Jan 24

“Many Sides of Jane”: Dissociative Identity

Dissociative Identity Disorder is caused by severe, ongoing childhood abuse that begins early in life. It is thought that having many medical issues and surgeries growing up can also partly cause DID. Dissociation is an extremely effective survival tool for abused children, as it compartmentalizes the abuse, allowing them to live out their childhood as normally as they possibly can without becoming too overwhelmed. Jane Hart, the focus of Many Sides of Jane on A&E (Elephant Journal)

The writer of the above quote, Jane Hart, age 28, was diagnosed a few years ago with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), the condition formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

And now A&E has premiered a six-part docuseries, Many Sides of Jane, about her attempts to deal with having nine different “parts”—including a child as young as six.

From A&E’s website, an excerpt regarding Jane and her mission:

…a 28-year-old loving mother of two, an author, a public speaker and mental health activist…Dubbing herself a ‘human information sponge,’ Jane has spent countless hours researching the effects of trauma on the brain as well as learning as much as she can about DID in the hopes of helping others.

Receiving her diagnosis was tough on Jane both mentally and physically, but sharing her condition with a close friend was a turning point for her. Despite their close relationship, her friend assumed Jane was dangerous; damaging their friendship and leaving a lasting impact on Jane. This pivotal point in her life has inspired Jane to shine a light on the cause to diminish the stigma of mental illness, especially those living with DID.

The trailer for Many Sides of Jane indicates, among other things, that her therapy goal is not to get rid of her parts but to learn how to work together:

Some quotes from Jane’s 2016 article on the subject of “What It’s Like to Live with Multiple Personality Disorder (& the Stigma Behind It)“:

The stigma surrounding mental illness—DID in particular—is staggering…

Stigma and the unwillingness to learn about mental illness are problems in part, because just hours ago I was in the middle of a therapy session when I “switched.” Switching is the term used when a DID patient transitions between identities. This process can lead to severe headaches, confusion, “mind fog” and painful shame, amongst many other difficult things.

…(I)n reality only about 6 percent of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have noticeable switches.

...70 percent  of all Dissociative Identity Disorder patients attempt suicide, more than any other psychiatric disorder. These individuals are in such distress that suicide is a commonly chosen option for them. And I can tell you that, yes, it is that difficult living with a plethora of differing opinions all swirling around inside of your mind. It is that scary not knowing when you’ll “go away” and when another part of you will “come out.” It is debilitating to feel out of control in this way.

Our incredible human brains have the capacity to create different identities to hold memories that it knows the entire person cannot handle; placing amnestic barriers between these identities. fMRI studies have shown that when a DID patient switches between identities different parts of the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center) light up, giving us a clear image of the presence of amnesia.

If you’re interested in reading about a “typical day” in the life of Jane Hart, check out her above-cited article.

Additional info and help regarding DID is available at A&E under Resources.