Have you ever been reading a page of a book, but you zone out and don’t recall anything you’ve just read? Are you ever driving a familiar route, only to realise you haven’t really been focusing on the road the entire time? This is sort of what it’s like to have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), The only difference is it happens all the time, and in these moments someone else takes over. They are in control, not you.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-IV, DID is formally recognised as a psychiatric diagnosis, and the patient must show at least two individual identities or personalities, which routinely take control of the individual’s behaviour. Along with this there is also memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness, and each alter can display a broad range of traits such as phobias or mood disturbances.
I have a Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) from childhood sexual abuse. The ‘state’ that a person dissociates to is called an alter. I have several alters. Some are harmless and just cause a trance and take me out of the moment. They are very intrusive as they can make it very difficult to engage in a conversation as you tune in and out and lose the thread of what is being discussed. I doubt many people with DID would make good debaters !!! I have one who is a twenty-year-old living on the streets (which I did) and I stash food in all different parts of the house.
However, some of my alters are downright dangerous and harmful. They cause enormous destruction both to me and my family. I have no control over them. They are sneaky, calculating, deceitful, cunning and downright nasty. The worst alter is the one of my Mother who is hell bent on my death. When in that alter I have no idea what I am doing and plan suicide and have attempted it several times ending up in ICU six times. She has had me hide razor blades for self-harm which is only used when her alter appears. No matter how hard my family and therapist tries to get me to reveal where they are hidden I cannot reveal where they are as I do not know. I have even been Scheduled under the Mental Health Act and still not revealed where they are hidden. Only she knows. I genuinely do not. My Mother was one of my chief abuser’s being the organiser of the paedophile ring that I was a victim of for fourteen years from the age of four to eighteen.
The other dangerous alter is a seventeen-year version of myself who witnessed a murder she blames herself for. She too is hell-bent on self-destruction due to being riddled with guilt and shame at not stopping it. No amount of therapy has convinced me or this alter that there is nothing I could have done to have prevented the murder of this child, as I was a victim and a child myself in just as much danger. This alter focusses on drowning and when she appears that is what she tries to do.
As you can see I require twenty-four hour supervision and it takes an enormous toll on my family. They are amazing. Legends are not too strong a word to use. They never falter or blame me. They know it is the Disorders that are acting upon me. I know I am very lucky to have such support because many partners and children would have walked away years ago when I was diagnosed.
The last four weeks my Mother alter has been very present and I have self-harmed eight times requiring stitching each time in Emergency. My husband has been at my side each time waiting for her to leave. She does not like him and tries to push him away but he firmly stays by my side and tells her he is staying so eventually she leaves. My therapist says this will eventually win the day as my trauma is resolved. Much of the abuse from my early years is at peace due to the use of Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing or EMDR (providing an effective therapy for the treatment of trauma. EMDR, is a type of psychotherapy used to treat psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, panic attacks, different types of anxiety).
Now I am dealing with my adolescent years and the murder I referred to which has caused the recent crisis of alters being particularly active. My therapist has added an extra session to try to deal with the material quickly for safety reasons and avoid an hospitalisation which I hate.
Today’s EMDR psychotherapy session was torrid but very beneficial. We processed a lot of material so hopefully, we are moving forward.