, , , , ,

I find that I am deeply disturbed today.

I think the term or phrase ‘guilty by association’ or its slight variance ‘guilt by  association’ is one that most of us would be familiar with.  Certainly it is a phrase which has been used as a title for books, a TV Movie, pop groups, music, and other things.

Additionally it is certainly a phrase which your parents may well have used when they were dissuading you from hanging around with the wrong crowd or boy or girl.  lol I know mine certainly did when they were forbidding me from hanging around the wrong people.

But what is ‘Guilt by Dissociation’ and indeed can there be such a thing?  Well that is what I thought I would look at today but in order to do so, or in order to do so with any integrity I feel I perhaps have to open up a little more than I have before.

Of all the diagnoses that I have had in respect of my mental health the one that I dislike the most is that of DID or MPD.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with these they stand for Dissociative Identity Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder and to all intents and purposes they are the same things.

I dislike it the most not because I disagree with it, for the reality is that I know it is as accurate as you can get with these things, but because of its effects and because of all the mental illness diagnoses and conditions it is in my opinion arguably the one which is open to the most fear, misconception, misunderstanding and misuse.  And I mean no disrespect to any other sufferers of this condition or to sufferers of any other conditions and diagnoses for that matter.

In a somewhat simplistic definition its essential feature is “the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states…that recurrently take control of behavior.”  And in response to many of those misconceptions I spoke about above – no it is not just a convenient excuse for me to do bad things and no I do not have any axe-wielding murderer’s trapped inside of me trying to get out and no I am not demon possessed.

Actually the opposite is, in my opinion true.  For in my opinion my ‘alters’ or ‘others’ or ‘littles’ (for each of those terms have been used in respect of this disorder) are much nicer than me and far more loveable.

If you go look at one of my night stands in my bedroom you will find a set of stuffed toys, teddy bears and the such.  In my office there are crayons and colouring pens. In my lounge there are toy cars and the such.  These are not there because I have never truly grown up, or because I am a father and grandfather, or because I am extremely in touch with my inner child – although each of those is true – but because my inner child/children really is/re an inner child/inner children.

Another feature – one which I am so very familiar with is an ‘associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness’.  Trust me it is quite common for me to have to call my son and get him to come and collect me from the bank of the local river or other such places as I have somehow walked all the way down there but cannot remember how I got there or even when I got there and am either a far to weak and tired to get back on my own or am dressed only in trousers and a t-shirt and it is pouring down with rain.

Actually it is a horrible and very distressing disorder and one that I have had, as far as I can tell for a very long time indeed.  As a child I would often ‘catch a hiding’ for things which I had absolutely no recollection of doing and yet which my parents or siblings would insist that I did.

I recall one such time, and there were several, before I had even reached my teens when I had been disciplined for something I was convinced I had not done but everyone else had seen ‘me’ do.

I remember so vividly the welts on my butt, the tears that flowed and the deep emotional distress I felt.  I recall a conversation about how unfair it was and the response – “well whether it was you or one of your ‘others’ what’s the problem?  You and your ‘others’ share the same butt and it was your ‘others’ butt that got the belting.

But that’s the problem isn’t it?  Yes we do share the same butt but NO it very definitely was not the same mind or heart – the same cognitive awareness – and no I could not feel the guilt or any deservedness of the resultant punishment.

I think we have probably all experienced times in our lives when we have been accused of doing something which we didn’t do, haven’t we?  Do you remember the feelings, the pain and hurt that you felt at that time?   Well imagine being a small child, unable to fully understand or reason out why you were getting punished so severely for some thing you were absolutely convinced you didn’t do.

Now add to that the additional torment, frustration or confusion of…

a) not knowing what was happening to you.  Not being able to comprehend or understand it and,

b)  having everyone around you, even those people you know and love and trust telling you that you absolutely did do something which seems so very unacceptable, so very out of character to you.

Trust me this whole thing has had a long and devastating impact on my life, relationships, self-worth, self-image and even my faith.

Why am I writing about this now?  Well because this morning I read a post over on ‘A Canvas Of The Minds’ written by James Claims (an excellent blog by the way) which reports of a mental illness sufferer in Ohio, USA who is about to be executed for killing his estranged wife and brother-in-law and who simply ‘does not understand why’.

You can read the full report on this here and at the risk of sounding very cynical I cannot help but wonder just how much this man’s ethnicity and religious beliefs are effecting this whole thing in light of recent events?

But regardless of that there are some serious questions to be answered here.

Take a look at this paragraph from RT.com’s article on the piece and see what you think…

“Mr. Awkal is very seriously mentally ill and does not understand why he is being executed,” David A. Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, tells WOIO 19 Action News in a recent interview. Awkal’s personal attorneys have at other times told prosecutors that their client was indeed insane during the 1992 shootings and that, in addition to a history of mental illness in his family, a series of episodes have had a major toll on his psychological health: he fled his native Lebanon after living through the country’s civil war for eight years, was institutionalized in a Detroit, Michigan hospital, was counseled for suicide and has claimed to have experience hallucinations — all before the 1992 rampage. One of his hearings was postponed after the court considered Awkal mentally incompetent to assist in his defense and county psychiatrists pumped him with varying heavy prescriptions. In 2004, a judge finally agreed that Awkal was mentally incompetent — but only to the extent that he couldn’t file an appeal.”

I have a question for the judge and the law makers in this respect and it is this…

If someone is – by your own judgement and admission – ‘mentally incompetent but only to the extent that he couldn’t file an appeal’ by what moral standards or standards of ‘justice’ are you able to justify taking that life?

I want to be very clear and very open here.  I have, by virtue of my own mental illnesses a vested interest in this case and am therefore possibly biased.  I am also very much against the death penalty and thus am biased on those grounds also.

I really do feel for the family and loved ones of those he killed and I fully accept that I cannot begin to understand what they must be going through.  They are in my prayers as is Abdul Awkal himself and this whole situation.

Do I believe we should be accountable for our actions?  Yes absolutely I do.  BUT only to the extent where that accountability is appropriate and fitting.  In respect of my own DID/MPD my family are fully aware of it and indeed very much aware of the signs to look out for in that respect.  Additionally when I do have such episodes and one of my ‘alters’ or ‘others’ or ‘littles’ come out they are expected to behave appropriately and are held accountable for their actions when they do not.

It has taken me years to come to the understanding and place I am at with this particular condition and as a result of the love, patience, understanding and compassion of those closest to me I have seen great improvements in my condition and I thank God for the love and compassion and understanding I have been shown.

I thank God also for the fact that I have, as yet, not done anything so serious as to place the power of whether to show love, patience, understanding and compassion in the hands of those who might possibly see me as nothing more than just another mental health case.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that compassion will be shown in this whole situation and that compassion within our legal systems is not already dead.