Category: BW Series


This post is part of the Same Situations, Different Faces series. Normal posting resumes in April.

Alright, this is the last post of the Same Situations, Different Faces series. I thought of what would be a good or useful thing to talk about and it seems I’ve glossed over a topic that is pretty important: hospitalization. Your therapist can diagnose you with DID (or just being on the Dissociative spectrum (Dissociative Disorder, Dissocative Amnesia, Dissocative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Fugue)) but being at an actual trauma/dissocative disorders program is where you can really start to get properly diagnosed and treated with a specialized treatment plan. However, hospitals that are top in treating this are few. In the US, there is Sheppard Pratt’s Trauma Disorders program (Which is why it’s very weird Korean drama Heal Me, Kill Me very much did not mention it, but Hopkins instead, which is more for physical ailments.) If you want better than Sheppard Pratt, you’re going to have to go to the United Kingdom to the Clinc for Dissociative Studies. The US has good trauma disorders programs but dissociative spectrum disorders need a lot more attention than chucking pills at the problem. Medication is useful but treatment has to be therapy-heavy for these disorders, especially since there is no medication that can directly manage dissociative spectrum disorders, just the symptoms such as depression and anxiety. The UK tends to use therapy as the primary stop of mental care before going to meds, the US does the exact opposite.

Going to a hospital actually isn’t that scary. Some parts will definitely make you feel like you’ve very much have lost your mind – I think just the realization of being in an actual mental institution kinda does that all on its own – but really, most of your stay will be unbelieveably quiet and boring. It is nothing like Arkham Asylum, there are no strait jackets and most hospitals have phased out their padded rooms (there’s getting the spike and the safety burrito, now. I’ll cover those two later). Mental hospitals and psych wards (the psychological conditions ward of a regular hospital) tend to resemble incredibly quiet hospital waiting rooms with halls that are lined with doors to bedrooms. The windows are stronger than police riot shields and very soundproof, you can barely hear a thunderstorm.

Getting into a trauma program is pretty tough because of the history of sane people being sent to mental hospitals for terrible reasons with relative ease. You can’t pick up a phone, say “I’m like the dude from Split, please come get me,” and there you go. That would skip the mountains of paperwork that needs to be collected!

Before you go, it’s paperwork city. The first day is also paperwork city. In addition, you’re explained your rights, sort of tested to make sure you can understand that you have rights (or are simply cognizant that you’re in a hospital) and more paperwork. Depending on hospital or state, you will also be told the gun laws in your state…because awareness. Your vitals are taken (blood pressure, temperature, etc). If you don’t like needles, you are gonna hate having your blood taken. And the nursing staff will try to take it every day, which will make you think you’re surrounded by vampires. Oh, and the taking of your vitals daily, this is to ensure you’re actually taking your meds if you have any. You will also have to fill out a bunch of tests as well to see if you just have PTSD, if you’re on the dissociative spectrum or simply misdiagnosed. Here is a sample of what a Dissociative test looks like and no, you can not fake the answers to look less dissocative. I’ve tried. Besides, even if you successfully fooled the test, you’re under 24/7 observation. Someone will notice something.

Speaking of dealing with the staff during intake, your stuff is examined with more thoroughness than TSA. This is to make sure you’re not sneaking anything in that could be dangerous, counterproductive to treatment or harmful. If you bring body wash, it must be transparent, both gel and bottle. Otherwise, it’s getting seized because you can sneak stuff in it. If you have cleanser for your face, it’s getting seized because there is alcohol content in the ingredients. If you have a loofah, not a regular sponge, it will be taken because you can unravel it and attempt to hang yourself with it. Unfortunately, people have come up with some super creative ways to hurt themselves or try to kill themselves and that’s what implements changes in the rules. If you have wireless headphones, you can bring in music, as long as you have a super short cord (3″ or less) to charge them with, in view of staff. If your electrical devices can access internet and/or have a camera on them, it’s getting seized. This obviously means no cell phones. The reason is to protect everyone’s privacy. That and there’s a metric crap ton of triggering content on the internet…as well as distractions that could impede your focus on treatment, which is why you’re there. Should you bring books, they can not be of the horror or murder variety. If you bring comics, anything worse than Archie comics will most likely get taken. The nurses do look through the content to see what is in it, unless the title is a dead giveaway, like “Deadpool”. E-readers can not be brought in either unless they are the 1st gen “no access to internet whatsoever” kind. You will be living mainly as a Luddite, basically. A bored one at that. Your clothes will be checked and if there are any drawstrings, they’re gone. Shoelaces, gone. Heavy shoes or thick soled shoes (such as platforms), also gone. If you have any shirts or pants with religious, violent or disturbing art, it’s a no-go. For example, you can bring a Linkin Park shirt and, as long as the checking nurse doesn’t know LP’s songs that well (I love ’em but the song “Given Up” is distinctly about wanting to kill yourself) you can bring their albums but you can’t bring in P.O.D. anything because A) Religious iconography B) P.O.D. stands for “Payable on Death”, which is a banking term but the staff only cares about the “Death” part. I’m sure bringing any The Prodigy is fine (They are responsible for the title of this piece, after all. P.O.D. for the series’ name). Everything taken is securely bagged up and kept in Security until it’s time to leave for home. If you don’t have any sufficient clothes to wear, you’re given either hospital clothes (which is like a cross between paper and cloth) or “safety sweats”, which is just sweatpants and sweatshirt that have no drawstrings. And grippy socks that may or may not have do not have heels.

If you have natural hair, it would be best to get your hair into yarn twists or any other low/no maintenance hair styles if you have any forewarning because, frankly, nearly every black hair care product will not pass the list. Most of them aren’t clear liquids or in clear bottles. Hair picks are automatic no-go, even plastic ones. Satin bonnets and night caps are not likely either. You can probably talk your way into having a satin pillowcase but that probably will be it.

After getting through paperwork city, having your stuff checked and taking your test to see how dissocative you are, that’s when an individualized treatment plan is really hammered out. The meds, the group therapy sessions, triggers (potential and known), things like that. And this is where the boredom begins. The trauma disorder ward is immensely boring. Between groups, there are wide blankets of time where there is nothing to do. You can’t always have the tv in the general living area on, that’s strictly regulated. There are few board games and card games to pick because “safety is important”. If you can possibly choke on it, throw it or attempt to kill yourself with it, it can’t be in the ward. This means you’re stuck with puzzles and coloring books. Tons of them. If you want something of more intellectual stimulation, you’re going to be out of luck. There are books in the trauma disorders ward, but just like every psych ward, the books are completely snowstormed – White writers, White-led story and content. No diversity, nada. If you have a 1950’s housewife’s taste in books, you’ll be well suited. If you’re basically everyone else, you’ll be screwed. Few people donate books and games to mental hospitals so you get little selection. Perhaps you could bring a word search book or a crossword puzzle book. At least two of them.

When you’re in a trauma disorders program, it’s voluntary. That means you can go after a 72 hour hold. This is given that you’re not kicking up a major fuss or showing that you’re very, very unstable. (Sometimes, kicking up a major fuss can get you to go home faster but don’t count on it as the rule, just the exception). Two doctors have to sign your paperwork that says you’re mentally fit enough to leave and not have to be returned via police escort that very night, based on your past 72 hours. The only common exception is when your insurance finally craps out and you have to leave practically on that very day, regardless if you’re well or not. In voluntary, you can refuse meds you don’t want to take (given you’re relatively self-stabilized) and treatments you may not want (like electro-convulsive therapy). Basically, you’re fairly involved in your treatment experience. If you’re in a psych ward involuntarily, it means that you can’t refuse meds or treatments you don’t want to take and you’re more at the mercy of the psych staff. You stay as long as they think you need to stay and you hardly have a say. Basically, you don’t want involuntary because it is the “we’re bringing you in kicking and screaming”. It’s not common to be in the Trauma disorders program as an involuntary, however.

The various groups are therapy groups to teach you and the other patients about your recently diagnosed (or confirmed) disorder, the meds you might be using and methods to help manage it such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Here is a game created by Nicky Case that shows an example about this particular method, titled “Neurotic Neurons“. If you’re not a fan of group therapy, you’re not going to enjoy this. They’re usually quiet, few people want to talk (understandably) and you will sometimes get the sense that the interns, doctors or nurses are taking stabs in the dark about some parts of the disorders. It’s not that they don’t know what they’re talking about but they do sometimes give you a “learned about swimming from reading aplenty but never been in a pool” feel. And by “sometimes”, it will be “almost regularly”. Bringing a journal is strongly suggested because in group, you’ll have activities to do.

