Those who know me might be very confused as to why someone with my personality would have a problem accepting a diagnosis of dissociation.
After all, i do make a rather strong impression. That i’ve changed significantly through study and hard work notwithstanding, people generally remember meeting me. More than that, they probably also have a fairly good idea whether they like me or they don’t; i’m that sort of person. I’m drawn to extremes, i feel things intensely, i have strong opinions, and i don’t mind telling you about them – even though you may not have asked. Heh.
Did you notice the name i use for my site? Histrionica is a name i made up (which i’ve since learned is the name of a beetle) years ago when i joined a scifi fan page. I thought it hilariously appropriate because i can be a tad histrionic upon occasion. I added an “a” to make it sound feminine, and voila!
I revelled in drama growing up. I joined choirs and drama groups every place we lived. I joined every club and after school activity i could in order to get out of the house as much as possible. (Not after school SCHOOL activities, though. School was as hellish as home was, sometimes.) I sang and i acted and i was very, very good. Gifted, by all accounts by all the directors with whom i ever worked. Full of potential and promise. I could sing anything, play anyone convincingly. I could affect any accent you wished, i only had to listen to it for a bit and i could do it. I could ape anyone. I could do you, for anyone who knew you, and they’d know it was you.
And then there was school… UGH. Well, there’s no sense in sugarcoating shit at this stage of the game, so i won’t.
I lied. I lied a LOT. I lied about anything, to anyone, for any reason. For no reason.
It started at home. If i did something wrong, i got hit. I didn’t want to get hit, so i would deny i did the wrong thing, even if i had done it. Pretty typical kid behaviour, except the abuse i was living with exacerbated the problem. Even when i hadn’t done anything wrong, i was consistently treated as if i had. I was the receptacle for all my parent’s unwanted emotions. I grew up believing there was something terribly wrong with me – that i was bad and deserving of punishment. That doesn’t mean i didn’t still try to avoid it.
My first defense was always denial.
Then i’d tell a story about why i couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t do the thing of which i was accused, that i had actually done.
This carried itself into my school performance. I didn’t want to get into trouble, so i would lie. There was so much tumult at home that i often wouldn’t complete my homework, and when the teacher would ask me about it, i’d lie. And i was so strange in my appearance (read: poor and unkempt) and odd in my behaviour, that i would invent grand and fantastical stories as to why. I mean, i knew i was different, if for no other reason than my fellow students would regularly remind me. Some even questioned me about it – mostly the bullies, but every once in a while, a genuine, concerned query would come from a kinder peer. I’d always lie. Well, i told a bit of truth to a couple of friends in high school, but their lack of response only reaffirmed what i’d learned growing up:
1) We do not speak of these things;
2) It’s not a big deal;
3) You deserve what’s happening to you.
Honestly though, i must have had quite the reputation for telling whoppers, so how were they supposed to know when i was telling the truth? I don’t blame them a bit. The one teacher i disclosed to is another story… He was my favourite teacher and he broke my heart and it hurts to this day.
Sorry… A bit off topic, but still somewhat relevant to what i’m trying to relay.
Finally, i must devote some time to my love of fantasy. Growing up, my ability to lose myself in art: books, movies, television, even music – it saved my life. Both figuratively speaking, and i believe, quite literally as well. I didn’t just read Lord of the Rings – i lived it. I read the books through 3 or 4 times, just to go back and be with my friends and have those adventures again. My imagination is very developed, very adept, very intense. I WAS Alice. I was Pippi Longstocking, i was Marcia Brady, i was Ginger AND Mary Ann. I was Velma, and i was the smart one who solved the mystery. I would come home from a day of teachers ignoring me and children torturing me, and i would be Belinda Carlisle on tour with the Go-Go’s, and i would bump into Harrison Ford or Sting at some Hollywood party, where they would see me and ask me out and we’d fall in love…
I would comfort my poor, hurt feelings for hours sometimes, with only enough time left to take orders from Mom over cooking, cleaning, or kid care, and then to bed. Door closed and light off or i’d get yelled at and/or hit. Next day at school, i’d lie to the teacher about why my homework wasn’t done.
