Dissociative Identity Disorder: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made (1)
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” Psalm 139: 13 – 18
One evening, Albert called me from the United States with an urgent request that I meet with his 70 year-old parents, Thomas and Jane, as they had been talking about divorcing each other for the past few weeks. This was surprising as there had been no inkling from my casual acquaintance with the older couple. I knew their son and his family from our earlier days in a Singaporean church prior to their emigration.
I made contact with Thomas the following day, and arranged to see them in my office in a couple of days.
The first extended session was totally devoted to getting to know my seniors, their backgrounds and problems. So, its focus was on confidence building between clients and clinician. The level of acrimony between them was kept to a minimum.
Initially, the second session proceeded smoothly, as they continued their stories; each taking turn to address their unhappiness with the other. Mentally and emotionally, I was charting their marital issues, and thought that I had more or less got my arms around their grievances, and was ready to represent their issues to them from my perspective. But quite suddenly, Jane passed out, and collapsed in a heap on the floor. It would be an understatement to say that I was not shocked, but her husband came to my rescue immediately, as I was undecided whether I should call for some medical assistance.
Thomas said rather excitedly, “She does that almost every night at 3 am or so. Then this demon would threaten me, saying that she had control over my wife and can do anything to her, and I had no power to stop her!”
With those comments, the specter of demonization was at the forefront of my thinking. But wait, I thought to myself. Let us test it out. I drew my chair closer to Jane and bending over, spoke to her quietly, “Jane, can you tell me what is happening to you now?”
“ I am not Jane” shot back the answer instantly, in a very low and stern voice that did not sound like Jane’s.
Intrigued, I asked, “How shall I address you?”
“You can call me Joan,” she said as a matter of fact and full of self-confidence.
“Joan, how long have you been with Jane?”
“I have been with Jane a long time” Joan replied rather authoritatively.
“Can you tell me how did that happen?” I probed. There was silence, and after a few seconds, I sensed she was unwilling to speak up. All this time, Jane’s eyes were closed. After about a minute, I requested that Thomas waited outside the counseling room while I carried on the session with Jane alone. As soon as Tom left the room, Joan spoke,
“Since she was 5 years old.”
Curious, I discontinued my line of enquiry and asked the obvious question, “Thank you for answering, Joan. You were not comfortable telling me that in front of Thomas, is there a reason?”
“Yes, he does not know this part of my life.”
“Where is Jane, Joan?” I asked. My mind boggled as I tried to frame the two personas within the same person; asking myself, is this for real?
To Be Continued.
Note: Permission was given by Thomas and Jane to share their troubled, yet compelling story. They first came to me for counselling more than fifteen years ago. Their story will be broken up into several installments through the coming months. The names have been changed to protect several individual identities. If you need any clarification on some clinical issues as the case study progresses, please use the back channel via my e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org