#1 Common DID Myth

Myth # 1: It’s easy to spot if someone has DID (Multiple Personalities)

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This (like this picture) is what you’d expect if you believe the depictions of DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), former MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder) in movies or TV. They are weird looking, weird behaving, and easy to spot. And if you take the latest movies featuring a main character with DID (Glass, Split) you better be careful, because THEY are lethal on top of being weird.

I’ve just released the psychological thriller GIRL FROM THE TREE HOUSE about Elise, a woman with multiple personalities who’s fighting for her sanity and freedom as she is accused of murder. A friend of mine said the other day, “Watch out, soon you get a movie contract for the book.”

I had to disappoint her because, movies especially, sell bizarre, exaggerated, sensationalized portrayals with heaps of horror, blood, preferably good looking young girls stabbed to death…and perhaps even a landing of an alien spaceship thrown in. So I’m not staying awake waiting for Hollywood to knock at my door.

The reality of living with DID is much more mundane, much more subtle. Often friends, colleagues, or neighbors don’t have a clue. Even professional health providers don’t always notice. People with DID can spend years in the health system without being diagnosed. Co-morbidity is high among them. Topping the list are severe depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance abuse. If treatment focuses on the latter, the person with DID will not get much better.

My aim with my book is to debunk the myths about DID and show the heartwrenching and heartwarming struggle they call ‘life’ as well as show pathways of recovery…all wrapped into a thrilling plot. Sorry, no human monsters, no silence of the lambs. The ordinary, daily life delivers excitement enough.

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I think I achieve it, going by the reviews that are coming in, for example:

What an incredible story! Stepping into the world of a person with multiple personalities was fascinating. This psychological thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. Beautifully written, hauntingly powerful, and a true testament to the power of the human spirit. Highly recommended. (Leeanna Morgan, USA Today bestselling author, BookBub)

Easily the best book I’ve read about DID (dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder) with clear insight into how, why and when the personalities surfaced and interacted with each other, and how it affected the life of a young girl in New Zealand.
This helped me understand much more about how the disorder can consume the mind and life of people and how their emotional well being is further constrained by society’s stigma and their own fear of being hospitalized.
Well written and engaging, I look forward to the next book in this new series.
Thank you to the publisher and author for sharing this e-book ARC for review. (Dorie, Goodreads)

What do you think? If you haven’t read it yet, get your copy and let me know if I achieved what I set out to do. I love hearing from you.

Facts and Fiction about MPD/DID

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It is almost ten years since I started working on my book GIRL IN THE TREE HOUSE. Back then I stopped after a few months frustrated and discouraged. Somehow what I wrote didn’t feel right. What I read on paper looked like a hybrid between fiction and non-fiction. Weighed down by years of academic writing, I struggled with a piece that, in my eyes, had a serious identity crisis. “Am I a novel, a scientific paper, or an instruction manual?” As it turned out, it was none of them. Continue reading

Is it like the United States of Tara?

GirlFromTheTreeHouseThis article was previously published in “The Voices in the Tree House Blog.” I put it here for two reasons. 1) I’m interested to hear what people thought about the TV series. There are so many conflicting opinions out there, including some very nasty stuff. I can only shake my head when I read some of the venomous comments.

2) I’d like to spread the word about the book I’ve written. It’s in the post-production phase they would call it in the movies. A few more weeks. I have worked with multiples–I still call it multiples… the term DID never DID jell with me. I guess I’m oldfashioned like that–for 25 years and am deeply saddened by the misconstructions and misunderstanding multiples have to deal with. Not much has improved since I started this blog 11 years ago. With my book Girl From The Tree House, I’m portraying the inner world of a multiple (written from the alters/parts point of view) and how they deal with some nasty stuff that equally nasty people throw at them.

