Multi-personality disorder (otherwise known as DID – dissociative identity disorder) is something I live with. What is it?
If a child is subjected to extreme trauma, then they are unable to process and comprehend what is happening to them. They may not know the word “rape” and equally not understand how to even start coping with the trauma of being raped with a corkscrew, for example. But somehow they must survive, and must be able to function. The pain and trauma is too great to cope with, so they pass it on to another part of their brain, into a box…which can be opened at a later date when the child is safe.
The brain gets more and more fragmented as trauma is passed into boxes. But children have incredible imaginations, and for me at least the process went something like this. “I can’t cope with all of this on my own. Maybe my friend will look after it for me. What would my friend be like?” etc etc, and before I knew it..BAM there’s another personality living inside of me. It really is a different person, and that person will store away the trauma for me.
How many personalities I have living inside me?
There’s a little girl, she’s 4. There’s a girl called Rosie, and she’s 8. She is an absolute girly-girl and has a love for cuddly toys. There’s a middle-aged woman called Lady, and she’s the organiser and protector, and sorts us all out. Imagine a teacher – that’s her. There’s an older woman called Jody, and she’s very assertive. She intimidates me a bit. There was a little girl called Jenny, but sadly she went away…
They are the most dominant ones. When I “split off” into one of them, I may well be unaware. My friends will report back to me that I had been skipping down the road, had physically managed to look like a 8 year old, and sound like an 8 year old.
It’s NOT acting. It is very genuine and if you saw it, I think you’d realise this was the case. They are each very individual people. They all have different hand-writing – some are left handed, some are right…etc etc. They all have different likes and dislikes, and hobbies/interests…fears etc. You have to view it as me being the most dominant one, but I live inside a house. Upstairs I can hear the children squabbling, and the adults sit with me.
So what’s it like, living with DID/MPD? Interesting… sometimes I’m trying to concentrate on what a person in the real world is saying, but I struggle because I can hear Rosie nattering to me about something. Sometimes I’m trying to make a decision but I have the younger children going “I want that…NO I WANT IT” and Lady trying to reason with them, whilst Jody’s like – “Jade. Just make a decision.”
Sometimes, especially lately, I’ll find a cute drawing done by a 4 year old. Stickmen with arms coming out of their heads. Writing like a 4 year old too – ‘a’ is a circle with a line. ‘B’ and ‘d’ all mixed up. etc etc.
I don’t know them all especially well yet, but working on building the relationships up. Sometimes I’ll catch myself eating something I *despise*, and realise it’s one of the others wanting it. They have my body but are certainly their own people. Sometimes if I’m shopping, I’ll find myself in the toy shop, and I’ll want to ram my head against a wall. Sometimes I’ll find myself surrounded my teddy bears in a circle (really) and we’d just had a teddy bear picnic. If one of the older ones has taken over for a bit, I might find a huge plan has been made and written on paper. When I’m on my own, I’ll talk out loud to converser with them, because frankly it’s easier. But I realise I must look mad.
It’s never quiet. Imagine a house full of people. It’s like that. You’re able to concentrate on stuff but sometimes have to shout “be quiet!!!” and they either will or won’t be. Sometimes I’ll burst out laughing for no apparent reason to any onlooker…but it’s because of what one of them has said.
Because it’s not me when I split off, I have no memory…unless I’m on one of the occasions where I watch it happening – like I sit on the sofa and watch the person hosting the house party. Apparently Jenny was once skipping up the road, and kicking up the leaves and suddenly gasped and said “oh nooooo I must not do that you know. Baby hedgehogs!” leaving my friend highly amused.
It’s very clear when I split off, apparently. I appear different both physically and emotionally. My friend once said to me “you don’t look like an adult pretending to be a six year old. You become a six year old.”
So no, it’s not madness. It was a protection mechanism that kept me alive. Without DID I wouldn’t have survived, it’s that simple, and it continues to protect me. If a situation is too stressful, then I will split off. If I am in danger, then one may take over and get me out of the situation. If I can’t cope with something to do with my past, then one might take over, or they’ll all soothe me. Other times they’ll just come out to play. Sometimes they may not know my friends, and will need extra reassurance that they are safe.
I have a DID emergency information card that I carry with me, in case anyone finds me on my own somewhere in a dissociated state. It says:
“I have a condition known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. I am not mad and nor am I attenion-seeking or time-wasting. I have a history of severe childhood trauma and DID is a coping mechanism for this. DID is treatable via long-term psychotherapy.
I have different ‘parts’, ‘alters’ or ‘personalities.’ These may present as being of a different gender, age and developmental stage. We may be very frightened and traumatised and have difficulty distinguishing between the past and the present, so we may find it really hard to calm down. Please be careful about touching us and be gentle and patient. Alter personalities may not be aware of what we have done or where we are. We may be very disorientated and amesic for what has just happened. Please try to understand our behaviours in the light of our past experiences. http://www.pods-online.org.uk”
It certainly makes life interesting. And loud. But also comforting; I’m never alone and sometimes they remember stuff that I may have lost track of, but need to know.
I am not crazy. I am not making it up. I am not acting. DID saved my life, and anyone who undermines it…therefore undermines my right to live.