These pair arrived in the post today. I am a 20 year old student. I am single. I am not a parent to any living children. I do not have a job, never mind a job where I’d meet little children. I don’t have any friends with young children who live locally.
So…why have these arrived in the post, you ask? Because I have DID (dissociative identity disorder) For more information on DID -http://www.firstpersonplural.org.uk/
Everyone’s experience of DID (for those who have it) is quite unique. Often people misunderstand what DID is, and think it’s lots of people living inside one body. It certainly feels like this to me. But it is, in fact, the same person…the same personality…which due to extreme trauma had to be fragmented into bits. Imagine a mirror shattering. All the pieces belong to the same mirror, but are different parts. Each part of the mirror has a fundamentally different role to play in putting the mirror back together – a corner wouldn’t fit in the middle, and so on. The mirror was nice and whole, but due to something hitting it, it shattered into several pieces. Depending on how hard it was it, and/or how it was hit, depends on the number of parts resulting.
That’s the easiest way I can find to describe it. It is not a lifestyle choice, and is not me deliberately going against the norm for attention, and neither is it acting. It is real, and I can honestly say that without DID I don’t believe I would be alive today.
Fragmenting and dissociating the bits of trauma, pain and memories into different parts was a key method to my survival. As a tiny child (aged 3 I think when the ring abuse started, but had already been sexually abused by family prior to that), there was no way in which I could have coped with all of the confusion and hurt all by myself. Having never experienced a bit of childhood free from abuse, I didn’t even have concrete memories on which to escape to. Everything was painful. Everything was traumatic. Everything was confusing and everything hurt. I had not yet learnt how to speak when the abuse first started…so how on earth could I find the words or thoughts to even start making sense of what was happening? I couldn’t. First, my emotions were dissociated so that I could focus on surviving the pain. The emotions were different bits of my personality…my anger, my sadness, my confusion, my fear etc… and thus became separate identities of their own. As the trauma intensified and the horror of ritual abuse became a concrete part of my life, the memories were dissociated too. The different memories were looked after by different identities, to be given back to me when I was safe and mature enough to cope with them. This is why I started university with next to no childhood memories – they had all been repressed due to the volume and intensity of trauma, so that I could survive the trauma in the present and escape. Once “safe”, the memories started re-surfacing through flashbacks and nightmares.
As well as the different parts holding different bits of the trauma, emotions and memories so that I wasn’t overwhelmed at the time, and so could keep fighting and surviving, the different parts all had their own unique roles – thus making them less of boxes of stored stuff, and more of solid identities with a purpose. Each part works to protect the ‘body’…aka, me. Some parts are there for protection, and so may be able to think of plans, or communicate with safe people in this world, or keep me hyper-vigilant, or even just keep the nicer memories present so that I don’t drown in all darkness. Some parts are there to feel no pain, but to adapt quickly. This meant that in a world where torture could appear out of nowhere, I didn’t collapse in shock and become unable to keep going. I just adapted, quickly. The shock would hit me later, when it was safe. (This is happening more lately, as memories surfacing the shock I should have felt and gone through is happening. It’s really quite surreal). Some of them will eat when I have no appetite. Some of them are there to hold onto different parts of the hideous programming. All of them are there to share out the heavy burden of such horrific abuse, so that surviving is possible. Some of the younger ones are there also to play. Yes, play. Because as a child, being able to play without fear was a rarity. Now it is possible, so the younger ones come out to play so that the part of my self which was so brutally damaged as a toddler/young child can be soothed in some way, and so aids the recovery process.
Therefore, it goes without saying that the process of DID is a very sophisticated and life-saving thing. There have been times where I’m about to kill myself, and an alter-part has rang a friend in the “real” world to alert them…or has actually phoned an ambulance. If I am programmed not to tell someone if I’m in trouble, one of the alters might be able to call for help instead. I owe the different parts my life…and as the different parts are fragmented bits of me, I also owe myself my life.
Some parts were made whilst I was in some extreme abuse event; if it was getting too much and I needed to dissociate, I would give the pain to “someone else” (this is how I made sense of it as a child). It meant living through such torture was possible. It meant living through such absolute heart-break after being forced to have a late abortion, or losing a baby after birth, was also possible. It did mean I experienced a lot of amensia as the parts became more co-conscious, once at university, and this of course wasn’t helpful and could at times be very frightening and disorientating. But based on what incredible work they’ve done for years, I would prefer to have DID with the problematic symptoms and survive, than not have DID and have to cope with all of this at once. I wouldn’t be able to. I don’t think there’s any way in which I’d have a) survived, or if I had survived… b) stayed sane enough to escape properly and be able to function half-normally now.
DID is incredible – the mind’s ability to save itself is just miraculous. I’m not saying that having DID is good, or wanted, necessarily…and especially as DID almost always is the result of severe childhood trauma. But, I have got it…and rather than view it as an illness, I view it was a life-saving tool, one which I just need to learn to adapt to the real world, now that I’m here.
