Gaining a better understanding Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder and raising awareness of these serious mental health conditions is a vision held by Australian author, philanthropist and social activist Marcela Del Sol. Her new book ‘Kaleidoscope’ is Marcela’s first work of fiction; a collection of beautifully written reflections about the life and struggles of a woman co-existing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Dissociative Identity Syndrome (DID). We caught up with the author to ask what it’s like to live with these conditions.
When were you diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder brought on by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and how did the diagnosis come about?
I was diagnosed late 2013 but started experiencing symptoms a few months before that; following a car accident in July that year.
What medical and psychological treatment have you received for these conditions?
I was hospitalised several times but this proved to be completely inadequate for my condition as they provided me with a highly disengaged medical service and basically only containment. I had minimal contact with specialists and was lucky to see the same one twice. I know continuity in regards to medical care is of paramount importance to achieve a good outcome.
I was lucky to be able to access a private psychologist who was pivotal to keep me afloat. I know my story would have been extremely different should I not have had the possibility to see her.
I take antidepressants daily as co-existing with these conditions, and the lack of education, understanding, help and acceptance, make it all very challenging.
Are you still receiving treatment?
Not consistently, besides daily anti-depressants and sleeping tablets as needed. I have discovered that social support (friends, family, etc), acceptance and inclusion is what works best for me. I am currently on the last days of an extended trip to Chile, to spend time with family and friends and this time has been highly beneficial for me, my conditions have not been triggered as much, I have had periods of complete “normality”, which amount to almost a whole month at the time. This is a real change for me, a real triumph; considering I was “switching” and/or experiencing amnesic fugues almost daily up until a few months ago. I will however, re-start sessions with my psychologist upon returning to Australia, where my life is rather lonely and unsupported.
Do you require a carer or guardian with your condition?
No, I have had times when I really felt I did need someone in case I got lost and people would not notice I was gone. All of my “others” are highly efficient in different ways: We have recently launched “Kaleidoscope: My life’s multiple reflections”, a best selling fiction book, highly erotic, that depicts the struggle and processes a woman co-existing with DID and PTSD goes through. We also completed an intensive acting course in NIDA and a Justice course though Harvard (external)
I never experience significant “switching”, if any, when my kids are with me. This, coupled to the fact that I do not get triggered much in my birth country, tells me that social support is fundamental to achieve any level of healing. I guess a carer would absolutely help but not for regular responsibilities, but to increase the chances of recovery.
How does your condition affect relationships?
Wow! I have lived a very isolated and lonely life since DID appeared in my life. It is so hard to explain and harder to understand, for people who are not educated about mental illness, who are judgemental and guided by stigma so I prefer to maintain a quiet, as much as possible, life with my kids.
I do not have many friends anymore as there is no continuity in my life, I also come from a culture that is extremely different to Australia’s, so there is already a gap between the way people perceive things here and the way I do, even from before DID, which makes me feel a tad insecure and very unsupported here.
How often do you change personalities?
It used to be on a daily basis. I only know because I have physical symptoms that tell me I have “switched”. Now, that I have been able to spend a few months back in Chile, with family and friends; the frequency has minimised to an incredible rate. There have been full weeks when I have not experienced anything, or anything significant, and I certainly hope this maintains once I return to Australia.
Is there a main personality that most resembles the essence of who you really are?
I often wonder this as well, I wonder whether I already had their qualities but didn’t know it, but it is not the case. There is one of us who is certainly someone I would have loved to have been more like from a long time ago. She is passion and strength; a go getter. I love all of them but she is certainly someone who is, or has been, more strongly present than the rest.
Is more research into these disorders required to help us understand and treat it more effectively?
ABSOLUTELY! I think it is time to work directly with the human, not statistics. Listen individually, there is no common parameter to understand or to analyse these disorders so treat each person as an individual. Implement more tailored and personalised treatment and therapy. Grant wider access to specialists, train medical staff better. Public hospitals resemble sausage factories when it comes to mental health, the fact that our conditions are invisible doesn’t mean you have to treat them uniformly. More dignity and care is so needed in the mental health sector!
What are your thoughts on the American television show United States of Tara in portraying dissociative identity disorder?
I am not very familiar with the show but have seen a few minutes of it in the past. I actually think it is very positive that DID is presented from such an approachable angle (TV) to the general public. Everything that can help raise awareness of it, its existence first of all, enables people become more familiarised with what is happening around them and, to some extent, helps them lose fear. We are not psycho killers, I don’t have an inch of violence inside of me but it seems that people are so quick to associate mental conditions with violence, therefore, perpetuating stigma. Please investigate, don’t judge, accept. You are also different to the rest, in one way or another. To purchase the book click here or visit www.marceladelsol.net
The 17th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the brand new Sea World Resort Conference Centre on the Gold Coast, QLD from the 11 -12 August 2016.
You are invited to join us as we address the conference theme “Guiding the Change” across the broad spectrum of mental disorders. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.