You Will Never Be Normal is the story of my dissociative identity disorder, (DID) and PTSD, a personal story of a mental illness that is seldom, if ever, talked about in conversations about overcoming stigma in mental health.
DID is often written about from the outside, by therapists, clinicians, and other witnesses. When approached from outside in that way, DID becomes a spectacle, and the person in pain at the center of it disappears. The strength, appeal, and focus of my memoir is that it is communicated from inside the DID experience.
My first point in disclosing is to help remove the stigma of DID and “multiple personalities,” to bring it out in the open.
My second point in disclosing is to directly address our national conversation about how trauma works on memory in the brains of survivors of traumatic sexual abuse.
My third point in disclosing is to demonstrate that resilience and healing can be learned and integrated into one’s life. We are uniquely positioned to be of aid to others, on their own paths of trauma recovery.
Rigorous ancient Buddhist meditative traditions have always taught that meditation has a dark side for those who are predisposed to mental fragility or have a traumatic past: that deep meditation can lead to instances of trauma, psychological dissociation and psychotic breaks—which happened to me, and alerted me to pay attention.
I had a life that many people would consider “normal.” I was a pediatric critical care RN and in a stable marriage with three grown children. I fiercely tried to hide that I was living with multiple personalities, or “Parts,” as I called them. When I dissociated or split off from my self, I could not stay with my self as one person. These Parts had begun in childhood as voices inside my head, until a series of traumatizing events as an adult, beginning in meditation, brought those identities out into my life in very real and sometimes dangerous ways.
Questioning my sanity, I engaged the help of a gifted psychotherapist, who was fortunately my meditation teacher. That lengthy journey took me back to my childhood, which helped me discover that I had created my different Parts in order to protect me from something that I was emotionally unable to handle. But knowing why I had taken such drastic steps didn’t cancel the possibility that my Parts could alienate my family, dissolve my sanity, or endanger my life. I thought that I needed to find a way to make myself whole again, to hold myself together as I explored the distinction between sane and insane and the fine line we all walk integrating the ambiguities in our lives.
You Will Never Be Normal starts out as the straightforward story of my experience. It ends as a deeper investigation of self-compassion and the reconciliation of opposite realities, dissociated and non-dissociated alike.