Send Your Replies to Susie, who wants to know how to "tell others" safely about her trauma

Dear Susie---

I am extremely cautious. Because I told someone--who told his friends, and they blackmailed me. I never thought anything
like that could happen, nor imagined it, nor understood it, nor was prepared for it. I suddenly felt absolutely shamed
and ripped apart--it was absolute terror.

That said, I don't want to relive it in the telling. Just be sure that the people that you confide in have good reason to know and can
keep it to themselves. Generally, they will need support. So who do they get support from? These are important questions to ask yourself.

I have regrets. I felt it portrayed me (ironically) as someone I was not--a crazy person, or a liar.
Also, be cautious with family. I don't intend to sound very negative, but it forever changes how people see you (MOST people).
Others will recognize you as incredibly intelligent and strong-- and champion you.

I am now in the position where if it comes out, it does--and I will have to say, yes I was dissociative for years.

I feel often in a bind with this matter of how much to tell. Schizophrenia and depression are comparably understood. There is still a great
mystery around disorders of trauma and memory, and this mystery causes people anxiety.

On the other hand, there was a line a movie (I forget the movie, I'm sorry!) about revealing the past. The advice was to do it ahead of time,
"get it out there" in the most gentle way. So-- there are also benefits to being open. I really think it depends on one's motivations--and think about
that. For me, I confided in one person who was absolutely trustworthy--but the people around him, supporting him at times, were not. I sadly underestimated the cruelty of some people.

I don't like being seen as a "freak," "crazy," a "liar," and you know what? There are lots of (pardon me for saying so) stupid people out there
who don't understand trauma disorders who are ready to say things like this.

These are the responses I've gotten from those who have been told:

"There is NOTHING wrong with you." (engineer)
"I think you are so intelligent and brave." (artist)
"I love every one of you." (military)
"You are multiple." (psychiatry #1)
"I believe you." (psychiatry #2)
"I don't believe you. It'd be like my faking a disorder for convenience. I don't see it." (I'd been
integrated already. medical field)*
"You are a malingering liar (in so many words)." (career: occult practitioner)
"There is NOTHING wrong with you." (attorney--yes the exact same words)

As you can see--the responses are varied. 4 out of 8 different people actually believed in a dissociative disorder
(in this example of just a few people). If you remove psychiatrists from the list, 2 out of 6. Although this is a random sample,
I think it a telling one.

What people feel free to "do" and "say" when they don't believe is worrisome sometimes. The three people who did believe me
knew me very well over many years (not all of them "witnessed" my dissociation) and were witness to my pain (which I think is an
important factor). The ones who didn't believe me had not known me very long, or did not know me well at all (if they
did "know" me a long time).

I'm sorry this sounds so negative. I was just really hurt by telling. And--I then I swore I'd never tell another soul, and I just told
someone I've known for some years. Sort of. I told him in terms of PTSD.

Although society claims to be supportive of survivors, I think there is still a long way to go. Like someone else said, They don't care
to know or understand. That is certainly true of many. And why should they? Who wants to enter into a world of pain? Many are ignorant and
don't care to educate themselves. Be aware that these sorts of people can be around those you tell. Be most cautious around them.

Most strangely, integration (for me) became my adult response to not feeling safe. I feel stronger as one--whereas the opposite was
true as a child.

Just choose carefully. If you are young, realize that what you choose now will be with you for a long time--be discerning and discreet.

* By the way, a professional offered up this example retort to "I don't see it" when said to someone recovering:
"You are not a recovering alcoholic. I don't see you drinking." Or words on that variation.

I hope this helps you to decide along with all the other wise words you've received on this question!

A Survivor


Dear Susie,

I have been open about dissociating and multiplicity as I was being diagnosed back in the 1980s. I have been in AA since 1982 and shared it there. Nowadays I just talk about dissociation because my multiplicity isn't as obvious as it was back then. Dissociating costs me jobs and friends because I can't remember what's going on a lot of the time.

As far as the specifics of past abuse, I don't share that with just anybody. Anymore. Most people aren't interested anyway and I don't want to invite any perps in. I recently saw a new Physician and he asked "What's so traumatic in your life that you have PTSD? So I said I was raped. He couldn't look me in the eye after that. I got a new Dr the next week. Some men (Dr.s included) can't handle the fact that men and boys get raped too. It is obvious to anybody that I forget stuff so I am open about how my brain works (or doesn't work) . It helps me/us navigate in the world out there. Good luck .

Red G.


