October 3, 2014

Originally my understanding of multiple personalities came from books or movies - a clever writer uses the disorder to create a serial killer who doesn't know they are a serial killer.

The reality is nothing like that.

I thought I was "crazy", I felt out of control

When I was first told I had it I just didn't want to believe it. It was really frightening: my symptoms didn’t sense, I thought I was "crazy", I felt out of control and I worried the other identities might hurt people. Now that I know it’s just a psychological defence to trauma and most of my identities are young children. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is caused is repeated childhood trauma which usually begins before age 7, my abuse which began as an infant - maybe sooner. The identities are all a part of "me", even if it doesn't feel that way.

It's no longer frightening

What I notice the most is regularly dissociating or disconnecting from the outside world and from emotions, which happens when another identity takes over. I don't notice time passing, this amnesia can last for minutes or days at a time. It’s no longer frightening; managing my stress levels and having plenty of free time rather than over-committing to things helps a lot. I still lose time but it's in short chunks and doesn't interfere with life like losing days did. I have a many ways of keeping organised to help with the gaps in memory and the other identities do too, we write things down a lot and have several alarm clocks to make sure we get to appointments and work (I keep checking which day it is too).

The time loss doesn't seem so bad now. Sometimes I can remember afterwards what another identity did although it’s hazy, a bit like recalling parts of a drunken night out, but other times I know what is happening at the time. I can't stop them doing harmful things to me and there have been some scary moments but now we are all co-operating I've learnt I can trust them. If they do anything scary there is always a good reason for it, and usually they let me know when there is a problem so we can work on it before they "act out". I used to try and stay in charge and fight or criticise them but that just made them feel worse.

The last person I told about it was really nice about it when I explained a bit more

Some people think you can always prevent the other identities taking over, but that's not true so it's unreasonable to expect it. I can usually stay in charge for particular periods of time or situations. Having other identities take control of your body is one of the diagnostic criteria, so control switches to the others because I have DID - not because I am allowing it or trying to escape from feelings. It's not possible to just "snap out" of a different identity in the way you can snap out of a daydream because the level of dissociation is different. Other people think everyone with DID has personalities that take over randomly and obviously, but that is very rare. It's also really embarrassing if someone wants you to put the other identities "on show", people don't realise it is hidden in around 95% of people, and what they think of as "multiple personalities" is actually one of the hardest diagnoses even for professionals to make (most people take many years to diagnose). Besides, it’s up to them if they come out rather than me. The last person I told about it said it was "cool", but the symptoms are distressing rather than fun and he was really nice about it when I explained a bit more.

Although it's going to take a long time to heal it doesn't mean putting my life on hold in the meantime

Some people who only see me for a short time think I am super-organised because I've rehearsed everything in my head first and got it all planned, but I’ll find it very hard to remember yesterday. I learned to dissociate overwhelming pain as a child; I have an identity who doesn’t feel pain. If I'm in a huge amount of pain he/she takes over so I won't have to tolerate it, although he/she won't know to rest our body. Medical appointments are tricky when you are disconnected emotionally and have amnesia. If I’m in agony nearly all the time the doctor sees an identity unaffected by pain because the “pain holder” is needed to speak; feeling the pain would be too overwhelming to allow a coherent conversation. Now I know about the DID I can explain why don’t show the relevant emotions during the conversation, and I get whoever has the symptoms to write down a description because whoever is talking will probably have amnesia for some of them. It’s such a relief to be able to be properly understood at the first appointment.

My life is much better now I know about the DID and have help with it. I can cope much better with daily life, and although it's going to take a long time to heal it doesn't mean putting my life on hold in the meantime.

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