Recently I have watched a docuseries on Hulu called “Many Sides of Jane” about a woman who has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID). I was drawn to this docuseries initially because psychology and mental health are very intriguing to me and I’m always wanting to learn more. Learning about a certain disorder from a person who has it themselves is the most helpful for me. I had learned about DID at a surface level before in some of my undergraduate psychology courses, so I did know a few things going into viewing the series. What I did not know was the stigma that I believed was true of those who have DID. First off, DID is a specific dissociative disorder that is characterized as a mental disorder. It involves experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, or in this case, identity. These disorders usually develop as a coping mechanism as a reaction to trauma. A person with DID has alternate identities or “parts” (as Jane called them). These parts will involuntarily “switch” and make their presence known. There could be 2 parts or there could be many parts (for instance, Jane had 19 different parts). Each part has a unique name, personality, sexuality, gender, age, and even style. There is some variability between the different parts knowing each other. For Jane, she had older parts that would look out for her younger parts. When new parts make themselves known it is not uncommon for the other parts to become alarmed. Initially, the parts do not always work together, which can cause some distress on a person with DID. For Janes treatment, the goal is not to eliminate parts of her, it is to instead make all of her parts work together. If there is less conflict going on between Jane’s parts, then her mind will be more at ease. Jane struggles with this, but what I think is most admirable about Jane is her care for her two young sons. She is a single mom and despite her diagnosis, she is beyond adequate when it comes to taking care of her sons. Jane’s parts do not always work together, but when it comes to the boys…they all play a role in caring for them.
A common misconception (and one that I had before I was educated) is that people who have DID are unable to live “normal” lives. Many people believe that if somebody has DID then they are automatically unable to care for themselves and more importantly it is unsafe for them to take care of others. This is not the truth for many cases, including Jane’s case. The most heartbreaking part of Jane’s story is hearing about the abuse and neglect that she had gone through as a young girl. Her mind made up these parts in order to cope with this trauma that she went through. For her, it is hard to remember everything that has happened to her because her mind suppressed the memories that were too hard to think about. Through this suppression, she developed different parts. Each part of her holds their own personal experience and memories of what has happened in the past. Through Jane’s parts, she is able to remember some of her past that has since been “erased” by her mind. Jane’s mind works in a much more complex way than some people can understand, including her own mother. Jane’s mother has denied her diagnosis in the past and has unfortunately dismissed some of the traumatic events that have happened in Jane’s life. This has led Jane and her mother to have a complicated relationship.
Despite the struggles, Jane says that she would not change a thing about herself. Through her diagnosis with DID she has been given a voice to advocate for something that affects her and so many others in the world. DID is real and those who are experiencing DID are valid and still human like the rest of us. It is up to us to educate ourselves and learn about something that effects so many people. Breaking the stigma around DID and many other psychological diagnoses in general can be detrimental to the wellbeing of those who battle with their experiences every day. Jane is just one person with this diagnosis and there are so many people out there who are like her. Additionally, there are so many people who deal with different mental health disorders. DID is just one of the many disorders out there. I encourage all of those who are interested in learning about psychology and mental illness to watch “Many Sides of Jane”. I also encourage you to spread awareness to all of those around you in order to help the world gain a better understanding of DID and mental illness. If you are battling with your mental health, just know that you are not alone. Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel that you are becoming overwhelmed by your mental health. If you are in the NW Indiana and Chicago area, come visit us at Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. We are located at 6819 W. 167th Street, Tinley Park, IL. We can be reached at (708) 633-8000.
Lastly, thank you, Jane for sharing your story on such a public level. Your courage and openness are not unnoticed. You have educated me and broke the stigma that was held inside of me and I can only imagine how many others you have reached by sharing your story. Thank you.