Speaking of dealing with doctors and nurses who may not have first hand experience with dissocative spectrum disorders, you’re going to have to advocate for yourself or they will get something wrong. Mistakes happen and constantly. Misunderstandings are regular, especially if you are not with a lot of social privileges and the staff is not very diverse. Since I’m Pagan, I’ve had to explain a host of times that don’t have schizophrenic or psychosis disorders simply because I believe in occultism, magick and spirits. It’s part of my religion. I’ve had to do the same about being Black and creative as well. Chances are your program was subconsciously designed for middle class White people who are usually hailing from Christian-leaning backgrounds. For example, the ward will have a priest and maybe a rabbi but no imam.The less known or more stigmatized your religion is to the Western world, the more likely it will be read as a psychosis disorder by the average mental health professional handling your chart. Hooray.

Now, I previously said that mental institutions have done away with strait jackets and padded rooms for the most part. If anything, you have complete freedom to be visited, use the phone (they have one for open use during the ward when groups are not happening) and even get care packages. It’s not a prison, frankly. However, if you start acting out, such as pulling the fire alarm, acting over belligerently, cause harm to yourself or another person, there are repercussions. The nurses will try to talk you down as much as possible, offer you meds, etc. If you’re not calming down, the nurses will eventually call for security, which is “code green” (think “hulk”) – actually, there are several color codes – and things are going to be a lot more complicated. There will be several security guards and they will also try to talk you down. If you’re not cooperating still, more doctors will also be called because they have to administer what is kind of known as “the spike” as the security restrains you. “The spike” is usually three needles but you only feel the first one. This cocktail is to calm you down and make you super sleepy, thus easier to be placed in “solitary”. Solitary is either an empty room with a mattress and pillow or a bed with four point restraints (to restrain your wrists and ankles), depending on hospital. Most folks don’t remember being placed on the four point bed after getting the spike, they just wake up there and staring at a host of doctors, nurses and security crowded around their bed asking them if they’re going to be more cooperative. If you’re not incredibly aggressive enough to warrant the spike, there’s the safety burrito! The safety burrito is two thick blankets laid out for you to be placed upon and swaddled firmly into a burrito. You’re usually in either the Solitary room or in your room. It can be comforting or depressing, depending on how much you think about all the things you have accomplished in life and how now you’re holed up in a mental institution laying on the floor or on a bed wrapped up in heavy blankets like a infant. It’s definitely better than getting the spike buuuuut it’s not a million times better.

I mentioned that there are color codes these hospitals. The color codes are:

Code Green – Aggressive patient, need security
Code Green, All Male – Aggressive patient that is too violent for regular orderlies, need stronger people (yes, this is a pretty sexist name for a code that basically means “Please come if you’re really strong”)
Code Silver – Patient has a weapon (regardless of the weapon. The patient could be wielding blue, bamboo knitting needles, it’s still “code silver”)
Code Blue – Physcian needed, patient is going through severe physical ailment episode
Code Red – Fire

Now, hearing all this, again, I want to reiterate that mental hospitals are not like Arkham Asylum. It’s not very common for people to get to the point of getting the spike or get into a safety burrito. It definitely does happen, it certainly is not rare but it’s not a wild house where everything and anything happens. If it is like that, try to find the patient advocate and get out.

Lastly, being at a trauma ward will be expensive so if you weren’t a fan of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA, Obamacare) then, you will be when you find the bill for a three week stay is over $27,000. And the suggested stay time is six weeks. The ACA is how I actually have never seen the bill. Speaking of insurance, you should read the fine print of your insurance to see if it accepts milieu care/milieu therapy (basically, you’re housed in a supervised, dorm-like atmosphere) because that is what your experience will be. If you have medicare, it’s automatically covered. Otherwise, your healthcare provider will try to weasel out of paying that hefty bill or cut your stay really short. Or both. Because American healthcare.

In short, being hospitalized is definitely no vacation. It’s strictly for treatment and that’s what your experience will be geared towards. It isn’t a halloween terror ride, either. Trauma wards take great pains to make sure you don’t have additional trauma. It isn’t perfect but it’s certainly not 100% like the movies. It’s much more boring.

This finishes the Same Situtation, Different Faces series. This last piece was surprisingly tough to write and make sense of so if there is any need of clarification or just plain questions, please feel free to say something.

This post is written by The Aether System as part of the Same Situation, Different Faces series. Normal Black Witch posting resumes in April.

Although having Dissociative Identity Disorder is not nearly as scary as the media and recent movies make it look, it is still a very difficult disorder to live with. Facing troubles with a cynical view can make things much harder on yourself, so having a way to laugh despite the troubles you face can make a huge difference. Therefore, starting a meme page for those who have D.I.D., or want to learn about it seemed like it would be helpful to the mental health community. “DID I meme that?” is on most forms of social media, so it is accessible to almost everyone.

Ever since the movie Split came out, the amount of people interested in D.I.D. has spiked considerably. However, this can actually be a good thing, since it provides more opportunities to educate the public on what this disorder is and is not. This is another situation where the memes come in handy. Rather than seeing a bunch of people with mirrored selfies and fun filters in the tags associated with D.I.D. and Split, it seemed better for the viewers to see accurate, yet comedic representations of this disorder, created by people who actually have it . Not everyone as the time and willpower to read an article, but almost everyone has the time to scroll through a few memes.

Words can only go so far when it comes to describing feelings and experiences, so sometimes a picture is a more effective description than words. Pictures can also be easier for people to process, rather than paragraphs, particularly to those who have difficulty when it comes to reading.

A lot of the terms included in these memes use the vocabulary of the D.I.D. community, such as “Littles” (young alters), “Protectors” (alters whose job it is to protect the host), and much more. The creators of these memes use this vocabulary so the memes feel more genuine and personalized to the audience they are aimed towards. Another part of the meme creation process is deciding what captions to use. When it comes to D.I.D., it can be difficult to know what type of alters will be viewing the memes at any given time. That is why we aim to keep the language closer towards PG-13, in case there are any younger ones browsing the memes.

Although “DID I meme that?” is only a couple of months old, it has received a lot of response on many social media platforms, particularly Tumblr and Facebook. There have been questions of what living with this disorder is like, suggestions for memes, and many other people with D.I.D. who share the memes while tagging them as “relatable”. It can be very hard to find relatable mental health memes, particularly when it comes to the more rare disorders, so finding a page full of memes from real people with these disorders can be very refreshing. One of the comments received on the Instagram page expressed surprise when the user found out that the page was run by someone who actually had D.I.D., and they were glad to finally find memes that really expressed the experience of D.I.D. with accuracy.

This post is part of the month long series Same Situation, Different Faces. Normal posting resumes in April.

When doing research about DID in media and societal perception, I came across a number of sites with the misconception and romanticizing of DID as “spiritual possession”. As a Pagan site, I would like to mention this isn’t to say that possessions do not happen (they certainly aren’t frequent, of course) – just that Dissociative Identity Disorder is, frankly, not an expression of possession.

Dissociative Identity Disorder can be commonly romanticized by the belief that it is a supernatural function of the brain – just another way to show the bottomless depth of the human mind. Even in Split, the therapist of main character, Kevin, was trying to pitch DID as this amazing phenomena that can and should be unlocked…while clearly ignoring and sidestepping the continual toddler-hood/childhood abuse, neglect and horror that creates it. This is literally the logic of some corrupt university that reaaaally wants to create reputation-boosting “progress”, regardless of meddling nonsense such as “sensitivity”, “ethics” and “sanctity /protection of life”. This kind of thinking doesn’t acknowledge DID as a trauma disorder but as a “fascinating” mental construct that sounds straight out of movie.

This is pretty pervasive thinking. For example, in some places online, there are those who say they have endogenic systems, meaning they have a system of alters (alternate personalities) that are not borne from trauma but simply natural occurrence. This is fairly impossible because all disorders on the dissociative spectrum (Dissociative Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Fugue) are basically mental defense mechanisms that go into overdrive, forcing the brain to rewire, forget or completely distance itself from the occurrence of trauma to survive the experience and resume whatever normalcy possible. All systems are traumagenic, derived from trauma. Either the person claiming “endogenic” either has zero recollection of their traumatic experience or crafted everything up from watching too much Red vs Blue and Steven’s Universe.

