Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Getting Personal: My Fiancé Has Multiple Personalities


The following essay is written by guest contributor, Gina D.

I met James during our mutual friend’s graduation party at a park the day after I finished high school in May, 2013. After everyone else at the party left, he and I hung around, talking and laughing until very late. We saw each other again a couple of days later for a proper date, and we have been together ever since.

About a month and a half ago, the two of us were sitting at a table in a park late at night. He told me, “I’m really happy with you. I don’t want it to end.”

“It’s not going to,” I responded. He gave a funny little smile, got on his knee, and asked me to marry him. Although we’d decided mutually that we wanted to be engaged, the proposal, and actually being engaged, was so exciting, especially since it was all happening with him in particular. James is honestly the best guy I know. He’s kind and generous, super smart, and wickedly funny. I often think of how unbelievable it is that someone like him loves me as much as I have grown to love him. Having James in my life makes me feel warm.

There is one little thing, though. James isn’t only James. He’s also Paul, a logically-driven worrywart, and Craig, a sexy Southern bad boy. There’s also the shy and quiet Stanley and the elusive Hector. To put it plainly, James’s brain is home to more than one personality.

I didn’t find out about these other personalities the way James wanted me to. It was very late at night, or early in the morning, after one of our first dates as an official couple. We had driven out to the desert where the lights of habitation wouldn’t impede stargazing. We were in the back of his car, messing around, when suddenly he pushed me back and asked, “What have you been doing to James?” I didn’t have any idea what to say and asked what he meant, what he was talking about. He seemed confused as to why I didn’t know when he said, “I’m Craig.”

I freaked out. I remember thinking that he was probably going to murder me. That’s how it happens, right? Young women lured out to the desert by a charming stranger who, as it turns out, is crazy and wants to chop them up? I felt frozen with fear and somehow managed to call James’ best friend, someone I knew a little through his girlfriend. I was practically hysterical trying to stay both coherent and alive. I described what happened, and he told me, “It’s okay. It’s him, but it isn’t him,” going on to carefully explain this funny little thing about James. I had learned about multiple personalities from high school psychology, so I at least had a frame of reference for what he was telling me. “He would understand if you didn’t want to see him again. You can just say goodbye.”

So I had the easy out and could walk away from all of it. But I thought of the short time we had known each other — the wonderful few dates that we’d had. How excited I had been to have met someone. I’d felt butterflies around this boy, a sensation I’d never felt before. I didn’t want to be stuck wondering “what if?” I wanted to give him a chance. So I did. And I’m so glad I didn’t let my fears drive me away from him. Over time, I met each of his personalities and got to know them all at least a little bit. I really like all of them. Actually, it was harder for me to win their approval than it was for them to win mine! They are all quite protective of James’s heart.

I want to be very clear about one thing: James has never been to a therapist and has never been diagnosed with anything, including dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. Yes, there’s something very different about his mind, but he feels it’s never really caused issues that need to be dealt with by professionals. Unless a real problem arises, I leave that choice totally up to him. Honestly, I often forget that he’s different.

Having multiple personalities is just the way James deals with life’s struggles: He sends out whoever is best equipped to deal with what’s going on. Paul keeps track of everything and can explain things in a logical way that James often cannot. Craig handles stressful situations and is good at processing frustration. Stanley used to be called “the Operator” and can go through the necessary motions of life while everyone else works out the solution to some big problem. I have no idea what Hector is for. Everyone in the world compartmentalizes things about themselves for different situations. For James, the compartments are just a bit more separated.

To be sure, not everything is wonderful about being in a relationship like ours. When James is stressed or facing emotional challenges, he can — and does — switch personalities. It’s difficult for me to deal with relationship issues with James when I can only talk to, say, Paul. I also don’t always know who I’m talking to when we’re around people who don’t know about the others and I can’t just ask. And I have my worries of the future. What if, when we get married, it’s not James I share vows with? What if we have children? I wouldn’t want to leave an infant alone with Craig for more than an hour or two (he’s a good guy, but kind of irresponsible like a seventeen-year-old kid). Fortunately, none of them would ever, ever do anyone any harm.

