I’ve decided to write a personal testimony about Dissociative Identity Disorder because I feel like there aren’t enough personal truths out there to help others. This is something I have never discussed with anyone I’m not close to, but I figured if it can help someone, then it’s much better than keeping it hidden in silence and shadows.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is defined by Wikipedia as: “Dissociative identity disorder (DID), also known as multiple personality disorder, is a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states that alternately control a person’s behavior, and is accompanied by memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness. […] Dissociative symptoms range from common lapses in attention, becoming distracted by something else, and daydreaming, to pathological dissociative disorders.
(Source and Citation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociative_identity_disorder)
Now then, the story of how I came to have DID is a very lengthy one but it doesn’t involve being abused as a child (at least not by my own parents). But it does involve being abused in my early twenties; emotionally, psychologically, physically, verbally, and sexually. Long story short: First I was raped by a very trusted and close male friend (no longer my friend for obvious reasons) and second, I was unknowingly involved in a cult. Only after I managed to claw my way out with only my life did I realize it had been a cult and used every cult trick in the book. There. I said it.
The easiest way to describe having DID is that there is a fissure in my personality. There is an alternate side of me that handles the “burdens” of life or the things that are a bit too heavy for me to handle. Essentially it’s a beefed-up coping mechanism.
But first to clear up any misconceptions: no, I do not have a “split personality,” I do not have “multiple personalities,” I am not schizophrenic, I do not have borderline personality disorder or manic depressive disorder. I am aware when the alternate personality is in control, I do have lapses in memory but that could be attributed to my seizures.
Okay. That being said, you may have noticed that I mentioned that I am aware that an alternate personality is in control. Let me further define that for you and flesh it out a bit. That fissure or “crack” in my personality developed as a result of trauma. That portion of my personality that is still attached to the rest, but handles a different load, is assigned a name for an easier time of distinguishing me from that particular portion. That “crack” is referred to as “Shade.” Yes, I’m a nerd and one of my handles on the internet is ‘Cracked Mirror.’
Still fleshing out here, Shade is the one that hides in the shadows, she’s like a bodyguard: ready at a moment’s notice to take control of a situation and handle the emotional garbage that I cannot. When I said I am aware of the alter taking control it means this: I understand that I am acting differently, absorbing information differently, but it feels as if I am a passenger in a car – not actually driving or controlling the vehicle – but watching as it happens and just grasping onto the “Oh Shit Handle.”
I don’t lapse in and out of Shade’s personality and never remember it, but I will admit that I have a hard time retaining memories of events that Shade was present for. When my alter does take over, all of my emotions go on lock down, all information is processed logically, and the resulting effect is a hollow, capricious, and very callous nature – I hear things coming out of my mouth but I can’t stop myself from saying them or even checking them through a filter before they spew out – like I said, it’s like being a passenger in a moving vehicle while it’s on a collision course.
Before I knew what DID was or that I even had it, I had my own name for what would happen to me: I called it my “Kill Switch.” It was like all the humanity I had in my being would disappear or cease to function and what was left was the raw, reptilian brain, and the instinctual creature with just basic core components. A thinking zombie of sorts.
I did not choose to have DID, I don’t live in a fantasy world half of the time, it’s not something I fake to get attention; I have deeply hurt the people I love the most with vicious words and have not been able to control it or stop myself from doing it – I have felt helpless at times. To be honest, I really wish I didn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder – it’s hell on my family and friends – and it makes my life harder. But part of me is thankful for the powerful coping mechanism because I shudder to think of might have happened to my sanity or psyche had I not developed DID.
For those of you that watch Dexter on Showtime, when he refers to his “Dark Passenger” it’s actually a very fitting description of what it’s like to have DID:
“Within all of our minds, there lies a place we rarely come in contact with. A dormant entity lurks throughout our thoughts and emotions quietly unnoticed – however, there are those of us who perceive this Passenger and learn to accept it as a part of ourselves. Dexter Morgan is one of these perceivers. He has come to accept the fact that he shares his mind with another. Over the years Dexter has come to call this unknown entity his Dark Passenger. As in all things active, a hunger dwells within the Passenger. A hunger that drives its host to the near brink. It is only through the deeds of Dexter Morgan that this longing can be calmed, yet never filled. When the need to feed is at its extremes, the Passenger takes over. Heightened senses, a quick step, and a will to succeed are all traits that come when the Passenger takes control. Though we all have this darkness within, many of us will never stumble across it.”
(Source and Citation: http://dexterwiki.wetpaint.com/page/The+Dark+Passenger)
Or maybe this works too:
“I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger. And when he’s driving, I feel alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don’t fight him, I don’t want to. He’s all I’ve got. Nothing else could love me, not even… especially not me. Or is that just a lie the Dark Passenger tells me? Because lately there are these moments when I feel connected to something else… someone. It’s like the mask is slipping and things… people… who never mattered before are suddenly starting to matter. It scares the hell out of me.” – Dexter Morgan
(Source and Citation: http://www.extratv.com/2010/09/26/20-favorite-dexter-quotes/#dark_passenger)
Now don’t you go and get the wrong idea, Dexter’s a vigilante serial killer and while he has some good explanations, I’m not a sociopath or a psychopath. I don’t murder people in cold blood, I won’t even kill an insect – unless it’s a spider, arachnids are just asking for it – and I am not crazy (my mother had me tested). Heck, when Dexter first came out on Showtime I wasn’t even aware of the show until 2009 and when I started watching it, I went, “Hey! That sounds familiar! He has DID.” Which, if you know anything about the show, (spoiler alert) he had a highly traumatic event occur early in his life that created a fissure in his personality. I am not Dexter Morgan (he’s an extreme character based in fiction and adapted for the television screen: it has to be dramatic and entertaining or else no one would watch it).
