Dissociative Identity Awareness Day- March 5

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) has always fascinated me. I have just started learning more about it, and as I typically do, I am diving all in! I have a personal reason to explore this now….my (almost 16 year old) teenager was diagnosed with it about a month ago. I had suspected this diagnosis several years ago, but my child was really too young and there wasn’t enough data to make this diagnosis. So we went down the diagnostic path, seeking answers and support.

My child started at about age 7, hearing voices in their head, and having intense fear. The diagnosis at that time was “adjustment disorder”, and anxiety. Dad and I had divorced, and this seemed to be a common thing. By the age of 9, the “intellectually gifted” label was added, as well as CPTSD. The anxiety was becoming more intense. By the age of 11, additional diagnoses of selective mutism and schizotypal personality disorder were added. At this time, they started refusing to get out of the car to go to school, started self-harming, and doctors were trying to treat symptoms with anti-psychotics and anti-depressants (not at the same time). It was after months of needing to be physically dragged from my car every morning and having several adults working to help, that I decided to try homeschooling, and remove that stressor from my child’s life. Now the healing would begin.

Without the stressor of public school to deal with, my child went through a phase of decompressing from all of the stress. I was unaware that in public school, my child was made fun of from a young age. In 3rd grade, other kids started calling my child “gay”, and by middle school had started teasing more and escalating to involve shoving. After about a year of decompression, they began to find joy. They became excited about learning new things, and dove into many different areas.

Just before turning 13, my child shared with me that they realized that they had gender dysphoria, and felt very strongly that they were really a girl. This was new to me, but the way I responded, I will not forget. I said that out of my four kids, I just knew at least one would be a rainbow. Then I asked what they needed from me. My child wanted to paint their nails. That, I could do! I asked about a name and pronouns, and my child had already chosen a name, Hazel. My next step was to consult with trusted therapists to learn how to move forward with this. I learned that the APA position is that affirming care is the best practice. I made sure mental health providers would use best practices, made changes as needed, and moved on.

By 14 years old, Hazel asked about getting assessed for autism. She thought that she has a lot of characteristics, and wanted to know. Soon after, came the autism diagnosis. This was at the beginning of the pandemic. About a year into the pandemic, one of the therapists went to seeing Hazel in person once a week. After doing this for over a year, and giving some assessments along the way, the unsolicited diagnosis of DID was added.

My Hazel is the most unique and complex person I have ever known. No diagnosis changes that!

The most commonly known cause behind DID, according to the diagnosing therapist, is pre-verbal trauma. I will never know all that my child endured during those years. At the time, the dad, a diagnosed sociopath, was the daytime caregiver while I went to work. Five days a week, ten months a year, eight hours a day, for six years…..

The dad had me so broken, that he was able to convince me that he knew far more than I did about raising children; even though I had already raised two, and he had none. It was when Hazel reached the age of seven, that I finally woke up and escaped. The kids would spend the next three years having unsupervised time with the dad, and taking the full force of the psychological, emotional, and physical abuse.

The kids are free from abuse now, and finally doing the work of healing as they move through the teenage years.

The best advice I can give to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation is, LOVE THE KIDS!

~AoA

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