Dissociative Identity Disorder Disclosure: DOs and DON'Ts
The decision to disclose your dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a deeply personal one. Many, perhaps most, people with DID live in near silence about their disorder. They may tell only their family or no one at all. Some choose to share their dissociative identity disorder diagnosis not just with family but also friends. I belong to a smaller group of people who publicly say, "I have DID." What's comfortable for you may be unhealthy for someone else, and vice versa. With that in mind, what I offer you today isn't advice on whether or not to reveal your DID diagnosis, but a short list of DOs and DON'Ts - things to keep in mind when considering disclosure.
DID Disclosure DOs:
- Consider your motive. What do you hope to achieve by revealing your diagnosis? You're more likely to get what you want if you have a clear understanding of what that is. Additionally, your listener needs to know why you're saying, "I have DID." Otherwise, they may not know how to respond.
- Think about your audience. Who are you going to tell? A friend? A love interest? Allow the listener's identity and their role in your life to help shape your delivery. The way I told my partner about my diagnosis was significantly different from how I tell casual friends now, for instance. The depth, tone, and emotional revelation in your disclosure should be appropriate to your relationship.
- Plan ahead. When and where are you going to come out? What will you say? It might help to write your own list of DOs and DON'Ts for this part alone. It's best if you and your listener are relaxed. Think about what will engender safety and comfort, and what will hinder it.
DID Disclosure DON'Ts:
- Apologize. Your disclosure isn't a confession. By sharing your dissociative identity disorder diagnosis in an apologetic or embarrassed way, you tell your listener that DID is something to be ashamed of. Be honest, but keep in mind that how you present DID to others will impact their perception of it.
- Ignore the risks. Once I disclosed my diagnosis to someone who responded, "People don't want to hear about your problems." I was crushed and humiliated. In retrospect, it was a careless choice on my part. I hadn't prepared myself for such a caustic response because it didn't occur to me I might receive one. Ask yourself, how might my listener respond? Then be realistic about the potential consequences of those reactions.
- Disclose under pressure. Some situations are beyond your control. But if possible, come out because you've weighed all the considerations and decided it's what you want to do, not because you feel pressured.
Telling someone, anyone, "I have DID" is a big deal. If you choose to come out, take time to prepare. Think about what you might add to this list of DOs and DON'Ts for disclosing dissociative identity disorder. And remember that you have the capacity to determine what's right for you. Trust yourself.
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Gray, H. (2010, September 6). Dissociative Identity Disorder Disclosure: DOs and DON'Ts, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/09/i-have-did-disclosure-dos-donts
Author: Holly Gray
Just trying to understand
If you really believe you are demon possessed, please take that to a different discussion, and let us discuss DID here.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that emotions are, more often than not, obstacles that come in the way of logic and learning. As I value an accurate understanding of the world around me over an emotionally comforting one, I constantly challenge my own emotions whenever they might arise, and work to suppress them however I can to favor a more logical mindset. This, in part, is how I’ve come to accept a nihilistic perspective on life, as I’ve come to understand that the desire for meaning is just that, an emotionally-driven desire holding its grounds in deep-rooted human centrism. I would rather focus on understanding the world around me logically rather than allow an emotional understanding of life to grow inside me and perhaps even take precedence over logic by asking loaded questions (like “what is the meaning of life”.)
As you might have expected, this emotional denial slowly chipped away at my own identity, as over the past few months, I slowly lost more and more of my emotional drives. I used to be able to manage this, as I somehow maintained a loose self of myself, despite almost completely barricading my own emotions away to favor logic and rational inquisition (and even then, I still had the emotional passion for knowledge and the drive to continue inquiring.) Slowly, even that turned into a purely pragmatic desire for understanding. I had managed to turn myself into an emotionless automaton dragging itself through life only for fear of death, constantly analyzing itself and the world around it. I barely managed to hold on to my sense of self.
Given a certain person (other than myself), I will (almost subconsciously) use my understanding of human behaviors to build my own model of understanding of that person’s personality, intelligence and way of thinking based on their external behaviors, essentially performing my own psychiatric evaluation of them. I often contrast my own way of thinking to what I believed was theirs, and if there was ever a difference in personality between them and myself, I would identify what aspect of personality was responsible and try to reconcile the difference by imagining how I could change myself to think like them.
A few weeks ago, I made a realization: so blank was my identity, so fragmented had I become, and such was my understanding of myself and my behaviors, that I could now will myself into being virtually whatever combination of my own cognitive capabilities I wanted to be. If ever a I felt like understanding how, say, my mother thinks, I would almost subconsciously rearrange my mind into thinking/being like her appropriate model (the one I had created based on her external behaviors and my understanding of how they correspond to how she thinks. For the sake of brevity, I will be referring to these simply as “models” from here.) I could do this for virtually anyone. It was like I had a superpower, like I was the absolute master of my own mind. There was no concept I couldn’t understand, no mental task I couldn’t achieve by re-purposing different aspects of my mind and/or rearranging my mental state. Or, so it felt.