I’m perfectly normal aside of the DID; I have an IQ of 154, my parents never divorced (they’re still together 37 years later), I function quite well in society (though awkward at times), and I have a wide circle of friends. Shoot, I even have a boyfriend that I would take down the stars for – how and why he loves me is beyond my comprehension, but I am more than thankful to have him in my life. All in all I am pretty normal. Aside of having an autism spectrum disorder (Asperger’s) at least I can pass for ‘normal’ in this crazy world.
Symptoms and Applicable Information:
Some more Wikipedia info on Dissociative Identity Disorder from previously cited link:
-“Others have suggested dissociation can be separated into two distinct forms, detachment and compartmentalization, the latter of which, involving a failure to control normally controllable processes or actions, is most evident in DID.”
-“DID includes “the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states” that alternate control of the individual’s behavior, accompanied by the inability to recall personal information beyond what is expected through normal forgetfulness […]”
– “The level of functioning can change from severely impaired to adequate. […]”
– “Identities may be unaware of each other and compartmentalize knowledge and memories, resulting in chaotic personal lives.Individuals with DID may be reluctant to discuss symptoms due to associations with abuse, shame and fear. […]”
– “The primary identity, which often has the patient’s given name, tends to be “passive, dependent, guilty and depressed” with other personalities or “alters” being more active, aggressive or hostile, and often containing more complete memories. Most identities are of ordinary people, though fictional, mythical, celebrity and animal alters have also been reported.”
– “What may be expressed as post traumatic stress disorder in adults may become DID when occurring in children, possibly due to their greater use of imagination as a form of coping. Possibly due to developmental changes and a more coherent sense of self past the age of six, the experience of extreme trauma may result in different, though also complex dissociative symptoms and identity disturbances.”
– “DID must be distinguished from, or determined if comorbid with, a variety of disorders including mood disorders,psychosis, anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, cognitive disorders, neurological disorders,epilepsy, somatoform disorder, factitious disorder, malingering, other dissociative disorders and trance states. Individuals faking or mimicking DID due to factitious disorder will exaggerate symptoms (particularly when observed), lie, blame bad behavior on symptoms and often show little distress regarding their apparent diagnosis. In contrast, genuine DID patients exhibit confusion, distress and shame regarding their symptoms and history.”
– “[DID] was changed [from “multiple personality disorder”] for two reasons. First, to emphasize the main problem was not a multitude of personalities, but rather a lack of a single, unified identity and an emphasis on “the identies as centers of information processing”. Second, the term “personality” is used to refer to “characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, moods and behaviors of the whole individual”, while for a patient with DID, the switches between identities and behavior patterns is the personality. It is for this reason the DSM-IV-TR referred to “distinct identities or personality states” instead of personalities. The diagnostic criteria also changed to indicate that while the patient may name and personalize alters, they lack an independent, objective existence.”
So, in conclusion, having DID is both a blessing and a curse (for more info read above paragraphs) but I’m doing better about controlling the “switches” and the “triggers.” While I feel it is still too taboo and would make me extremely vulnerable to go into the gritty details of what caused my DID, I can share what I do know about it and what it’s like to have it in order to help others and let them know that they aren’t alone and that they aren’t “crazy.” Society likes to label people with disorders as outcasts or derelicts, which simply isn’t nice.
As far as ‘Dissociative’ as it applies to me personally, I tend to disassociate from my emotions most often, the two most catalytic emotions being sadness and anger. Now, this isn’t just a severe form where I “turn off” at the first sign of the emotion, no, I manage sadness and anger pretty well most of the time. If anger and sadness were rated on a scale as 1 being the least sad/angry and 10 being the most, I can only handle up to a 7 or an 8 – then, and only then, does my alter take control and I seemingly “shut down.”
I’m not dead set that on the idea that I have DID, in fact, I’d rather I didn’t have it, and because of that I’m open to other possibilities such as Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Poor Emotional Self-Regulation: Emotional Suppression, or Depersonalization Disorder. However, DID seems to be what it is and I can only pray that it improves or goes away. I hope that this helps you or someone you know, provokes you to research possibilities, or even seek help… shoot even talking to someone about it may help. You’re not alone.
Until Next Time,
P.S. Below is a poem I wrote describing how it feels to live with Dissociative Identity Disorder and
Evasion With the Stone Mason
Evasion is the easiest thing to do,
It allows me not to think
Of all the times I’ve been hurt
And with evasion I can just sink
Into my own world of protection
That hardened outer shell
Enveloping the soft inner core
And shielding it from the hell
Of this world’s cruelty
The chaos and the misery
That will bind and find
Every last soul and mind
Into a miasmatic atmosphere
Of pluralistic ignorance
Of pleonastic fools and fakers
Engaging in brute malevolence
From all this I seek blind refuge
Solitary recourse behind a dark mask
Valiant attempts at self deception
Leading me with Amontillado’s Cask
Into the dark hollow alcove
Where I can hide and obfuscate
While my stone mason will toil
With building a thick wall to sate
The anguish and the despondency
That rips and claws at my heart
My caliginous architect at the parapet
Refusing to move or take it apart
Guarding with hollow stares
And a crepuscular expression
As I safely nestle in the retreat
Gazing up at the last impression
Of one last notch left in the wall
Light pouring through in a lone beam
My last aperture to the exterior
An insurmountable task it would seem
To possibly overcome and be released
Would require my own tears and hard work
To take down that impenetrable impediment
Brick by brick to expose soft skin
That would be at risk of ripping again
Vulnerability makes me apprehensive
Frightens me and unnerves me to the core
It’s death hold and vice make me defensive
Until I can summon the courage and the will
That iron mason stands strong and sure
Allowing me to practice tactical evasion
Path of the least resistance will endure.
(c) Stacey L. Staudt