A good book! Read it!
Since the story “the Girl in the Window” about Dani Lierow was published in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper on August 1st, 2008 hundreds of thousands of readers across the world have been moved by her story. Readers from around the world continue to read the story of Dani, written by Lane DeGregory, online and hundreds have been inspired to comment. Most of those who have reached out to communicate with Dani and her family have wanted to express their good wishes and support. Many people have requested a way that they can donate funds to support Dani’s long term care and ongoing therapy.
Danielle is doing well; she has grown a lot and is almost as tall as us! She enjoys swimming, horseback riding, and attended “Empower Me Day Camp” over the summer, which kept her busy with lots of crafts, water play, and activities during the summer. We also had two foster girls stay with us over the summer, so there was a lot going on and no boredom at our house over summer break! She started school at the beginning of August, and is doing very well in her special Ed classroom, with a lot less tantrums than last year! She attended several county fairs where brother William showed his goats and chickens in 4-H competitions, and enjoyed the rides, ice cream, cotton candy, as well as looking at all the exhibits
Cathy Rose’s voice doesn’t change while she talks. She doesn’t suddenly bear a different expression or posture. Her Baltimore County accent never leaves her; no Southern belle or gruff motorcyclist emerges. She is, in short, nothing like what you would see on TV or in a movie. But in her mind, Cathy carries the identities of 20 different parts.
The 1994 Towson University graduate has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s the result of years of sexual abuse by her mother and stepfather. When she was a student, she didn’t know she had DID. All she knew was that she felt nothing—not even the will to live.
“People like to feel like they’re part of the human race,” Cathy says. “That’s how they get joy or pleasure out of life. I didn’t feel any of that.”
Yet for years, Cathy refused to accept her diagnosis. She feared it would make her life much more complicated. She resisted targeted DID therapy until one of several breakdowns left her hospitalized in 2006.
“I realized that until I admitted that I had DID and I addressed my parts, they were going to keep making my life unmanageable.”
Unlocking the Answers
Bethany Brand, a TU professor and clinical psychologist in private practice, has spent more than four years researching dissociative disorders.
Towson University psychology professor Bethany Brand is currently leading the world’s largest and longest study of treatments for dissociative disorders — an umbrella category of mental illnesses, including Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Movies and television have largely misrepresented DID and rarely explained why it exists. The reality is that “parts” are like gatekeepers—compartments that lock away various memories and feelings connected to childhood trauma so the child doesn’t have to feel the psychological damage. For people with DID, mental illness develops when that protection starts to wear down. A dissociative disorder is, by definition, a side effect of abuse—a double-edged sword inflicted on those who should never have suffered the first pains.
“People who have been severely abused in childhood tend to think they are ‘bad’ or ‘weak,'” says Brand. “Several participants in our first study found it downright shocking to fill out our surveys because it made them realize, ‘These are symptoms, not signs that I’m just a bad person.'”
That first worldwide study determined that targeted treatment of dissociative disorders (DD) is effective: patients and their therapists reported fewer signs of the condition, including fewer suicide attempts and psychiatric hospitalizations. For years, researchers from Johns Hopkins insisted these disorders weren’t valid and treatment was actually harmful. The Towson professor and her team had just proven them wrong.
In other words, they sparked hope.
“I think there are therapists who still don’t believe in the diagnosis,” says Rachel Elise ’10, who also has Dissociative Identity Disorder. “It’s one of the few serious mental illnesses that’s entirely curable through psychotherapy, so it’s particularly important to understand how to treat it.”
Brand’s goal is to help an underserved, under-identified, worldwide population
That’s right. It’s curable. Movies don’t tell you that, either, maybe because a cure takes so long. The average psychology treatment study lasts only about 13 weeks. But no one with a dissociative disorder gets better in three months. It takes years.
“People don’t split unless they absolutely cannot handle something, so therapy involves facing that which completely broke you,” explains Rachel, who was severely abused as a child. “It can take a long time to get into a place that is stable and grounded enough to do the core work.”
By current data, the worst manifestations of dissociative disorders affect one percent of the world’s population. The same is true for schizophrenia, a condition belonging to a different psychological category. But when
Brand started researching DD in 2009, there were 103,000 scholarly articles on schizophrenia and only eight on DD. (Her team has since doubled that number.)
RESEARCH ARTICLES, 1995-2013
Depression: 6,750 Schizophrenia: 3,613 . Bipolar Disorder: 1,261 PTSD: 682 Dissociative Identity Disorder: 55
The reason for the disparity is that very few mental health professionals even know how to identify dissociative disorders, let alone how to treat it well. People with DD are often misdiagnosed, leading to years of damaging drug treatments or therapy that never touches the core issue. Worse, some people with DD are dismissed as frauds. Brand’s goal is to change all that, and help an underserved, under-identified, worldwide population get better.
