I just returned from my favorite conference of the year, the Healing Together Conference put on by Infinite Mind. Infinite Mind is a group of people with DID, which is Dissociative Identity Disorder. You might know it better as Multiple Personality Disorder.
Why is this my favorite conference? Many reasons. This group of people who suffer from DID and those who support and/or treat them are the most dedicated, open and knowledgeable group I have been involved with. There is no lying, no minimization, no disinformation. Pain is acknowledged but not dwelt on. Jaime Pollock, the main organizer, is known for her organizational skills, her comedic timing and her immense sensitivity to the suffering of others. She is completely open about her own journey, but never triggering. There is an art room and a quiet grounding room with lots of pillows and blankets with student psychology interns available to help as needed.
Remember the movie Sybil? Well, the real Sybil, Shirley Mason painted her way through her treatment. There was a beautiful and moving exhibit of some of her paintings during the conference. Despite the recent book questioning her diagnosis, most people who knew her, and most specialists believe, she was, in fact, DID. The pictures in this article are some of hers. Some facts about them: she often painted telephone poles, sail boats (to sail away from her pain?) and yellow, she said, was the color of her mother’s screaming.
Another famous multiple, Truddi Chase, wrote the runaway best seller When Rabbit Howls. Her daughter, Kari, gave a very moving account of what it was to be the daughter of a multiple growing up. It was very clear that a distant, mean father was much more of a liability to a growing child than a mother with DID. Another interesting presentation was a mother-daughter pair from England discussing the same topic. Carol, who only “discovered” her DID later in life brought some remarkable videos of herself in other personality states (called ‘alters’ or ‘parts’). Her daughter with much patience and humor described a mother who often could not remember what she had said five minutes ago, but she was fun to play with! They shared a very dramatic and, at times, journey of healing which continues today.
On a more serious note, the mental health system in England and other places is severely lacking and there is much international work to be done on educating practitioners not only about the reality of DID, but how to work effectively on integrating painful memories.
Here are a few important facts to know about people with DID:
1) DID begins at an early age, usually before 7 but is often not diagnosed until later in life.
2) DID is always the result of severe and prolonged trauma. There has to be immense force involved to shatter a mind.
3) Most people with DID are law-abiding and peaceful people who suffer from extreme internal torment.
4) Many people with DID grow up to be loving (if somewhat dysfunctional) parents.
5) Children of parents with DID can thrive, especially with support from the community.
6) People with DID hold jobs in all sectors of society. They are preschool teachers, lawyers, police officers, writers, hospice workers, etc.
7) You cannot tell if someone has DID by looking at them.
8) With appropriate treatment people can integrate fully and heal from DID and their traumatic histories that were the cause of their problems.
9) People with DID almost always have problems with losing time. Often people think they are pathological liars because different alters give different information. Over time they learn how to compensate for these difficulties.
10) DID is fairly prevalent. It is estimated that 1 out of 100 people in the USA suffer from DID, and it is found in every country.
I had the privilege of giving trauma informed yoga classes in the morning and presenting two workshops: one on Yogic Modalities For Healing From PTSD and one on The Effects of Abuse and Trauma on Developing Children. The audiences were engaged, and responsive.
If you are a therapist, a physician, someone suffering from DID or you know someone with DID I would highly recommend this yearly conference as a place to learn, to laugh and to commiserate with a group of compassionate and knowledgeable people. It is held in Orlando, Florida every year in late winter. I feel very grateful to be involved with this amazing group.