I know that most people would not choose to have a relationship with someone like James. I love him a lot, but it can be bothersome that there’s this huge aspect of my fiancé that I do not currently understand. I probably never will understand it, as he himself does not. We can never know if he was always this way since he remembers very little of his childhood before the age of thirteen and no one in his family knows about this part of him at all.

It would be dishonest to minimize the difficult parts of loving James. Yet love him I do. Knowing him has taught me so much more about understanding, patience, and identity. I am very much a better person for knowing this man. More than that, though, he is a fantastic partner and my best friend. The good outweighs the difficult a hundred times over. I don’t want to go through life with anyone else but him. Even if there’s company.



Gina D. spent her childhood in Colorado, Illinois, and Utah before landing in New Mexico at age 16. Now 20, she studies secondary education at New Mexico State University. She loves cooking, writing, and penguins. Gina is putting off wedding planning as long as possible and is therefore grateful for her very long engagement.

40 comments… add one
  • mylaray December 17, 2014, 2:52 pm

    So I have to say, I appreciate that the writer is willing to be with someone with a mental illness like that. It can’t be easy. And I’m glad you’re happy. But I get the feeling the writer has a romanticized idea of what it’s like longterm. My mom has BPD and Dissociative identity disorder and these things vary for everyone, but it’s incredibly difficult and chaotic to have a relationship with her. I think in this case, it’s concerning he self-diagnosed and has never been to a therapist.

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  • Dear Wendy December 17, 2014, 3:11 pm

    I really appreciate Gina sharing her story with us. I think it was brave and open. Had she written to me for advice, rather than submitting a personal essay, I’d have a longer response than what I’m about to say here. I have a lot of thoughts about what has been shared and rather than overwhelm the writer with advice she didn’t ask for, I’ll simply say that counseling — at the very least, some couples counseling, BEFORE the wedding, would be a really good idea. Marrying someone who has such serious issues, the longterm effects of which are certainly not clear (especially in regards to domestic partnership and potential parenthood), would be naive without some professional guidance and tips, as well as a therapist one could call in case of an emergency who is already familiar with the fiance/ couple and his/ their issues.

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    • Miel December 17, 2014, 4:00 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head saying “in case of an emergency”. It seems like the LW and her fiance are happy and comfortable with the current state of things, but mental illnesses develop and change with time. The fiance might stay the way he his right now, but what if he changes ? What about if this one time something really scary happens ? Who are you going to call ? His family doesn’t seem to be the experts here, nor are you one. And simply calling a health/emergency nurse hotline is probably not going to help. If it were me, I would really want an expert to be around, just in case, just so if something big or strange happens, you are not alone to deal with it.

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  • TECH December 17, 2014, 3:42 pm

    I think this essay is great for opening a dialogue about what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who has mental health issues. My perspective is that as long the mental issue is well managed, treated, and does not adversely impact the relationship, then live and let live. I think I’ve read that 1 in 4 Americans have some sort of mental health issue. While multiple personality disorder is not common, mental health issues are. And I think most of us have been in relationships with people who have mental health issues. Often times, the person in the relationship with the mental health issue is you.

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  • tbrucemom December 17, 2014, 3:54 pm

    I find it odd that someone with such a serious mental health issue has never been to a therapist, that his family isn’t aware of his condition, he can’t remember anything before the age of 13. Coping with a mental illness is extremely difficult WITH therapy, family support, etc. She’s been with him a year and a half but his family who have known him his whole life isn’t aware of such a serious condition? Someone just seems off to me.

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    • Bon Vivant December 17, 2014, 4:35 pm

      Intriguing essay, to be sure. But I had the same thoughts (and of Sue Jones). Wishing them the best though.

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    • ktfran December 17, 2014, 4:36 pm

      I would venture a guess that his family is part of the reason he developed this personality disorder and that is the reason they don’t know much. I’m completely guessing though. I know nothing about multiple personality disorder except from high school psych, watching United States of Tara and a few characters who had it in a few books I’ve read.
      I definitely agree with others that counseling of some sort should happen.

