Things I would want others to know about me and how Dissociative Identity Disorder has played a big part in my life:
I survived severe abuse at the hands of more than one perpetrator starting younger than age 2 extending over several years into adulthood. To escape this abuse, I dissociated or floated away to another place in my head and through the genius creativity of a child created someone else to take my place. That person or part of me took the abuse for me. Then, I was able to continue in life not aware of what had happened. This happened over and over again until I had several other “mes” that often had their own name and had different experiences, likes, and dislikes. Some of them claim my family as their own, but most do not. I believe this is part of the way they separate themselves from the family that abused them.
In case you wonder how the parts of me get their names, it is all related to names I was exposed to. I would take names from favorite tv shows, books, movies, friends, etc. and apply them to the parts I created inside. This was all done subconsciously. Some parts have names that reflect what they do or how they feel. I have one insider who calls herself Worthless because that is the way she feels. I am still trying to convince her that she is not worthless and to help her find a new name for herself.
I would not be alive today if it were not for the ability to create these other parts. One reason is that my mind would not have been able to take the knowledge of all that was happening to me from a very young age. Having separate parts hold all of these pieces saved me from having to deal with it all at once before I was ready. Therapists have told me that not everyone has this ability to dissociate to the extreme degree. The ability tends to run in families. If I was not able to dissociate as I did, my mind would not have been able to cope and I would have developed some other mental disorder such as schizophrenia. Another way they have saved me is by keeping me safe from myself the many times I have been suicidal in my life. They are able to come out and protect me from doing harm to myself.
The different parts of me hold specific memories related to the trauma, but parts also hold other things. I have one part, Suzanne, who was able to hold the pleasure associated with sex. She kept it for me all my life so that I would still be able to enjoy sex one day. If I didn’t have her to hold that for me – my sexuality – then I would have immense trouble enjoying the gift of sex as an adult. Another part of me, Cassandra, held a strong passion for God. Even though parts of me were severely abused by an uncle who was a preacher and were very confused about God, Cassandra was there to be able to show God’s true nature and share His love with them. She is also one of our strongest insiders that has kept us functional and kept the faith.
I am currently coconscious with the majority of my system (the group of alters in my internal family). Coconscious means that when another part is in the “driver’s seat”, I am still able to look through the windshield (eyes) and see what is happening, sharing the memories. Often times, parts of me can be copresent which means more than one will be in the driver’s seat at once. We often do this when we go to therapy when more than one of us want to be involved in a discussion. The group of 2 or 3 that are copresent are there as representatives of the system. Then there are a few parts, more than I’d like, that I am amnesiac with. This means I am not aware of the things they do when they are in the driver’s seat. Thankfully these times are not usually a long period of time. Usually I may miss anywhere from 15 minutes up to several hours compared to the days, weeks, months, and years that may happen for some DID systems.
I have blank spots in my childhood memories as well as teenage years. This is because I had others in my system who would come out and live life for me when I was unable. It is also, of course, due to the times of trauma when others would come out and protect me from it. I have people tell me that I said things that I didn’t remember saying or doing something I don’t remember doing. That is very frustrating. Sometimes, I can ask inside and the one inside who did it or said it will share that memory with me and then I will be aware. Other times, I just have to decide whether or not to trust the person who told me because no one inside will own up to whatever it was. I do appreciate the other person letting me know, no matter the frustration, because it helps me to know what I have been saying or doing. There have been times when my husband will be upset at me and I will have absolutely no idea what had happened because I wasn’t there when the upsetting event occurred. I usually have to wait for him to calm down to be able to tell me what happened. This is also quite frustrating and confusing.
I also know this experience from the outsiders point of view because I am 100% certain that my mother has undiagnosed DID. There were a great many times growing up when I would be sitting in the living room talking with my parents. I’d bring up something that my mother had said just a few minutes prior and she would blatantly deny that she said any such thing. I remember being so confused because I knew what I heard and I remember often times desperately looking to my dad who would kind of laugh and tell her that she did say it. I never understood my mother until I was able to understand myself(ves) and how DID works. Then, so many things started to make sense!
It has been said in the past that DID is rare. Well I can tell you that it is far from rare. If you watch the video I have on my blog about Understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder, you will see that it is as common as schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder. You could know someone who has DID (and that person may or may not be aware of it themselves!) and just view them as moody and having a bad memory. While there are many people who have DID and are on disability unable to work, there are also quite successful and functional people with DID who have careers as doctors, nurses, lawyers, psychologists, etc. Unfortunately, most of us don’t “out” ourselves as having DID to more than just a few close friends due to the terrible stigma that is still attached to this condition.
I hope that I have helped explain some of what Dissociative Identity Disorder is like. It is a complex condition and takes a while for someone to get a grasp on all it entails.