I thought it might be wise to go back to a topic I covered almost 2 years ago. The basics of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I have a lot more readers now (YAY!) and new friends whom don’t really understand DID. No criticism here at all. Before I was diagnosed with it, I knew as close to nothing as one could get.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is portrayed in the media as some sort of wacky, wild, really cool to watch phenomenon. If that isn’t their angle? They are usually discussing the controversy of the diagnoses. I hope that if I share what it means to me, it will take some of the confusion out of it and hopefully inspire some understanding.
Everyone has multiple personalities/identities. Even you.
If you stop to think about it, you are not really the same person when you are out with your friends as you would be if you were out with your children. You are different with your spouse than you would be with your parents. You can become the professional at work then transform to a carefree spirit when you go out for an evening with your best buddy. Even your pets get a different side of you.
If you think of your own life thus far, I am sure that who you were as a child is quite different from who you became as a teenager and then that teen became a young adult. Eventually you grew past the age of being a young adult and perhaps started making some more adult decisions like getting married or having children. You continue even now to mature and change with each passing year. Ask someone who’s in their 60’s and they will tell you that they are very different from who they were at 30 and few 50 somethings that I know are still acting as though they are 20.
The difference between you and all your sides/personalities are that they know each other. Each part knows what the other was up to and went through. Who you are right now knows what you have done good or bad over the course of your lifetime. Not perfect memories of every little thing but you have the big picture. At 40, you can recall being a teenager especially as your own teenagers are now giving you the same hassles you once gave to your parents. There is an easy flow of communication between these parts of you.
When you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, this ability to easily communicate is severed or severely affected. It is like growing up and the 4-year-old you doesn’t know the 5-year-old you. Each one is compartmentalized in a separate box and each box is locked. Usually this is caused when there is trauma so severe and so constant that the host could not have survived psychologically without creating a very handy coping tool. Rather than being totally overwhelmed by what is going on and absorbing all that trauma by oneself, some children unknowingly begin to dissociate. This is a very clever secret door that a traumatized mind is able to create to help survive the fear and pain.
Sadly, if dissociations happen regularly and a total “split” occurs, the child will have very few memories of this age. Good or bad. If the trauma continues for many years, these splits can happen over and over. The biggest difference between a dissociative mind and one that has not needed to develop this skill to survive is the ability to recall life in an orderly fashion.
This issue of segregated memories is used to help diagnose cases of DID. When I am asked to give a family history or a history of even my past week, it can be very confusing for me. I don’t always recall who came in to our lives or who went and and when. I have years of missing time scattered throughout my life so I can occasionally recall moving to a new home but not recall leaving it or I could suddenly be in a new home and not recall leaving the last one. People with DID need to constantly juggle what they know with what they can’t recall.
People with DID, myself included often have very large chunks of their life missing. One dissociative part of me from when I was 4 might not even know about me or any other parts. For 43 years I did not consciously know about any of my other parts but most of them knew me. They did not all know about each other though. Some did, some didn’t, some parts formed groups, some stayed isolated, some even thought that they were the only one. They seemed to not even realize that there was me.
These parts and pieces of my life have a very chaotic order to them and they almost all are still the ages that they were when they came to being. This is where it gets really hard for me. That silent 3-year-old that needs to be held and hugged is always 3 and always needs to be held and hugged long after it is “appropriate” to want this from those around her. I can and I do try to take time to fill those needs if I can but I have a LOT of Helpers and taking care of each one would be 3 full-time jobs at this point.
I really like this graphic as a way to explain what I am trying to share here.
For me this happened 34 times. For a long time I only heard 3 but that was when I was still assuming I was psychotic or just truly bat shit crazy. In time, with a great deal of support and compassion, I allowed myself to begin to hear others and there are 34 in total that have made their presence known. I don’t know them all yet and I don’t have all of their memories.
I work daily on hearing them, finding out what their needs are and trying my best to fulfill those needs. I feel as though when parts of me feel heard and hopefully healed as much as possible, they can get a well deserved break from needing to protect me from what they deem as dangers. This will reduce the “need” for dissociations.
I am not a professional with all this nor do I have all the answers. I am learning day by day and sometimes I get it all very wrong. I’ve been able to help my Helpers at times while hurting them at others. I am working at it though. Every day.
One day I hope that my 4-year-old will know my 6-year-old. My teenagers will know the adults and the adults can allow me to take care of my daily needs without whisking me away. I will not integrate them, I just want us all to communicate more easily with each other rather than living in all these separate locked boxes. My goal is to find peace.