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      • Moneypenny December 18, 2014, 1:53 am

        I definitely agree, although all *I* know about it is from watching the movie, “The Three Faces of Eve.” Which is a really great movie, by the way!

    • cgreenie December 18, 2014, 3:53 am

      I agree with tbrucemom. I find this story difficult to believe. Sounds like someone’s attempt at practicing fiction writing and seeing if they can convince others that the story is real.

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    • carriedactyl December 18, 2014, 10:27 am

      Red flags a-go-go. 🙁

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  • Sue Jones December 17, 2014, 4:29 pm

    Oh, man. Essayist is engaged at a very young age to a man with a mental illness. This can not end well. Multiple Personalities are often the result of a severe trauma, and the fact that he doesn’t remember his childhood signifies to me that there was trauma severe enough to cause him to dissociate and form multiple personalities. Sometimes new personalities emerge over time and if one of them has violent, abusive tendencies…. well that is very concerning. While one cannot ever predict the future, James already has the cards stacked against him a bit. I would not proceed at all with a future with this man unless he was in the midst of therapy. I do wish them both well.

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    • snow.angel December 17, 2014, 10:43 pm

      Gina, it was really brave of you to share the story of your relationship with James, but like many of the others here I hope you proceed with caution. It’s very concerning that James is not receiving treatment for his Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is one of the most severe mental illnesses out there, and aside from the obvious impact of the alternate personalities coming in and taking over various aspects of his life at random, it’s likely that James experienced prologned and repeated trauma during his childhood that led to dissociation and the developement of his alternate personalities in the first place. He needs to be receiving some kind of treatment not only to cope with the everyday symptoms of his disorder, but also the underlying trauma. The fact that his family has no idea makes me think that there is a history of abuse, and it’s concerning to think that he is only really “aware” of the last 5 or so years of his life.

      I truly hope that you take the advice here to heart and seek various forms of individual and couples therapy before getting married, and definitely before considering having a baby. It will be integral to find a therapist who can build a relationship with all of the alternate personalities in order to treatment to be most successful. In case there is an emergency, or if a more sinister/violent alternate personality emerges, you guys need to have some sort of contingency plan and a solid support system in place. Also, I think “Craig” being an irresponsible babysitter is the least of your worries when it comes to raising children. Imagine James drops your child off at school, then an alternate personality takes over for the rest of the day and never picks the child up? Or if there is a medical emergency and the alter can’t deal with it effectively (doesn’t know what medicine to give, has no idea how to get to the pediatrician, etc.)? There are just so many ways this can go horribly wrong. I really hope that you and James seriously discuss ways to manage his Dissociative Identity Disorder.

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  • SSM91 December 17, 2014, 4:55 pm

    The essayist may love James but she and James have a VERY unrealistic and detached view about mental illness. They’re both still very young, so that’s probably one reason, but James absolutely cannot go through life as a functioning healthy adult if he doesn’t address his multiple personalities in therapy. No James isn’t a bad person nor “crazy” but he has a major problem that will impede him. Because he’s young right now, it may not have affected him a WHOLE ton. But what will happen when he starts working? What about kids? (I know she mentioned that). What about just general social interactions? These are only a few factors to consider.

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    • SSM91 December 17, 2014, 5:04 pm

      Another thing too…I haven’t read all the comments so I don’t know if someone mentioned it. I don’t know James’ history, obviously, but from what I understand about DID, it develops usually because of severe physical and/or sexual abuse. And if his parents claim not to know anything about it, it’s very suspicious. All the more reason to go to therapy. James deserves to live a normal life

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  • karenwalker December 17, 2014, 5:47 pm

    Thank you, Gina, for sharing your story. James sounds like a wonderful man, but I recommend you to proceed with caution. First of all, I find it alarming/unsafe that he would take you away, especially to a remote place like the desert, without cautioning you about his multiple personalities. I would think he’d want to forewarn you in case one took over.

    You mention that James hasn’t been diagnosed with anything nor does he see a therapist. I have to ask – is he aware he has multiple personalities? You don’t mention the two of you discussing it, and, again, it seems like a big thing to not fill you in on before a camping excursion. I’m surprised no one – his family or friends – would have informed you of something like that ahead of time! I can only imagine how difficult multiple personalities must be to bring up with someone, so I can empathize with his reluctance to say something; however, ignoring the issue won’t make it go away, and, as you experienced, it can be downright scary to witness, especially without preparation.

