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Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness

December 21, 2010 Holly Gray

Near the bottom of the HealthyPlace homepage there's an audio widget, bordered in orange with the header Share Your Mental Health Experience. If you have a spare three minutes, please play the clip titled "I Hear A Voice in My Head" and listen to one woman poignantly illustrate why I write about Dissociative Identity Disorder. This woman, like so many others, is struggling in isolation with something she doesn't understand. "People act like it's nothing," she says. No matter the condition, there will always be people who act like it's nothing. Talking about mental illness, publicly and honestly, is the only way I know to ease that kind of invalidation.

[caption id="attachment_1255" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Photo by jocelyn"]Photo by jocelyn[/caption]

Just Talking about Mental Illness Invites Negation

At first I was astonished that smart, educated people would rather believe I'm maliciously manipulative than consider that Dissociative Identity Disorder is a legitimate psychiatric condition. 'What is the deal with DID?' I wondered. 'Why are so many people determined to chalk my experiences up to anything but this diagnosis?' Eventually I realized that the pervasive unwillingness to acknowledge mental illness isn't exclusive to DID. I'd wager that anyone talking about mental illness has met with people who act like it's nothing.

Because so many psychiatric disorders are extreme manifestations of what everyone experiences from time to time, it's easy to see why some people believe mental illness is an inclination towards the dramatic or simply a total lack of personal responsibility. Fortunately, converting the non-believers has never been my goal.

When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do. - William Blake

Talking about Mental Illness for the Sake of the Mentally Ill

I've long since realized that debating these attitudes is an exercise in futility and an utter waste of my time. Arguing the validity of Dissociative Identity Disorder won't help that woman who hears the voice in her head. But what if she searched the web and found a blog post from someone else who hears voices and knows how distressing that can be? What if she came across just one person who didn't act like what she's living with is nothing? Instead of invalidated and dismissed, she might feel understood and taken seriously. That won't solve her problems, sure. But she might feel less alone with them.

[caption id="attachment_1266" align="alignright" width="182" caption="Photo by B Rosen"]Photo by B Rosen[/caption]

Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness

Whether you have Dissociative Identity Disorder or some other mental illness, there are people who will act like it's nothing. That matters less to me than the encouragement, support, and validation so many offer just by sharing their stories. To those people I say thank you, and please don't stop talking about mental illness.

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APA Reference
Gray, H. (2010, December 21). Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/12/dont-stop-talking-about-mental-illness



Author: Holly Gray

kerri
says:
December, 29 2010 at 8:04 pm
I just wanted to add, that if anyone in the future disagrees with me or wants to debate a point I've made in this forum, feel free. I don't take offense when someone says I disagree, but rather am interested. What if you say something that is more valid than my own point, how cool is that. Because then I get to adopt it and get smarter each time I learn. It 's really arrogant to assume one is always right, in fact it's actually impossible for one person to be right all the time. And I certainly enjoy reading not only Holly's blog, but the many interesting comments posted.
I hope everyone had a safe Christmas, and Happy New Year.
kerri
says:
December, 29 2010 at 3:50 pm
I think that debate is very healthy, infact I love getting into a verbal skermish with someone when the debate is on point and not personal. Because you never know what someone might say that will surprise you, challenge you, or maybe turn your own theories on their head. I suppose the key is not to be wedded to being right, but to be wedded to learning and keep the respect value high. Having said that, I think the difficulty in discussing DID isn't always about who the audience is but our own vulnerabilities as DID sufferers.
From experience we have often learnt to close ourselves in and not talk. So to open up to others is very difficult. And I'd hazzard a bet, that many people around us have very little understanding of how difficult a process it is to acknowledge our own DID, let alone talk about it openly. We are a very robust group in some ways, yet incredibly vulnerable in others, and talking about our DID is like touching raw skin. And the general info out there doesn't help. I mean where is it portrayed clearly how difficult it is to accept a personal daignosis of DID. Also where is it addressed that discussing ones own diagnosis can be extremely painful and problematic. Certainly media potrayals don't focus on these things. And sometimes the general public have only these sources to refer to. I wish some insightful person with DID did an actual documentary on the reality of DID not the hype. Compassion comes from an understanding of others truths, and this springs from awareness brought on by accurate information. Given how little accurate info so far has reached the general public it's not so surprising there's a lot of disbelief out there. I suppose what we hope for, is that those who are close to us will choose to believe we speak the truth, and allow this to outway preconceived ideas. And as you said Holly, atleast in forums like this we can come together for the exchange of accurate information and support.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
says:
December, 31 2010 at 1:54 pm
Hi kerri,

" ... I think the difficulty in discussing DID isn’t always about who the audience is but our own vulnerabilities as DID sufferers."

