Get the Most Out of Dissociative Identity Disorder Support

November 22, 2010 Holly Gray

Lately I've a greater need for Dissociative Identity Disorder support and community. But like most people with DID, I have serious trust issues. I'm far more comfortable on the fringes of any given group where I have a clearer view of the dynamics and can maintain a safe distance. Still, I'm a human being wrestling with tough stuff. I need understanding and fellowship - something many with DID find sporadically, if at all. It's important, therefore, to get the most out of whatever support we're given.

[caption id="attachment_936" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="Photo by Linzi Clark"]Photo by Linzi Clark[/caption]

Value Small Acts of Dissociative Identity Disorder Support

I used to write about DID to an audience of no more than five. Desperate for support but scared to reach out, I'd periodically write something, immediately feel overexposed, and regret speaking up at all. One day I said as much and asked for a sign of life, anything to let me know my readers heard and cared. A friend replied simply, "I'm here. I'm listening." Does that seem like a paltry offering? Truth be told, listening is a grossly underrated gift. Sometimes these small supportive acts aren't so small when we stop to consider their value. Part of getting the most out of what we're given is recognizing what's offered. It would have been easy to brush off my friend's comment as lip service. It also would have been short-sighted - she's since made good on her offer many times over.

But what if I hadn't asked?

[caption id="attachment_940" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Photo by Alina Sofia"]Photo by Alina Sofia[/caption]

Ask for Dissociative Identity Disorder Support

It's terrifying, I know, to ask for what you need. I usually suffer in silence rather than risk rejection. Asking for support won't always pan out well. How many times have you put your neck out only to be reminded of why you have trust issues in the first place? How many times have you ranted that people will let you down and the sooner you get that through your thick head the better? A lot? Me too. But I've also marveled at the enormous human capacity for compassion and empathy. I try to give those experiences at least as much weight as the disappointments because I know my chances of getting what I need are sorely diminished when I don't ask.

Give Dissociative Identity Disorder Support

Call me a cynic but I don't believe true altruism really exists. As noble as my primary motives may be, I get something out of supporting others. Giving someone else support and encouragement reminds me that other people are hurting and vulnerable too. By offering another the grace and understanding I so badly need, I'm not just letting them know they're not alone; I'm letting me know I'm not alone too.

Genuine support, I believe, includes recognizing that empathy and compassion aren't enough to heal the wounds most people with Dissociative Identity Disorder are living with. But if you're like me, they're enough to sustain you for another day.

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APA Reference
Gray, H. (2010, November 22). Get the Most Out of Dissociative Identity Disorder Support, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Holly Gray

November, 24 2010 at 2:28 pm

Lots of people that I know (and yes, I have been diagnosed many years ago with DID) are highly functional and dissociative. I was too for several years after starting memory work with my first therapist.
DID is nothing to be ashamed of. Every human at one time or another (this is MY thinking....) has had an 'dissociative' moment. However, due to the fact that most dissociation is caused by some sort of psychological distress not all people goes on to develop different personalities or personality states.
DID is one of the least understood personality disorders. I feel because of the fact that it was one of the most stigmatized ones early on!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 25 2010 at 7:00 pm

Hi Beverly,
DID isn't actually a personality disorder at all, though I understand why so many people think that it is. The label Multiple Personality Disorder was pretty misleading, as far as the classification of the disorder goes. Even so, I agree with you that DID is one of the most stigmatized mental disorders, no matter the classification.
And I further agree that every human experiences dissociation in one form or another from time to time. I believe DID is in fact an extreme manifestation of what everyone experiences. That's why I think humanizing and demystifying DID in both the general public and within the mental health community is possible.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Beverly.

Donna Williams
November, 24 2010 at 1:28 pm

Hi Holly, hi Kerri. Being out as having DID is difficult but I'm amazed that for some people, its just 'oh, ok' and some will ask questions, some will say things like 'oh well you're always just one Donna to me' which is sort of like saying 'you don't look like someone with diabetes'. Some will say which of my selves they've met or ask me to help them identify who is/was who. Some will say which ones they liked or found challenging, then I'll advocate for those ones they didn't like so everyone knows inside they are equal. My husband is wonderful, loves them all and insists they are all loved equally, though differently, no matter what. So it does get better, inside and in interactions with the external world. But DID is alienating though it helps to remember we are still part of human diversity.
Donna et al.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 25 2010 at 6:41 pm

Hi Donna,
Thanks for your comment.
I've been surprised to find that many people aren't really fazed by the knowledge that I have DID. They take it in stride and aren't unnerved at all. It's something I've been pleased to discover since coming out publicly as someone with DID.
"But DID is alienating though it helps to remember we are still part of human diversity."
That's a good reminder, Donna, thank you.