    Honestly, the fact that he doesn’t see a therapist is a huge red flag. You’ve identified several personalities (there may be even more or possibly there will be more), and there is at least one whose purpose you can’t identify – what if Hector is his personality for inflicting violence? I think James should seek therapy, and it would be great if you would encourage. Dissociative Identity Disorder typically stems from trauma, and James needs to heal himself. It may take several attempts to find the right therapist, but don’t let him give up. You want your future husband to be as healthy as can be, even if you have to weather a few storms to get him there.

    I would typically caution a 19 year old like yourself to move slowly in the relationship game. I would urge any 19 year old to focus on finishing her college degree, and spending time developing a career before getting married. Often the people we meet at 18 are not the people who we want to surround ourselves with later in life – that isn’t always true, and it may not be in true in this case. If you and James are meant to be, you’ll still be together after you graduate and after he seeks therapeutic treatment. But also, it’s ok if at any point you feel that his needs are above what you can offer; you must keep your safety and health intact, and being with someone struggling with such a severe mental illness might jeopardize your safety and health. You are his girlfriend, not his savior – remember that.

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  • something random December 17, 2014, 10:19 pm

    Okay Gina D., I’m going to be honest (and critical). I am seriously put off by this piece. While the details surrounding how you found out about possible alter egos are certainly entertaining, you haven’t included any substantive details of your fiancé, relationship/s, or life together. Mostly you talk about yourself rather than him. You state that he brings value to your life and you love him and don’t want to imagine a life without him. Then you acknoweldge some of the obvious concerns most anyone would point out.

    This is your piece and your life and you can write and do whatever you want. But what are you trying to communicate? Are you trying to explain why you would choose to commit to marriage with someone who has NO Treatment for a major psychological disorder? Are you trying to justify going along with this ridiculous status quo because you have a high school quarter of psych explanation of each persona?

    You write “Over time, I met each of his personalities and got to know them all at least a little bit”.
    What time?! You’ve known each other a year and half! And not even as adults who have come into your own. As barely out of high school dependents probably barely self-sustaining. Maybe not even that.

    If your fiancé can’t remember the first thirteen years of his life then that means you got together with him he only FIVE or SIX years of life he could recall! I don’t care how well he seems to function to YOU, you aren’t a professional and you aren’t qualified to determine how this is impacting him or his quality of life. HE might not have the mental capacity to determine it. How can you be so reckless as to agree to legally unionize with someone currently in this state?

    Part of what really annoys me is that you ARE trying to acknowedge some concerns and you probably have the capacity for self-insight. And you are a grown woman now. Apparently with at least a year of higher learning under your belt. This makes me think maybe you are just irresponsible.

    Probably what bothered me most about this essay was the following quote:
    You write “I wouldn’t want to leave an infant alone with Craig for more than an hour or two (he’s a good guy, but kind of irresponsible like a seventeen-year-old kid). Fortunately, none of them would ever, ever do anyone any harm.”

    This tells me your BIGGEST CONCERN about procreating a child with someone suffering from an undiagnosed and untreated major mental illness associated with severe childhood trauma is that an alter ego might not be responsible enough to babysit. And that’s what pisses me off. I’m assuming you aren’t suffering from a mental illness that impairs YOUR judgment. Why haven’t YOU talked with a professional yet? Are you waiting to get pregnant before you bother to explore what fatherhood could do to your poor fiancé or what its like for a child to grow up around someone with untreated mental illness?

    I know I’ve been seriously harsh but please grow up. Start acting like an adult that gives two shits about responsibly planning a future with a man you claim to love. That’s all.

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  • joanna December 17, 2014, 11:31 pm

    From what I’ve read about DID, it seems unlikely that it is the only form of mental illness he experiences.