But with this came a price. I had been completely fragmented, and was more or less, just a loose, ill-defined mess capable of taking on any mental shape. I had no core beliefs, no core opinions, no personal integrity and no emotional drives. Rather, I could become anything, hold any opinions or beliefs, and take on any personality. I could modulate my own intelligence, but had no desire to either allow it to flourish or decay. To combat this, I began creating a “catalyst” persona. Upon invoking it, I would immediately revert to a select form of mine from which I could then revert to my “true” self. Whenever I felt myself slip back into my mindless, selfless state, some part of me would invoke the catalyst, and the catalyst would invoke “me”. This, of course, stunted my personal mental growth, as I would constantly revert back to a certain mental state rather than evolve from it.
With each passing day, I would fragment myself further. I would constantly analyze every part of my mind, adding on to this “superpower” of mine that could enable me to mentally become anything.
By now, my true identity had been almost completely lost. I started noticing a strange phenomenon: I began turning into more of a recipient rather than my own person. Upon being presented with a certain character, I would begin to mimic their mind as I subconsciously believed it to be. I would temporarily be filled not with my own identity (which was too loosely defined for me to hold on to), but rather by this new, “fake” identity my mind had just created that would mimic that of the character I was presented with. It went to such an extent where I wouldn’t be able to access certain faculties of mine that I believed the other person wouldn’t be able to access (for example, if my model of the person I was mimicking implied they would have poor critical thinking skills, my own critical thinking skills would be compromised.) It felt like somewhere deep within me, my true self would expel me to the outermost surfaces of my conscious mind, and make me “play” a certain character, denying me of my full capacities. It was almost like my mind had taken its own fragments (which I had spent so many months separating and controlling), and labeled them as “belonging” to certain personas (rather than there just being one mind in control of everything.)
Because my grasps on both myself and reality are so weak, I can no longer tell the difference between the “real” me and these models which I’ve created. It even goes as far as feeling as though these made-up personas ARE me. You’d think that I’d be able to tell a fake persona from the real me, because only the real me would fully understand all my thoughts, experiences, and the fact that I’m just imagining these people.
But I can’t, and I believe this is ultimately because I’ve become dissociated from myself and reality. It seems I’ve now completely lost the ability to differentiate between reality and my thoughts/imaginations. Whenever presented with some given externality, my mind normally brings up all the associations I have with said given. But now, it’s like my mind has been wiped clear of all preconceptions or associations; like I might as well have just been born right now. The same goes for my memories; I can’t re-associate myself with the person living all my memories (the “real” me.) It’s like the person writing this now and the person who’s been living in my body all my life up until just a few days ago are two completely different people.
I understand that the person writing this isn’t the real me, or the “full” me. I’m living on the edge of my conscious mind right now. I also understand that any impression of being possessed by someone else (which I now constantly struggle to fight against) is also fake, and isn’t the real me. I’ve found that these “possessions” are the result of me believing that these “models”, who’s presences were once only limited to my imagination and could immediately be terminated by the real me, ARE me. The fact that I can’t reconnect with my real, past self, and that I’ve been wiped of all preconceptions and associations, means I’m now open to not just believing, but experiencing the presence of other entities in my mind. But I can’t convince myself that there’s only just one mind anymore. I can never manage to get over these possessions; like I’ve just become a recipient for whatever mental shape feels like manifesting itself in and occupy my head.
I honestly don’t know who, or what, is writing this right now. I know it’s definitely not the real, fully unified me.
they choose and to whom they choose to talk to about their illness. But you can be fairly certain sooner or later , the nature of DID will cause friends or family to notice something . They may come to you with an observation or concern , or worse start to avoid you.
So to me selective openness with those closest to you on a regular bases is a good thing. It will help avoid possible relationship problems later. All of us do well in my humble opinion to help remove our own possible stigma and the public stigma in how we react to mental illness by openly sharing . And in the end we have no control over how others will react. But those of us who deal with the illness 24/7 certainly must do our best to live full , happy lives ,not hiding sort of speak in the shadows as tho we are to odd or weird to live a meaningful life.
@Jeff & Friends I wish our trainers were as nice as your brother-in-law!
Diagnosis came at the age of 47, I am now 58. Therapy has helped immensely, and I'm told I am now integrated. While that sounds wonderful and I've entered school and will graduate in 4 months, I'd like to know why there are still so many unanswered questions of what happened along with years of missing memories. Therapy stopped five years ago and I would love to hear some perspective on this.
