About Holly Gray, Author of Dissociative Living Blog
My name is Holly Gray. I live in the Pacific Northwest United States with my 11-year-old son and a cat named Alex P. Keaton. My life has been a search for identity and a series of 180 degree turns that baffled and frightened me. I have been in and out of therapy since I was 14 and up until five years ago, found very few answers in the therapeutic process. I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder in early 2005. I wrestled with the diagnosis for several years before finally coming to terms with it. In doing so, I learned and unlearned a great deal about dissociation and DID.
Popular understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is heavily laden with mythology that gives way to misconceptions and sensationalistic stereotypes. And while there are grains of truth in those stereotypes, distilling fact from fiction can be a monumental chore. I am convinced that it wouldn’t have been nearly the struggle it was for me if there had been more accuracy and less drama in both the mental health community and the general public's awareness of DID.
Today, I am a writer and DID awareness advocate. The focus of my work is humanizing and demystifying DID. I publish Don’t Call Me Sybil, a blog I created to address what I believe are myths about DID, and to share some of my own hard-won clarity around the more confusing aspects of it.
I am very pleased to join the blogging community here at HealthyPlace. I hope to provide a fresh perspective that challenges some of the assumptions about DID and offers compelling alternatives to existing erroneous impressions about dissociative living.
Dissociative Living Blog Welcome Video
Want to know more about Holly Gray? Watch this video on Dissociative Identity Disorder; what it was like for Holly to discover she has DID.
Gray, H. (2010, July 22). About Holly Gray, Author of Dissociative Living Blog, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/07/about-holly-gray
Author: Holly Gray
I have OSDD but sometimes I wonder if I'm faking it or if my alters aren't separate personalities at all, which is a troubling thought. Because I only really discovered my system in my teenage years, I wonder if it was present before that. I know I have one very distinct memory of severe physical trauma when I was around 6-8 years old (which is what my brain returns when I ask myself "how did we form?") but my alters were not really active until around age 14.
So I want to know if you think my system is real or if I really am just making it up somehow.
I recently lost a friend to mental illness and this has inspired me and a couple friends to start a awareness and fundraising project. Our aim is to raise awareness and money for mental illness, for it needs so much more recognition in today's society.
Check out our website: inmindofviolet.co.uk
and our fb page www.facebook.com/inmindofviolet
Any promotion would be much appreciated. We are going to do a variety of creative projects to help our cause.
I think you are doing a great thing by making those videos and writing your blog. And you answer everyone's questions. It's a very secure feeling reading or listening to you. I don't have DID, but i'm a bit bipolar, have depression, and generalized anxiety (which is not as mild as it sounds). It's something I've had to deal with my whole adult life (and now I'm my older 60's).
(I know of a psych publishing company, but I have to go look it up. They are located in San Fransisco and are well known in the field.)
I was diagnosed with DID yesterday. I have been beating myself up and trying to convince myself I am just making this all up for over a year now. I experience all the symptoms, but I can't help but beat myself up and try to convince myself that I am making it all up. I have accepted I can not deny the time loss that occurs, but people talk about losing weeks, and the longest periods I lose are only about 2 hours, usually much less. I find I try to filter and water down the experiences I talk about with my psychologist. I can't understand why I try to hide something I am feeling yet also denying! How do I get over this?
I recently moved too. It's been stunningly difficult for my system. I understand the upheaval such a life change can cause.
Coping is easier sometimes than others. Having support is extremely helpful. It sounds like that might be even more difficult for you to come by than it is here in the states. I will say that even support that's not directly related to DID helps. Friendships, support groups, anything that affords you opportunities to relate to others in healthy ways. I remember when life was excruciatingly difficult for me and I was taking thing one moment at a time, I'd go to coffee shops to hear live music just to be in the presence of others and feel some semblance of camaraderie. I won't say it made me feel better. But it got me from moment to moment until eventually I did feel better.
