I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and I work in a mental health facility.
Before you begin to wonder strongly about mental health facilities’ hiring process, my superiors do not know that I have DID. I have never been diagnosed, despite years of therapy, due to the stigma surrounding the disorder. I am currently considering diagnosis due to the activism I could do after being diagnosed, however that’s a topic for another day.
In the United States, it is not required to disclose your mental health past when applying for a job. In the end, it should not matter to my employers that I have DID–it should matter that I am in a place educationally and experience-wise to work effectively with clients in a mental health setting. I wanted to go over the best and worst parts of having DID in a hospital-type setting, specifically working with individuals in the midst of crisis.
The best part of having DID and working in mental health is how easy it is to leave work at the door. Dissociating often means that even if I am not fully switching, I am emotionally distant from the situations I am in. Because of the emotional distance, I do not get overly involved or emotionally invested or distressed by my clients. I am able to take each moment as it comes and not hold grudges or get overly frustrated. With younger, more manipulative clients, the ability to be emotionally distant can be very helpful. Another wonderful side-effect of having DID in the workplace is that I can empathise with a wide variety of clients. My traumatic past, struggles with self-harm and constant need to stay grounded are things my clients often experience daily in their life in the ‘real world.’ Being able to empathise, even if it’s unspoken, allows me to approach them with the kindness and respect that they ultimately deserve.
The downside of living with DID and working in mental health is that my alters, who do not come out during my work-shifts, are often watching from afar. Impressionable young alters pick up on stims, compulsions and other behavior that might be happening on the facility. If I am physically assaulted–which does happen from time to time–many things could happen. Handling the aftermath can be exhausting due to the process of trying to stay grounded while someone else is forcing their way out to try to keep me safe (despite the fact that I am safe already and there are many other staff members around to help me). DID is a survival mechanism; oftentimes being touched without notice can become a huge ordeal, leading to intense bouts of panic, fear, and flashbacks.
In the end, it is important to remember that no one works in mental health unless they have personal experience in it. Working in mental health is a calling, it’s not a job that people choose to take because it looks easy or pays well. It’s often thankless, ridiculed, and scrutinized beyond belief. It is not always fun work. It is not always safe work. It is not always rewarding work. DID or not, working in a mental health facility can be an amazing and fresh look at the vulnerability and fragility of humans at their worst. Everyone, no matter what their experiences outside of a facility, deserves the best care possible. It’s important to remember that almost everyone deals with mental health struggles at some point in their life, and that there’s always a chance that the roles will be switched.