Hot on the heels of my relatively lighthearted look at attention deficit disorder, in which I referred to myself as "differently focused" came this morning's Dear Abby. Yes, I read Dear Abby. It's right there in the feature section. You might as well know the worst about me. I even think Jeanne Phillips is pretty smart, and does a good job. OK, there are worse things about me, but we'll save those till later, like 2012.
Anyway, it wasn't Phillips who teed me off this morning. It was the last letter. The one in which the adoptive mom of a child with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder is still the official term) says that "we" choose to use a "new term." MPG. Multiple Personality Gift.
I looked this up. It seems to originate with a book, and apparently one that's a great help to people brave and cool enough to take on loving a multiple.
Usually when something gets me angry, I whip out my trusty keyboard and start fighting about it with the appropriate online entity. But this morning I was angry beyond words. I put the paper back on the coffee table, made a conscious decision to forget I'd even read it, and did.
Something on TV this evening brought it back into my consciousness. I had probably, no joke, dissociated, the everyday mind trick kind of dissociation that we all use (daydreaming is another one), because I really had no idea why I was in such a foul mood all day.
We've got a language problem in this society, and it's caused by a boundary problem. We've traditionally defined people by some out-of-the-mainstream characteristic. Blindness, deafness, ADD, things we used to call "handicaps" and "disorders." We'd pigeonhole somebody as "handicapped" as though nothing else about them mattered.
And the movement to call these "differences" and "challenges" so as to acknowledge that it's something they do -- and deal with and overcome-- it's not who they are, is not a bad thing.
To me it would be better to call a damn disorder a disorder, and then train people that it's a small part of who a person is. That it does not define them. This may be too hard. I never had such a concept of identity or boundaries myself, until life as a 12-stepper. It's not a quick and easy concept to train into oneself, much less society as a whole, and I can accept changing the terms as a practical solution.
I have no answers.
But I have a great big answer to the claim that multiple personality is a gift and that answer is No.
DID is a coping mechanism. It helps people, usually as young children, get through trauma. But like many coping mechanisms, it mutates like a movie Gremlin, from a nurturing servant into a lousy master, and is no gift.
I see several letters in the column, and other things I've encountered in other sites, showing how successful relationships with some DID's are possible. If spouses study up first and know what they're getting into, OK. But forgive me for thinking a happy outcome is not typical.
Forgive me for thinking that childhood trauma most often creates relational problems for the victim (survivor, whatever), whether he/she becomes a multiple or not, and that DID is no more likely to prevent those problems than is non-dissociative response.
Those who want to point out that DID is not an angry or violent disorder intrinsically, fine. That it allows the patient to put the trauma into a smaller more manageable box instead of having the fear and anger that the trauma creates permeate all of life - great. That works for me.
But that's still far from it being a gift. At best I would call it Less Worse. The kids, parents, or spouses of DID patients can live in a confusing, frightening hell. Anything traumatic enough to cause such a dissociation is also quite likely to cause relationship problems. That unresolved abuse often makes the abused feel a lifetime attraction and hatred --both-- to people who remind him of the abuser or trigger the old feelings, is well-known.
Yes, this is personal. Yes, I know whereof I speak. Yes, mine is one person's experience, and others differ.
Yes my reaction was way more emotional than rational.
But I stand by my contention that calling this disorder a gift is the worst of PC excess. They can be very gifted people. They can be very brave people. For some, getting out of bed in the morning and facing the day, relating, creating, is an act of courage and a bloody miracle. Distance and time have enabled me to see this in someone I once knew, and to admire the admirable in him and wish him well.
But the overwhelming need to call negative things by positive terms can sometimes deserve "otherly differently abled" mockery. I've lived with a DID and it was no gift to anyone, least of all to the one who had it.