Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness
Near the bottom of the HealthyPlace homepage there's an audio widget, bordered in orange with the header Share Your Mental Health Experience. If you have a spare three minutes, please play the clip titled "I Hear A Voice in My Head" and listen to one woman poignantly illustrate why I write about Dissociative Identity Disorder. This woman, like so many others, is struggling in isolation with something she doesn't understand. "People act like it's nothing," she says. No matter the condition, there will always be people who act like it's nothing. Talking about mental illness, publicly and honestly, is the only way I know to ease that kind of invalidation.
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Just Talking about Mental Illness Invites Negation
At first I was astonished that smart, educated people would rather believe I'm maliciously manipulative than consider that Dissociative Identity Disorder is a legitimate psychiatric condition. 'What is the deal with DID?' I wondered. 'Why are so many people determined to chalk my experiences up to anything but this diagnosis?' Eventually I realized that the pervasive unwillingness to acknowledge mental illness isn't exclusive to DID. I'd wager that anyone talking about mental illness has met with people who act like it's nothing.
- Anxious? Just stop worrying already.
- Depressed? Have some gratitude. You'll feel better.
- Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms are just cries for attention.
Because so many psychiatric disorders are extreme manifestations of what everyone experiences from time to time, it's easy to see why some people believe mental illness is an inclination towards the dramatic or simply a total lack of personal responsibility. Fortunately, converting the non-believers has never been my goal.
When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do. - William Blake
Talking about Mental Illness for the Sake of the Mentally Ill
I've long since realized that debating these attitudes is an exercise in futility and an utter waste of my time. Arguing the validity of Dissociative Identity Disorder won't help that woman who hears the voice in her head. But what if she searched the web and found a blog post from someone else who hears voices and knows how distressing that can be? What if she came across just one person who didn't act like what she's living with is nothing? Instead of invalidated and dismissed, she might feel understood and taken seriously. That won't solve her problems, sure. But she might feel less alone with them.
Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness
Whether you have Dissociative Identity Disorder or some other mental illness, there are people who will act like it's nothing. That matters less to me than the encouragement, support, and validation so many offer just by sharing their stories. To those people I say thank you, and please don't stop talking about mental illness.
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Gray, H. (2010, December 21). Don't Stop Talking about Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/12/dont-stop-talking-about-mental-illness
Author: Holly Gray
I hope everyone had a safe Christmas, and Happy New Year.
From experience we have often learnt to close ourselves in and not talk. So to open up to others is very difficult. And I'd hazzard a bet, that many people around us have very little understanding of how difficult a process it is to acknowledge our own DID, let alone talk about it openly. We are a very robust group in some ways, yet incredibly vulnerable in others, and talking about our DID is like touching raw skin. And the general info out there doesn't help. I mean where is it portrayed clearly how difficult it is to accept a personal daignosis of DID. Also where is it addressed that discussing ones own diagnosis can be extremely painful and problematic. Certainly media potrayals don't focus on these things. And sometimes the general public have only these sources to refer to. I wish some insightful person with DID did an actual documentary on the reality of DID not the hype. Compassion comes from an understanding of others truths, and this springs from awareness brought on by accurate information. Given how little accurate info so far has reached the general public it's not so surprising there's a lot of disbelief out there. I suppose what we hope for, is that those who are close to us will choose to believe we speak the truth, and allow this to outway preconceived ideas. And as you said Holly, atleast in forums like this we can come together for the exchange of accurate information and support.
" ... I think the difficulty in discussing DID isn’t always about who the audience is but our own vulnerabilities as DID sufferers."
I think you're absolutely right. As I became less and less vulnerable about Dissociative Identity Disorder, I became more and more able to talk about it. For years I hated talking about it. HATED it. If I told my past self that one day they'd be blogging publicly about DID they'd laugh bitterly. It was an extremely sore and sensitive subject for me for a long, long time.
But that, fortunately, can change.
"Compassion comes from an understanding of others truths, and this springs from awareness brought on by accurate information. Given how little accurate info so far has reached the general public it’s not so surprising there’s a lot of disbelief out there."
