5 Critical Steps to Reduce the Stress of Chronic Mental Illness [Series Introduction]

Are you afraid to talk about your (or a family member's) mental illness? I was for many years. Finally I decided it’s time I be transparent and help #EndTheStigma. Change is possible and together we can make a difference!

The hairs on my arm grew taller as the noise got louder and faster. My frozen body gave permission to my eyes to scan the darkness for what I thought was a rattlesnake.


"Robyn." A sharp voice pulled me from my faceless dream.


I looked up to find the goose-neck light casting a shadow of my boyfriend on the wall. I was relieved when I realized the rattle I heard was from the bottle of medication he held in his hand.


He shook the pills and said in a firm, flat voice, “Good thing you are going with Brian to see his therapist tomorrow.”


The paralysis returned. And the silence in my brain was deafening.


(Excerpt from my work in progress #WIP.)


The Question


How does one respond to their boyfriend talking about himself in third person?

Prior to this event, emotional eruptions were a part of our daily life. Check out this POST to see how I compare mental illness and popcorn. I consistently searched for explanations. The large time gaps in Brian’s memory (amnesia) were more and more common. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to entertain the possibility of dissociative identity disorder (#DID) - formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD).


I researched his symptoms.


Scoured the internet for possible resources.


And talked to my therapist about what was happening.


The Answer


I didn’t say anything.

When Brian began to lecture me about himself in third person, I froze - pretended it wasn't happening.



The Problem

Denial.

At that time, I honestly believed things couldn't get worse. So when one of Brian’s alters reached out, I didn’t know what to do. There was no room for DID. It was not an option.


I pushed the thought out of my brain. I told myself that it was absurd. Convinced myself that DID was something you only saw in the movies.


I let denial course through my veins and wash away any possibility of what my gut told me was true.




The Solution


Radical Acceptance.

Flash-forward 10 years when many swirling variables crashed together in an inevitable ball of fire. I couldn’t keep DID packed in the neat little box I shoved under the bed.


Thankfully, many years of therapy allowed Brian to extinguish the flames in a reasonable time-frame.


Keeping in mind that reasonable is relative when you are navigating DID.


Brian and I had to move past denial and accept our new reality.


The real recovery began when we BOTH came to terms with radical acceptance. Full and complete submission to the diagnosis of DID was mandatory for healing.


Before reaching the point of radical acceptance, Brian frequently said, “How can I accept something that I’m not sure if I believe is real?”



Here is a brief introduction of what radical acceptance looked like for us. Stay tuned for more details, tips and strategies in the upcoming blog series.


Part 1

Acceptance


  • Stop hiding. This was both the hardest AND the most empowering thing we had to do.


  • Acknowledge the long road to recovery. There is no miracle drug or quick fix for DID. Thankfully, I have already navigated my own recovery and can provide a different level of support.


  • Realize that it's OK to ask for help. Finding qualified therapists who are experienced with DID was not an easy task.



Part 2

Trust


  • Develop new levels of trust. Complete amnesia is common for people diagnosed with DID. Brian relies on me to give him unbiased accounts of what happens when he dissociates or switches or shifts personality states.