And if improving or saving lives isn’t a strong enough argument, here’s another: the results of Brand’s study could also cut health care costs. Undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or ineffectively treated patients with dissociative disorders deal with repeated emergency room visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions and other care needs.
“Think about the cost savings and reduction in suffering that could come from figuring out how to provide cost-effective interventions,” Brand says.
Brand and her research team are developing web videos for therapists and patients. Used weekly, the videos, along with journaling and behavioral exercises, are designed to help patients diminish their symptoms, regulate their reactions and control unsafe behaviors. Brand’s team includes web designers who will disseminate the videos on servers worldwide—accessible for free. Built-in analytics will assess efficiency, using participant feedback to determine the helpfulness of the exercises.
Funding the Research
Brand’s study, TOP DD (Treatment of Patients with Dissociative Disorders) Network, requires funding—the most challenging part of the process so far. The recession and other cutbacks have made financial support hard to find. Towson University, Sheppard Pratt, therapists, patients and the researchers themselves have contributed.
Art Imitating Life
Rachel is an artist, and she processes her disorder in her work. Unlike a lot of artists, her creations use different media, different styles and different approaches. Those differences, Rachel says, are the products of the parts that create the art.
“That’s why art is so satisfying for me,” she explains. “It’s a way to integrate different pieces of my experience tangibly. Several parts can be saying something different, but it all comes together into one image.”
Rachel points out that “normal” people take certain things for granted, like having a linear sense of time or a consistent way of looking at the world. Patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder don’t have those things. Her art helps explain that. But she says it also conveys a common bond, an understanding that everyone struggles with who they are. “It’s more exaggerated for someone with DID, but I think it’s a universal experience to feel pulled by different sides of oneself, or to question one’s true identity.”
For Brand and her research team, the art lies in finding the most effective ways to help people who have suffered unspeakable trauma as children. It’s work Cathy finds heroic.
“These researchers didn’t have to go into this line of work. To me, those people are crusaders for us.”
By Christine Collins. Photo by Kanji Takeno and DeCarlo Brown. Art by Rachel Elise ’10.
Professor leads groundbreaking search for answers in mental health. Department of Psychology
Rachel Elise’s Art
It’s so hard to stay, and so easy to leave.
A cold sweat hot-headed believer
I threw my hands in the air, said, “Show me something,”
He said, “If you dare, come a little closer.”Round and around and around and around we go
Oh now, tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know.Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you.
It takes me all the way.
I want you to stayIt’s not much of a life you’re living
It’s not just something you take–it’s given
Round and around and around and around we go
Oh now, tell me now, tell me now, tell me now you know.
Not really sure how to feel about it.
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you.
It takes me all the way.
I want you to stay.
Funny you’re the broken one but I’m the only one who needed saving
‘Cause when you never see the light it’s hard to know which one of us is caving.
History of dissociation
When a pendulum swings one way, there will often come a different reaction that ultimately leads to a shift in view. This means that theories will be created, updated and ultimately rejected if it does not explain the data collected in a good way. This is especially true for psychology, where theories and ideas have been proposed and opposed in a consistent fashion. When we had no other way than our minds to study the insides us, this was particularly true. The history of psychology is in some way a very recent one, but it is also an old one, since philosophers have tried to understand thought and behavior since we were able to. Plato, Aristoteles, Descartes and so on, all tried to construct models on how we could live a good life, and what determined it. Descares, for example, thought we had a body (matter) and a mind. He thought those were divided from each other, and this thought is still alive today when people discuss if a psychiatric condition is biological or psychological (most people now think its a combination of both). Locke, proposed that we were “tabula rasa”, which meant we were born ready to take in the world as we wanted, but that is not so. We are influenced by our genes and what we experience in the womb. We are “ready” for the world we come into, but the meaning we make of it is created along the way. We are probably the only species who need this, who has to have meaning in addition to just existing. For example we are born with a knowledge about what gives us pleasure: Milk, warm objects, a nice voice and so on. We automatically approach that, like the baby searching for the nipple. Baby`s automatically cry when they need something, this is also something they were born with.
Back to how something goes back and forth. I will demonstrate this principle with using examples from the history of psychology.