There are also those who believe in “system hopping”, the idea where an alter can go from one system to another like a ghost. This is intensely false. A dissociative system is unique to the person who has it, crafted by the trauma that made them. Various alters can not jump from one system to another. Simply can not happen. It’s like waking up with someone else’s hair growing out your head, excruciatingly not likely.

All these examples, they usually fall along the lines of what would be classified as the “supernatural”, the metaphysical, basically. It completely ignores the creation of trauma disorders – which is extended exposure to traumatic experience at a very young age, before 6-9 years old. Actually, it is a common trope in pop culture to show psychological problems as supernatural occurrences that either improves the human experience by creating super abilities or diminishes them by making the person an absolute monster. This is no different for DID. Actually, DID is used as a very common trope in media, regardless of whether it depicted as a super power or monstrous affliction.

As an aside, DID is also used commonly as an excuse in court by various people who want to duck their crime and the penalties it comes with via the Insanity plea. To say “It wasn’t me! It was my alter Susan!” Thing is, whenever someone says they’re too mental to stand trial, a psychologist verifies that – and usually finds the person very, very lucid. (Recent example: Dylan Roof. Said he snapped, got tested, found that he was very sane – just very, very racist and hateful – now facing the death penalty for consciously acting out a fantasy borne on Stormfront and 4chan in hopes to incite a “race war”) The thing about DID, you can be an Oscar-award winning actress/actor – there are a lot of other more little details that makes the disorder what it is because it is a disorder of hiding itself that the average person does not see. This is part of why the insanity plea works only 1% of the time and is a pain for lawyers when brought up.

Not to mention, depending by state, the Insanity plea does not promise the avoidance of prison or prison time. For some states, it could mean a person will be in a mental facility until sane enough to carry out their time. Altogether, being in a mental facility is not the same as being on vacation. Even if a person carried out the entirety of their sentence in a mental hospital, they are there involuntarily. So they will most likely have to take meds they disagree with, go through treatments they won’t like (such as electric-convulsive therapy) and have to stay there until a doctor deems them sane to leave…which can easily tack on days – just be annoyed from a normal circumstance, there you go, days added. If the person is not perky happy or completely zombified, they can wind up staying longer than anticipated, involuntarily taking meds and treatments. At least in prison, you can reason with the courts to get out early, not so for involuntary stays.

Back to the subject at hand, it is fine to believe oneself as a vessel for communicating with entities and spirits, there are several faiths and religions that includes this, generally described as shamanism. Dissociative Identity Disorder is not this at all. To engage in shamanism, while it varies by culture, tribe and their unique histories, it does not involve experiencing vast childhood trauma/abuse/neglect. It would be safe to say that no one would want to be a shaman if that were the case. Shamanism is an expression of ancestor reverence and interaction which is learned through practice, apprenticeship, study and in-depth cultural information. This is not inherently traumatic at all.

The disorder is not an act of possession, either. There is a concept in circles that have very cursory knowledge of things of possession and other acts of the occult that if the mind is under enough stress, it makes the person more susceptible to being possessed. This isn’t possession, this is a misunderstanding of the effects of trauma. Further more, the “demon” possessing the person usually seems pretty reoccurring to handle particular events, which is not exactly common in actual possession occurrences. However, if there is an utter lack of knowledge about the reality and validity of dissociative disorders and the effects of trauma, it makes sense the person with the disorder would feel “possessed” and others around them with a keen eye would assume it was also an act of possession, when, in reality, it is a psychologically induced response to intense ongoing trauma at a very young age.

A big reason why DID is seen with such “oh, this is the supernatural” perspective, is because of the lack of general understanding of how the disorder is even created. It looks supernatural at a glance because it certainly sounds unusual, the idea that one person could mentally become several. Then you have the fact that DID is still hotly debated in the psych community on whether it exists or not (it does, there is extensive data now). And because the disorder mainly tries to hide itself by making the person with it blend with the environments and societies they’re in, this means most people do not see DID in the regular world like they see it in film and media (no person with DID changes clothes multiple times a day and with the speed of a popstar on a world tour), so it sounds like a concoction of clever imagination and fantasy.

Then you have the name changes and the history of that alone. DID used to also be called Schizophrenia because Schizophrenia literally translates to “split mind”. However, Schizophrenia is different from Dissociative Identity Disorder, given one is a disorder of psychosis and the other is a disorder of dissociation. As time went on, DID went under a name change to classify its difference from Schizophrenia: Multiple Personality Disorder. In the 1980s, upon further research, Multiple Personality Disorder was renamed Dissocative Identity Disorder, to emphasize the dissociative basis of the disorder.

All in all, Dissociative Identity Disorder (as well as other disorders on the dissociative spectrum) is not an act of the supernatural, the mystical nor the metaphysical. It is not shamanism, it is not possession. It is a mental defense mechanism to help protect the brain from the realities of horrifying situations at a young age. It’s not an act of wonder, it an act of mental self-defense that is permanent and widely misunderstood.

This post was written by guest writer, Cypress, for the month long series about Dissociative Identity Disorder called “Same Situation, Different Faces”. Normal Black Witch posting resumes in April.

Contrary to what games like hide and seek show, hiding is not fun.

We really hate it. We wish things didn’t have to be this way, but it’s basically impossible. We have DID, but coming out has never gone well, and we’re still a minor, so then the parents would be notified again, and that would not be good. We planned to never tell them again after things went badly several years ago.

Our days are still fairly normal, though we’re multiple. We wake up and get ready for school. We try not to get too off task in class. We keep to ourselves during lunch. We do our schoolwork and chat a bit with our friends and acquaintances.

School itself and the subjects in it are fairly easy for us. We struggle with workload sometimes cPTSD (Complex-PTSD)1 symptoms, system drama, and bad thoughts aren’t conductive to school, but overall we get good grades. School isn’t the problem. It’s how people interact with us.

The most awkward part of our day has to be interacting with any other person in any way. The way we look at things and think about ourselves is different from the way people who aren’t multiple (singletons/singlets2) think about themselves. Which means there are certain things we can’t bring up or mention.

For starters: we can’t introduce ourselves as ourselves. We can’t say “Hey, the name’s Cypress, we’re a DID system and there’s 30 of us. We have a few child alters, teens, and adults, but Storm hosts the most. He’s our protector but he’s nice unless you mess with xem. We like Steven Universe and writing. What’s your name?”

We can’t bring up certain problems we have, especially with system or inner world3 troubles: “Dear gosh, Ann’s being a total butt to us. We had a bad weekend and Lilac had a panic attack. Hopefully your weekend went better than ours.”

To singletons, we might as well not exist, because we can’t come out to anyone. It’s hard having people mess up with our group—really moreso Storm’s— pronouns4, but it’s somehow a whole different ballgame when all the people you interact with and see every day don’t know you exist as multiple. We never get acknowledged as individuals and we hate the erasure.

We often get lost in the facade we put on. We tend to get very dissociated and in those moments, some days we look in the mirror, or think about ourselves, and all we can think about is this facade we put on of mimicking the old host5, which never stops and is very draining to us.

After school is difficult. Being with the parents is really frustrating and we have to self monitor our own internet activity a lot so we don’t get caught. It’s almost happened several times in the past. We have a bad memory (mostly about bad things, but also about mundane things), so keeping up with even good things or schoolwork is a struggle.

Our dysphoria is difficult. We look in the mirror and almost all of us look drastically different from the body. It’s odd looking in the mirror and seeing the body. It’s a struggle to disconnect that from your sense of self so you don’t get lost and see the body as yourself, which is just a vessel that contains us, a set of people.

Denial is a roller coaster too. We can get into a rut of thinking “we’re not real, no one thinks we’re real, we should make ourselves (mentally) go away” and be stuck in it until the feeling fades. At times we feel bad or like a freak and we can’t shake it off.

There are some fun moments as well, though. We joke around with each other sometimes and laugh about funny things some alter did or said. Storm jokes about how he can’t make dark jokes without someone possibly getting worried. We say maybe people will get worried if they see us talking to ourselves (a common way we communicate, since we are co-conscious all the time), and we look at memes online about dissociative disorders.

