Dealing with Denial in Dissociative Identity Disorder
Dealing with denial in dissociative identity disorder is key. Denial is a defense mechanism we have likely all engaged in at various points in our lives. At times, denial can be a useful method to help us cope. When it comes to your dissociative identity disorder (DID), however, denial can lead to a breakdown in system communication and can hinder treatment efforts.
Denying Your DID Diagnosis Can Occur at Any Time
Denial is one of the stages of grief. Many people assume that once you go through the first denial stage and come to acceptance, you won't have to deal with denial again. The reality is that denial can occur at any time. A person with dissociative identity disorder (DID) may not experience denial until years after his or her DID diagnosis. It is even possible for a person to deny their diagnosis, accept it, and then experience denial again at a later time.
Recurring Denial of My Dissociative Identity Disorder
That last scenario is exactly what happened to me. I worked through the denial of my DID diagnosis early on. I eventually acknowledged that my diagnosis was real and came to accept it. I thought for sure that would be the end of any denial I would ever have to go through about my diagnosis.
But I was wrong. Last month, I experienced a series of troubling flashbacks and new memories triggered by the [then] upcoming holiday season. It sent me into complete emotional chaos. I didn't want to believe that the flashbacks and memories were true. I couldn't handle acknowledging and accepting that we (my parts and I) went through that trauma. So instead, I cut myself off from it. I told myself that these flashbacks were just really bad nightmares my mind made up to scare me.
But denying those flashbacks and memories didn't stop the chaos that was going on in my inside world. My angry teenager part was angrier than ever. A younger part was upset and wouldn't stop crying because she missed our mother. This was completely contradictory to me because our mother was the very person who hurt us, the person who made those flashbacks and memories so unbearable and difficult to accept.
I tried to rationalize everything. I told myself the memories couldn't be real because if they were, I wouldn't be dealing with a crying child who misses her mother. A child wouldn't miss the very person that hurt her. Once I talked myself into denying my trauma, I used that to deny my diagnosis. I told myself that since I didn't experience any trauma, I didn't have DID. The flashbacks were made up and the voices in my head were just figments of my imagination.
Denial of Your DID Diagnosis and Cognitive Dissonance
Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person's attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, or knowledge conflict with each other. In my case, and in the cases of many others who experience denial of their DID diagnosis, I knew on an intellectual level that my diagnosis was correct. I had all of the symptoms and I met every diagnostic criterion. As I engaged in denial, my belief that I did not have DID conflicted with the knowledge that I did.
When cognitive dissonance occurs, it creates an unsettling, uncomfortable feeling that doesn't subside until you resolve the conflict. I hit a fork in the road and I had to choose which side to go. I have always had a thirst for knowledge, and I ended up choosing what I knew all along was always right: I have DID. I can't deny it.
Don't deny your DID denial. It's okay to talk about it. Tell your therapist. I made the mistake of keeping my denial and resulting dissonance to myself and ended up shutting myself away from all of my parts, and now I have to work to get that communication back.
There will always be bumps in the road when you are living with DID, but these bumps are never impossible to overcome.
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Matulewicz, C. (2016, January 13). Dealing with Denial in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, March 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2016/01/dealing-with-denial-in-dissociative-identity-disorder
Author: Crystalie Matulewicz
I have been in denial most of the time for years since I was told I have DID. Even now, I'm thinking, it's not denial, it's the truth, I don't have DID. I believe this despite the fact that the diagnosis fits and I have some alters who are part of my every day life. It's been this way for so long that I have come to wonder if perhaps it's for the best because on some level my brain knows it can't handle the truth. But then I'm thinking, THERE'S NOTHING TO HANDLE.
Thank you Crystalie for another good and timely article.
I've been diagnosed a little over a year now and I have found that I cycle in and out of denial. For me when the first memories came I started to go into denial, when a new part came out I went into denial, and then there was the time I read an autobiography of a DID person whose experiences did not match mine I thought surely that means I never had DID. The times I spend in denial create so much turmoil in me that I become very self destructive. I am learning what to do in advance to try to ward off these denying thoughts. One is to read on this website often because it helps me feel I have a place in this world as one living with DID. Also I have learned when new memories come back and I am feeling internal emotional pain, I can say (to my therapist) that I need to take time to deal with these memories. Another thing that has helped has been keeping in communication with my other identities (which one of your previous articles has helped me tremendously).