All possible jokes aside, DID really is an isolating condition when you get down to it.
If you have depression, anxiety, or a mood disorder, chances are that you will know a lot more people who can relate to your experiences, and you will also have more choices of group therapy or just therapists in general (I am aware that not everyone has access to these, of course). There are more resources in general, such as in books, online or in GP offices. People dispel more stigma surrounding these disorders than other disorders.
With DID, I have found that it can isolate you within your own home, around family. Maybe your family gets weirded out even just talking about dissociation or DID in vague ways, let alone when a symptom occurs. Maybe it makes them feel a certain way and they don’t know what to do or what to say, so you try to hide your symptoms or hide yourself away. Maybe it is the big proverbial elephant in the room, and the only way it’s really talked about is jokingly – not in a bad way, just in a way that shows they are definitely uncomfortable. Maybe you are just having a regular mood swing (yes, you can still have those without a switch!) and you see them searching your face, trying to figure out if it’s you.
And let’s talk about the isolation in the community:
- Some professionals do not believe in DID or do not keep up with the research, so they are woefully uneducated, unaware, and unfit. They may allow their personal bias to prevent them from seeing what other professionals would see.
- You may encounter people who ask you to prove your DID right there on the spot. And I’m talking about disability determiners, people who work to help disabled individuals find suitable work, professionals…
- It will be difficult to find someone who truly understands. Maybe you haven’t met anyone with DID. Maybe you have but they don’t know they have it because they have one of the dismissive doctors. Maybe you’ve met someone who has DID but they have not disclosed that they have it.
- If you take psychology classes, be prepared for people to accept without question that mood disorders and anxiety disorders exist, but be prepared for that class when you get to the horribly short, brushed over section on DID and your classmates, and perhaps even your professor, make comments like someone with DID could not possibly be anyone they know, let alone in their classroom, and prepare yourself for the ignorant comments and jokes. Be prepared to hear schizophrenia confused with DID. And be prepared for none of these statements or attitudes to go unchallenged.
- In support groups (when and if you ever find one – mostly in specialized hospital units), you will have to speak in the absolute vaguest of terms. You will be expected to keep an adult alter present if you cannot be (as if it were that easy to control). It’s a dance around words and leaves you feeling stifled and almost punished – not being able to talk about what you need to talk about, whereas at other groups, you can talk more openly, within reason.
- Some of your friends will leave you. Or maybe they will distance themselves. They might be scared, they might be uncomfortable and not know how to interact with you anymore, they might be downright ignorant, they might even manipulate their knowledge of your condition in disagreements with you, they might say there’s no way you can have it because they’ve known you for years and you haven’t behaved like a stereotype from a sensationalized movie portrayal like Sybil or The United States of Tara. They might tell you they want to only hang out with you, not your alters, again as if you always have a choice. On the other hand, they might be wonderful and eager to learn about DID. But beware the people who only think you’re “fascinating” – a kind of rare animal at the zoo, and who pump you for way too personal information all at once.
- People who may have taken one abnormal psychology course may feel they know everything, when there are people who dedicate their lives to researching, lecturing about, and treating DID who still don’t know everything.
- You might not be believed because you don’t act like a movie stereotype.
- If you talk about it too much, you may be viewed as either attention seeking or faking it. But for some reason it is okay and “so brave” for people with depression, anxiety, mood disorders… to be open about their daily realities with mental illness.