Mind over matter
I have already mentioned Descartes`s name. Many people know the name and maybe some of his theory. Descartes thought we where divided in soma/matter and in mind/consciousness. This was a popular thought, that in some ways relate to the idea of an eternal soul, that we meet in many religions. This dualism has shaped how our society is constructed and how we treat each other. If we believe there is a soul, that will go to heaven or hell after we die, we will want not to sin (we want pleasure in heaven, not pain). Descartes was sure about this division, and a lot of others, were, too. Then the princess of Bohemia comes along. She asks Descartes: If mind and matter really are divided, then how can they interact? Descared`s answer was that there must be a place in the brain where it happens, and proposed the pineal gland. This actually did nothing to strengthen his argument, since the pineal gland is itself biological tissue. When we got the methods to study the brain, we found out there is no “soul” in the pineal gland, so new theories tried to explain our thoughts and actions (the pendulum swung).
The uterus and the devil
One had a phenomena (for example, extreme mood swings in women) that had to be explained. In the start the one of the explanations could be that the uterus was too dry. For that reason, it had to “find” moisture in the body, and did so by “wandering” around in the body. When it wandered around, it explained why moody women “twisted” and seemed so agitated. In borderline PF-disorder some of the symptoms can be constant shifting moods, strong emotions, flashbacks and analgesia to pain (the same symptoms “hysteric” women had). The uterus theory was after a while challenged, since it couldn`t explan why men without an uterus could have the same symptoms. Another theory explaining some of these symptoms, was that our “nervous system” had literally been “shaken”. But that did not explain why people who hadn`t been “shaken” had the same symtoms. Another popular theory was phrenology, where different “bumps” in the brain were related to different personality characteristics.
When we didn`t know much about psychology, stress-symptoms could even be explained as manifestations of a devil possessing the “patient”. Exorcism was then the solution. After a while, people started to criticise the theory, and again the pendulum swung to new explanations that fit the data better. One of the new explanations was the theory of “hysterics”. Hysteria was a popular term when Freud was young, and he was very interested in the phenomena, and ultimately this led to his grand psychoanalytic theory.
All these examples, show how we make theories, clarify them, challenge them, or even discard them, if they don`t fit the knowledge we have collected by different means. We actually do this all the time, as children. We explore by putting things in our mouth, to see if it is edible (we learn some things are not) and must make another category for it (it is an animal, and they should not be eaten, at least not when they are alive). This way we learn and become who we are today. This means that through history, we have explained many of the same “symptoms” with different theories that also influence how we “treat”” those symptoms.
War-time and new theories
When the war came, the condition of PTSD was not particularly known. After the war, however, a lof of men got a variety of symptoms. It could be mood-swings, irrational behavior (anger over “nothing”) or flashbacks. This also had to be explained, and when we knew more about biology, we learnt that certain things happened in a stressful situation, like adrenaline being released in the body. When they came back from the war, this still happened even when there was no real threat around them.
The mind and body works together, and this ultimately lead to the theory about dissociation.
A lifetime together
Jim and Moira met as 5-year-olds at school in Britain in 1929. They have been together pretty much ever since. Two years after that first encounter, Moira was sent to a nearby all-girls school — the first of only three separations they would have. They were reunited at age 11, when fate put them in the same class at a co-ed school. At the age of 14, the lovebirds began their life-long courtship. The Second World War took Jim hundreds of miles away from his love, but the pair wrote letters to each other through his two years of service. After the young soldier made it back home, the two were married in the summer of 1948. “We have all been rock-solid since the very first day, we always knew it was going to last,” Jim said. “Every day has been lovely with Moira, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I was born dubious. When caterpillars let themselves wait for faith, turning into butterflies, I studied myself like a professor studied his books. When I thought I reached an answer, doubt would arrive at my doorstep, making sure I didn’t jump into things before being sure. When other children played around like there would be no tomorrow, I sat in my corner doubting it all.
There were some Words that made me feel safe and sure, however. And I Guess many of you already know them. I just want to remind everyone about this: There is always someone around you who will be there and take Your hand, especially if you dare to believe in it.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
written by Carolyn Joyce Carty
I have been reading awfully much the last two years. The thirst for knowledge and different perspective has been reawakened, and I`m like a starved man, trying to eat everything at once. That`s why I listen to audiobooks while scrapbooking, while driving, and even when brushing my teeth, This way I have worked through some classics I`d never thought I read because I have so many other books on my lists, but now I have read Knut Hamsun, Leo Tolstoj, Benjamin Franklin and Dostovjetski. I have recently started on another audiobook, that I will listen to while cycling to work. It`s called About Life`s turmoil by J. Allen, and from I`ve heard so far, it`s about seeking the “truth” by taking care of yourself, and thereby helping the world.