Yes! That's one of the reasons it's so important to me to talk openly about DID, now that I'm able to do so without compromising myself or my system.
Thank you, kerri.
I agree....there is a lot to be said for feeling validated.
I have an acquaintance from work whose mother suffers from severe depression. Months ago, she was complaining that she didn't believe her mother's illness. She revealed that she was going to avoid seeing or speaking to her mother until her mother finally realized that there was no such thing as mental illness. She really seemed embarrassed, and disgusted by her mother's weakness. I gently explained to her that what her mother has is very real, and how it could be very dangerous if she has no one in her life who understands. I encouraged her to do some research, and to hang in there with her mother. More was said, but to make a long story short...today she is much closer with her mother. They talk nearly everyday, and she now discusses her mother's mental illness with much more understanding.
So yes, it is very important to keep talking about mental illness.
I also was one of those people who stumbled upon this blog while at a low point. The validation I feel when I come here has meant the world to me.
I also want to call your attention to an advocacy organization called Mental Health America, see: http://www.nmha.org/
I do think questioning things is a good quality. It got me in a lot of trouble as a kid though. ;)
Thanks for the link.
That's what happened to me. I'm so glad you all shared.
People with Dissociative Identity Disorder are often accused of lying and faking. One of the primary reasons for that is that DID doesn't look the way people expect it to. Generally, people with DID just look moody, or like they contradict themselves. It would be, in my opinion, highly unlikely that the family of someone with DID would suspect that they have it. Your comment is precisely what I'd expect from someone whose sister has been diagnosed with DID. :) Your confusion and doubt is 100% understandable.
However, I'd like to gently point out that you cannot know whether or not your sister experienced abuse or trauma as a child. You may very well have lived in a non-abusive home and had what many consider to be a normal childhood. But that doesn't mean your sister wasn't regularly traumatized without your or anyone else's knowledge.
"she says she doesnt remember stealing from her previous job. Yet while she worked there she would tell us that she had to go in early to help with inventory that only she knew how to do."
I understand that right now this seems wildly contradictory, but it's not. If your sister has DID, knowledge of the stealing is likely highly compartmentalized. You may talk to her one day and she admits to the stealing with no problem. Mention it again the next, and she may claim she has no idea what you're talking about.
DID does not just appear one day for no reason. However, when people are diagnosed with DID, it's very common for the symptoms of the disorder to be exacerbated for a period of time. To others, this ends up looking like the individual didn't have DID until they were told they have it! But that simply isn't the case.
In fact, much of what makes you doubt her diagnosis is classic, textbook Dissociative Identity Disorder in action. DID is designed to go undetected. Those with it have systems of alters that often do an amazing job of hiding the disorder.
I applaud you for reading and asking questions here. I encourage you to keep reading, keep asking questions. Everything most people think they know about this disorder is wrong. It takes time, thought, and effort to gain genuine understanding of DID. But from what you described, not only are there many cases like your sisters, but I'd wager most cases look much like hers from the outside.
You don't simply get over the feeling that she's faking it. You do what you're doing - research, ask questions, be honest about your concerns and doubts.
I do believe that there is a place for the doubters... blind belief is rarely positive, and there can be healing in their questioning. But, I believe that the questioning should always come from a place of respect and having an open mind. There are also times when the questioning, no matter how gentle, can be devastating. So yes, I agree Holly... people need to keep talking. You never know when a blog with a small readership, will be stumbled upon by someone at a low point, and they will gain a sense of validation through reading a shared experience, reaction or feeling.
I love the way you said this: "I do believe that there is a place for the doubters… blind belief is rarely positive, and there can be healing in their questioning." I couldn't have said it better.
This is one of my favorite quotes: I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education. -Wilson Mizner
At least half of my education about Dissociative Identity Disorder has blossomed as a result of doubt and skepticism - my own and others'. But for me there is a difference between questioning things and what the woman in the audio clip describes - no acknowledgment of her distress at all. Just like those of us struggling with this disorder would do well to consider conflicting points of view, those who adamantly refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of mental illness would too. As I see it, that's part of the benefit of talking about mental illness - exchanging experiences and perspectives in order to gain understanding. But like you pointed out, respect is key.