Dear Hollywood, Television, and the People Who Believe their Programming Lies:
Stop stigmatizing people who have mental illnesses and mental disorders.
I have a trauma disorder. I am not a sociopath or a psychopath.
I have a dissociative disorder. I am not a homicidal maniac, nor do I live a double-life, maniacal or otherwise.
I suffer from depression. I am not insane or stupid or incapable or lazy.
I was raised by an abusive, lying narcissist. This did not turn me into an abusive, lying narcissist.
I was physically abused as a child. This did not turn me into an abusive person.
I was sexually abused as a child. This did not turn me into a sexual predator.
Loud, sudden noises have the tendency to send me into a “fight, flight, or freeze mode.” But this does not mean that I get physical or violent, or that I begin plotting the demise of the person who made the loud noise, or that I begin plotting ways to make their life miserable.
Hearing helicopters and airplanes flying overhead or hearing the approaching roar of a vehicle frightens me and can send me into a dizzy, disoriented state. But this disorientation doesn’t cause me to, for instance, rip my clothes off and run down the street naked, club or knife or ax or gun in hand, spouting gibberish about the world ending in x-amount of days.
Sometimes situations come up that are overwhelming or confusing or otherwise stressful, and I can “switch.” Usually I do what I can to avoid these situations, including limiting social media and limiting outdoor excursions by myself. I also avoid interactions with people who are not on my “safe” list. This doesn’t make me insane or a paranoid recluse. It simply means I’m trying to cope in the safest and most agreeable way I can.
When I do switch, I might say something goofy, or off-colored, or act a little “off” or a little “spacey.” Or I might become depressed, or withdrawn, or irritable, or disoriented. But these switches aren’t “Hollywood style.” I don’t have a secret, double life, nor do I have an evil alter who is plotting the misery of everyone around me, the way much of Hollywood and television programming would have everyone believe. I do not, for instance, plot nefarious schemes to secretly infiltrate an ex-friend’s life, cause him or her to lose their job, empty their bank accounts, ruin their credibility, or take down their friends and family members, one by one.
(Thanks to LMN for that banal plot…)
Bad things happened to me at the hands of sociopaths and psychopaths and narcissists that sometimes cause me to be very cautious about certain situations that remind me of the bad things that happened. Or to be cautious of people who remind me of past abusers. This doesn’t mean I’m paranoid, the way Hollywood or TV might have you believe. It simply means that I’ve learned to recognize unsafe people and unsafe situations, and that I’m smart enough to try to avoid them.
(And by the way…. if I talk about those past situations or people, it doesn’t mean that I’m paranoid about any current situation or individual. It just means that I’m sharing a part of my life and talking about a past situation. So stop being paranoid yourself by thinking that everything I do or say is based on a paranoia that you imagine I have…!)
Sometimes when I switch, I momentarily forget who I am, or who you are, or where I’m at, or what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This doesn’t happen often, it doesn’t last very long, and most people never even know when it happens. But when it does occur, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. Or weird. Or about to go on a psychotic rage. It simply means I dissociated for a moment because I’m feeling very stressed or triggered or upset. But it’s certainly not a “Hollywood moment,” that’s for sure! It’s just not that extreme.
If my switches were extreme, however, it wouldn’t be my fault, and it would be something that I would be actively working to make better. So making fun of me, demonizing me, and causing other people to be unnecessarily afraid of me would only make the situation worse, not better…
So stop with the stigmas!
I am a mother. A wife. A friend. A writer. An animal lover.
I am a creative person. I am a kind and loving person.
I do my best to live each day in a healthier and happier way than I did yesterday.
Having a dissociative disorder does not make my feelings invalid. When bad things happen or when the rights of myself or others have been violated, my fears are justified, my frustrations are reasonable, and my anger is an acceptable reaction.
Developing a dissociative disorder as a way to cope with overwhelming, inescapable abuse as a child does not make me a bad person. Having trauma disorders and attachment disorders and depression because of those awful things I lived through does not make me a sociopath or a psychopath or a homicidal maniac. It has not turned me into a scary person. Or a violent person. Or an abusive person.
It means that bad, scary, and violent things happened to me at the hands of very abusive people, and I am waking up each day and somehow finding the will to keep going another day in spite of those abuses I have lived through.
It makes me a survivor.
And when my life comes to an end, it will have made me a thriver.
Not because of the abuses I suffered, but in spite of them.
So cut the crap.
Stop the ignorance.
End the stigmas.