Sometimes, I wish we wouldn’t have DID, even though there are pros and cons as with anything. I don’t know what we’d do without us, but often knowing we have DID is agonizing enough. But this disorder is literally us. We don’t wish to integrate in the future, as we know it can be undone with stress. Maybe we should go to therapy, but we may not be able to for a few years, and we don’t wish to deal with unaccepting therapists. We have our good days and our bad. So we take things in stride, and we deal with it. We will still have to hide for a long time, so we might as well get used to it.

1) Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD/cPTSD) – Amplified version of PTSD for those who are still engaged in the traumatic environs that caused the disorder. Return

2) Singlet/Singleton – A person who does not have Dissociative Identity Disorder, they are a single person. Multiple – Person who has DID, because they consist of multiple people in a single body. Also the reason why those with DID instinctively refer to themselves in first person singular (“we”, “us”), especially in private life. Return

3) System/Innerspace – a group of individuals in a DID person is called a “system”. The “innerspace” is the mental thought-space/head-space created for open communications between alternate personalities (“alters”) inside the body. Alternatively, the “outerspace” is the world outside the physical body. Return

4)Different alters can have different genders from the host (original person), or no gender at all. Return

5) Different alters can be different genders, body types, etc – this can cause body dysphoria Return

Every year, I do a month long feature on any subject that I like. Any random subject. Last year, I couldn’t do it but now I can this year. Huzzah. It’s to break the monotony that can be discussing Pagan topics end over end and because I have a variety of subjects I like to talk about.

This year, I want to talk about a disorder I have touched on a little bit in the past: Dissociative Identity Disorder. What prompts this is the response I’ve seen in regards to the movie Split. Yes, it’s not a blockbuster (which is a good thing) but it still created a lot of chatter and jokes and, of course, plenty of misconceptions that are remarkably harmful, as usual.

Let’s talk about Multplicity (having DID) and the media.

I’m going to compare two recent films about DID that have appeared in media in recent years. Obviously and unfortunately, this includes Split (I viewed on backwater sites because lolz, I’m not fencing a dime to that movie, even for critical deconstructive reasons). The other movie, actually based on a real person and had actual research done, is Frankie and Alice, which stars Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry.

posters

The reason these two films exist, one fictional and the other reality-based, is because there’s misconceptions of DID aplenty. And with most media being negative, non-factual demonstrations of the disorder, there is plenty to parse through. That and hopefully a regular person reading can understand the problematic nature of Split in its demonizing of the disorder. Both films are not documentaries about Dissociative Identity Disorder but one actually researches the disorder and the other pretty much goes the lazy route.

I’m certain some folks are going to mention “’Split’ was based in the ‘Unbreakable’ world. It isn’t a thing about DID at all.” That would be nice if everyone was a hardcore M. Night Shyamalan fan…buuuuuut in the real world, that’s not what happened. The media campaign was strictly based on establishing that the main character, Kevin, had 24 different personalities, was a vicious person and needed to be stopped at all costs because of those different personalities. No reference to Unbreakable, no “this is not DID”, none of that. It’s the same as saying “Birth of a Nation/The Clansman is not about the negativity of Black people, the town is fictional and it’s just romanticist thinking of the South.” That fictional movie still got real Black people lynched in droves. It’s interesting what movies, even deeply fictional ones, can inspire people to do. Almost like movies can be influential and even accidental teaching tools, especially if the viewer is not an expert already in the subject. Even Sybil gets referenced many times in mainstream culture as short hand for “crazy and frightening”.

On the website Trauma and Dissociation, there is a criteria that the movies are compared to. In this same article, there is a section titled “Common Mistakes in Portraying Dissociative Identity Disorder”. I expect Split to cover every bit in this section.

To keep things orderly, we’ll do things bit by bit, category by category, of where Frankie and Alice got everything right and Split got everything wrong.

Let’s start with the Synopsis of both movies:, as described by IMDB:

Frankie & Alice: A drama centered on a go-go dancer with multiple personality disorder who struggles to remain her true self and begins working with a psychotherapist to uncover the mystery of the inner ghosts that haunt her.

This was pretty accurate. It wasn’t trying to scare the viewer, the synopsis is a pretty safe description of the movie without giving away important details. It uses the old name of DID and call the alters “inner ghosts” (I practice Paganism and metaphysics and even I think that is way off the mark). For the most part, it’s pretty accurate.

Split: Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities, they must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

This sounds to me: “Man, I hope no police officers watch this movie, they would think that people with DID are instinctively nefarious.” Like that one officer that literally thought the same about me and proceeded to threaten to send me to prison via fabricated evidence because he simply wanted to impress others, not get to the bottom of a case. And got in trouble with Internal Affairs over that. (Note to law enforcement: fictional movies are not training videos. Maybe you should watch Selma or something else that is fact based. Seriously.)

This description pretty much connects the concept of DID making people commit atrocities because …somehow that’s just what the disorder makes people do. This is utter bullsh*t, obviously. It’s meant to spook and frighten the viewer. I have DID and I don’t go around trying to kidnap a gaggle of Beckies.. Sure, I get fairly annoyed when they hijack and co-opt Inauguration Day protest marches but I’m not going to do any work to kidnap them.

Signs of Alters/Acknowledging Alters

A person with DID has difficulties with memories due to amnesias. Things aren’t where they were last seen, new items are gained with no recollection of buying them, differences of writing or talking habits, etc.

Frankie and Alice: Frankie says that she feels like she is watching herself from a distance (a sign of dissociation). When confronted about her rent check bouncing, she glances through her checkbook afterwards and discovers a big purchase she doesn’t remember making, a dress bought by one of her other alters, Alice. Despite having clear signs of DID, Frankie herself does not believe the diagnosis when she was hospitalized, which is common for those with DID to do due to the social stigma related to the disorder.

Split: There is honestly no realistic interaction between Kevin’s alters. No complaining of loss of time, it seems almost everyone is on the same page, nearly no dissociative states. As if he and every alter he has is evil and they all work together to connive and deceive so they can better harm others (ie, the gaggle of Beckies he acquired). While it is true that people with DID usually have to be told about the things they said or did, it’s not usually to such the extreme extent of a person outside the DID system to tell an alter all the conversations they overheard two other alters say in conversation. There is still some inner communication.

Memory gaps

People with DID have substantial issues with memories due to dissociative amnesia: a condition in dissociative disorders where the affected does not remember important details or events due to dissociating from the experience. This is not normal forgetting, such as misplacing your keys or trying to remember an account’s password. Amnesiac forgetting includes forgetting big events such as weddings, people you have worked with or been around for a long period of time.

Frankie and Alice: There are several times reflected during the movie where Frankie had no idea of her own actions, such as taking her mother’s necklace and going to a ritzy hotel for a wedding she had no idea she crashed.

Split: There appears to be no real memory gaps. While there are displays of dissociative amnesia (the alters don’t always know what the others are doing), it is inconsistent and plays out as more of a movie mechanic, only showing up to move the plot along. It seems the film creators did some cursory research in DID on Wikipedia, clapped their hands in determination and said, “We’re ready to make a movie!”

Experience/Remembrance of Trauma

DID is a trauma disorder, just like PTSD. You can’t get DID unless you experience extreme, continual trauma and no emotional support in the extreme early years (by age 6). Usually through experiencing war-like conditions (that’s my situation), severe abuse, neglect, child sexual abuse, things like that. The disassociative identities are moreso defense mechanisms to defend the affected and survive trauma as the mind literally splits itself up to protect itself. It’s why those with DID can not remember vast parts of their lives and have various identities.

Frankie and Alice: Frankie remembers different things than her alter Alice. However, when under therapy and with the therapist’s guided questions to a child alter, Genius, more of Frankie’s life experiences come to light. Without therapy, Frankie would have not remembered whole life events because her DID locks select memories and pains away.

Split: There is no obvious experience of trauma. When people have DID, the alters that come from it are usually centered around the trauma that borne it. For example, if a person was severely abused through religion, their alters would have a religion focus. If the person was severely abused or experienced war-like conditions, the alters would have a defensive, war-like focus. Kevin’s alters are all over the place.

Abuse is referred to in passing. Not as a substantial way to understand how DID works or affects people, but just to create a threadbare backstory for Kevin, who is supposed to be the antagonist in this story. Casey, the main girl Kevin kidnaps is, gets even more of a sympathetic backstory than Kevin does. This is so the viewer will sympathize with Casey more than they will with Kevin.