I think you're absolutely right. As I became less and less vulnerable about Dissociative Identity Disorder, I became more and more able to talk about it. For years I hated talking about it. HATED it. If I told my past self that one day they'd be blogging publicly about DID they'd laugh bitterly. It was an extremely sore and sensitive subject for me for a long, long time.

But that, fortunately, can change.

"Compassion comes from an understanding of others truths, and this springs from awareness brought on by accurate information. Given how little accurate info so far has reached the general public it’s not so surprising there’s a lot of disbelief out there."

Yes! That's one of the reasons it's so important to me to talk openly about DID, now that I'm able to do so without compromising myself or my system.

Thank you, kerri.
Dr Musli Ferati
says:
December, 25 2010 at 9:57 pm
Experience has proven that every person has an unconscious resistance to accept personal mental disorders. Meanwhile, all we can easily see, banter and comment any psychological difficulties of others. Exceeding this so when various mental disorders has anyone of us. The key is that these disorders to discuss without prejudice with our relatives and friends. Thus we will be less frightened of the same deviation. At the same time, this is the best way to protect ourselves from many mental disorders.
Mareeya
says:
December, 24 2010 at 5:28 am
"What if she came across just one person who didn’t act like what she’s living with is nothing? Instead of invalidated and dismissed, she might feel understood and taken seriously. That won’t solve her problems, sure. But she might feel less alone with them."
I agree....there is a lot to be said for feeling validated.

I have an acquaintance from work whose mother suffers from severe depression. Months ago, she was complaining that she didn't believe her mother's illness. She revealed that she was going to avoid seeing or speaking to her mother until her mother finally realized that there was no such thing as mental illness. She really seemed embarrassed, and disgusted by her mother's weakness. I gently explained to her that what her mother has is very real, and how it could be very dangerous if she has no one in her life who understands. I encouraged her to do some research, and to hang in there with her mother. More was said, but to make a long story short...today she is much closer with her mother. They talk nearly everyday, and she now discusses her mother's mental illness with much more understanding.

So yes, it is very important to keep talking about mental illness.

I also was one of those people who stumbled upon this blog while at a low point. The validation I feel when I come here has meant the world to me.
Paul
says:
December, 23 2010 at 3:32 pm
I always think it's one of my better qualities that I question a lot of things. This doesn't mean doubting. Maybe that's my science background. Good science is all about learning that there is so much we don't know. It's being open to new ideas. It's being open to discovering new things about what we think we already know about. I find, personally, that a lot of my questioning about my experience leads to more validation and more healing.

I also want to call your attention to an advocacy organization called Mental Health America, see: http://www.nmha.org/

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
says:
December, 28 2010 at 2:44 pm
Hi Paul,

I do think questioning things is a good quality. It got me in a lot of trouble as a kid though. ;)

Thanks for the link.
lenore
says:
December, 22 2010 at 4:54 am
"You never know when a blog with a small readership, will be stumbled upon by someone at a low point, and they will gain a sense of validation through reading a shared experience, reaction or feeling."


That's what happened to me. I'm so glad you all shared.
kim
says:
December, 22 2010 at 4:28 am
my sister was just recently diagnosed with dissociative disorder. she says she doesnt remember stealing from her previous job. Yet while she worked there she would tell us that she had to go in early to help with inventory that only she knew how to do. It is though she can pick and choose what she remembers that is why it is so hard for me to believe her when she says she has this disorder. I have read up on it a little and it says that in most cases there is a traumatic event that happens. well she had a normal childhood no incest or abuse. she has never acted like she doesnt remember events or dates before getting caught and she says thats because she hides it? now she says they want to do cat scans and has put her on meds. how can i as a family member get over the feeling as though she is fakeing it? is there some more information you could provide that says it just appears one day for no reason. I havent been able to find one case like hers.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
says:
December, 22 2010 at 9:27 am
Hi Kim,

People with Dissociative Identity Disorder are often accused of lying and faking. One of the primary reasons for that is that DID doesn't look the way people expect it to. Generally, people with DID just look moody, or like they contradict themselves. It would be, in my opinion, highly unlikely that the family of someone with DID would suspect that they have it. Your comment is precisely what I'd expect from someone whose sister has been diagnosed with DID. :) Your confusion and doubt is 100% understandable.

However, I'd like to gently point out that you cannot know whether or not your sister experienced abuse or trauma as a child. You may very well have lived in a non-abusive home and had what many consider to be a normal childhood. But that doesn't mean your sister wasn't regularly traumatized without your or anyone else's knowledge.

