Talked a bit more with a friend about what exactly is going on with the latest round of Tumblr shit and what some people have been saying. Are now literally nauseous with rage
and trying not to puke.
(Granted, various forms of healthfail in the past few days are not helping with that. And because of said healthfail, we're trying to explain all this through a brain that is not at its best. Apologies for any grammatical and etc. errors.)
Okay, I want to make a few points really clear for people who are upset at natural plural/multiple systems specifically because they believe it's "appropriating DID," and have not bothered to do any research, or get to know anyone from the community they're trying to smear as a bunch of thoughtless appropriators.
-This debate is not new. This debate did not start on Tumblr. This debate has actually been going on, online, for about fifteen years.
-For that matter, we ourselves
used to believe we were trauma-split. Because we do have trauma in our past. We don't talk about it much publically or how we deal with it, but it's there. (The fact that when we first got into communities of self-identified non-disordered systems, many of them were still
full of people playing My Trauma's Bigger Than Yours and competing to see who had the worst trauma history and the most drama over their flashbacks and PTSD, did not help at all.)
-As teenagers, we believed that we had a dissociative disorder, because there was clearly some kind of "more than one" phenomenon going on with us. Back then, in the early 90s (yeah, no, we're definitely not Teenagers Who Found It On Tumblr And Thought It Was Cool), the only material we had available to us was MPD/DID stuff.
-The reason we did not start saying, as a teenager, that we had MPD/DID, was because we were not having blackouts, finding clothes in our closet "I" didn't buy, waking up in places we had never seen, etc. In fact-- and this is the real irony-- we actually believed everything we read in books at the time, about psychology, since we had this idea that because it was "academic," it somehow wouldn't be allowed to be published if it weren't true. So we took as granted that all
"real" plurals experienced these things, and because we didn't experience them, filters started hassling us about how if we said we had MPD/DID, it would "insult people with the real disorder."
Yeah. Think about that for awhile.
-Our therapist, though, also believed we had a dissociative disorder, because we made the mistake of telling her about "the other people inside me." And even though she didn't diagnose us with MPD (I think it became DID in the year after we told her, when the DSM-IV was released), she still thought it was her duty to integrate all of "your parts."
-This had the effect of completely fucking destroying our communication
and the very tentative support network we were starting to build up at the time. Because "I" was not supposed to talk to "the others" after a point. Because "I" had to "own them as parts of me." And if "I" continued to treat them as if they were separate, "I" would dissociate more and become more fragmented.
-So a few of us got artificially integrated and stuck out at the front as the "whole real person." Even though we did not feel like it. Even though there was something just under the surface that felt like it was constantly screaming and like something was horribly wrong. We didn't feel like a real person. We thought everyone would somehow be able to sniff us out as a "fake person." Granted, there were some other mitigating factors in this, like abuse, autistic communication difficulties, etc, but having been trained to "pull the others back into me" sure as hell did not improve anything.
-Ironically, what literally saved our sanity was finding places online where people discussed talking to "the characters in their heads," and that gave some of us-- including fictive members, which we'd had for a long time but hadn't wanted to acknowledge-- a kind of legitimization.
-By the way, during this time, we had a bunch of suicidal and PTSD crap going on, and the way we'd been trained to act got us into several abusive relationships and friendships, which brought even *more* happy fun trauma issues... etc. Things got bad enough that we actually had several incidents that psychs would probably have called psychotic breaks, if we had ever gone into the hospital for them. (We didn't get any kind of decent anti-anxiety meds until almost seven years of this, and spending a lot of our time in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight panic, had been going on.)
-Our main saving grace during all of this was each other-- not just as "characters talking in my head," but some of the older, traumatised frontrunners got swapped out for newer ones. In that sense, even though we now consider our system natural and possibly coming from some kind of neurological predisposition to it, we were actually working in a "classic DID" way more during that time than any other time in our life. (Riel actually considers himself a sort of "split"-- in a "splitting or branching off"
sense who was created during that time, in response to a need for new frontrunners.)
(Oh yeah, re: that essay, it was written ten years ago so it's got a bit more of a psych view than we take nowadays. But we still stand behind the basic concept Tamsin suggested in it, that a self isn't just this fixed, finite amount of material.)
-But we couldn't open up and fully communicate with each other and say "Okay. We're separate people. Let's all work together as a team and fight this shit together." Why? BECAUSE WE WERE STILL HUNG UP ON THAT FUCKING IDEA THAT IF WE CALLED OURSELVES MULTIPLE/PLURAL IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM AND DECIDED WE WERE FULLY SEPARATE PEOPLE IT WOULD "INSULT PEOPLE WITH THE REAL DISORDER."
