand about why we may react in the ways we do."
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Education makes life with DID easier to navigate for everyone, perhaps especially in those early years.
You wrote: "It’s Hard to Combat Fear about Something You Don’t Understand". This is so very true. This was what I was getting at in the last post when I said you can't get anywhere if you are freaking out about your diagnosis. Or not even the diagnosis per se, but what you are becoming aware of. I think one of the best books for newly diagnosed DID people is "The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook" by Haddock. While there is so much out there, I usually refer people to this book first. It simplifies everything and explains things so well.
The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook is always the one I recommend first to people new to DID (whether they have it or not). Deborah Haddock makes the basics of dissociation and DID accessible and easy to understand.
"Or not even the diagnosis per se, but what you are becoming aware of."
That's a good point. Although for me the diagnosis itself was freak-worthy, if nothing had changed, if I'd remained protected and closed off from my system it wouldn't have been nearly as terrifying.
Thanks for your comment, Paul.