A Day in the Life of Shirley Davis

Today is Dissociative Identity Disorder day – and with that, we kick off our series called “Day in the Life”.We are profiling real people living with mental illness(es).
This week we interviewed Shirley Davis – freelance writer, public speaker, author, and MHAP blogger living with DID.

What country do you call home?

The United States

When were you first diagnosed with your illness? (And, if you’re comfortable sharing, how old are you now?)

I was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in 1990 when I was 30. I am now 58.

Did you know you were ill before your diagnosis?

Yes, but I didn’t understand what was wrong.

How did your diagnosis make you feel?

I felt very relieved to know I wasn’t insane, and a great deal frightened that I would never get well.

How has it impacted your life? Your work? Your relationships?

It has impacted my life in so many ways that I don’t know where to begin. I have severe physical difficulties all related to my illness and the stress I have had from healing. I got married while dissociated and remained married for over 8 years to a man I didn’t love. We were finally divorced in 2001.

I lost my job and ability to work due to the enormous stress of therapy compounded by an addiction to prescription medications. I lived inpatient for over 7.5 years on a psychiatric ward. I have a horrible time getting and maintaining relationships due to intense trust issues. I do not explore romantic relationships because I’m terrified that sex will be part of it and I already forced myself to have sex with my ex and have no intentions of finding myself trapped like that again.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure that is enough to offer you the big picture.

How have other aspects of your identity (your gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity/race) intersected with your illness?

I identify as female and was born one as well although I have parts who are male. I have no clue what my sexual orientation is except to say I do not want sex. I do not dabble in religion as religious people have harmed me greatly in the past, even tossing me out of two churches because of the nature of my condition. They believed me to be demon possessed and became angry when I did not agree to an exorcism. Being white has had no impact.

What steps have you taken to get help for your illness?

I have been actively in therapy for 29 years, mostly with one therapist who retired in 2016. As I said above, I lived voluntarily in a psychiatric ward for 7.5 years. I see and have seen psychiatrists regularly to maintain drugs to fight depression and anxiety that cooccurred with my diagnosis. I am VERY proactive.

Tell me about your support systems – the people who have helped the most (or the least) in your recovery.

The best help I have received was from a therapist named Paula. She diagnosed me with DID at a time when the diagnosis had fallen out of favor in the Psychiatric community. I continued to see her for the first 9 years of my healing journey but lost her to a bankruptcy I was forced to take on the clinic where she worked. They cut me off from her services.

Later, in 2012, I was reunited with her care and that continued until 2016.

She was the greatest influence of my healing journey and I am greatly indebted to her for her courage to help me when she would have been ridiculed. She was the mother I never had.

What do you use for self-care? (Be as honest as is comfortable, even if you’re not proud of the answer.)

I live with my brother, his wife, their 3-year-old son and soon there will be another baby. What do I do? I shut myself in my room, put on sound cancelling headphones, and tune out the noise with music.

I also take myself on shopping sprees with money we have budgeted just for that purpose. To be honest, shopping can be a problem, but with a set amount given to me each month it seems to be okay right now.

Walk me through a typical day for you.

Oh my. I get up around 6 am, get some coffee and turn on my computer. I then check all my email and social media sites, then read the news. I write a to-do list for the day and begin writing (I am a freelance writer).

I write for my blog, a guest post for another blog, and do research for my next writing endeavor. Those tasks take all day until around 5 when I shut it down and watch my television until 8. I turn all my electronics off around 8:30 so I will sleep then do sudoku puzzles until I’m ready to sleep.

In between the above stuff, I eat, take a shower, talk to people on the phone, plan for my next speaking event, and do some reading.

I go to bed around 9 (it takes me an hour to get to sleep) and that’s it.

I work on my computer most of my days.

What do you wish could be better about the mental health system in your country?

We need free coverage for everyone who has a mental health diagnosis and we desperately need controls on the prices of drugs. The costs for care are out of control.

We also need to work hard on dispelling the horrific stigma associated with receiving mental health care. Men especially have a tremendously hard time because they are brutally stigmatized and ridiculed for reaching out for help.

What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with your illness?

Don’t ever give up! Yes, the healing journey from the chaos of having alters to achieving and maintaining a stable life takes a long time and the road is dangerous and long, but if you don’t give up and do the hard work, you WILL get there.

It has taken me 29 years to get where I am today, and not only am I still alive, I am thriving.

No, I am not rich, I do not own property, I do not work at an average job nor do I have a spouse or children.

But, but, but…

I am here. I have won. I no longer listen to the messages implanted into my brain by my abusers.

I am alive and working hard to help others with my diagnosis, like you, to avoid some of the roadblocks and pitfalls I ran into along my healing path.

Join me on the road less taken and I guarantee, you WILL get to a point of peace with yourself and the world.


You can find Shirley on Twitter @ShirleyDavis18, or on her blog

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