*Originally posted on my former blog (2009)
I recently wrote a post here about online support and friends. I think having supportive people around is so important. I know, personally, there is no way I could be going through this process alone. The whole ordeal of therapy takes a lot out of a person emotionally. Friends help provide support and encouragement. They can also be a great source of distraction and provide opportunities to release tension from all the stress of facing trauma issues. They can be grounding and help keep you in the present. They can also boost your self esteem and help you feel empowerment. Of course this is all considering you have good friends.
I can tell you that I have been down this road to therapy twice during two different times of my life, and it is during this trying time that you often find out exactly who your real friends are. I have learned things about some of my friendships. Sometimes I learned that my friends care for me a great deal more than I had thought. Sometimes I learned that they really didn’t. It is sad when relationships fall apart during these times, but it is helpful to turn attention to the relationships that gain strength during these times.
I have found that during my process of healing I really need three kinds of friends. I absolutely need some friends that also have DID. Dissociative Identity Disorder can be a very isolating disorder. There aren’t very many ways to see that other people like us exist. Sure, we know in our heads we aren’t the only ones, but where are they? Recently there has been more talk of DID in the psychological community and the amount of available books on the topic has increased since I was first in therapy in the early ’90’s. Technology has brought us the world wide web that opens new doors to form relationships, but we are still far off from where I would like to see things. Just as there are support groups for people who have been sexually abused, are alcoholics, have eating disorders, have panic, anxiety, or OCD disorders, I would like to see more outreach in communities for people with dissociative disorders. I just know that facing DID head on and recovering from it is a daunting, make-you-feel-crazy-at-times process, and that process has been made much more bearable by my having friends that also have DID (online and in my own community). Priceless are the words, “Me, too.”
I also really appreciate having friends that do not have DID or trauma histories, yet they are aware of mine (to some degree). None of my friends know I have DID. However, there are some that know I have a trauma history I am working through and that I also struggle with Major Depression. Those friends have been amazing to me. They have been a great support, and I have two in particular that really “stood up to the plate” when I had to go to an out of state inpatient trauma program for three weeks. What helps me the most is that these friends that know don’t treat me ANY different, don’t think ANY less of me. In fact, most highly respect my courage and determination to get well. When I first went to the hospital, where I initially saw it as a weakness, my friends saw it as a strength. Their response to me, the feedback I got from them, was positive. They liked very much that I wasn’t content to just “sit in it.” They have totally supported my endeavors to “get well.” This sort of response from friends helps beat the shame I often feel that really doesn’t belong to me. It belongs, of course, to my abusers.
I know this is not everyone’s experience. It has not always been mine. When I was in therapy in the early ’90’s, my friends that were not survivors just sort of ditched me when they found out. It was very sad to me to realize that apparently our friendship was so superficial. However, over time I made new positive friendships, and things did get better.
The third kind of friends that I feel like I really need as well are the kinds of friends that don’t know ANYTHING about my therapy issues. They don’t know I’m in therapy. They don’t know I have any psychological issues what-so-ever. With these friends I can truly escape the demands of the therapeutic process. These friends can be a great distraction and a powerful release of tension. With these friends I can really “get away from it all.” I can leave my trauma history behind, which is what we all hope to do someday. I can play, laugh, etc. and none of them will look at me seriously and say, “No, really…..how are you doing?” Obviously I appreciate the friends that know and really want to know how I am, but I equally appreciate the friends that just take, “Fine. How are you?” as an answer. It’s freeing to have this escape.
Wherever you are in your stage of healing, I hope that you find friends to help you on your journey. Our therapists are wonderfully supportive guides, but we need so much more than that. We are whole people with a myriad of various needs, and our support systems should reflect that.
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