I’m going to tell you something that not many people know about me. I have dissociative identity disorder.
Well, okay, I’ve written a number of articles on the subject and many people have read them, so it’s not a real big secret. But many people that know me “in real life” don’t know I have dissociative identity disorder (DID). And I’ll tell you why not.
DID is a condition that is not very well understood. Sometimes referred to as multiple personality disorder, DID is a condition in which a person has more than one separate and distinct personality state. Each personality at times controls the behavior of the person and has its own way of thinking and being. Most people think of Sybil when they think of multiple personality disorder, but in fact many people with DID experience less extreme manifestations of the condition.
That’s why I don’t tell many people I have DID, though. People don’t understand it and have negative misconceptions about what it might mean. I don’t want people to think I’m crazy and I don’t want them to be afraid of me. I also don’t want them to ask personal questions that I might not feel like answering. On the other hand, I’m writing about my condition here because it’s not something I’m ashamed of and because I think it’s important to provide accurate information for people that want to learn about DID.
Telling People Close to You
While I don’t tell everyone I know, I have told most people that are close to me. I want my close friends to know because I want them to know me, and my condition is a part of me. I want to be able to rely on them for support, and my friends can’t support me if they don’t understand what I’m dealing with. I also want them to understand why I act different sometimes, why I’m sometimes depressed or withdrawn; I don’t want them to think it’s because I don’t care about them.
Telling People at Work
It’s up to you whom you will tell, of course. I recommend using caution when considering telling people with whom you work, though. Federal law prohibits most employers from firing employees because of disabilities, and dissociative identity disorder is considered a disability, so in theory telling your employer should not jeopardize your job. In reality, though, employers sometimes find legal reasons to fire or lay off employees that have scary medical conditions. Even if you don’t lose your job, your employer might treat you differently if you tell him that you have DID. Coworkers might treat you differently, too, if you tell them. Keep in mind that people often share juicy gossip, even if you ask them not to, so if you tell one person at work, it’s possible everyone there might soon know.
Telling Your Family of Origin
Some people use the term “family of origin” to refer to their birth family or the family in which they grew up. It includes parents, siblings and any other close family members with whom you were raised. Whether or not to tell your family of origin that you have DID depends on the kind of relationship you have with them.
If you are close to your family members, if they offer you a lot of support, if you consider them friends as well as family, then you may want to tell them for the same reasons you would tell close friends.
If you’re not close to your family members, on the other hand, if they aren’t supportive of you, if you don’t consider them friends, you might not want to tell them. Dissociative identity disorder is often caused by severe childhood trauma and if your parents or other family members were abusive to you when you were growing up, you may not want to spend time with them at all, let alone tell them personal things about your health or emotional state.
If you’re not sure about telling family members, you might want to hold off until you feel certain. You might also want to discuss the issue with a therapist; you could even invite family members to a therapy session and tell them about your condition there.
Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder).
Alderman, Tracy and Karen Marshall. Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. 1998.