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  • Lyra December 17, 2014, 11:43 pm

    Hmmmm. I also am glad that she chose to be in a relationship with someone with mental illness, but I share many of the above commenters’ thoughts that you need to be VERY careful.
    First things first: you rushed into engagement. From this timeline you’ve known him for only a year and a half. Which to someone in their late teens/early 20’s seems like forever, I know. But it’s NOT that long of a time. Even if his mental illness wasn’t part of this, I would recommend slowing waaaaay down. Just as an example, I thought of myself as a mature 18-year-old and now, not even 9 years later, I look back and laugh…because there were some really stupid things that I did in that time. I feel like I’ve grown up more since high school, 8 years ago, than any other time in my life. I can literally feel a positive difference in myself and how I approach things. Your college years and early 20’s are meant to be a “discovery” period. You grow a LOT, even from 20 to 25.
    Secondly, the fact that he’s not receiving treatment or he hasn’t been diagnosed. Everyone else has covered that very nicely.
    Third, should you end up marrying him eventually without finding a diagnosis first, you are taking a MAJOR gamble. Just as one example what if one of his personalities turns violent towards you and you have no one to turn to for help in that moment? Your SAFETY is at stake. Mental illnesses, especially those that are this extreme, are unpredictable.
    Quite frankly, I think you’re young and in love — which I get, trust me. But at the same time I think you have already made some incredibly rash decisions because of it. So much so that you will likely be in physical danger at some point or another because this is untreated. It’s not worth that risk.

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    • Mr. Cellophane December 18, 2014, 7:18 am

      Trying not to derail this thread or be creepy here, Lyra, but I know that I have “Internet seen” you grow and mature in unimaginable ways on here. From back when you were “L”, struggling with the disintegration of your college relationship and becoming a new professional, to today when you are a clear headed, confident young woman and music educator. Sometimes I think you could do your own advice column. Is it OK for me to be “Internet proud of you? Because I am.

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      • Lyra December 18, 2014, 7:29 am

        Thanks, Mr. Cellophane! 🙂 Nope, not creepy. That’s exactly the type of thing I’m referring to — I’m a very different person now than I was when dating my ex. Though I don’t think I would be who I am without going through that heartbreak, which at the time was so hard, but now I feel MUCH more confident in who I am. 🙂

  • Mr. Cellophane December 18, 2014, 7:10 am

    Before you jump into this with both feet, let me add two words to this discussion that I haven’t seen mentioned up to now.
    In addition to the 3 or 4 other types of therapy and counseling that I see as imperative here.

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  • Dear Wendy December 18, 2014, 8:12 am

    Gina, the writer of the essay, wanted to share these thoughts:

    “I think people have seriously got the wrong idea about my relationship. I know that l didn’t give a whole lot of details about his mental health, but my intentions were for the piece to be about myself and our relationship more so than about him specifically. But people seemed to have really strong reactions based on what they assume.
    I’m not claiming to have professional knowledge, and I have not claimed he has DID, perhaps it’s something else entirely, diagnostically. I do not claim to know. But I will explain details related to my fiance specifically to the best of my ability. Like anyone else, “James” exists on a spectrum. This is really nothing like Sybil or United States of Tara. Commenters seem to have the impression that I downplayed the seriousness of his mental health, but I honestly implied that it’s much worse than it is to reflect how I felt when making the decision to keep seeing him, and for the sake of the length of the eassay. It would have been much longer if I were to explain the day-to-day, when that wasn’t the point.
    To put it simply, my fiance is outwardly himself easily ninety-five percent of the time. Switching personalities is fairly uncommon, and occurs in times of stress more than anything else, and sometimes as the result of overwhelming emotion. Even when he isn’t James, the other personalities don’t act erratically or all that different from James himself. It’s actually fairly subtle, especially to someone not made aware of his situation.
    From what I have been able to gather from reading personal accounts of individuals who have been diagnosed with dissociative disorders, it seems that the goal of their therapy is to both reduce the number of personalities down to four or five, and more importantly, to make personalities aware of each other and perhaps even gain communication. James is already there, as he only has two other major personalities (Paul and Craig), plus two that are much less common (Stanley and Hector). There is even ongoing communication among all personalities except for Hector, who can only seem to “talk” to Stanley. The most simple way I can explain it is that Craig and Paul hang out all the time as part of James’s consciousness, and come out with full awareness of what is going on in James’s day and what needs to be accomplished. Stanley and Hector only ever stick around for ten minutes to maybe half an hour, when the other three need to figure out a solution to some problem. James has never been unable to fulfill obligations of any kind due to his situation. He really does lead a surprisingly normal life as things are now.
    That being said, I have let him know several that we must have counseling together before we get married. It is very important to me as his life partner that we both have professional support should anything about his mental health become more severe in years to come. As things are now, I do not insist he seeks therapy for himself but only because he has been able to succeed at school, hold down jobs, and have a healthy social life. If any of that changes, I am absolutely committed to encouraging him to get the help he needs. I am aware that changes could happen, but I am also aware of the importance of professional intervention if the situation worsens and before making a lifelong commitment.
    I have not made the decision to be in this relationship lightly. I absolutely do not think I am in any potential danger and if that changes, no, I will not continue a life with James.
    To address some specific things from the comments: no, I do not think it’s my job to be his savior. Yes, I know I am not a professional nor an expert. Yes I’m young, but I don’t believe that means l cannot lead the life that I believe will make me the happiest. Our engagement will last at least three years, probably more. And we have decided to prevent children, including abortion if necessary, until several years after marriage, if we ever do have them. There is open and honest communication every single day in my relationship, as there should be in all relationships. James and I are doing the best we can for ourselves and each other, which is all that can be said for anybody.”