I also believe strongly in the power of education. The more I know about my disorder the better able I am to cope with it. It becomes less and less mysterious and more and more manageable. Have you read The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook by Deborah Bray Haddock? That's always the first one I recommend as it provides an accessible overview of the basics of dissociation and DID.
I hope to hear from you again, shirlx.
I think this will be a first for your blog. My name is Caroline, and I am one of Diane's alters. I have followed all that has been written so far, but no other alter seems to have joined in -- so greetings to you all.
Diane has written several times about comunication, and how we all communicate freely now, so I would like to add my bit, as an alter, as to why there are so many communication breakdowns.
Diane was 17 when I was created, and I didn't know until she was 35 that there were others in the system, or even that there was a system at all. That is not unusual and can be a basic cause.
When I did find out, I was extremely jealous, and was so angry that everyone else was afraid of me. That lasted for about ten years, until I realised the others all came for reasons totally unlike mine, and I calmed down and started to learn about the others. As for Diane, I didn't communicate with her for all those years as I didn't want her to know what I had protected her from, it was my secret and my only purpose. Having that knowldge would make sure it never happened to her again. These reasons applied to others in the system too, so there was very little communication between us, or with Diane.
When the psychiasrist entered the story in 1984, things began to change, but still very slowly. We didn't trust each other, let alone a male doctor, but we gradually learnt he was trying to help Diane and we started to trust him. But it was still hard to communicate with Diane, as she was frightened of us and didn't really believe we existed anyway, as she has told you.
As new alters were created, we bwgan to understand that the situations which created them were not things any of us knew how to deal with, so the system grew, but we didn't understand why.
Finally our doctor pointed out to us that Diane was still very naive. She didn't recognise potential trouble as the knowledge lay with us. She didn't learn from experience because she didn't have any-- we had it all, and a new crisis created a new alter.
Our communications improved and we all started sharing our knowledge with Diane, but oh so slowly. That took quite a few more years, but is now paying off. we communicate pretty well these days, and that is communication between allk of us, Diane andour doctor. We consult each other when necessary so it is rare for new alters to be created any more, though it can happen.
Anyway, I hope this makes some sense for all of you, and any of us are willing toanswer any questions anyone has. By the way, Diane is fully aware I am writing this.
Best wishes to you all, Caroline
Thanks for your comment.
With people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder, I never make the assumption that I'm hearing from just one member of the system. Many DID systems don't allow outsiders to know who they're interacting with, or even that a switch has occurred at all. So it's possible that Dissociative Living has received alter's comments. Even so, you are the first to make an introduction. Welcome here! And thank you for sharing some of your perspective. I find this, in particular, interesting:
"She didn’t learn from experience because she didn’t have any– we had it all, and a new crisis created a new alter."
I wonder how many DID systems are dealing with a similar dynamic.
If you're interested, I'd love to hear your perspective on my most recent post Obstacles to Developing Internal Communication. http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/10/obstacles-to-developing-internal-communication/
Sorry this comes late as a response, I have had so many computer issues and am just now getting reset up again! Pc probs is never neding it seems I wanted to let you know I did do a video and gave the info to your blog and Interview at the Channel on You tube I keep the series at.
I mentioned I think its very importent to be genuine again about the struggles living multipliy or challenges without having to feed media stereo types and folkore and myth either.I told folks I feel you break down daily without added hype the real situations that "can" come up or have in your situation..so I hope more folks come out and participate
and i hope to more as I get more settled..Even though there are those of us out here willing to be honest about who we are, are real names , where we live, real examples it can all get to be much at times too so those of us that have been fully "out" step away a little in breaks which is why we need more people blogging and vlogging as you are so again Thank you and keep up the great work, so ya might get some folks coming from you tube sayen the Mosaic Gang mentioned ya hope ya dont mind:)
Peace to you
Maria with Mosaic gang.
I didn't mean to mislead you or anyone else. My system has only reached the stage I am talking about in the last 18 months --- and I have been in therapy for over 26 years.
