I’ve read many books about DID before actually having friends who are touched by the complexities, heart break, and all other intense emotions this disorder brings to life as they struggle to come to terms with the horrific abuse that caused the splitting and then to get to know the members of their inner world.
Having actually met and gotten close to those affected I found the past books I’ve read lacking in truly presenting a in depth account of daily life of someone with DID. This was done extremely well in the book Pieces of me still awake. And I’m always on the lookout for independent authors publishing their stories of DID, or any mental illness memoirs and their ups and downs in the journey.
I saw this book on Kindle before I had an ipod and so wished it was on audible or bookshare. When I did get the kindle ap it was one of the first I ordered, or I think I asked for it as a gift.
It’s taken me months to complete and fully digest. This is a very intense in depth experience we’re drawn into first with establishing the therapy relationship, and then being drawn into Charmaine’s inner world as well as Dr. Showalter’s thoughts and feelings on everything.
Initially Charmaine comes to therapy to treat depression that her friends in her faith community feel is linked to not completing the grieving process around her father’s death. Very quickly however as Charmaine feels safe with Dr. showalter the mask cracks and opens the door to her overwhelming inner world. She continues to question her sanity as she reveals for the first time to a therapist about losing time and blackouts. About clothing and items in the home that don’t belong to her. Then the journal Dr. Showalter suggests Charmaine start takes on a life of it’s own as she finds strange writing (not her own handwriting) and pictures that she had no idea about. As time progresses Dr. S meets some of the alters showing themselves ’in session. She is put in the position of having to gently explain to Charmaine these meetings. The fear that this is happening to her sets up denial that she doesn’t want anything to do with the alters at all and for awhile she’s convinced she’s truly crazy or Dr. Showalter is lying. A crisis event where a teenage alter winds up in a rest area miles away from home after having suffered serious sexual injuries makes Charmaine realize that this is something she has to face. Discovering and having to face up to these sexual injuries leads Charmaine to a colleague of Dr. S who is a women’s health specialist for those who have been sexually abused. With the most gentle care this doctor works with Charmaine and Dr. showalter around determining the findings around severe affects of sexual abuse physically. It comes out that she will need surgery and this issue is so sensitively handled. Having this surgery and addressing the physical aspect of trauma I feel forced her into going head long towards dealing with the emotional aspects as well. Charmaine is a strong determined woman. Once she knows the problem she’s able to do whatever it takes to solve it. Her therapy progresses rapidly at this point. Due to a lot of trauma work with using visualization and grounding techniques she’s able to contain strong feelings without this derailing the process of getting to know the alters and understanding their purposes.
Unlike other DID related books integration is naturally handled by Charmaine’s system. As Charmaine grows stronger emotionally she’s able to communicate with the various alters outside of session. She realizes that each alter is trapped in a room where their own trauma/ abuse plays in a continuous loop until resolved. Once the issue is faced and processed the alter and room disappear. Charmaine who at the beginning wanted nothing to do with the alters, begged that they stay and cooperate rather than vanishing. However the alters insisted this was the right way for them to go about it for her whole self to be as strong as possible. Charmaine discovers the last task of the major DID therapy which is to go to the room of the original alter and the first incident of abuse. She asks her therapist to come with her on this journey inside her head. In a lengthy and heart rending session both use the powerful tool of visualization to literally walk down the hallway to this alters room. Charmaine is forced to face the painful memories around childhood abuse. Once she does the alter integrates so quickly Charmaine fears she lost her. Others still inside reassure her she hasn’t.
A core of alters stay with her for as long as is needed but by the end of the story they integrate as well. She is told she now has mannerisms of all alters and feels their presence but not as individuals. I think this story of integration will really interest therapists and those with DID as integration is such a controversial topic and this integration it seems genuinely was lead by the client and more precisely the client’s inner family who knew what was best for the whole. This book is very dense reading. Dr. Showalter is very articulate and has complex in depth things to say about her work, her philosophy and her relationship with Charmaine moment by moment. In the book for each event Charmaine’s journals give her point of view on things. This makes it not just the therapist retelling a case study which is refreshing.
What I love about this book is that Charmain made it clear from the outset that this wasn’t a story about the abuse she faced as many DID books commonly feature. It’s so much more: about her journey of self-discovery, connecting with her alters after much denial, understanding their needs memories and purpose in her life, and intigrating them by request of those deep within her system rather than intigration imposed by her therapist. It’s about an amazingly strong woman with a huge amount of courage feercely pursuing a journey many would run from even though they knew it was for their own good they face their demons. And about an amazingly gifted, talented, creative therapist with a huge hard and just as feerce a commitment to her client’s well being and safe passage to emotional healing after so much tragedy in her early life. I feel this is an amazing well told story! And I feel that the book has done what Charmaine and Dr. Showalter wanted to do to spread knowledge of what therapy for Did is like from Charmine’s perspective. Dr. Showalter clearly expresses her thoughts and feelings on treatment and therapy and is humble enough to say again and again that she doesn’t have all the answers or really any. That she’s always learning and changing things as needed There are a few instances where Dr. Showalter goes way out of the box to help Charmaine heal. She admits this and that such approaches might not be appropriate for other therapists or other clients or maybe even Charmaine if it were a different time they’d be working together. I think she makes it clear enough so readers know not to expect such outside the office time with their therapists. And makes it clear to therapists that this isn’t normal procedure but what is needed at the time.
So other than being very long and the shifting points of view and all there is for each of them to say I would highly recommend this book. Perhaps something to start reading and then come back to in chunks. It’s very dense so probably not a book that one would read cover to cover quickly. But I think it’s been written as it is to give the reader the full experience of this journey which was extremely long and complex. So it makes perfect sense that the book would be very long and complex.
Below is the website for Dr. Showalter. She is quite a busy lady. Doing keynote speaking, media interviews, her own therapy business and then authoring a lot of things including books about hospice care which is another specialty of hers. Feel free to explore the site.