Although the genesis of Finding Mary was the desire for my sons to know the truth, it was also an indictment on the mental health system and professionals.
Forty years ago, at the age of 21 I received the first derogatory ‘diagnosis.’ Missing for 4 days, admitted to a hospital not knowing even my own name, I was transferred to Lakeside Psychiatric Hospital. Less than 24 hours after admission the diagnosis was a ‘Depressive Reaction in a Passive Aggressive Personality’.
Throughout the ensuing forty years many similar diagnoses have been heaped upon me. Until learning of ‘Structural Dissociation’, the only diagnosis that seemed to remotely ‘fit’ was Complex PTSD.
Psychologist and psychiatrist both rejected any suggestion of Dissociative Identity Disorder – in fact vehemently negating the possibility I experienced dissociation. As recently as December 2014 my psychiatrist rejected any discussion of Structural Dissociation stating he did not believe in ‘labels’. However, initially he did not hesitate to diagnose me with Bipolar II after only a couple of visits – eventually recanted.
I have undergone an assessment with a new psychiatrist and nothing has changed. After less than three hours evaluation of 62 years of life, I received a five page report stating I have Somatic Symptom Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder and Complex PTSD.
While nothing surprises me any more, I imagine many people experiencing this would be devastated and overwhelmed – as I probably was at age 21. How can a psychiatrist, who has read a summary of my life collected by a registrar, and spent less than an hour with me, conclude I have a disorder that the supposed trauma experts I consulted for over 15 years refused to consider?
Bessel van Der Kolk writes in ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ – referenced in Finding Mary – ‘The way we define their problems, our diagnosis, will determine how we approach their care. Such patients typically receive five or six different unrelated diagnoses in the course of their psychiatric treatment. A psychiatric diagnosis has serious consequences: diagnosis informs treatment, and the wrong treatment can have disastrous effects. Also, a diagnostic label is likely to attach to people for the rest of their lives and have a profound influence on how they define themselves.’
What I read in ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ and ‘The Haunted Self’ demonstrate an understanding, an empathy and an acknowledgement of my experience that I have never witnessed in a mental health clinician. I can only recommend these books to gain greater insight into the aftermath of severe trauma.
Will I dare to continue?