Suzanne Venuta was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in 2003.

Suzanne Venuta was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder in 2003.

Experience guides mental health advocate

Comox resident with DID nominated for national mental health award

  • Mar. 11, 2015 3:00 p.m.

Erin Haluschak

Record Staff

Suzanne Venuta has a houseful of daily planners.

She has so many, she would, from time to time, find some she didn’t even remember buying.

“I couldn’t remember appointments, I’d forget things with the kids. People would say ‘get a Daytimer.’ Why was everyone fine except for me? I couldn’t function and remember things,” she says.

“I thought I must be dumb, I must be stupid.”

Venuta has dissociative identity disorder (DID) — formerly known as multiple personality disorder — and the Comox resident is an outspoken advocate on mental health education.

Using her experience and openness to share, Venuta educates the public on mental health, speaking to groups varying from high school to medical students. She writes about the realities of mental illness and resources available through two blogs, and has recently been nominated for a Champion of Mental Health Award through the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health.

“Someone thinks enough of what I do; that’s very humbling and I am honoured,” she says, of the recent nomination.

Suffering a lifetime with depression, Venuta explains her world came crashing down around 1998. She lost her house a year later, struggled with addiction and approached her doctor for help.

“He said whether it’s drugs, alcohol or self-harm, there’s a way of dealing, and I was alive because of my coping skills. He told me I was going to get a new toolbox for a better quality of life.”

The G.P. Vanier grad was formally diagnosed with DID in 2003, adding many people only understand the Hollywood version of the disorder, which tends to be looked at as truth.

“When I started doing research, I started to get angry at a lot of professionals; there was quite a debate whether this disorder was real. There’s a lot of sensationalism around it,” she notes.

On the advice of a psychiatrist, Venuta connected with a psychotherapy group, consisting of other people struggling with DID. With the help of the Crime Victims Assistance Program, she was able to work with a nurse within her private practice, and credits the “phenomenal professional help” she received, even with some members of her medical team who had no previous practical experience with the disorder.

“My family doctor had never heard of the diagnosis, but was open enough to learn about it,” she adds.

She had difficulty remembering things, lags in time and felt a gross partition between herself and the rest of the world.

“I felt like a bystander in life.”

Following the opportunity to meet other people in her therapy group, Venuta felt a comfort within her peers, recalling relief that she was not the only one suffering through the pain of mental illness.

“We didn’t really talk about the trauma that created DID, but how to function in every day life. It was interfering everyday with life, and it was so frustrating and took so much energy. I wanted to get better.”

Working through trauma therapy, Venuta says whenever there was stress, either good or bad, in her life, “my drug of choice was disassociation.”

Although she has worked through years of therapy, she notes for every three steps forward she makes, there are many steps back. While the conversation around mental illness has grown, she notes there’s still much room to go.

“(When first diagnosed) a lot of the conversation was around what is DID? Now it’s more, ‘yes, this is what it is’, but it’s not indicative to who I am and what I can do.”

While she credits large initiatives through media and organizations to highlight the importance of opening a discussion on mental health, she says societal attitudes are not going to change overnight.

“With mental health, people are afraid to look at it. The stigma is still there. You have to be severely affected by mental issues to be concerned about mental health,” she states.

“Why are people not concerned about it like physical health? I’ve had people tell me to quit whining. The past is the past. Would you say that to me if I had cancer?”

While Venuta notes one to three per cent of the general population is diagnosed with DID, more than 10 per cent of those incarcerated are affected by the disorder.

One of the root causes is severe neglect, she adds, and DID generally develops at a young age.

•••

In addition to playing ringette and golf, Venuta wants to continue to write her blogs, but adds she may one day write a book.

“I used to say I can’t write about it until I finish the journey. I’m finished the journey, and I’m home. It’s time to take the armour off, and relax into who I am. I’m looking forward to a year of finding out who I am.”

To read Venuta’s blogs, visit: hopeandmentalhealth.blogspot.ca or suzy-livingsucessfullywithdid.blogspot.ca.

 

 

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Just Posted

ROAM Media’s Ian Adams designed the label for the new honey ale. Image supplied
Church St., Ace combine on a true Comox Valley brew

The taphouse has Home Buoy on tap, and it’s also in cans

The finish line! Huband held a ‘Colour Run’ Friday to celebrate what’s been a different school year. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley school lets its colours run

Huband Elementary wanted a way to bring kids together

Cumberland has agreed to a sponsorship agreement with the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland agrees to sponsorship with Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce

Some on council did express concerns from the past such as amalgamation push

Habitat VIN executive director Pat McKenna, and community engagement manager (Comox Valley) Alli Epp are all geared up for the 2021 Habitat For Humanity Vancouver Island North #BidtoBuild online auction. Photo supplied
Habitat for Humanity Vancouver Island North online auction opens soon

Get ready to ‘bid to build.’ The 2021 Habitat For Humanity Vancouver… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

Most Read