The internal communication I am talking about only started for me about 3 years after I was diagnosed, at which point I decided I was schizophrenic! I was terrified at first even though a lot of things were explained by my first acceptance of having DID.
My alters communicated with my doctor for quite a while before I could even bring myself to believe it was really happening, or rather to accept that the "loud thinking" I had always had was really other people. I never responded or really listened as I thought everybody had the same thing as I did, that the"loud thinking" was normal. When I was a very small child, those voices were for me thr fairies, and I believed whole heartedly in fairies.
As I got older those voices became just like white noise, and I didn't ever make any effort to try to understand what was being said. When I left home to begin my nurse's training aged 17, and had my first independent income, I never thought it was odd that there would be items in my wardrobe that I didn't remember buying, or finding it difficult to remember what shift I was supposed to be working --- after, didn't everyone? So I just wandered through life, losing time, but seeing that as normal.
I was 35 when it all started falling apart, and I found myself visiting a psychiatrist. As far as I was concerned all I wanted to do with him was to learn self-hypnosis to try to control my migraines. Well I learned that alright, only to be told it was so easy for me as I had been practising all my life!
So it all proceeded from there, and it has never been easy, particularly as I am very stubborn -- and so are many of the others.
But one thing I still do not understand, is that each one knew their name as soon as they were created. The only one whose name we don't know is about 15 months old, and cannot talk. The names have no special significance to me, so we simply don't know how that came about.
Do any of you who read this blog have the same thing happen? Two other multiples I know also have alters with names, but I don't know if this is usually the case.
Hope someone can enlighten us. Best wishes to youall,
In my experience, it's not at all unusual for alters to have names. Granted, I've only personally met a handful of others with Dissociative Identity Disorder. But all of them had alters with names.
Perhaps I am moving too fast for most of you. I had forgotten just how long it can take to reach the stage of alters being co-operative! This situation was not the norm for me for a long time either, but we're moving on so well now, it's easy to forget how difficult getting co-operation can be. My alters are now not only trying to help me, but will cheerfully help each other as well. We rarely have major disagreements any more, and there is a lot of respect for each other as well.
But it does take time, patience, diplomacy, courage and a lot of other things to reach this stage. It is also true as you mentioned that help may need ability. I now know, as we all do, each other's strong points, so the most capable person will come forward to offer advice or actually deal with a given situation.
My doctor is back now, so thanks for the support in his absence. And I will say to all of you --- IT DOES GET BETTER!
Love to you all,
Saying that alters will only proceed at a pace one can cope with, and will understand - not to mention hear - requests for time out isn't moving too fast. It's just misleading. Dissociative Identity Disorder wouldn't be nearly the debilitating disorder that it often is if (1) internal communication were a given rather than something that takes a lot of work, and (2) cooperation were as easy to come by as simply asking for it. I'm not convinced it would even be classified as a disorder if that were the nature of DID.
I do agree that with hard work and a lot of time cooperation is often possible. Even so, cooperation looks different from system to system.
This site has come to mean a lot to me. I am not in contact with any multiples here at present, so it's great to still be able to talk to you all. I'm feeling pretty lonely at present, as my doctor is away for a week, and all of us in the system really miss him. After all these years in therapy, it should be easy to manage without him for a week, but from this end of it it seems a long time.
Hope all of you out there are coping OK. Jennifer I often think about you and your daughter who seems to have made contact with one of your children. It's great when this happens---both the inside child and the outside child can have fun together, and it will be quite a while before difficult questions get asked. enjoy it while you can and get to know the inside child too----very gently. You may find she's not alone, but don't get frightened, just ask the first child to introduce you. When you have done that, you have opend the door for them to approach you.
If it starts to get too much, just ask for time out. you will find they understand and will only proceed at a pace you can cope with. I really hope this helps you.
Good to hear from you. I too find that communicating with other multiples - hearing about their struggles and successes, listening to their confusion and grief, etc. - is really helpful to me. I'm glad my blog helps to meet that need for you.
