In the Beginning

In order to understand the nature and flowing references throughout my blog, I recommend reading my initial post The End of the Beginning first.


Psychology 101

You've now heard a good bit about my struggle with dissociation. You've also been introduced to my schizophrenic mother. Pop culture often regards Schizophrenia synonymous with Multiple Personality Disorder (the official name for which is Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]). There's that word again: dissociation. Semantics can make these 3 ailments seem similar, yet they are so very different. And so I thought it might be helpful to talk about all of these disorders in a concise, easy to distinguish way.

The DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 4th edition) is what mental health professionals use to formulate official diagnoses. Mental health problems are not as tangible or measurable as physical ailments, so the manual is used to assess tendencies, frequencies, and duration in order to discern likelihood of the presence of a mental illness. It is not cut and dry, but there are very specific indicators for each disorder.  If interested, one can learn all about how the DSM-IV is laid out and referenced from The Virtual Psychology Classroom.

It is important to understand that disorders are divided into classes:

    • Anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and phobias
    • Mood disorders such as depression and bipolar
    • Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
    • Eating disorders - anorexia and bulimia
    • Personality disorders such as antisocial and paranoid 
    • Tic disorders such as Tourette's syndrome
    • Dissociative disorders such as dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalization, and DID

Note that Dissociative Identity Disorder and Schizophrenia are not even in the same classification. I am not sure how popular culture came to confuse these two mental health problems but they are not even remotely related. This has been a pet peeve of mine for many years, particularly when I talk about my mother and people ask me which personality is the "worst" one. Alternate identities has nothing to do with schizophrenia. The best distinction I have read is that "People with schizophrenia do not have split personalities. Rather, they are 'split off' from reality."

I elaborate further about my experience with this disorder in a post called Growing up with Schizophrenic Mother.


I would like to take this opportunity to segregate my dissociate tendencies from DID. I do not profess to have DID, nor have I ever considered this a possibility. I do not have alternate identities, hear voices, or have long bouts (e.g., years) of my life for which I cannot account; nor do I have any tendencies to disappear and take on a new identity (which also rules out dissociative fugue).  

I do, however, have some amount of dissociative amnesia. There is a heavy fog around my memory from ages 11-15 that has taken years of therapy to map out. During this time my mother's illness skyrocketed, she attempted suicide multiple times, my parents divorced, my dad remarried, I moved around to several residences with my mother, I was sexually abused, my mother abandoned me for several years, I went to live permanently with my father who swiftly moved us away, and I switched schools 3 times. Of these things I am sure and I'm relatively aware of the order, I just have little to no actual memories of these events. What I have is akin to flash-photograph type recollection of certain places, times, and occurrences but nothing I would call coherent. It's a lot like stringing pearls.

I will blog more about many of these pearls, but I thought it important to set the stage. Often times we only recognize what something is in the stark contrast of what it is not. In fact a good part of my journey has been to understand and appreciate what I am not, but to learn from and sometimes be inspired by these things in order to progress along my own path. 

I have been drawn to themes of dissociation and DID for many years, long before I recognized the personal relevance. I like to think this was Real Me's way of reaching out and crying for recognition and healing. My favorite book on the topic is When Rabbit Howls and I watched every episode of United States of Tara with baited breath.

Now that I have full knowing and language for the issues I face, I have been doing a great deal of pointed research on the topic. One of the most inspiring blogs for me has been by a creative and articulate DID named Grace. Though I do not suffer from DID, we use some of the same healing modalities. If you are curious about DID please visit her blog KnowDissociation.

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