Needs of One: In Memory of Jana Marie
- Earlier this month, an individual passed away whom I did not know all that well, but who touched upon many people’s lives online for a short while. I thought it appropriate to reflect upon her death and an online community which has formed unexpectedly.
Jana Marie (aka Lori) was a woman who suffered from dissociative identity disorder (also known popularly as multiple personality disorder). She, along with dozens of others, began frequenting a chat room I had created over a year ago on the Webchat Broadcasting System (WBS) in which to host my weekly mental health chats. This community began forming in late summer, 1996, and now is fully alive and vibrant in this room. It has its regulars and people who check in daily, if not more often. All of them are drawn together by a single thread — a mental disorder has affected them.
This is a powerful and strong community, one which is held together tightly by some of its leaders (although they may not even realize they are leaders). It grew up nearly overnight and has become an important strength to many of those who visit it nearly every day. Anyone who doubts the power of self-help and mutual support groups needs to take a look into this online community.
Jana Marie’s mental disorder is one not well understood by our current knowledgebase and research. While there are many theories out there, and many treatments, most of them are largely ineffective. Of course, deciding what an effective or appropriate treatment goal with someone who suffers from this disorder is also largely undecided. Some argue that complete integration is the ultimate goal; others say that allowing the personalities to co-exist peacefully is often adequate.
I didn’t know Jana Marie well, or very much at all. She asked a question or two during one of my chats and I responded to her, as I do to all the people who come. Since the chats have never been meant as a kind or substitute for therapy, I don’t know a lot about the backgrounds of the people asking the questions. I do know, from others, that she was about to undergo a kidney transplant that one of her alters had put off a year earlier. She was only days away from receiving the transplant when she died of internal bleeding.
Even though she was known for only a short time, she was appreciated by those in the room and she touched many of them. A vigil was held on September 20, a day after she died, in the room. It was a quiet time, one for reflection. Each member in the room lit a candle for her.
Although I am unsure whether Jana ever saw those candles, she surely saw the light. .
May she be in peace, one which she may never have experienced on this Earth. And may we all be reminded that mental illness, no matter what form, is not something to take lightly.