-By the way, our common memory wasn't as good as we thought during these years. Far from it. We didn't realize just how shitty it had been for a few years until we started working together enough to get good communication working. Oh yeah, and it was also merry hell dealing with things like having fronters who were good at math disappearing, and leaving people who didn't have much of an aptitude for it, or learning it the way it's usually taught anyway. (And this is not meant to sound in any way like the "REAL DID IS SO HORRIBLE!" self-righteous bawwing that terrorized us out of identifying as plural for years. Just pointing out the irony in the fact that with our communication messed up, we didn't even notice how certain aspects of our life became more "stereotypically DID-like.")
-And we did experience actual dissociation. Like the kind where something is going on and you know if you could feel anything about it you would feel like it was very wrong, but you just can't feel anything at all, like nothing is real. We don't think this had anything to do with what made us plural, though.
-So it went on like this... and then at the end of 2000, we found a webpage.
This webpage said something really astonishing we'd never seen before. Something that was like water quenching the flames of the "You can't say you're multiple! You'll insult people who suffer from the real disorder!" tapes raging in our head.
Which was that, for some people, being plural might have nothing at all to do with dissociation and with being abused, and that all it required was identifying as many people in one body.
-This page also wasn't new. It had been around since the mid-90s, started by a system who had also once assumed all plurality was caused by trauma and had been hanging out on MPD-related BBSes and WWIVnet boards since the late 80s. (I don't want to be snarky here, but I feel like we've earned a right to a little bitterness at this point: How many of the people reblogging or ranting about "appropriating DID" right now were even born then? How many of them know what a BBS was, or WWIVnet? Our point is, all
of this stuff started long before the people ranting about it now seem to think it did.)
-We didn't agree with every single last thing on it. We do have links to them on our page, but that doesn't mean our opinions perfectly match up with Astraea's about everything. But I don't know what would have happened to our life if we hadn't found an alternate view when we did, when we had begun to seriously struggle with the issue again of whether the "people inside" were real individuals with separate wills, or if even letting ourselves think they were would be Insulting People With The Real Disorder. Some of us are convinced we would even not be alive now if we had not come into contact with someone, anyone, with a lot of knowledge about the subject, telling us it was okay to call ourselves multiple and say we were many people sharing a body even if we didn't have constant blackouts, back then.
-Ten years ago-- actually starting in the late 90s, really, after Astraea's page had been out there for awhile-- there were MPD/DID identified systems complaining about the existence of systems who said they were natural. We ran into a few. One of them raged so much about "people who pretend to have MPD for fun" (not to say we haven't run into people faking plurality in some form or another, but) and how it insulted "the damned hell that REAL multiples go through," and were a major factor in intimidating us out of considering ourselves as separate people, because of how they inflamed all the old filters/tapes/etc from our adolescence.
-There were flamewars on mailing lists about this, too, ten years ago. Systems who said that no one could be "really" plural without being trauma-split. That anyone claiming to be plural who'd never been abused, or even anyone who said they HAD been abused but that their system was natural, were insulting the suffering of "REAL" plurals. There were systems who insisted they refused to believe plurality could ever be natural. That if a system thought they hadn't been abused, they had just repressed the memories of it and had "alters who were hiding the truth from them." We were on a messageboard with someone who said that systems who thought their plurality was natural were "losers in denial," and the forum mod then compared everyone who disagreed with him to Nazis. There was one person who wrote anonymous letters threatening physical violence to all self-identified natural/non-disordered systems who maintained websites, claiming they were "threatening survivors," and that if anything bad happened to someone he decided was a "real" survivor after they looked at these sites, he would hold the maintainers of these websites responsible and hunt them down and kill them or something. (Yeah, it was a big festering mess of wank and drama. Ten years before non-disordered plurality supposedly got "invented" by spoiled privileged teenagers on Tumblr, kids. Oh yeah, and most of the people involved here were middle-aged.)
-For that matter, there's one thing that has persistently bugged us about the SJ community's approach to everyone identifying with the DID model, as trauma-split systems, etc. Which is that in a lot of places, there seems to be this... all or nothing attitude about acknowledging that there were, actually, some serious breaches of ethics and some pretty bad therapy going on among doctors and therapists who claimed to specialize in dissociative disorders, in the late 80s and early 90s. Some doctors used hypnosis and drugs to coerce patients into believing they were plural when they weren't, or that they were recalling memories of abuse that had never actually happened. Some of them were sued by their former patients, and some doctors were disbarred from practice and stripped of their medical licenses, in some cases where the evidence that they'd practiced fraud was overwhelming.
-Also, some of the fraud was insurance-related, in that some doctors would keep patients in therapy uncovering "new alters" until the insurance money ran out. (FWIW, there's a rant we should also probably write sometime, about how perception of MPD/DID being an "American thing" had more to do with insurance than we think people generally suspect. Because of the whole business with this being the only major industrialized nation that doesn't have universal healthcare.) Some of the doctors genuinely did believe in what they were doing, but were dangerously misguided.