"If it starts to get too much, just ask for time out. you will find they understand and will only proceed at a pace you can cope with."
I don't think that's always true. Sometimes, in fact, it's exceedlingly difficult to get cooperation from one's system or a specific alter. And other times I think it's less about cooperation and more about ability. In other words, there are times that I can't get support from my system not because they refuse to give it, but because they can't give it. Those times when we are able to successfully negotiate are very gratifying. But at least for me, they're not the norm.
I hope you're managing well in your doctor's absence, Diane. Thank you for commenting.
It is great to see you out here! You are doing a wonderful job..much to say,loev how your breaking down every day situatrions.Ive been vlogging on You Tube for 3 years regarding how Media has added to teh stigma and Misunderstanding of Multiplicity I was diagnosed ifficially on medical records 1986,but was told in 1984 I was being screened and observed as to what was thought was what.
Thank you for sharing your expreince, every expereince counts, to remove stigmas and empower folks where we can, gaining understanding.. there are a great many in this diverse community many who have been out here in trenches a good long time and its good to see (you youngens) ha ha carrying on..to bring unsersdtanding wherever you canI am writing you a large email.I did the ' Living with DID" Healthy Place .com TV interview last Sept 1st and have been busy this month but did catch your Interview, more in email later
& the Mosaic Gang
Thanks so much for your kind comment. When I started speaking out about DID a couple of months ago I thought I was stepping into relatively uncharted territory. I knew there were a few brave souls who had done the same before me, but I had no idea how many. Since then I've learned that there lots of people with DID are sharing their experiences, most anonymously, some not. It's nice to know I'm not making the unheard of, daring choice I thought I was. It's nice to have peers.
I've watched some of your vlogs and I'm impressed by your work. You mentioned in your first (I think?) video that it's time for those of us with DID to " ... get honest about what multiplicity is and what it is not." I could not agree more. I support the work you're doing, Maria, and I hope to see more from you.
Thanks again for reading and taking the time to comment.
I rather suspect you are feeling pretty confused about all that is involved in having DID. It does get better with time and time for me is 26 years! Keeping up with Holly's blog will really help you.
We have reached a stage in my system where we are all good friends and have a lot of talks together. I think that for us the hardest part has been that as I get older, the others don't. We had lots of dramas and battles when those inthe 16-30 age range wanted to go out and party, find boyfriends, etc. which could not work as I started looking older. Sorting that out took about 10 years, and occasionally there is still a bit of rebellion, but we talk it through and each one is learning that they have a special place in the scheme of things, which is not at all like the purpose for which they were originally created.
There are quite a few treatment options these days, but in the beginning for us there was only integration. no-one would agree to that. They saw it as death and itwas terrifying for them. So we eventually, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, we settled for remaining as individuals, but working together for the best outcome in any situation. Nowadays we have "round table conferences" which include the children when appropriate, and talk over strategies to deal with major issues.
For example, several of us in the 35-45 age range would like to go back to University to study Psychology. So a few will look into the feasibility, others will work on our financial ability to manage, the younger ones are right into computers, several like the idea of the research involved and the children want to make sure we all have enough "cuppas" to keep the study going. This is an example, but we may well go ahead next year, depending on what we find out and put together.
We have completed courses in Community Welfare andMental Health (Non-Clinical) so far and everyone played some kind of role in it all. Having males in our system helped a lot too, as having a male perspective for some of our assignments certainly helped! Singletons can NEVER do that!
So, al the best to you all, don't give up.
It is so interesting to hear the stories here. I was quite taken aback about the children being recognized and having toys to play with. We had a fire Sept. 13, 2009 at our home, what I discovered was that my "inner child" I will call her, came out with the fire people that were helping us. In therapy my own memories of a childhood fire were talked about and I believe that might have been when she was created. I am newly diagnosed since it was last Nov. 2008 I began treatment. I also believe that my daughter has been in contact with my other alto's. There have been many of times she referred to as Mommy's play.
It is so unique as I have found that my alto's do communicate with me at times, and they are all so different. It is fascinating reading all this.
