The subject of dissociative identity disorder or DID is very close to my heart. I have several good friends who have faced horrors many of us could never imagine in the form of brutal child abuse, and to survive created alters who’s sole purpose is to take the pain of the abuse and protect the core personality.
I’ll write more in general about DID in another post. However this is focusing on the raw and heartfelt Memoir Pieces of me Still Awake by Lyn Jamison.
Lyn Jamison is known by the youtube community as Tomy Jamison. She’s been making personal vlogs since the early 2000s about her journey with DID. Openly discussing all aspects and working to dispel the hurtful myths and misconseptions that are barriers for those with DID to feeling accepted even among the professional mental health community. Many of her alters make videos on serious subjects such as their purpose in the system, to funny things like cooking or just hanging out. Her amazingly loving and supportive partner Milissa also often is a part of these videos and makes her own.
I was introduced to Tomy by another friend with DID. I instantly loved her commanding yet gentle presence. Her way of reaching out to anyone with a mental illness to give encouragement and total validation for just how impossible recovery can feel at times. She holds nothing back and in that way has made what seem like life long connections. Watching her vlogs has given me the inspiration and courage to attempt to be as honest as she is in my presentation to the world.
I was somewhat familiar with all characters presented in her memoir before it was published. When it was I eagerly purchased it on kindle and started to read. On her video about the book’s release she says the book is “one big trigger warning.” And acknowledges that many who have been in her situation or similar with the level of abuse that took place may not be able to read the book at all or fully. I’ve read many memoirs related to mental illness and abuse. Thankfully the abuse I’ve personally dealt with has been emotional. Reading about the other levels of cruelty that an adult puts upon a child always breaks my heart. The directness and raw emotion in this book was hard to bear at times. However I took my time to work through it as I see Tomy and her system as my friends and wanted to hear everything they had to say.
The narrative appropriately is told in flashes of experiences and jumps around the different time periods in Lyn’s life. It covers everything from early childhood and the “nice on the outside horrific on the inside” family she grew up in. It covers her life as an adult and how flashbacks tore through her consciousness. Several alters tell their stories of birth, their order in the system, and the ins and outs of the inner world.
In an interesting twist, the lives of both Lyn’s parents are explored as well and made clear the level of abuse they suffered. This is in no way at all excusing anything done. However it does show the power of the cycle of abuse, and how perhaps in the creativity of the mind that creates alters, Lyn was able to take a different path of self-discovery and awareness which lead her to avoid making the same mistakes in later life.
I’ve read some other books on DID. Before I personally had friends who dealt with this, I found the books fascinating and interesting and felt for those in it but didn’t have the knowledge and emotional attachment to watching someone go day by day trying to constantly make a healthy life for themselves while being haunted by flashbacks, and overwhelmed with the daunting task of connecting with the others inside. Lyn’s account talks about this in detail. The struggle to accept get to know, and build a safe world for she and all of her inner family so that they can have a cooperative life together. This has ups and downs and is ultimedly heartwarming and overall successful. It’s empowering to see how the system takes their own path to healing. Taking what works from therapy, but ultametily being self-supporting and knowing what’s right for them. They’re not about to be manipulated or controlled by people who try to tell them what’s best for them. In all other DID books I’ve read integration is the preferred method of “treatment.” Before meeting my friends I thought this made sense logically. That was before intimately getting to know these complex systems, each alter a true person in his or her own right. And seeing the complex nature of DID, it makes sense that integration is by no means straightforward or even any kind of valued option. It should be individualized to what each system feels is right. Lyn and her system discuss integration, how they’ve made it work for them specifically and how in their world no one can integrate unless it’s just the right time.
Many books dealing with DID focus on the retelling of brutal abuse with little about the day to day life of the person, or very much positive other than some kind of integration compelled by the therapist feeling this is necessary. In this book other aspects of their lives are fully explored. Such as their job and the breakdown that caused the end to Lyn’s denial about her situation. The various relationships she had and how they served her in healthy or unhealthy ways. And in the eliment of peace about their lives. Not peace like happy ending or like nothing will go wrong again. But peace like she found a life partner that’s truly a soulmate. Peace in a full understanding of herself, her system, exactly what works for them all. With all this experience, ups and downs, she’s able to move forward building a healthier life than she ever could have imagined. At the end of the book she says something quite powerful that I too believe. “ It all had to happen. Everything leading up to this moment.” If she hadn’t gone through all that she had she never would have met Milisa. . Or any of the others who touched her lives in her many moves. She never would have such a rich understanding of herself and her inner world. And she never would have written this book. Or touched probably hundreds of people through her live encounters on video. Including myself.
I encourage anyone who’s interested in truly learning about life with mental illness to read this book. It’s nothing glamorous or dramatic or like in the media. It’s rough down to earth, and with unexped pleasant surprises and moments of peace and healing along the way. For those who deal with this on a daily b basis I feel anyone can see at least one aspect of themselves or their struggles here. For significant others I hope you read this book and give your loved one a big hug. And maybe cry because you finally sort of get it. Why this person might seem out of reach at times, and how you really can’t know what’s going on inside their head. Maybe it will make you a little more patient in the bad times. And take your breath away so that all you can do is listen.
Lastly, of course the trigger warnings. This book has moment by moment graphic descriptions of physical and sexual abuse. As well as some cult like ritual abuse. I have no personal experience with these traumas but I found them very hard to read at times. If I found them hard to read I’d extremely caution those with personal experiences to try and monitor yourself emotionally. It also deals with a suicide attempt in detail. However if you aren’t able to read the book, Iknow that Lyn would understand. And that she’d probably be willing to connect with you through youtube and be a listening ear and have only compassion and understanding for what you’re going through.
Below is the amazon link to the kindle book.
Also here is the link to their channel.
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