When my brother was little, he went to school one day, climbed on top of his desk, and screamed. He didn’t say anything. He just screamed. Nobody asked him why. When he ran away from home a few years later, the pastor of our church came over, witnessed my father’s performance as a remorseful parent, and didn’t concern himself with what exactly my father had to feel so regretful about. When I was six, my mother took me to a doctor – one of my father’s colleagues – who asked her what had happened to make me bleed. I don’t remember what she told him. All I know is that it wasn’t the truth. She didn’t know the truth. Only I and my father did. And no one asked me. Of course, by then I already had dissociative identity disorder (DID). Who knows what I would’ve said if they’d asked.
Secrecy Nourishes Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dissociative identity disorder is born of secrets – secrets so potent that to reveal them would disrupt not one or two lives but many. We learn young to carry the burden of those secrets, lest we annihilate ourselves and those around us with the truth. We find marginal relief by rejecting the truth as disgraceful lies and embracing lies as the unvarnished truth. We pretend we are someone else, someone who is not being beaten or raped, and who, therefore, has no secrets to tell. We are terribly convincing, most especially to ourselves. And the secrets divide us into rigid, warring pieces. But living in pieces demands continued secrecy about more and more things. We become clandestine beings, hiding both the horrific and the mundane. The walls of DID get higher and thicker.
“Dissociative Living” Helped Me Learn to Risk Telling Secrets
I started writing Dissociative Living because I had things to say about dissociative identity disorder that I was tired of being too afraid to say them. Looking back, I see that I desperately needed a platform that came with built-in support. I found it in this blog. With an award-winning mental health website as my venue and readers who contributed their own thought-provoking perspectives, I felt some tacit validation — even if the rest of the world regarded DID with revulsion or as a punch line, you didn’t. Thanks to you and HealthyPlace, I got the opportunity to say what I needed to and come away feeling genuinely heard – which is how I learned that it’s possible to tell the truth without annihilating anyone. So I kept telling my secrets.
Today, my mother knows why I was bleeding when I was little. I’m one of the lucky ones: she offers me her steadfast support. I want every single person living with dissociative identity disorder to experience the enormous healing that comes from telling secrets, being heard and feeling supported. I wouldn’t say I’m no longer dissociative, but if I were diagnosed anew today, I suspect the diagnosis would be dissociative disorder not otherwise specified — an improvement. And that improvement is thanks to choosing, again and again, disclosure over secrecy – something I learned how to do only because you listened.