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Becoming One: A Story of Triumph Over Dissociative Identity Disorder
Sarah E Olsen
We believe unconsciously that we arrive in this life a complete picture, but somehow through what happens when Life commingles with “Me” sometimes pieces fall apart.
That may be, however it may be that all of us are destined to find a way to reassemble pieces of whatever we believe constitutes “Me” out of the bumps, bruises, rips, tears, rapes and tortures that Life sometimes delivers.
Our efforts as therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers et al falls upon the broken pieces. With most people their caverns result in what is termed Complexes. That’s the experience you’ve likely had of realizing, too late, that your behavior was way, way out of line.
I heard a Jungian analyst once explain that you know you’ve been in a complex by the number of people to whom you must apologize. We get out of ourselves and the usual kind, generous, loving people we wish to be at all times frays at the corners, revealing our jealousy, dislike, our frustration. A complex in our behavior is the result.
The difference with those who have experience with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, previously referred to as Multiple Personality) is memory. Those with DID perform actions, make decisions and can’t remember how or who made those decisions. Their psychic fissure remains similar in kind but much deeper in cut than a complex. And just as those of us who have experienced a complex must work diligently, sometimes feeling helpless against the onslaught of the powerful energy at the heart of a complex (“why did that happen again? why oh why do I always…”) so too those with DID feel the helplessness and frustration of not being able to steer the ship of their lives, except they can’t remember why. Why did I wake up in that strange place? Who are those people who said they knew me?
The nightmare of DID haunts those among us who have suffered the most deeply through the trauma of abuse. And just as we have little understanding culturally of how a complex manifests and what can be done to release its energy into conscious command, so too we have too few patterns of those who have reassembled their pieces from the deepest cuts. We lack the maps that provide hope.
So it was with Sarah E Olsen. She was born, whole we presume, and was delivered into a Life that dealt more than the usual: ritual torture, rapes, unending singularity by way of abandonment.
Yet she was born with something else, a quality we recognize but for which we don’t yet have a full name. Courage, certainly. Persistence, yes. Determination? Without doubt. All of these and something more, the spark that makes the true engine of a human being come toward Life and integrate the pieces of what Life has delivered into a more whole unit.
We often think of whole or complete as finished, or over. That’s an error in our thinking. Whole and complete, when it comes to the human beings, means for now. In process. Forever partial and partially done. For all of us this is true.
Sarah E. Olsen has with stunning courage, without sentimentality, minus all the capital “D” drama, written a book about her experiences with several personalities and how she corralled them into a functioning whole. For now.
To hold the new we must let go of what has been. Each step toward wholeness means a painful letting go of all that came before. So it comes clear to the reader as Sarah E. Olsen shares from her journal and from her many letters to the therapist, Howard Asher Psy. D, who, thank the gods, accomplished his professional responsibility to push, prod, support and gentle her toward wholeness, towards being a more complete unit than before.
She shares also in diplomatic, but never gratuitous detail the slime from which she had to rise, slime smeared upon her by a man so sick he does not deserve to be called human and a mother twisted enough to corroborate with him.
Hard to imagine yet Olsen’s clear and simple delivery of the worst, winding through with the moments in which she comes to clarity, to a new level of consciousness, provide the reader with a platform from which to keep reading.
The poetry Olsen writes is also worthy of being noted. Good as these poems are, their voice speaks to a larger wisdom, a greater vision and a poetic sensibility I hope will see further fruition.
Something more needs to be said about what Olsen has achieved here. In bringing to readers her unique way of reassembling the pieces of her psyche she shares a potential for all who have been deeply gouged. She lights up the capacity in humans to carefully add piece by piece toward a new Life, one of renewed energy, vitality and interest. She lights the map of hope for us all.