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Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder: An Ongoing Journey

Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder: An Ongoing Journey

Life with dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a journey full of new discoveries, growth and understanding. It is also a journey full of denial, confusion, and pain. Just when you think you have a grasp on life with DID, something (a new alter, or a new memory, perhaps) comes along and shakes everything up. Life with DID can be a difficult journey, but it’s not an impossible one.

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Don’t Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder

Don’t Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder

All of the misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder bother me because they create barriers to diagnosis, treatment, and support. But there’s one myth that bothers me for more personal and, up until today, private reasons. And that’s the assumption that child abuse causes Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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Remission from Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Remission from Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Reader Deanna asked if anyone has ever experienced remission from Dissociative Identity Disorder. If we’re defining remission as a period of diminished, unobtrusive dissociative symptoms – “normal” dissociation, in other words – then I’d wager there are people who have experienced exactly that. But they have worked hard to achieve that degree of integration and awareness. It didn’t happen spontaneously, which is what I suspect most of us with Dissociative Identity Disorder mean when we bring up this idea of remission. And I also suspect it isn’t really integration we’re talking about, but the apparent disappearance of other personality states. I’m guessing plenty of people experience this latter scenario too; but remission it is not.

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Why Normalize Dissociation?

Why Normalize Dissociation?

Over the past couple of months I’ve published a series of articles focused on normalizing dissociation. I’ve said repeatedly that I believe just about everyone can achieve a basic understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder, provided it’s explained to them in a way they can relate to. But that doesn’t mean I think everyone should. In fact, normalizing dissociation isn’t about making other people understand DID. It’s about freeing ourselves from the need for other people to understand it.

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 5: Identity Alteration

Normalizing Dissociation Part 5: Identity Alteration

The two dissociative symptoms that, once described clearly, are the easiest for people to relate to and understand are also the ones that have earned Dissociative Identity Disorder its undeserved reputation as a bizarre aberration. Identity alteration (experiencing the self as multiple) and dissociative amnesia (gaps in memory) are the two manifestations of dissociation that are mythologized the most. But it’s not because they’re too foreign for most people to grasp. On the contrary, in their mildest forms they’re downright normal.

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 4: Identity Confusion

Normalizing Dissociation Part 4: Identity Confusion

One of the things that makes Dissociative Identity Disorder so difficult to recognize is that, contrary to popular belief, DID symptoms are not the stuff of science fiction. They are, in fact, severe amplifications of normal human experiences. I can think of nothing more normal, nothing more intrinsically human than identity confusion. Of the five primary manifestations of dissociation, I believe identity confusion is easily the most common. But it’s also the one few people will acknowledge in any meaningful way. People are pretty dedicated to the idea that we should know who we are without question, and we fervently admire those who appear most convincingly to do exactly that. But despite appearances, no one gets to live a human life without struggling with their sense of self.

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 3: Derealization

Normalizing Dissociation Part 3: Derealization

On Friday I went to the pharmacy to pick up some medication. It was a long wait, and I wasn’t feeling well. Around me I heard people talking, phones ringing, and the various noises of the grocery store that houses the pharmacy. The sounds seemed to come from a distance, and I felt profoundly disconnected from everyone and everything around me, as if I was an observer in a dream that wasn’t mine. It wasn’t a particularly comfortable experience but it certainly wasn’t an unusual one. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and I’ve lived with chronic, severe dissociation nearly all my life. The episode I described illustrates the combined forces of depersonalization and derealization, two forms of dissociation that often appear together. And despite the fact that I have DID and my dissociative experiences, taken as a whole, are decidedly abnormal, dissociation itself is something just about everyone experiences from time to time.

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 2: Depersonalization

Normalizing Dissociation Part 2: Depersonalization

Depersonalization is a way of experiencing the self. It’s a form of dissociation that manifests in a variety of ways that all boil down to a sense of detachment or separateness from one’s self. And though depersonalization is a chronic part of living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, it isn’t something only those of us with DID experience. For most people, episodes of depersonalization are transient, infrequent, and typically occur during periods of high stress.

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Normalizing Dissociation Part 1: Dissociative Amnesia

Normalizing Dissociation Part 1: Dissociative Amnesia

Clarifying the distinction between relatively normal dissociation and relatively abnormal dissociation is important for a number of reasons, including: 1) understanding what Dissociative Identity Disorder is becomes easier when you can clearly identify what it is not, 2) describing symptoms like dissociative amnesia to others is less of a challenge when you start from a place they can relate to, and 3) those of us with DID could do with regular reminders that we aren’t aberrant life forms and, in fact, a good portion of our dissociative experiences aren’t as far-fetched to other people as we may believe.

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Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: Worlds Colliding

Dissociative Identity Disorder Video: Worlds Colliding

There’s a space of six weeks between my last two posts here at Dissociative Living. Some of that month and a half disappearance has to do with the fact that I’d been trying to do too much for the better part of a year and I reached a kind of critical mass that left me depleted and in desperate need of rest. And some of it has to do with the nature of Dissociative Identity Disorder itself. It’s natural, within the context of DID, to compartmentalize one’s life to such a degree that the various arenas in which we live – work, school, friends, etc. – are separate worlds altogether. And when one or more of those worlds collide, as they inevitably do from time to time, the resulting anxiety triggers a full retreat from one or all of the affected worlds. But I’ve discovered that there’s more to these disappearances than I believed.

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