Dear Susie,

First - I think everyone should tell their therapist. (Ha!... that's a small joke)

Truly, what I think is that telling anyone (aside from your therapist) is risky business. Telling people can be a way of wanting to gain attention - attention that was never given growing up. This is not a criticism, just an observation. Telling people in general may come with fallout that will bite you in the backside. The world of people outside the inside world generally do not understand or frankly, care to understand about DID (or whatever the educated professionals are chosing to call it these days). I suppose you could tell people you really trust.

I'm definitely not a good one to talk about trusting people because it took me at least 15 years to start really trusting my therapist! For the most part, I just thought she would turn to me one day and admit that the diagnosis was wrong. But, what happened was, one day we looked at each other and said, holy toledo! (other words were used), these stories and memories are TRUE!.... so we started trusting each other and our therapist a little bit more and more. Now, after over 20 years, we trust her implicitly and ourselves .... quasi implicitly.

That brings me to the next part of who to tell or not tell. Trusting ourselves is more important than having anyone outside trust us. However, trusting ourselves is extraordinarily hard given the events we remember. Recently, we laid out a small part of our truth to our outside sister. She, like most of our family, likes to paint the picture of our lives as beautiful watercolors. When she called to say how much she missed being close to us, we just couldn't deny our own truth one more time. We did not admire the watercolor with her. We said "the Emperor does not have on new clothes or ANY clothes". We cried and told as much of our truth to her as we felt comfortable (which was not much). In therapy last week, my therapist said "you must have been ready". We hadn't thought about it like that... but we were ready in the sense that we believed ourselves and therefore what we said did not come with regrets or worries that we were making it up or lying.

So, who to tell? I'd suggest sticking with your therapist until you are truly ready... and there is no way to predict when that will be.

(To our therapist - please do not drop over dead because we wrote this. I guess we are ready to talk to others like us a bit now too.)



Hi Susie,
I can understand your struggle in trying to determine when it is safe to reveal details about your abuse and when it might be better to keep that information to yourself. After all, isn't this what all dissociated survivors struggle with...wondering when it is safe to reveal details about our history even to ourselves? That can certainly be a large enough hurdle for many of us to get over...trying to figure out who else might be able to lend a supportive ear once we've revealed our abuse to ourselves can sometimes be just as difficult. For me, like Jan T., I've found that it's best to pay attention to what the other person is saying and what their "energy" is like. I think many of us who've been abused develop a "sixth sense" of sorts that lets us know when we've met a kindred spirit. More often than not, when I have chosen to reveal something about my history to someone, that person has told me that they too were abused. Although I had been quite selective in who I told early on in my remembering, after struggling through a "psychospiritual crisis", I became much more vocal, speaking out at domestic and sexual abuse survivor vigils, reading my poems at poetry readings and even publishing articles on the internet.

Again, like Jan T. pointed sure listen to what others are saying but most importantly listen to yourself and always do what is best for you and for your healing. I truly wish you all the best in discovering what your boundaries are as well as how flexible or firm you want those boundaries to be.


Hi Susie,
I totally understand your dilemna. I, too, have always wondered what to share and to whom. At first, I was leery of sayng ANYTHING about my abuse history---not knowing what peoples reactions would be. I had been on disability for 2 years, and then went back to work. At work, I decided I wanted to make friends. One of my new friends shared with me that she divorced her husband because he abused their daughters. So, I figured she, of all people, could understand my abuse. Now, I didn't tell her everything, but I disclosed that my father had sexually abused me. And then we were closer friends than ever!
Since then, I have been diligent in listening to people to see if they'd be sympathetic to my situation. Listening has been a godsend. I have learned that nearly everyone has troubles in their lives. And when they tell me their problems, I decide what pieces of my history that each would be able to hear. So, do not jump the gun and disclose everything. People would be overwhelmed.
But, as I've been able to disclose bits and pieces, to different people, I have found it SOOO freeing.
One of the worst parts of the abuse ( for me ) is the secrecy that had to be maintained. Now, I have broken the rule of silence and feel free.
Remember--listen closely to others, and test out sharing little bits at a time.
I hope this helps a bit. And I wish you courage in your quest.
Jan T.


Dear Susie,

I think this is an excellent question and I'll bet you get a number of different answers--some in favor of "telling" and others not so much. I personally have been very careful about choosing who I "tell"...though back in my earliest days of treatment I was much more open. For me, I found it sometimes backfired for people I knew to "know too much." Some of them became afraid I would fall apart in front of them. Others disbelieved and made me angry. It sometimes got uncomfortable for me, being too revealing. I know that other people feel very differently about this process.

I learned over time to divide up information so not to dump it all on one friend or another. And eventually, I just mostly kept my mouth shut, when I was still in active therapy.. After all, I was working with a therapist, and that was--for me--enough of an outlet at the time.

It will be very interesting to hear what other people have to say about this, though. We can all learn from each other.

Thanks for asking.

Lynn W.