A guest blog from one of our youth artisans and her experience with Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID or previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is fragmented pieces of your identity that break off when you're a child that has gone through trauma. So having DID means that as a child your identity was unable to fully develop into one singular personality.
Everybody as a child starts off with an unintegrated personality. Around the age of early development, if a child experiences severe or repeated trauma, the brain, understanding that this is not something it's equipped to deal with, puts up a wall of amnesia to protect it from this trauma. This, along with the ability to dissociate to high levels and having disorganized attachments to your primary care givers, would prevent that identity from becoming fully integrated.
When I first realized that there were other “voices in my head” I was terrified. When I told my mom, she had me fully convinced that these voices were demons and that I shouldn't listen to them. For a long time, I genuinely thought that I was possessed.
But now, I like to think that having DID is like having a superpower. Whenever I feel that a situation is too overwhelming, I would, either involuntarily or voluntarily, enter into an episode of dissociation. Once that happens, one of my alters would take over and get me through whatever it is that I've found overwhelming.
Within my DID system, there are 5 identities and counting :)
Their ages range from 5 to eternal (and by eternal I mean that she is a person that genuinely feels like an eternal soul). She is my protector and she is who I turn to when I really can't handle how tough reality can be.
For example, when I first left my father's house to travel alone to Canada, a brand new country I hadn’t even visited before, I remember thinking " Why am I not freaking out right now??!!" Instead, I felt utterly calm because I felt like I was being led by someone that was much older and wiser than I was. I was being guided by a voice that kept telling me " It's okay, trust me, I got this" and I remember being in the passenger seat of my mind (Co-Consciousness), watching myself confidently doing everything I needed to make the transition. She reassured me. She made sure that everything was okay. She gave me serenity and she gave me strength.
What is Co-Consciousness? Co-Consciousness basically means a shared experience: being able to control & observe the body interchangeably.
But it’s not always like that. At other times, DID can feel like you're basically coordinating in the dark with someone who's not there when you are. For example, you might be doing something, then you blink, and suddenly it's 3 days or 3 weeks later, and your life has been lived, and all kinds of stuff has happened. Because of that, it's no surprise that communication and memories can get extremely difficult and disorienting for me and the people around me. What I do now is leave a lot of notes for myself outlining everything that we did throughout the day, so that the alters are caught up when they come into consciousness.
The trickiest thing that I found about DID was accepting that I have it. But questioning that you have it when you've been diagnosed, is in itself a symptom because you're not supposed to know that you have it.
On a more positive note, DID brought me and my friends lots of moments of happiness, because certain things can be positive triggers. For example, if we pass by a toy store, immediately, the child alter comes out and boom! You're a child! That's why I always leave with a small amount of cash, because a child's mind with an adult's wallet is a recipe for disaster 😉
I'm still learning more about DID everyday and I know that it varies from person to person. It's definitely a difficult thing to wrap my head around especially because I do not have all of my brain power. My body is not exclusively mine. But that doesn’t mean that each person is not a 100% their own. But in terms of managing the body, I believe that we each have different connections to different pathways in the brain and in the body. We feel differently, our tastes, esthetic, opinions and even our sexualities vary.
The most annoying thing about having DID is when people ask: "Who's the real one?" The truth is we're all real.
There's still a lot of misconceptions around DID, but it is treatable and not inherently dysfunctional. Just like everything else in life, it come with pros and cons. The best way to live with it, whether you have it or know someone that does, is to educate yourself about it. For it was only after I researched DID that I was able to truly appreciate it and I can confidently say that I wouldn't be where I am today without the collaborative effort of my alters.