I am afraid to even mention that I have been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). So many people before you have responded with skepticism, caution, or obvious disbelief. These reactions put me on the defensive immediately. I suddenly feel as though I must prove that I have DID to you and quite frankly? That is an impossible task. I can not and do not switch from personality to personality upon a whim. Very often the shifts are quite subtle and seamless. Only people who’ve taken the time to get to know me quite well can see or sense a shift. Sometimes it is incredibly obvious but during most of my day, I appear to be just me.
Please try to be respectful when asking about my “alters”. Each person with DID is free to choose whatever name they wish to use for their other parts and their choice should be respected. If they have no collective name as yet, encourage a positive and respectful name be chosen that gives the group the respect it has more than earned. I refer to mine as Helpers. Quite often these other parts can have also have individual names. I may know none, some, most or all of their names. Developing a relationship takes time so how many we’ve come to know can depend highly on the amount of help, acceptance and DID education that we have received. DID like any other human trait can have similarities to someone else’s experience but being exactly the same is rare. This does not mean that one person is lying while the other is telling the truth.
I also fear the immediate discussion of integration. Quite frankly? Discussing this too early in treatment just causes me a great deal of internal panic. When I hear the word integration, I feel as though I need to erase parts of me from my life and that is just to going to happen.
In my world, my Helpers have gotten me through situations that you could never even imagine living through. They stepped in when I could not have survived alone. Quite often they allowed me to go to school, have friends and live an outwardly normal life. Without them? I could have never become who I am today. There is just no way. I do not mean to be dramatic here but without my Helpers being there to protect my mind? I’d be dead today. Literally.
So, rather than our first discussion being about making my Helpers and I melt together to make one “healthy person”, how about we take some time and you can get to know what they did for me. Perhaps then you will understand my hesitance to simply “erase” them.
Very often those with DID have other diagnoses as well. Eating Disorders, OCD, Trauma (PTSD), Depression, Self Harm, Anxiety, or addictions (alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex). When we meet, if I have other issues, please do not criticize me or make me feel as though I must immediately stop any negative behaviours. I promise that I will work with you and I will work hard but these other behaviours were just me trying to find a way to cope. Try not to make me feel badly about myself for what I did to survive.
I am an intelligent woman and I feel that I know what is best for my Helpers and I. To be honest? I find that most people with DID are quite well-educated and once they have come to terms with their diagnoses? We are quite capable in helping to make very good decisions as to how to proceed with treatment.
For my Helpers and I? Our goal is to have me/Heather out front as often as possible and we are trying to work as a team. It is not easy work and we still have a very long way to go but the eventual hope is that I/Heather will always be out in front and the Helpers will be there as supports for me without just taking over the front without my knowledge. That said? It is still going to happen and no matter how good I get at staying in the front, there will always be triggers that will cause instantaneous dissociation. If you make me feel badly about that or remind me that I need to stay present and in control at all times? You are only making me feel like I am failing at my goal. I am doing the best that I can but 45 years of dissociations do not disappear quickly.
When the Helpers are out? Feel free to speak to them. If they are old enough and capable of speaking, ask what their name is and how old they are. Treat them accordingly. If they have come out in your presence, they often have something they need to tell you. Be open to that. If they can not speak. they will often draw. Listen (or watch) and then ask for them to allow Heather to come back to the front. It doesn’t always work but the Helpers and I are getting much more respectful of each others time.
It is very hard to explain many of my memories. They often make no sense and one memory can be made up of several incidents. Some memories can be as clear as glass while others are about as clear as mud. Please don’t assume the muddy ones are not just as real. It doesn’t work that way.
I can feel things that happened to me decades ago with terrifying clarity. Something from my past can obscure the present. The trouble is that when I feel it? I am feeling it today. I have a really hard time ( almost impossible really) knowing if this a pain from now and I should see my doctor or is this a pain from my past and I need to speak to my therapist.
Even worse? If I go to a doctor and there is really “nothing wrong”, I can very easily feel reprimanded, dismissed, or like I am just a time and money wasting hypochondriac. If this happens? I will ignore my next pain no matter how real it may be.
Sometimes I can hear and see things that I am fairly certain are a part of my past but they are very real to me. Even if I logically know that I am alone, if I see someone in front of me or walking towards me? It is scary.
I can smell triggering scents from my past as well so when you show up and I am suddenly fearful for “no reason”, it can really be anything at all. Don’t ask me to explain immediately. Allow me to regain my composure first. These over-reactions are embarrassing to me.
This whole process can be filled with GOBS of anxiety. Just telling you about my DID is possibly the hardest thing I will have to do this week or possibly even this month. I am really no different from anyone else out there. I just want to be accepted for who I am and where I am at. You have no idea just how hard I work on myself on a daily basis. I’ve come so very far but I have so very far to go.
I promise you that I am doing my best.
With compassionate, caring, DID sensitive people surrounding me? I can begin to heal and live the life I’ve always wanted.
The life I should have been born in to….