Once i got away from school and home, i didn’t need to lie so much. And so i actually didn’t. Over the years though, the one thing i found i couldn’t quite let go of was my penchant for exaggeration. It was like a lingering imprint or a reflex that lessened with age, but still… For many years, i just couldn’t seem to resist embellishing the truth a little. If i lost 10lbs, i’d tell you 20. If i hadn’t slept a wink last night, i’d tell you not for the last 2 or 3. If i ate an entire pizza to myself and you asked what i’d had for supper, i’d tell you salad and fresh fruit. Okay that last one was an outright lie. I admit i still told those sometimes.
It wasn’t until i learned enough about the effects of abuse that i understood why i was lying and telling fish stories. I believed i wasn’t good enough. I was afraid that deep down inside, i was bad. I was trying to hide it – trying to keep others from finding out. It took years of concerted effort, but that kind of behaviour has been behind me for a long time.
I still lie, but only when necessary, or for reasons of self-care or kindness. If you think honesty is the best policy, or lying is always bad, well… This piece isn’t for that subject, but maybe one day i’ll write a bit about my thoughts in this area, and you can read it and see what you think.
Maybe you’re starting to see where i’m going.
Why i resisted my diagnosis so hard, and for so long.
If you are, maybe you can help me out here, because it’s freaking hard to put into words. Blargh. It’s all buzzing around up there in my brain, but it’s like trying to separate the ingredients once you’ve made soup out of them.
This is a mental illness with more baggage than most. A lot of people don’t even believe it exists. Some people fake it in order to escape the consequences of their bad behaviour, or to get attention. Most people’s only experience of it is through ham-handed tv tropes, or as a literary device, including the (in?)famously debunked novels like “Sybil” and “Michelle Remembers”. It’s an illness chock full of drama and controversy. It invites and elicits very strong opinions.
Once i got away from my mother and her influence, i realised i was an abused child. Once i had a child of my own i knew i needed to deal with it or i couldn’t be the kind of mom i wanted to be. Through doing the work, i realised i was mentally ill, but i didn’t know exactly what was wrong – no diagnosis seemed to fit. And then this diagnosis comes along that fits me perfectly, but it appeals to parts of my nature that i’m trying to change or eliminate altogether. Parts like my propensity for embellishment and my tendency towards histrionics. I was terrified that people were telling me what the sick parts of me wanted to hear. Factor in that out of the dozens of people i’d met claiming to be dissociative, they all seemed to be faking it, save one.
I couldn’t allow myself to accept something because it offered a convenient excuse for all the troubles of my life. And i couldn’t allow myself to believe it just because it was perfect for the artist inside me, or even for the little girl who saved her own life with her mutant power of imagination.
What got me there is what you read on my blog in every single post i make.
I was indoctrinated from birth. I was actively brainwashed.
The greatest, most beautiful, powerful, and incredible thing that happened to me when i got away from my mother, is that i was given the opportunity to think for myself. It was slow going until i found my safe place (my person*), but once i had that i was able to work harder and achieve better results. I wanted to know what i thought and why i thought it. As the bible i once studied required of me, i wanted to have a reason for what i believed. From there i learned to study independently, and i was on my way. I didn’t know that there was a name for what i was doing, but i now know it’s called critical thinking.
I’m not going to share with you my step-by-step examination of who i am and what the diagnosis says dissociatives are. It would be an exercise in people-pleasing on my part, and that is something i try to do only because i want to, not because i’m trying to prove something. Like anyone, i still crave those 4As (attention, acknowledgement, acceptance, affection), but that’s not what this is about. Whether or not you believe in the diagnosis, believe that what i share in this blog is genuinely me. This is who i am and how my brain works.
This is life as me, whatever name you give me or box you put me in. I don’t mind.
I want to help myself and be a better human. I hope that by sharing how i’m helping myself, i can do both.
He thought he was gonna die,
But he didn’t.
She thought she just couldn’t cope,
But she did.
We thought it would be so hard,
But it wasn’t…
It wasn’t easy, though!
~Walk Straight Down the Middle, Kate Bush
Love and Peace As Always,
*Grey’s Anatomy reference, my not-guilty-at-all pleasure.