There are many ways the two movies are radically different, despite having the same subject matter. Frankie and Alice did not try to frighten the view about the existence of DID. The disorder was seen as a subject that could be understood by the viewer not as something monstrous but as something a person goes through when severely impacted by trauma. Did it make DID look like a pleasant, easy-to-live with disorder? Not at all. But it doesn’t depict a person with DID as a monster. Split does.

DID in Split is used as a fear mechanic. Its unpredictability, its “mystery”, everything to make Kevin’s alters appear frightening. There’s little understanding towards him, just terror. He’s just a psycho out to eat ;young girls and kill people. This is such a wild distortion of how the disorder makes people function. Every part of the movie plays this up extensively.

Unfortunately, there is a wide variety of movies that use the “DID = Scary” mechanic. And games. And stories. On website Trauma and Dissociation, I mentioned that there’s are common mistakes that Split gets wrong. I’m not going to go down the whole list but a few select ones, including a couple I’m sure the film makers thought they had correct.

Randomly violent alters that seem to have no purpose for the person are often portrayed in fictional accounts. They aren’t acting to defend or protect the person with Dissociative Identity Disorder, they are one-dimensional and can’t reasoned with

This is alllllllllllllllllllllllllll of Split. There is literally no reason whatsoever why the Beast exist, why the other alters, Patricia or Dennis were just going along with making room for Beast and giving him “impure” (I can unpack this at a later date, holy crap, the misogyny) girls to eat. This does not protect Kevin at all. This isn’t even inter-system squabbling. This is just alters being total lemmings for other alters, which doesn’t make much sense.

Beast can’t be reasoned with, he just shows up and becomes a monster. The child Hedwig seems pretty calm and chill about everything, children alters that are aware of more dangerous alters are usually, well, like kids who are around dangerous adults. They don’t happily go along with things, they’re usually confused and scared, just like any child would.

Kevin is the “host” of the system, the original person. The system generally revolves around the host, regardless if it is negative or positive. Beast doesn’t really care. Patricia doesn’t really care. Dennis doesn’t really care. Hedwig is fairly unaffected. The Beast is supposed to be so the world can be more accepting of the fact Kevin is a Multiple (a person with DID) buuuuuut DID is about hiding itself, not showing itself to the world. It’s literally a disorder of secrecy. Alters don’t go wild and try to make a grand show, even alters that believe themselves to be actors or performers. They try to blend. The disorder, if I wanted to compare to a living thing, is like being a chameleon or an octopus. You blend into the surrounding to make the abuse and trauma less severe. If you don’t blend, you don’t live.

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In Frankie and Alice, the alters that mainly front (gain control of the body) are a Southern belle and the main host. They exist because of clearly established trauma and to navigate the world and go fairly undetected. To blend.

Alter personalities are created for a specific purpose, for example self-defense or trauma memories, or work, if the one in the plot has no clear essential purpose re-write the plot

There’s supposed to be 23 alters buuuuuuuut this movie explicitly showed only …four at best? Either the budget was crappy (possibly), the writers sucked (very likely), no one knew anything about DID but hackneyed ideas (extremely likely) or all of the above (most definitely). Where are the other 20 alters? No one is talking? No one cares? Everyone can’t possibly be on board, that’s simply not how DID works. Alters are like separate, different people. If you think it’s easy to get 24 different individuals to agree on something, try ordering a single pizza. This is really lazy writing on the creators of Split.

In Frankie and Alice, there was no promise of a bunch of alters during the promotion of the film but as the movie progresses, the viewer learns along with Frankie that there are more alters than she originally thought, all because of the traumas she endured throughout her life. Granted, the story doesn’t go into why Genius, the child alter, exists but it does a far stretch better than Split. Then again, Halle Berry did sincere study into her character: she talked with the person the character was based off of, Francine Murdoch. James McAvoy couldn’t find a single person with DID that wanted to sit with him. I guess the idea of being demonized on the big screen wasn’t a very savory pull.

A person talks about having lots of “blackouts” but shows none – has no memory loss or forgetfulness in the movie, they never forget who anyone is, where they live or anything important

There was that one rushed scene at the end of the movie where the audience meets, Kevin, who still thinks that it’s September 2014 and he last remembered being on a bus. There are DID systems where the “host” disappears into the system, they do not front or have any control in the body buuuuuut the therapist would try strongly to contact the host, through the alters. The therapist in this movie simply did not care. There are no real “blackouts” or severe memory lapses (every alter shown in the movie seemed pretty much on the same page of why the girls were there, no one was baffled or bothered that three random girls were now locked away in their home). Besides the rush job at the end of the movie to show rapid switching, everyone is pretty lucid and together. Very little amnesia, which is odd. Until the end of the movie, which is sucky.

In Frankie and Alice, all throughout the film, Frankie has constant memory problems. She had no idea why she was at a ritzy hotel. She had no idea what her other alters wanted or did. Her own memories were a mystery. This is more accurate of DID.

If you have seen Split, I would strongly recommend watching Frankie and Alice. If there are any questions, put them in the comments. Also, be sure to watch this amazing short film that truly shows what it is like inside the mind of a person with DID, “Inside”, directed by Trevor Sands. I really like the dead-on accuracy of having various types of alters (there’s about 30 types) in this short film.

Where I found this really cool short film is from this informal talk on Dissociative Identity Disorder by vlogger Jessica, who runs vlog Multiplicity and Me below:

Next week, there will be guest writer, Cypress, who will write about her personal experiences with living with DID. Given the subject of this topic, please feel free to use the comment section because this can be one very confusing disorder.

So, the month focusing on a special subject went down in flames. No writer submissions, I missed my publish dates as well, nothing really went well. That’s not cool. I’ll probably do it again next year, with better preparations.

Instead, I’m just going to direct your attention to a recent interview I just did from ACTION Mag. It was actually a good experience, I recommend reading it.

I’ll also post this call for diverse writers for an upcoming Pagan publication. I was one of the (incredibly) few asked and I said that I wasn’t going to write unless there were at least 6 minority Pagan writers, at least three of them Black. The anthology curator didn’t even bother to ask four in total. Meaning the anthology is geared to becoming nearly all White with some measly token thrown in as if it is just as good as actual diversity. Here are the submission guidelines.  You can also email tara.miller21[at]gmail.com.

Since normal content resumes in April, which is soon, just watch this short film, titled “Cupidon”. It’s about a day in the life of Cupid as he does his job, but makes a mistake with his arrows that turned one person in a potential couple into a total megalomaniac as he tried to make a match.

It’s March, which means it’s month-long series time! This year, we’re focusing on technology! This month will feature guest writings and focus mainly on this dedicated subject. Normal postings will resume in April.

Let’s talk phones and developing … actually, there’s a million think-pieces on developing, let’s talk about rooting (this is mainly for android devices because Android is very developer friendly … and I use it extensively) and building computers. Both are fun things to do, you can truly let your creativity flow with these and it’s not as difficult as one would like to think.

Since I’ve been working with modding mobile devices, let’s start there and do computers another time. Recently, I changed my phone’s low battery beep from the annoying sound to saying “밥주세요/Bap Joo Sae Yo” in a shouting, cute voice, much like how the phones do in Korea (currently learning the language). Changing the low battery sound is not the same as merely changing the ringtone for phone calls or text messages because the sound is hardcoded into the system. Hardcoded means that the file is programmed as part of the internal system, in opposed to the term “softcoded”, which basically means that the file can be changed by the user for whatever reason. Softcoding allows users to change their text and phone ringtone. Hardcoding is supposed to maintain system regularity, including audio and visual indicators. It isn’t that phone makers think that too much customizing is a bad thing, it’s just that you can’t softcode every little thing because it could affect the root of the system and make everything run awry. And who wants to work in a call center dealing with angry callers because they downloaded a bad file and now their battery gauge system doesn’t work? Or now, somehow a virus got into the root system through the bad file and the whole phone is messed up.

To avoid being super baffling with lingo and techie jargon, I’ll focus on just rooting basics. Something simple as changing the low battery beep on your smartphone/tablet.

Before anything, we ready your sound. Smartphones nowadays like .ogg files so .wav and .mp3 files simply just won’t do. The file extension .ogg is an open format part of OGG Vorbis. Read more about it here and here to understand its background but it isn’t a must enable to complete this goal. Just know that you need an .ogg file.  That means you’ll have to convert it.

It can be any sound clip, just keep it short because it wouldn’t make sense for the phone to play a whole song or an album stream just to inform you that you need to put in your charger. As long as it can translate into an .ogg file (use this site) you’re golden.

