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Multiple Personality Disorder and Psychosis May 14, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.
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Talking with my two friends with multiple personality disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID) led me to thinking about the similarities and differences between my psychotic episode and their disorder.
During my psychotic episode, people came into a little room in my head. They sat in a chair and looked through a pane of glass that acted as a window to my world. Looking through the glass, they saw what I saw. They weren’t able to read my mind or know what I was thinking. I conversed with them via esp. Sometimes there was only one person in the room and sometimes there were many. The scary part was that I couldn’t see who was in the room, so I never was sure whether I was alone. The only way I figured out that someone had been in the room when I thought I was alone was when someone said something to me that they only would have known about if they were in the room and I didn’t know they were there. Had they not “slipped up”, I would never have known they were in the room. The fact that they could be in the room without me knowing made me paranoid.
DID means that someone has multiple personalities. Each personality has their own name, own mannerisms, own likes and dislikes, and is an entire person. The person with DID shares their body with these other personalities. With one friend, she goes into a “room” when a particular personality takes over. She is aware of what is going on but powerless to stop anything. With the other person with DID, she disappears entirely and the other person takes over her body. She is not aware of what is going on with the personality that takes over. Each different personality is called an “alter”. One friend has six “alters”, the other nine. Each “alter” is a different age, but they don’t age with the person with DID. Once a six year old, always a six year old. Once a 70 year old, always a 70 year old. Both these women have some men “alters”. These “alters” reside in a room in their heads. One friend’s room is black, with beds for each of their “alters”, complete with nightstands and lamps. Each friend can “feel” the other “alters” even when they’re not taking over their bodies. All the “alters” ask permission to take over before actually taking over. In one friend, the asking for permission is a relatively new thing. Both of my friends are married to two special spouses, who tolerate and are supportive of the “alters.
In my psychotic state, I got comfortable having people inside my “room” all the time. After I got over my paranoia, I started to enjoy the company of the people in my head. They kept me amused and entertained all the time. There was never a dull moment.
As a young woman, my mom made me join a swim team. Every day we had to go to swim team practice. That consisted of jumping in the (usually cold) pool and staring at the bottom of the pool for hours on end, doing laps. Every day was the same.
When I became aware that I was a mermaid during my psychotic break, it became clear that one of my duties as a card-carrying mermaid was swimming. I swam several times a day for several hours at a time. But unlike my time as a swim team member, I wasn’t alone in my mind. There were always interesting people around telling me I was brilliant. I thought deeply about how to solve humanities’ problems, and discussed my lofty ideas with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Together we solved the world’s problems as I swam laps for hours several times a day, every day.
With DID, there is a treatment involving “integrating” the various personalities into the DID person’s personality. The idea is that each “alter” sees their own counselor and resolves their issues. As this happens, there is no need for the “alter” to exist anymore, so that “alter” disappears. As each “alter” gets integrated and disappears, that alter in effect dies.
Both friends declined integration therapy. They are so used to having their “alters” in their lives that the thought of losing them terrifies them.
I can relate to how lonely their lives would be without their “alters”. When I began my medication in the mental hospital, at first I didn’t feel anything was changing. But as I kept on the medication regimen, all of the people in my room disappeared. I became lonely inside my head. The individual people who inhabited the room in my head turned into disembodied voices inside my head. They left a huge void in my life, and I missed them terribly at first. I had to stop swimming because it became exceedingly boring again when they were gone.
I can really appreciate how scary the thought of their “alters” going away must be. I only had my “people” for a few months, and I was very attached to them. I can’t imagine a lifetime of relationships ended like that. I understand perfectly why they decline treatment.

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Mental Illness and Homeless People December 16, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, mental illness, Psych Ward.
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Walking the streets of Seattle this afternoon as my husband and I shopped for Christmas gifts, I scanned the face of every homeless person we passed, trying hard to remember the faces of the homeless people I shared three weeks of my life with while I was hospitalized at a mental hospital over a year ago.

Did any of the faces look remotely familiar? Would I recognize anyone if I saw them? Are they still alive? In Jail? Dead? Whatever happened to them?  I would love to have run into any one of them today, to  ask how they’re doing, and  if there’s anything I can do to make their life more comfortable.  What would they say?

Edie, the little cherub looking woman who looked much younger than her 52 years- where is she now? Is she warm and safe? Is her schizophrenia under control with medication?  Did her boyfriend, who visited her in the hospital, marry her like he said he would after her illness was under control? What color was her bride’s dress?

How about Michael, the strapping young bipolar man who taught me that each tear tatoo around someon’e eye symbolizes the life of someone he took.  Micheal had,  in other words, murdered three people. And he so badly wanted to kill his older sister when he was released, which was going to be very, very soon.  Did he kill her? Does he now have 4 tear tatoos?

What of Tonya, the twenty-something depressed Samoan woman?  Each day she was there, she told all of us in group therapy how badly she wanted to kill herself. Even on the day she was released from the mental hospital. Did she succeed in killing herself? I put the odds of her success, if you can call it that, at around 85%. Is she buried somewhere in an unmarked grave? Or is she one of the many people who step out onto the train tracks, not having the guts to actually swallow the pill or pull the trigger themselves? Is she still alive somewhere? I very much doubt it.

Does Terry, one of the most colorful personalities, still think she was from Saturn? Does she continue to speak gobbledygook to people, claiming that it’s the language of her planet?  Is her bipolar disorder and schizoaffetive disorder under control?  How many times has she returned to the mental hospital? It had been 3 times in her 30-something life when I left. Is it now 4?

If it wasn’t for the terrific support system of my friends and family, as well as the wonderful care I continue to receive from my psychiatrist and my mental health counselor, I would be out there on the streets with them.  I was one of the lucky ones.

Where are they now?