• Courtney Phillips

My story of healing – Melissa Garzon

Updated: Apr 2, 2019

Following years of traumatic emotional, physical and sexual abuse in childhood, Melissa Garzon developed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and PTSD. She’s now struggling to unblend her alters and deal with the mental anguish that still distresses her. One of her biggest hurdles has been dealing with the amnesia associated with her disorder and relearning about her traumas from her past. She turns to healthy lifestyle choices, self-care, her partner and her pets for her recovery.

Learn more about her story of healing below:

“We” have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder, with between 20-30 alternate states. I’ve had DID my entire life, but didn’t know until three years ago. Now, memories from over 20 years are coming back. People with DID are driven by their subconscious. Our experiences are blocked and stored in our memories until our alters are ready to face them. It’s all coming to the surface, and I have awareness of my fragmented parts.

Tell me about yourself. My name is Melissa Garzon, but I don’t go by it anymore. I’m 25-years-old but have alters that are every age from early childhood through 25. Melissa Garzon never existed, not in the way that people thought she did. Melissa was always a series of alters, with their own roles, opinions, likes, dislikes and personality traits.

I’m now becoming all of my alters and have no control over when. I experience amnesia between switches; sometimes as a total blackout and other times it’s as though I’m waking up from a dream that I’m trying to remember but as time passes it’s as though it never happened.

These alternate states of consciousness (alters) really are their own people. We can talk to each other just as two individual people have conversations. These aren’t just “voices in my head;” they’re people in my head. I want everyone to know that I hear the stigma in that. I feel the uncomfortableness, too. It’s all part of the stigma we the [DID] system had to overcome to even be okay discussing this.

My story: I lived for more than 20 years with an undiagnosed severe mental illness, and I have been living in a state of trauma my entire life. I’m so used to it that calm actually feels foreign and wrong.

I’m in the early stage in my recovery. It is disabling, debilitating and is my full-time job. DID affects every part of my life. At this time, it affects my ability to communicate effectively. I’m learning to do this while becoming alternate states of consciousness that differ in age, function and interest, while experiencing amnesia. How do you live a life that you forget? With intention. Repeated intentions.

I love my story so much even though I don’t always know what it is. I think it’s beautiful that I’m going through something a lot of people couldn’t imagine. I could easily choose to give up, but parts are finally able to get the second chance they deserve.

What happened to cause your anguish? I was sexually abused by a relative when I was a baby, and this caused the DID. Once I began struggling with mental illness as a child, my mother disciplined me with physical and emotional abuse. The alters who were abused are the ones who act out through negative coping mechanisms and self-harm. Some alters only feel anger and hate and understand the parts of trauma. Yet, there are alters who don’t know what happened; those amnesic walls were built for a reason.

Because of these traumas, I experienced severe depersonalization and derealization, body dysmorphia, and I took it out on myself. I would beat myself, punch myself, slap myself in the face because I “hated myself.” These were at my lowest moments. I’ve looked myself in the mirror and said, “I wish you would die.” This was my life into adulthood.

I also never learned how to use my voice. I cannot speak up for myself. When I try, I experience severe dissociation and anxiety. It’s programmed into me to not be able to speak. I can’t even pick up a phone call or order at a restaurant.

What was the moment or instance that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? I had a feeling that what I was doing when I was most depressed, stressed, overwhelmed was not good, but I never thought to tell anyone or ask for help. I know now about my DID and PTSD, but at the time I was going through the worst of it, I didn’t know that I could’ve told anyone about it and had gotten help. Amnesia is partially to blame.

What does your recovery look like?

I still find myself turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms at times, such as watching too much TV and emotional eating instead accepting my emotions. Having amnesia and not always knowing when we switch can be confusing, but as long as we remember “recovery” is the goal, we’ll be ok. Alters who don’t know that we’re in recovery may start to exert themselves in ways that tire and stress the rest of the system out. I have to prioritize every moment of the day. My brain and body went two decades unchecked. I want to live a healthy life, so I’m focusing on each of these things as symptoms come.

I’m focusing on things that help with unblending the alters and releasing my emotional storage, such as seeing a Chiropractor weekly, talk therapy, hula hooping, stretching, dancing, reiki, crystals, arts and crafts, reading, studying, affirmations, meditation, journaling and therapeutic time in nature. I’m also eating a plant-based diet, because I am using food as medicine.

Recovery is allowing ourselves to feel the way we do not suppressing, denying or hiding. Let emotions happen when they happen. Whether we’re in the comfort of our home, a car or at a store, we have to be gentle with our parts. No dismissing feelings of being sad. No pushing ourselves, when we’re triggered and ignoring the symptoms. Humans aren’t meant to be in a state of chaos all of the time.

Where are you now?

I’m at the very beginning of recovery. After learning about the childhood I had growing up, I had to figure out what to do with that information. I’ve never been at home in my own body, my own mind. Now that I know all the reasons why, it’s time to give myself the love I know I deserve. I want to be one of those people who finds joy in life itself, no matter the obstacles, and I want to live this life like it’s the only one we’ve got, because it is.

The thing is, I don’t have is a daily routine yet. I wake up a different person each day and switch throughout. We’re starting to set some ground rules. For instance, whenever we have a cry, we can’t go back to what we were doing before. We have to allow the body to rest, and emotions to be processed healthily. We’re constantly checking in on ourselves to make sure everyone’s okay. It takes time to cultivate that level of awareness.

I’m supported by my partner, who has been with me every step of the way. She’s helping me to normalize DID and learning to live with it. I also wouldn’t be able to do this without my pets, a black lab and cat

One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care: I didn’t go to a therapist for a long time, because I thought I didn’t need it. As a result, I split off into more and more alters, so now I have more to go through. If I had someone to talk to during the most difficult months to work with me to process emotions in a healthy way that could have been avoided. You have to constantly shift away from the stigma that society has conditioned us to believe.

The thought process of, “other people have it worse,” is just a way to not look at what you have. Trauma is trauma, and everyone deserves to heal from theirs. Honestly, being told, “others have it worse,” made me think nothing was wrong with me, that my emotions, my anguish, my tears, my suffering and my health didn’t matter. Writing it down for the first time (IN MY LIFE) is making me understand it DOES matter, it matters a whole heck of a lot!

Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. 

  • Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.

  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

  • Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences. 

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