Is Dissociation a Disorder or a Miracle?
For me, the answer has always been both.
If I view dissociation in terms of my early life experiences, I definitely say it's a miracle. But when looking at the present, it's a disorder because it gets in the way of where I want to be and who I want to be.
Like many other inventions, dissociation has limitations. It's not scalable for me at this point the way I would need it to be. As I evolve, it doesn't evolve with me. Plus, as I become more aware, I begin to experience distressing dissociative symptoms that would probably otherwise be ignored, or at least be perceived very differently in the past. So, for me, at this point, dissociative identity disorder mostly causes suffering. At some point there was a tipping point. I cannot pinpoint exactly when that was. But it was probably when I realized that some of what I was doing that I was not aware of was actually harmful to me. I had only limited awareness before that. I came to realize that I had a life I had to live and I had to be safe. Being a father and husband was not compatible with hurting myself. Somehow that notion evaded me for many years. Maybe that is processing the trauma, I don't know. Maybe it was coming to terms with everything and being able to move forward, finally, after so many years.
To give you an idea of why I view dissociation as a disorder, consider the following account from a couple months ago taken from my private journal. The scene is that I was with my 10 year old daughter at a fun public event.
There were some dicey moments when I felt like everything wasn't real and started to zone out and drift away. The experience is like I can tell I'm drifting away and I end up trying so hard to get back. I think sometimes that trying really hard makes it worse because you end up panicking a little. I'll try to help you imagine what it's like. Imagine that you are swimming in a nice little pool on a warm sunny day and you are happy and everything is great. You don't have a care in the world and this goes on for some time. Then all of a sudden you realize you aren't in a safe pool at all but rather in the middle of the ocean and it's raining and dark. Then you think how stupid you were for not knowing this before! You should have prepared for this. But you cannot prepare for it for it catches you out of nowhere. You see a boat that can rescue you off in the distance and you swim desperately to get to it. As you do, the riptides are pulling at you and you seem to be going backwards and taking on water. As if that's not bad enough, imagine that while most of you is in a panic and working intensely to try to get to that damn boat, there's a part of you that doesn't even know what's going on and another part of you that knows but doesn't care. That's kind of what it's like. It's a huge experience. Completely overwhelming and draining emotionally and physically. Even when I do get back, I don't fully recover. I'm almost traumatized by it and something bad sits with me for a long while afterwards.
Notice the account has nothing to do with DID (or parts). This is just your average dissociative experience that is in no way a fun one.
It's important to be able to label something as a disorder because then you can be more motivated to change it. I have learned that the goal is not to focus on the trauma, per se. My path allows me to not focus on what happened to me to make my mind disorganized and partitioned, but rather focus directly on how to fix my mind's partitions. Now one could say that you have to address the cause in order to find a solution. And, that's partly true for me. Of course I do revisit the past. But the focus for me is on skills and how to reteach my mind so that it works in the way it was intended.
As I work to heal, I keep the following truism in mind. Seemingly intractable problems can sometimes be solved. Sometimes they can even be solved quite easily. On the flip side, "little" problems can go unsolved even if one tries really hard. I say this because sometimes one may think more abuse equals more injury equals harder to heal equals need the best trauma specialist or really intensive therapy. I have met many who feel there is no hope. I have come to a position that not all of this is linear. There is always hope. There is always a solution. Sometimes it's just difficult to find.