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    • Lyra December 18, 2014, 10:29 am

      Regardless, I still stand by the fact that you ARE young. I promise I’m not ageist, it’s just that when you’re 20 and young and in love, you see that love with rose colored glasses. I was definitely in that situation throughout my early 20’s. You still are discovering yourself. You are still coming into yourself. In 5 years you will probably find that your priorities in life and in relationships have shifted a bit. I’m not saying that it CAN’T work — for all I know it just might work — I’m simply saying that you rushed into this. From the timeline you put here, you got engaged after a few dates. For ANYONE no matter what age, that is rushing a relationship. You don’t even know the person after a few dates.
      I know you feel sure of this and I know you feel like you’re mature and can handle it, but please please please proceed with caution. In reading your update I see a lot of defense of your choices and a lot of “I know what I’m doing”. I know you say you thought this through, but I can’t believe that when you got engaged so quickly.

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      • MissDre December 18, 2014, 10:41 am

        I’m going to agree with you. I remember when I was 20 and I thought I was SO GROWN UP. I also thought my then-boyfriend was the man I would marry and nobody could tell me otherwise. 9 years later and I feel like I’m not even the same person.
        I don’t even know what the point of this comment is. It probably comes across as “I’m older so I know better than you!”. I also know that when you’re 20, even if someone does know better, you (general you) don’t listen to them because you have to make your own mistakes and learn your own life lessons.
        Gina — just be cautious and try not to rush things.

      • Lyra December 18, 2014, 11:50 am

        Exactly. I don’t mean to come across as “I’m older so I know better”, but I’m actually really concerned by the fact that the writer of this piece is so sure of herself in this. I think it’s a classic case of young, rose-colored glasses love.

    • bostonpupgal December 18, 2014, 12:30 pm

      I also really appreciate Gina sharing her story, and her additional comments, but I have to chime in with the others and say that this is very, very worrisome.

      When I was in my earlier twenties I married my husband who has a litany of wonderful characteristics, and also a personality disorder. I love him dearly, and I love our life together, but I cannot stress enough how incredibly frustrating, difficult, and heartbreaking it is to be married to someone with this mental illness. Having children seemed like something we could easily do and work around in our twenties, now facing the reality of it is much different.

      I appreciate that Gina wants us to understand that his problems only come up occasionally, and that he has no formal diagnosis, but frankly that just makes me more alarmed. Being a functional member of society and your relationship in no way means he should not be receiving mental health treatment, he absolutely should, and immediately. You also both need counseling together. The fact that he has no memories before the age of 13, and that his family does not know of his symptoms, is extremely concerning. These symptoms could eventually include a violent or angry component. Seriously, get into treatment together and individually asap. Proceed with extreme caution.