After you make your file, keep it somewhere safe on your computer to later transport onto your mobile device’s local folder (like in the media>audio folder). Now we have to work on rooting the phone.

This part require individual research because there isn’t a catch-all rooting program or unlocking bootloader program, both things you can do yourself. To find out what model you have, go into the Settings>About Device and from there, you should see what your model number is.

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Research to see if there is need for a bootloader to be unlocked because not all phones have locked bootloaders. A bootloader is OS booting up/starting up program. It loads all the files in your phone much like your computer does. If it is locked, it means that it is like a door to a multiplex building, it’s not meant to be opened. Here’s info about bootloaders both here and here so you can read more about them. Locked bootloaders also can be so to keep a particular phone to one network like AT&T or Verizon. Different phone companies have different histories about their bootloaders such as Motorola and Samsung. Unlocked bootloader phones – unlocked phones, basically – are friendlier to developers because of easier access for them, the devs.

You can unlock Dev options by going into About Device and hitting the back button 7 times in quick succession. There should be a little pop up stating “You are [#] times away from being a developer”. After you finally press the back button singularly, you should see a new selection called “Developer Options”. Tap on it and be sure to check “USB Debugging”. This will keep things running smoothly.

Alright, I’m sure that you should have guessed but make sure you have all your phone or tablet backed up. Since you’re messing with your phone/tablet’s internal system, that means you could lose everything on your device. It would be pretty bad if you didn’t plan ahead and lost everything as a result. Also, this would be the time to say that by performing this work on your phone or tablet, you’re most likely voiding your warranty. This means that if you have any future problems with your phone, you’re on your own. A potentially bad thing that could happen is that you could brick your phone/tablet. When a device is bricked, basically that means you’ve turned your smartphone into a paperweight that can beep, blink and glow. It will be perfectly useless. Thaaaaaat’s not good. There’s also potentially soft bricking your phone/tablet, which means there are some parts of it that can’t be used and its abilities will be drastically and most noticeably reduced. So you’ll have a partially active paperweight.  Don’t want that either so make sure you research exactly what to do and where to go. I highly recommend hanging out on XDA Developers particularly and Phandroid to figure out if your device has a locked bootloader or not with a quick search.

There are different rooting programs but Kingo Root is highly suggested so let’s go with them and they cover a wide range of devices. If Kingo Root does not have your device, make sure you can find another that does. Remember, rooting is free, if you have to pay, turn away. And it is best to use a rooting system that involves a connected computer so if anything goes wrong, the necessary information to discover what happened won’t go down with the rest of the ship.

Alright, with Kingo Root (or whatever program you decided to go with) make sure you go by exactly what they say, letter for letter. Rooting has gotten much simpler nowadays, it’s relatively easier and a good start for those that want to try their hands at being a dev. because it’s baby steps. Remember to grant access to your program so everything can run smoothly. If you have a Samsung device, like me, you may have to deal with Knox, the security system. Don’t have it disabled, your phone/tablet will work fine.

After you have rooted and rebooted your phone as well as put the desired sound file somewhere easy to find on your phone, this means you have to download a root browser onto your phone/tablet. I like Root Browser, which is really good. Now you’re able to go into the internal system and change some things!

You’re going to see two “System” folders. You want the one that has the computer monitor in front of it. This is where you want to go. From there, here is the pathway: System/Media/Audio/UI. In the UI file, you’ll find the LowBattery.ogg file. You can even listen to it with your phone/tablet’s music player to confirm it. Wild, huh?

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Now that you have found your low battery sound, find your new low battery sound – don’t forget to write down the exact name of the low battery sound file so the system can effortlessly find the new file and execute it without a hitch because the system is programmed to look for a file with that exact name for the exact purpose of beeping when the phone/tablet’s battery is low. This is so when you copy the file (don’t move, just copy or you’ll get an error) to the UI folder, you can rename the file to the correct name.  Once you do that, delete the old Low Batt file. This will force the system to use the file you provided. Also, you will have to change the permissions to match the other permissions in the file. To do that, long press on your new Low Battery file, which will bring up the list. Go to Permissions, which is signified with an opened silver lock.

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See how I have it? And how the outcome at the bottom looks like everyone else in the file list? Copy it. You’ll see the letters change at the bottom as you modify. Remember, RWX is Read, Write, Execute. See the relation between the dashes and the empty spaces? They correlate. Here is a good write up on how permissions work. If the permissions are wrong, the sound file won’t play at all and you’ll just have the phone merely do everything else normal in notifying you of a low battery but with no sound at all.

Now exit everything and reboot the phone. Everything should be complete. Time to wait for your battery to run out and there, you should hear a brand new sound.

Congrats, you just reprogrammed your phone more to your liking.

You can do more research on what you can do with a rooted phone, XDA Developers is fantastic for learning new tips and tricks.

This post is part of the “Stuck in my Head” series. Normal posting resumes in April.

This is the last post of the “Stuck in my Head” series. This post will be about how to find a therapist and to help you issues. I can’t promise it’ll solve your problems but it’s best of have some resource somewhere.

When I was looking for a therapist. I actually first went through Google because I didn’t really know what was out there. I searched on Google for “Therapist” and my state and basically called up whatever I saw on the maps. Here are some sites that can help you:

Psychology Today “Find a Therapist”

Network Therapy

Good Therapy

You just have to put in your zip code or your address and they’ll pull up some people that are in your area. When looking for a therapist, it’s important to find one on a sliding scale (my therapy is currently $2USD a session) and will listen to you. A therapist should be on your side, not just treating you like a helpless lunatic. No need to waste your money going to someone you feel is not going to listen to you or make you feel uncomfortable.

When I looked for a therapist, I pretty much would unload and see how they take it. Since I was looking for therapists while being really suicidal, I pretty much picked the therapist that I felt actually listened to me. It should be easy going for the most part at the start as they’re getting to know you. If they do anything, no matter how slight, that raises red flags and create unnecessary friction such as not trying to listen to you or make you feel under the gun.

Now, here’s something that is pretty basic but needs to be said anyways: There’s going to be parts that are going to be right uncomfortable. If you have suffered a lot of trauma, it’s a big ball of twine that is going to take lot of work unraveling. Actually, more like a big tangled box of Christmas lights but you get the drift. That means there’s going to be parts where you don’t want to go and will be very difficult. Just try to get through them the best that you can.

Alright, for those who are dealing with being triggered, I have mobile apps (sidenote: I have Android and Kakao Talk) you can use. See, I tried playing Tetris but after a while, I not only got bored but also started to associate the game with the triggers so I didn’t want to play it because it became a negative feedback loop for me. Here are some games that are really useful when being triggered. These games are on the Korean social media app Kakao Talk but I’m sure there are Western equivalents:

AniPang (I and II) – This game is very similar to Bejeweled and possibly Candy Crush (never played Candy Crush so I’m going off of what everyone else says). You try to switch around the little animal faces and match them up at least three in a row to get points. The music and themes are very cute and helpful to deal with triggers. I like using the little power-up that quickly identifies combos so you don’t additionally stress yourself out more than you are.

AniSachun – This game is a match game where you match two food items against a clock. It’s quick and fun.

It’s important to find a game that uses quick memory skills like Tetris so your mind can better process the triggering event and make it easier to cope with and reduces flashbacks.

Here are also some websites that can help you recover and deal with your mental illness:

WOC Recovery – This is mainly for Women minorities, there’s a lot of great resources and they post regularly.

Imastrugglingpoc – This is for minorities in general to create the safe space that is not provided for us in regular mental health fields

And that’s all for this month! Normal posting resumes.

This post is part of the month long series “Stuck in my Head”, discussing mental illness. Normal posting resumes in April.

It’s difficult living with a myriad of mental illnesses. For me, I think I started noticing something was “wrong” when I was around 12, which is about three years roughly before I was even introduced to Paganism. One thing I particularly remembered is how suicidal I was in school and that I probably needed help. I think since then, I have been seeing some type of mental health practitioner on and off and without my parents knowing because I didn’t feel like being lectured about how, despite the historical horrors and consistent prejudices that Black folks have had to face, even in modern times, we don’t have mental problems. Mental problems were usually seen as “White people complaining about how good they got it” and everyone else is supposed to be some machine that is well accustomed to being held back due to institutionalized hatred. Oddly enough, being told to just “suck it up” and “deal with it” didn’t prevent me from having breakdown after breakdown nor did it stop me from having suicide attempts. If anything, not really having room to express emotion kind of exacerbated those self-destructive responses. Huh, funny that. Forced self-dehumanization both causes and speeds up poor mental health, who could have seen that coming?