The oddest thing is that it was probably one of the best things I ever did. It enabled me to 'connect' and identify the *purpose* of some of my beings, my "survival" alter; who 'took' the pain - all kinds of things. "We" came together like never before in order to survive and escape this thing (which we did, obviously). I think the guy was a former MKULTRA handler who became a bit confused (I was post-MKUltra; another program perhaps; a bit 'kinder and gentler'.) But he was a wonderful teacher as well! (Taught me that "animals are trained; people are TAUGHT" - was helping a couple of my 'littles' become more human). Strange days (and strange daze) indeed.
Just goes to show: sometimes you gotta be careful who you 'come out to' - and I'm kinda weird. Even for a DID being, it seems (sighing). Oh well. It's been fun to tell - and not everyone has the same reaction. Some (most! actually) have been rather kind; some understanding . . . just this one guy, he went 'insane' or something.
Okay, weird life (wry smile) - and moving on (figuratively, literally, and symbolically) :D
I love your blog and I will sure post/read more. I dont have DID, but my ex boyfriend has.
To be honest during the whole relationship of X years I thought I was going crazy. (He did twice mention something, lets say something in the line of 2 other alters and futhermore, he was very secretive with what he has). I never believed in DID so I researched all the other ''disorders'' but I never felt at ''home'' there.
All the signs, symptoms, the change in body structure and so were there. I saw him switching in front of me, so many times (and thought wow I am seeing things, his body changed, I am going crazy), the memory loss and the ''lying'' about things and I literally went crazy. And of course he just gave excuses or blamed me for it all and stated he did not have that type of disorder I though he had...
Until he made a very big mistake. It took me months to figure it out, but I was finally sure I was on the wrong path with the other disorders. It was right in front of me, but I guess I was not ready to believe in DID and the way I know it was DID. Before I could not leave, because something was always pulling me, to stay searching and to open my eyes......
I wrote him I forgive him and if he is ready and wants to talk to me he is welcome. I feel sad my ex boyfriend did not trust me. Due to DID he lost a lot of relationships and I can understand how he is afraid people might find out. He knows - even if I have every reason in the world to hate him for the way I was treated by the alters that hated me- I never gave up trying to find what was/is wrong. I feel I have answered the call and I can let go of the pain....
I think it takes a lot of courage to tell and I guess if I had DID I would think really hard whom I would tell and can trust. I think that due to the people I knew/know in my life and a mild disorder I have I was open and did not cared if he had a disorder/ illness I was researching. If I never knew those people and did not have a mild disorder I think I would have left long time a go thinking he was a jerk.
I wish you all well in your journey. poppy
How can you get the bastards to retract a diagnosis, because it could restrict your employment opportunities. Furthermore, they do not keep the information secret. They leak it deliberately and it could come into the hands of your enmies which will use it to demean you!
I'm not sure how a diagnosis can restrict your employment opportunities unless you're voluntarily reporting it. After all, your clinician doesn't have to know where you're applying for work. So even if this person were so grossly unethical as to go about deliberately trying to keep you from getting a job, how would they know who to tell?
I think I must be missing something. Can you give me a little more information about your situation?
Thanks for your comment.
Though most people don't have Dissociative Identity Disorder, you're certainly not alone. Studies estimate that DID affects up to 1% of the population, and some suggest even more. It sounds so puny - 1% - and percentage-wise it is. But when you consider how many people 1% of the population is, you see that there are a lot of human beings out there that share your struggle.
You're also not alone in having been told you're possessed. I've actually not yet met anyone with DID who hasn't been told they were possessed at one time or another. I've also been told I was "channeling" spirits. It's not unusual to hear that kind of thing. In my case, both people meant well, but sometimes those comments are rather mean-spirited.
totally understand. i also live in a conservative rural area where it might not even be safe to talk about this. i had never heard of this and misdiagnoses is very common. i love my husband but he will never believe in this since i was medicated for other things and did not go well. you are not alone. hang in. love, judith
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
I applaud you for shedding the shame around your mental illness. I'm guessing it'd be almost impossible to emerge from a childhood like the one you briefly describe unscathed, in perfect mental health.
"We’ve never been in trouble with the law, and I’ve never heard anything negative regarding the behavior of others."
That's a remarkable record! Though I've never been in trouble with the law either, I've heard plenty of negative about alters' behaviors ... and my own too. And I don't imagine I've heard the last of it. Even so, though I may sometimes feel remorse about things we've said and/or done, I am not ashamed of having Dissociative Identity Disorder. Like you said, it's an illness.
Our town is very conservative, I have no close friends, and I feel it would be more damaging to my family if I revealed it. I'm sticking with depression and anxiety for now.
Thank you for the do's and dont's. That is extremely helpful should I ever decided to tell anyone else.
Thank you for your comment.
