As promised, I’m posting a bit more information on Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). It’s a very personal experience, at least to me, and a blog provides enough anonymity to make writing about this feel safe. I sincerely believe that anyone connected to DID in any way can benefit from the experiences of others. Because of that, I’ll make it a focus on my blog. Just like most things in life, we’re all at different stages along the way and we can all help each other move through those stages.
I guess the place to start would be to give a general overview of what Dissociative Identity Disorder means. DID comes from repeated childhood trauma. Survivors come from backgrounds involving any combination of physical, sexual, emotional, and ritual abuse. I’ll save the more complex points of that stuff for later. Alters are personality states, meaning pieces of one conscious mind. When trauma becomes too much for that one conscious mind to take, it fractures and makes separate portions of the mind to help out. The abuse happens to that *other* person. Memories are repressed to the extent that the person might not even be aware that anything happened in the first place.
People use different terms for the original personality, the one that was actually born when the body was born. Oh, and as creepy as the terminology might seem, people with DID frequently refer to ‘the body.’ That’s one of the protective mechanisms in DID—if trauma is happening to ‘the body’ it isn’t necessarily happening to *my* body, at least in DID logic. Some people refer to the original personality as the core, birth personality, et c. I like the term original. It just seems a bit more centering to me.
Alters are arranged into a group known as a system. Often the original personality isn’t even aware of the alters. They are sometimes aware of hearing voices, losing time, having gaps in their memory, and things like that, but they often pass those off as signs of their being crazy or forgetful. I grew up in an environment where DID was incredibly common, and even *I* didn’t recognize my symptoms until a couple of years ago. The alters will introduce themselves when the time is right.
Everybody’s system works differently. Alters could be organized into groups based on emotions, types of trauma, jobs, or whatever else is best for the person they’ve helped protect. There could even be (as is the case with mine) two or more separate systems or layers within the overall system. Mine is arranged into two separate systems and alters are grouped based on job and/or type of trauma. Some alters seem to stand on their own, even, with functions that are more specific than those of others.
DID is, above all else, a creative coping mechanism children faced with trauma develop to make life livable. I, and I’m guess many others, truly believe I would either be dead or not functional had my mind not created others to help me get through things. But even though I appreciate the hard work of my internal folk and the support they’ve provided me over the years, there are some days when I just want everything to GO AWAY. Not uncommon. DID can certainly make life ‘interesting.’ Once the need for protection from trauma has passed, having DID is a bit of an experiment in learning how to cope with one’s coping mechanism.
That’s just a brief and really over-simplified introduction to DID. There are so many people connected with this disorder who are struggling through alone, and I know that, with the help of the Internet, we can work together to make things easier. I’ll often use my experience to describe features of DID since I can be more detailed in talking about my own system. However, I’ve been incredibly fortunate along the way to meet some wonderful people, multiples and singletons alike, who have happily shared their knowledge and support with me. I am continually grateful for them and will hopefully be adding their voices to this blog as well. To use the cheesy and over-used saying, we can make a difference. Dealing with DID is difficult and can be completely overwhelming, but it is do-able and is often worth all of the effort. Having someone who understands the ups and downs is essential.
One brief note—comments are, as always, welcome. However, I will not defend the validity of DID as a diagnosis or a condition, nor will I argue the validity of repressed memories. Call it what you will. Call it Fred or Lucy or any other arbitrary term if it makes it easier, but the experiences of people with DID and those who support them are valid regardless of terminology.