While being told that somehow, I don’t have feelings or that I should ignore them so I can proceed further in life, I would be told by the same people who would rather not see a therapist but use religion instead, either by going to church or reading the Bible or praying. I never liked the idea of that because religion is nice but sometimes you need a super objective response that won’t result in “Oh, you just didn’t pray hard enough.” That used to (and still does) infuriate me because it is so dismissive of my problems, it doesn’t even toss a potential solution.

Although, when I was younger, I tried to take all the free mental health services I could that was provided by my schools because I didn’t want to “pay to just talk to someone”, which was the explanation I often told myself and others. That was my major concern, the thought of paying someone money just to talk to me when I have people (though, not many) to talk to …oh and the thought of getting institutionalized. I didn’t want to get sent off because I felt that was the final step of proving how “crazy” I was, to finally be locked away.

Dealing with mental illnesses suck but still having to interact with people, I’ve grown pretty irritated with continual stigmas and myths and regular missteps. I guess laying them out in list form would help

Being told, “Oh, I have that, too, it’s like a super power”: Chances are, if you think my OCD, PTSD, DD-NOS, etc is cool, you probably don’t have it. There’s nothing fun about having episodes where you can’t remember anything that you did. Nor is it fun having to pretty much gravitate around select people because you’re certain you’re about to act out and to the point strangers think you’re stalking said person (this actually happened to me, yay having noteworthy friends and dealing with their over-hyper fans). Usually when people say this, it’s in effort to minimize the severity of the issue, not to create solidarity because it generally follows this next item below:

Being told, “Why don’t you do [unhelpful/dumb idea here], that’s what works for me”: Back in February I had another suicide attempt and it was fairly evident given I pretty much walked around in tears and if spoken to, I probably was going to say “I should have taken more sleeping pills” within the first three sentences. One lady, who ironically was the security of the Department of Mental Health (yeah, take a guess how much work these DofMH guys do), told me to “get a grip”.

Oh.

Get a grip?

Why didn’t I think of that?

Just get a grip. Sounds so much easier than taking a fatal dose of sleeping pills the night before and planning to slit my wrist next, I wonder why just “get a grip” didn’t come to me first. Man, if only I could have used my 132 academic IQ to come to that conclusion. Wow, thank you lady who works for the Department of Mental Health, you guys save so many lives. It was such a brilliant idea, I wound up going back home and continued trying to kill myself. Man, just “get a grip”, what ease. I’ll try to remember that the next time.

Chances are, whatever you’re going to suggest, there’s a stupidly good likelihood I (and others who suffer from mental illness) have tried that method many times and if it didn’t work then when things were less severe, it’s most likely not going to work now when things are about to go Chernobyl in my head. Just listen to us, it’s probably the best you can do. There’s a reason why there are people who are professionally trained to deal with people like me and then there’s people who show absolutely no concern when encountering someone in absolute distress.

Being told “Just pray/God will find a way/Take it to the cross”: Firstly, I’m not Christian. I really dislike when people try to help me by blatantly ignoring the fact that I’m not Christian because it makes me think, “If you’re going to willfully ignore a pretty basic fact about me, you’re probably not going to be much help down the road with my actual problems, which is not ‘just simply Not Christian’”. Secondly, even when I talk to suicidal people and other folks who are at the end of their rope, I never bring up religion because the distressed person want plausible and visible answers to their problems. Telling them to pray to an invisible guy in the sky doesn’t sound like a reasonable answer that will fix their problems. The point to talking to a distressed person is to talk them down, not make them feel further hopeless since you’re pretty much told them to change their perspective because the situation is solution-proof. I think back when I was in high school and intensely suicidal, someone told me that Jesus is there and the usual dribble that accompanies saying this. I just responded, “Great, I’ll be able to tell Him personally how much he sucks at his job.” When someone is that far gone, religion can’t save them. When it comes to mental illness, these illnesses need to be treated with the same severity as physical illness. If I came down with flu, I don’t want someone simply to pray over it, I want to see a doctor.

Being told “Black people don’t commit suicide/have problems because we’ve overcame so much”: That’s completely phony and self-dehumanizing internalized racism. Also, it’s funny how the word “collectively” does not get used. We have overcame a lot collectively because there were definitely slaves who killed themselves because living a tortured existence under systematic despair and holocaust did not seem enticing. There are Black folks who have killed themselves and they’re still Black. Otherwise, someone is going to have to go to the family of Soul Train’s creator Don Cornelius’ and tell them he’s posthumously revoked his Black card somehow despite all he’s done for contemporary Black culture. Being Black shouldn’t have to be synonymous with “eternal suffering”. Black people are still people and people in general have problems, especially when exposed to strongly affecting environments more than others. Besides, any idiot who says that we’re Black and therefore do not have problems need to look at a few statistics in regards to Blackness and mental health.

“Oh man, I’m so crazy. It’s fun being insane”: No, it’s not. I have been creative and I have had mental episodes, I was not creative during those episodes. If anything, I couldn’t create anything because I was too busy being depressed or acting out. Funny how going unhinged really takes up your time and pretty much takes you hostage. There’s a difference between being eccentric and suffering from mental illness. Insanity = Creativity is one of the biggest and most dangerous creativity myths, right up there with Drugs=Creativity, because it makes people actively not seek out help for their problems or justify their problems with, “Yeah my problems are bad but I wouldn’t be able to paint/write/create like I do so I guess there’s some silver lining.” No, no there isn’t. I know because I used to think this way myself, that getting rid of my problems would get rid of my creative works. This was until it finally dawned on me that I’m getting reaaaally unstable fast because when I put myself back in a volatile environment (similar to the one that originally gave me these problems) and figured I was going to wind up in a box. Ok, I actually gave myself a card reading and it pretty much read out, “You need a therapist or you’re gonna need a priest.” Yeah, no joy was had during those episodes, especially the dissociative ones. Things are comparatively better now since I have a therapist but I still have the occasional episode when triggered and I’m absolutely no fun when I’m triggered.

“You’re Pagan, maybe that’s why you have problems”: I guess we could blame my religion and my metaphysical practices for something that occurred several years before I actively started doing those practices because that would be so many worlds easier than actually blaming, I don’t know, the highly vitriolic and PTSD inducing environments that I was raised in. Since I was brought up in the inner city, I thus saw and encountered a lot of horrible things and there’s even statistics that has backed me up. My own city, Baltimore, was described as a “war zone … 80% of the population has PTSD” by sociologists in the local Citypaper back in, I believe, 2008. In addition, I have to deal with street harassment, open drug trafficking and all the wonderful monsters – I mean, “people”- that come with it, folks who destroy lives like walking atom bombs but are protected in the community. This is some of the stuff that’s usually ignored, dismissed or swept under the rug, some really important and impacting problems…and you’re going “Maybe you should stop being Pagan?” Really? How about doing something about the drug dealers on the corners or the zombies and zonked out, stoned out, passed out people they create? Perhaps trying to tackle rape culture is too much work? Someone just got shot and you’re telling folks that crying is a really stupid way to deal with it, it’s just part of life and you have to move on instead of getting stuck on the “little things” like random happenings of violent death? How about the fact I never felt comfortable in my own skin until relatively recently because the people who gave me the most hell for being different were Black folks? Really? All this and the fact I don’t pray to the Christian deity anymore is somehow the freakin problem? Yeah, no.

“I guess crazy isn’t that fun after all”: What I also encounter, yet is not exactly phrased but expressed is the “I guess crazy isn’t that fun after all” act. These are usually shown by people who say that being mentally wayward is great…until they interact with someone who has an actual illness and find out it’s not all spontaneous and funky. All of a sudden, it’s pretty evident that this person is sometimes many miles past “quirky” and they aren’t acting the way they are because it’s cute but because the demons in their heads are making serious noise. That means sometimes these people can bum a party out or needs extra care. All of a sudden, hanging with someone who has depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder isn’t as awesome as music videos and movies make it seem, so those people get left in the dust, usually with no explanation and no warning. That’s because their friend, armed now with only the negative myths and stigmas of mental illness, tend to now avoid them and the episodes they come with because if the mental illness is not going to create an artistic savant like the movies promised, then they guess they’re going to get a serial murderer instead. Or the mentally ill person is just “not as fun as I thought they’d be”. The power of friendship, isn’t it nice?

