This morning, I was in a Facebook support group for people who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I spend most mornings on message boards for mental health support, recovering from my nightmares.
The first post I came across came with a disclaimer, not a trigger warning. At the top, the original poster (OP) wrote: *please delete if not allowed.*
Side note from me, an active moderator: these disclaimers are unnecessary. If your post goes against the rules, I have no qualms deleting it. Thanks for your permission, but we wouldn’t have post approvals on if we wouldn’t delete them whenever we felt like it.
The post continued:
“Hey there! So I really don’t wanna be that person, but I suspect someone in one of my discord groups to be faking their DID. As an ally, I don’t know exactly where to look, so I thought I might ask you guys. I have a friend who has a system as well, but they’re currently unavailable at the moment so I can’t ask them. Here are some screenshots I have and the evidence I have to back up my thoughts.”
I will not share the screenshots, the group, or OP’s name. When I found the post, first I was confused. Then, I was felt crushed, and had the urge to look over my own shoulder.
I have been diagnosed with almost every mental illness I’ve ever even heard of. Obviously, while I do suffer from a cocktail of mental disorders and disabilities, I can’t have the entire DSM-V. When I first started seeing a therapist, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. We quickly uncovered that I had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). After a year, I felt as though I wasn’t getting the best out of my treatment. I sought a second opinion.
This psychiatrist was almost positive that I had schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. I had never been diagnosed for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, and now I was simultaneously being diagnosed with a form of both.
Next, I finally had a doctor who was willing to diagnose my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I had disclosed one instance of sexual trauma with multiple health professionals, but she was the first to attempt to do anything about it. She also mentioned that it was clear that I had ADHD and should be taking Adderal. After a few months, I experienced such an immense emotional breakdown that as a college graduate already living on my own, I had to move back into an abusive household.
I went into an outpatient intensive therapy program. Unfortunately, once I disclosed that I used cannabis while living in a legal state, they felt as though not medicating me in any way for two weeks and putting me in a drug rehabilitation program would be the best treatment for me.
They took someone with severe trauma, anxiety, and depression who was coming down from an Adderal dependency, and gave them the same treatment as a room full of middle aged addicts and alcoholics. I felt as though I didn’t relate to any of their problems. I would cry and have full-blown panic attacks in the middle of group sessions. They would pull me out of the room and tell me “just calm down.” My mind reverted back to my abused inner child, and I kept quiet.
Then, they decided I did not have PTSD or ADHD or OCD. I definitely had BPD. Three doctors and four therapists later, my current therapist and I are working under the assumption that I have severe Complex-PTSD and I definitely struggle with dissociation. I also have “distinct parts” and voices of other people who talk to me, and I easily lose track of time, and I have many autistic traits. I could easily be autistic; it even runs in my family.
As you can imagine, I don’t disclose this every time I enter a group for DID support.
At the bottom of the post, the OP added:
“EDIT: they admitted to not having DID after being questioned by myself and other admins.”
I was mortified. Not only had this person, not even a DID system themself, feel the need to call out someone in a Discord server for support, but they and multiple admins reached out to question this person. Doubting someone’s diagnosis is one thing. Harassing someone looking for support is another.
When I was struggling with my diagnosis with BPD, I connected very heavily to the autistic community. I finally found a group of people online who could relate to my symptoms and life experience. I found personal insight and plenty of coping strategies along the way.
I believe I am autistic. I identify as an autistic person. I also believe that my autism exasperated my abuse, my trauma, and my ability to dissociate, which led me to some sort of dissociation disorder.
But this is just the working theory. I meet all of the diagnostic requirements for multiple different mental illnesses. For every one of the things that I have received “official” diagnosis for, I have seen another doctor who has told me it’d definitely not that.
Psychological diagnostics can get very tricky. There are disorders with overlapping symptoms, as well as disorders that are commonly co-occurring or “comorbid.” As human beings, we are also taught to fit into society seamlessly. We hide our struggles and feelings. The autism community introduced me to the concept of a “mask” that neurodivergent people “put on” in order to seem neurotypical.
Regardless if you are a doctor, an admin of a support group, or just a stranger on Facebook, you are most likely never going to fully understand someone else’s mental state. Too many factors can go into a diagnosis, and too much focus on a single diagnosis can ignore other pressing symptoms.
For example, when I was focused on my anxiety and depression, it was very easy to ignore my food sensitivities and sensory overload. But when I focused on treating my autistic symptoms, I quickly forgot about my brain fog and issues with dissociation.
Your entire mental state cannot be described by a single word and be universally understood. When a person tells you a diagnosis they have come to, official results in hand or not, they are attempting to give you a small glimpse into what they deal with every day. They are sharing the research and self-exploration they’ve done. They’re telling you which communities have been the most helpful, or the coping strategies that actually worked.
If someone is a harmful force in a support group, by all means, remove them. But if you are a neurotypical person out on a witch hunt to see who uses the outdated terminology in order to weed out who is “faking,” you are not an ally. You are ignoring the purpose of the group in the first place: to educate and provide support. Having antiquated diction regarding a particular mental condition is not a reason to demand an explanation from someone looking for help.
For half a second, I wondered if it mattered that the person admitted to faking. Then, I realized that if anyone were to doubt me and ask me if I were faking DID, I would probably cave and do the same thing. I don’t have a diagnosis. I don’t have a “system name” for me and my alters.
Does that mean I don’t struggle? Does that mean I can’t relate to the people in a DID support group? Does that mean I am not allowed to benefit?
Asking people to justify or prove their diagnosis is polar opposite to how we are supposed to treat the mentally ill and disabled. Questioning someone’s diagnosis is not only not your place, especially if you are not a doctor, but it is simply gatekeeping. Not only that, but blaming mentally traumatized individuals for not having access to quality mental health care or an appropriate diagnostician is ableist victim blaming.
No matter what your diagnosis or how you came to it: if it helps you, there is problem with accepting that help. I see nothing harmful in allowing a few “unsure” people into a group and letting them learn. There is always a possibility for people to abuse safe spaces, but that should not effect the integrity of the safe space.