For many, there is a relief: the "ah ha!" moment of understanding as to what has been going on inside their minds for so very long. For others, it's the validation that they are indeed in need of sincere assistance, which often was not provided during most of their childhoods, even perhaps into their adult years. And for some, the reality comes crashing down with a thunderous roar, and darkness prevails.....for alas, they are finally viewing the truth of their history.
The individual soon learns that according to the DSM-IV, the "typical age of dissasociation is 4.9", and that the diagnosis of DID carries the "highest rate of suicide", more so than even schizophrenia, self harm is typically observed, as well as eating disorders, depression, PTSD, low self esteem.....and, well the list depressingly continues.
They are often told that it takes time to heal (on average: another 7 years of intensive therapy), and to allow for all the "natural" stages of grief in order to progress through safely. In fact, one of the first things that most psychiatrist's will do is ascertain the threat level to either 1) self harm, 2) commit suicide or 3) hold suicidal ideations in some form.
Obviously many people find this subject extremely difficult to discuss. However, the facts are startling clear within any DID forum or community, that the subject of suicide hasoccurred at least in thought at one time or another. Often, one particular insider (or alternate) will hold onto the thought for years, rearing it's ugly head at the lowest of moments.
And low moments exist.....for typically an individual with DID will struggle with the feelings of isolation, loneliness, lack of validation, continued abuse by family members, denial, or the accusations of "destroying the family" (which was accomplished long before the diagnosis, otherwise, there would be no diagnosis in the first place!)
This subject often reminds me of the television show called "Dexter". He refers to his "dark passenger", the person inside who pushes him to do the very things that the average person would typically not consider. Suicidal ideation rides along much the same way, a constant throbbing within the psyche to end it all, to close the torment once and forever, to take matters into our own hands.
I know: I struggle with it often, and for many years carried these dark thoughts around constantly. Like a double heart beat, the incessant message ebbed throughout my entire system.......and could not be ignored. Oh yes, I could smile and appear quite "normal" (which, as many will tell you along the healing pathway, is only found in the dictionary), but the reality is that smiling came just as easily to my system as the thought of death. I was not frightened of it, for on the contrary: it had been my constant companion from such a young age that I knew nothing different. Instead, I accepted it, and had come to embrace it's inevitability.
Although the subject of suicide is often considered taboo to speak of, the reality is that it is a component of the diagnosis of DID. In fact, many find the question presented by their first therapist or psychiatrist so shocking, that they deny these thoughts have even occurred. Only to realize later that the road to healing will present this issue glaringly at some point in time. Like a snake, waiting to strike, it lies deep within, and is ever present, ever alive.
Of course, no two people experience trauma the same way, just as no two people react to trauma in the same way. There are particular similarities, which many who have been diagnosed with DID find validating and reassuring once they connect with their therapist, and the DID community....but it must always be remembered that no two people view the world, nor their experiences in the same way.
There are some who have one insider who holds onto the thought of death, and only one throughout their entire healing process. Others have several, or sadly their entire system has developed the belief structure that death is the only solution to the agony they face daily. For my system, I discovered over the years, that one person held the thought, and yet many others shared the belief. For myself, it was the reality that I had experienced so much violence, death, and the ever present threat of dying, that my system developed it's own mantra of sorts. A belief that "you may threaten to end my life, but I will do it myself before you have the chance to." And this was how I learned to live.....day by day, hour by hour, with the understanding that as long as I could survive, I would continue to live. However, if that was threatened, then I would end my life at my own hands. Sadly, this also translated into a belief structure that my life held no value. For you cannot accept the concept of suicide if you value anything in your present world.
Of course, as I aged and had children, a new problem presented itself. For I love my children, and enjoy every minute of the day spent with them.....but carrying the image of worthlessness often times led me into the realm of thought that my children would be "better off" without a mother such as myself. I know I am not alone in this arena, for years I have read the many notes from those who struggle with DID. They repeat these very same thoughts, to the point that they have convinced themselves that truly: their immediate family will be far happier without them. It's the dark passenger, the message from the past, the heartbeat of valuelessness that haunts our daily existence.