I want to reassure you that though eight months feels like a long time, in terms of adjusting to the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, eight months is not that long at all. It took me two years just to stop reeling, and another three before I was able to finally come to terms with the diagnosis. And while everyone's experience is unique, and there are those who manage to bounce back fairly quickly, it's common for this diagnosis to be initially destabilizing.
Making peace with the diagnosis does not have to mean disclosure. Not everyone is comfortable with sharing something so personal. And that's not only ok but completely understandable. I find it very hard to live with such a huge part of myself hidden. And since much of my work focuses on humanizing and demystifying DID, keeping my diagnosis private isn't practical. But for many people, like you, the risks of disclosure outweigh the potential gains. Giving those risks their due respect is wise, I think.
Hang in there. It gets better.
Of all the things I could have said in response, I think that must have been the only one he hadn't psyched himself out to expect.
He and I actually weren't very close. He had been trying to work on getting ready to tell his family and close friends about his diagnosis, and his psychologist suggested he might want to find someone whose reaction wouldn't hurt him so he could practice disclosing to a 'new' person. He decided that I was nice enough that he didn't think I'd overreact. I was flattered that he thought of me that way, but man did the idea scare the hell out of me! I mean, if he'd guessed wrong, someone he only knew from taking a class together could have gone around blabbing it to all and sundry!
Thanks for your comment.
I can understand why he was surprised! People often don't take news like that in stride. That isn't to say they're usually dismissive or rude or negative in some way. It's just that often they feel awkward and aren't sure how to respond. Still, since coming fully out of the closet about DID I've been surprised at how accepting and just generally cool people are about it. Even if they do feel a little awkward, as long as I don't it helps.
I was formally dx'd with DID this year and because I'd already written about it, people didn't find the dx so hard at all. We've come a long way that people can understand one can be blond or diabetic or autistic for that matter and also have DID.
I generally don't tell new people I meet though. Its generally on a need to know basis. Otherwise I might say that i live with PTSD and dissociation rather than DID. Because people who aren't multiple just struggle to imagine the experience, perceptions of the person with DID.
Thanks for your comment.
"We’ve come a long way that people can understand one can be blond or diabetic or autistic for that matter and also have DID. "
Good point. Honestly, people are far more easy going about it than I ever expected. The stigma and mythology around Dissociative Identity Disorder is still alive and well, but I don't encounter it nearly as often as I would have predicted. And even when I do, it's so heavily overshadowed by all the support and understanding (support and understanding I wouldn't receive if my diagnosis were still a secret, mind you) that it doesn't hurt me like it used to.
"Because people who aren’t multiple just struggle to imagine the experience, perceptions of the person with DID."
True. It's difficult enough to understand when you have it, let alone when you don't. Even so, some of the most helpful insight about DID I've ever received has come from those who don't have it and don't even know that much about it. In some ways, their lack of knowledge is a good thing. They come to DID with fresh eyes, and a unique perspective.
Congratulations on your book! I don't think there are nearly enough resources for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I'm glad there are writers like yourself helping to meet the deman for information and support.
"I know from experience that telling someone can have consequences."
Yes. I will go further though, and say that disclosure nearly always has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are painful, sometimes they're healing. But telling someone you have DID is not the same as telling them you're an accountant, or the mother of three, or that you paint in your spare time. It's a big deal. And I think it's appropriate to approach disclosure with caution.
But I also know that for some people, a very few, living in silence is far more uncomfortable than being called a liar or attention seeker. I'm still a little stunned to find myself in this category of people - those who are "out" about having DID. But here I am.
Thank you, Caroline, for commenting. I'm looking forward to reading your book!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
I thoroughly respect your caution when it comes to disclosing your DID diagnosis. For years I kept Dissociative Identity Disorder to myself and a very few people. Even the thought of revealing my diagnosis to others terrified me. And I rarely discussed it with those very few people I did tell. In fact, I went through a period when I refused to discuss it with even my therapist most of the time. It was a weighty, lonely secret. But one I didn't feel I had the option of disclosing.
I'm not sure why I'm able to live completely out and open about my diagnosis today. I suppose there are a lot of reasons. But I haven't forgotten what it felt like to need to keep my diagnosis as private as possible. It was almost like DID was a living, breathing, and highly vulnerable thing and I was charged with its protection. It's dramatically different for me now, but I'm all too aware that my situation is rare. And I have respect for the choices of others, like yourself. Like you said, we're in this together.
"I had a friend who told everyone in our church she had MPD (many years ago) and they all told her she was 'possessed.'"
I don't think I've met anyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder who hasn't been told, at one time or another, that they were possessed. I remember the first time someone told me. It hurt me deeply and took a surprisingly long time to get over. It's interesting to think about now, because if I heard the same thing today I doubt I'd care much at all.