“Your illness bothers me”: Do I really have to explain this one? They’re usually couched in the “I guess crazy isn’t that fun after all” group but are so special, they need their own space. These folks first were first saying, “I’ll be there for you, just let me know” and other, usually comforting, lines but you start to learn that’s what they are, lines. You can tell because those lines change or is simply not in sync with how the person actually is. They say “You can call me at any time” but are practically unreachable, say “you can always talk to me” but give some of the worst advice. And then the switch up where the person is really really uncomfortable with knowing someone has a mental illness, especially if the illness produces a couple suicide attempts, is something jaw dropping. It isn’t easy learning about the mental illness a loved one is impacted by but treating the person like a leaper isn’t going to exactly help. At all. If the person who feels bothered by the mental illness doesn’t like it, they should imagine how the person actually suffering with the illness feels.

“You don’t need a therapist, you can talk to me!”: Ok, I have a lot of knowledge of medicine because I’m in a family where pretty much all the women are doctors. This means I could probably help you medically a little more than the average person but I will still recommend you go see a doctor. A therapist is a trained professional so if I start to disassociate or have an episode, they can effectively do something about it. In my experience, the average person just does everything they can to make my episodes worse without knowing it. A therapist is trained to not make me feel bad for having a disorder. A therapist actually has the training to deal with my very, very real disorders. Watching Monk or A Beautiful Mind does not mean you can help me at all. And if anything, usually the ones who say this generally are the least helpful because they don’t do anything that helps you, just stuff that makes them feel they’re being helpful, wise and smart. I don’t try to persuade my diabetic friend to not take insulin because I saw some illogical writing about all you need is to limit sugar intake because that could kill them. Telling me to ignore my episodes and to just see them as part of life could easily throw me into a suicidal pattern and wind up killing me. I need a therapist to control my disorders because it’s more than just a case of the blues the same way my diabetic friend needs a doctor to control her disease because it’s more than just a case of having an awful sweet tooth. And given the examples of usual responses I get from people who learn about my disorders, why would I want to talk to them?

It is a long road dealing with mental illness. It’s not how the tv shows and movies depict it at all. It’s frustrating and since more people know the oft-pushed myths about it than the reality, it just adds to the frustration. Also, because mental illness is usually invisible (even some of the psychosomatic symptoms are invisible, too), it’s either folks think you’re making it up for attention or it’s just an issue that simple stern discipline can correct.

It’s even more problematic when as a Black person, you’re not really represented in any widespread campaigns for mental illness. The lack of representation passively pushes the stereotypical and fairly internalized myth that “Black folks don’t feel pain” and it’s harder to identify with the campaign well enough to get help. Then, getting help is difficult because a lot of head doctors do not like to take racism into account of what could cause stress because it’s easier to describe the patient as “militant” rather than actually understand what they’re going through. (That’s actually the exact word therapist #3 said to me. I never came back for another session). This is really an issue because there are very, very little Black therapists (or really any other therapist besides White). It means a lot of people are probably going to pass on getting help simply because they are thoroughly convinced that it would be useless or possibly harmful to tell a White person, certified shrink or not, about their problems because it could be an easy one-way ticket to a nut house for simply saying “I don’t like dealing with racism.” Being a shrink does not always improve communications because psychology as a whole is mainly centered on Whiteness and it’s too easy to look like you’ve finally lost your marbles if you don’t follow along the narrative.

Of course, things are further complicated when you’re not part of the big three religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam). Chances are, especially if you’re Pagan, your expression of faith is not covered under the “sane” category. Saying you talk to deities and believe trees have spirits is practically a surefire way to get locked away if your therapist isn’t open-minded enough. Yep, it’s tough when you’re going nuts.

Next time, we’ll post some how-to’s on how to get a therapist and for low cost as well as healthy coping mechanisms to deal with mental illness. Due to the lateness of this post (sorry, folks) that post will be on Sunday.

This post is for the month long series titled “Stuck in my Head”. This feature is written by Kat, a university student and a mod from the WOC Recovery tumblr.

I had major depressive disorder. I struggled with it, I lived with it. I self-analyzed every thought and emotion, I was convinced I knew everything about my mental illness.

My friend said to me: “Do you think you might have PTSD? You act a lot like my friend who has it. ”

I had been talking about a roommate situation from a while back. It went badly because I became the extra wheel almost immediately, which was disappointing. But when I was unable to make friends anywhere nearby, I broke and became clinically depressed. First, I was in a lot of pain, later on I became very numb and space-y. My appearance was changing, and my fear of being ridiculed by men increased exponentially. It had been present prior to being emotionally abused by a male friend, but had been relatively dormant until then.

I didn’t know how to manage my depression, so my space became disorganized and I was sleeping very late. This clashed with my roommates’ lifestyle. I was constantly apologizing, trying to change, but I couldn’t maintain any of my efforts. After being kicked out of the apartment, I was terrified of running into them. I felt horrific shame, to the point where I forgot that I hadn’t been accepted by them from the beginning. I eventually ran into one of my now-former roommates and apologized to them.

I had possibly suspected that I have problems relating to guys who reminded me of my former friend. I went out of my way to avoid being noticed by men like that, which wasn’t too difficult, but when it did happen I would bolt. I still wasn’t convinced, because I had been raised to believe that only certain things-any form of permanent loss or illness- were a Big Deal. Even though I understood struggles or trauma shouldn’t be compared in that way- and applied this mentality when conversing with others- I could not apply it to myself without feeling guilty. So I acknowledged that in a detached way.

But my roommates? That seemed completely random. “Think about it”, my friend said. I was about to respond about how what she said couldn’t be right- then…oh. I realized that my fear and avoidance of my roommates was indistinguishable from how I felt around certain guys. I looked up PTSD symptoms. There’s a wide range, but I matched the avoidance symptoms. I also discovered that my numbness, spaciness, and forgetfulness matched the symptoms of dissociation. This was a relief to discover because I had lost months of my life due to not being present and not being able to control that. I am still researching symptoms and trying to learn grounding techniques to help them.

Apparently, there’s two official types of PTSD: simple and complex. The first stems from one traumatizing event. The second comes from traumatizing or stressful events occurring regularly for an extended period of time. I tried to research about complex PTSD and emotional abuse but the primary situation discussed was emotional abuse from parents, not peers. Abuse from parents or guardians is widely recognized as a serious issue and not something that’s acceptable to minimize. But how could I ever say I got complex PTSD from bullying? I’m still in the process of accepting it. Experiencing PTSD symptoms from something not recognized as traumatic is so confusing, especially when you are taught to “push through it” and “so many people had it worse”.

I think now is a good time to mention self-diagnosis of mental illnesses. There’s nothing wrong with it, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. This is true especially if you don’t have access to healthcare but even if you choose not to for personal reasons. There is no biological test for mental illnesses, you are basically just interviewed and evaluated via a list of symptoms. You can easily find a list of symptoms online, just make sure the website is reputable (I’ve included a link to a site below). No doctor knows your mind better than you, especially with their track record of misdiagnoses- most commonly diagnosing bipolar disorder as depression. However, giving yourself anti-depressants or medicating yourself is not something I agree with – it’s a trial and error process, even with supervision. And considering the possible side effects, it’s much too risky.

If you do have access, I would recommend seeing a counselor with high reviews and go from there. If you need medication, that’s okay. Psychiatry as an institution is pretty awful to so many people- but if you need it, try to go by recommendations or reviews for a better experience so it can help you. You are not hurting people with “real” diagnoses. You are not lying for attention. Think about it, if you make the decision to see a doctor or counselor, you already know something is wrong and probably tried to figure it out before hand. As long as you don’t partake in risky treatments, you are justified.

To help with that, this is a site specifically for therapists that has worksheets for patients- worksheets that contain information or activities for certain treatment, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There is a long list of illnesses/problems you can click on at the bottom of the page and look at specific resources for. The second site has CBT self-help for depression/anxiety/anger, the third has self-help for dialectal behavior therapy (DBT).

http://www.psychologytools.org/behavioural-activation.html

http://www.get.gg/cbtstep1.htm

http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/

I believe in you. Just take it one day at a time. -Kat

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