Today is World Mental Health Day and I want to shine the spotlight on a beautiful person in my life who can really help to derive some awareness in regards to mental health.
Emma Hendrix is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We’ve known each other since she and I were ten years old. We met when we were in the fifth grade and have been friends ever since. She even stood by me when a boy I teased in high school paid me back by pouring an entire can of root beer over my head in the middle of class. (We all get what we deserve, don’t we?)
Over the years, our lives took two very distinctly different paths. I never knew during the years that we grew up together that Emma’s home life was filled with events of abuse and neglect that no child should ever have to face. The events sadly never ended. The adults in her life did nothing to help or stop the situations. And because she knew little else, her path as an adult led to more of the same.
I didn’t know any of this until a few years ago, when Emma reached out to me, asking for help with her “food issues.” She also asked me to help her children to make better food choices. In return, Emma helped me to develop as a wellness coach and really did improve her diet and relationship with food. But something unanticipated resulted from our coaching relationship. Emma revealed her true identity to me. She explained that she does not have one personality, but many. And that she identifies as a system of personalities – a manifestation and survival tactic from enduring a lifetime of abuse and neglect. A condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID.
Intrigued? I sure was. Still am. So I’ll let Emma take it from here, so you may learn more about this disorder. You can follow Emma on her adventures as a person with DID at her personal blog – Tales of Brilliant Chaos. And perhaps you’ll learn exactly what I did – that a person with DID may not necessarily be struggling. They may be learning how to thrive with the condition, and can even learn how to remove themselves from abusive situations. Emma did just that not too long ago, and words fail to adequately express how very proud I am of my beautiful friend for seeking a better life for not just herself, but her four kids too.
Emma – You inspire me! Thank you for being all of you! Love you to the moon and back sweet friend! <3
5 Things That May Surprise You About
Dissociative Identity Disorder
1. There’s a very good chance you won’t notice it in a person. Dissociative
Identity Disorder (DID), is not typically a “public” disorder. This disorder comes from repeated and ongoing childhood trauma in some form. This could be physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. It could also come from ongoing medical trauma. If the child in question finds her situation hard to process and handle, there’s a strong possibility of DID becoming a reality.
DID is a form of protection. Each of us sharing who we are outside of the system (the group of personalities) is not typical because we are designed to be inconspicuous. There’s not supposed to be any real “give-away” to something being wrong or different. Now there are notable exceptions to this, but most often a system can switch through members without anyone around them being aware of a change.
2. If you’ve met one person with DID, you’ve met one person with DID.
Just like someone with autism or diagnosed with developmental delays, each may share the same diagnosis but be vastly different people. It’s unfair and sometimes dangerous to assume that everyone with DID will behave alike. Each system was created under different circumstances. The levels of healing are going to be different in each system, depending on whether they have begun healing or are still in crisis.
Each system will want to be addressed in a different manner (or not addressed at all). They may not want to be acknowledged as a system. Some of them may want to be noticed for the individual member of the system that they are. There are things you can’t possibly know and should never assume. Communication and conversation are the only way to get to know the system. It should also be noted here that I refer to the others as system members. Some systems prefer the term alters. Others prefer different terms. It’s very individual.
3. DID systems need support systems. And you know what? So does everyone else
on the planet. Humans are community creatures and need others around them. If you want to be a good friend to someone with DID, try to be a good friend to entire system. It’s not too hard, treat them like your other friends. Be there, be kind, be inclusive, and enjoy their company. Be someone who will answer the phone or text messages. It’s what everyone needs in a good friend.
Someone with DID may need help occasionally. A very young system member may show up at an inconvenient time. A system member who had been inactive may suddenly end up out front and have no idea where they are or what is happening. In this situation, they need a good friend more than ever. Understand that while it may happen, it’s not the focus of life. Enjoy life with them, show them the good in people, like you would with any friend.
4. Not all DID systems believe that “becoming one person” is the
correct healing path for their system. Let’s talk about this for a moment. A system
of people functioning in one body is loud. It is very similar to being on a bus surrounded by the same people all the time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The only thing that changes is who is driving the bus. Some systems don’t have this issue (yet) because they haven’t met each other. Those systems are more like sharing a car. One person is done driving, parks, leaves the car, and another hops in. They may or may not know of each other, but they don’t actually meet each other. Just two people passing each other in the dark.
To some this is a horrifying existence and yes, integration into one person is the path for them. For others, like my system, we have no desire to merge into one. We like and value the team we make up and we respect everything each other has gone through. That doesn’t mean that we are fine with immense amounts of chaos. It’s been proven recently that none of us can function when too many of us are active at once. Healing comes in many different paths. It’s important to not assume that one path fits all system.
5. Questions are welcome in many cases. Most systems have at least one system
member that will be happy to answer questions. The vast majority of systems want to be
understood. It’s incredibly helpful to process things for ourselves while answering someone’s questions. I would probably keep from asking someone what their trauma was until you know them very well, but questions help both parties. Relationships are a two-way street. DID doesn’t mean you don’t get to have friends, have a life, or experience new and positive things. As a matter of fact, it means everyone gets to experience the new things together.
To learn more about DID and Emma Hendrix – follow Tales of Brilliant Chaos here: https://talesofbrilliantchaos.wordpress.com/