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      • snow.angel December 18, 2014, 1:27 pm

        I completely agree. Even if I had known this extra information, nothing in my comments above would have changed. Regardless of whether or not he has a formal diagnosis, “switching personalities” even only 5% of the time is a serious mental health concern and needs to be addressed in treatment NOW, not sometime in the future if the situation worsens. Switching personalities is an extreme form of dissociation, many people “zone out” to cope when experiencing a high stress situation (like a person who doesn’t remember being in a car accident when they wake up at the hospital), but only the most severely traumatized will form an alternate personality to deal with their circumstances. Something horrible happened to James, and even though he has been managing for the past 5-ish years, I would bet that if his consciousnesses ever became aware of what he experienced before the age of 13 things would escalate and get very bad very quickly which is why it is so important for him to be receiving therapeutic services.

    • mandalee December 18, 2014, 2:26 pm

      I think banking on the fact that things are okay now, is a really dangerous train of thought with something like DID. I did a psych nursing rotation this semester and read through and dealt with at least 200 patients and can tell you that late teens-early 20s is when mental illness tends to make it’s first “appearance” in most people. In some people, especially those that are not receiving some kind of treatment of therapy, the severity of the illness or the introduction of other ones can and does occur as the person ages. We had one young 20 something patient who had mild depression for years and became catatonic and unresponsive seemingly out of nowhere one day and had a multiple month long stay to get through that.

      Therefore, this can be the beginning of a more challenging time in his life, and co-morbidity of other mental illnesses is extremely common with DID. DID usually develops because of some kind of trauma and the fact that your fiance has no idea what that trauma is or if it exists is extremely troubling. That’s the kind of thing that intense therapy would be needed to work through. Mental illness is not rare or something to be scared of, but it’s like any other illness in the body is that early and effective treatment can help to better manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life.

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    • mylaray December 18, 2014, 2:55 pm

      I agree with many of the comments here. I’ll just saw a few more things. First, personality disorders often can’t be diagnosed until early adulthood as they are still developing. You just don’t know what the future holds and how he will be.
      I mentioned my mom has BPD and DID; I’ve known her for 25 years and I still don’t even really understand her. And her illnesses have only worsened over time. She doesn’t believe she needs medication or therapy. And most of the time she is “normal”. But that doesn’t make therapy any less necessary. She worked and had a stable life for many years. Now, she can’t hold down a job, has no stable relationships in her life, and has completely unraveled.
      I don’t have DID, but I have Complex-PTSD and a history of disassociating and not being fully present during certain events. It’s a self defense mechanism. My childhood is a blur of memories. My husband also struggles with nearly the same issues and has a similar history of trauma as I do. The thing is I’ve been in therapy for over 10 years, and intense trauma therapy for 5 years. Trauma therapy can seriously disrupt your life while you are going through it, but it is very healing at the same time. I met my husband when I was 20 and got married a few years later. It’s not always an age thing. But both of us have been to lots of therapy, and also did premarital counseling as a couple, and we still continue to check in when we need to. I know that I will likely have to work harder at my relationship and I’m okay with that. Especially given our long family histories of mental health, I take having a child very seriously. I don’t think anyone is saying that you can’t have a good relationship when one partner struggles with mental health issues. In reality, everyone struggles with mental health. You can have a great life. But it takes a lot of work and dedication. A lot of patience and time. And a lot of therapy. Both individual and as a couple. Especially for illnesses that are as serious as what James likely has. But him denying the need for therapy will only hinder the life he could have.