This is what Elise, one of the characters of the book, had to say:…

“We’ve had a long discussion among us about who should write this post. Nobody wanted to step up. All these people speaking about us is not what we anticipated. Yes, we wanted to take part in portraying a more realistic life of a person who has multiple parts to their personality and is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder than what is often found in books or the movies. Honestly, I’d rather buckle down and move on to the next book. I’ve been told it takes getting this one finished first, and it takes some more polishing before it can be published. *rolling my eyes*

I, that is Elise, drew the short straw. We are often asked if the GIRL FROM THE TREE HOUSE is like the ‘United States of Tara’, you know, the TV series that ran from 2009-2011.

The short answer is, I don’t know. I never watched the series. I watched the trailers and several bits and pieces online recently. To some of what we saw we can relate. Although, most of it is like… whoa over the top. They called it a comedy-drama. I completely missed the comedy bit.

Either way, living with DID is not funny. It’s not a Peek-a-boo game we forgot to substitute with Cluedo or Chess as we got older. It’s pretty hard work to keep functioning as a team and making life work for us.

What surprised me was that parts behaved badly without consequences or regard for the system and others around them. If we would have done only s.o.m.e of what ‘T’ or ‘Buck’ (Tara’s parts) got up to, Sky would have stepped in and Ama would have given us a piece of her mind. (No, not the belt, we don’t do that nasty stuff.) Perhaps some people with DID might behave like that (or kill people like in the movie SPLIT) but they would be exceptions and not the norm.

Overall, from what I watched, I feel the series let people with multiple personalities down. I guess, showing ‘normal’ life wouldn’t be exciting enough for the makers of TV series. For us, though, our ‘normal’ has enough hair raising moments, especially when the people from our past show up.

What can I say? You’ve got to wait until the book comes out. It shouldn’t be too much longer.”

If you are curious about the book and its release date, subscribe to my newsletter here. I’m not sending them out very often (I rather keep writing on my next story).

Hearing Voices: From The Inside Out

This is a lovely 14 minute clip of Eleanor Longden describing her journey from a perceived madness to recovery. Besides any doubts we may have of her diagnosis of schizophrenia, her process of recovery sounds very much like recovery from DID. Take care, take faith, and take hope.

Messages From The Past

Messages from the past are a bit of a mixed bag, aren’t they? Remember the movie ‘The Goonies’, where kids are finding an old treasure map in the attic and get quite excited about the possibility of helping their parents out financially, ending up – after overcoming dangerous booby traps – finding an old pirate ship full of jewels and gold?  Happy ending, but a nail-biter in between. I suppose, one could say the message was a positive one, given that it evoked excitement and hope.

Other messages from the past are not so positive. Most people who read this blog have had a history of abuse and neglect. They struggle with old messages either given through hurtful words and actions or through neglect, the absence of caring and nurturing words and behaviours. In short these messages can be summed up as ‘you are not worthy of care, love, and protection. One can easily see that the later messages are negative ones given they can be emotionally crippling and causing symptoms (low/no self-confidence, lack of self-care, lack of emotion regulation skills) some people label as ‘mental illness’.

Most survivors, if I would be able to take them onto a journey into the past whereby we could visit a fellow survivor in her childhood and observe a situation when they are being hurt, would say without hesitation that the fellow survivor does not deserve to be hurt, it’s not her fault, there was nothing she did wrong. Indeed they would immediately see that the parent and/or abuser were accountable of their acts no matter what excuses they would utter.

How come that people carry these message for years and years in their hearts? Partially because there are strong painful emotions accompanying abuse and emotions act like glue, they make memories stick! Another reason is that abuse happens mostly in childhood when the kid’s cognitive development is mainly shaped by egocentrism causing her to believe that she ‘made’ it happen.

Looking back as adults, we can see easily the fault in such thinking. How then are we to understand survivors tendency to nurture these old negative messages from the past? Especially given that often the message sender was ‘out of his/her mind’? Given that what a person says or does has all to do with that person and with nobody else. Given that a statement such as “you are …. xyz” can’t possibly be true and accurate given that whatever a person perceives is filtered through his/her own history, filters, biases and subject to distortion, deletion, and generalisations.

I hope that survivors give some attention to the function of thought in human’s experience of creating reality and scrutinize their own thoughts about themselves. Thinking “I am not OK” or anything negative about themself can’t possibly be real because it does not take the whole person into consideration and completely ignores that thoughts are just thoughts. They are like a picture of a person but never the living person. A living person is more than a picture can ever convey.