"she says she doesnt remember stealing from her previous job. Yet while she worked there she would tell us that she had to go in early to help with inventory that only she knew how to do."

I understand that right now this seems wildly contradictory, but it's not. If your sister has DID, knowledge of the stealing is likely highly compartmentalized. You may talk to her one day and she admits to the stealing with no problem. Mention it again the next, and she may claim she has no idea what you're talking about.

DID does not just appear one day for no reason. However, when people are diagnosed with DID, it's very common for the symptoms of the disorder to be exacerbated for a period of time. To others, this ends up looking like the individual didn't have DID until they were told they have it! But that simply isn't the case.

In fact, much of what makes you doubt her diagnosis is classic, textbook Dissociative Identity Disorder in action. DID is designed to go undetected. Those with it have systems of alters that often do an amazing job of hiding the disorder.

I applaud you for reading and asking questions here. I encourage you to keep reading, keep asking questions. Everything most people think they know about this disorder is wrong. It takes time, thought, and effort to gain genuine understanding of DID. But from what you described, not only are there many cases like your sisters, but I'd wager most cases look much like hers from the outside.

You don't simply get over the feeling that she's faking it. You do what you're doing - research, ask questions, be honest about your concerns and doubts.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

The host cuz
says:
March, 2 2019 at 3:44 am
In all honesty, I don’t Want to be that person. But parents can treat their children very differently with out the other ever knowing of it. And while I understand that may sound absurd but it’s true. I have DID and PTSD but my Sister is in denial of it as she can’t see what could have happened to cause such an outcome. I don’t mean to say your parents have done any thing wrong. But behind my sister’a back they would beat me, starve me, deprive me meals, slam me against walls and threaten to beat me till they broke me, threaten it beat me till they left marks all over my body to show to the whole world what a disappointment I was. At some point they even did it. And countless other stuff. But in front my my Sister they never did that, and if they got caught they often justified themselves to her was that I was the one that deserved it, I was the one who messed up. And while that sounds unbelievable, you’d be surprised by how gullible a six year old even is. So while you may not think there was no abuse it’s very possible that there may have been. And you just didn’t realise it. Not saying your parents are bad ppl I for one have never met them but I’m just saying it’s a definite possibility. That you jsut didn’t realise it. Dissociative disorders don’t jsut pop out of no where. As for the whole not remembering things till she gets caught it is very possible I used to have gaps in my memory all the time but i often pretended that I didn’t for the sole reason of not wanting to look crazy so it’s very possible that she was also trying to hid it. As for the whole picking and choosing that’s sorta what it’s like granted I have alters who occasionally fill me in. And my disassociation is pretty bad. But it is sorta like that. I can remember what I was going To a specific place for and what time I was but I won’t be able to remember what I did that. I can only recall what happened going there and what happened after. However that being said, while I agreed you know your Sister best but when it comes to this, I strongly encourage you try to keep an open mind, disassociation isn’t easy to deal with and while it is rather absurd disassociative disorders don’t just appear out off no where. And it takes a great deal amount of courage to say such memory gaps exist. So while I understand it may be fake to you please try to keep an open mind cuz you never know what you mind find.
castorgirl
says:
December, 21 2010 at 10:18 pm
A wise person often reminds me to "know your truth". It's so easy to begin to doubt your experiences when those around you are saying so adamantly that what you are experiencing is nothing, normal, attention seeking, etc. It takes strength and validation to hold onto your truth in the face of the doubters.

I do believe that there is a place for the doubters... blind belief is rarely positive, and there can be healing in their questioning. But, I believe that the questioning should always come from a place of respect and having an open mind. There are also times when the questioning, no matter how gentle, can be devastating. So yes, I agree Holly... people need to keep talking. You never know when a blog with a small readership, will be stumbled upon by someone at a low point, and they will gain a sense of validation through reading a shared experience, reaction or feeling.

Take care,
CG

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
says:
December, 22 2010 at 9:07 am
Hi CG,

I love the way you said this: "I do believe that there is a place for the doubters… blind belief is rarely positive, and there can be healing in their questioning." I couldn't have said it better.

This is one of my favorite quotes: I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education. -Wilson Mizner

At least half of my education about Dissociative Identity Disorder has blossomed as a result of doubt and skepticism - my own and others'. But for me there is a difference between questioning things and what the woman in the audio clip describes - no acknowledgment of her distress at all. Just like those of us struggling with this disorder would do well to consider conflicting points of view, those who adamantly refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of mental illness would too. As I see it, that's part of the benefit of talking about mental illness - exchanging experiences and perspectives in order to gain understanding. But like you pointed out, respect is key.

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