How to Avoid Needing Medical and Dental Care When You Have DID

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Most people really don’t enjoy being ill or injured.  For the people that do find being sick a good thing, this isn’t the blog site for you.  Google “Munchausen” and good luck to you.

For everyone else, being hurt or feeling sick is miserable, and one of your strongest wishes is to stay out of the ER, the hospital, and even Urgent Care.

Too many people with DID avoid getting the treatments they need because of their fears, their concern that they will dissociate further during treatment, and because they have to focus on the body to receive care.  Then eventually something bad happens, and they end up needing emergency treatment or a series of treatments.

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Avoiding those appointments isn’t always possible, but it is always desirable.  This post is about how to take good enough care of yourself to avoid much MORE care.

It can be done.  Really.  You can minimize bad things happening to you.

This is the first thing to understand: childhood abuse is often accompanied by its mean cousin, childhood neglect.  It doesn’t always look the same as in the movies.  You could live in a wealthy home, surrounded by wonderful things, and yet be neglected as a child.  Trust me on this one.  The neglect might be that your health wasn’t a priority, or that you were never shown how to care for your body so that health was maintained.  Lots of bad things happen in fancy homes.  Not all of it is as dramatic as the movie-of the-week stuff.  But it makes living a healthy life as an adult much harder.

Children who have been abused or neglected become adults who might carry around a variety of attitudes and opinions that torpedo their health:

  1. “I am young; I will go to a doctor when I am old.”
  2. “All drugs are dangerous.  I only put natural things into my body.”
  3. “If they find out I have DID, they will admit me to a psych ward, or not listen to anything I say.”
  4. “When I refuse to tell them something, or refuse a treatment, they will hate me and retaliate.”
  5. “If they tell me bad news, I will fall apart big time.”
  6. “They are going to criticize me and blame me.  I can’t take that.”
  7. “The pain from their treatment won’t be tolerable.  I will be in agony.”

There are more.  This is not the complete list.  It is just enough to communicate how childhood neglect sets adults with DID up for failure before they even enter a healthcare provider’s office.

We can turn this around.

It can start today.

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One of the first places to go is to the basics.  Basic health information.  The basics of maintaining your health are found online and in books.  With DID, parts have their own reactions to information and events.  You could have a graduate degree in nursing, but you have other parts that freak out when you have a headache.  It happens.

Adults with DID often have younger parts.  Some of those parts might like to read books on health that are written for kids.  These books tend to focus on the positive, and limit the scary stories.  They are gentle but firm in their teachings about basic everyday healthcare.  That could make your system relax a little.

What About Feeling Sad/Bad About What I Didn’t Learn as a Child?

A part of trauma therapy is grieving the loss of a decent childhood.  There can still be some grieving to do.  Realizing that part of the horror of your childhood was not learning what the other kids absorbed naturally about caring for themselves can be incredibly sad.  You could feel anger as well.  And some other things.  Using all of your coping skills to be prepared for a wave of sadness, anger, and loss is a smart choice.

Some people with DID would prefer not to open that door.  The problem with that strategy is that leaves them vulnerable to greater future pain.  Physical as well as emotional.  This stuff just doesn’t evaporate.  It festers like an infection.  Trauma is exactly that “sticky”.  The best way to prevent greater pain is to find the easiest and most painless way to deal with things today.

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And that path is to do small but healthy things today.  Do two tomorrow.  Do both of them a few seconds longer on the next day.  Rinse and repeat.  When I say small, I mean very small.  There is a good reason not to jump into the deep end of the pool.  That reason is the way structurally dissociated personalities behave.

Start small.  That way your system doesn’t have as big a shock or as much of a chance to react with defensive stuff like thinking that you don’t deserve to be treated well.  Never underestimate the ways your system can act like the bad people in your past.  Be smart, and present things in ways that don’t make it easy for parts to go there.

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One of the best things I can think of is to floss your teeth.  Not only is it cheap and quick, we know now that good gum health has major effects on reducing inflammation throughout the body.  Everywhere.  Since nothing is separate, reducing inflammation is a good thing for most parts of your body.  

Did you know that chronic stress is associated with chronic inflammation?  Yeah, this isn’t good news.  But this means that taking action to reduce overall inflammation is a way to fight back against past actions done to you.  So grab some floss and a book for kids on how to care for your teeth, and consider it your first step in turning back the tide of trauma’s effects.

You can do the same with sleep.  I have written a bunch of posts on sleep.  That is because getting slightly better sleep quality and a healthy amount of sleep is also cheap and affects so many aspects of health.  Read  Could Getting Better Sleep Decrease Your Response to Trauma Triggers?  and  Sleep And DID: Could Better Sleep Be As Important As Therapy?  to learn more.

There are other ways to stay out of the doctor’s office.  Drinking enough water (but not too much-it happens!) is also cheap and makes every organ in your body work better.  So there you have it.  Three cheap things that could prevent you from ending up sick or injured.  None of them have to be done in a way that risks more dissociation or retaliation from a part that listened to your abusers.

Want more information?

I wrote a book for you!

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“Staying In The Room” explains why managing healthcare is so difficult, but it doesn’t depend on trauma-informed care providers to make changes.  It is all about trauma survivors learning how to manage their system, their actions, and their providers to get the care they deserve.

And it focuses on adults with DID and OSDD.  

Want to make your next pelvic exam less of a nightmare?  It is in there!

Want to go to the dentist and not freeze solid in fear?  It is in there!

Want to survive the hospital or Urgent Care without needing time off from work to recover from how you were treated?  It is in there!

“Staying In the Room:  Managing Medical and Dental Care When You Have DID” is available on Amazon  as an affordable e-book that can be read with their free app, or as a paperback.

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Published by Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist and a licensed massage therapist, in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment, with a focus on sensory processing issues and treating the consequences of complex trauma. I am the author of four books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone". Over the years I have lectured about trauma treatment and pediatric development.

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