Some find comfort and hope through a Christian based belief structure......others strive to find value within themselves, while others, who have experienced abuse in tandem with Christianity avoid any mention of the subject or even the suggestion of looking towards a "higher power" for strength. Once again: no two people are alike in their experiences, but each carry the dark secret that death is a passenger simply waiting to speak for the entire system. For some, it's akin to the feeling that at any time, the house of cards can tumble......and the consequences have been accepted long ago.
I was thinking about these things this morning, as I looked at my husband's Tibetan prayer wheel. He, as many know, has accepted the Buddhist belief structure, and finds a great deal of comfort and fortitude in following these ancient, but often poignant thoughts. For myself, I have attempted to study, to wrap my mind around the concept of Buddhism, only to discover that I understand more of it's history than I do of it's essence.
However, during my studies of Buddhism, I came across the subject of husband's prayer wheel. Little did I know that the spinning canister held small bits of paper, each containing a prayer for someone who had departed this life. I wondered if this was true? To my surprise; upon inspection, our prayer wheel indeed contained thousands of small bits of paper with dainty notes written upon them. As I studied deeper, I learned that someone who practices Buddhism uses this prayer wheel to pray to family members who have passed on......to the ancestors for guidance and direction in their daily lives.
Since I am aware that my husband prays every night and morning, I often observed the spinning of the wheel, and the ringing of a bell three times as he would light incense before his statue of Buddha. One day, I finally asked him: "do you pray to your ancestors?".....and his answer surprised me. My husband, being of Choctaw decent, replied that he did not pray to the departed, he prayed for each member of his family daily. For the living, as he chooses to remain with the living, focused on today, and not the past. I found this interesting........as I had privately begun the habit of praying every morning; but my reason was extremely different than his. Both approaches to prayer have provided a peacefulness within our home, but the variance in viewpoints struck me.
You see, after several horrid years of nightmares and sleeplessness, I finally sat down, and wrote the name of each person negatively impacted by the hands of my abusers. It's sad to reflect that although one may feel that they were the only one harmed by an abusive individual, the reality is that typically, many children suffer at the hands of the same perpetrator. As my list grew, and my heart ached, it occurred to me in shocking clarity how many had died by their own hands. I truly had never connected the years, the people, and the consequences until I had forced myself to see the truth for what it was. So many beautiful people, who could no longer face the life they were left with. I missed each of them terribly, and yet: they were gone, vanished, their smiles never to be viewed again, and precious dialog forever closed.
And that's when I realized that my personal belief structure needed to change. I needed to amend my previous standards and the survival mechanism I had clung to for so many years. The danger was past....and I needed to accept that. I was free, and these dark thoughts are messages from the years that have preceded this moment in time. So many of my dear loved ones had opted out, had selected "option B", and had ended their lives. If I could do one thing to change all of the damage that had occurred, only one thing, what could it be?
I can continue to survive. I can release the messages from the past, and through the continuation of walking this healing path, prevent the next generation of children under my influence from any of the damage that we had experienced. And for the days when I believe that I am not worthy of life, then I shall look to those who have given theirs already, and shout aloud to that dark passenger that I will not be defeated. I will not be the last one to go......I shall survive, if only to honor the memory of so many innocent victims.
I still do not claim to be Buddhist, nor have I accepted any "traditional" belief structure. Yet, there are some things that I have embraced, and experienced a healing through. My husband has a poster with the 19 Instructions for Life that have been attributed to the Dalai Lama (although some argue that he did not preach this list, it really doesn't matter, as the message it contains is worth more than accurate accreditation to my way of thinking). As a family unit, we review these lessons frequently, and hold onto them as our familial value structure.
I recognize that this subject is not one typically discussed, and I admit that I have self harmed on many occasions: my arms display the scars for all to see. I have even been hospitalized. But, little by little, day by day, I have quieted that message from the past. I can recall that I am safe now, and for me: I am free. There are many who did not survive......and they shall not be forgotten.
Instructions for Life from the Dalai Lama:
1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three Rs: Respect for self, respect for others and responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
7. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don't let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don't bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It's a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go some place you've never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.