Dear Mary,

I have been in counseling for about ten years and recently I had to go for a multiple personality disorder test. I have a problem discussing the abuse that happened to me without dissociating. It often times will show up when I do journal+ing. The doctors keep telling me it's PTSD. One thing that has helped me tremendously is attending a workshop for trauma survivors in the Therapeutic Spiral Model. It provided me a safe place to talk about the abuse in groups which I thought I could never do. After the weekend I was really surprised how much better I felt.

Debbie

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Hi Mary,

I think I understand where you're coming from in your confusion over the 'diagnosis' aspect of your treatment.

I have been 'diagnosed' with more conditions than I can accurately remember. I no longer place much faith in any label I'm given; it has little bearing on where I'm at at any given time in my continued growth. Instead I choose to focus on my chosen path in life and the truest way to travel.

One book I am currently reading is called "The Dissociative Identity Disorder sourcebook" by Deborah Bray Haddock. Although I have read numerous books and other literature on the subject, this one seems to make the most sense to me vis--vis defining DID vs. DD vs. borderline personality disorder.

Now for the challenging part of your question: what does it feel like inside? First off, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure whether my therapist considers me DD, DID, PTSD, all of the above or none of the above - and it is unimportant for me so this is not a real issue from my perspective. I am certainly not suggesting that you do or should feel the same. You'll get no judgments from me!

My journey began after a series of traumas/crisis/just-all-around-not-good stuff happening in a span of a year and a half: spousal abuse (15+ years of marriage, then literally out of the blue...) stepson (then 19) acquiring severe brain damage and now wheelchair bound; 5 months in the hospital, followed three months later by my mother's suicide; two weeks later my husband moving out of the family home (I have 3 other children), my husband losing his business, then his new job...this is all not to mention the bankruptcy, the impending loss of our home, my husband moving back in....and, the bomb I've yet come to cope with: the admission by my now brain damaged stepson - no longer able to keep secrets (thank god!) in his 'new' frame of mind - sharing with me that he sexually abused my now-12-year-old son back when my son was about 3. oh, yeah! let us not forget the all unimportant-in-the-scheme-of -things lawsuit my husband and I are named in resulting from the stepson's car accident! And the beat goes on...la dee da dee da.

Anyway, somewhere along all this insanity, sometimes referred to as "my life," while I was NOT in therapy, I had an abreaction triggered by something my husband said. I found myself throwing myself across our bed, screaming, crying and trying to hide. Three days later, when I was almost able to access my brain again, I started learning. 11 months later, I finally was able to pick up the phone and find a therapist. And have now learned more about myself and my past than I ever imagined.

The best way I know how to describe what it feels like inside is to say I have days/times when I am a very confident, functioning, alert, outgoing, extrovert-type person; then I have days/times when I'm not very self-assured, have difficulty functioning as in staying focused on any task - no matter how simple; hair washing, house cleaning, etc. - where the world seems to intimidate me, I have no desire/ability to interact with other people and am basically an introvert-type person. No, I do not lose blocks of time wherein I don't remember what happened as in a 'blackout' or as in the years that I supposedly was in first and second grade which I have literally NO memory of, but I certainly lose track of time. hours will go by and I can't believe it, yet I know where I was and what I was doing. I just can't believe I spent that much time being and doing!

Does that mean I have DID? I don't know. Probably. Probably not - depends how you interpret the material you're basing the diagnosis on, right? Do I hear voices? I sometimes can 'hear" myself "think" - kinda like reading out loud to yourself in order to better comprehend the material being read - only instead of reading I'm thinking out loud in my head! Man, that probably makes no sense at all! I guess you could say I spend more of my 'pondering' energy on trying to figure out what happened to me, by whom, how it affects my life now so I can then sort out what I want to 'keep' vs. what I need to let go of. This way, I can continue along my chosen path, confident that I will continue to grow, understand, learn and better be able to help those around me do the same.

I don't know what you have gone through or are going through, but I'll share with you how I feel about the few trials and tribulations in my recent life that I've shared with you. I don't regret anything that has happened in my life (with the exception of my stepson's abuse of my child - that I'm enraged over!!!!!) I don't feel sorry for myself; I don't wonder why this has happened to me. I am very grateful of all my experiences for they have given me more awareness, understanding, enlightenment and intuition and, yes, liberation, than most people ever have the opportunity to experience. I feel very blessed (most of the time). So if it makes sense to you, try taking the 'right' and sorting out and leaving the 'wrong' from your life, hold your head up high because you are all that you are and probably more and be grateful for who you are. smile.

-karen

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Hi Mary,

This is a very interesting, very complicated question. My understanding is that dissociation occurs on a spectrum, much like a ribbon of rainbow colors that blend into eachother at certain points. On one end of the spectrum, there are daydreams and other forms of healthy dissociation. On the other far end of the spectrum would be DID or poly--fragmented DID. PTSD is somewhat in the middle.

If you have alters with different voices and names, that hold discrete or separate sets of emotions, behaviors, memories - then this would raise serious questions about the probability of DID. Some people have a feeling that there are different parts of them, and yet they are not DID. They may have "ego states" or simply be aware of the way they are malleable and comprised of different constellations of behavior patterns. All of us, DID or otherwise, are made up of many "parts" of ourselves. If switching between these parts occurs, and one part or another is dominant over the other and especially if there is state dependent memory, then this would raise questions. It would be difficult to be any more precise without knowing you! If you have access to most all of your memories, feelings, control of all your behaviors, and limited sense of derealization or dissociation- then you may not be DID.

Keep in mind a couple of things, though. PTSD is the result of trauma, and is a serious disorder. If you think your physician has devalued you, an ethical and professional physician will want to know your feelings and thoughts and help you explore them. An ethical physician will also be willing to consider his or her part in any difficulties that arise in treatment, including disagreements. The feeling of being devalued is very important, and something that is likely to get in the way of treatment if not addressed. I encourage you to talk to your physician about this. When you say you know that you have different parts inside- have you expressed this to your physician? Is there any way you can be more specific (how do you know? what does it feel like for you? how long have you felt this way? in what ways does this interfere with your daily activities?). Whether or not you are DID, those parts would be worth exploring, in the sense that they have meaning for you.

Trust that, over time, this will get sorted out.

All the best, Gwen

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Mary....

take this from a dissociative who was told many years ago that I had PTSD...next time a doctor says that to you...feel free to use my favorite line for that one..."DUHHHHH" and feel free to ask when the last time they opened up that desk top medical book.

If you go to the library and look in the medical book under multiple personality disorder there is a new name for all this called "desomatization." If you go to my community which is listed on many voices press ...Lady Jz Talk Zone ... there is some information that you can copy and take to your doctor, and also you'll find some other information that may help you start to honor the part of you that knows the truth. If your doctor doesn't understand you when say there are many parts inside, then find a doctor who does. I know that's not always easy but remember you are worth having someone who can validate who you are. That means all that you are too. Search to find information and empower yourself with knowledge...that's the beginning and the journey..good luck and keep talking, keep asking and keep sharing.

Lady J