I wonder what help my readers with putting their self-perceptions into perspective. If you want to know how understanding the processes of thought, mind, and consciousness can help you to have a better life, and if you want to know how to let go of a child’s perspective, follow this link and contact me.

Internal Warfare

A reader of this blog commented yesterday on my post “Achieving Co-consciousness” and described in deeply touching words the heartache of living with so much fear, not knowing, not understanding, and internal dissonance. Reading the comment I got a really good feel for the ‘outside’ people who try to manage the everyday life as best as possible, and the ‘inside’ people who seem to try to manage the inner world of memories and feelings that go with these memories.

My first thought was “just like it happens in real life when people go to war against each other”. Whether it’s the Germans against the Western World during the WWII, the Muslims against the Jews, the North Irish against the British, East against West, North against South, there is no difference. Each party is convinced they have a justification to go to war, fight for their right(s), even give their lives for the cause.

None of the parties is listening to what the other has to say. Instead, all they try to do is brow-beating the ‘opposition’ into submission, using all kinds of semantics or other intimidation methods. “I am right” … “… no, I am righter” (I know this is not correct english, go away spell-check!). All parties have their opinion already set in concrete. They are not open to new ideas. They don’t listen with care in their heart, they listen looking for evidence to agree or disagree with what is said. Hop over to my post “Just Listen” to get a clearer picture of what I mean.

What does that mean for ‘inside’ people and ‘outside’ people? Well, for starters, how well do you listen to each other? Do you listen with love in your heart or do you already have a judgement on your mind? And then, what happens when you (outside person) lose time and become an inside person? Do you then become part of the ‘inside group’ and become hostile, difficult, or not understanding?

Given that we can NEVER EVER see reality as it really is, that all we ever can know is ONLY our interpretation of that reality, its highly likely that neither inside nor outside people are getting the right end of the stick. Certainly when people are highly strung, emotionally distressed, or hurting lots, thinking and perceiving what is going on is unlikely to be very accurate. Only when you are in a calm state of mind and at peace is your mind in a state to get a clear picture.

I agree that it is much easier to understand the conflicting inner world when we talk about ‘parts’ – and each person has a psychological mind structure that can be understood by using the ‘parts-metaphor’. On a physical, observable playing field we are talking about the same person, one body, one heart, one set of lungs, and one mind. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of that! In physical reality, this internal warfare takes place in the very small space between your ears. Please, be nice to that poor, overworked, stretched out brain.

The Rocky Road of Integration

DID System There seems to be a myth about integration where people expect never to have flashbacks, depression, and triggers to interfere with their lives. Although they interlectually understand and even proclaim that "recovery is a lifelong process", they get discouraged when they find themselves in spaces that are very reminicent of the 'bad times'. So here are some thoughts about this confusing, difficult phase.

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What’s When You Have A Gay Part?

Gay couple I have often experienced that a multiple has parts that are gay. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there are many people who are either 100% heterosexual or 100% gay. Most people can be located somewhere on a continuum between <gay and straight>.

I can imagine that it feels more absolute and set in concrete for a multiple, because you don’t have instant access to the feelings of all your other parts.

Everyone – multiple or not – has to manage their feelings and attractions. If you or a part of you is attracted to a person of the same sex, what are the consequences of acting on that attraction? If you think it’s alright, you might have a wonderful relationship ahead of you. Managing these attractions, processing with your whole system what it means to have a same sex partner, and getting the support from people around you, is something that can be discussed and practiced in therapy.

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Achieving Co-Consciousness: Trauma Work

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Most people would agree that working through the traumatic memories of abuse and neglect is one of the main pathways that lead to co-consciousness. However, trauma work does not stop once a memory has been shared with the therapist and its meaning has been interpreted in a new way. Trauma work also means to restore self-capacities that were arrested or did not develop. Take for example a memory that led to the part holding it coming to the conclusion “You can’t trust people” and acts accordingly.

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