I am a 25 year old psychology student in my third year at university. I have a paid job at MSWA as a staff coordinator. I am also a volunteer drug and alcohol counselor and I do volunteer work with 14-20 year old girls on a range of topics in group therapy. I just recently qualified for the world championships in cycling and I have a great group of friends and support. I succeed in most aspects of my life.
What many don’t know however, is I also have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and an Eating Disorder.
I will begin my story with setting the scene.
I was born in England and moved to Australia at 7 with my Mum, Dad, and Brother. After moving to Australia I became heavily involved in sport and spent most of my time either at school or the beach. I had amazing grades and was the poster child for success. I always came home to a house with food on the table and in my mind that was enough for a happy childhood.
I moved onto High School and began to hate myself but never knew why. I began experimenting with drugs and alcohol and spent a lot of time with older men, I began self-harming and restricting my diet to punish myself. I met a boy and ‘fell in love’ and I said to him “I don’t know where I’m going with my life, so I’m going to join the army.” He replied “You will never make it in the army.”
That, it seems, was enough for me to decide I would sign up at the ripe age of 17. Within three months I was flying to basic training. I followed orders like a good soldier and managed to mostly stay out of trouble.
After basic training I went to Melbourne for my employment training. There I met my husband, the love of my life, and he gave me the courage to seek out a psychologist as he could see the pain I was in. I had stopped drugs however I drank like a fish and would often find myself waking up in strange places with a hangover.
I saw a psychologist for the first time in my life. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) after a fifteen-minute session with a psychiatrist. This shaped my experience with mental illness for the next 8 years and I bounced from one psychologist to the next, none of which seemed to help.
Things with my husband were horrible. I would drink too much and treat him like dirt but never fully know why. I loved this man with all my heart but I would sometimes wake up not knowing what I had done the night before only to find out I had been unfaithful to him, none of which I would be able to fully remember.
How I experienced time and memories is like the experience of holding water in your hand. No matter how hard you try to hold it, it always finds a crack to drip out.
A few years after I sought help my husband and I left the army and moved to Perth. I decided to pursue my dream to be a psychologist. One day at university a guest lecturer came to one of our classes. I could tell he was the perfect fit for me and I made an appointment with him for a few weeks time.
I told him I have BPD but after the things I have learnt at University I didn’t know whether I believed it anymore. I began searching for answers and I read a book called “A Life in Pieces” which is an extreme case of DID. I attended my fourth appointment and said “I think I have different parts.” He asked more about it and I explained that there is a part of me that acts childish and one that gets angry and one that is promiscuous but I don’t identify with any of them.
We spoke about DID and he accepted me fully which I am forever grateful for. I was curious to understand this further so I went away and did a LOT of reading. What followed was a flourish of moments of clarity thinking “Oh god this is me.” But then other crippling moments of “Don’t be ridiculous, everything you read is like Sybil and you are nothing like that.”
I continued with my psychologist and one year later I am still only about 75% sure I have DID with moments where I still believe I am being ridiculous. I am not Sybil. I do not have drastic personality changes. I have however learnt through others that DID is subtle. It is less about how we present and more about how we feel.
As I type this today I cannot connect to the feelings other personalities have. I do not have crippling depression or anger, I can only feel numb, because I am a functional personality. I am mentally stable, I am not depressed, I do not self harm, I eat properly, and I excel in most things I do. If you however ask me who I am at 6pm tonight when my abuse typically happened in the past, I will be scared, small, feeling worthless and impossibly depressed. I would be confused because I feel little but I am in a big body. I would apologise profusely and only wish I had love but not know how to receive it because I have a tangled mess of previous experiences with it. Nobody sees that part of me though. It only happens when I am alone. And that, is the nature of DID. Not Sybil.
People with mental illness may appear fine. People with depression can feel happiness, just as those with DID can seem like one personality. That does not mean we do not have it. That doesn’t mean we do not struggle. It simply means we are survivors.
I am a 25 year old Psychology student in my third year at university. I have a job as a staff coordinator at MSWA and I am also a volunteer drug and alcohol counsellor. I work with 14-20 year old girls on a range of topics in group therapy including self esteem, relationships, and CBT work. I just recently qualified for the world championships in cycling and I have a great group of friends and support. I succeed in most I do.
I also however have Dissociative Identity Disorder and an Eating Disorder. This doesn’t shape my life, it drives my life. I recover and fight every day and some are better than others but I am always moving forward.