-And for some reason there's this all-or-nothing attitude in some places that we really don't understand. That either you must never question anyone claiming to be an abuse survivor or have DID-- even if they're describing memories of things that aren't physically or logistically possible-- or anything and everything ever related to plurality, as a psych diagnosis or otherwise, is just a bunch of fraud and bunk.
Okay, brief rant:
Part of it's that "if it's not this, IT MUST BE THAT" thinking confuses us in general. Part of it is that our own life
is testimony to the complexity of this issue. For instance, there were a bunch of self-proclaimed debunkers going after anything and everything to do with plurality and repressed memories when the scandals were starting to come out. Much like people persistently equating it with otherkin on Tumblr, there was this... reasoning we never really understood, which insisted on connecting the philosophical issue of whether a body could have more than one person, the psychiatric diagnosis of DID and the theories about it, and the controversy over repressed/recovered memories, in one big messed-up ball of... Things That Are Wrong And Bad, or something.
And the memories thing is a mess too, because... well, frankly, we ourselves were actually talked into "remembering" false memories at one point by a manipulative ex-friend who coerced us into believing we were remembering past lives with her. So we know it can happen, and not
just in therapy. But we didn't go "oh noes, since false memories can happen, this means plurality and everything associated with it cannot exist either."
To be honest, our brain goes off the tracks the minute we see someone making the leap from "philosophical question of what self/personhood is and whether a body can have more than one in it" to "psychiatric ideas about it that grew out of a specific place and time period." Because apparently in order to prove the concept that more than one person can exist in a body, you must prove that it must
like Cornelia Wilbur described in Sybil
, and if any
of her conclusions fail to hold up at any
point, then any concept ever, in any place or time, no matter what the theories about origin, that a body can have more than one person in it, is WRONG AND CANNOT EXIST. And seeing this kind of reasoning come out of people who thought of themselves as super-rational thinkers just... makes us want to beat our head into a wall until it bleeds. (And it is STILL GOING ON in some places. With people acting like Sybil
-- which we'd probably use as kindling if we had a copy of it nowadays, by the way-- is some kind of lynchpin that is holding up ALL of the entire concept of plurality, and if you can prove that ANYTHING in the book was wrong or exaggerated, then EVERY CONCEPT OF MORE THAN ONE PERSON IN A BODY EVER, IN EVERY TIME PERIOD AND EVERY HISTORICAL ERA, WILL TOTALLY AND UTTERLY COLLAPSE. Just... THERE IS NOT ENOUGH "YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG" IN THE WORLD FOR THIS.)
-Okay, rant is over. But we do want to note here, even though our brain's starting to burn out, that if you go reading historical and anthropological documents, you'll find that not only was plurality acknowledged in other eras and cultures, but people had some very different ideas about what caused it and what it was all about. It did not start in the 20th century, the US, the publication of Three Faces of Eve
, etc. (Just as a starting point, we'd recommend the book "The Passion of Ansel Bourne" by Michael Kenny. Also "Rewriting the Self" by Ian Hacking, although some of us thought his conclusion was a completely meaningless mess and he seems to believe plurality is real but also somehow wrong or something, he does have a lot of genuine historical information that is rarely or never mentioned in mainstream books about plurality. Though he does also, just to warn, have some unpleasant stereotypes in there about other diagnoses, like schizophrenia.)
-As for the issue of self, we've always thought there's a lot of fundamental Western arrogance wrapped up in the idea that the self is universally perceived and experienced as this one unitary thing, and that if there is any alternative to experiencing it that way, it has to be "fragmenting" of that single unitary self. If there's a "lower rate of MPD" in non-Western cultures, it may be because those cultures don't all share the concept of the self as one fixed unchanging thing, and so plural phenomena may not be regarded as deviant everywhere, or seen as an interesting or unusual thing for doctors to study.
-And I think we've run out of brainpower for writing any more of this. Might add to it as we think of things. But people really should do more research before they go jumping on the "APPROPRIATING DID!" dogpile. (Actually one of the mitigating circumstances in the past few days has been some events that-- among other things-- provoked some PTSD stuff for us. We actually would prefer to keep most of it private now, but having this "appropriating mental illness/appropriating DID" business crop up at the exact same time that we're fighting this shit just made some of us see red, seriously. Though in our case it's the PTSD we're fighting, and our plurality is helping
us support each other...well, honestly we don't like to talk in terms of violence and we wouldn't really do it, but just the "appropriating mental illness" business on its own made us want to slap someone really fucking hard.)
-You can reblog, repost, etc, this wherever you want. Comments are on but screened. Anonymous comments are allowed, but trolls, griefers, etc, will have their posts deleted. (And, depending on our patience level, things showing that someone clearly didn't read this entire thing. Please read the whole thing before responding.)