My name is Jennifer. My name is Taerianna. My name is Miriam. My name is Lily. My name is Adrianna. My name is Frank. My name is Tessa. My name is Melody. My name is Gabby. My name is Molly. My name is Jenny. We are many, and yet we are one. I am a Dissociative American.
My introduction may confuse you because I have a disorder that confuses many people, it’s called Dissociative Identity Disorder. When I was about three years old my Godfather abused me. I was taught that I had no self worth unless I was pleasing a man sexually. In my home life, my father was a minister and I was taught a very different set of lessons. I was meant to be virginal and pure until marriage. The radical difference between one set of “values” and the other combined with the abuses I suffered were too much for my fragile forming psyche. It caused me to do something miraculous. It saved my life, but also made it a million times harder. My core personality split into many different individual personalities. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, but all with the purpose of helping me cope.
I didn’t realize that I had split into many different people, but they became a constant noise in my head. I heard them talk and argue. They pushed me around. A personality would often take control of my body. Imagine that your body is a car. The driver controls the car. The passengers in the back seat sees what is happening but can’t control the car. Sometimes a passenger sleeps and does not remember where the car went or what it did unless someone tells them. That’s kind of how it is for me.
My journey through life has been full of twists, turns, very rough times, and extreme poor choices. I don’t remember many of those choices because I wasn’t driving. When I was nineteen I sought help and began to see a therapist. I felt totally out of control of my life. I was terrified of what I might do next. I wanted to be committed for my own safety and that of the people around me. I spent two weeks in the psychiatric unit in Blanchard Valley. Insurance ran out and I had to go back to my life. Then my therapist fired me. She said “I can’t help you. Your problems are out of my skill set.” She gave me no references and set me free into the big scary world.
Over the years I was given a laundry list of diagnoses that were all right but also wrong. One of my personalities was dealing with borderline personality disorder, another had obsessive compulsive disorder. Several of us suffered with depression and anxiety. Other personalities were avoidant or dependent. It was understandable that they thought I was schizotypal; I did hear voices. None of this diagnosed me as a whole. I remained improperly diagnosed until I was nearly thirty years old when a doctor finally put all the pieces together.
Not long after that I found a therapist who helped me take the first steps towards getting my life in control. Together we developed a system that allowed me to mentally create a space in my mind where each of my alternate personality’s could speak at a round table. Opening this communication between us saved my life. I still stumbled and fell many more times as I navigated my life. I was in and out of therapy and on and off medications. I made a bunch more unhealthy choices, but little by little and with hard work I gained ground.
I stared college when I turned forty. It was a huge catalyst for change. I gained confidence and began to understand my value as a human being. I took chances and pushed myself harder and further than I had ever done before. I was able to take the round table to the next level when I started working with a new therapist. I began to really listen and understand the needs and strengths of each of my alternate people. We communicated and helped each other work toward common goals. Each of my selves was getting their needs met in healthy ways. I achieved co-consciousness! I graduated college with a 3.1 GPA! I could hold a job! I got off of Social Security Disability! My world opened up and I am stable!
I want to share my story with others because I know how important it is to know you are not alone. Living with mental illness does not prevent you from living a fulfilling happy life. My name is Jennifer Silvernights and I am a Dissociative American. We are many and we are strong!