I joke about it extensively. I mention it in passing from time to time. I’ve never really talked about it, though. Partially out of fear, partially out of frustration, I try to keep it at arm’s length. Consider this my first steps to try and change that.
First things first, what is DID? It stands for Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. I’ve always described it as “never being alone, even when you’re the only one in the house” or “having your own personal party.” It’s a reaction to trauma, your mind’s way of protecting you, so to speak. My past isn’t a secret. It was very abusive, but I don’t remember a fraction of it. Whether that’s a blessing or a curse remains to be seen.
So, what is it like, living with an illness like DID?
Personally, it’s nothing short of a rollercoaster for me. There are swaths of black, quiet spaces in my memory. There are times and places that I have no recollection of whatsoever, and people who know me so well… but I have absolutely no idea who they are or how we know each other. At first, it’s unnerving. My anxiety goes through the roof because I feel like this disgusting person who can’t even be bothered to at least remember a person’s name. I try to remind myself that it isn’t my fault, but that’s easier said than done.
Another lovely aspect of sorts is something called depersonalization. This is defined as detachment from the self. Your body and mind don’t feel like yours and things don’t feel real. There are days where I wake up and look in the mirror and I have no idea who I’m looking at. Or I can look down at my hands and my brain will scream, “THOSE AREN’T MINE! WHERE ARE MY HANDS!?” Unfortunately, this has led to many self-harm episodes where I have to “get rid of what’s not mine” and find my hands, my face, etc. As of now, I don’t have a set way to deal with this, short of a little mantra I whisper to myself in between deep breaths: “This is my home, this is my face, this is my body, I’m completely safe.” I make it rhyme on purpose. Easier to remember and I’m all about rhythm. We’re not counting medications, of course. Different story for a different day.
That’s how I live with it, but how do the people around me live with it? Let’s be honest, if you have any sort of mental illness, those closest to you or those who interact with you, deal with you, for lack of a better term, as you deal with it. In my own little walk, I’ve come across many different kinds of people.
On one hand, you have the people who pity you and baby you. “Oh, you poor baby! How do you ever live with such a thing?” I mean, I’m here, aren’t I? No, it’s not easy, yes it sucks beyond all comprehension, but I’m still here. Included in that group are people who feel the need to White Knight for you. To all those people, I get that your intentions are noble… but we need you to stop. You are legitimately suffocating us. Defending us is great, it’s awesome, because of the miles upon miles of stigmas there are surrounding the illness, and mental illness in general.
Case in point: As I’ve stated above, I joke about DID. A lot. “But Mina! How can you joke about something that has, at times, completely turned your life on its head and made you seek out a new normal, knowing this is something that will have a hold on you until the day you die?” It’s simple, dear babies. If I wasn’t laughing, I would still be curled up in a ball in the corner, sobbing 'til my lungs were on fire and thinking of the best way to end it all. I refuse to go back there. That’s why we make jokes, that’s why we laugh as much as we can. Anyway, one of my favorite jokes I like to make is: “Relationship getting stale? Date a girl with DID! It’ll be like dating a different person every 10 minutes! You’ll never be bored again!” I thought that joke was pretty damn clever and decided to post it. People loved it and laughed about it with me… until the White Knight reared its head. “How dare you make light of such a horrible mental illness!? There are people who have to suffer through this every single day and you have the nerve to make fun of it!” The comment went on and on and on about how much of a horrible person I was and that I should put myself in the shoes of the people who are suffering. I answered. “I have put myself in their shoes. I’m one of them. I lace those bitches up and strut in them on a daily basis, Sugar Tits. Calm down.”
Then, the tune changed from me being chastised for bullying a group that I was a part of, to being chastised for making such horrible remarks about myself.
“You are a beautiful soul!” my new White Knight scolded. “Don’t you dare talk so lowly about yourself! You’re amazing, you’re wonderful, etc…”
Eventually, this person ran out of steam and left me alone, but hopefully, that helps you see my point. Again, it is absotively, posilutely beautiful that you want so hard to defend us and understand our plight, it really is… but please, please be careful how you do it. If not, you become the oppressor, when all you wanted to do was help the oppressed.
On the other hand, you have to deal with the people who don’t believe in what’s going on. I can’t count how many times people have accused me of making up my mental illness. “Look, I get there’s depression and anxiety or whatever, but multiple personalities? B***h, this ain’t Hollywood! You been watchin’ too many movies!” (This is an actual quote from a family member, by the by. Mental illness is still seen as “nonexistent” in some of the black community, but again, different story for a different day.)
I had to learn the hard way, and very quickly, that these people do not matter and to pay them no mind. Am I completely perfect at ignoring them? Are any of us truly perfect at ignoring the people whose sole purpose is to make us feel subhuman? We can have a good track record, sure, but there are always going to be times where we trip up on the track. Best we can do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, clean our wounds, and try again.
So, yes. I smile and joke about it, but I also battle through it. I hit it back when it hits me in the best way I know how. It’s a funny sort of relationship we have, but one thing is for certain: I’m the one that wears the pants around here. Of all 31 people up there, I think I’m my favorite (Disclaimer: There are not 31 personalities, as far as we know. At most, we’ve been introduced to 4. My brain isn’t that crowded. Yet.).