Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Time To Talk...Stigma

While it may be my goal to write this blog and begin to talk about my experiences living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I am in many ways very invisible.  There are many who have read this blog over the last few years who know who I am.  Yet, at the same time there will be many who don't know me. I contemplated beginning a new blog where, I can express my views and be honest about my life, my difficulties, my in knowing that no one would know who I was. I have decided it is high time I begin to talk.

This week I have been thinking about why I chose in most circumstances not to discuss my diagnosis. I realized that my fears surrounding the stigma of mental illness really do impact my everyday life.  It is time to talk.

I guess to the outside world looking in I may seem very normal...whatever that might be.   I do not carry a label saying I have mental health issues. However, many who know me know that I do.  I do not carry a label that says "I have D.I.D.".

Obviously, when I meet people for the first time, I tend to skip over the fact that I have DID, and the fact that I have been hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideation. I do not lie. I just do not expand on certain issues.  I have a crap load of medical professionals in my life currently. Unless asked, I do not bring this up. Again, I will not lie. However, I do not expand. It is my expectation that they will ask.

My birth father is deceased.  My mother and step-father are still alive.  I do not ever say I was a victim of child sexual abuse and that one of my parents did the best she could and the other was the abuser.  I will tell you that my abuser ended his life a few years ago.  A few years to late....

The fear of rejection is fairly huge. I chose to limit what I tell people, even if I have known someone a long time I am often not upfront and open.  Why?  Truth be told I would like you to judge me as a person and not a label.  To see me as an equal who can contribute to society and can make a difference to this world that I live in.  I want you to see me as a wife and mother of two beautiful, well adjusted and smart teenagers and a wife.  So I try and seamlessly interact with society, despite everything I work at me fitting in to a world that at times is extremely frightening, triggering and scary.

It isn't easy for someone with DID to live in this world and appear normal.  I often switch between parts, my voice changes, my facial expressions change, my mannerisms change.  For many years I have tried very hard to try and plan and prepare for everything just to look normal, you see just being out there and being takes a huge toll on me...on anyone with DID.

I find it extremely hard to justify why I am so forgetful.  Why am I loosing track of a conversation half way through?  Why I have to keep time in my schedule free...just so I can either rest and recover.  Yet the reality is people don't recognize instantly that I have DID.  They do not realize when we have switched between parts/alters unless of course we react in a very clear physical way or the change is very drastic, they will just assume I am forgetful or pre-occupied with something else.

My husband, best friend (who lives 5 states away) and therapist...they know me well enough to know that these memory lapses are because of DID.  Only my therapist can tell instantly when there has been a change. My bff when we are together is also able to tell instantly.  My husband...he is learning and slowly figuring it out.  Often, my husband is able to prompt me during discussions because he knows where the forgetfulness is coming from.  He attends 99% of all doctor appts with me because of this very reason.

Society views mental health with scepticism.  The statistic that 1 in 4 people will struggle with some sort of mental health related issue....society tells us that it won't happen to us.  Indeed, with the 1 in 4 statistic, you know a minimum of 1 person who struggles with mental health issues.

Fear and stigma surround us.  There are tv programs about mental health, however it is often more for entertainment and just creates more stigma in my opinion.

People do not generally know anything about D.I.D, it is not the most talked about issue.  There is VERY Little coverage in the media about dissociative disorders.  Why? Because the underlying issue is trauma. Media doesn't want to talk about trauma.

Being victim of child abuse and young adult who was victim of abuse leaves a stigma that goes above and beyond mental health.  As a young adult, I was told it was my fault. I tend to hid the shame and the guilt I carry and have carried since being a very young child.  As a very young child I was told I was bad.  The harsh reality is of course I was a child/young adult, who was hurt.  Who suffered at the hands of adults and and employer who should have protected me or at the very least not hurt me.

Ultimately, I tend not to tell people about having a diagnosis of D.I.D because I am ashamed, not of the diagnosis or my parts but of what has happened to me.  I carry an extreme amount of shame that belongs to someone else. My abusers. One who is dead. One who is not.  This is my own self created stigma, I know.

Admitting that I have D.I.D means I am admitting not just to them but to myself, that what happened to me is a reality and as much as I sometimes wish I could, I can't deny my past.  I cant wash it away. I somehow need to embrace it. I need to someone how take up the mantel of rebuilding a life out of my past.

I want to live with this diagnosis and all of its difficulties and challenges. I want to not be a victim but a survivor. I do not want to be a statistic of someone who had a mental illness that is not commonly recognized and went misdiagnosed for 15 years while seeking mental health treatment.

My personal challenge in the coming weeks and months is to start dealing with the stigma. If people stop talking to me, judge me or ignore me. So be it. That is their problem not mine.

I am who I am.

I am the 1 in 4.

It is about damn time I begin talking....

1 comment:

Diana said...

Holy buckets! I am so proud of you! Way to take that bull by the horns and start wrestling it to the ground. You are amazing...and are still one of the most courageous people I know.