Thanks for your comment. Dissociative Identity Disorder really can be interesting and I too enjoy hearing about others' experiences with the disorder. Your fire story reminds me of those times (they seem so rare) when I'm able to make a connection between an alter's existence or behavior and my own life or history. Those moments feel satisfying to me, like a puzzle piece dropping into place.
I remember the first year and a half to two years after being diagnosed as the most difficult. It was so chaotic, confusing, and frightening for me. I hope you're faring better.
Thanks for reading, Jennifer. I hope to hear from you again!
Thank you so much for your blog, your video and your insight. I was first diagnosed in 1994 but didn't really look at this until the last couple of years. So, I guess it took me 14 years to become comfortable with myself and my diagnosis. In fact, in 1994, I totally didn't even listen to what they had to say. I lived life like I wasn't diagnosed at all. In 2008, things kind of came to a head and I was forced to find someone who would help me with this. I am lucky... I have a partner that supports me and loves me and I have friends who know that don't judge me and really love me for me (all of me). My partner is so amazing. I thank God for her every single day.
I look forward to getting to know all of you. :O)
DID can be an extremely difficult diagnosis to accept. I too lived life for a time like I wasn't diagnosed. I didn't know what else to do. And like you, I am very fortunate to have people in my life who love and support me. It makes a huge difference doesn't it?
Thank you for your comment, Lisa. I hope to hear from you again!
Holly, I noted that you say your child alters do not use the toys etc. Have you tried to talk to any of them? I found that at first mine were reluctant to use things too, as they felt it all belonged to some other outside children, and they thought they would get into big trouble for touching things, so I wrote a very basic note to the 6 year old called Julie, saying the toys were for all the kids in the system. Then she started talking to me, and the other kids gradually followed her example. Now we have great chats and they've lost their fear of the older ones in the system. But it does take time and patience as all my kids were severely traumatised, and not inclined to trust anyone.
For the older ones, perhaps you could try journalling if you haven't already done so.
With us it led to actual talking, though it's hard to explain how that works. anyway, hope this may help a bit, all the best to everyone.
I found that at first mine were reluctant to use things too, as they felt it all belonged to some other outside children, and they thought they would get into big trouble for touching things ....
I've never thought of something like that, but it makes a lot of sense. Thanks so much for sharing!
Hope life is not too difficult for you. I have another suggestion or two which may be of use to some of you.
In my personality system, there are quite a few children, and when I got to know them I realised I had to care about them too. So I collected some toys, especially cuddly toys, and bought a few colouring books and coloured pencils for them.This proved to be a great hit with them and they all seem much more settled now. It was odd at first to find the books being used, and it was very obvious that there were kids of various ages using them. When I found the courage to talk to them, they were bubbling over with happiness that I had acknowledged them, and had provided for their needs too. Occasionally I will buy treats for them, such as biscuits and lollies, and that has been a big hit too, though I don't indulge them too often! I would be the size of a house if I did!
So I hope some of you may find this tip helpful. More next time.
My (no our) best wishes to you all,
We have toys, books, and stuffed animals too. But it's obvious that they are rarely, if ever, used. The toy basket accumulates so much dust that it's clear no one ever touches it. I don't really understand that, because I find myself unable to simply get rid of them. I've tried many times. Evidently there are those that want the toys, etc. around, but don't actually want to play with them.
I think it's great that the kids in your system feel free to enjoy themselves. I hope someday mine will too.
I may be able to help some of you with ideas, as I was diagnosed in 1984, so have a bit of experience living with this.
First, get to know your alters. It can be frightening at first, but you will find that they are all valuable people who can help you avoid the situations which created them. They recognize danger signs, even if you don't. They tend to become very good friends once you accept them. You may feel guilt that they took on very traumatic situations to protect you. If you talk to them about this, you will find they don't blame you. They will all love you unconditionally, whether they be adults or children, male or female. Listen when anyone warns you about what you might plan to do -- they recognize danger signals well before you do, if you even recognize them at all.
