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Ever the arty Autie

Dissociative Disorders, Melbourne meet ups?


Say Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and it may conjure up images of quackery, hysteria, Sybil, stories of satanic ritual abuse and controversies of false memory syndrome. There are those who are attracted to the circus of cancer and equally those who are excited by any new role or condition to the degree they are attracted to anything so intriguing as DID. But in fact, there is a spectrum of dissociative disorders which includes things quite common and mundane and with which most people have some familiarity.

The spectrum of dissociative disorders includes dissociation, depersonalisation, derealisation…. sound like big words? The overdeveloped tendency to daydream, cut off from or highly compartmentalise experiences (dissociation), struggling to relax with intimacy, entanglement, familiarity or taking anything personally, emotionally (depersonalisation) or the feeling life is like a movie or that one may be dreaming one’s life, that things seem unreal (derealisation).

Further along the spectrum of dissociative disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder associated with still relatively relateable experiences as vast as bullying to car accidents, natural disasters, and witnessing or experiencing assault or abuse. Beyond this is Dissociative Identity Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (DDNos)… people who have compartmentalised parts of them that are not integrated into the whole of them and may experience themselves as divided, multiple in their presentation, their identity. And at the most extreme end is Dissociative Identity Disorder itself (DID) which is a more entrenched version of DDNos in which those compartmentalised parts of the self have broken out (like leaking compartmentalised parts of the subconscious) with their own individual lives, often naming themselves as separate to each other and living with different degrees of awareness of each other.

Is DID equated with being emotionally erratic, self injurious, Borderline? No. Many people with DID live seemingly normal lives, most do not self injure, are not dangerous to themselves or others and most people would never know they had DID.

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is commonly confused with DID, and even many therapists struggle to differentiate the two conditions but in fact BPD is only one of 5 personality disorders commonly overlapping with DID and only the 4th most common to do so and many people with the DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY disorder of DID will not have personality disorders at all.

Those with BPD may experience constant deflection into roles and derealisation but roles are not alters, compulsive deflection into roles is not the same as splitting, and derealisation is only one of several experiences that people with DID experience. So, in fact DID has no direct relationship to BPD at all and those with BPD experiencing derealisation and compulsive deflection into roles might be best joining a support group for those who understand, respect and relate to BPD.

So is there a Melbourne meet up group for those with DID? Meetup doesn’t have one yet and many with DID could be afraid of meeting people with seriously unchecked BPD issues or DID Wannabes (sightseers) excited to hear the experiences of those diagnosed with the condition in order to feign having what they find exciting or imagine will make them more interesting. Those with DID will naturally find this extremely offensive and tedious so it’s no surprise that there aren’t meet up groups for those with DID. Those who think they may have DID or DDNos or other dissociative disorders should see a professional qualified to explore the condition with them. Most people with a diagnosis of DID did not go out in search of a diagnosis and if you want to tune in to the stories of those with DID go buy a book.

I have several friends formally diagnosed with DID and have met with several others. Almost all have been relatively functional people. I am formally diagnosed with DID and other than also being a person with autism/information processing issues and immune disorders who has just come through cancer experiences, I’d say I’m also a reasonably functional person. I strongly value my hard won equilibrium and have no interest in losing that. Nevertheless, perhaps here is at least a place for other Melbournians who are formally diagnosed with DID to introduce themselves, be out of the closet and connect with others dealing with the same diagnosed condition.

Donna Williams, BA Hons, Dip Ed.
Author, artist, singer-songwriter, screenwriter.
Autism consultant and public speaker.

I acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Owners of this country throughout Australia, and their connection to land and community.

posted under Australia, DID