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      • TaraMonster December 18, 2014, 3:46 pm

        I’m going to hijack a little here. My mother has what I suspect is undiagnosed BPD, though she displays as schizophrenic. She doesn’t think she’s mentally ill, but like you described with your mother, she has no stable relationships and hasn’t worked in years despite her many professional credentials. Her disease is incredibly degenerative; the past 6 years her decline has accelerated markedly and rapidly. She’s highly intelligent and an incredibly skilled manipulator; she’s manipulated my brother and aunt into supporting her, and spent years dodging treatment. My family is in a very difficult spot right now since she can’t take care of herself and is resisting treatment with all her might. It’s heart-wrenching, exhausting, and frustrating. It’s complicated by the fact that she abandoned my brothers and I, before that was an abusive, frightening parent, and only recently moved back to our home state because she had no choice. So there are a lot of emotions mixed up in her providing her care. I’m not really sure I’m asking anything (maybe, how do you DEAL? Ugh.), but just reiterating that these kinds of relationships exist on an ever moving landscape. I’ve thought about writing an essay for DW about it, but every time I try I feel like I’m not a good model for coping with this kind of thing, so I should just stfu.

      • mylaray December 18, 2014, 4:04 pm

        I really relate to a lot of what you said, and I’m sorry you’ve gone through this too. My mom’s mother had schizophrenia and it’s just been this long line of mental illness (and they all have been abused). My husband also has schizophrenia in his family. I moved 1200 miles away as soon as I could. I had somewhat of a relationship with my mom for several years once I moved away, which made it more tolerable. But in the past year I haven’t talked to her or seen her at all. That’s been my way of coping. It’s a relief overall. But I do feel so much guilt. Knowing that she could be homeless any minute. That she still is my mom, despite all the abuse and neglect. I’ve tried to wash my hands of everything, but I know it’s not really helping her. Sometimes I feel shitty that I don’t want to help her out. Other times I feel like it’s what she deserves. It is so complicated, and i don’t think there is a perfect model for coping with this sort of thing.

      • TaraMonster December 19, 2014, 1:11 am

        Ahhh I could have said all of this myself. Have you been to any NAMI support groups? It was great for me when I first started going, mainly because I hadn’t ever talked to someone who wasn’t in my family who could describe/understand what having a mentally ill parent felt like. I think the biggest thing is the guilt I feel when I enforce my boundaries. My therapist is guiding me towards striking a balance between what I am willing to do for her so that I don’t feel guilt while honoring my boundaries so that she doesn’t cause me immense stress. That balance has thus far eluded me, though there have been period of time where it was easier than others. Like I said, ever moving landscape. :/

      • Lyra December 18, 2014, 6:12 pm

        I mentioned the age thing above primarily because she jumped into engagement QUICKLY. Obviously people can meet the people they end up marrying at an early age and have a happy, healthy relationship. I just think she’s taking this too lightly; after reading this I’m doubtful that she has the maturity necessary to make this work.

      • mylaray December 18, 2014, 6:37 pm

        Oh, I completely agree with you on the age thing. I guess my point was that when you get engaged young, I think it’s even more crucial to be in therapy and know yourself.

      • Lyra December 18, 2014, 9:20 pm

        Understood, and I agree. 🙂

  • carriedactyl December 18, 2014, 10:26 am

    Lurker here! This inspired me to get a username.

    I wish the best for this writer, I really do. She seems like she has a big heart and that they’re good communicators. I’m a licensed counselor, and I’ve seen so many couples torn apart by mental illness. I truly hope it isn’t the case here.

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    • Kate December 18, 2014, 1:31 pm

      I like your username. As a licensed counselor, what would be your advice for the LW if she asked?

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      • carriedactyl December 18, 2014, 1:45 pm

        Thank you! Everyone needs a good dinosaur nickname.

        I think that they both need individual counseling and then to see someone as a couple. She is so very young and the beautiful/ impractical feeling at that age is to believe that love is enough to make everything okay. And it can, but only to a limited extent. Anyone who has loved someone to distraction but had circumstances break apart the relationship knows this, but we usually don’t realize it until we’re a bit older than the writer. But I truly don’t think she realizes what she’s up against. Living with someone with a significant mental illness can be traumatizing and heartbreaking. There’s no guarantee that it won’t get worse. It very well could, especially since he’s never seen a professional about this, which is mind-boggling to me. I think that she’s very smart to have a long engagement. I hope they use the time to seek help and for her to create a very big, positive support network.

    • TaraMonster December 18, 2014, 2:56 pm

      I also like your username. And your awesome avatar.

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      • carriedactyl December 19, 2014, 8:57 am

        Lucille Bluth is my spirit animal.


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