Most of my parts are younger than me, which I guess is unsurprising. Most are girls but there are some boys. One of the most dominant ones currently is a baby who’s in the “eat anything within sight” stage….except with my teeth. So there have been some comical/gross moments lately. Munching a sat nav. Munching a candle. Munching on bubbles. Munching on directions and other useful bits of paper…. he’s a very giggly baby who finds everything a game, so if my friends try to remove said candle, he tries to keep hold of it even more. So a) this clearly isn’t me because in what mad world would I want to keep eating a candle and b) he is usefully using his “play” role, here. It may not look useful or productive to anyone in the outside world, but he is in fact being able to play safely with my friends without fear of being abused. I cannot describe to you how powerful that is; simply being able to play like any baby his age should be able to, without fear. Gradually it helps soothe my own paranoia and hyper-vigilance, and helps me relax and start to enjoy life in the real world. It helps my depression, and helps me remember to laugh.
A few of the other dominant ones are girls from the age of 2 and a half to about 10. These ones I guess are the key memory and emotion holders for the ritual abuse. It is especially important that they are given the opportunity to be soothed now, to be comforted for the abuse they endured and the burden they had to carry. It is important their confused beliefs of the world are gently worked with, so that they understand that abuse is wrong and they didn’t deserve it for being “naughty.” It’s important that they are now in a place where they can ask my friends’ for a “huggle” and be given one. When I was that age I was busy protecting other children in some effective torture camp. We hugged each other but it was rare that I had anyone older than me who I could ask for a hug, so that I felt protected and cared for – a fundamental need for children which I was starved of. The way I have coped with this is by having younger alters who can now receive that care and protection, and in turn soothe that damaged/starved part of me, so I can recover.
You see how it all interlinks? How everything works together to *help* the process, even if at first it looks dysfunctional? One of my alters used to self-harm badly, so I’d wake up with cut thighs and arms. Once he was asked *why* he did that, it became clear that he had believed it to be helpful, and once he realised it was actually harmful…he stopped.
Each part is a victim. Each part needs comfort and each part needs to be recognised as valued and important. I am not ashamed of having DID and don’t hide it. If I did, then I would be ashamed of myself, and of my coping strategy which kept me alive for years, and is now a tool enabling recovery. If I was ashamed of that, then I am ashamed of surviving. Which I am not. I do not stand for people to look down on those with DID or suggest that it’s not “normal.” No it probably isn’t (though what is normal anyway?) but DID cannot just switch off, and is the reason I am alive and why so many others are alive…and is the reason I can still function and do things like a degree. I don’t care if it’s ‘normal.’ The situation I was in for my entire life wasn’t normal. Any coping strategy to manage that level of abuse was bound to be on the extreme side, and for good reason. I am not ashamed of surviving. I will not keep my DID a dirty secret, as to do this would be to play along with the abusers.
So, these toys arrived in the post today. Why? Because I have DID. Because one of my younger parts desperately wants to be able to play with her ‘My Little Pony’ toys in peace. When I was her age and had the toys, I couldn’t play in peace. I couldn’t laugh loudly, because if I was noticed/remembered at home, then I would be abused. If I was seen to be having too much fun, then the abusers made a damn good job of ensuring the fun was destroyed. Fun was tainted. Playing was a risky business. Of course now I’m safer my younger parts want the chance to play like any other child, free from abuse. Why would I rid them of that? Now they have some toys, and can play freely….and that to me is the most beautiful thing, and such a massively powerful aspect of the healing process – to put right and soothe the bits that were wrong and damaged.
People shy away when I mention DID. I understand; people are nervous/afraid of what they don’t understand. I can’t imagine how weird it must be to be talking to me, and then suddenly there’s a 4 year old talking and gigging, but in my body. I realise that must be alarming. But she’s just a 4 year old. She really isn’t frightening. She just wants to play and make friends and enjoy a bit of her childhood, now that it’s possible for her to do so. The baby just wants to be able to play and giggle and feel cared for and protected, because when I was a baby this simply wasn’t the case.
Don’t be afraid of having DID. Be proud. You survived!!!! With time, and with careful practice communicating within parts and letting their stories/needs be heard, it may become more manageable. I don’t worry about a younger part coming out whilst I’m in a lecture, for example, because there is definite play-time scheduled in for them during the day….careful boundaries so that I can live my life, and they can live their’s, and nobody is left out or forgotten.
Please don’t be scared or nervous of people with DID. It may look alarming, but please read this post and take it in – the parts are there to help. The parts also need help. You can make an abused child smile and feel wanted, an abused baby feel protected, an abused teenager feel less guilty. You can be a hero…. as my friends are heroes for me, and for my various alters, who have come on in leaps and bounds since discovering safety, care, genuine friendship and play-time is possible.