By Kalei Swogger
In my experience, most people consider mental illness as a marker that you are an outsider. Instead of being normal, you’re considered “abnormal,” “special,” “overly sensitive,” or “different.” Have you considered that we might all be on the same playing field?
Some models explaining how mental illness can develop in otherwise neurotypical persons describe mental health on a continuum rather than in categories. Instead of being entirely different groups of people, we all exist on the same line, but in different locations. One person’s highest level of functioning may look different than someone else’s based on their location. Although this is an imperfect illustration, it helps put into perspective that mental illness is another part of human experience. It is not something to be feared, ignored, or worst of all, doubted.
The brief glimpse into my sister’s experience with DID is only a limited snapshot of what it’s like to live with an illness that is not physically visible. However, once we come to terms with the reality that mental illness is a common part of human experience, the next step on the path of healing is to see the potential for greater understanding, greater creativity, and greater human connection that can be found if we choose to embrace these experiences. I would like to leave you with a portion of a personal journal from the moment my own perspective shifted. May you be inspired and challenged to shift your own paradigms.
DID saved her life. My mind opened as I discovered the key to unshackling my heart and mind from the anger, the wrestling against the greatest injustice of my life. Why my beautiful sister’s mind? Why a mind with so much potential? This mysterious process of the brain has been surrounded by mystic superstition, fear, degradation, hate, and shame. But this thing saves lives. Is it wrong for me to say that DID is a demonstration of her mind’s potential? Potential to survive things that shouldn’t be. Potential to live past grief and paralyzing, confusing pain. And now this confusing thing, this scary thing, this thing that has prolonged grief (enabled grief), increased pain (utilized pain), prolonged healing (initiated healing). This thing has set in motion the beautiful, painful process of healing. It has set in motion a rebirth. It has set the stage for the creation of something new.