To all of you out there, especially you Holly, how about we use this as a Support Group? I am thousands of miles from you all, but our experiences may be similar, and we can share ideas and coping mechanisms.
Best wishes to all of you, I will share again soon.
I do hope that my blog will inspire dialogue and the exchange of ideas and experiences. I would love Dissociative Living to become a source of support for both those living with dissociative disorders and those sharing their lives with someone with a dissociative disorder. Thank you for inviting discussion. I'm looking forward to hearing more!
I too have DID, and was dianosed in 1984. Here in Australia it is becoming easier to find therapists who have some knowledge about DID. I feel I was very lucky as I was diagnosed within the first 6 months of therapy, though it took me about another 5 years to really believe it. It is certainly bewildering and frightening at times, but knowing explained so many of the anomalies in my life. I have not been able to find a support group here either since the one I was part of broke up.
I have been seriously considering starting a Support Group myself, as I have been very surprised to discover that DID is not so rare after all. Maybe psychiatrists here are more open-minded, I don't really know. I have 67 different personalities in my system, which can make life confusing at times, but we are all working pretty well together these days. Don't give up hope --- it really does get easier in time.
Best wishes to all of you who wrote here.
It's really great that you are making the effort to take the stigma out of this disorder and also the sensationalism. I wish you well on your journey. There's so much discovery involved and it's a bit like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Actually - I found that using sticky notes on a large white board was very helpful in mapping my system and understanding the relationships between parts and their stories. Being able to rearrange the notes as I learned more about the system helped me understand myself and helped me communicate internally a lot more efficiently.
I so agree with you about the ISSTD. They really do know their stuff. I'm so grateful to them for doing the work they do.
Thank you for reading and commenting, Lu. I hope you'll come again!
I had this website sent to me and came upon your DID video. Your so very right about DID misunderstandings. And there is not many if any support groups around. I was also diagnosed with DID about 6yrs ago also. It explains a lot of "why" certain things were happening in my life. I have 13 more or less different personalities. I also suffer with PTSD, Bipolar Disorder. I want to thank you for your video.
I am very thankful to see your hard work! You are so right! There is an illusion of knowledge about DID out there that is not the truth. Keep up the good work! I've been diagnosed since 1994 and learned so much over the years. I have also been blessed enough to have been able to participate in a 3D support group for folks with DID. That group is no longer active, but it was a true blessing to many folks. Thanks again! Enjoyed your vid!
of knowledge, where I live in Nova Scotia, caused my daughter to suffer gross
mistreatment in care. The International Society for the Treatment od Dissociaitve Disorders and Trauma has been the key to getting my daughter the treatment she
required and deserved with a private, experienced therapist right here in my province. When I thought all hope was gone, this website was suggested to me by a dad who's daughter was also in care at the time of my own. I am ever grateful to him.This goes to show what support from other parents, caregivers and trauma survivors can do with networking together.
My daughter also suffers from Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which adds another height of complexity to an already complex disorder. However, she is worth every minute, hour, day and year it takes to support her through her healing. she is such a courageous young woman ... I marvel at her persistance and strength.
To the lady who has the 15 year old son with DID - don't give up and I know he is very lucky to have you for his mother, because you are showing a persistance, by blogging, to his treatment. And, to say the least, you will need it. Advocate for your son and when the going gets tough, take a rest, renegotiate and go right back at it. He will love you for it and love is two-fold!
Thanks again Holly,
Isn't it remarkable what a difference talking with others who understand the pain, struggle and reward of recovery can make? DID can be such an enormously isolating and lonely experience, both for the dissociator and their supporters. Just knowing I'm not alone, that there are others out there grappling with the same things, has been so helpful. Reading the comments here reminds me of that. Thanks for being a part of that reminder.
I'm the mother of a 15 year old boy who was recently diagnosed with DID. I'm also in the great Northwest. Wondering if you know of any support groups for young persons just beginning this journey.