The Piece of My Mental Illness That Didn't Seem to Fit a Diagnosis


Over the years, it feels like I have been diagnosed with everything. I keep being diagnosed with things, and then the psychiatrist changes his mind. My current diagnoses seem to fit. Bipolar I, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder and social anxiety.

But then there is a piece of my mental illness that doesn’t seem to fit a diagnosis. I have dissociative problems. Sometimes, I’ve had symptoms of amnesia, where I’m unable to remember a traumatic event for up to years later. Occasionally, I have gotten in a car and “woken up” in another city, with no memory of my drive there. Sometimes, nothing feels real. I get confused about what reality is and where I am. Sometimes, I feel like I’m floating in the air watching myself below. Sometimes, I feel like I have multiple selves all wanting to speak. Sometimes, I feel like I change — I shift between parts of myself. Sometimes, I find myself talking and acting differently because I am speaking from a different part of myself.

These experiences are hard for me to understand. I am still trying to figure it all out. They are even harder for me to explain to my husband and friends. I wish I had a diagnosis that fit them. It would make it easier for me to explain myself to myself and others. But no diagnosis fits.

I’ve tried to connect to other people with similar symptoms. But I can’t ever quite find people who relate. I’ve met people online with dissociative identity disorder (DID). I can relate to parts of that disorder. It’s nice talking to these people. But in the end, I felt different from them. I didn’t seem to fit.

Recently, I found another online group for people with DID. I asked the group leader if I could join. I explained I don’t have DID and I shared my story with her. Her response moved me deeply.

She welcomed me warmly and said I would fit in the group. Then she explained by writing, “Dissociative disorders are on a spectrum. There are people with a variety of dissociative disorders in this group.”

Those words shook me to my core. On a spectrum. So maybe I wasn’t alone with my strange group of problems. Maybe I still fit. If there is a spectrum of people experiencing dissociative problems, then I can find a place on that spectrum. Then I can find a group of people who I can relate to. Our stories are all different, but we have experiences in common. “On a spectrum” means I am unique, yet I fit into the puzzle of dissociative disorders.

These words have given me so much encouragement. Now I just need a shorthand way to say, “I’m on the dissociative disorders spectrum!”  Well, for now, that phrase is enough and I am content.

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Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.


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