Accepting a Diagnosis of DID

Treatment of Dissociative Identity Disorder has three main phases: stabilization, visiting and reworking the trauma, and then reconnecting the selves and social relationships; healing.

Stabilization is a critical phase of learning and understanding, as well as establishing basic safety.

“Stabilization involves the survivor’s acceptance of the diagnosis and commitment to treatment. Diagnosis is in itself a crisis, and much work must be done to reframe DID as a creative survival tool (which it is) rather than a disease or stigma.” [1]

This is a hell of a thought, and an incredibly positive one at that. This quote resonates in me because it is nonjudgmental and it clarifies the source of the intense added anxiety and stress of finally understanding what has been happening inside for so long.

The doctor who finally diagnosed me described a child who was unable to physically run away from abuse. The only option left is to run away mentally. Despite the popular misconceptions that this diagnosis isn’t real or is incredibly rare, he stressed pretty matter-of-factly that it is just a very creative reaction to intense stress that is more than a mind can handle.

Like I was a slow learner refusing to believe that eating too much ice cream would make me fat.

Kate told him, “Hey, I am an engineer. I want to see facts; proof. There is no blood test for this, no concrete diagnosis, and this is not logical.”

But he contradicted – “This is a very logical response, there is no other choice if you want to survive.”

A child is like a mirror” he continued, “trauma is a hammer that shatters that mirror into many parts.

And into many parts we went. For years and years.

Now in the first steps of recovery, we are also learning that things can get a lot worse before they start getting better. Acceptance of the diagnosis can be both an intense relief to finally have an explanation that fits the bizarre trail of evidence I’ve collected over the years, and a brand new sense of anxieties that this can’t possibly be true.

After an intense literature search, I told my regular therapist that I’d read that PTSD and DID are associated with long term structural changes in the brain. “Part of me wants a brain scan” I told her, “so I can see what changed in my brain.” That part of me still in denial … would that part of me truly believe if presented with a brain scan showing conclusive, statistically significant numerical results?

My therapist shrugged, perhaps trying to convey the irrelevance of the desire. “Why do you need to see the brain scan if you already know what it would show you?

Vacillating, Camigwen often does not believe this diagnosis. It is too bizarre to be true. She hasn’t had the luxury of complete awareness that some of the others have. Denial has been strong in order to survive. Even faced with all the evidence, she will wake up some mornings ready to declare that this has all been a lie – something she somehow made up to explain the unexplainable turmoil that has bubbled in her for years.

Slowly, she is starting to accept, that just possibly this can be true. It does make sense, it does explain the long evidence trail. Not all the memories are repressed; some she has carried buried deep inside her from the start. A box of diaries and drawings and scrawls she doesn’t remember creating, but somehow knows belong to a part deep inside her. The evidence trail is rocky.

She falls into deep depressions and despair over the events of the last 9 months of mental and physical turmoil. We don’t know if she will ever truly believe, or just give up and go along for the ride. And we’ve no idea how the lingering doubt will affect our recovery. But there is no other choice but to continue therapy and wait to see what time brings.

As the quote says, diagnosis is in itself a crises. And that is where we are now – solidly in the stabilization phase. Trying to be aware, nonjudgmental of what is inside, while continuing to maintain work and family obligations.

Trying no longer to hide the disembodied desires and urges, but to allow those parts inside their voice.

And that is how Emily finally got her voice yesterday. That quiet child who had few words but intense emotions, finally pushed through and stamped her feet to get a blog to share what is inside.


For more information, please visit Dissociative Disorders – MPD at RealMentalHealth.com.

[1] Turkus, JA. Diagnosis and Treatment of Dissociative Disorders. Accessed online from http://www.realmentalhealth.com/dissociative_disorders/spectrum_01_2.asp

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[…] Wolf – “Dissociation is the most creative coping skill that I have ever seen • “Birthchilds and Hosts and Presenting Personalities, Oh My! • Accepting a Diagnosis […]


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