Author Christine Ducommun was recently in Red Deer to share her harrowing story of dealing with dissociative identity disorder which she has chronicled in a new book.
Ducommun, who currently lives in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and did live in Red Deer a few decades back, spoke last week at the Red Deer Public Library. She’s on a book tour and is speaking about her experiences across the province.
Her book, Living with Multiple Personalities: The Christine Ducommun Story, details her life which included being afflicted with night terrors and bizarre flashbacks upon returning to live in the house of her childhood.
Ducommun grew up on a farm near Prince Albert. She eventually married and settled in Red Deer in the 1970s, before the family headed back to Saskatchewan.
“We had the opportunity to purchase my mom and dad’s home acreage,” she said. “That’s exactly when the strange things including night terrors and horrible mood swings, depression and flashbacks of memories started to happen.”
Her flashbacks included images of a figure standing in the doorway, or of walking in the yard and being overwhelmed with feelings of dread. It also occurred to her that she didn’t have memories of her childhood before the age of about 10. As these awful circumstances and feelings continued to escalate, Ducommun grew more confused as to their source. After her father died of cancer, she finally decided to look for help.
Through work with a therapist, things from her past started to surface. “I started visiting some of the neighbours that had been in the area when I was a kid. I got a sense of what was going on.”
She began to suspect that she had been the victim of sexual abuse. As the pieces of the puzzle continued to fall into place, she also learned of other instances in the community where her father had been found to have been abusive, she said.
“It was falling together, but nobody wants to admit that their dad would do something so horrible. We hear a lot about denial these days, and I did go into denial for quite a long time. I knew I had been sexually abused, and I accepted that. But I tried to reason my dad out of it and paint all these scenarios about who else it could have been.”
She began looking at family photo albums and report cards from her childhood, trying to get a feel for who she was as a kid. One day she noticed a wedding picture of her parents, and immediately she knew her father was the one who had abused her.
During those years, Ducommun was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID). This launched a 12-year ordeal of coming to grips with the reemergence of competing personalities her mind had created to help her cling to life during her early years.
Therapy helped to reveal the personalities, but she had much work to do to grasp their strengths and weaknesses and understand how each helped her cope and survive her childhood. There were five core personalities – Chrissie who was very childlike and Elizabeth who was a kind, nurturing and protective grandmother.
There was also Chris – the mom and homemaker and Christine who was the intellectual, relatively unemotional manager. Sally was the teen who held the sexual identity and finally there was John. Ducommun said he held the anger and most of the memories.
The core personalities came to be called the ‘directors of the board’, and in the book, Ducommun explains how each fought to become the CEO of her life and mind.
They were formed during the years of abuse as a defense mechanism against her unimaginable suffering. As Ducommun pointed out, a child can’t begin to understand the horror that’s happening to them with abuse. “Hence, the creation of other people. That’s what I did. It was my coping technique.”
Ultimately, Ducommun’s only hope to regain her sanity was to integrate each one’s emotional maturity while jettisoning the rest, until at last the ‘board meetings’ could cease.
Therapy involved the intricate process of integration. Ducommun had to learn about trust, and bringing these various facets of her personality to a place of peace and resolution.
Finally, the voices were silenced and Ducommun found wholeness. She also chose to forgive her father. “Part of it involved me letting my dad go, and forgiving him. To do anything else keeps giving him power, and I won’t do that anymore.”
Part of the healing also stemmed from journaling, which helped form the basis of the book, too. These days, her goal is to help others enduring similar kinds of battles, and to demystify DID to at least some degree.
“I hope this helps because as far as all the books I’ve read (on the topic), I think mine is the only one, to my knowledge, that tells the story of full integration.”
For more information or how to get a copy of the book, check out www.ChristineDucommun.com or email LMPbooks@yahoo.ca.