Yesterday, I began answering a reader’s question about whether I always knew I had dissociative identity disorder (DID) or alter parts. You can read the first part of the story here.
I did not question that Irate was real or that she was an alter part. I knew about multiple personality disorder (had never heard the term DID) and that it was linked to severe child abuse. I couldn’t understand why I would have an alter part because, as far as I remembered, I had not been abused as a child other than comparatively minor emotional abuse.
I researched what was going on with Irate “stepping into my face” and that floaty feeling I would get around my mother. I realized the term for the floaty feeling was called “dissociation.” I went looking for a book to explain why I would dissociate. I read Martha Stout’s The Myth of Sanity and was perplexed because I related so much to her DID patients but “knew” that I had not suffered from child abuse.
I finally asked Irate to explain why I had an alter part, and that’s what kicked off my healing journey. I thought Irate was the only alter part, but then I “met” more and more parts. My multiple system consisted of hundreds of parts, many of which were personality fragments (smaller parts holding only one piece of a memory or only one emotion).
What I had read about DID was different in many important ways from what I was experiencing. Martha Stout’s book was one of the most helpful resources I found because it explained that DID is on the extreme end of a continuum of dissociation. I had trouble accepting this label for a long time because I was convinced that my experiences had not been “bad enough” to cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was not as far along the continuum as DID.
Before reading Martha Stout’s book, I thought DID was several separate people sharing a body, which was not what my experience felt like. For me, it felt like one big piece of my spirit had been shattered into many smaller pieces. Also, as I stated, many of these pieces were not “whole people” but, instead, just fragments of different feelings or experiences.
Once I started having flashbacks and knew for certain that I did not have a conscious memory of the abuse, I faced that I had no idea what had actually happened to me as a child. My focus shifted from struggling with labels to struggling with how to manage and heal the many memories that had been “uncorked.”
Final thoughts on the topic tomorrow…
Image credit: Amazon.com