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DID You Know I Love you

Insights from the Daughter of a Parent with Dissociative Identity Disorder

By Jeanell Norvell, S-LPC, Ph.D.Published 3 months ago 4 min read
Content Created with Jasper Ai

As a daughter of someone with self-diagnosed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I know much too well the complications that can arise from living with an invisible illness. These challenges do not have to define us as adults. What makes DID unique is its ability to alter one’s identity completely, leading to difficulty forming external and internal relationships. It wasn’t until recently that I fully understood what my mom had been dealing with for many years. I often questioned her emotional connection to me. Looking back at her behaviors, emotions, and life experiences through the lens of a mental health professional, I now better understand that my mother did love me.

In this blog, I share my experiences as a survivor to aid others living with parents or family members experiencing mental illness. From the beginning, I want to be clear that my mother was never formally diagnosed with DID. After her death, I read her journals, where she wrote about her experiences and expressed a self-diagnosis of DID. Suddenly, so many things made sense.

My mother had drastic mood, energy level, and cognitive function changes throughout my life. She could be happy and energetic one moment and suddenly switch to an entirely different persona with different thoughts and emotions. This created an environment where it was hard to form lasting relationships, even within our family. On average, we moved about once a year. She was married five times. I frequently had no personal connection with her spouse because I knew little about them. I was abused emotionally, physically, and sexually under her watch. I did not speak out about the experiences until later in life, and she experienced the same under her mother’s watch. This occurred for at least four generations in our family system. The cycle ended with me.

At times the physical and mental exhaustion of living with DID was too much for my mother to bear. As a result, she often isolated herself from us as a family, which bred feelings of confusion and abandonment. Sometimes I felt like she was two completely different people: one who loved me deeply and another who seemed indifferent or resentful.

These sudden shifts in my mother’s behavior and emotions were highly confusing for me as a child. It was hard to understand why she acted one way one moment, then completely differently the next. I tried to understand, but it often felt like an uphill battle. Despite this, there were moments when she seemed genuinely happy and engaged with us as a family. These moments are some of my fondest memories from childhood. I remember her making doll houses for me out of cardboard, kites out of newspaper that we actually flew, and dolls out of yarn because we were often low on funds.

I also remember that she had difficulty forming relationships outside our family unit. Friends would quickly come in and out of her life without warning or explanation. She could never find people who truly understood her condition; instead, they often saw past behaviors as strange or erratic rather than symptoms of DID. This further pushed her into isolation and away from other people who might have been able to offer support or understanding during difficult times.

My mother’s struggle with DID was further exacerbated by her lack of access to mental health care. We lived in rural areas that were not well-served by mental health professionals, in poverty, and my mother had difficulty navigating the complex systems of insurance and funding needed to receive therapy or other forms of treatment. Even if she had been able to find a provider, she did not trust them and felt that family secrets should remain in the family. This also impacted her physical health. Her cancer diagnosis came too late for medical doctors to help her.

I believe this lack of access to mental health care significantly hindered her ability to manage her DID symptoms. I’m sad that she could never get the treatment she needed. She often spoke of wanting to be better and seeking help, but without the proper resources, she found it difficult to make any lasting changes.

Despite the difficulties of living with DID and navigating a complicated mental health care system, my mother was a strong and persistent woman. She had an unwavering faith in a higher power that guided her through life’s most challenging moments and helped her find solace during times of distress. She believed that there was always hope. At the end of her life, all this was conveyed to me through her journals, and healing ensued. No matter what else I experienced, I was loved in the only way she knew to love.

It takes strength and courage to grow up the child of a mother with mental illness. Life can be filled with beauty and pain, but it need not define us or our future. It’s important to remember that while these difficulties present themselves, they do not have to limit our capacity for joy. We must recognize that we can achieve greatness, no matter our obstacles.

Our hardships provide us insight into the universe and give us empathy and understanding that others may never experience. We are survivors in more ways than one, having lived through struggles few can comprehend. I choose to rise above those challenges and live a beautiful life. I invite you to do the same. Let’s use our experiences to spread kindness, seek understanding, and strive for happiness in all aspects of life. Together we can turn darkness into light and create a brighter future for ourselves and perhaps even a few others along the way.

Note: Content created with Jasper Ai.

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About the Creator

Jeanell Norvell, S-LPC, Ph.D.

Stressed? I am on a mission to take the stress out of life transitions. At a crossroads in your personal, professional, or educational life? My blog is designed to empower you to move past roadblocks and achieve your goals.

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