I have dissociative identity disorder. I have seven other parts, and often find myself struggling to explain to people why my presentation is variable through age, ability and capacity – to name a few areas. There is so much assumed about having multiple parts. I am often referred to as having a “split personality” and people never really gauge what dissociative identity disorder IS.
But how does it feel knowing that every day I will lose some time… I may spend an hour in front of Peppa Pig, then do two hours of college work and bake some cupcakes – and have no memory of any of these activities. Difficult, scary, but once you allow yourself to accept the level of vulnerability associated with parts of you engaging in things you won’t recall, having conversations you can’t influence etc. You are in a better position to move forward. I may not choose to behave in the way some of my parts do at times – but on a level they are me. We share one mind and even though I may not recollect, I take responsibility for what has gone on in my absence. Between us we can do many things – even if I can’t do what some of my parts can, I accept their strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes it can be easier to accept their shortcomings than my own.
The best response I get from people when they interact with my other parts is open minded questions and curiosity with a willingness to hear our shared experiences. What is difficult is when people assume that I am choosing to behave like a 3-year-old, for some sort of personal gain, and I am aware of everything. It is fantastic when someone assists me to fill in the blanks in relation to when another part of me has been present.
DID presents many challenges, however there is a way forward, and despite the controversy within even psychiatry over its validity, it is possible to find support for dissociative spectrum disorders and complex trauma, which, hearteningly, doesn’t only exist within specialist realms. One of the most understanding people I have spoken to about my disorder is the manager of my local Nando’s – who has met three of me, as it were. She extended a welcome to me “whoever I was that day” and it's this non-judgemental acceptance that makes me feel I will find some places in the world were I can be we – and it won’t be judged.
It can be a mind boggling presentation, but HOW can an intelligent 20 something who is heading to university stuff six florets of cauliflower in her mouth whilst singing to frozen and be unable to master holding a knife and fork at times, and within minutes go online to work out student finance. I am a contradiction of terms, but so are many others – and it would be great if people who are unfamiliar with this presentation of mental illness just accept what is in front of them, and not overthink. With DID, what you see is what you get (until we switch – then you will get something else).
It can be difficult accepting my future life will be shared at times – but on the flipside who else can honestly say they enjoy Mr Tumble at 7am and Live at The Apollo at 7pm – with different levels of awareness, but just as much pleasure?
There are many people who undeniably have dissociative disorders but due to speculation and stigma are repeatedly let down. It isn’t just psychiatry that can change this – the wider public can help, by recognition, validation and acceptance.