November, 24 2010 at 1:38 am

Hi Holly, I really get what you are talking about. There is a book I read once called Exposure Anxiety by Donna Williams which is about exactly what the title describes, how incredibly painful it can be to feel that you are seen by others in this world, really seen. And even though this book is written more for people with Autism and Aspergers it can apply to anyone with anxiety issues and more. I certainly felt it in many ways applied to myself as someone with DID. Because to ask for help one must expose truths about themselves to others and this is almost contrary to the creation and consequent covert nature of DID.
All my life I have hidden who I am and what I have been thinking and feeling, many times when I was young, out of necessity.  And this became so entrenched I lost the ability to know these things about myself. And I certainly believed that to allow others to see me was to court invasion and pain. Hiding inside myself was the only way to keep myself safe. Even now when I am finally starting to let others in in very small amounts, I suffer psychic pain doing so and also somatic pain. So when my husband for example asks me a personal question about my DID, I at times feel this incredible urge to grit my teeth, hyperventilate, and curl up into a ball. I also experience strong nerve pain in my lower back which activates like absolute clock work when I feel exposed. Usually during these times I try not to lie which is always my first instinct, and inside keep telling myself to breathe slowly and it will all be over in a minute and I can get through this short conversation. All this when asked just one personal question about who I really am, or how I really experience the world. Funnily enough I don't have this same trauma when I talk to you or others with DID on the internet. Maybe because I know all of you understand the psychic pain that can be involved with feeling exposed. And I think this is why many of us find it so hard to ask for help or accept it, because asking for help exposes our needs or difficulties and opens up our reality to others. At times a very scary thing to do. 

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 25 2010 at 6:38 pm

Hi kerri,
You have a way with words ...
"All my life I have hidden who I am and what I have been thinking and feeling, many times when I was young, out of necessity. And this became so entrenched I lost the ability to know these things about myself. And I certainly believed that to allow others to see me was to court invasion and pain."
That inability to know things about myself is incredibly frustrating and causes so many relationship problems. I think this is a big part of why people with DID often hear from others that they're liars. And I really relate to what you said about courting invasion and pain. And it seems any negative consequence of bravely opening up reinforces that fear more than positive consequences diminish it.
I haven't read Donna's book but it's on my list. It sounds really insightful, as her occasional comments here are as well (see above for a note from Donna).
Thanks for commenting, kerri. I enjoy hearing your perspective and love the way you express yourself.

November, 23 2010 at 8:56 am

Hi Manymes,
Any communication is a courageous step.
Take care,

November, 23 2010 at 12:45 am

Seemingly small acts of kindness can mean so much. A smile, an acknowledgment, a comment on a blog... They're all ways of saying "I see you", "I'm listening", "You're important". The value of that can never be underestimated.
I'm glad you're getting a part of what you need out of the interactions Holly. It takes huge amounts of courage and strength to open ourselves up, even just a little bit. But the rewards of taking that risk, can be huge.
Mareeya, you described so much of how I cope and function in the world. I'm considered high-functioning, but the only reason for that is the high level of compartmentalisation that goes into every day. It sounds like you have a really good working relationship with your therapist...
Take care,

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 25 2010 at 6:22 pm

Hi CG,
"The value of that can never be underestimated."
Well said. And I think when times are rough it becomes even more important to value the seemingly small things. They may be all we have to get us through another day.
Thank you, CG.

November, 22 2010 at 3:42 pm

thank you. that is all they will let me say without feeling too exposed.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 22 2010 at 6:48 pm

Hi manymes,
I understand. Thank you for reading and making what I suspect was a very real effort to leave this comment. I appreciate it.

November, 22 2010 at 9:36 am

Hello Holly....and Thank you. I have been reading your blog with fascination for a couple of weeks now. I have been amazed, and envious of the way you are able to express exactly what I feel, but cannot express. I decided to sign up here a few days ago with the intent to finally try to express myself, but then chickened out.
After reading this, I thought....if this post doesn't bring me out, then nothing will. So here I am.
I started seeing my current therapist 8 years ago. I wanted some help for my "anxiety issues". She knew pretty early on that I had DID, but she also knew she had to tread very lightly around me with that diagnosis because I would walk out and never come back. She had been working with me for years just focusing on my PTSD. That was a diagnosis I could accept.
She tried to finally tell me two years ago about my DID, but I wouldn't talk about it. I have some different masks, and they somehow change sometimes, with or without my knowledge. Doesn't everybody? I have large gaps in my memory. Doesn't everybody? I could go on and on. This past year....I finally took her advice to keep a journal. I wrote for a couple of weeks, then went back to read it. I couldn't believe what I was reading. I had no choice but to see the switching. It was right there on paper. That finally forced me to accept it. I am also pretty high functioning which made my diagnosis even harder to accept. I didn't realize that my diagnosis was 'why' I'm high functioning. Without DID, I probably wouldn't function at all.
I am finally starting to be okay with my diagnosis, and actually see it as the gift that allowed me to survive. I have a long way to go, obviously.
Anyway....sorry this is so long. I really just wanted to thank you, Holly. Outside of my work, I keep myself totally isolated. You have given me the courage to come out.
Keep up the good work. I have great admiration for your ability to express what many of us cannot.
-- Mareeya

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Holly Gray
November, 22 2010 at 6:46 pm

Hi Mareeya,
Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate the encouragement.
"I didn’t realize that my diagnosis was ‘why’ I’m high functioning. Without DID, I probably wouldn’t function at all."
Yes! You know, it feels like a catch-22 a lot of the time. DID allows me to function and yet in other ways it interrupts functioning. Almost like a medication with intrusive side effects.
For what it's worth, I think communicating about DID outside of your system and therapist is an enormously difficult thing to do at first. It's frightening in part because it defies the rules of Dissociative Identity Disorder itself. I absolutely understand that it feels like chickening out to begin to reach out and then step back in fear - I felt like a chicken in similar situations more times than I can count. But I don't believe it really is about courage or the lack thereof. You're moving against instinct, against a well honed mechanism designed to keep you safe. It takes time and hard work to adjust that mechanism. Your comment is an example of that hard work. That took intention, thought, and the processing of some emotions, yes? That's work.
I hope to hear from you again, Mareeya. Thank you for reading.

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