Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Best Friends, My Worst Enemies: The Art of Samantha Manns Dissociative Identity Disorder

“Dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder, is a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states that alternately control a person's behavior, and is accompanied by memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness” (citation).  Multiple personality, or split personality disorder is an affliction first made famous, and subsequently attached with huge stigmata, by the book and movie entitled “Sybil” (citation) in 1976.  The film depicts a woman afflicted with a total of 13 different personalities of which she was not aware.  The personalities were both male and female, and a wide range in ages.  The movie created much taboo and controversy with regard to the matter of Split Personalities.  People began to perceive patients with this affliction as certifiably insane, with no hope for recovery, or leading a normal or productive life.  However, what many don’t realize is that the story was later debunked as at least partially untrue.  Also, there was a lot of speculation that the doctor treating Sybil created a lot of her problems and that she didn’t even have any psychiatric condition at all. The fiasco even caused many psychiatrists to not accept Multiple Personality Disorder as a real medical condition.

Today, psychiatrists have reevaluated the nature of the affliction, and it is commonly known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).  People suffering from DID have symptoms that cannot be attributed to seizures, abuse of drugs or alcohol, or imaginative play of children.  No longer does a person have to suffer from extreme behavior like that of the character from the movie “Sybil” to be considered a sufferer of DID.  Symptoms could range from frequent lapses in attention, excessive daydreaming, becoming easily distracted, to more severe pathological behaviors.  It can also be possible and likely that other psychiatric disorders are present.  In short, those afflicted with DID have usually suffered some sort of trauma that caused their minds to separate from the trauma by using internal personalities different from their own to protect themselves from facing the trauma and to help the afflicted bury the trauma.  Though the afflicted often aren’t aware of the other personalities without treatment, the personalities can cause negative or destructive consequences in the life of the afflicted.  Once the afflicted does begin treatment, which is recommended for recovery, they can perceive these personalities as protectors, and have difficulty letting them go.  

Samantha Manns, 18 year old artist featured in this blog post, and another blog post which you can find here is afflicted with DID.  Sam’s DID stems from the trauma of abuse she suffered as a child.  Though she has only recently began to face certain abuses head on for the first time, Sam’s mind created alternate personalities to protect her from being destroyed.  Sam believes that without her alternate personalities and thereby, alternate reality, she could not have survived her actual reality.  Sam states, “These personalities are my best friends and my worst enemies at times. They are the people that force me to do terrible, violent things to myself. But they are also the only ones that I had through the abuse that I suffered. These sort of over-developed imaginary friends made life bearable and made it possible for me to survive in situations that I otherwise would have crumpled under. I suffered in silence and in a psycho-amnesic state for years because of my D.I.D. so when I started remembering, I started painting, drawing, taking photographs, etc.” 

Here is where Sam deviates from so many of the unfortunate afflicted.  Sam is choosing to seek out and actively work with the appropriate channels of help for her afflictions, and expressing her pain and her struggles in a way that is not only constructive and healing, but shares an incredible thing with the world and will undoubtedly help many others.  Something about Sam tells me she has an ear for those who may not be ready to take these steps for themselves and their own afflictions…  Sam has had seven inpatient hospitalizations, 36 days in residential treatment, and a total of 51 days in partial hospitalization.

As if Sam’s drawing and painting abilities aren’t enough, she also has plans in the works for a novel.  Sam plans to call the novel, “Julie Says…”  Sam says that her counselor tells her to “put those words before things that I find difficult to believe, such as ‘I am a good weight’ or ‘I am beautiful.’ Rather, I should say, ‘Julie says that I am a good weight,’ because I'm wired to go based off of what other people think of me.”

My greatest hope for Sam in the future with regard to recovering from her afflictions is that she can realize how incredible her gifts are, and how small the ugliness of her afflictions is in comparison to the delight of her soul.  Ironically, sometimes the most troubled of souls are also the most beautiful.

Sam’s works are not currently for sale, however she can be contacted here for art commissions.  Any images in this blog posting are the sole property of Samantha Manns.  Though they may be shared, they may not be reproduced in any way without her written consent.